Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Proposal Story 25 October, 2000

I'm engaged to Miranda Coney. Let me set the scene.

The Australian Ballet opened in Perth last night with a performance of the Merry Widow with Miranda in the title role. I had planned to propose to Miranda after the opening night performances in Perth for about 6 weeks. She has family in Perth, she was the Widow, it all seemed to fit. I had told my plans to no one except Ross Stretton, Artistic Director of Australian Ballet, who incidentally slyly engineered some of the technical parts. Extreme secrecy had to be maintained because there are no secrets in this company!

Just before the performance Ross and I spoke to the stage manager to alert her that she needed to make an announcement over the PA just before the final curtain to get the audience's attention and that she had to fit me with a body microphone because I was going to “make a presentation”;. Then we swore her to secrecy for the next 2 1/2 hours.

After the performance finished (which, by the way, was quite good) the bows followed as usual-- corps, soloists, principals, all forward and back, the Widow (Miranda) gets the conductor, all bow, curtain down, bows for principals in front of the curtain (at which time I went off stage and got the body mic fixed), curtain up, all (except conductor) down and back. This is usually when the curtain falls for the last time for the evening. However, tonight, with the curtain still up and the audience still applauding, the stage manager spoke over the PA and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, may we have your attention”.

The audience became quiet immediately and I walked out onto the stage, faced the audience, and spoke to them (the body mic worked, thank goodness) saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Charles Barker, Music Director of the Australian Ballet. I have a question to ask tonight's Widow.” At which point I turned and walked a few steps toward Miranda, went down onto one knee, held out an engagement ring to her and said, “Miranda Coney, will you be my wife?”

Miranda had no idea that this was about to happen and the look on her face was priceless. She was quite overcome and came to me, nodded yes, took the ring and gave me a hug and kiss. At the same moment the stage and audience erupted with a deafening ovation, a type of which I had never heard before. Men were yelling their bravos and women were shouting through their tears -- especially the ballerinas on stage. An usher brought Miranda some red long stem roses I had gotten for her, more applause, then the curtain came down. It was quite a scene. I couldn't have hoped for a better scenario. Everything went my way.

The next morning the press began to phone at 9:30am. We gave interviews and had photos taken until about 2pm. We are both still pretty high from the evening. It was fun and perhaps most important, it was successful! The amount of media coverage after the fact was surprising. We did dozens of newspaper and radio interviews including the BBC from London. I guess people like happy endings.