<< -- 3 -- Bill Newman THE DESIGNER TOUCH
'Next morning I started packing furiously for an early plane. A zipper went in one of my bags, and the former Australian Premier Menzies kindly invited me to Canberra for a few days on my way home. Here, I was on another planet, thinking back a whole year to producing these stupid operas. His family told me many stories. Now, I have seven Christian names because Klari, my mother, had promised various friends and relations. One of them is Patricia, and Sir Robert Menzies' wife was Lady Patti, which my mother considered should be Lady Patricia!'
Inherited gifts for drawing and design are often traced back in family history. 'My mother's grandmother had one of the most elegant dress salons in Budapest. She couldn't sew, but knew exactly what to do when creating fashions. Her husband, my great grandfather, charmed the customers and they had their workshops. Budapest thrived on balls and high society life, and they were very much a part of that. But the flair for colour and designing in the theatre belonged to my mother's side.' I have memories, too of the colourful sets for Der Rosenkavalier and Le Coq d'Or which added so much pleasure to her father's opera performances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
Stopping off at Bangkok, she had left Australia that winter with a fur coat, by kind permission of Hungarian friends, to a rather warm London. Treating herself to a taxi, rather than the alternative bus, as luck would have it, it boiled over. Eventually, she arrived at the Westbury Hotel, informing them she had just left Bangkok. She didn't have any money, and would they please pay the cab driver! Next day she had a 'wee' interview with Moran Caplan. 'Tito Gobbi had made a film version of Verdi's Rigoletto and there were lots of pictures. But it didn't work out, like other things I'd worked for. I did various other jobs -- not so memorable, and I got married -- which was a mistake.'
Then her father left, and her world crashed. 'You think you know those closest to you, but that is not necessarily true. My mother, beginning to suffer from health problems, had started closing doors before it finally happened.' But that is another story. Tonina re-married and now has a family. She lives in Scotland at the Bridge of Alan in Stirling.
Copyright © 8 April 2006
Bill Newman, Edgware UK