The question is which one is Pavarotti? Last night, I was at Galapagos Day. It’s an annual get-together at the Royal Geographical Society in London run by the Galapagos Conservation Trust to raise money for Galapagos conservation. I am the editor of the charity’s biannual magazine Galapagos News, one of the many jobs I’m going to have to take care of whilst also writing 80,000 words in five months for my new book Political Animal!
The stars of the show – Sir David Attenborough, journalist and presenter Andrew Marr and the witty Galapagos spokesman Felipe Cruz – did a great job at drumming up trade for the Trust. Apart from filling every seat in the house (with another 100 on the waiting list apparently), they also successfully auctioned off a 5th edition copy of On the Origin of Species for a startling £21,000. “There are going to be a lot of very happy iguanas,” quipped Marr.
As President of the Galapagos Conservation Trust, Marr showed Carreras-like composure as he chaired a discussion between Attenborough and Cruz on the uncertain future of the archipelago. Galapagos-born Cruz is a swarthy character and is not unlike Domingo in his ability to play a crowd. He talked with passion about Project Floreana, an initiative that aims to restore his native island to the state it was in when Charles Darwin popped ashore in late 1835. This project, he hopes, will act as a model for whole-island restoration in Galapagos and beyond. Tugging on the heartstrings of the wealthy British audience, Cruz got his young and extremely handsome son up onto the stage at the end to offer a personal message from the Galapagos people. Had it been opera, that would have been the moment to roar “encore”.
So by a process of elimination that means Sir David is Pavarotti, which seems about right. Not because Sir David has put on weight mind, because he’s looking spectacular for his mid-80s. But because the two men are/were legends, so far above everyone else in their respective fields. That said (and it feels like heresy to report it) there was just a sense last night that Sir David is losing it a bit. He was quieter than I’ve ever heard him speak, occasionally confused and in suggesting that humans discovered Galapagos after they discovered Mauritius and wiped out its dodo, he was plain wrong (humans reached Galapagos in 1535 and Mauritius around 65 years later). Still it was a good night and raised masses of money for a great cause.