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Stockholm. Day 26

A fast boat to Sweden, with an 18th-century coda. IS there anything like waking up on a boat, greeting the morning on deck, and lingering over breakfast as land approaches? The green islands of the Stockholm archipelago, like the islands when we left Finland, bestow a kind of glorious serenity. The fresh sea air has a northern tang. We're looking for Sweden as it is now, but we don't want to miss at least one historical stop that is not on the tour: the Drottningholm Court Theatre. There you can see an 18th-century opera done in the 18th-century way in a theater typical of the period. But a new production of Mozart's ``Idomeneo'' is opening the day after we leave.

A guide casually remarks that an open rehearsal is scheduled for this very evening. But she departs before we can enlist her help. I call everywhere, finding certain promising phone numbers that operate only for an hour or two around noon. I gather this is a final dress rehearsal open to a few students as well as friends and benefactors of Drottningholm. Courteous people struggling with my Swedish phrases and English sentences refer me from one place to another.

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Finally I'm told to look for a certain man standing outside the museum near the theater before the curtain. We decide to risk the journey -- it's a pleasant boat ride from Stockholm -- and visit the king's Drottningholm gardens if we don't get into the opera.

Well, no one is standing outside the museum except someone else who has that waiting-for-a-ticket look. People keep going in and out and locking the door each time. Finally a man leaves the door open and stands behind a ticket counter inside. But he has never heard of us, and all the tickets are spoken for. Our only chance is if someone doesn't claim their tickets. Curtain time is approaching. We haven't had dinner.

Then tickets do come through. We even have a bite to eat, though hardly doing justice to the restaurant on the grounds. And ``Idomeneo'' is stunning musically and visually. The voices. The reproductions of antique settings. The bewigged orchestra including harpsichord, valveless trumpets, vintage timpani. All the suspense has been worth it. And there in the audience is a friendly face, our guide from the morning.

We ride the bus and subway back. A good way to see a cross section of a community, And to reap the kindness of strangers.

Roderick Nordell is the Monitor's feature editor. Tomorrow he sees Strindberg directed by Bergman and decides he would do the same trip all over again, with one possible exception.

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