In the absence of newly-published author and Principal Flute, Gareth Davies here in Aix-en-Provence, I shall be stepping out of my stilettos and into his shoes, if I may, to write a few blog posts during our time here. Apologies as I have neither the writing style, skill or wit of Gareth but I do reckon my writing implements are all more blingy than his…
The first leg of the 5-week Aix extravaganza (should be Aixtravaganza I guess) began on Wednesday night with some of the orchestra setting off from Borough (post-Don Giovanni rehearsal) in cars loaded up with everything but the kitchen sink. I was rather envious having decided to pack only one ginormous case which I couldn’t actually lift. Nigel, my desk partner said the feeling was of a flock of birds migrating South. He’s right, there’s a tangible excitement in the air as we prepare for some much-needed sun and I’ve noticed quite a few summer buzz cuts going on.
Friday morning and a dozen of us including two spouses (in my case, a well-muscled Sherpa) are taking the train to Aix. It’s very quiet comparatively – we usually take up a couple of compartments on the Eurostar when we travel – although one of our number (who shall remain nameless but plays a shiny instrument that has a slide) was snoring like a trooper. I’ve done this journey before and I much prefer the civilised relaxation of train travel to the fraught nature of airports. I do miss the duty free though and the endless quest to find tax-free Mac’s Russian Red or Ruby Woo lipsticks.
For this opera residency in Aix most of the players like to hire villas and share with family/friends/colleagues or occasionally all three. A minority, including myself, shun those home comforts for hotel anonymity. Give me air-conditioning, room service, fast wifi and I’m a very happy camper. Someone asked me if I missed cooking in a kitchen and I said that since I don’t cook at home anyway what is there to miss?? Anyway, judging by hastily uploaded photos on Facebook the prize for who has the best villa seems to be going to the clarinet section at the moment.
Off the train, into the hotel to unpack and this “special” bus whisks us off to a rehearsal venue. What awaits is a mass of instrument boxes and various paraphernalia like suitcases, golf clubs, bikes which came on the LSO truck thanks to Alan and Dan. Seems like people intend to be pretty sporty these five weeks. (I intend to be “sporty” too and hitch a ride with Neil Percy to Decathalon … to buy a lilo to lounge on in the pool, since mine didn’t show up, thanks very much Amazon.)
So far we have had two days of rehearsals at a studio in Venelles. The best thing about this place is the garden eating area out the back where we can catch some rays during the breaks. Today we had a full rehearsal of Rigoletto. What an amazing experience to hear the singers up close and personal before we are relegated to the Pit and they lose all contact with us up on stage (unless they kick some of the set down by accident of course). Gianandrea Noseda conducts with a fierce energy and changes his T-shirt throughout the day. If the front desk could sell and bottle his sweat they would make a fortune!
In a couple of days we will start rehearsing in the Pit. Two years ago a section colleague and I wrote some small Pit wall graffiti, (if I get into trouble, let writing analysis show that I only provided the pencil and general egging on) I’ll let you know if it’s still there…