We often wonder what contingency plans there are in place for rain during Festival time since the Archeveche theatre is open to the elements. They give out blankets to the audience when it’s cold (also if you need a snooze) and sell cushions for those who frequent “bums, tums and thighs” exercise classes. Apparently if heavy rain is forecast early enough, they have time to move everything to an indoor theatre, but that involves hours of moving and a hell of a lot of hassle, obviously. About ninety minutes to kick off there were ominous rumblings from the skies and some rainfall. I had a couple of messages from rain-dancing colleagues (obviously hoping for a “crack open another bottle and stay home response”) living outside of Aix asking what the weather was like in town. There was a break in the weather so I packed my brolly like a true Brit and headed up to the theatre.
The skies seemed clear as we started Don Giovanni at 9.30pm. However partway through there was an unmistakable drip drip dripping. The only people affected were the outside lines of violins as there was no wind to blow the rain sideways into the Pit and onto colleagues (shame). We all glanced round at each other shrugging shoulders then looked to Marc Minkowski who kept saying, “just one more aria zen we’ll leave ze Peet.” Hmm… methinks replacing a baton is a bit cheaper than a violin. Anyway, some people did leave the Pit, some fashioned handkerchiefs into violin cagoules, some stopped to protect their violins under their legs. I kept brushing droplets off my violin and worrying more, to be honest, about my new Zadig and Voltaire jacket, getting its first outing, that was taking the brunt of the water.
The orchestra were told the next night that if it started raining we were to close our parts to protect them. Okaaaay… So in case of downpour close the music, play from memory and carry on playing with water splashing over very expensive instruments.. But for god’s sake protect those parts!!
The next Mozart night started without a hitch until we arrived at the scene where Donna Anna sings a powerful aria about the loss of her beloved father. A light buzzing started (Mozzie? Mozzies mating? Mozzie orgy?) which I assumed it was a forgotten mobile left to vibrate on the Pit floor. It steadily got louder and louder (that’s crescendo – you can’t say this blog is not educational) and we all started looking round at each other with little smiles of glee as it drowned out the music. Now I’m not saying we want anything to ruin our performances, but the sheer number of repetitions does instill a sense of “if only something would happen..” within us. I had an Apocalypse Now-like vision of dozens of helicopters hovering on the horizon about to burst forth booming Wagner. The reality was a lone helicopter (not even a chinook) flying low and making one pass over the theatre. It did return later on so I began to suspect it was flown by a music-loving pilot who had heard how expensive the tickets were and wanted a gander at Act 2.
It seems Rigoletto is sold out most nights so there can’t be many in Aix who had terrifying experiences at childhood birthday parties. Anyone affected by coulrophobia should look away from these two clowns (Neil Percy, principal percussion must have had crappy magician and go-carting birthday parties ). Ending this blog with a “spot the mistake” (no prizes – yeah cheapskate I know but I got a hankering for a new pair of shoes) competition on this concert leaflet spotted around town.