Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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St Matthew Passion: Cuenca

Mon Apr 6 2009

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Magic + flutes = one of the most-loved operas of all time. We're performing Mozart's The Magic Flute @glyndebourne… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…


It was very quiet on the coach yesterday afternoon. After a 5.30am start for most we had arrived in Madrid and were on our way to Cuenca for the next performance on the St Matthew Passion tour. The Orchestra have pretty gruelling schedule for the next fortnight or so, they have already done performances in Bristol and Amsterdam which for the foreign dates involves flying out on the morning of the concert, rehearsing in the afternoon, doing the concert in the evening and flying back the following morning. Very tiring and not as glamorous as it might seem! The rest of the tour consists of a concert this evening in Valladolid (I am writing this blog on the 5 hour coach journey to get there), Poissy (near Paris) on Tuesday, London on Thursday and Berlin on Friday. In amongst all of these dates the Orchestra has performances of the Dido & Aeneas/Acis & Galatea double bill at the Royal Opera House, so by yesterday afternoon all the travelling and hard work was taking its toll and everyone (including me!) was catching 40 winks on the journey to Cuenca.

It was 5.15pm by the time we arrived yesterday, so after a brief half hour to settle in and grab some fresh air or a power nap, we were off to the concert hall for the rehearsal. The Orchestra uses these sort of rehearsals half way through a tour to go over any bits they had any worries about, to make sure they are all comfortable, can see properly etc, although the stage kept being plunged into semi-darkness as the technical team attempted to turn on the right lights so that the cellos and basses could see their music!

I got chatting to Richard Tunnicliffe (cello and gamba player) after the rehearsal about his viola da gamba as I am an amateur cellist so wanted to know a little more about one of the rarer instruments in the string family. My inquisitiveness led to in impromptu lesson and a mini-recital from him in one of the dressing rooms!

We then had about an hour before the concert began and as all the Orchestra and soloists were happy we had time to grab a sandwich (the third ham and cheese sandwich of the day – there hadn’t been an opportunity for a proper meal all day unfortunately) and then it was time for the concert to begin. I did my usual job of helping Philippa, the Orchestra Manager, get the Orchestra on stage and making sure that the concert was safely under way.

Some members of the Orchestra had been telling me how beautiful the old town in Cuenca was, so as I wasn’t needed until the interval I went for a cuenca-old-townvery quick walk up to have a look for myself before it got too dark. The old town is nestled on the side of a hill with several houses hanging out over the edge of the rocks and lots of narrow and winding cobbled streets. It was just about dusk by then so it was very beautiful as I managed a quick taster of the sights.

I returned to the hall to do my bit at the interval and spent the second half of the concert reading my book while listening to the concert in the wings (which is my favourite place to listen from!). The concert was very well received, with a standing ovation from the audience and the Orchestra hanging-buildings-in-cuencahaving to take several bows.

Tired, but in high spirits, we returned to the hotel where I was invited for a drink to wind down with a couple of the players. We eventually found a quiet bar in amongst the throng of Spanish teenagers who were enjoying a drink in the street on a Saturday night. After this it was fairly late to bed and more travelling today, but everyone is looking forward to an equally good concert this evening in Valladolid.

Megan Russell, Projects Officer

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