Monday, 30 April 2007

Good 'eavens!

The photo at the head of this entry shows the over stage truss and gives something of a clue as to the scale of this new canopy (thanks to Brendan for going up in the cherry picker and taking the shot). Over this will be spread the stage tensile fabric and the large main canopy will be attached at the front. On the ground, at the base of the upright leg, you can see the elaborate steel contraption that creates a firm foundation without the need for huge concrete blocks on such a delicate site. Great care has been taken with this aspect of the canopy design and installation. Where concrete is inappropriate, special steel has been designed or, in some cases, thin 'helical' screws have been inserted into the ground so as not to have concrete disturbing tree roots, foundations etc. In some cases, such are the enormous forces of the canopy, these screws extend 15 metres into the ground. One of the engineers explained how this device creates a sort of funnel shaped plug ahead of it etc etc. He lost me halfway through the explanation. "Will it hold the bloody thing in?" I asked. "Yes", came the reply - the only explanation I was after really.

The first reaction of anybody seeing the over-stage truss tends to be "Bloody hell". Considering the canopy itself will extend higher still, it does suggest the scale of the new structure. It really will be a magnificent space.

James's weekends are now filled with trepidation - unexpected phone calls and emails are never far away and rarely bring good news. He had one such on Saturday bringing unfortunate tidings about one particular singer. Not insurmountable but a brisk reminder of what the next few months may have in store for him. Frankly, he can deal with anything (very little will ever compare to the abyss into which he stared after the first night of Queen of Spades last year) but I suspect he could do without the grief.

Clarinda continues to breeze her way through mounting challenges. In fact, I hesitate to call them challenges for fear I might insult her. She has assembled a small army of interns, the combined musical and academic qualifications of which would mount a serious challenge to any educational institution in the land. If they all brought in their instruments we could start an orchestra.

We had something of a customer relations nightmare when we invited Friends to attend the free test night on 30th May. The tickets had gone within about an hour of being made available and those with a less efficient postal service we left out in the cold. We somewhat misjudged the desire of Friends to be there on what we THOUGHT we had made clear would be at best a rough rehearsal and at worst, intentional chaos. We did not think any would be that keen to attend! A lesson learned and lots of apologies to disappointed Friends. You live and learn. One rather irate Friend called me directly to complain. I muttered something about being surprised by the demand and that really, she wouldn't be missing much. "You are just saying that to make me feel better", she said. "No, I'm not, really" I stuttered.
"Why not?" came the probably apposite response. You live and learn indeed.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

No time to waste

Just shy of 6 weeks to go and where to begin? Rehearsals and the first meet and greet for Jenufa happened today. A fabulous cast is about to begin a journey that culminates on stage on June 6th. The office is beginning to take on a surreal air - props everywhere in stage management - including blood-soaked baby dolls.
And of course, the steel for the new canopy has arrived and will begin to be installed tomorrow. It's frighteningly close. I suppose I have waited 18 years for this moment. There is very little time to get everything done since planning permission only came through recently. It's all hands on deck for the finishing touches once the main structures are up. Then hey presto - test night and then first night.

Ticket sales are amazingly good. L'amore dei tre Re, one of the rarest things you are likely to see in the UK this year is clearly on the way to a total sell out. In the first two weeks of booking, over 30,000 seats are gone for the season. Lakme too is a huge success.

heard from our good friend Sir Denis Forman yesterday. He'll be along for L'amore (always one for the unusual Sir D) and no doubt he'll bring suitably interesting guests as ever. A great man who wrote a great book about opera - hilariously funny yet still retaining a comprehensively educational element. We shall look forward to after show dinner with he and his wife as usual.

Forgive the brevity of this entry but there are plants, gravel, carpets and sundry aesthetic embellishments that need confirming.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Here we go

Good Friday. GOOD FRIDAY!
It really does worry me how quickly time flies by these days. I am about to embark on my 18th season at Holland Park and it is still growing and developing. Perhaps that is why the time is barging past me so rapidly - something about when you are having fun?
Discussions about 2008 and 2009 are occurring frequently now. One such with conductor of L'amore dei Tre Re, Peter Robinson, involved a sharp intake of breath at the mention of La Gioconda which we produce in July next year. A sharp intake of breath from Peter is the equivalent of a raging tirade from me about the idiocy of the congestion charge. Even then, people pay far greater heed to Peter's teeth sucking than they do my hair-pulling. When I rant, you might believe the matter is important; if Peter Robinson draws sharp breath, look to the sky for a meteor or listen for the four minute warning. He can also do it when he is smiling but only a fool would be diverted by that. This is a man of steely nerve and purpose who once wrote a six part woodwind representation of an organ passage in Luisa Miller when a storm had disabled the real thing. He had less than half an hour to do it and nobody noticed the difference. His warning (for that is what it was) relates to the size of the piece. I suppose, to put it into a context, the opera represents our equivalent of the Ring Cycle. In the verismo stable, Gioconda holds the title of biggest animal. Where Fedora is an engaging show pony, Gioconda is the galloping shire. And of course, we can't wait.

The box office opens on Tuesday once the wholly inconvenient Easter break shuffles off. Phones and internet are ready and waiting. I believe the technicians are having special drill sessions over the Easter weekend to ensure it all goes smoothly. A repeat of last year's early debacle will illicit one of those hair-pulling rants from me. Although I doubt peter Robinson would waste a breath on it.