William Norris, Managing Director
It’s hard to know how to start this, my first ever blog entry for Tafelmusik, and the first blog from our Trip to Versailles with Opera Atelier. When Tim in our marketing team asked me to write something about the trip and our performances of Lully’s Armide, little did any of us know that such horrific events would unfurl on the streets of Paris just days ahead of our arrival.
I don’t however want to dwell on them too much – you can find all the comment you need online or in the papers. Our job here is to make life-affirming music, and that is what we and Opera Atelier shall do, so I’ll keep my blog to matters tour related as much as I can.
Most of the Orchestra travelled over Sunday evening whereas my own route was more circuitous, via London and Sussex to see friends and family, and then through the pretty town (not that I saw any of it) of Bruges in Belgium to meet with the concert hall there. I arrived in Versailles after a day of travelling and went straight to the Royal Opera where we were rehearsing.
Arriving in a new place at night is always slightly strange – it’s hard to get a sense of the place, but I managed to get myself to the Royal Opera house, find the incredibly subtly signposted stage door and get myself admitted into the building. No one was around backstage and I was slightly scared of bursting through a door and suddenly finding myself right on stage, but after some adventures including random staircases and locked doors I eventually found my way into the auditorium just as things were finishing off (at a rather late 11pm).
At this point the cast’s bows were being rehearsed, as was the French National Anthem, which we are to play at tomorrow’s opening night as a mark of respect to the victims of Friday’s atrocities.
On entering the auditorium and looking around myself I was struck immediately by the intimacy of the Opera House. It seats just over 700, and even though I only heard a mere snippet of the Orchestra rehearsal it was obvious just what a great acoustic it has – no doubt due at least in part to the fact that the interior is entirely made of wood.
Rehearsal over, we posed for a quick picture on stage to accompany a press article, and then embarked on the harder than expected job of finding a glass of wine in Versailles (quite a small place after all) at 11pm. I am glad to say we succeeded. Wine selection was left in the capable hands of John Abberger, assisted by a surprise guest, Davide Monti. You may remember that Davide was a guest director with us in a recent season, and he had, rather impressively, made the trip up from his home in Nice to see us in Versailles. Julie Wedman, Chris Verette and Felix Deak all joined us, and we all had such a lovely evening that I neglected to take a photograph of us for this blog.
Tonight is the dress rehearsal, and I’ll write more about that and perhaps touch a little on the history of the Royal Opera House then.