Elly Winer (viola)
Today was our last day in China and our final concert of the tour at the Beijing Music Festival. We bussed over to the Forbidden City Concert Hall to find the setup of the stage in chaos. The Beijing stage crew was very late arriving and our staff was hard put to get it all set up for the dress rehearsal. This hall has a wonderful acoustic and a roomy stage, but has very little in the way of lighting.
The dress rehearsal went well from a musical standpoint, but our crew was severely challenged by a number of production difficulties. Jonathan reviewed for the orchestra all the cues (in Mandarin!!!) and we played through the program without mishap.
The break in the middle of the rehearsal was catered by Wen Zhao's aunt, who brought us lunch boxes of Chinese Muslim food as well as the Beijing speciality: Tang Hu Lu Chuar, a skewer of candied haw apples wrapped in rice paper. Alison Mackay said it was the one taste she wanted to have in mouth before she died!
We had an extended break between the rehearsal and the concert, and many musicians decided to stay near the hall. Some went to the Pearl Market, others went on a tour of the Forbidden City, and John Abberger and I went to explore Qianmen Street. We were dismayed to find the old street completely demolished and rebuilt as a touristy, outdoor shopping mall. The old neighbourhood was torn down and the new zone was rebuilt with the old bricks.
We continued walking on a back street and ventured into a tiny dumpling shack for a delicious snack of steamed dumplings and buns. We wandered around a little more before settling into a small meal of Beijing Roast Duck at the Quanjude Duck House. We returned to the concert hall via a short tour of an old hutong area. Hutongs are the old, walled family homes of Beijing. They have a garden in the middle and all the rooms look into the center of the courtyard.
The concert went extremely well. Aisslinn Nosky and Lucas Harris covered themselves in glory as usual. Jonathan Kos-Read whipped the audience into a frenzy, causing us to play an encore: a reprise of the Moresca dance from Monteverdi's opera, Orfeo.
After the concert we had a short reception backstage and then many musicians went out for drinks to the Houhai district. This area is just north of the Forbidden City, with many bars and restaurants lining a series of lakes in the center of town.
This marks the end of my blog as the tour is ending for most of the musicians. Jeanne Lamon, Christina Mahler and Aisslinn Nosky will proceed to Seoul to give a series of masterclasses, many musicians will return home to the Opera Atelier production of Acis and Galatea, and Pat and I will fly to Chengdu to participate in a week long cooking course of fiery Sichuan food!