Sunday, August 22, 2004

Carmen by train

I've been spending a few days in Lewes with Tom, whose Glyndebourne schedule doesn't permit daily homecoming at the moment. This week he has rehearsals at St Luke's (City of London) in the mornings for Edinburgh Festival concerts next week, followed by performances at Glyndebourne in the evenings. Insane. So he's staying with some friends and I went to stay too. I came home by train this morning and there on the train was Carmen.

I'm very accustomed to meeting musicians and feel lucky to count some incredible ones among my dearest friends, to the point that round the East Sheen dinner table I can often forget what they do for their living (until they slope off to try the Bechstein). But opera singers are quite another matter - it's almost impossible to get their latest character out of your head. Once I had to interview Richard van Allen about the opera studio in London which he was involved in running, not long after seeing him play the baddy in 'Billy Budd'; I turned up for the meeting and could only think 'Oh my God, it's Claggart!' So sitting on the Victoria train seeing Carmen leafing through the Sunday Times and then nodding off for the better part of the journey was a tad strange. She deserved her nap, though.

The weirdest thing of all, however, was the time Tom got to play in the stage band of Don Giovanni in Graham Vick's highly controversial staging, nicknamed 'the dead horse production'. The on-stage musicians were made up to look as decadent as everyone else, so Tom had to wear an 18th-century frock coat and a wig, with his face made up stark white except for black circles around both eyes. He looked like a vampire. But he thoroughly enjoyed himself and was even told off at one point for over-acting. All sorts of stuff goes on on the last night of the season, of course, and he took that particular opportunity to kiss several girls in the chorus during the dance scene, knowing full well I was out front and could do nothing about it...

Glyndebourne is nearly finished - the last night is 29th. But it's not quite the end of the summer...not quite...the Proms are still on, the Edinburgh Festival is in full swing (I am going for the first time) and St Nazaire is not until well into September. That will be the grand finale, especially for Tom, who has finally got a moment of real glory. He has been invited to play in the Weber Clarinet Quintet with Philippe Graffin, Nobuko Imai, Gary Hoffman and Charles Neidich. Go to Consonances de St Nazaire and scroll down the pics to a smiley fiddler between Devoyon and Graffin... Quite apart from that, St Nazaire will be fascinating this year because of the presence of the astonishing Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin, who has written a new concerto for Philippe. St Nazaire is a strange place for strange marvels.