Sunday, June 14, 2009

My final days in Olomouc

What can one say about the final competition, which involved 3,500 singers, 117 choirs, 12 judges from 5 different countries, and climaxed each night in an orgy of raw beef and Slivovic?

I'm so busy putting on THAIS right now that I can barely keep my eyes open at night. So, all the reports about everything are coming after the 25th.

Meanwhile, I leave you with a picture of a rainbow, to show that I still have hope....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It was a few days after getting to Olomouc that I learned there would only be one rehearsal for "Nabucco." And when I got to that rehearsal I discovered that my preconceptions, based on a video of the 2004 premiere of this production, were all wrong. That video had been extremely slow, so I thought, I have to speed this opera up! After about 10 minutes of rehearsal, the concertmaster says to me, "But maestro, we are used to a faster tempo." It seemed that in five years, the opera had been getting faster and faster and faster ... Well, then the leading lady was "indisposed" and didn't make it to the rehearsal at all. Despite these problems, and the inevitable first half hour of caginess and mistrust, it turned out to be great working with the Czechs and eventually they responded brilliantly. The day after the rehearsal was spent trying to figure out what to do if the leading lady never recovered. On the morning of the performance, she was up, though, so about 3 hours before the show, I sat in the intendant's office lstening to their proposal for a cleverly cut version of the opera in which the leading lady was no longer leading, and the opera was actually about the OTHER soprano.... it seemed to make sense. I mean, Nabucco's plot isn't very logical to start off with.

The performance as it turned out was packed ... standing room only ... and we got standing ovations and a lot of curtain calls, so I suppose it must have made sense to the audience....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Olomouc Diary (ctd)

Food, food, food, food, food! The founder of the festival, Jiri Klimes, is amazingly hospitable and every day we are treated to extraordinary, rich, rare central European viands. Two nights ago, the local Philharmonic had a big concert with Anna Maria Popescu, a Canadian soprano I had already heard many good things about. Since there are only a small number of restaurants in Olomouc, we ran into each other after the show; since there is only one top hotel there, we also ran into each other at breakfast. Now, I'm hoping she'll do a master class in Thailand ... I am sure she would do really well here with the young singers ... she has the kind of charisma that can really inspire.

And here's a fine photograph of what they eat here ... raw beef with a raw egg on top, to be mixed by the diner with raw onions and assorted condiments ... yum! I was always a bit afraid of steak tartare, but this was so good I had it almost every night!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Slovenes hit the streets

After their victory, the Slovenian men's chorus ran out into the street and began, as it were, making a nuisance of themselves ... much to everyone's delight.