Friday, November 08, 2013

19.1.69 - London Opera Centre tours to Southampton

Dear Mum, just another few words, as I now have returned from Southampton, and may as well tell you about it while I have a minute free.  (Incidentally, I seem to have got over bug of earlier in the week without any more troubles, which is good.)  Well, on Friday morning, after I last wrote, I had to get up at the revolting hour of 7.00!, in order to have plenty of time to get to the Waterloo Station to catch a train at 9.47. As it was I was much too early by about ¾ of an hour, but it didn’t matte,r even though Waterloo is a very draughty station. There were only seven of us going down by train, Kiri [te Kanawa], Jane Plant (another married soprano, a bit dithery), David Smith, the Canadian tenor – and a curiously mixed up boy – 21 – sometimes very nice, sometimes downright over-rude; Keith Stoppard, and Bob Lloyd, also both married (!), Henry Ward, one of the reps, and me. Bob and Henry and I talked all the way down, and found out a bit more about each other, tho Henry is inclined to be a bit reticent, and the comparatively short time – about an hour and a half – passed quickly.

Southampton seems a nice place, though I didn’t really see much of it at all, except when travelling from A to B, but it looks a bit quieter than London. And it’s quite near the New Forest – some of which wanders into the town. The theatre we were playing at was the Nuffield Theatre, in the University and like much of the University, very new, and except for the outside nicely designed.

Everyone was to be billeted with local professors and lecturers and students, and they were all supposed to meet us before the rehearsal in the afternoon, but very few did. However it didn’t matter, and after we had collected our meal tickets, we went and had lunch in the University Union. Here for the first time I struck some of the cast playing this game (which they had apparently played all the way down in one of the cars, and it spread amongst the whole Opera Centre part of the company) which entails someone having a name beginning with, say, C, and the others have to ask him if he is, eg, an American composer (Copland) and if the person with the name doesn’t know an American composer the rest get a ‘free’ question which means they can get some more definite clue about the person. It takes an awful lot of concentration, and since it was played at practically every meal with generally anything up to ten people, and also all the way round a little trip of Southampton we took last night and also all the way back in the car this morning I feel fagged out! Came home and just slumped down on me bed for an hour.

Anyway, our rehearsal went off not badly, (with me conducing the off-stage chorus in Dido – and string quartet – tho they really could probably have done without me!) and after this I caught up with my billet. To jump ahead a bit, they turned out to be a late-twenties couple – he is an ex-second fiddle with the Allegri Quartet, which has quite a good reputation over here, and has toured a lot of the world, including NZ (tho this particular member didn’t, just Canada, and the States), and his wife is a very good cellist called Sharon McKinley – he is Peter Thomas.  And they were so informal and so nice – she was a delight in fact – that I felt very relaxed and happy with them. They only lived two minutes from the theatre so I was enabled to go and come as I pleased – they gave me the back door key!

Queen Elizabeth I
On Friday night the show went very well, I think, and even better last night. Better I think than it ever did at the Wells. The orchestra decided to have a little fun too, and at the end when the curtain calls were running thru, as Theresa Cahill comes out as Angelique, she brings the sign with her: Wife for Sale, and the orchestra all threw money up at her!  During [between?] yesterday’s shows, half a dozen of us went to see if we could see the Queen Elizabeth but couldn’t get passes, so we went across on the Hythe Ferry instead, which at least took us out over the harbour area, quite close to it. The others all reckoned she wasn’t as big as the old pair of Queens, but I wouldn’t know. She looked a fair size to me, and rather neat and lovely. However one of the wardrobe girls was also telling me that she had a closer look at it and it looks badly put together. In fact, it seems to me to be generally a rather bad piece of workmanship altogether. [This observation apparently based on what the wardrobe girl said..!]

Alan Opie - a more recent photo
After last night’s show, Alan Opie and his girlfriend Kath Smales, (also a student) and Tony Baldwin (who   Some of the humour was rather crude, and there were a few rather unbelievable lines to some of the songs, but it was a very pleasant atmosphere in spite of this.
brought me back today) and I went to a pub up the road from the theatre and walked into a sing-song that was going on, and sat down and joined in and really enjoyed ourselves.

This morning, on the way back – David Smith was with us too – we stopped off at a nicely built – in an old-fashioned style (tho a reasonably new place) – pub, and had a sort of second-breakfast: and the atmosphere was straight out of Dickens: the host seemed to be expecting us just to walk in at that particular moment – he had sausages sitting there ready and waiting, and coffee and rolls appeared out of thin air, and there was a nice roaring fire. Lovely. And not very expensive either. He told us to come back again, and made it quite obvious that he would be just as ready next time.  There was a lovely little fast-flowing stream running past the place, and a little short-haired terrier mooning about the lounge.

So that’s me Southampton jaunt – much pleasanter than I expected it to be – and with a welcome back anytime from the Thomases.

Better go and do some washing – see yah!

[handwritten] Love Mike.
PS I’ve got to play both the difficult pieces in the Master Class AND conduct the third! Good Grief!