“Un, deux, trios, Quat’-a-strophe” says the chef and we are off again, playing the rerun for ‘Mozart Year’ of his first opera, written when he was still a soprano.
“No! I want it really loud!” - he says after we bash out the first forty-eight quavers like gunfire – “ Rambo meets Marlene Dietrich”. He scrunches his hands into balls of testosterone and punches the air. I try and play louder but the sound gets pressed into the instrument and disappears along with the phrasing. Perhaps I am not cut out for Power Mozart. I’m definitely more Hatha in spirit.
The lyrical passages and the recitatives convince me more:
“You have to sing this like – who’s that Rolling Stone….?”
“Mick Jagger” we chorus.
“Yeah, Mick Jagger without a microphone. Pathetic, crumpled….”
“Rather Marianne Faithful” mutters someone else.
The continuo cellist draws his bow across the string like a gasp and the recitative comes to life - spoken not sung; drama not musical. Other recitatives are spat in anger or whispered in fear, out and under-lined by the cello and harpsichord. All the singers are up a notch on last year both vocally and dramatically, and it sounds great.
We pump out the dress rehearsal. I am imprisoned in my head, an inner voice shrieking “Louder! Louder!” as soon as I see the letter ‘f’ approaching. I am not listening to the singers but rather the voice in my head, and I do not hear most of the arias.
Then Mitridate starts singing and I wake up. Richard Croft has one of those breaks, even in his speaking voice, that just kills me. As he reaches with heart rending pathos for his top note, his voice cracks just very slightly along the way I am reminded of the gutty crack in Casals’ sound.
‘Ah’ I think, relieved, as I feel my heart expand into my ribcage and my eyes moisten. ‘There it is. There’s the music.’
Tomorrow I am meeting my Romeo in Verona for a couple of days. I wish I could take poor old Mozart, who is currently to be seen as a giant Kugel Balloon in Vienna’s museum district, with me. He probably needs a break from Salzburg too. (Friends whom I was visiting there have promised to snap The Kugel for me.) Julian, meanwhile, is escaping the fallout from this article in USAToday.