continuo notes 3
I stole the ladies dressing room to meditate before the performance of Don Giovanni in Paris. I seemed to be keeping tendonitis successfully at bay with arnica but I was about to play solidly, revengefully and passionately for four hours and I was scared. I had also developed a high fever the night before and had no idea if it would re-emerge. After ten minutes successfully dealing with my fear and bringing myself back to the present, there was a knock on the door. It was Zerlina offering me a Good Luck card and two Californian walnut squares.
‘Our conductor just gave me a very alcoholic candy’ she giggled. ‘I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand up let alone sing Bati Bati…’
I met our chef in the hallway and he offered me the same first night charm as he had offered Zerlina – a brown nipple shaped chocolate with a very boozy centre. Inside was a cherry, a piece of whose stone lodged itself somewhere near the back of my throat. I swiftly added choking to my list of things that, along with boiling up and having my arm drop off, might prevent me from getting to the end of the performance.
During the performance, of course, I rode Mozart high on a mixture of empty mind, adrenalin and a tummy full of kirsch liquor and, apart from a brief moment during my solo in which I looked down to see that underneath my silk trousers the winter growth of hair was visible on my bare legs, I, along with Don Giovanni and his ladies, had a ball.
‘You made me cry’ said Julian in the interval.
'You have a wonderful wife' said the amazing Don Anna to Julian.
'It feels like family making music with you' said our first violin.
For myself, I felt like I had, in a fleeting moment of time, been an imperfect cog in the wheel of Amadeus' genius, but I had at least stayed present. That's not to say that the compliments were not happily received.
Julian and I rode home to Provence on the early train and I slept. When I got home I slept all afternoon. I woke briefly to have some champagne and receive an email from someone whom I was convinced was our Don Ottavio. I replied effusively, complimenting him on his sweet toned voice and the very fine couple he and Dona Anna had made. The email was, I realised this morning, in fact from the second double bass player. The day had been a blur. I went back to sleep.
In the morning a lake of sheep spilled past the house on their way up the mountain, and in his arms the shepherd carried a 15 minute old lamb. The creatures flooded the path and, drinking an excellent coffee on the terrace with the scent of pine and thyme and the sound of bells on the air, city streets and the ‘Soldissimes’ in Galerie Lafayette that I had been trying to resist for a month seemed far away and unimportant. Mozart, however, was still in my heart.