Today is our last full day in Spain. We travel back to Liverpool tomorrow morning. There is no rehearsal today, just the performance of Parsifal. Whilst we have been in La Coruna, or should I use the Galician A Coruna, I had been looking for an opportunity to visit the old fortress, as it seems to be known. Built by Philip the Second in the sixteenth century, the fortress had been enhanced progressively until taking on its current form sometime in the late eighteenth century. It is housed on a small rocky island and intended for use defending La Coruna Port. Until the mid-twentieth century it has been used as a prison. Since 1968 it has been used to house the municipal History and Archaeology museum.
I had been informed correctly. The fortress is an oasis of calm, tranquility and beauty, away from the hustle and bustle of busy A/La Coruna. I think I’ll stick with the Spanish version of writing this city’s name, for no other reason than people I know are more familiar with it. The fortress also affords some breathtaking views of La Coruna Port and the surrounding area.
Within, there are gardens, cannons, stocks, a freshwater ‘lake’ [albeit a small one] under the castle. Plenty of art and treasures, and all that history. I was reminded that there is a local museum to Liverpool’s own Royal Green Jackets here in La Coruna. The Green Jackets were the first marines, apparently, and had fought here in the battle of Elvina. The Green Jackets were hoarded aboard and rushed at the enemy when close enough, wreaking havoc.
I could spend all day on this Old fortress. There is such a lot to see. It really is a special place, not unlike a significant portion of this city. I think I have seen a lot of special things here but this is about the best. However, Parsifal’s quest for the Holy Grail etc beckons and I’d better not miss this coach to Santiago.
I was back at the hotel in time to have a spot of lunch etc and catch the coach to Santiago de Compostela. There was a good atmosphere on the coach. Performing Parsifal complete, was a first for most, the first time this Galician based opera was to be performed in the region. The connection with the Holy Grail between the region and the opera was a topic I overheard more than once. More than all that, this performance was the culmination of nine days hard touring plus prior rehearsals to prepare.
Likewise the Brno State National Opera Chorus was hard at work getting all that last minute minutiae as good as possible.
The RLPO arrived at the Auditorio de Galicia about one and a half hours early. Everyone split up for dinner or to engage in personal preparation for a tough ‘gig’. We were in the same room as the excellent children’s chorus, Coro Cantabile from La Coruna. They were already hard at work.
Vasily Petrenko and RLPO leader James Clark were on stage discussing the finer points of performing Parsifal. Everything at this stage matters, we only have one chance to make this momentous occasion as special as possible.
Players and singers were on stage right up until the audience were admitted to the auditorium. I did about half an hour practice just to make sure my own contribution was as good as I could possibly make it. Nothing is ever perfect but we strive for perfection nonetheless.
Everything was ready, the audience was waiting, the microphones and television cameras were set. I felt a tingle of nerves as we chorus orchestra and singers entered the stage. Barbora from the Brno Chorus wished me luck and I returned the sentiment. The performance began. There were to be two intervals between the Acts and they would be needed. At the end of the first act the audience erupted into cheers and applause. There is an awful lot of music in the first act and the half an hour break was welcomed for performers to re-energise ready for the intense second act. The RLPO brass got together with the Spanish off stage brass for a chat and a photo. The Spanish boys had finished at the end of act one and were preparing to leave. Sadly, the following shot is the best of a terrible series of unfocused pictures, sorry!
I love the second act of Parsifal. All the singers were excellent by the part written for Kundry is one of those tour de force parts which frankly steal the show, no matter how well everyone else performs. We were lucky, then to have a superstar such as Violetta Urmana who performed the part with such aplomb. The discerning audience erupted into applause at the entry of the Flower Maidens. The Flower Maidens were all Spanish, and indeed were sharing the same hotel as the RLPO. They were a good laugh socially and could be heard singing their solos in diverse parts of the hotel. Nikolai Schukoff, dressed in a white suit [every other male performer was in black] looked and sounded suitably saintly except when the Flower Maidens were trying to tempt Parsifal. were also Nicholai thought he would pull faces at the girls as his back was to the audience. He had neglected to notice the camera on stage relaying his rude faces to monitors and film. He was laughing about this at the next interval. The ladies chorus from Brno were also excellent in this very difficult act for them. The audience went wild again.
I have stated elsewhere that Act three is my favourite section of the opera. The music is brooding and otherworldly, passing through the dramatic scenes of the knights. The Knights were superbly played by the Men from the Brno State Opera Chorus. The ending of Parsifal is amongst Wagner’s most magical as Parsifal ascends to the role of Grail King and the music builds and builds with the grail motif to the end. Fantastic! The audience wouldn’t let us leave the stage! They just kept on cheering and demanding more. A wonderful reception and a fitting performance as the main event at the 2010 Xacobeo.
The organisers held a reception for the RLPO afterwards. We needed it. Beer and wine were flowing and platters of Galician food were continually brought to our tables. There was a lot of laughter and sheer relief that we had finished and everything had gone so well.
The party continued on the coach back to the hotel afterwards. A mass sing-a-long ensued and the wine continued to flow. Back at the hotel some continued to celebrate in the local barsI shall miss Spain. We have been in such a beautiful country. The weather, scenery, food, hotels and concerts have all been fantastic. The organisation of this tour has been fabulous and a great success. Great tour, well done EVERYONE!
I would like to offer my best wishes to violinist Kate Marsden and her fiance, Merlyn, for their marriage this week. I’m sure the whole of the RLPO join me in wishing all the good luck, and success they deserve for their future happiness.
The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra travel to London in September and China in October. Stay tuned for future news. o-iii<O
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