Saturday, 19 December 2009

About time

I've been meaning to write this for a little while, but today reminded me how far from the usual timetables this lifestyle is! I got dragged out of the bath this morning by my mother ringing both the landline and my mobile (I thought it was probably her, but if someone rings both, it could be urgent, so I leaped out, dripping, to answer the latter). She was patently amazed to have fished me out of the bath after 11 a.m. - I was secretly a little annoyed (well, it's bloody cold out there!) - I mean, I didn't have a morning rehearsal, so what's the problem?

The problem, of course, is that most people start work around 9 or 9.30 a.m., and end somewhere around 5.30 or 6 p.m., and certainly in London, you also have to allow for a regular commuting time of at least an hour either way. The way things are set up here, and in many German theatres, is that morning rehearsals can be scheduled from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., evening rehearsals from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., and performances, well, whenever they fall. I have certainly spent the first few months here trying to get used to that four-hour gap between rehearsals. Thank goodness my flat is only a short bike ride away; I found early on that despite what feels like a late start (I've always been an insomniac, awake early and asleep late), if I carry on through from the beginning of the morning rehearsal to the end of the evening rehearsal, I'll soon lose my voice, energy and will to live. It's just too concentrated, too long. I have therefore been training myself to nip back, have a carb-laden lunch (because it makes me sleepy) and rest or doze for an hour before carrying on. Goodness me, though, it goes against the grain!

However on a night like this, you do realise how necessary such things are. I had an easy morning (despite rudely-interrupted bathing time), mainly luxuriating in reading the paper in bed. Various things to do in the afternoon, but I was determined to sneak into the steam room in my parents' hotel before my performance - steam is super for the voice, especially after a bout of illness such as I've had. My voice is nearly back to normal, but I have to be very careful at some points, and the residual cough is Not Good for the voice.

After lunchtime, however, the weather changed from cold, clear and sunny to snowing and even settling a bit. Now, I thought that this was vaguely normal for Germany, but not, it would appear, where I am living. The conversations I had followed the exact pattern I was used to in London - along the lines of, gawd, you'd think they could cope with a couple of centimetres (same sentiment in England but they generally refer to an inch...) of snow without the whole bloody place grinding to a halt. But no. Evidently the downfall caught the city authorities unprepared; pavements were icy, road junctions treacherous and blocked with generally slow and resigned-looking accidents, and main arteries completely gridlocked. We'd intended to take a taxi from the hotel to the theatre, but due to a two-bus collision at a major junction, reception advised us that it was probably easier to walk. Wrong. It would probably have been easier to ski (downhill all the way). Walking, with one member of the party having a fairly-recently-replaced hip and boot soles the consistency of Teflon, and another a tendency to whomp along regardless of his poor wife, was NOT the easiest thing I've ever done. I was definitely more nervous delivering my parents intact to the performance than actually performing!

However the traffic chaos had also managed to entangle our lead tenor. As he was singing the title role, there was no question of starting without him; the delay stretched bit by bit from ten minutes into an entire hour. Now, this is a darned long time in the theatre; you are mentally and physically prepared to start at a certain time; a few minutes is nothing, but after a whole hour of ever-extended short delays your body tends towards the attitude of, oh bugger this for a game of soldiers, let's go home and sleep...

Except, of course, you can't, and don't. Energy must be found, eventually, and of course you find it. Post-performance it then often needs renewing; my poor parents, having suffered the performance delays without in the slightest understanding of what they were (I'd texted from backstage, but Mother had been very good and turned her phone off), then got landed (and in a Tex-Mex restaurant when they would far rather have tried something echt Deutsch) with a table full of starving and Margarita-craving singers. I can say without reservation that there's nothing quite like frozen alcoholic drinks and fat-laden food to round off a delayed performance - hats off to the parents for firstly putting up with us, secondly paying for the whole lot and thirdly, getting stuck in a taxi-less city centre (due to the snow) for far longer than strictly necessary, and at an hour when most parents would be appalled to still be marauding around - they duly were, when advised of the fact - of course, they hadn't realised how late it had become in the course of a delayed performance and something to eat afterwards... I have to say, though, they did brilliantly - no falling asleep at the table, no accidentally burningly embarrassing remarks (evidently my father was not on form) and best of all, we singers love nothing more than free food and drink - THANK YOU!! :-)

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