Away From The Stage…

Welcome to week three of the Scottish Opera Tour blog, behind the scenes with Così fan tutte!

Today’s post comes to you from Wick and my musings will be primarily around the importance of a hearty breakfast in the morning and a wee dram next to a good roaring fire in the evening…

Never have these things been better appreciated than in the beautiful little town of Ballater, where our evening meal was accompanied by a couple of local fiddlers and pipers, as well as some absolutely gorgeous singing.

A show-day hike!

The next morning, a hearty breakfast set us up for a walk up to the cairn. I wouldn’t normally do a hike on a show day, but we were reliably informed that the climb was short and gentle, and the weather was perfect so it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.

After receiving detailed instructions from one of the more outdoors-y members of the cast and plotting our route, we set out and promptly got lost! No problem. Being an enterprising sort of bunch, we figured that as long as we were going uphill, we were probably headed in the right direction.

So began our epic journey. You may now add the names Coad, Harris and France to those of Livingstone, Scott and Fiennes. Never have explorers been so under-prepared (I’ll remember to bring water next time!) but never has a hill been climbed with such enthusiasm.

After much cheerful scrabbling, we made it to the top and were rewarded with some breathtaking views, before realising that we weren’t at the top after all and the cairn itself was still some distance away. Cue further scrabbling! Explorer Coad unwisely mentioned the unlikely possibility of snakes. Explorer Harris began to panic at the possibility of a snake wriggling down the back of his jumper. The risk of losing a Harris Tweed flatcap in the melee rose from possible to likely.

And then, like a highland cow gently loping towards us through the mist, the cairn rose in front of our eyes in all it’s glory. It was worth every drop of sweat, blood and tears, as we were entirely alone up there on a cold, crisp morning and the views over Ballater were stunning. The pictures that you can see on the right just do not do it justice.

 Back on the road

After a lovely show in Aboyne, we bid a sad farewell to Ballater and headed north for the ferry over to Orkney. I had thought that Ballater would be the unrivalled highlight of the tour for me, but I had never been to Orkney before.

Caroline, our wonderful tour manager, had arranged it so that we would have a full day off there, which meant that we were able to hire a car and visit all the sights. We began with Maeshowe and the standing stones at Brodgar before driving to Skara Brae.

The day had begun bright and cold with clear skies, so we were feeling optimistic. However, we’d rather underestimated Orkney’s temperamental mood swings and by the time we got to Skara Brae, the skies were angry and the rain was horizontal.

Not to be beaten, we braved it anyway and I’m so glad we did. If you haven’t been to Skara Brae, it is an extraordinary thing to look into the houses of people just like us who were living five thousand years ago.

I struggle to find the words to describe such an experience so it’s lucky that there are some in the cast who are far more eloquent than I. James, who plays Don Alfonso, has written a beautiful poem about his visit and promised to allow me to publish it next week, after he’s had a chance to tweak it.

This set us all off and consequently we have collectively decided that next week will be The Scottish Opera Tour Poetry Week. Composing haikus over breakfast has become a favourite pastime so there will be a few of those on the blog next week too. Feel free to send in your own!

 The audience plays a vital role

As for the shows, we’re all overwhelmed by the welcome we’ve received everywhere we’ve been.

It’s lovely to sing for such appreciative audiences, especially when travelling has made us tired. The energy a performer receives from an audience is vital – we ride on that energy and in that way, the audience is a vital part of the show and contributes a huge amount to the performance, whether they realise it or not. This comes over to the performers especially strongly with a small audience and so I’m grateful that our tour audiences have been so generous with their energy!

A huge thank you to Aboyne, Kirkwall, Wick and Inverness for having us. This coming week we’ll be travelling to Musselburgh and St Andrews – hope to see you there!