When I went to the first rehearsal for our performance of the Messiah on December 23rd last month, I remembered a piece that I had started writing after our first rehearsal in 2019. Otra vuelta a la espiral!

It’s the Saturday before Christmas and a warm sunny morning. I get to the Auditori with twenty minutes to spare. This is partly due to the fact that I’ve come directly from the house of a new companion – one whom it has taken months for me to woo into a relaxed state of desire and exploration – and my heart is quietly joyful. I enter the building and descend the stairs leading below ground level to the subterranean universe of performers.

The amateur choir for our Messiah concert is vocalizing and so I settle backstage to warm up as I wait for them to finish. A memory suddenly flashes across my brain. It is of a performance in this same chamber hall with my ‘garage band string quartet’ (the now cringeworthily named Virus String Quartet) 12 years before. This kind of thing has been happening to me more often of late. Is it the result of my accumulating years or simply the fact of having lived in the same city for over 14 years – a first in my adult life?

Back then, in the spring of 2007, my son was 6 years old. When we had adopted Mariano the previous year, I had played informally for small groups of people on several islands of his native Cabo Verde, mostly to stay in shape but also to pass the time while we waited for his papers to come through. That evening, however, was the first time that he would see me perform in a concert hall. He had been up in the balcony, the one I could now see from across the stage, playing with the grown-up daughter of a friend of ours. I had been waiting backstage, wearing the raspberry sequined sandals that he had christened ‘zapatos de luces’ the night before.

Then I entered the stage with my fellow quartet members, bowing to acknowledge the audience’s applause. As we took our places and the clapping died down, a small voice became clearly audible in the darkened hall. ‘Mamma!’ it exclaimed. Since I was the only woman onstage, it was fairly obvious whose child this was. Charmed laughter burst out from various parts of the hall! I was secretly delighted even as I blushed. The road to motherhood had been long, rough and circuitous – much resembling how the role itself would turn out to be – requiring patience, dedication and sacrifice.

The rehearsal is about to begin, and I rejoin the present. My colleague playing principal hasn’t shown up yet and so, I’m invited to take his seat. Several friends smile at me from across the stage as I move up. This is our first rehearsal with the amateur choir, which has been preparing for next week’s performance since September. There is a multitude of singers filling the hall and what they occasionally lack in intonation, they more than make up for in enthusiasm!

I delight in the variety of emotions expressed in the rich counterpoint of the choruses, running the gamut from despair to poignancy to exaltation. Suddenly, out of the blue, I am jolted by the realization that I am currently sitting in the same hall where my love and I had attended a chamber music concert on my birthday 3 years earlier. The central aisle, now directly to the left of the seat where I am sitting onstage, leads straight up the stairs to the space for disabled audience members, which Mike had still been able to access in his electric wheelchair. I had held his hand, reveling in the glorious performance that my friends gave of a pair of my favorite pieces, the 2 Brahms string sextets. Little did I suspect how soon and in what context I would hear one of them again.

Both during the intermission and after the concert, I had introduced Mike to several of my friends for the first time, although we had been in a relationship for almost 3 years. Afterwards, we had strolled/rolled back to our nearby apartment for a simple quiet supper. I would have to get up early the following morning for a chamber music concert in another town 5 hours south.

After I had transferred Mike into bed, with the help of a large crane-like contraption which barely fit into his side of the room, I facilitated his undressing, as I did every night. When I lowered him into a horizontal position, for what was to be the last time, he began to have trouble breathing. I called his mother, who was visiting us, into our bedroom and got him back into an upright position, supporting him by sitting back-to-back on the bed as I spoke with the emergency operator on the phone. After ordering an ambulance, I turned back around to embrace him, in a position reminiscent of the Pietà. Minutes later, I suddenly realized that he had stopped breathing. An expletive forcefully escaped my mouth. And then I told him that I loved him, in case he could still hear me.

That night, I made sure that his 3 teenaged kids, who lived nearby, had the opportunity to see him before the paramedics carried him out of our apartment in a body bag.

I went to play that concert the next day, feeling blessed to have a purpose and be surrounded by friends on the first day of the hardest year of my life.

The first movement of Brahms was one of the pieces of music we chose for his memorial service, along with the theme of the Goldberg Variations, chosen by Mike’s brother, Chris, and a Dire Straits song, On Every Street, that Mike had been listening to obsessively during his last weeks.

How can a single place hold such disparate memories and associations?
It is incredible to me that so many parallel realities can co-exist in the same space. Time seems to spiral. Up, to provide perspective and down, to dig deeper into meaning.

Birthday at the Palau

When I first came to Catalonia 21 years ago, I was delighted to discover a beautiful city with a vibrant and enormously varied music scene. I was very fortunate to restart my career as a freelancer here with abundant opportunities to meet many wonderful and talented artists and expand my creative horizons. My first concert in the Art Nouveau gem of the Palau de la Música Catalana happened to fall on my birthday that year, a truly wonderful gift!
Coincidentally (or not ;-), the Palau was also the venue of my first public concert after the lockdown last year, also a treasured event.
It so happens that I will be performing in ‘Il Barbiere de Siviglia’ in the Palau this Saturday, 21 years (+ 1 day) later. I enjoy performing opera there because, instead of playing in an orchestra pit, we are on the beautiful stage among the singers.
After many performances at a greater distance from each other, this can lead to a sensation of ‘Technicolor’ sound – and heightened emotions for all of the participants. Three years ago, at the end of our performance of ‘La Bohème’ there, I was moved to hear the sound of the soprano who played Musetta sobbing quietly beside me.

I often feel that I have the best seat in the house.

Cuando llegué por primera vez a Cataluña hace 21 años, me encantó descubrir una ciudad hermosa con una escena musical vibrante y enormemente variada. Tuve mucha suerte de reiniciar mi carrera ‘freelance’ aquí con abundantes oportunidades para conocer a muchos artistas maravillosos y talentosos y expandir mis horizontes creativos. Mi primer concierto en la joya del Art Nouveau que es el Palau de la Música Catalana ocurrió en mi cumpleaños ese año, ¡un regalo verdaderamente maravilloso!
Casualmente (o no ;-), el Palau también fue la sede de mi primer concierto público después del primer confinamiento del año pasado, también un evento muy memorable.
Y este sábado, 21 años (+ 1 día) después, actuaré en ‘Il Barbiere de Siviglia’ en el Palau. Disfruto interpretando ópera allí porque, en lugar de tocar en un foso, los miembros de la orquesta estamos en el hermoso escenario entre los cantantes.
Después de muchas actuaciones a una mayor distancia entre los unos y los otros, esto puede llevar a una sensación de sonido ‘Technicolor’ y emociones intensas para todos los participantes. Hace 3 años, al final de nuestra interpretación de ‘La Bohème’ allí, me conmovió escuchar el sonido de la soprano que interpretaba Musetta sollozando a mi lado.

A menudo siento que tengo el mejor asiento de la casa.

Quand je suis arrivé pour la première fois en Catalogne il y a 21 ans, j’étais ravi de découvrir une belle ville avec une scène musicale vibrante et extrêmement variée. J’ai eu la chance de redémarrer ma carrière d’intermittente ici avec de nombreuses opportunités de rencontrer de beaucoup d’artistes merveilleux et talentueux et d’élargir mes horizons créatifs. Mon premier concert dans le joyau de l’Art nouveau qui est le Palau de la Música Catalana est tombé le jour de mon anniversaire cette année-là, un cadeau vraiment merveilleux !
Par coïncidence (ou pas ;-), le Palau a également été le lieu de mon premier concert public après le premier confinement de l’année dernière, également un événement précieux.
Il se trouve que je vais jouer dans ‘Il Barbiere de Siviglia’ aux Palau ce samedi, 21 ans (+ 1 jour) plus tard. J’aime y jouer de l’opéra car, au lieu de jouer dans une fosse d’orchestre, nous sommes sur la belle scène parmi les chanteurs.
Après de nombreuses performances à une plus grande distance les uns des autres, cela peut conduire à une sensation de son ‘Technicolor’ – et des émotions fortes pour tous les participants. Il y a 3 années, à la fin de notre représentation de ‘La Bohème’ là-bas, j’étais ému d’entendre le son de la soprano qui jouait Musetta sanglotant doucement à côté de moi.

J’ai souvent l’impression d’avoir la meilleure place de la maison.

Back at the Teatre Fortuny

My favorite theater in all of Catalonia is in Reus. It is called the Teatre Fortuny, named after the painter and native son Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874).

Mi teatro favorito de toda Cataluña está en Reus. Se llama el Teatre Fortuny, en honor al pintor e hijo nativo Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874).

Mon théâtre préféré dans toute la Catalogne est à Reus. Il s’appelle le Teatre Fortuny, en l’honneur du peintre et fils du pays Mariano Fortuny (1838-1874).

I played there last Tuesday for the first time in 2 years. I love the naturally resonant acoustics of this wooden hatbox-shaped Italian theater with its raked stage and shallow pit, which allows members of the orchestra to see what the singers are doing onstage.

Toqué allí el martes pasado por primera vez en 2 años. Me encanta la acústica de  de este teatro italiano con forma de sombrerera, la resonancia natural de la madera, con su escenario inclinado y su foso poco profundo, que permite a los miembros de la orquesta ver lo que hacen los cantantes en el escenario.

J’y ai joué mardi dernier pour la première fois en 2 ans. J’aime l’acoustique de ce théâtre italien en forme de boîte à chapeau, la résonance naturelle du bois, avec sa scène en pente et sa fosse peu profonde, permettant aux membres de l’orchestre de voir ce que font les chanteurs sur scène.

The first time that I played here was in  production of ‘Cosí Fan Tutte’ and the most memorable performance was of ‘La Bohème’ in 2019. It’s a joy to be back!

La primera vez que toqué aquí fue en una producción de ‘Cosí Fan Tutte’ y la actuación más memorable fue de ‘La Bohème’ en 2019. ¡Que ilusión de estar aquí de nuevo!

La première fois que j’ai joué ici, c’était dans une production de ‘Cosí Fan Tutte’ et la performance la plus mémorable était de ‘La Bohème’ en 2019. Quelle joie d’être à nouveau ici !