We travelled to Bregenz, Austria, perched sweetly on the edge of a beautiful lake (Konstanz) and seemingly with every tree and bush in bloom. Bregenz hosts the Bregenzerfestspiele, a festival where opera is performed on mammoth sets which float out on the lake. This year the stage is set up for performances of Andrea Chénier (although we were in the smaller, internal performance space and not out on the lake!).
We had only two days to re-rehearse Figaro, so of course I had been looking at my score and trying to remember my blocking in the days beforehand (in fact the only other thing I’d done on the plane was study Susanna). I was feeling confident but was interested to see how much still lived in my body, as that was an astonishing and very pleasing discovery I’d made for the first time the previous November: that somehow not just the music but the movements and characterisation live somehow hidden in your muscles and then reappear at their musical cue! I’m sure old theatre hands are nodding their heads at this, but it was a relief for me to learn that, even if I don’t understand how it works!
Einsiedeln, Switzerland was the next stop on our European tour, and here we stayed in a hotel just across the road from a historic cloister, long a pilgrimage destination and graced with a baroque cathedral the inside of which looked like something Barbie would design on acid. Pink, gold, white; filigreed in every direction with a host of cherubim (every single one of them in a different pose) - who in my mind would give Chuckie a run for his money in the creepy stakes. That said, we were fortunate enough to catch the monks at Vespers, singing plainchant which has remained unchanged since 1547, and I’ll be honest: it was so beautiful I had a little cry. Perhaps the purity and simplicity of it, in that setting, was more than my brain could take. Perhaps I was just really freaked out by the cherubs by then.
The final show took place in a beautiful outdoor concert shell in the Kurpark, looking out onto a lake and blossom trees. I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect ending to my Susanna adventure – I’ve always loved outdoor shows and I’ve always done better performances when faced with last-minute changes of set shape or blocking, and/or dangerous hazards whilst on stage (which have often been part of the Co-Opera experience). All of these things were present in the final show, due to a massive thunder storm which arrived just as the Third Act began. It only ever buckets with rain when there are extra electricals (in this case sound equipment) rigged up! I had a horrible moment when I thought the performance itself would be stopped due to the weather, and for whatever superstitious reason couldn’t bear the idea of my final Susanna for the production being left uncompleted. But we and most of the audience soldiered on, and I finally hung up my costume with a nice sense of closure, and a real feeling of gratefulness.