This has been my last tour for Academy Travel and in many ways the most interesting and unusual. I had spoken to the ACO about the tour being built around their London and Edinburgh Festival tour, and Robert Veel of Academy had met Marita Supplee of Sydney Festival and the Festival had agreed to be part of the overall plan for the tour. So the group was drawn from Academy clients, ACO subscribers and Sydney Festival donors, a very unusual mix of backgrounds. Marita was there to look after her donors, I was there to lead the tour, and Robert was there to make sure the disparate interests were properly served. In addition the Edinburgh end of the tour was supplemented by the presence of Wesley Enoch, newly appointed Director of the Sydney Festival, who was in Edinburgh looking at talent that might be invited to Sydney. In some ways there were too many cooks, who in the view of some of the group, were spoiling the broth.
Partly because of the connections we had between us, the tour was brimful of fabulous events and performances, probably the best of any tour I have led so far. Highlights were:
- Barry Humphries and the ACO’s performance of his Weimar Republic tour de force at the Cadogan Hall in London followed by a marvellous after party at the Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square where Barry made a hilarious speech taking time out to send up Alexander Downer the host
- An utterly unforgettable performance of Berlioz’ Romeo and Juliet at a Prom at the Royal Albert Hall given by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique and Monteverdi Choir and soloists
- An interview by me for the group at the Royal College of Music with Sir John Eliot Gardiner
- A performance of Janacek’s delightful opera The Cunning Little Vixen at Glyndebourne on a perfect day, preceded by a fascinating interview for the group I arranged with Tim Walker, Artistic and Managing Director of the London Philharmonic Orchestra which for many years has played through the summers at Glyndebourne.
- A hilarious performance of Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist at Stratford and a really profound and moving all black production of Hamlet
In Edinburgh Wesley took us all on whistle stop journeys through the Fringe and its countless performances all over the city
- In intimate Queens Hall we saw two fabulous concerts, first the ACO with an extraordinary performance of Mahler’s Song of the Earth in Schoenberg’s chamber arrangement with Alice Coote and Stuart Skelton the incomparable soloists, then a couple of days later Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout singing Schubert’s Schwanengesang
- But the highlight of all was the amazing production of Bellini’s Norma starring the incomparable Cecilia Bartoli in the remarkable Salzburg Festival production updated to the French Resistance in World War II. It made real sense of this creaky story about druids and the singing was exceptional