Thursday, February 27, 2014

Business in the Baltics

Many people think my business trips are just fun and games, a nice escape from the office. While I am fortunate to love my job, meaning that business trips ARE fun (if the music is good), those trips are full of work. Last month I took a whirlwind tour of Eastern Europe to familiarize myself with a few companies in that area, some of whom offer productions of a size and concept that might be appropriate for the Royal Opera House Muscat. Following is an example of a typical itinerary for me on an 10 day trip to visit 5 different countries, 9 organizations and more than a dozen theatres.

Day 1
8:00 Arrived in Budapest.
13:00 Met with Tomas Bator, Artistic Advisor to the Palace of Fine Arts and the Hungarian State Opera, got an update about various Budapest theatres, how the HSO works performing in 2 locations, getting an update and overview of orchestras here.
19:00 Attended a performance of Nabucco at HSO in Erkel Theatre.

Day 2
10:00 Met with Marketing Director of Budapest operetta and musical theatre, Andras Szentpeteri, and the head of the Pentaton Agency, György Lürinczy, to talk about an operetta to bring to Oman.
12:30 Met with Hungarian State Opera staff: Tomas Bator and Artistic Director of HSO, Ferenc Anger, to discuss HSO opera or ballet to bring to Oman. (I also discovered the panorama photo feature of my camera.)
18:30 Met with soprano Csilla Boross to discuss dates for one of next season's productions.

Day 3
13:30 Toured the Palace of Fine of Fine Arts; saw part of a rehearsal in the Concert Hall and visited the 500 seat theatre.

19:00 Saw Act 1 of a new musical based on the music of and named for Hungary's answer to ABBA, Neoton, good quality performers, mostly young artists, but mixed with a few veterans.

Day 4
9:30 Met with Kael Csaba, General Manager of Palace of Fine Arts, Budapest, to discuss possibilities of collaboration and co-planning of events, the state of the business in Europe, and the possibility of inviting me to be a speaker at a conference in Budapest in the future.
12:30 Traveled to St. Petersburg

Day 5
12:00 Saw Sadko by Rimsky-Korsakov at the old Mariinsky opera house.
4:00 Met with Katia Sirakanian, former Mariinsky contact, now with the Sheremetev Palace, to get an interesting update and insight into the general state of the performing arts in St. Petersburg.
19:00 Last minute arrangement to see Tosca at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, an honest and correct production and musical performance. Left after the first act for a meeting with Sonia Sirakanian, Manager of International Relations, to discuss possible collaborations and to continue a discussion started last February with Olga Kapanina, Director of Opera. They have good production values, traditional productions and a very good ballet company.

Day 6
11:00 Met with Slava Lupachov, an Administrative Manager/Gergiev contact, to discuss Mariinsky Theatre updates.
19:15 Met with Valery Gergiev to discuss possible return of Mariinsky to Oman.
19:30 Saw Otello at the new Mariinsky opera house; excellent theatre, great acoustics.

Day 7
8:00 Traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania
13:00 Lunch with General Director of Lithuanian National Opera to discuss general operation of their theatre and their tours.
18:30 Saw Ernani at Lithuanian National Opera, solid performance, good chorus and orchestra.

Day 8
8:00 Traveled to Riga, Latvia.
17:00 Met with the new General Manager of Latvian National Opera to discuss their recent changes in administration, their previous visit in May 2013 and other possible suitable productions. Their previous visit was smooth and well organized, their artistic values are high.
18:00 Saw part of a Piano Technical rehearsal of Rienzi followed by a tour of backstage and the theatre facilities; then dinner with Dace Bula, Head of Artistic Planning & Production to discuss recent developments as well as potentially suitable productions.

Day 9
11:00 Saw part of Orchestra Technical rehearsal of Rienzi.
13:00 Traveled to Warsaw.
19:00 Met briefly with General Director, Waldemar Dobrowsky, before the performance at his office.
19:30 Saw a performance of Orpheus et Euridice at Teatr Wielki followed by a tour of backstage and dinner with Dubrowsky.

Day 10
11:30 Dubrowsky had organized a private tour of the Warsaw Uprising Museum, followed by lunch with the Artistic Administrator of Teatr Wielki.
15:30 The theatre had organized a private tour of the Chopin Museum, with a surprise mini-recital by an advanced piano student of the Conservatory.

Day 11
10:00 Travel to Muscat, flight delay leaving Warsaw meant I had an unexpected 7 hour layover in Zurich, during which I met with an agent, Rita Schutz, and a tenor client of hers, Pavel Breslik, who is having a very prominent career.

So, yes, my trips really are business filled. Though I do try to find time to step out into the city even for a brief moment.

And in closing, this admonition on a Zurich billboard (loosely translated as "Just go to the theatre, you ape!):