Too much Mozart?

Surely one can never have too much Mozart!

I returned from Australia yesterday and after half a day spinning-down (& accelerating the jetlag recovery via an abundance of illy espresso), headed straight back to work in San Francisco. It's great to be back with Zoe in the bay area after more than a fortnight apart. Though I missed her immensely, the two-and-a-half weeks spent in Oz were pure heaven; brilliant weather, wonderful friends & family to catch up with, much worldly guidance from everyone & of course the savoured east-coast beaches & Aussie lifestyle .... not to mention the "raison primaire" for my presence down under during December: playing period classical violin for a season of Mozart's opera Idomeneo in Sydney.

I bunked with my favourite culture buddies (& philanthropic marvels) Ken & Liz in Neutral Bay, catching the ferry across Sydney harbour past the giant coat-hanger and the opera house each morning to join my colleagues in the recital hall, many of whom had flown in from various European locales specifically for this opera season. The week of rehearsal was a heady, academic, indulgent geek-fest ... tearing the music to shreds, often drilling down to the finest atomic constructs of the score, and beyond to the best (& very educated) guesses of what was going through the composer's mind when the music was written. Then joining the cast, chorus & brilliant soloists to create a truly inspiring historically informed performance of this rarely performed opera. Without a doubt I can class all these players amongst the most intelligent & capable people I've had the privilege of working with during any of my professional careers.

The opera season was a fantastic success (as have been all previous seasons I've played with this company) and was very well received by the nearly full-house audiences. Rave reviews in the papers, standing ovations, shouts of ""Bravo!", a live broadcast on national radio (& the internet) plus recordings for a multi-CD release later in 2007. Pinchgut's opera recordings are edited from our live performances throughout the season with only minimal "studio" patching takes spliced-in when the acoustic limits of the staging or thrashing about on stage lead to unusable audio (you'll note my not-so-subtle omission of the other cause for splicing a take .... when the orchestra fumbles an entry). This live nature of the recordings promotes a more energetic, cohesive, emotional & spontaneous sound which carries through on the 4 operas released thus far. It seems there's a real revival of historically informed performance and a growing appreciation for the virtues of live (vs. studio) opera recordings.

Si & Tash generously hosted my post-opera self in their recently completed (& mighty-gorgeous) house for a couple of days before I departed (with plenty of Rockford's Basket Press Shiraz in-tow) for foreign shores once more. Zoe & I always find Melbourne to be an invigorating city. Each time we visit we vow that we'll live there some day. Zoe will also visit Melbourne in January to sure up her new entry-visa into the USA and it will be a great chance for her to catch up with Si & Tash before she heads back to San Francisco via friends & family in Singapore.

All things considered, Australia presented a much-needed grounding experience, a welcome (albeit brief) detachment from my other career in feature-film and (hopefully) a more objective viewpoint from which to evaluate the manner in which we'll design our European existence. Zoe's already taken the first step: giving notice at Lucasfilm Animation after a wonderful & rewarding year helping set up the new company. She'll conclude her obligations with Lucas in 2007 before heading back to Oz for a break of her own (+ Elisa&Tal's Adelaide wedding) then moving on to some more entrepreneurial and dynamic work opportunities with a few great friends from our Canadian days. She'll join a tight-knit, global team headquartered in New York, though working predominantly from San Francisco (or wherever a wireless internet connection may be found) and hopefully enjoying more work travel opportunities in liaising with numerous feature-film companies around the world. She's really excited about the new company, the new role & the great colleagues whose company we both simply adore in & out of work.

From my beautiful, wonderful and worldly musician friends I've gleaned the inside scoop on life in Rotterdam, The Hague, London, Paris and everywhere gigging in between. The possibility of our setting up an existence somewhere within the EU is now more tangible than ever.

My luthier also eagerly proclaimed the virtues of an intensive study period in the "holy ground" of violinmaking - Cremona. Never was there a more pertinent reaffirmation of the desire to master the Italian language (although the cuisine, history & music are inspiration-enough).

My instrument (a Simon Brown original, commissioned in 2004 & based on "architecture" of Guarneri, completed in 2005) was joined by it's younger sibling this year (played by the concertmaster of the orchestra) performed admirably. The violin is learning daily how to find it's best sound (& I learn with it). I'm especially looking forward to the next 5-10 years as it evolves (at an exponentially decreasing rate) toward it's true sound, though I was reminded during this last visit that it could be some hundreds of years before the target is ultimately achieved. What a fascinating proposition ... I wonder where in history this instrument will be remembered.

We still think of Australia as "home" although we've not spent more than a few precious days there together over the past 3 years. Mum's belated 60th birthday party (an event she managed to keep secret from me in "retaliation" for my covert visit to Oz this time last year) was a wonderful surprise opportunity to see many of our great friends in Adelaide. It seems time moves a little slower in that part of the world yet some things do inevitably change. Jones (mum's cat) has found a new home & only sporadically visits his old stomping ground to pay her the odd visit. I didn't get a chance to pat his large solid head, or test his ever-sharp reflexes this time round ... but I did get my fill of cat-time with Maus (our grumpy kitten), Max (the fat tripod in Sydney) and Marguerite's new cat of the family "Ziggy" (pictured here). It may yet come to pass that we give-in to one of our desperate colleague's cat-sitting pleas over the Xmas break in order to get our fill of feline fondness back in California.