Polish Diva Drives to London as Other Musicians Collapse

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, Polish opera singer Aleksandra Kurzak realized that she and her costume were separated by about 1,000 miles.

She was in Warsaw. The outfit she wears as Fiorilla in Rossini’s comedy “Il Turco in Italia” was in London at the Royal Opera House.

The Cloud separated them.

Throughout the world, performers are finding themselves in unexpected locations as the dust from a volcano in Iceland disrupts air travel. Last heard, the Dutch Nieuw Ensemble was stuck in Hong Kong, the Asko Ensemble wasn’t leaving New York anytime soon, the Ensemble Modern was still in Istanbul and the Dresden Philharmonic was stranded on the Spanish island of Mallorca trying to get home from a concert in Valencia.

A Polish mini-cab driver united the diva and her dress.

They met up in Katowice. “We picked up Joanna Wos, another soprano who had to be in London, and set off at midnight on Thursday,” Kurzak said. “At one point an agent, who thought I was in London, gave me a call asking if I could replace Joanna in case she couldn’t make her concert on Saturday. That was quite amusing.”

“We drove for 19 hours, getting to London at 5 p.m. on Friday, which left me just enough time to go home and change, before I went on stage at 7:30 p.m.”

Source: Royal Opera via Bloomberg

Aleksandra Kurzak performs as Fiorilla in ``Il turco in Italia’’ at the Royal Opera House, London, April 2010. When her flight to London was canceled because of a volcano ash cloud, Kurzak hired a taxi from Poland to the U.K. Close

Aleksandra Kurzak performs as Fiorilla in ``Il turco in Italia’’ at the Royal Opera... Read More

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Source: Royal Opera via Bloomberg

Aleksandra Kurzak performs as Fiorilla in ``Il turco in Italia’’ at the Royal Opera House, London, April 2010. When her flight to London was canceled because of a volcano ash cloud, Kurzak hired a taxi from Poland to the U.K.

Adrenaline Boost

Kurzak says her performance went well. “I’d been awake for well over 24 hours. I guess the adrenaline kept me going.”

The journey, including the ferry fare, cost 250 euros ($336.85). “The driver was going to London anyway, and he didn’t want to profit from other people’s misery. It was really heart-warming. I’ve asked him to drive me back to Poland after the final performance.”

At Berlin’s Staatsoper, a performance of Strauss’s “Salome” took on extra drama on Saturday. “Conductor Pedro Halffter was unable to get from Madrid to Berlin for the event, but Julien Salemkour, who should have been in Madrid, was stranded in Berlin and able to take over at short notice,” said Johannes Ehmann, head of press.

“Tenor Marcel Reijans, who sang the part of Narraboth, came from St. Petersburg,” Ehmann said. “His plane made an unscheduled landing in Budapest. From there he took a bus to Munich and a train to Berlin, arriving just in time for the performance. He had slept for just two hours. James Rutherford, singing Jochanaan, came by car and ferry from the U.K.”

“The performers were received with foot-stamping and cheers at the end,” said Ehmann. “It was a very special mood.”

Rattle’s Helicopter

Not everyone has been grounded by the volcanic ash. Cellist Anna Carewe joined conductor Simon Rattle and 22 other Berlin Philharmonic string-players in a military helicopter to play at the Cracow funeral of Polish President Lech Kaczynski.

Barack Obama, Angela Merkel, and Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t make it to the funeral because of the ash, but we did,” said Carewe from her Berlin home. “We flew right behind (German president) Horst Koehler. It was quite an experience.”

Back in London, agent Mark Newbanks reported that he and his colleagues at Van Walsum Management Ltd. have been busy around the clock trying to move musicians from A to B.

One of Van Walsum’s artists, violinist Daniel Hope, went to lengths worthy of James Bond in his quest to get from Istanbul to Stuttgart for his concert today with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Roger Norrington. When his Istanbul flight was grounded, Hope and four others chartered a private plane which took them as far as Zagreb before it was forced to land.

Speeding Minibus

From there, Hope drove his group in a minibus as far as Vienna, where he rushed to the train station, only to be told that all tickets to Stuttgart had been sold. He subsequently tried to hire a car, but collapsed, and has been ordered by doctors to remain in Vienna and rest.

Oddly, an Icelandic mood-music collective was the only cancellation so far at London’s largest concert venue, the Barbican Arts Centre, said an amused Nicholas Kenyon, the managing director. The Bedroom Community group won’t be presenting their show from the “The Whale Watching Tour.”

“They sent a very sweet e-mail saying how sorry they were, and asking us to pause for a moment to consider how much worse it could all be.”

(Warwick Thompson and Shirley Apthorp are critics for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)

To contact the writers on the story: Warwick Thompson, in London, at warwicktho@aol.com; Shirley Apthorp, in Berlin, at sarabande@compuserve.com.

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