Canary Islands


14 and 15 July 2016


We performed our 2015 creation, Rigoletto, in the “Chalon dans la rue” festival in July 2015. This was the first time that Pilar, the wife of booker Carles Trevino (ex Free Art agency), had seen the show, and she was very enthusiastic, to the point that she spoke about it with her husband, currently looking for shows for his festival “Temudas” in Las Palmas (in the Canary Islands).

Contact was rapidly established and things moved on quickly. We know Carles Trevino well; he has often booked us in Spain. In March 2016 Christophe Rappoport travelled to the town with Carles in order to check out possible sites, and a magnificent square in the town centre was chosen for the performance.

Our main concern was how to transport the décor: this involved taking a caravan and a convertible car to the site. In theory, this wasn’t an insurmountable difficulty, since we’d travelled a great deal in the past, though never with this décor. And then the problems began to mount up:

- Initially we thought of taking all the décor ourselves. But then we realised just how far the Canary Islands are from France… a very long way by road, involving travelling to the south of Spain then taking the ferry. A further complication was that we had a date in France just prior to the departure date, and another just after our scheduled return. The car didn’t have air-conditioning and was slow and liable to break down (this had already happened several times).

- We decided to change our plans and try to find a suitable car on site, so leaving only the caravan to transport. But after intensive research all over the island, it proved impossible to rent a convertible that could tow a caravan.

- So… another change of plan. We would rent a truck in the Canaries that could pull a caravan, and a flatbed lorry to transport the caravan from France. Since time was short, we planned to employ 3 drivers in relay to get to the destination on time.

- Unfortunately we discovered that we couldn‘t get our caravan on to the lorry. Although the tickets for the boat had already been bought, we decided to change our plans again and to rent a van to haul the caravan. The only problem was that our ferry tickets weren’t valid for this configuration. The ferry company wanted to charge us an astronomical amount to change the reservation, while the festival told us that if we made a reservation directly at the port of Cadiz, it would be a lot cheaper.  So we decided to take the risk and to change our reservation when we arrive at the port.

- Our technician (Arthur Deslandes, 25 years old) was given the arduous task of getting to the port on time and changing the ferry reservation. When he got to Cadiz, nothing seemed to go right; the reservation turned out to be very expensive and he didn’t have enough money with him… so he rang everybody he could think of… the festival office in the Canaries, Carles’ home… we were on tour in the Lorraine when this psychodrama exploded. He called us in panic while we were on the train, and our clarinettist Axelle, who speaks Spanish fluently, was given the job of negotiating with the ferry company. Carles was angry because he didn’t think it was his job to deal with this kind of mess. In the end, we managed to make a bank transfer from the train with the help of a mobile phone. Thank goodness for technology.

And the technicians managed to get to their destination on time. Well done them!!!

Getting the musicians to the festival by plane also proved to be epic:

- In order to save as much money as possible, we booked with the low-cost company Vueling. When we arrived at the airport we discovered that our plane would leave 5 hours late. The company had in fact decided to change our flight without telling us and to put us on a later flight. This meant that we would miss our connection in Barcelona and would have to spend the night there. The airline company was completely disorganised; they took us to a hotel 40km from Barcelona, but we discovered that no bookings had been made for us. We had to spend an hour waiting while they found rooms for us.  We ended up sleeping 3 hours before having to leave again for the airport. Once more, nothing was organised on our behalf: we had to arrange for and pay for our own taxi.

- The problems continued when we discovered that the flight to the Canaries was full and that 3 of our group couldn’t board the plane; they had to wait a whole day at the airport, finally arriving at their destination at 1 in the morning, a whole 24 hours late.

- Transportation of the baritone sax (voluminous) also proved complicated: we managed to smuggle it on board, but the air steward spotted it in the cabin, and insisted that it went into the baggage hold. Fortunately, it arrived safely.

Once in the Canaries, we were delighted at the generous welcome… we were in a very good, luxurious hotel (the breakfast was especially wonderful) and our hosts were very amenable. Unfortunately we had missed the planned rehearsal with our amateur collaborators because of the plane’s delayed arrival. But all was well: the festival had hired a professional choir (this was a first) and the “gambettes “ (the name given to the volunteer actors) were all wonderful… we dressed them in hot pants and the idea, as usual, was that they were playing girls of “easy virtue”. Unfortunately, here in the Canaries, all the girls wear this kind of shorts!!! It’s not in the least daring or suggestive to wear them...

There was a VERY large audience waiting for us, far exceeding the expected 400 spectators. The festival had put huge raked seating opposite our décor which could hold up to 1000 spectators. The performance site was a magnificent square opposite a cathedral in the central area of “Las Palmas de Gran Canaria”.

We tested the sound level without microphones, but it wasn’t good enough. So we decided that everybody should be miked. The festival really made an effort with their choice of sound equipment (Seinheiser) and it was fabulous.  They’re used to organising shows, and they can afford to hire the best: the sound was great despite the almost permanent breeze.

We didn’t have a lot of time here, so we decided to take a few hours of leisure time. The town centre is beautiful, with colonial-style architecture in the centre (which Christopher Columbus had passed through). The weather was perfect… very hot but with a constant breeze keeping things fresh. The cost of living is much lower than in France, and alcohol in particular is very cheap. In the evening, hundreds of scantily dressed, beautiful women stroll through the streets. The Canaries has a reputation of being a great place for singles to meet up. Most of our group went to the beach or to the hotel pool to take a dip.

- We had translated some passages of our show into Spanish, and we also prepared placards to help with understanding. Everyone worked relentlessly to ensure that our translations would be well rehearsed on the night.

- The choir, with its singers from the opera, was excellent. We’ve never had such a high level of singers to support us. The Temudas festival really doesn’t do things by halves! They were perfectly rehearsed and in the dressing rooms we were hardly able to concentrate as they made so much excited noise. There was a constant party atmosphere!

- Our little group made its way to the performance space at the pre-arranged time. We were all pretty nervous because of the microphones and the Spanish translations we had to get right.

But in the end the 2 performances went really well (despite a few memory glitches where the Spanish text was involved…). We were very happy with the quality of the music which was getting better from show to show.

At the end of the second night’s performance, there was a jam session with the choir, completely improvised and very joyful. Everybody was delighted and one spectator even posted on Facebook that he preferred the jam to the show itself!

The whole thing continued until 5 in the morning, and we had to leave the hotel at 6 to get to the airport on time.

We all felt exactly the same way – that we had to come back here as soon as possible…

Christophe Rappoport (trumpet player)

Translation : Alan Fairbairn


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