Christopher Maltman’s Salzburg Festival blog: Getting close to Sir John Tomlinson

30 JUL 2013
by Christopher Maltman  
“I have kissed Sir John Tomlinson. Many, many times. There, I’ve said it. And, believe me, it’s not something that I had anticipated in my career, even in my wildest student daydreaming days. In fact, this summer has seen a few other firsts for me. My first on-stage decapitation (even if I was a little over enthusiastic on the first night and managed to send the Green Knight’s head tumbling among the double basses), my first bout of cannibalism, both given and received, and finally my first time spending twenty five minutes under a blanket. All operatic milestones I simply could not have anticipated.
But, if I were to pluck out a single word that sums up both the best and the worst of the life of an itinerant opera singer such as myself, it would be ‘unpredictable’. We are often asked to go to the most exotic locations, to be treated like princes and princesses, dine with the great and the good, live among the clouds and drift ethereally through an opera costumed in couture. The next week could be sitting in the rain in Birmingham eating cold sandwiches and changing for your concert in a glorified toilet after having ironed your own shirt. I find these contrasts the most wonderfully leveling and illuminating parts of, for want of a better word, my job. The rarified experiences of luxury and privilege often make me crave the simplicity of mundanity and, to give a current example, fixing a leaky sink this morning as I mentally prepare for my second performance of Gawain makes me fully appreciate those moments when my every need is catered for by others.
Balance is one of the reasons I love being in Salzburg. In my last blog I alluded to a few of my guilty pleasures while living and working in this stunning town. But everything here is typified by excellence, whether ‘high brow’ or ‘salt of the earth’. Those who know Salzburg’s ‘summers’ will be a little puzzled by our current July which has seen the mercury burst through forty degrees on occasion. Normally, the few burningly glorious days of thirty plus heat are equalled by similarly ardent downpours and temperatures in the teens, both exhilarating. My every visit to Salzburg starts with a pilgrimage to the Augustiner brewery to cleanse my palate with, in my estimation, one of the finest beers in the world. It’s gloriously, deliciously simple, in contrast to my visits to Obauer and Ikarus, though I delight in both experiences just as much as each other. On Monday I could be entertained by the Vienna Philharmonic, Jedermann, Shakespeare or Mozart, on Tuesday have by breath taken away by mountain flowers and the infinite view from atop the Untersberg (after walking up it, of course!). Everything Salzburg does, it does superlatively well; simple or complex, art or nature, beer or gastronomy. And, to top it all off, I kissed a real, live Knight. On the cheek.”
Chris Maltman/Salzburg Festival
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