Tuesday, 11 September 2018

(March 30, 2018) Back to Tirana

We packed our bags, and after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we took off on the bus from Prishtina, Kosovo, back across the border to Albania.  After a couple of short rest stops in the mountains, we arrived back in Tirana around 4pm.  There are so many more traffic signs, painted lanes, and lights in the city than I remember from five years ago-- and yet, the driving here is still very "interesting".

I checked back into the same hotel as I'd been in at the very start of the tour (Vila e Arte), and then a small group of us went for a walk around town.  A larger group went to check out a new Albanian Bunker Museum (which was of course underground), but I thought it was much too nice an afternoon to be indoors.  We crossed a large, new pedestrian plaza near the Opera House-- this area had been a traffic circle last time I'd been in Tirana.  There seems to be lots of new landscaping/developing of public spaces in the city, which I imagine will be quite beautiful in a couple years' time.  We walked down the pedestrian boulevard and found some coffee and lunch at an outdoor café, and then returned to our hotel.

Outside the Opera House in Tirana

In the main square

Exploring around town

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In the evening, most of the orchestra went to dinner at a seafood restaurant, while I'd gotten a very special invitation from a friend.  Ilir, a horn player I'd met five years ago in Tirana (the time that my horn concerto was performed by Oliver de Clercq), had invited me to a rehearsal.  I invited a couple of WCSO horn players (Ken and Marianne) along, and the three of us walked over to the Palace of Congress.  The rehearsal turned out to be the dress rehearsal of the opera "Die Fledermaus", which we found out opens tomorrow, and is sold out!

Colourful chorus

Nighttime

A serious character

Building up to the finale

It was a beautiful theatre, and gorgeous costumes and set design-- we sat in the audience right next to the orchestra pit (and the horn section).  Interestingly, the singing was in German, while the spoken parts were in Albanian.  The conductor spoke to the orchestra in Albanian, while the choreographer gave directions in Italian.  Ilir came over to say hello to us during the break in rehearsal, and afterward, we also met the 3rd horn player, who spoke Italian (but not much English).  Ilir is now the principal horn of the opera orchestra.  It was such a special treat to have been invited to rehearsal.

Looking down on the horn section in the pit...

Four horns!

A fun evening...

After rehearsal, the five of us went out for drinks, and then a delicious dinner at King House Restaurant.  It was great to talk, and we had a wonderful time.  After the two local horn players left to go home (around midnight), Ken, Marianne, and I wandered around town a bit more, before returning to our hotel.  It was Friday night, but Tirana seems to have a vibrant night life!

Hanging out with the horn section

"Natën e mirë!" (Goodnight!)

The main group (most of the WCSO) has to be at the airport for a 4:00am flight back home-- while I get to sleep in!  Onwards to Athens, to meet Fraser, and enjoy a week's holiday together, starting tomorrow!

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