Tag Archives: pit

Mark Paine, CLS Horn Player talks OHP

2015 marks City of London Sinfonia’s twelfth year as Orchestra-in-Residence at Opera Holland Park, and we’re very sad that it all came to an end this weekend. In celebration of our collaboration with the festival, we caught up with one of our long-standing members, Mark Paine who has been with us from the very beginning.

We can’t believe it’s been 12 years since our (and your!) first production with OHP! What has been your favourite show over the years?

Yes this 2015 season is my twelfth at Opera Holland Park with CLS. I played in the orchestra’s first season back in 2004, starting with Bellini’s Norma, and I have played nearly every opera each summer since then. That makes 64 operas, averaging let’s say eight performances… bringing me to over 500 shows! Definitely a record of some sort. And it has been an absolute privilege and pleasure! I have been a part of some of the best music- and drama-making anywhere, and have been made, by the inspired owners James and Mike, to feel welcome at the very heart of the Opera Holland Park family. With 64 productions to choose from how can I single out one? If pushed I would have to say Janáček’s Káťa Kabanová back in 2009. But there are so many others I could mention. All of them have been in some way incredibly special, even ground-breaking.

From an orchestral musician’s perspective, what is the difference between performing on stage as part of a concert and in the pit as part of an opera?

Over the years I’ve been doing it, Opera Holland Park’s speciality has become the so-called verismo operas that burst while hot onto the Italian operatic scene in the early 20th century. Treading where no other opera company dares, OHP has unleashed onto the UK opera world six or so of these terrifying and unforgettable operas, to great acclaim. It has been wonderful to be a part CLS’s commitment to these spectacular undertakings, and literally to feel every one of us giving that little bit more, responding to the artistic challenge. CLS has matured as an orchestra by so doing.

What advice would you give to a CLS member who is embarking on their first production at OHP?

My advice to a CLS member embarking on their first production at OHP would be to take it incredibly seriously, to give it your absolute maximum. The rewards are rich and our contribution is noted and valued. It’s not just a lovely place to be on a summer’s eve; it’s something quite unique both professionally and personally.

Mark Paine and Joan Sutherland at Opera Holland Park, Summer 2009
Mark Paine and Joan Sutherland at Opera Holland Park, Summer 2009

And finally—any funny anecdotes?

My abiding memory of OHP… getting to meet the late Dame Joan Sutherland, who attended on crutches a performance that Richard Bonynge was conducting for OHP. I have been a fan of hers forever, and I managed to get some private time with her at the post-opera party. Desperate to talk to her about her legendary Lucia di Lammermoor triumphs, I had instead to let her tell me all about her beloved vegetable patch into which she had just fallen and broken both legs. But do you know it turned out better than I could have imagined – I got the true Joan, and a wonderful photo to treasure. Thank you OHP for everything.


OHP Behind the Scenes – The Musicians

Ever wondered what it’s like to work as a musician at Opera Holland Park? As Orchestra-in-Residence for the 11th year this year, we thought we’d give our lovely readers a teeny insight into the ‘orchestral life’ at this fantastic outdoor summer opera festival. With biscuits, gun shots, evening chills and more, we caught up with one of our longstanding members, Mark Paine (Horn) who told us some of his favourite memories and moments of his experience during his time in the OHP pit over the years (just to clarify, by ‘pit’ we mean the orchestral variety – not a muddy hole in the ground).


(C) Fritz Curzon
(C) Fritz Curzon

How long have you been playing at Opera Holland Park?

I think this is my 11th season can you believe! Well, ever since CLS first started doing it.


And what’s been your favourite opera?

Of course, everyone will say this – it’s terribly difficult to say. But my most memorable, and therefore favourite, has got to be L’amore dei tre re which we did with Peter Robinson. Without interval, it was a continuous crescendo from beginning to end and I guarantee you nobody took a breath in the audience until the final gun shot which finished it. It was just amazing.


I hear biscuits are essential for any performance at Opera Holland Park. How many packets of biscuits do you think the Orchestra have  consumed so far this season?

Shopping trip for biscuits for OHP!
Shopping trip for biscuits for OHP!


Haha how many packets? Well, probably 3 per night, so according to my mathematical calculations… About 100?! (He’s not far off here – we get through a shocking amount of biscuits!)


What makes performing at OHP different to other opera houses or opera companies that you’ve worked with?

Oh, a million things. The peacocks, the sub-zero temperature… It really is very, very special. It’s a combination of so many things. Great music, great operas, interesting repertoire and such engaged producers as James Clutton and Sarah Crabtree. It’s a fantastic company and a unique experience which is why I make sure I come back every season.


(C) Fritz Curzon
(C) Fritz Curzon

Coming up at Opera Holland Park

Bellini Norma, 19 July – 8 August

Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur, 24 July – 9 August