and we're approaching, and have reached, some of the most emotionally charged parts of the opera. Incredible things are happening in the rehearsal room; it's a very gripping work. At the keyboard in rehearsals, artistic director and conductor Erin Helyard is deciding on how his orchestral forces will be used throughout the work. Some of this was laid down by Vivaldi in the score, but some was not. Particularly at the continuo end of the orchestra (the bass line, and the instruments that accompany both recits and arias) there are decisions to be made. We have two terrific 'pluckers' (players of lutes/theorbos/guitars) playing and Erin is hoping that one of them will be able to play mandolin for one of the arias. We've been very kindly lent a gorgeous piccolo mandolin by Tommie Andersson, and here's a pic of Erin holding this (very carefully!) so you can see how small it is. Tommie used this when we performed Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans.