Cortona, Sept 2003

During a vacation in Italy Andre fell in love with the city of Cortona and he decided to tape his next DVD right there in
Piazza della Republica square.     Pierre and his crew had some choice words for him when he told them about it.
They had to drag all the equipment up to the square and that was quite a trick.  For everyone who has not been to an
small Italian village, the streets are very narrow and in this case it was straight up a hill.   But when all was said and
done they all agreed it had been worth it and the experience and the DVD turned out to be fantastic!

Andre offered his fans three free concerts!!!  The tickets to the Cortona concerts were free and all you had to do was
ask for them!!!    I would have loved to have been there, but of course school starts in September and there was no
way I would be able to make that.   However, my good friend Sigrun did go and wrote the following report about the
adventure she had in Cortona.

Click here for an
Italian website about concert  there is a video and report with pictures.  

Sigrun's adventure in Cortona
                                               16th September, 2003

                                       While starting to write this report for my friends I clearly remember the time just
                                       a week ago: I was sitting on the Piazza della Repubblica in Cortona watching
                                       André and his crew finishing the building of the stage and sound platform, my
                                       second cappuccino on the small table, and I wish I would be back there again

On 16th September 2003 very early at 06:30 AM I arrived by train at the station of Terontola-Cortona, down in the
valley,  and was happy when I heard a young man say  “Are you Mrs. Haertel?  I’m your taxi driver, sent by the Hotel
San Michele in Cortona”. I was wondering about the very tight and steep road with lots of turns and curves climbing up
to Cortona. It was quite an adventure when the taxi drove very quickly through very small and steep streets in Cortona
to my hotel.     The hotel’s doorkeeper accompanied me to another entrance, where I found after some corners, secret
ways, steps and big old wooden doors a very pretty hotel room behind 3 feet thick stone walls. I was too excited to
stay in my hotel room for any length of time and wanted to go back to the reception hall, but I could not’t find my way
back. You may laugh, but I can tell you, it was not’t easy to return to the main entrance of the hotel, and I felt like in a
labyrinth of hidden ways between very old houses.    

Finally I arrived on the Piazza, only around the corner of my hotel. I had a short talk with a Dutch lady of André’s crew
and Pierre, his son. They were very busy and told me some of the adventures of the day before when one of André’s
big trucks had to bring the parts for the stage and sound platform to the square.   I can assure you, the truck driver
must have been an magician driving his truck through these streets!

Since I was in the train from Germany during the night, I did not’t sleep. At lunchtime I
felt very tired and returned to my hotel room for a nap.  At 2 PM I went back to the
piazza,  where I saw André between his crew, in a pretty white shirt with white
embroidery, red jeans and very chic shoes in the same red colour. He was very busy
and checkedeverything himself.  I never thought I could see him so close without any

When André was sitting at the edge of the audience platform I gathered all my courage and went to him for a short
talk. He was very friendly and gave me an autograph. “If you have a pencil for me, I will write it”, he said. I gave him
my fountain pen (and I will never use it again!!). I told him I will write a report of the Cortona event for my foreign
friends in Australia, Hong Kong, the States and all the other countries for Rieu-friends who could not’t come
themselves to Cortona.  He was very pleased and told me to sent his kind regards to you all.   I said to him, what a
wonderful place Cortona is and what a fantastic romantic background for his concert, and the weather must have been
directly ordered from heaven.  I asked him, how he discovered this wonderful place.   He was pleased, said thank You,
smiled mischievously and said, “Oh, that is a big secret, I will not tell you”.  

In the meantime Dan (the bannerman) and Alice from Washington had arrived at the Hotel San Michele in a rented car
with dangerous smelling clutch and brakes because of driving on these steep roads. We got together with Anna and
Jenny from Holland for coffee and a nice chat on the piazza.     

André still worried about building of the stage and now also
about the placements of cameras- and floodlights together
with his brother Jean-Philippe, his son Pierre and other crew
members.    Still no bodyguards....   Andre carried with the help
of one his crew members a table to the middle of the sound
platform, took a seat cross-legged on this table  and watched
what was happening.

In the meantime I picked up two pictures I made during the Rostock Concert, from my hotel room, and Anna
encouraged me to go with her once more to André for an autograph. He was evidently pleased to give us autographs
again and smiled when Anna made a picture.     As you can imagine I was higher than on Cloud Nine and very exited
and nervous. I still feel my heart beating faster when remember this unique moment, being so close to André. He
seemed like quite another person than on stage during his concerts. He was very relaxed, natural, private and like a
good friend.    

At 5PM the orchestra members arrived with a big Hello to Dan and Alice. Dan had once more a very nice hand made
banner, which Pierre helped to fasten on a barrier besides the stage.     The musicians took their places on the stage
for a long rehearsal and André himself opened the barrier and asked us to take our seats on the audience platform.
There were only a few people. And I can assure you; this was the very best of the Cortona event. I was so glad to
watch André and his orchestra members during this rehearsal from 05:30 PM to ca. 11 PM. I was sitting in the first row
and the stage was only ca. 3-4 meters away.
Orchestra members could be seen all over the little town.

André started with “Black Eyes” and a few popular melodies. Between the music he jumped of the stage several times
and went to the end of the audience platform to check the sound and later the lights. Very agile he jumped back onto
the stage and continued playing his Stradivarius. The big suitcase for this violin was on a chair behind his sheet music
stand, and the bodyguard whose job was to watch about the violin, was no where to be seen.

The weather was still sunny, but now a cool wind started to blow. A member of the brought the pretty jackets for the
lady musicians to the stage and some wool jackets for the singers. André threw the jackets like balls over to his
singers and put on his yellow wool jacket.     After a few more melodies all orchestra members stood up for the playing
the National Anthem of Italy – wonderful !! And big applause of the international audience, still not more than about 25


André held a 10 minutes intermission. After this break he missed some musicians and was amused to also miss
Franco. Andre wanted to continue the rehearsal, but Franco could not’t find the correct sheet music. Some orchestra
members helped him search, and André asked the public with a “heh, heh,” for a special applause for Franco when he
finally found his sheet music. And he said “…but he is the first one to the bar”. Franco got a red face and everybody
laughed.   Every time that evening when they started a new piece of music André would ask “Has Franco found
the right sheet music??? Do we all need to help him once more ???” Big applause and laughing – Poor Franco ….

During the intermission I had the opportunity to talk with Carla. She is a very kind lady and was very pleased with my
compliments.    The whole rehearsal was very relaxed and the musicians had much fun together. Manoe started to feel
cold and she started to do some aerobic jumping jacks to get warm again. She made jokes with Renate and played
some meowing tones like a little cat on her clarinet, directly in Renate’s ears.    

After another short break André started with “Where is Franco,  looking for his notes again?”  And invited once more
the public to cheer on Franco’s search for the correct sheet music. When trying the piece “Marina” Manoe had to start
by blowing a few notes of the rhythm on a train whistle. The orchestra missed several times to start playing at the right
time, and after the seventh try Manoe was puffing and making a fuss.  

One time André wanted to jump back up onto the stage with a big jump, a member gave him his hand to help, both
stumbled and  André nearly fell backwards from the stage. Quickly another crew member brought a step ladder.
                                  When playing a medley of opera melodies, during the part of the Triumph March from
                                  Aida with fanfare trumpets some boys and girls from Cortona in pretty costumes went
                                  before the stage with drums and flags.    André was during the complete rehearsal
                                  very relaxed and in a great mood. He needs the contact with his public and very
                                  often he asked the audience for more applause and even whistling. He changed
                                  effortlessly languages from Dutch to Italian, German, English and French and played
                                  with devotion his violin in his “ jeans and shirt”. His red jeans were dusty from sitting
                                 on the platform, and together with the Stradivarius it really was truly a unique sight.      
                                 An unusual moment was also: André interrupted playing, kept his Stradivarius and the
bow in his left hand, and with his right hand took a paper cup from his music sheet holder to drink some coffee (or
maybe wine??)       

Once André tried to count by heart the exact sequence of the melodies and said
“Don’t tell me the answer, I want to do it from memory.” After ca. seventh title a loud
voice came from the loudspeaker “Nee”, Jean-Philippe from the dark background. And
all laughed. When André checked the sound while the orchestra played he always
put his Stradivarius in the open suitcase on the stage, without protection.  His
musicians watched over his valuable violin while playing. On the following days I saw
one of his bodyguards always carrying the special suitcase with the Stradivarius.    

After this wonderful and really unique rehearsal I went for a late dinner with some
Rieu-fans in an Italian restaurant. Going back to the hotel at 1:30 AM I saw Pierre and
some crew members still working on the stage.   I think this poor boy was hardest
working crew member of All!!!    And always in a good mood.    
Sigrun, Dan and Alice and Stephanie, dinner in Cortona
André also asked the public to give an enormous applause to his technical crew and local members for all their
efforts to realize this event in Cortona.

He played “Funiculi, Funicula”, as you know it from his Royal Albert Hall Concert the music becomes more and more
low, until Manoe plays her melody on the clarinet alone.  A nice moment in every concert.   Then André presents his
orchestra, and he also did this in Cortona.    “This was an English applause.  Now I want an Italian applause…” said
André to his public, and there now followed applause that really was ear-splitting.  

André announced Carla and Carmen with “What is better than one Brasilian lady singer? Right, two Brasilian lady
singers”. Carla and Carmen came onto the stage singing together “Barcarole” in pretty costumes with long skirts.    
André called them to come once more onto the stage for bowing, and suddenly both ladies put off with a short push
their long skirts, throwing the skirts over the head of Frank (and he crumpled the skirts under the piano of Jo), and
with coloured shorter skirts Carla and Carmen were going to dance and to sing “I feel pretty” from the West Side

Some more melodies, such as “Schenkt man sich Rosen in Tirol” and “The Merry Widow”   André and his orchestra
played “Happy Birthday”, asking if somebody in the public has birthday tonight. Then André asked a crew member
he was the “Stradivarius-Guard”) to carry the birthday present to the stage: Carla very stiff is his arms, like a wooden
doll, in a pretty pink dress with many ribbons in her blond curls. He put this doll carefully on the ground of the stage,
and very stiff like a doll Carla started singing the wonderful song from the operetta “Hoffmann’s Erzaehlungen”:
“Olympia”. She is a very good actress, too. After a few minutes she droppes like a doll her head and arms to the
ground.   André said “… made in Germany”, the crew member came with a big key, turning it with clacking noise
several times on her back to wind her back up and the “doll” stand up stiff again and continued singing.   

With “Leichte Kavallerie” and rhythmic applause André disappeared into his well earned intermission with the sign of
“… I need something to drink now”.     

In the second part of the concerts we heard a few well-known melodies mixed with new parts, and once piece better
than the other.     André let his public know, when we was 11 years old he saw for his first time the famous “Sissy-
Films”. He felt in love with Sissy and couldn’t sleep the following night. The story of the very young Austrian
Empress Sissy, married with the Emperor Franz-Josef of Austria. In the third part of these film trilogy is a wonderful
scene when Sissy and Franz meet on the Marcus Place in Venice her little daughter with the music “Du sollst der
Kaiser meiner Seele sein” (You are the emperor of my soul). Also beautiful played by André and his orchestra.     

André’s next story: A very pretty Italian girl has a rigid father, and she discovers, when starting to sing a special
song, her father’s heart becomes soft and he is going to fulfil all her wishes. Carmen came onto the stage with a very
pretty white Italian costume and crown in her hair, singing “O Mio Babbino Caro” (My very loved father) , like André
was her father and she the daughter.  During the last part of the song she fell on her knees, singing with her folded
hands to André. A very moving part.   

One of the most beautiful songs was “Freude schoener Goetterfunken” (or as André translated the title of Schiller:
“All people will become brothers” (
Ode to Joy)) with Carla, Carmen and the choir. Carla and Carmen with tight black
long dresses. I’m sure you will like this song very much, too.  

Then all orchestra members stood up and played the National Hymn of Italy. Especially the Italian visitors sang
enthusiastically to this melody and the applause was thunderously, you could hear it from the streets all around the
Piazza, where hundreds of Italians crowded so they too could enjoy the music.. Most of them didn’t have a view to
the stage, only heard the music and saw the different colours of many floodlights.    This was the first time André  
had concerts in Italy, and some of his Italian concert guests had been a little bit cautious at first, but after the Italian
Hymn André had won all their hearts like in a hurricane.  One reason was also that he made the effort to speak
Italian, sometimes with a little help of a young Italian lady in the first row, when he missed a word.    During the
playing of the Radetzky March a loud bang, at exactly the same moment that André and his musicians stamped with
their feet: and from several big long tubes millions of coloured paper cuttings were shot into the sky.  

At the end of his concerts young people in medieval Tuscany costumes with drums and big waving flags came
before the stage, and André with the orchestra, especially his brass section with fanfares, and some fanfare blowers
on the little balcony of “Julia” played the Triumph March from Aida.     Of course André finished with many encores, a
medley of “Lustige Witwe” and waltzes, melodies of operettas, “Blue Spanish Eyes”, “La Paloma”, “Tiri Tomba” and
“Marina, Marina” (Manoe started the rythme with her whistle).     

The concerts ended at midnight. And were able to enjoy these concerts three times.  No stops or repeats during the
concerts, every night the complete program. You all have seen the nice photos of André’s website with André and
the lady singers in medieval costumes, and André and Franco sitting on a very old stone well. For the concerts
André and the orchestra members had on their well known concert clothing. I’m sure we will see the medieval
costumes in the video. These scenes had been filmed some weeks earlier in Italy in temperatures of more than 50°C
(120°F) in this very hot European Summer this year on the fields near Cortona, as the chief of the ZDF-Redaction,
Mr. Wolfgang Neumann, told me,.   
Thursday morning after breakfast with Dan and Alice I went sightseeing with Steffi and other German friends up the
hill to the Church St. Margueritha and back downhill to Cortona through small and romantic alleys and narrow streets
with beautiful very old houses and secret small gardens, sometimes meeting a cat or a dog. We found many
wonderful places for taking photos, but this was not easy with my camera because of the dark shadows between the
houses and the bright sunshine.    At lunchtime Steffi and I discovered  behind an insignificant wooden door in the
street of the Hotel San Michele, the courtyard with the stone well, where the pictures of André and Franco had been
made.  What a lovely place, there was a nice gallery of paintings from Cortona artists! And at different times of day
the sunlight in the courtyard changed for better and better pictures.

Friday morning after breakfast with Dan and Alice (after a little mishap happened Thursday afternoon - I twisted my
left ankle when walking over the old bumpy paving stones of Cortona’s streets), I hobbled down the stairs from the
breakfast room to the lobby, where André was waiting, ready for another interview. He gave me something like a
compassionate mocking smile, maybe he thought I waltzed too muchto his Blue Danube last night ......

With Dan and Alice I made a long and interesting shopping tour in Cortona’s antique shops, one even prettier than
the next, and around “our café tables” on the Piazza were we met every day with our friends for cappuccino and
interesting talks.  Marjorie also was shopping, I saw her many times, but of course I respected her wish to be a
private person and not to be bothered or photographed.   During the afternoon we again watched Andre's sound
check of André and the orchestra once more, and more people came to the Piazza looking at the spectacle. André
was in a very good mood, busy writing autographs and smiling for photos together with fans.

Besides the big stair of the Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) I found the Rieu-Kiosk selling CD’s and more, and really,
the sales lady Olga was there with my (in Rostock promised) umbrella! (This umbrella with a length of 3,30 feet was
“very comfortable” to carry back home in the overcrowded trains!!)    Friday at the end of the sound check (I was
sitting on the big stairs of the Palazzo Comunale) André and the orchestra played a new melody, tried several times
short parts and then played the complete piece. I saw Marjorie applauding her husband for his and Jean-Philippe's
new composition which he gave the title “I love you”.    On Friday the last night he finishes the concert with this new
melody. He played it for the first time and dedicated it to Cortona and its people who had been so very kind and
warm to him and his team. Of course they were very happy about that. The Mayor of Cortona made a speech for
André and his orchestra and all crewmembers and presented to André a painted picture of Cortona.

Still under the impression of this tremendous experience I had a late dinner with my friends Dan & Alice, Jenny and
Anna, Rosi, Helmut, Henning and Steffi before I went back to my hotel for a very short sleep.
Early next morning,  before breakfast, before a taxi driver picked me up to bring me to the station of Terontola, I went
for a short view to the Piazza della Republicca.  Nearly the complete platform and stage was already dismantled, lots
of small Italian caravan cars carried the platform- and stage parts downhill to André’s trucks, and in the middle of this
orderly chaos Pierre, he had worked with the crew members over night, and was still very busy helping dismantle
floodlights, loudspeakers, cameras, cables and loading the cars. I said him Good Bye and he answered, “It was nice,
that you were here”.

Changing the train in Arezzo, the Italian Express Train “Michelangelo”, coming this morning from Rome, brought me
back to Germany. After 15 hours in the train I was really happy to meet at 9:30 PM my former colleague and friend,
Ralf, at the Stuttgart Main Station, he took my luggage (and the long umbrella with some special “kind” comments)
and brought me with his car back to my home.
I will remember the great adventure “Cortona” for the rest of my life.  And I want to give a heartfelt
Thank You to
André, that he made this possible.  To be for some wonderful and unforgettable days with him and his team in
Cortona, to attend the shooting of his new video, to meet his musicians privately like friends and to meet Rieu-
friends from all over the world.
Our Three beautiful sopranos.
Carmen, Suzan and Carla
If you look carefully, you will
see a very tired Andre taking a
nap under the harp
Just a few more pictures and it is over.   
A.R. in Cortona
Tickets to Three days of Free Cortona Concerts
Daisy, wanted to come too
Andre with Sigrun
Andre with Alice
JSO arriving for the first rehearsal in Cortona
Hard-working Pierre
Jo, pictures for the web
Did they hide his sheet music???
Orchestra members. Lin, Ruud, Ward, Marcel, Roger, Noel, Hanneke, Noelle, Carla, Carmen, Manoe. Cord, Tanja, Jo, etc
Andre and Jean-Philippe Rieu
The mayor gave Andre a beautiful painting of Cortona
Andre and some of the light crew.
Cortona Sept 17

Wednesday morning my friend Steffi arrived in Cortona with the train from Florence. She could not find a bus at the
station to go up the hill to Cortona and walked the long and steep road up with her very heavy suitcase.  Together
with Dan and Alice we waited for Rosi, Helmut and Henning.     More and more German friends came for a first hello
to the Piazza and watched with much interest what was happening.     At least several miles of cable had been
installed through the medieval ways, archways and buildings to the Piazza of Cortona.  Lots of big floodlights,
loudspeakers and cameras were all over balconies, in windows, on stairs and roofs of the houses around the Piazza.
It seemed like André’s crew had rented most of the apartments there for this event. Crew members,  Jean-Philippe
and Pierre were still very busy installing more floodlights on dangerous high ladders on walls of the houses.    In
additional many beautiful Tuscany flags were waving from all windows. The green backgrounds of the emblems of
the stage had overnight been painted  in a darker green color, since André said yesterday that the original green
seemed  too light to him. And lots of heavy stones had been carried by crew members and helpers of put under the
stage on the front side for horizontal levelling of the platform.

After lunch time you could meet most of the orchestra members on shopping expeditions or for cappuccino and other
drinks in the cafés of Cortona, all musicians were apparently pleased to meet us fans like old friends and had time for
a short talk or some photos and autographs.

Sometimes we also saw André and his brother Jean-Philippe walking through the romantic streets of Cortona, at
times with a TV-camera following them.  Later I heard, an Italian and Dutch TV station did interviews.   (
You can find
the Dutch interview in Translations
)  The suspense began to rise when at 6 PM  the sound check started and lasted
about 50 min.  André was once more very busy, checking sound, camera’s and floodlight’s timing and of course
playing his violin, and Carla and Carmen with the wonderful songs.     Every day after the sound check André asked
the public to leave the platform until the entrance for the concert at 7:30 PM.  At that time there was a lot of pushing
and shoving at the barriers and pretty young girls from Cortona in medieval costumes checked our tickets.  That
afternoon I met a kind and very interesting couple from San Francisco, Al and Faith, and thanks to Al I had a seat in
the middle of the third row,  just behind two rows of chairs for the young people of Cortona.      At 9 PM the orchestra
members came onto the stage, the ladies still with their pretty jackets, but the temperature was warmer than the night
before, no wind, no clouds, really a most romantic Italian night. Floodlights with their different burning red, brightly
blue, soft green, orange yellow and some times mystic pink colours changed the Piazza della Republicca and the
buildings around into a magic wonderland,  

Under great cheering André came onto the stage, and as always skips a few steps to his place. In fluent Italian he
said hello to his audience.    After a few sentences of hello in several languages he told us, "I will do this again and
“… will you please give me an applause like you never saw me before…” (for the TV camera).   Of course we
did!        He started with “The Godfather”, as every night of the three concerts.  After this first piece he said a big
Thank You to the people of Cortona, who gave him, his musicians and crew such a warm welcome,  and played
“Strangers in Paradise”.       Please excuse, I don’t remember the exact sequence of the pieces he played in these
concerts, but I will try to describe the concerts.       André told his public the German TV is going to make a video of
his concerts, so he will sometimes speak in German, too, and he changed easily from Italian to German, English,
French and Dutch. (André: “… I hope I did not forget anyone…”).     “I should have been born in another century”, he
said, “I would like to have been born in the Middle Ages, in the time of Romeo and Julia”.    And he played the
wonderful romantic melody “Romance Anonym”, looking upwards to a balcony where “his Julia”, Carla, was singing
with her beautiful voice this melody.

At the end he sents a hand-kiss to her, before he tells his audience “now she will take one hour to come back down
to us”, and he continued with “ Unter Donner und Blitz”, and “Rosen ”, each melody is followed by enthusiastic
applause.    With “Chanson d’Amour” he invites his public to whistle and for the new piece “Lagunen-Walzer” (one of
my favourite new pieces) he asked his visitors to close the eyes and to imagine they are sitting in a gondola on
Venice’s Canale Grande directly under the bridge “Ponte Vecchio” – laughing!! André looked questioning to his
musicians, laughed also “oh, stupido (= a stupid error), the wrong city!!” (
The Ponte Vecchio is in Florence!) I think, in
the video we can see with this melody some scenes made in Venice, from where we could already see some pictures
on his website). André made this joke in the other concerts, too.