Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ah, Paree

A few thoughts on my much needed sojourn in Paris. Starting with a hideous car drive to Ashford to pick up the Eurostar. Driving rain slowed everything to a crawl damn nearly resulting in me missing the train. However screamed in on the bell and hoisted my oversize suitcase into one of the undersized luggage racks and I was on my way. I love the Eurostar - Quick and easy check in, no endless waits near the suffocating perfume counter at Heathrow or in rancid hell of Stansted and a train which lands you bang in the centre of Paris, a mere two stops from my cousins in Montmartre.
Lovely to be back in Paris after a couple of years but horrible to realise that my once passable French has deteriorated still further. I managed to make the man at the Metro understand that I wanted a five day pass then cursed myself as I remembered that the passes run in days not hours so I had essentially wasted one day as it was already early evening. Heigh ho - It's only money..
Next morning straight onto to the internet to find out about exhibitions and earmark the opening day of a Munch exhibition and an drawing/watercolour exhibition at the Louvre. The Munch opened that day so the queue was long but I got in eventually. It was a fascinating retrospective of his work leading up to "The Scream". What became apparent is that some traumatic event must have affected Munch since he changed almost overnight from a merely competent imitator of other artist's work to a highly original talent producing work that is haunting, almost terrifying. The constant, often undefined threat which lurks in his watercolours and paintings bespeak a mind pursued by nightmares. His obsession with death's heads and hollow eyed cadaver like women is extremely disturbing. All in all the exhibition was a fascinating insight into a unique artist.
On from the exhibition in an attempt to get a return for LA SONNAMBULA with Dessay at the Bastille. No luck with the unhelpful box office lady. I comforted myself with a 3 course set menu in a cafe round the corner. Fantastic value - Even with wine and coffee it came to less than £18.00.
Saturday and the weather mixed. My cousin and I decide to try the Lisette Model exhibition at the Jeu de Paumes. I had never even heard of Model who worked in Paris and New York from the 30's to the 60's. I can't imagine why she is not better known. Even now the images have a vibrancy and eye for strangeness which is breathtaking. I don't know if the exhibit is due to tour but, if it comes to London, it is a must-see.
In the evening to A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC at the lovely Theatre Chatelet. I have always been lucky at this theatre and this was no exception. Lee Blakeley's excellent production showed off a top notch cast lead by Greta Scacchi who, rather to my surprise, was the best Desiree of my experience since Judi Dench. I had slightly mixed feelings about Leslie Caron's Mmme Armfeldt. It was certainly different but, for my taste, a little ungrounded. No complaints about the rest of the cast and there was a superb quintet of Liebeslieder. Great band too - Good to hear the score again with a full complement in the pit.
Sunday proved a frustrating day as I failed to get into either SONNAMBULA or the dance show at the Theatre de Ville. Still a good meal at a nearby restaurant followed by THE WOLFMAN at one of the cinemas in the Champs Elysees. An extremely silly and bloody film and just about my level after earlier frustrations.
Monday was Louvre day - Superb value as usual. I spent four hours there and barely scratched one of four floors! In the evening to a fun dress rehearsal of FALSTAFF courtesy of the lovely Anna Caterina Antonacci. I will observe the tradition that one never critiques dress rehearsals and content myself with saying that Anna was lovely and unexpectedly comedic (one is so used to seeing her in high octane roles like Carmen or Medea that it is a surprise to find her as Alice Ford)
On Tuesday I decided to have another go for SONNAMBULA. Unfortunately Dessay is off but the plus side is that I get a return fairly easily. Iride Martinez is an excellent replacement and the rest of the cast are all of a high standard. The production is the same one recently given at Covent Garden and Vienna. A bit odd but one has seen far worse. By all accounts the Met's version is an absolute shocker! The Bastille audience remain near the bottom of the league for audience behaviour. The constant unrestrained coughing was unbearable - Clearly Paris is still the home of final stage consumptives!!
Wednesday commences with pouring rain but then brightens in time for me to take a quick turn around Montmartre and Sacre Coeur which is lovely as ever. A quick struggle with cases on the Metro and back onto the Eurostar. I arrive in Ashford as it starts to rain heavily..

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