Another week…

couple.jpgAs you can see, the longer we stay here we are becoming more and more like your average French couple. About that, a little latter.We saw La Femme sans Ombre, the Richard Strauss opera, The Woman Without a Shadow at the Opera Bastille.It started out like another misadventure, as the Controle could not find our tickets that were supposed to be at “will call.” The bells were ringing to announce that the doors were closing and the Controle found seats for us in the orchestra for the first act and finally found our tickets at intermission.Some events, like some experiences cannot be described. This opera, staged by Robert Wilson, was perfect in every way. The music, the singing, the staging, the sets. E sat on the edge of his chair dying to take photos for every few minutes there was a rearrangement of the sets, each one like a great painting. But he didn’t, not even after it was over. In an earlier blog we have talked about experience vs. consumption. This was the time to make the distinction. The purpose was to experience the opera. To have photographed it would have been an attempt to capture it, to own it – for future consumption.E remembered when he had an art gallery in New York City specializing in antiques from India. He had a beautiful 18th Century Tibetan tanka of a naked red Dakini brandishing a sword in one hand and a blood filled skull cup in the other. He used to meditate in front of her, but had to sell it to pay the rent one month and he remarked that at least he had the art pass through his hands. Such was the nature of La Femme Sans Ombre.We offer the pr photo for an idea of the staging:femme-sans-ombre.jpgMid-week, a little after noon, we went to the Sorbonne for a string quartet concert in the Amphitheatre Richelieu – Borodine and Shastakovitch played by musicians from the Ochestre de Paris.We were sitting in a building centuries old, in an amphitheater where students had been lectured for hundreds of years. Here the picture will tell it all.sorbonne2.jpgNew friends …At a meeting of “Democrats Abroad” to get information about how to vote in the primary, we met a couple from New York; Geoffrey and Carole who spend 3 months every winter in Paris. They speak very good French and love the city so much that they have created “The Great Paris Walk Pack” for walking tours of the city, which we are suggesting to everyone who is coming to visit. (It’s available at Amazon). They live in the 9th arrondisment. A wonderful Parisian neighborhood known for its street of local shops with superb food, rue des Martyrs. The end of the street is the church Notre Dame de Lorette.John and Suzanne came for lunch on Sunday. It was a “French lunch” that lasted 3 hours without anyone worrying about the time. R met John and Szanne at l’Institut de Francais where she spent a month, in Villefranche-sur-Mer. They are from Texas and have moved to Paris. After coming for a number of years and renting apartments in various parts of the city, they bought an apartment in the Marais. They tell us we will cry when we have to leave and are convinced we will move to Paris. This becomes a more convincing argument the longer we are here. Who knows?That evening we had dinner at Ricky and Valerie’s apartment in the 6th. He is 87 and still climbs the 74 steps from and to his apartment twice every day.stairs.jpgRicky has been a cinematographer of documentaries for 70 some years. Valerie is French and had been his companion in life and work for the past 20 years. To climb up the stairs of their apartment is like walking through a painting. The steps are very wide and well worn and with traces of red paint. The walls are ochre and pink and peeling making them look like walls of an ancient Tuscan villa. The building has significant historical importance. It was the British legation during the French Revolution and Jefferson and Franklin lived there.Ricky did the cooking and made 2 different dishes, as he wasn’t sure about our tastes. First he served tongue and had a couple pigeons as a backup, which we never got to. We left with a DVD of their work which is the story Sarah Caldwell the Conductor from the Boston area, conducting a lost piece which had been written by Prokofief and suppressed by Stalin.Our next opera excursion was to see Cardillac by Hindemuth, again at the Opera Bastille. We wanted to go as we had never seen a Hindemith opera and both of us unsure how much we liked his music. The set was stunning, as you see from the photograph below.card.jpgAgain an exhilarating experience. The balance of orchestra, singing, staging was perfection. The music passionate, though not easily accessible, stands on its own as did the staging. Another Germanic dive into the unconscious, more into the primal ooze where any action is possible, especially those outside the bounds of what we call civilization. This story about a man so obsessed with his creations that he would kill anyone to keep them in his possession.And to make sure that we were not neglecting the plastic arts, we went to the Centre Pompidou for a major exhibition; “L’Ateleir D’Albert Giacometti,” which is where we spotted “The couple” you see at the beginning of this entry.We tried to capture some some of his heads placed in the exhibition looking out over the city. You can just see the Sacre Coeur behind one of the structural pillars of the museum. The view from the top of the Pompidou is magnificent.sacre.jpgThere were some 600 pieces, dominated by his well known tall thin almost ephemeral sculptures, their minimalist girth and elongation an inference of man’s/woman’s islolation and loneliness. As if he/she barely exists but for the moment. The sculpture of 3 figures walking, one of his best known, emphasizes this.walking-figures.jpgAll three occupy a contained space yet walking in different directions with no contact or awareness of the other. And then there is the woman in a cage.woman2.jpgOf course we can’t say what Giacometti intended.That night, we had dinner at Bernard and Martine’s apartment in another lovely early 19th century building. We met Bernard through a friend of a friend who knew he wanted to practice his English and we our French. We have been meeting twice a week one day to talk French, the other day English. Last night the French lesson included dinner with them. Bernard is a photographer and he and his wife collect art. The apartment is filled with it as well as other fascinating objects. And they were kind enough to slowly walk us through the evening in French. The great surprise of the evening was Martine’s delicious Southwestern chili, which we ate with a fine Bordeaux.Bernard suggested we join him at a gallery opening the next day of a woman painter, Ode Bertrand whom he has know for years and has several of her paintings. We walked across the Seine, now becoming a walk we do daily, to the Marais to rue Quincapoix. Probably the name of the family who owned this area a long time ago. The names of streets in Paris are a good way to practice your pronunciation and finding your way, since the fact that streets change names at a corner and move in unpredictable directions teases your brain.renber.jpgThe show is titled Trait and Lumiere (Line and Light). They are strong canvases painted in a geometric abstract style following her mentor and aunt Aurelie Nemours, well known in France. These paintings, with a limited number of elements, varying in line and rhythm and undergirded by a grid, are nevertheless spiritual in feel and tone. One thinks of the work of Agnes Martin. Ode Bertrand, now in her late 70’s was only recognized 4 years ago. Nemours also waited until the same age to be recognized.We ended the evening with dinner at “George” a restaurant on the top of the Beaubourg (George Pompidou Museum of modern art). The restaurant played the most blaring disco music and prepared some of the best food we had eaten in Paris: a bizarre contrast. The restaurant looks out over Paris. On one side were the glittering lights of the Eiffel Tower and the other side, the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame. R took photos of the view but it was too dark, we didn’t want to use the flash so since we were in a museum, we settled for an art shot.es-hands.jpg

4 Responses to “Another week…”

  1. Great blog! It was a pleasure to meet you by chance in your Paris. We look forward to keeping up with your adventures while making our own. Maybe we will meet again in our Geneve!
    Cheers!
    Melissa & John

  2. What a wonderful week it was!
    However your “experience” limits my “consumption” of those amazing sets — maybe life is full of repeat performances so we can have both:)

  3. It has been said that we are bound to repeat that which we haven’t learned. Experiences need not be repeated. To look for a repeat is to look backwards and only owls are successful at that.

  4. Dear R & E,

    I definitely consumed, actually devoured (!), your blog — Does that count?

    Love, Gina

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