Archives For Paris

A Sojourn in Paris

April 22, 2018 — 69 Comments

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During my free time whilst working in Paris I have enjoyed reading your comments so thank you for taking the time writing them, I have also enjoyed eating delicious food, practicing my French, visiting galleries and walking my socks off. I thought this week I’d share some of my highlights and places to visit in case you may be planning a trip to Paris, or just wondering what it’s like.

The team and I stayed super central, near Les Halles, in the Citadine Hotel. Our rooms came with a little kitchenette which proved very budget friendly during a long stay. We were very close to bustling cafes and bars that populate Paris.  I slept extremely well but that may be because I was running after crawling babies all day.

 

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Louis, Me, and Matthew at Café Vigouroux

 

We quickly made Café Vigouroux on 10 rue des Halles our local. The staff there were friendly but strict with our French lessons that were to come. I will remember fondly, trying to ask Louis (one of the owners alongside Matthew) for the internet ´passwort’ in a wonderful mash-up of German and French. I quickly realised saying a word in a French accent with some conjugated verbs was not going to cut it. Louis then taught me to say ‘Qu’est-ce que les mots de pass pour le wifi?’ Which on my travels was very useful. Another great phrase for those trying to save some pennies ‘Je voudrai une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît.’ Which enables you to ask for tap water – l’eau du robinet. This was particularly handy during the beautiful sunny weather we experienced during our stay. If you are in this area of Paris I would definitely recommend you to stop by Café Vigourou.

The food in Paris was très délicieux! I visited a few restaurants for my evening meal. Amongst my favourites were:

Café Plume on 164 Rue Saint-Honoré, this restaurant and thriving evening bar served the most exquisite dauphinoise potatoes, that when Stuart (our percussionist) and I tasted them, we decided we simply had to bring the rest of company there to visit. This recommendation was very well received and confirmed with six empty plates.

Au Terminus du Châtelet on 5 Rue des Lavandières Saint-Opportune, is a beautiful traditional French restaurant, which I believe is in its 4th generation of family management. The Bambino team shared our first meal here and the food was outstanding. The menu is changed daily, responding to the chef’s inspirations based on the produce for the current season. A real delight for the palate!

Le 6 Paul Bert on 6, rue Paul Bert 😉(catchy and helpful name), a un tres goûteux menu (had a very tasty menu). The restaurant grows their own vegetables and take great pride in the produce used in their dishes. With great lighting and attentive service, this is certainly worth the walk.

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In between eating and more eating, I was able to burn off some calories by exploring Paris on foot (hence the trainers). During my adventures, I visited many of Paris’ beautiful museums and art galleries. I didn’t realise, before Laura (our cellist) advised me, that I could visit most of these museums for free because I am under 26. (Make the most of this deal if you can, all you need is proof of age!) So as a true bargain hunter I tried to visit as many as I could. My all-time favourite was Musée d’Orsay, it was here that I was able to see  Renoir, Monet, Rousseau (who I remember studying in High School ´Tiger in a tropical storm’ springs to mind) and more, my favourite piece of art in the gallery was Galatée by Morceau. I am now in search of a print of this image. The internet pictures do not give justice to the brilliance and sparkle that he has been able to achieve in the original to capture the mythical and magical subject it’s inspired by.

My favourite places to read, relax and study my music in the sun were the ‘Jardin du Luxembourg’, I will remember fondly the beautiful arrangements of tulips, the outstanding palace which now holds the Sénat, the beautiful water fountains, and the Grand Bassin, an octagonal pond where children can play with toy sailboats that can be rented. I lost many hours here and will miss this spot greatly.  My other little spot was the little garden that surrounded Saint-Jacques tower. A peaceful place to people watch and listen to some great French jazz.

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To get an amazing panorama view of Paris for free, visit the rooftop of the Galleries Lafayette! I was recommended the Pompidou Centre too, however, I thought the windows of the viewing deck needed a good scrub clean, but if you walk down to level 4 or 5 the view is very lovely there too.

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If you love flowers don’t miss Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II. One of the marketers told me flowers have been sold there since 1808 and are the oldest market of any kind in Paris. I sadly missed this, but my friend told me that on Sundays it turns into an eccentric bird market, where one can purchase a fine creature of flight! Next time I visit I’ll try to go on a Sunday!

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On that note, I will bring my recommendations to a close, if you are interested in anymore please do get in touch! These are just the tip of the iceberg, but my main piece of advice is talk to the locals take their recommendations and walk, walk, walk and soak up the amazing atmosphere that is Paris!

Next stop New York, I can’t believe I’m actually saying that 🙂

 

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Me, David, and Alison on an open top bus tour of Paris

 

 

I arrived in Paris with the rest of Team BambinO and we were immediately welcomed by everyone at the Théâtre du Châtelet.  The French audiences have been amazing and with the first few shows successfully completed I can’t wait to continue the run.  It is crazy to look out across the city skyline from each of the venues and see so many iconic landmarks.

I have managed to practice speaking French and more importantly understanding replies and been happy to walk around Paris in the Spring sunshine. Here are a few photographs that I have taken for my scrapbook that I wanted to share with you all.

 

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Tim Connor, Alison Reid, David Sneddon, Stuart Semple, Lissa Lorenzo, Me, and Laura Sergeant on the balcony of our changing room at the British Consul, Paris.

 

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The set laid out ready for our performance at the Conservatoire Municipal, Les Halles, Paris

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The three pictures above are from the Flower Market on the Île de la Cité, Paris.

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Stravinsky Fountain, 2 Rue Brisemiche, near the Pompidou Centre, Paris.

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This stunning iron-work sculpture is on the wall of the building next to the Le théâtre de la Tour Eiffel, Paris.

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The view of the Eifel Tower across from the British Consul, Paris

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Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, 23B Rue las Cases, Paris

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At the bottom of the Rue des Dechargeurs as the Paris marathon passes on the Rue de Rivoli

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The Metro at Place Colette, close to the Musée du Louvre, Paris

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In the Jardin Nelson Mandela near to the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris

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Inside the In the Chatelet Les Halles, Paris

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Inside Galeries Lafayette,Paris.

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The view from the roof of the Galeries Lafayette Paris

In between practice and rehearsals, it has been great to read all your comments this week and I will try and answer them if time permits whilst away in France.  I have enjoyed catching up with my friends in Glasgow as we prepare for our mini tour and I managed to get the opportunity to Interview Lliam Paterson the composer of BambinO.

I am so happy that I am finally able to share some more amazing news with you all, we are to take ‘BambinO’ to New York 😊 at the end of April for the Metropolitan Opera. I never dreamt that being a part of this fantastic production would allow me to visit and perform in both Paris and New York.

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Lliam Paterson and Me

Liam when we met you were the resident emerging artist Composer at Scottish Opera, what did this entail?

The first thing to say is what an amazing opportunity it was to be resident in a national opera company! The level of support and the inspiring atmosphere were really outstanding. Scottish Opera helped to nurture my theatrical instincts, and importantly the company wasn’t afraid to take risks in commissioning a hitherto unknown young composer!

When I first arrived at Scottish Opera, I worked on small-scale pieces: I wrote miniature operas for the marvelous Opera Highlights tours, which take opera to the farthest flung parts of Scotland! It was marvelous knowing that my little dramatic works – each written to a comic libretto of my own devising – would be performed dozens of times all around the country. I also wrote a fanfare to celebrate the opening of the new Theatre Royal foyer in Glasgow in 2015.

After this, I was commissioned to produce large-scale works. The 8th Door was a new opera to partner Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, performed in a co-production with Vanishing Point in a production by Matthew Lenton, and conducted by Sian Edwards. During the process of working on this, Jane Davidson – head of Scottish Opera’s Education Department – commissioned me to write an opera for babies aged 6 to 18 months! The resulting piece – BambinO – opened at Manchester International Festival last year in a production directed by Phelim McDermott.

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The 8th Door – Photo By Mihaela Bodlovic

For both works, I had lots of workshop time facilitated by Scottish Opera. I worked really closely with Matthew Lenton for The 8th Door and with Phelim McDermott and design team Giuseppe and Emma Belli for BambinO. I learned so much about all aspects of creating powerful opera through working with these amazingly creative people!
I also did a lot of repetiteur work for the company, ranging from regular playing for the Connect Company (Scottish Opera’s youth opera) to Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera Greek at the Edinburgh International Festival.

Where did you go to High School?

I attended the Aberdeen City Music School and for my last two years of school went to St. Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh.

When did Composition become your main interest?

I become really fascinated by the idea of composing around the age of 12, although my first work came the following year! For most of secondary school, my main studies revolved around the piano and French horn. However, I realised early on those composers of the past had all been performers too, so for that point on performance and composition were totally linked for me.

What were your favourite subjects and which subjects most helped you to achieve your goals looking back with hindsight?

I loved English and Art & Design more than anything!
Creative writing and Art both help you develop a uniquely subjective view of the world. This is so important in composition, where you have to really believe in the integrity of the sound world you create, whatever it is!

What did you do after high school?

After school, I studied music at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge University, and subsequently studied for a Masters in piano accompaniment and repetituer studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. I started my residency at Scottish Opera even before I’d graduated from Guildhall!

What instruments do you play? What age did you start lessons? Are your family from an art or musical background?

I play the piano and any keyboard instrument that’s put in front of me! For recent opera performances, I’ve played digital piano (set to a fantastic retro 80s synth sound!) and harmonium! I played French horn until I was twenty, but piano and composition took up all my time by my second year at university.

I started piano lessons around age nine and horn the following year. Before that, I was already singing in the Haddo Children’s Choir, which really developed my ear.

I’m from a very creative family – my parents went to the Glasgow School of Art, as did many other family members, and my sister has had a very varied career in the arts, from working in the film industry and radio broadcasting, to teaching English! Although my parents aren’t musicians, they have a very broad interest in the arts, so it feels natural that I ended up as a musician. They encouraged open-mindedness but the impetus for getting involved in music came from me I think! I became obsessed with the idea of playing the harp for some reason! My sister was also in orchestras and choirs all through secondary school.

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If you hadn’t gone down the Music/Composition route, what would you do instead? Is there any way you can interweave this into your future career?

I think I would have attempted a career writing fiction and being an academic in a university English department somewhere! It’s wonderful that I now have the opportunity to write my own libretti and devise scenarios for theatre works. It’s much collaborative but still uses my instinct for creative writing!
I’m also a huge fan of film across a wide range of genres! I think this partly stems from my sister’s involvement in the film world! Film really flared up as a big passion at university and remains so today – I collect the BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine and the film journal Little White Lies. I’m currently writing my first film score for a documentary, so it’s brilliant to get my first taste of this business from the creative end of things!

Who would you say are your main role models not just for composition but for life too?

Composer Sofia Gubaidulina for her absolute integrity in everything she does; film critic Mark Kermode for his insights on the importance of film makers’ views of the world and the need to challenge censorship in art; composer John Luther Adams for his connectedness to the environment and his use of music as a powerful reflection of the state of the world; composer Lili Boulanger for reaching profound depths in her work at such an early age despite suffering from debilitating illness and being in the midst of war; film-maker David Cronenberg for the uncompromising vision of his work; composer Philip Glass for the amazing volume and diversity of work he has achieved in his life!

Recently when I have been sourcing contemporary music, I had problems finding
music for a small ensemble, (piano and voice). Is accessibility a concern when you compose or do think that would sacrifice musical integrity?

I think of accessibility as allowing a way in to a musical work for a listener, whether they are a musician or not. How do you grip a listener’s attention in the opening moments of a work to keep them interested? How do I move between consonance and dissonance in my music to keep dramatic tension but overload an audience not accustomed to new music?
I believe that if you make accessibility a core element of your approach to art, it doesn’t affect musical integrity.

You have been writing Operas is this your preference? If so why?

I love the dramatic immediacy of opera, and music’s interconnectedness to all the other art forms that make up opera: set design, lighting, acting, etc. Music in opera is not abstract: it can propel dramatic action just as it can become the soul of a character. I become inspired by my role in an art work that is greater than the sum of its parts! I am inspired by conversations with directors, librettists, set designers and so on. There is much ‘abstract’ music I also love, but the writing process is much more of an interior one, at least for me. I love the sociability of creativity in opera.

Do you ever enter your compositions into competitions? And what are your thoughts about them?

I have entered my compositions into competitions in the past. For instance, I won the 2014 International Frederic Mompou Composition Competition in Barcelona. Competitions are as much the reflection of a jury’s taste (or the tensions between jurors) as they are a reflection of quality and integrity on the part of competitive artists. Competitions can give a much needed financial boost to an artist in the early stages of their career, as well as giving artists a platform to hone their craft in a highly pressurised environment.

For composers, competitions almost never launch a career – but they are useful if the prize involves the performance of a work for orchestra or other large-scale forces. I’ll end with the much-quoted (and probably miss-quoted!) saying of Béla Bartók: ‘Competitions are for horses, not for people!’ People have very unique strengths and qualities that competitions often don’t have room to recognise.

Do you have a particular approach when you write a new opera/large scale works?

Usually, I do as much research as possible at the start of a project, reading about the subject matter of a new opera from many different angles. Discussions with other collaborators on a large-scale project are also crucial to making many decisions about the work at an early stage.

I write a sketch score of an opera very quickly, usually working to a strict routine every day. Then I play through the sketch score a lot to get a sense of how the dramatic pacing is working, and make extensive amendments if needed. After this, I orchestrate the work and revise as I go.

If possible, I like to speak to singers cast in one of my works as soon as it is finished, so I can respond to any concerns and make revisions. If I know a singer’s voice beforehand, this is in my mind throughout the creative process, and I hear their voice as I write their vocal lines. This was the case with your role of Uccellina in BambinO!

What is your proudest achievement?

My proudest achievement…. that would have to be my name appearing in the New York Times in an article about the Metropolitan Opera performing BambinO! I love the New York Times and am a subscriber, so that was a thrill!

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BambinO – Photo By Jamie Glossop

Do certain places inspire you to compose?

I can compose almost anywhere, but I prefer to be in a room with large windows overlooking a city! The Board Room on the top floor of Scottish Opera’s Elmbank Crescent building was my composing base for three years!
Natural landscapes and open skies inspire me very much, especially those of the North- East of Scotland. I also love Suffolk, Aldeburgh in particular.

What are your future aspirations?

I would love to continue writing opera and to explore collaborating across different art forms. In future, I hope to collaborate with other artists who also seek to fuse opera and film.

Finally, Lliam What is your favourite colour?

Coming from a family of visual artists, I have always been sensitive to the different tonal qualities of colour! I am most drawn to blue in all its many shades.

Thank you Lliam for being so open and giving us your time and a peek into your world.

Here is a link to Lliam’s website: Lliam Paterson

BambinO Takes Flight

March 25, 2018 — 66 Comments

Bonjour Paris text with tower eiffel and bicycle. Romantic postcAs the Easter Holidays approach, I have some great news to share with you all, I have been asked by Scottish Opera and Improbable to join my friends Tim Connor, Stuart Semple and Laura Sergeant to perform ‘BambinO’ in Paris for the Théâtre du Châtelet this April.

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Back Row: Laura Sergeant & Stuart Semple Front Row: Me & Timothy Connor

But before leaving London I had to make sure that I returned all the books that I borrowed from the RCM library for my recent project ‘Women In Music’, my backpack was a lot lighter on the way home 🙂

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I arrived back in Glasgow late on Thursday night and it was great to team up with my friends again on Friday morning for rehearsals to refresh the show for the French audiences.  It is amazing to see how this wonderful mini-opera, written by Lliam Paterson and directed by Phelim McDermott, has progressed since we first got together back in December 2016.  I can remember seeing the set and the costumes for the first time, designed by Emma & Giuseppe Belli, trying to visualise how the babies would respond to their imaginative use of props and move around the fabulous space created for each performance.

Following our performances in Manchester, Edinburgh, and Glasgow last year I can’t believe that we will now get the opportunity to perform in several venues around Paris organised by the Théâtre du Châtelet, who have embraced the idea of making this production accessible to a wider audience.    We will start the tour on 6th April performing twice a day in various locations until the 11th April.  On the 13th April through to the 20th April, we will perform twice daily at Cent Quatre.  The shows are free for babies with a small charge of four euros for each accompanying adult.

It will be such fun to practice my French with the audiences after each show and I hope that the babies can cope with my pronunciation.  I’ve already started revising my French conversation skills and I would love to hear of any recommendations for nice walks, places to visit, French meals I should try to cook over the course of my visit. (The perks of having a self-catered apartment).   It is such a fantastic opportunity for me to spend some time in Paris and experience the French culture which will hopefully influence my interpretation of French song.  I will let you know how it goes and hopefully get some pictures to share with you.scroll

Following my blog anniversary, I said that I would select three people from those who commented or placed a like on the post and send them a signed copy of my ‘Haugtussa CD’.  There were 139 people in total so I used a random number generator to select the winners.

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I am pleased to announce that the three-people selected were John Howell, Peter Alexander, and Dora Buonfino.  I managed to contact John and Peter and have posted their CDs to them which should arrive this week (fingers crossed).  I have just received Dora’s forwarding address and will try and post it to her before I leave for Paris.

A Little Time To Reflect

November 15, 2015 — 55 Comments

Today I had the luxury to attend the last of the Hilary Rosin Coffee Concert series at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. The series will resume again in February 2016 and I can’t recommend them enough. They have been a wonderful way to spend time with friends on Sundays so far and I will miss them in the coming weeks.

In the concert’s programme we had the opportunity to listen to a small female choir, selected from the RCS Voices, sing Brahms ‘Vier Gesänge’. It was a beautiful piece with angelic quality accompanied by two horns and harp. Definitely worth a listen to on YouTube.

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I Hove Wonderful Memories Of My Trip To Paris In 2014, My Thoughts Are With All Those Touched By This Tragedy.

At the beginning of the concert a very touching introduction was given in which we were asked to think about how music can join us together in little communities, people who share similar interests. However these communities also provide support to each other and the opportunity to remember those that have been affected by tragedy around the world.

Nothing brings this home more than the tragic events which took place in Paris last Friday (13th November 2015), to think that this time last year I was celebrating my birthday in this wonderful city and my heart goes out to everyone touched by this dreadful tragedy.

Within in each of us there is a voice, a voice that we can use to spread the idea of peace around the world.  Whether you choose to use music, the spoken word or put your thoughts down on paper the power is within us all to make a difference.  If we work hard enough then maybe one day we can be part of one great big community and put these tragedies behind us forever.

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BBC News ( Click On The Picture To Read Updates )

Update 18th Nov 2015

I read this brilliant article by Sinfini Music on the Music of defiance. “For musicians and music-lovers, the fact that the primary target was a place of music-making has hit home hard”. http://www.sinfinimusic.com/uk/features/blogs/ecoutez-paris/parisians-respond-to-terrorist-attacks-of-13-nov-2015-with-music-and-la-marseillaise

 

Well I hope that title got your interest in my review about the Opera ‘Tosca’ that I saw last week at the Opera Bastille in Paris a magnificent opera house, the first time I had seen the building and been inside. There were English surtitles so my prior research wasn’t necessary.

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Inside The Foyer Of The Opera Bastille

 

Tosca had a marvellous, dramatic storyline that kept my full attention throughout. My only negative comment is that I felt the ending was a little rushed with Mario’s departure.

Sebastian Catana gave a fabulous portrayal of the baddy Scarpia. I really disliked his character he made me squirm in my seat. Sublime singing lots of vocal firepower on display – magnifique.

Tosca was a true diva complete with a crown (I was a little jealous I love tiaras) Beatrice Monzon played the audience and Mario for that matter very well. She was the only female soloist in the show, I enjoyed her selfish moments in the text especially in the Church scene which was wonderfully played by Tosca and Mario and really got the audience laughing. Her jealous scenes were fantastic and I identified with quite a few moments :).

The sets were awesome, a huge cross creating an ominous grey platform for the scenes to play out upon. The stage was moveable to create new spaces and perspectives, I wished my best friend Rob could have seen it, he’s a scenic carpenter, I drew him some pictures afterwards.

Vissi d’arte was a great aria, I can find it a little dull out of context but within the opera it was heart-warmingly beautiful showing the innocent side of Tosca whilst praying, asking “why?” as some days all of us do. Completely effortless singing accompanied by piano I took lots from this performance she was wonderful.

There was such detailing in the props, down to books, globe, food, lights it felt like I was looking into someone’s study. The red dungeon room was brilliant and from Toscas perspective must have seemed terrifying as she couldn’t see it from her position on the stage. The blood was very realistic, reminded me a little of my brother Tom’s horrible histories magazines.

The shooting scene from the third Act was very emotional brought to life with the most beautiful tenor singing delivered by the hunky Massimo Giordano; it was a startling set with scattered crosses made out of trees filling the stage. It was an incredible performance, no one stole the show because they were all equally well cast and performed their parts so realistically, and the chorus equally so, it felt very real.

Evelino Pidò ( Conductor ), Pierre Audi ( Stage Director ), Christof Hetzer ( Sets ), Robby Duiveman ( Costumes ), Jean Kalman ( Lighting ), Klaus Bertisch ( Dramaturgy ) and José Luis Basso ( Chorus Master ) all stupendous, really breathtaking, can you tell I really loved it.  I did!

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Au Revoir Paris

 

 

Tosca at the Opera Bastille

November 13, 2014 — 55 Comments
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My First Glimpse Of Paris At Night From The Top Of The Eiffel Tower

 

As lots of you know my first visit to watch an opera was for my 18th birthday at The Lowry Theatre in Salford near Greater Manchester.  Well my parents have topped that this year; they bought me tickets to watch ‘Tosca’ at ‘The Opera Bastille’ in Paris on a two night break for my 21st birthday.

The main auditorium has 2,745 seats and my Dad said it was nearly sold out when he booked a couple of weeks ago.

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Opera Bastille

 

I reviewed the story by Giacomo Puccini, because I guess the Italian opera will have French surtitles. Tosca is a story of political instability and menace, there are three principal roles.

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The sadistic Chief of Police of Rome – Scarpia (sung by a baritone) – is one of the wickedest villains in opera.  The story is set in June 1800 in Rome, with the Kingdom of Naples control of Rome threatened by Naploean’s invasion of Italy.  Scarpia ruthlessly searches for and tortures enemies of the state.  I’m hoping for some vocal firepower here.

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Sebastian Catana Performs The Role Of Scarpia This Evening

 

Mario Cavaradossi (a tenor role) agrees to help a convict escape and sets in motion a series of unfortunate events that will lead to disaster for him and his lover Floria Tosca (Tosca is a soprano role) I’m looking to see how she conveys the melodrama, passion and impulsiveness that is usually associated with this role.

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Béatrice Uria Monzon Performs The Role Of Floria Tosca This Evening

 

Tosca and Cavardossi have very passionate lyrical arias, the most famous aria is ‘Vissi d’arte’  Tosca is also one of the most frequently performed operas.

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Massimo Giordano Performs The Role Of Mario Cavaradossi In This Evenings Performance

 

The play has three acts – melodrama en trios actes.  This is the write up from the Opera Bastille:

“A singer in love, passionate, jealous and impulsive; a romantic painter, an idealist and a defender of liberty; a police chief with a lust for flesh, power and blood, ready to do anything to achieve his ends. Puccini artfully combines the ingredients of a melodrama written for Sarah Bernhardt and comes up with what might be called the opera of operas, a spectacle at once primitive and decadent. In a mythical yet real Rome, from the shadows of the church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle to the terrace of Castello Sant’ Angelo, passions collide and tear all apart, mingling the erotic with the sacred, love with possession, theatre with life. Nothing is what it seems in Tosca: beautiful women who come to pray are conspirators, defeats are victories and mock executions are real. A spectacular work which captures the essence of opera as few others do.  Pierre Audi signs a new production of this violent and passionate work for the Paris Opera.”

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I can’t wait to hear this production and see the sets and costume.

Evelino Pidò ( Conductor ), Pierre Audi ( Stage Director ), Christof Hetzer ( Sets ), Robby Duiveman ( Costumes ), Jean Kalman ( Lighting ), Klaus Bertisch ( Dramaturgy ) and José Luis Basso ( Chorus Master ).

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I have had a whirlwind of a week which has been a wonderful experience and tonight I know will be a great finale for me. Thank you all for your fabulous comments and well wishes. I hope that you understand why I have not had time to answer everyone, but once I get home I will catch up with you all 🙂

Opera National de Paris

August 31, 2014 — 42 Comments
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Outside The Opera National de Paris ( The Palais Garnier )

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The Grand Staircase

The Palais Garnier is a magnificent building which seats 1979 people and was built between 1861 and 1875 for the Paris Opera. The architecture is in the Baroque style and designed by Charles Garnier who won the opportunity to design the new Opera House in a competition, (the project was designed by Napoleon III). It is situated at 8 rue Scribe, Place de l’Opera a stroll away from the Louvre and it’s ranked 4th out of 752 places to visit by tripadvisor. The interior is as stunning as the exterior complimented by its spectacular gold statues that glinted in the summer sunshine.

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Such Beauty In The Fabulous Anti Rooms And Corridors

We did a self-guided tour which costed 10 euros for an adult and 6 euros for a student aged 10-25 years. There was an opportunity to be included in a tour party but I prefer to explore at my own pace and and admire all the intricacies with my family.

There is a very unusual modern ceiling painting in the theatre itself called the Chagall Ceiling.

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The Chagall Ceiling

We saw interesting model set designs in display cases and costumes and an outdoor balcony which leads off from the lavish corridors.

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This Was One Of The Model Sets For A Performance Of Othello

The opera house is the setting for the romantic Gothic love story “The Phantom Of The Opera” which was written in 1910 by Gaston Leroux. It is said that on his death bed Leroux exclaimed that the opera ghost on which he based his story actually existed.

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Though there is not a lake under the opera house there is a stone clad water tank that was built to stop the foundations from flooding, but I like to believe that there is a watery labyrinth deep under the opera house.

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The Phantoms box was box number 5 but we stood at the box with our age on the door and managed to get inside one deep with red velvet furnishings, photographs just don’t do the place justice.

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Most operas are now performed in the more modern Opera Bastille which seats 2700 and was opened in 1989 but I do hope that they keep performing opera as well as ballet productions in this beautiful building for many years to come.

A Little Extra Research

I must admit that looking a little closer at the legends surrounding the Opera Garnier felt a little like searching for Father Christmas. I am a romantic at heart and I like to imagine that the rumours surrounding the story of “The Phantom Of The Opera” were real and that the world of opera and romance continue to be entwined within this beautiful building.

I checked out several websites and as my French is not good enough to understand the original Parisian sources I can only relate the information that I found.

There is an underground “lake” beneath the opera house but unfortunately it is not the mysterious underground labyrinth that I had imagined. It is rather the result of the Architect’s imagination, Charles Garnier, who encountered high levels of ground water on the site. He tried using wells and steam pumps to drain the foundations but failed to dry out the site. So instead he decided to use the water and by building a large stone tank called a “cuve” to collect the water he was able to add extra stability to the foundations of the grand building. After completion the large tank provided the Paris fire department with a ready supply of water in the case of fire and is still checked every month by fire fighters.

On May 20th 1896 an incident occurred in the Opera Garnier which could have inspired Leroux when reseraching for his story. At 8:57 pm during a performance of “Helle” two counterweights fell from the chandelier which led to the death of one audience member and injured many others. There is an excellent blog post here if you want to read about the incident which I found fascinating. It also explains why there was so much controversy over the final repair and repainting of the ceiling surrounding the original chandelier.

I really enjoyed reading a little deeper into the history of the Opera Garnier but just like Father Christmas maybe some things are best left to our imaginations.

A Birthday Treat To Paris

August 24, 2014 — 52 Comments

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On Matt’s birthday we made chocolate cake. Whilst it was baking in the oven we talked about our late break holiday that my Dad had booked us all on to Paris, France.

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It was only a one hour flight from Manchester and it was somewhere that Matt, Tom and I had always wanted to visit.

We were looking forward to seeing all the sights and with a bit of luck some sunny weather was predicted.

We arrived in the early evening so we decided our first foray into Paris would be along the River Seine to see Notre Dame Cathedral. The views along the banks of the Seine were exquisitely beautiful and it made for a fabulous first evening in Paris.

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Outside “The Louvre” with my lovely brothers.

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We decided to walk along the banks of “La Seine” to “Notre-Dame de Paris”

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Outside “Notre-Dame de Paris”

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In the “Square Jean XXIII” where small concerts are often performed.

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Lover’s padlocks on the “Pont de L’Archeveche”.

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Just taking 5 minutes before heading back to the hotel.

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River boat cruises are very popular.

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We saw Graffiti on the tops of buildings and you have to ask “How” and “Why”.

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Intriguing, does anybody know what this is ?

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Paris art, “Oh La La, does my bottom look big in this?” lol

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We visited the “Opera National de Paris” later in the week. We saw it when we first arrived and I’ll tell you more about it in my next post.