Paris:  graves, Iphigénie, art and decadence

September 19, 2021

Natalia and I have been in Paris since last Sunday. We rented a small, very small, apartment close to Place de la République.  It has a square hallway, a mini kitchen with everything you need to cook and an expresso machine, a living room, a dining room, and a bedroom with a bathroom; everything packed in some 60 square meters.   We have managed to enjoy the city while attending to our professional obligations; we work in the apartment until around 5pm and then go out and walk to places (except on weekends when we don’t work). 

Yesterday morning we got up around 7, had coffee and went for a run.  We ended up at a cemetery, a very famous one: Le Père la Chaise. Natalia wasn’t convinced about my suggestion to spend a couple hours walking among graves but at the end she enjoyed the visit very much.  We of course had to pay tribute to Jim Morrison who has been buried there since July 1971; he was 27 years old when he died.  No autopsy was performed so it is not clear what was the cause of his death. Other graves we visited included Molière’s, la Fontaine’s and Chopin’s.  How Morrison ended up among them I can’t understand. 

After running back to the apartment and taking a shower we had lunch with my sister and her husband who are also in town; a total coincidence.  Alaric,  the husband who has been featured in this journal before, had made a reservation at La Rose de France in Place Dauphine.  Because of COVID the restaurant has now tables on the plaza where we sat. It was one of those lunches that spreads over hours; enough time for a bottle of champagne, another of wine and, in my case, also a Negroni.  

After all the food and ethanol consumed we walked back to the apartment and took a nap.  I woke up just before 6pm a bit disoriented, thinking that is was early morning and not understanding why we had light (sunrise at this time of the year is after 7:30am). We got up and  both dressed on black suits and ubered to the Opéra Garnier to see Iphigénie en Tauride by Christoph Willbald Gluck.  For both, it was the first seeing this opéra and what an experience it was. The first performance was on May 1779, also at the Paris Opera, and it was apparently a major success. The modern adaption by Krzysztof Warlikowski was less well received particularly among conservative Parisians; it was somewhat shocking. It is, to say the least, a very original and provocative adaptation.  The whole thing takes place not in a temple, but in a retirement home where elderly women in an advance stage of dementia walk around in their night gowns. At some point one of them vomits in one of the six lavabos that are hanging from one of the wall of the stage. 

This morning over coffee I read a review of the opéra by Jules Cavalié.  He writes that Thomas Hengelbrock, the conductor, was in charge of a play rather than an opéra. When the gods were singing from the upper boxes (wearing masks), he was able to identify several instances when the singers missed the right notes; not good although I didn’t notice.  But he had good things to say about Julien Behr (Pylade) and Tara Erraugh (Iphigénie). I didn’t know her.  She is from Ireland and it was her first time in this role and her first performance at the Opéra Garnier.  Both Natalia and I enjoyed the play/opera.  Afterwards we walked across the street to Café de la Paix where we sat at the bar and ordered drinks — Natalia a Cosmopolitan (had forgotten those existed) and myself a gin.  Eventually, at around 10:30pm, we got a table and had dinner with a bottle fo St. Sthèphe.  

This morning we went to the Picasso Museum. They are running a retrospective of Rodin and Picasso, trying to establish a parallel in the ways the two approached art, collected, and created their most important works. Relatively small, it took us less than one hour to visit the two floors that contain the exposition.   The top two floors with Picasso’s paintings and sculptures remain closed. 

Another museum we visited last week was Orsay.  There I like the collection of Courbet’s, including the Origin of the Universe, a picture of which I have added to this post’s gallery. Up to you to identify which one it is.  

I am now writing this at a cafe, Les Philosophes, in the Marais (29 Rue Vieille du Temple) sipping a glass of champagne.  Natalia is reading the Financial Times and has just ordered some food.  I am going to do the same and add a glass of red wine. 

Now at Cafe la Fleur in St. Germain near Sartres’s Les Deux Magots. We had a lovely 40 min walk here.  The weather is perfect.  As soon as I connect to the internet I will post this and order something to drink.  I like this life of decadence…     

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