Day 12: Schwanengesang
May 11, 2012
|I'd arranged to meet Liz and Barry at 10h00 but had to ring and say I'd be late as I'd slept in. I'd been kept awake by some fool banging on the door of the apartment next to me half the night. The banging began again in the morning. Maybe an ex-tenant or an ex-boyfriend whose locks had been changed.
I also had to speak to John about Nigel. I found that he had his tubes removed but was still in a lot of pain from the surgery. John still doesnt know about the extent of the surgery. I also saw Lily on Skype for the first time in two weeks. I should be missing she and Marco more.
So, finally, after all that I scuttled, by the Metro across to Tuileries. Once there, we decided, over two nescafes to walk to Printemps and Galleries Lafayette via Place Vendome and La Madeleine.
Our walk along rue Saint-Honore and through the Place Vendome was leisurely, ogling the clothes and jewelry shops as we progressed. At La Madeleine we had a quick look at the restaurant underneath the church and then went inside. The absence of light, due to the church's windowless walls is more than made up for by the massive overhead skylights.
The first real highlight of the day were our cakes at Fauchon. I had a strawberry eclair with a pink and white glazed top, filled with the most beautiful strawberry cream. Liz and Barry shared a mille feuille that they said was wonderful. From there we progressed, not quite intentionally, to Fauchon's restaurant where we each ordered rack of lamb served with a layered round of peppers, minced zucchinis, peppers and onions, and aubergine. We all agreed that the agneau (lamb) was the most perfectly cooked and beautiful lamb we had ever eaten. It was pink and tender and even the fat on the two cutlets was delicious. We greedily finished our meal with a chocolate slice with two gilded nuts on top, and a strawberry slice. Liz, very generously paid for this outing for all. She was especially generous because she had been treated to a theatrical performance (during the meal) in the street outside Fauchon, where a man and a woman came to blows: kicking, punching, screaming, throwing clothes around the road etc.
Following lunch we staggered to the two great department stores of Paris: Printemps and Gallery Lafayette. Both were built using the latest arts nouveau style and included fabulous colored glass domes. It took us a while to find the dome at Printemps but when we did we judged it the more perfect and beautiful. Maybe I'll go back to the restaurant before I leave and have lunch underneath it. I should also say at this point that I plan to go back for an oyster treat at Fauchon.
Then it was back to the apartment where we drank wine and ate macarons bought from Fauchon.
It was only when I realized how late it was that I had to shout goodbye and run out the door. The reason for my speed was that I had a concert to get to at Salle Pleyel in an area I hadn't travelled to before. Firstly I had to get home and change. After that I had to metro it to the recital.
Salle Pleyel is Paris' major concert venue for classical music. Tonight it was to be an all Schubert program. Tickets had been booked out for months, but due to a cancellation, I had been able to get tickets for M and I to Matthias Goerne singing Schubert's Schwanengesang (ie Swan Song). The second half of the concert was a Schubert piano sonata played by Christoph Eschenbach.
Little things first. Each city has different ways of organizing people and events. At this venue, the concert started late because they allowed late arrivals into the hall. They also fitted people without tickets into empty seats, then when the ticket holder arrived, had to reseat the cuckoo. As you can imagine there was a lot of toing and froing. And finally, it was like attending a convention of consumptives who insisted on hawking and coughing between each song, with the rest of the audience shushing them to be quiet.
As for the performance... We saw Goerne sing Schubert's Die Winterreise in Melbourne last year. Michael Shmith thought it the musical highlight of the year. This concert proved to be a more profound musical experience. I thought it was the single, greatest musical performance I had seen in over 40 years of concert and opera attendance. A voice of unbelievable quality and grandeur allied with a dramatic sensibility that kept and audience spellbound. I thought he had the musical sensibility of a Battistini with the dramatic temprament of a Chaliapin. That sounds ridiculous praise but it was dramatic lieder singing as I'd never seen it before.
The second half of the program was horrendous. I love Schubert's Sonata 23, and the pianist destroyed it.
Tomorrow is Liz and Barry's last full day before they head off to Nice. Michael will be catching up with friends from London. I may get time to do the dishes!