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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Obsession - Alfred Kubin

This week, with the WIC, I went to see “L’Obsession a very strange art exhibition. On the occasion of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, this exhibition is now on show at the Brussels City Hall. Alfred Kubin, born in 1896 died 1959, was a major Austrian graphic artist and is known for his drawings of dreamlike and morbid subjects. I realise that he had a poor childhood but all his work is sombre, nightmarish with violent and pervert sexual subjects. He was obsessed by death although he lived a long peaceful life, successful and without too many monetary problems. He really hated women. In all his drawings they are depicted as witches, femmes dominatrices and provocatrices.

He was a big collector of drawings, lithographs and engravings of his time. At this show you can see part of his collection of artists like Honoré Daumier, James Ensor, Paul Goguin, Max Klinger, Edward Munch, Odilon Redon and Félicien Rops. All their works are as dark and brutal as his are.

Obsession is a wonderful title for this show because since I have been there, I also cannot stop thinking about it. At first I did not even like it but I bought the book and I kept reading it. A very nice book actually. And now in retrospect I realise what a special exhibition it was. It is on until the18 June. I recommend it.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Nonna and I are upset with CODITEL

Last Tuesday Nonna called in panic to say that the RAI has disappeared suddenly from her TV together with a lot of other foreign stations. It looks like the TV operator for Brussels, CODITEL, daughter company of Altice, has sent a note, to all the 150000 subscribers to tell that as off 28 March several TV stations were going digital and taken off the analog mode. Whatever that means.

Impossible to contact CODITEL. You can stay hours on the phone but they do not answer. The administration of the Residence du Golf, where Nonna lives, has sent an email to request a connection for her but it looks like there are not enough boxes and people to install digital connections. We are in the middle of the Italian election campaign and all the good debates between Belusconi and Prodi.

Following the newspaper article in Le Soir, CODITEL has received 15.000 requests for a digital connection.

I watch RAI very seldom but because I live in Brabant Wallon I can still see it because I have a different TV distributor. CODITEL covers only Brussels. I guess the Belgian fragmentation can be useful sometime.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Brussels Opera Season LA Monnaie 2006-2007

Last Monday, Les Amis de la Monnaie organised an evening where the new 2006-2007 opera season, was announced by the General Manager: Bernard Foccroulle.

We are still in the Mozart year together with the celebrations for Prokofiev . So here it is:
1. Die Entfuhring aus dem Serail – Mozart
2. Tristan und Isolde – Wagner
3 .La Traviata – Verdi
4. Ognenny Angel (L’Ange de Feu) – Prokofiev
5. L’Uomo dal Fiore in Bocca – Brewaeys – Creation Mondiale
6. Monsieur Chofleuri Restera Che Lui Le – Offenbach
7. La Mort de Sainte Almeene – Honegger
8. Fraulings Erwachen – Mernier – Creation Mondiale
9.La Vergine dei Dolori – Scarlatti
10.The Rake’s Progress – Stravinsky
11. Il Ritorno di Ulisse – Monteverdi
12. Die Zauberflote - Mozart
13. Samson et Dalida – Saint Saens
14. I Puritani – Bellini
15. Tancredi – Rossini

Now this is a really good program with something for everybody; covering all genres of music from early Baroque to Contemporary. We are absolutely lucky to have this magnificent Opera House with so much to offer.

Brussels is really a major opera venue for music lovers and music specialists. There will be two new operas in world's premier. They may not be very good but the fact that there is money and goodwill makes it already a big deal. Once in a while there is a revelation.

This will be Bernard Foccroulle last season before he goes to Aix-en Provence for a five year contract. The 250 people present in the “Salle Fiocco” were very emotional. Many of them had followed his seasons since the beginning, 15 years ago. For me it was only the second year and I also felt that I will miss him.

Cannot wait until September when the new season begins. I am already anticipating the emotions and happiness all this beautiful music will give me.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

L'Incoronazione di Poppea - Claudio Monteverdi

Last Thursday I went to la Monnaie to see l’Incoronazione in three acts. It started at 7:00pm till 11:00pm. This is one of the very first operas written when Monteverdi made the transition between the Renaissance and the Baroque music. After serving at the court of the duke of Mantova as music master and composing Orfeo and Arianna he was appointed as maestro di cappella in Venice where he worked there for 30 years. In Venice he composed all kind of music but only at the end of his life, at the age of 75 he composed Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria in 1640, Le Nozze di Enea and Lavinia in 1641 and l’Incoronazione di Poppea in 1642. Monteverdi died in 1643.

L’Incoronazione was for a long time a mythical opera. The music of this last opera was lost until two very different versions were found: one in Venice in 1888 and one in Naples in 1930. So every performance of this opera is really the version of the music director. Parts are added or cut as they wish.

This is the first time I see this opera so I cannot judge against others. All I can say is that I loved it. The setting is modern and timeless at the same time. The orchestra with period instruments created a baroque environment where the singers could perform the very special “parlar cantando” and “cantar parlando” that characterized Monteverdi operas.

Some knowledge of Roman history is recommended. It helps understand the mood of passion and perversion. Nerone, Poppea, Ottavia and Ottone all come alive. Seduced by Poppea, Nerone wants to repudiate Ottavia to proclaim Poppea empress. Poppea more interested in the throne than by Nerone, convinces Nerone to condemn Seneca, his counselor, to death. Ottavia persuades Ottone to kill Poppea with the help of Drusilla, in love with him. The plot is discovered and Ottone, Drusilla and Ottavia are exiled. Nerone crowns Poppea empress.

This is the most ambiguous “lieto fine” in the history of Opera, where the criminal lovers triumph in the end singing the famous due d’amore Pur ti miro…

Monday, March 20, 2006

Netizen – New Blog Paper Magazine

I have just received by mail the first number of the new Netizen, a monthly blog magazine in French. I think it is a real good idea to publish such a magazine, especially for bloggers of my generation. I am still used to read on paper most of the sources I need. I read Le Soir every day, the Herald Tribune a couple of days a week, the Economist every week. I do not read my news online unless something is very urgent such as a major disaster or a war where the paper will be too late. And because it is a monthly magazine it can better look at the blogosphere without rush.

So for all these reasons I think a blog magazine is a very good idea.

The Director of the magazine is Frédéric FRANCOIS and the Editor is Cyril Fiévet.

Good luck to them.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Promenade 17

This afternoon I went for a long walk with Herman. Lasne is a walking village. First it is one of the largest villages in Belgium with nearly 50 Km2 with forests, valleys and wide countryside. Second it has a very active Lasne Nature organization to which we all belong. They organise a lot of activities, one of them is the signalisation of 26 official walks. They are 3 to 14 km long. They have also published two small books with the details of these walks.

Today we walked Promenade 17, 6.3 km. called “Plancenoit”. We parked the car in front of the elementary school of Plancenoit in the little square and walked for about one and a half hour, mainly in open field. We crossed the wide field of the Waterloo Battle. Today we have a crisp, cool, sunny day with a very cold northern wind.

On the last kilometer we passed in front of the “Ferme St Catherine”, it was open and we could buy fresh farm-made white cheese to eat home with strawberries and raspberries.

David Susskind

Friday, 10 March, Nonna and I went to the CCLJ to celebrate Purim. We had and excellent dinner with the new restaurant management. By chance we were sitting next to David Susskind. If ever Belgium should start a list of living national treasures, I am certain that Susskind would be in the top ten. We celebrated his 80th birthday last October with a big party at the Hilton in Brussels. It was the first time I even heard of him. Since then I have seen several articles in the newspapers about him. I am very happy to know him.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Le Villi - Opera by Puccini

Last Thursday I went to the BOZAR to see Le Villi. It is described as an “Opera-ballo in due atti”. Well it really was “Opera in un atto senza ballo”. It is the first opera composed by Giacomo Puccini, written between 1883 and 1890. A great admirer of Wagner, he tried to blend Italian “bel canto” with German romantic symphonic grandeur.

This short opera is full of everything: arias for soprano and tenor, dances, lovely chorus and lots of good music. The best aria was “Se come voi piccina io fossi” for the very good soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domas. She sang with all her hart and a good voice and it is a lovely aria.

The story is known to ballet lovers as Giselle. In the Black Forest after an engagement feast with Roberto, Anna sings her love and foreboding of ill and misfortune. Roberto has to cross the forest to go and collect an inheritance in Mayence and come back to marry her. In fact, Roberto seduced by a mermaid, does not come back and Anna dies of despair.

Abandoned by the mermaid, Roberto comes back the village and hears Anna’s voice reminding him her love. He is than dragged in a deadly dance by the “Villi”, the ghosts of abandoned maidens and he dies.

I love fairy tales. When the music and voices take you like this, it is really an unforgettable experience.

The production at the BOZAR was “concertante”. That means no costume, scene or ballet. The singers stand in the front, the orchestra sits in the middle and the chorus is at the back. It is an imposing sight. You have about 70/80 performers on the stage all following the orchestra director. In the moments where they all go together you really feel this enormous sound wave hitting you.

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