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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.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Grand Day Out!

Today as planned Nonna and I went to the seaside for a short break. We decided to go to Oostende to book her Easter vacation at the Hotel Rubens on the haven and eat fish in a nice restaurant nearby on the peer.

We left Anderlecht around 10:30 and we arrived in Oostende via Highway 40 one hour later. It was pouring rain but it did not matter, we were happy as schoolchildren on vacation.

We were extremely disappointed when we arrived that the hotel was closed. We found out later that during the winter seasons the hotel is closed on Wednesday and Thursday.

So we went shopping for a little present for Christelle. On Monday she had a knee replacement and Nonna and I planned to go visit her at the Hospital in Zottegem in the afternoon. Because of the rain we actually went to the first shop that looked nice. We went to “Herboristerie La Provence” one of those stores that make you think of sun, heat and summer. They sell special olive oils, teas, herbs, spices, dry flowers, baskets and all kind of nice little thinks we women love. I bought a basket with a special strawberry marmalade, a pot of honey mustard with candy fruits, little napkins with sunflowers and a handmade get-well card.

With our nice little present, still under the pouring rain we went to the restaurant for lunch. Now if you are ever in Oostende please go and eat there. This is the second time we are going there and the food is superb. The Restaurant Van Eyck is right on the Visserkaai where the ferryboats arrive from UK.

Nonna had gambas and a huge sole muniere; I had fish soup and also huge sole muniere. It is not only the food that is excellent but also the presentation and the friendly atmosphere. Mathieu,the manager, is an Italian from Sardegna. Peter is in the kitchen, I did not meet him. When we told Mathieu we came to reserve a room at the hotel for Nona’s Easter vacation and the hotel was closed, he proposed to call Christiane, the hotel manager at home to tell her we where there. He did not find her at home but later he actually found her in the back alley by the restaurant and told her we were inside. She was happy to see us. Hugging and kissing us she recognised us from last year. We booked for Easter with Christiane and left Oostende happy that we had done all the things we came for.

On our way back we stopped in Zottegem to see Christelle at the Hospital. Last time I went to this Hospital was more than twenty years ago. It was then a small clinique with a few rooms. Today it has grown ten times its size and it is now a huge place.

By good luck Herman arrived at the same time at 4:30 from Amsterdam to also see his sister. I was happy to see that Christelle was looking well after her Monday operation. Philip was also there. The room was full of flowers and fruits baskets from previous visitors. She liked the basket we brought from Oostende and wed had a nice visit for an hour. Herman went back home in Lasne with his car and I took Nonna back to Anderlecht to her apartment and drove to Lasne, happy to be home.

This is Belgium at her very best: Oostende, good food, nice people, caring families and lots of rain.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

One minute showers

It had to happen. We forgot to check the fuel tank and it was on empty in the night between Friday and Saturday. We woke up yesterday in a freezing house with no warm water. Outside it was cold windy wintry weather, snowing on and off. The fuel company is closed till Monday morning so here we are camping in our own home. We can get the kitchen worm with a spare portable heater. We can also warm the living room with the fire in the fireplace. That is nice in the evening to watch TV. The bedroom is very cold but I have an electric blanket so for sleeping we are fine.

I tried to take a cold shower but it is very hard. My absolute record is ONE MINUTE.

You kind of forget how dependent we are on heat, fuel and warm water. These things are taken for granted but it is actually healthy once in a while to miss them just as a reminder.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ateliers Du Blog


Monday I went to Paris to participate to my very first “Blog Conference”. The conference was organised by Guillaume du Gardier working now at Edelman at the Press Club de France. I have to say it was very easy to take the Thalys; this is our TGV from Brussels to Paris, then a short taxi ride to the meeting.

The main speaker was David Weinberger. I was well worth it. He had a very entertaining group of slides and I did not notice that he actually spoke for one hour. He is a very good speaker.

Here are the main points I have found important for me:
1. Internet is a new space and our blog is our new body
2. Do not worry if you are not perfect. To be “just good enough” is OK
3. When you blog you should be generous “link a lot”

After the presentation we had group sessions to discuss why companies should or should not have blogs. The conference was well attended. There must have been about 60 to 70 participants.

I went back home very happy to meet for the first time important fellow bloggers. It gets lonely sometime in Lasne for things like this.

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