Friday, 31 May 2013

SAKAHÀN International Indigenous Art Exhibit

The new summer show at the National Gallery of Canada has opened. I was instantly taken by this exhibit and its character, wonderful art, representing the various artists and indigeneous people from around the world, on exhibit the work of 75 artists from 16 countries, all with an indigenous history of conquest by foreign elements in all 150 works of art.

Sakahàn (to light a fire in Algonquin) is not only provocative but helps us to think about issues in our society, of conflicts, domination, dominant culture and contradictions, how we rationalize what has happened and possibly gain a better understanding.

In Canada, we, like elsewhere, are much influenced by our myths as a Nation, this exhibits challenges those officially sanctioned views or National myths. I am thinking here of the artist of Cree ancestry Kent Monkman and his painting ''The triumph of Mischief''. A disturbing piece for sure because of what it shows, it is a challenge to our Western Concepts. Monkman has in all his art work questioned the official version of history. Someone said that to believe Official History was the same as believing verbatim the word of a convicted criminal.  Monkman turns the tables on the viewer, it is the Indigenous man who has the upper hand not the colonialists.

The other exhibits from various parts of the world also shows the myths of countries like Australia, New Zealand, various African and Latin American countries.  The exhibit raises questions about suppressing cultures or rejecting cultural aspects which are not acceptable to Western ideas of culture in a Judeo-Christian frame.

No doubt many attending this exhibit will feel uncomfortable. I listened to some comments around me, one person questioned the painting presented, was the scenery real, did it really exist. According to the explanation in the exhibit catalogue, it was Yosemite Park. Still this person questioned if this was true.

Another art work portrayed a person in 3 different poses, all were different but this person looking at them voiced the comment that there was no difference. While another walked right by the work in question and other works as if seeing nothing but looking instead for the Exit. The eyes would not see what was obvious. Many of the art work portrays naked bodies, naked in the way nature intended them to be, basically unclothed humans, nothing more. Some show indigenous people in a dominant position compared to western people in a submissive attitude. There are erect phallus, but it is an arousal that is natural and not aggressive nor shown in a commercial pornographic way, but in a natural almost medical text book setting, but also mischievous. From the reactions around me, I would gather that these works are seen as threatening to some.

There is much exploration of the Berdache type of person in the native Canadian concept, this duality of personality, transgender or of the Indigenous Dandy type which is acceptable in the European Dandy model but not so in the Canadian Indigenous model.

This exhibit is refreshing because it present indigenous people and their artwork and culture as they are and not as we would like them to be or as we define them. The message is '' I can be an indigenous person with traditional beliefs and modern all at the same time''.

An interesting note, when the first white settlers came to Australia they declared that the continent was un-inhabited, despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Maoris lived there, the settlers saw them as non-persons, non-humans, in other words no one lived there.

A wonderful exhibit well worth seeing if for no other purpose than to educate oneself. It is curated by Greg A. Hill, Christine Lalonde and Candice Hopkins. See website:

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Opinion columns

Certain type of articles come back regularly in our National Newspapers despite the fact that there are no new facts to report or that no news story has broken out. They are labelled opinion pieces and written by people who are fairly obscure as to their background and why they should be considered opinion or trend setters. These opinion pieces are written to provoke, a little like someone striking you in the face just to see what your reaction will be. The opinions expressed have to be outlandish and or categorical, then it is pretty obvious that you cannot have a debate unless you want to put yourself on the margin.

One type of article or opinion piece that appears regularly in any of our National Newspapers is the whole question of bilingualism (French-English) in Canada, another is Quebec bashing (nothing coming from Quebec can ever be right), the province is described as corrupt, evil, full of Nazis or Fascists, the small English minority living in Montreal is persecuted, etc....

On that score a recent article in the Globe and Mail struck an ironic note, Who is the most persecuted the article asked. It went on to describe the two linguistic groups as trying to gain the upper hand of who was most discriminated against in Montreal. The article concluded that there would never be an end to this debate because you could always find someone either French or English claiming to be the most discriminated against. The two solitudes in other words, living side by side but not knowing each other and eyeing each other with suspicion.

Recently the National Post ran an opinion piece by Matt Gurney who boast that he can travel to French speaking countries and shout louder in English to make himself understood and apparently using hand gesture helps too. He is telling his audience that Punjabi or Mandarin are languages more frequently spoken in Canada than French. Mr. Gurney is not advocating you learn such languages, he suggest we all speak only English, it would be easier for him and others like him. In can also be argued that English in certain parts of Western Canada is not spoken at all, if anyone looks at ghetto Asian communities of the West Coast. Maybe Mr. Gurney would advocate speaking louder in English to them so they can understand him.

Why would a paper like the National Post allow such uninformed pundits write such bladder.
The NP prides itself as having daily a whole segment of their newspaper entirely devoted to Israël. Now why would they allow someone like this Gurney fellow to make inane comments and put his ignorance on display in such a fashion while attacking one of the founding Nation of Canada. The NP would not allow him to write in such fashion about Israël or some other group. Of course his article invited all manners of profoundly racist comments, some advocating a Final Solution for francophones, ethnic cleansing and spewing venom and hate, this on the pages of the National Post. Not very edifying for a publication claiming to be a serious newspaper.

Unfortunately this happens far to often in Canada's newspaper. This is what they call Freedom of the Press, frankly if that is their so call freedom I prefer Chinese Communist censors.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

back on the ranch

Well back home and back to the business of the Museum, I mean the National Gallery of Canada.
Before I left for my European vacation, I had completed the program for the new season and had done up the brochure.
Today I had a look at the brochure mock-up for our ''Mercredis culturels'' Wednesday Art lectures (in French) for the new season starting in September.  Did some proof reading and I am told it is going to the printer this week or next. I also re-wrote some letters and instructions we give to invited lecturers.

I now have to prepare a lecture on a topic of my choice that I could present in case of emergency when a lecturer for whatever reason backs out at the last moment. It did happen once this past year and luckily my predecessor, in this volunteer job of coordinator, had a film to show which turned out to be interesting and instructive.

I do have a topic picked out for this emergency lecture (its a secret) based on a book I read recently, so I have to put together a PowerPoint presentation which will mostly be photos, no text. I will comment and the photos will accompany-support what I am saying.

I am also currently working at completing the program of the Season 2014-2015, so I have two years of programming done for the lectures. There is a lot of public relations involved in this type of work, you have to be able to talk to people to get their interest and get them to agree to do a lecture. The lectures are on Art and Culture or on an area of expertise in Art, can be restoration, conservation, museology, an artistic movement in time, a school of painting, etc... I am trying to get new and different topics not presented yet. The general public and members are always looking for something new, so it is a challenge to come up with something innovative.

I also have to go and see the new summer exhibit which opened just a few days ago entitled Sakahàn (pronounced Sagahan) International indigenous art. Canada and Ottawa feature many of our First Nations artists in this show, including from Ottawa, Algonquin artists.
The website of the National Gallery has the details:

We are celebrating 25 years since the opening of the new buildings of the NGC at Nepean Point in 1988. Buildings designed by architect Moishe Safdie. Entrance to the NGC is FREE on Thursday's from 5pm to 8pm.

Canal Rideau, Ottawa

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Returning home

We left Frankfurt am Main on Friday on a direct Air Canada flight to Ottawa. I was happy for a direct flight because it is 8hrs long. I did not want to fly to Toronto or Montreal because that would have meant another connecting flight, though very short to Ottawa.
We arrived in cold weather only 12C not warm, today it is a bit warmer and this week we will go back to normal seasonal weather around 27C.

The puppies were very happy to see us, Nora cried as she always does and then had to go out for a pee. Nicky was also happy to see us but he does not cry. Since our return they have been watching us very closely.

Happy to be home back in our home bed. Our Friend B.P. who was looking after the puppies did a fantastic job and even cleaned and did some plumbing repair for us, just amazing.

The flight back was fine, except that as we were flying over New Brunswick in Atlantic Canada, a female passenger fell ill and lucky for her, two doctors on board came to her help, she was given an IV drip and oxygen. I later heard the crew say that she was ill due to not eating for 25 hours prior to the flight,  a case of low sugar and shock.

We arrived on time, met by an ambulance and paramedics who took care of the sick lady.
Today just relaxing at home, not doing much, a little washing but that is all.  I do have to go on a diet and will probably return to my diet I followed in Italy, small portions and a lot of vegetables and small amounts of meat 100gr daily, no desserts only fresh fruits and lots of water, I would say I need to loose about 16 lbs or 8 Kg.

This weekend 25-26 May is Marathon weekend throughout the centre of Ottawa and along the Canal across the Outaouais River and back, the race is spread over two days, meaning that major roads are closed off and no parking is allowed.  

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Before we close the topic just a few more pictures.

Yesterday the rain stopped for a few hours and we went walking around Füssen, a small town of 14K people. Lost at the foot of the Alps in the Allgau region (Tirol).

It is a charming little town about 2000 years old which saw a Roman garrison in the first century establish itself there. It became a booming town when Ludwig II decided to start building his own castle. That brought Royalty from Russia and elsewhere to Füssen and suddenly this little sleepy village  was on par with Vienna, Paris and London. But because of the Via Claudia Augusta built by the Romans in Antiquity Füssen has always been on an important trade route, it is connected to Augsburg and Innsbruck.

Today millions of tourists come here every year to see the Castles.

Hohe Castle
 Monastery of St-Mang, the Patron Saint of Füssen since 900 AD.
 a drugstore on Via Claudia Augusta
 Fountain to Kaspar the luth maker and his family 1541.
 An old Church
The Baker's fountain 

Füssen, Augsburg, Stuttgart, Mannheim, Frankfurt am Main.

Today is train travelling time, we left at 11:05 for Augsburg and will change train there so we can reach our destination of Frankfurt Airport Train Station. We will stay over night at the Airport and hope to be able to board a flight for Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa the next day. We may have to travel separately depending on the availability of seats.

Germany like many other European countries has a good train service which connects to other countries. Train Stations in Cities have many services for travellers open all day, such as restaurants offering a choice other than the ubiquitous fast food chains, help for the elderly or for passengers needing assistance boarding or leaving a train, there is a Police Station in each Stations and hotels are at or near the train station. DB trains now in cooperation with Telecom offers hot spot service on its trains. There is also a car restaurant on ICE and other long distance trains with a varied menu. The general or detailed information on trains is available and is easy and clear to understand.

Frankfurt Airport Rail Terminal below the main Airport Terminal.

We have enjoyed our trip very much and though the weather was cold at times, unseasonably so and a bit rainy, we had great days of sunshine and high temperature. We are coming back to Salzburg in 2014, we have our tickets already for the next Festival. But in 2014 we also want to do the cruise on the Volga river from Moscow to St-Petersburg which is quite beautiful I am told.

Looking forward to seeing our little Dachshunds at home. We are sure they missed us. I can just see Nora crying and yelping as we arrive home. Nicky is more for the quick hello but will then stick to us like glue for a few days. They will be quick to want to re-establish the routine as if we had never left.

Arrived in Frankfurt Airport Rail Terminal at 17:06, very pleasant ride on the ICE train of DB. 
Hilton Hotel is on the fifth floor, just ride the elevator to the top. BTW its not a great hotel, Hilton = problems and unhelful staff, just a so so place and convenient for a flight, there are no other reasons to stay in such a place.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Dark brooding castles in the Allgau.

Today by pure coincidence, I discovered that it is Richard Wagner's 200th Birthday and here we are in this town which so reflected his inspiration for his operas in the castles.

The Wittelsbach Royal Family ruled in Bavaria for several centuries until 1918 when the German Republic was proclaimed. They are part of the Swabia Royal families. The Hapsbourg of Austria are their cousins and also started out in Swabia as their other cousins the Hohenzollern who ruled Prussia and then as German Kaisers until 1918. They too have some fantastic castles in this part of Bavaria.

This morning we got up and after breakfast took the bus to the Castles, on a good sunny day I would have walked it, the surrounding scenery is perfect for walking. But since it was raining pretty hard we took the bus for only 5 minutes. There are many mountain stream fed lakes in this area, the water has that strange glacier colour combined with the green of the forest is quite beautiful.

At the Visitor centre all is well organised and despite the crowds, we got our tickets in hand in a few minutes. You have a choice of visiting one or both castles at a pre-set time with a guide, all visits are guided and very regimented. We first went to Hohenschwangau, the old summer residence of the Wittelsbach family, they have owned this castle for 6 centuries. It was previously the seat of the Knights of Schwangau (the Swan) who controlled this border area between Bavaria, Austria and Switzerland. It is a dark and brooding place, full of heavy dark wood furniture and wall paintings telling stories of Tannhauser, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Tristan and Isolde. Richard Wagner was a friend of the family and they supported him financially for many years. It is difficult to imagine anyone living in such emotionally charged castle with its dark rooms and gothic architecture.

It is at Hohenschwangau that Ludwig and his brother Otto grew up. Their father King Maximillian II of Bavaria was married to Princess Mary of Prussia. At the age of 19 Ludwig becomes king and he goes on a mad spending spree building several palaces and having plans for several more, all more and more elaborate in size and architecture, costing basically the entire national treasury of Bavaria. Ludwig appears to have been a strange man, he was deeply religious and his Catholicism was a mixture of Arthurian Legends, Knights in shining armour, Holy Crusades and Christ Lord of the World. It appears that Ludwig thought he was Lohengrin mix in with St-George, his family patron Saint.

Hohenschwangau will remain his mother's Queen Mary home until her death in 1889. His uncle Prince Luitpold will live there until his death in 1913. Because the staff of Hohenschwangau work for the Wittelsbach family, they are very circumspect on what happened to Ludwig and his brother Otto. The only answer you get is that this family tragedy is all a mystery.

Ludwig II behaviour alarmed his uncles and the family, Prince Luitpold in particular will try to advise him to no avail.  After visiting this depressing castle we went up the hill, way up, above the lake to Neuschwanstein, what you see today took 17 years to build and is incomplete. You can visit 3 floors where the rooms are complete with furniture and interior decoration.

Neuschwanstein is even darker than Hohenschwangau, the Gothic decor is oppressive, heavy and full of mythical dragons and gargoyles starring at you in the semi-darkness. Heavy drapes of gold and silver thread, enormous chandeliers of gilded bronze with semi-precious stones and coloured glass. Rooms look like Byzantine cathedrals, again the legends of the Knights and Christianity painted on the walls everywhere you look. Everything is massive, the bedroom of Ludwig II took 4 years to decorate. The canopied bed alone is in Oak with 9 Gothic spire sculpted as its roof. The wash basin is also uncased in
Oak and the water spout is a solid silver Swan. The water for the castle comes from a stream 150 meters above the castle. What is interesting in the castle is the servants quarters, beautiful furniture and very pleasantly appointed rooms with views of the mountains.
 Neuschwanstein Castle

The throne room and the Singer's Hall are both spectacular by the wealth of the decor and the multitude of symbols recalling King Arthur. To say that Neuschwanstein is the result of an obsessive mind, is an understatement. Even photos of Ludwig in his thirties show a man with a wild look in his eyes, there is something not quite right with him.

He will be arrested and deposed in June 1886 in his bedroom at Neuschwanstein. His Uncle Prince Luitpold realizing the precarious state of Governmental affairs and the drain on the treasury the palace building program has created, will arrange for a quiet Palace coup. However another more powerful hand is at play, the German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck has a strong dislike for both brothers, they are not playing along in his plans for a strong German Empire ruled by the Kaiser in Berlin. It is believed that Bismarck supported the removal of Ludwig II and the internment of his brother Otto, they were seen as too critical of the Kaiser, thus undermining the Empire.

Ludwig is told that he is insane, no one will ever examine him and no doctor will ever have a chance to observe if he is or not insane. The only medical document that does exist was signed by a medical doctor at gun point. This doctor will later declare that he did not know anything about Ludwig state of mind. Ludwig will then be escorted to a palace just outside Munich under very heavy guard. He is more or less a prisoner of his uncle. Only three days later he is found drowned in a lake nearby with another doctor who was a friend. Immediately all construction projects are stopped and Neuschwanstein is opened as a museum. It will never be completed.

Otto the younger brother of Ludwig is proclaimed King of Bavaria, however he too will be declared insane,  the doctors will write that he suffers from melancholy and is depressive. Today we would say that he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress syndrome, he had an active military career and after the Franco-Prussian War 1871, he is showing signs of distress. He will spend the next 26 years in a palace sanatorium under heavy guard, often sedated for his own good. Prince Luitpold is declared Regent and will govern Bavaria for many decades until his own death in 1912. Otto will live on until 1916 but unable to assume the throne. His cousin Ludwig III will take charge until 1918 when all kingdoms and principality in Germany are dissolved.

After all this melancholy we went for lunch. A beautiful place but such sadness.

Füssen, Bavaria, Germany

We have been going through very green country side as we travel from Munich to the southern border with Austria and Switzerland. Lots of nice farms, pastures full of horses and cows, dark pine forests, mountains, streams and a healthy smell of manure.

Füssen is a very old small town, it was during the first century AD under the reign of Emperor Claudius a garrison town and the Via Claudia Augusta was as is today the main street. Roman Legions could easily come up from Italy by passing by the Brenner pass which is open all year round over the Alps and from Innsbruck came to what would then have been the border of the Roman Empire in the North with all those dark forests full of German barbarians.
Füssen, Via Claudia-Augusta

Hotel Sonne, Fussen

From Munich 104 Km away it is a regional train so many stops in many small villages, all very picturesque.
We had some very nice pastries and tea on arrival, difficult to find a bad pastry in Germany or Austria.
We are staying at Hotel Sonne in the middle of Füssen, a nice hotel with charm.

Füssen is somewhat like the Benidorm (Spain) of Germany, population 14K swells to 3 million in the summer with crazy tourists who only come here to see one castle, Neuschwanstein (New Swan Rock).
The other castle Hohenschwangau just below and still owned by the Wittelsbach family who operates it now as a museum since 1913 is not that popular, though has a very old history going back to the 12th century. Neuschwanstein on the other hand is fairly new and incomplete, partly furnished since contruction stopped in 1886, though the architecture is more spectacular.

 Hohenschwangau, the Wittelsback Family Summer Residence

The unfinished Neuschwanstein Castle in the morning mist at 850 meters in altitude.

Disaster struck tonight, we had made reservations for dinner at the hotel Sonne restaurant. As we approached the dining room you could here a lot of screaming and loud laughter. I thought, oh they must be full tonight, when we walked in we saw a large group of Chinese tourists. The language Mandarin, screaming for more beer, yes I was back in Beijing all over again, their guide was encouraging them to be raucous in a demented approach to what they thought beer gardens in Germany c.1938 must have looked like. I was dumbfounded and had a sinking feeling that we were in the wrong place, we had a drink and left promptly. We ended up in a bar restaurant across the street, the food was good and so was the service. It is raining a lot and the clouds have swallowed up the mountains. Hopefully tomorrow will be a little better and we can steer clear of the maddening Chinese crowds.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

On the train to border area between Austria and Germany

Dienstag, Tuesday
Train Station in Salzburg.

Travelling this morning on DB from Salzburg to Munich en route to Füssen to see the castles of Ludwig II of Bavaria. We hope for good weather, so far it is sunny but it looks like in Füssen the weather is much colder around 15C and a mix of sun and clouds. Füssen is on the border with Austria and near the border with Switzerland. The Ski Station of Garmish-Partenkirche is only a few kilometers away.

It was a wonderful Festival in Salzburg, we had a great time. Said our goodbyes to Mr. Lackner the manager of the Hotel Bristol and sent our good wishes to his mother, who we know, and is now retired and living in Vienna. We are considering coming back in May 2014 for the next edition of the Music Festival which will be dedicated to the composer Rossini. The Festival starts a day earlier on Thursday and of course we will return to the Bristol. Some clients like Dr. Malkin who has been coming for years as told us that he has already booked his tickets. The tickets for next year's festival are going on sale today and like in the past, I suspect that most tickets will be sold by next week. Cecilia Bartoli is bringing many big opera names, many retired, but the mere fact that they will be there for a Charity Gala evening to help local children in the Salzburg region, is most likely to attract people. Some of the artists are Teresa Berganza, Montserrat Caballé, José Carreras, Rugero Raimondi, Erwin Shrott and many more. The Gala dinner is catered by one of the best restaurants in the world, Arzak which has 3 Michelins Stars to its name. The chef Elena Arzak will prepare dishes associated with Rossini.

They are presenting 3 operas, La Cenerentola and Otello with Bartoli and Il Barbiere di Siviglia which will be at the Marionette Theater. Petite Messe Solennelle, a Lied Matinee and many other offerings, including a Kino (cinema) of Rossini Opera movies by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle featuring rare footage of Tito Gobbi. A good diverse program. See the link for the Festival,

entrance lobby of the Grosses Festspiele Haus, Salzburg.

back of the University Church, Salzburg under renovation still.

Salzburg old town.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Great Festival in Salzburg

Well today was Pentecost Monday and it is the last day of the Pfingstfestspiele in Salzburg under the direction of Cecilia Bartolia. A brilliant success, we saw some wonderful performances by great artists, orchestras and great conductors.

Today was started the day at 11am with a concert with Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Theatre orchestra, violinist Vadim Repin in a piece by Sofia Gubaidulina composed in 1981 Offertorium, we listened to her revised version of 1986. Program Notes were prepared by our friend David Nice a broadcaster and lectured on BBC Music Magazine and on the Arts Desk. Thank you David for those helpful and interesting notes on this work.

Vadim Repin violinist and Maestro Valery Gergiev

The second piece played at the Felsenreitschule was Dimitri Shostakovitch Symphonie no.13 Babi Yar with bass Mikhail Petrenko and the chorus of the Mariinsky Theatre. A powerful piece heavy in criticism of the USSR based on poems by Yevgeny Yevtushenko. It was wonderful a stunning piece, very moving. Sung in Russian by Petrenko, such a voice.

Mikhail Petrenko, basso

I will pass on the afternoon offering with the Hagen Quartet and Alfred Brendel, boring is all I can say of this piece The Seven Last Words by Haydn. Very poor indeed.

This evening we went to the Grosses Festspielhaus to listen to the Deutsches Requiem by Johannes Brahms with the chorus Wiener Singverein and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, a creation of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. Soloist Cecilia Bartoli and René Pape.  A beautiful work, very well done.
The funny moment in this rather serious work was when it became quite apparent to us in the front rows that Maestro Barenboim was loosing his pants. He was trying to tug them up desperately at one point he said something to Cecilia Bartoli and she gave him a funny smile. Something had gone wrong with his suspenders. In the end all ended well and no ones dignity was damaged. The Wiener Singverein a choir of about 100 members first performed this work on its debut in 1869.

Cecilia Bartoli, René Pape and Maestro Daniel Barenboim in Salzburg.

A standing ovation was given for this great work and the artists involved.

We returned to the Bristol for dinner in the Sketch Bar.
Sketch Bar at Hotel Bristol Salzburg.

Czar fillet of Salmon with tomato emulsion, salted chocolate square and balsamic vinegar

Leek tart with bouquet of salad and garlic cream and chives.

Filet mignon with pan seared goose liver paté and black truffles in an emulsion of Balsamic vinegar and red onions sautéed in red wine.
Decaf espresso

We had an excellent Austrian Red Wine by Zull,  Cuvée Schrattenthal 9.

Tomorrow we take the train to Fussen in Germany, it appears that rain is in the forecast.


Sunday, 19 May 2013

Beautiful Sunday in Salzburg

Another wonderful day of music and great artists. It all started this morning when we went downstairs to the breakfast room of the hotel which is all about mirrors, pine wood paneling and crystal chandeliers, very Sud Tyrol.  They have the nicest breakfast, they will make fresh egg dishes for you in the kitchen so as not to bother other guests with smelly smells. Even their potato pancakes are made fresh with yellow potatoes. Beautiful cheese selection and cold meats, fresh fruits and pastries. Wonderful coffee served individually in silver pots with hot milk. Afterwards we walked around the Mirabel gardens (see movie) to the Mozarteum to listen to Niccolo Jomelli 1742 oratorio Isacco figura del Redentore, or Isaac's sacrifice, taken from the Biblical story.  This baroque piece continues with the theme of this year's festival of Sacrifice, Offering and sacrificial victim, in this story we have Abraham ordered by the God of the Old Testament to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham obeys God All Mighty but his rewarded by a lamb as a substitute. The twist in this musical piece is at the end, Abraham has a vision of his son Isaac being spared while God the Father sacrifices his own son Christ. Don't forget this was written in Italy in 1742 Rome.  Diego Fasolis, conductor, the orchestra was I Barocchisti, chorus of the Swiss Radio, Lugano, the tenor Javier Camarena (Abraham), Roberta Invernizzi as Sarah, Franco Faggioli as Isaac (a counter-tenor role).

I was afraid the Mozarteum would be too warm and it was around 30C inside the room, at intermission we went out into the garden for fresh air, at the back of the garden Will pointed out something quite wonderful, the wood house where Mozart composed the score of the Magic Flute around 1791. I did not know anything about this little house, it is a simple one room house made of wood. Originally it was in Vienna, Mozart would meet singers in this house. Then it was moved to Salzburg and was located in the Gnome garden of the Mirabell gardens next to the Bristol Hotel, it was moved again to the Capucin Monastery and finally after suffering damage due to bombings at the end of WWII  it was moved to its present location at the Mozarteum after the WWII. Imagine walking into this original building where Mozart composed one of his most famous operas, the Magic Flute.

This is what I love about Salzburg, such surprises, totally unexpected. Again the people attending the Festival are people who love music and are here for it, a baroque piece like Isaac's sacrifice by Jomelli is an acquired taste and you will not find your average tourist. What was also nice was to hear it sung in Italian by Italians, the diction and pronunciation was perfect. Camarena who sung Abraham, is from Mexico and he is staying at our Hotel, we met him in the lobby and had a nice chat, he told us that he was singing this role for the first time, he usually sings Bel Canto roles in Opera. We also met Fagioli and Lepore it was nice to speak with them outside the performance and this is what happens here in Salzburg.

We had a very short time for lunch, just 60 minutes, so we had a quick bite at the Sketch Bar and I changed suits for the afternoon presentation at the Grosses Festspielhaus built for Herbert Von Karajan 40 years ago. We saw the 3 ballet by Igor Stravinsky in their original set and costume design.

 Les Noces (1923) with choreography by Bronislava Nijinska and costume by Natalia Gontcharova.
This is a sad ballet, a young women is forced into an arranged marriage, her long hair locks are a symbol of the ties that bind her to her husband and her role is to procreate for the survival of the tribe. A theme common to our human condition but not one feminist would support.

Le Sacre du Printemps (tableaux de la Russie Paienne) (1913), choreographie by Vaslav Nijinsky, costume by Nicolas Roerich. This piece is about Spring, sowing crops, hunting animals and gathering food and in the end Virgin Sacrifice to appease the Gods. Again a very human history in pagan Russia but also true elsewhere.

L'oiseaux de feu (1910), choreography by Michel Fokine and costumes by Alexander Golovin and Leon Bakst.

The orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre under the baton of Maestro Valery Gergiev with the corps de ballet of the Mariinsky (Kirov). Interesting to note that the Mariinsky II opened last week in St-Petersburg, this new theatre which stands next to the old Imperial Mariinsky Theatre was designed and conceived by a Canadian Architect from Toronto.

Gergiev is superb and so was the orchestra, it was also wonderful to see such classic works by Igor Stravinsky in their original setting and costume. After seeing it I am of the opinion that Russians are not Europeans but more an Asiatic people. I formed this opinion 14 years ago when we lived in Poland, though a Slavic people, the Russians have this Asian element to their personality, strange and exotic all in one.

We had dinner at Herzl which is part of the Goldener Hirsh (golden stag) Hotel in Salzburg, excellent cuisine in a Tyrol style restaurant, Herzl has been around for at least 100 years and the quality is tops.
The cuisine is Austrian favourite dishes.

Upon returning to the Bristol we decided to go to the Sketch Bar to wait for the guests returning from this evening performance of Norma to compare notes on what they saw. It was great fun to meet fellow Festival goers and talk about what we had seen in the last 2 days. Tomorrow Monday is the last day of the Festival, we have 3 concerts to attend.

The program for the Festival 2014 is out and it will be a Rossini Festival with all the big opera names you can possibly imagine coming to Salzburg, I was incredulous just reading the list of opera stars who will be here. We are already planning next year.


Saturday, 18 May 2013

Day Two of the Festival.

Mozarteum in Salzburg

This morning we had a piano concert with Andras Schiff at the Mozarteum. He played on a 1921 Bechstein-Flugel piano, a beautiful instrument. We heard J.S.Bach Ricercare a 3 and Ricercare a 6, composed for Frederick II of Prussia around 1747. His son C.P.E. Bach worked at the Court of the King of Prussia for many years.
Mozarteum concert hall

We also heard Mozart's Fantasie c-Moll KV475 (1785) and the Klavier sonate c-Moll KV457, not my cup of tea, I would say to many pretty notes. I am suffering of over exposure to Mozart's music which is on the radio all the time.

Finally we heard Beethoven Klavier sonate c-Moll opus 111 (1821), I am not a big fan of Beethoven but this work I had not heard for a long time and Schiff is such a master on the piano that I was seduced by it. As an encore he played a piece by Schubert.

Schiff is a Hungarian Citizen but will no longer play in his native land in protest over the ultra-Nationalist policies of the current government. In the audience today was also Maestro Daniel Barenboim. This is what is nice about Sazlburg you meet everyone eventually during the Festival.

The concert ended around 1pm lunch time so we walked over to the Sacher Hotel to their Salzbach Grill which has a lovely terrace on the river. We could not find a table and a very nice older couple invited us to sit with them. This is what you do here, often if you occupy a table and there is room you can invite someone to sit at your table, it is very common at mealtimes. It turns out that they too had just seen Schiff play at the Mozarteum and also had been to the Opera Norma the day before. In the course of our lunch we discovered that their son Benjamin Schmid is a well known musician. This couple is from the region around Salzburg. It was a very pleasant lunch, very civilized.

We then went on to walk in the old town around St-Peter's Church and its cemetery which appears in one scene of that movie ''The Sound of Muzak'' with Julie Andrews. Michael Haydn the brother of Josef Haydn is buried there as is Nannerl Mozart, the sister of... The Haydn-Mozart were friends and knew each other well.
St-Peter's Cemetery and Funeral chapel next to the Church itself.

Tonight we are having dinner at the Peter's Keller which is said to be one of the oldest restaurants in Europe, apparently opened in 803 AD.

This being Saturday all shops close at 5pm and will remain close now until Tuesday morning. Sunday is a day of rest and Monday is Pentecost and this despite the crowds of tourists in town.