Monday, September 13, 2010

Art, food and more opera

Began the day with a slight language contretemps: what is Spanish for ‘poached’? ‘Eggs’ are ‘huevos’, but clearly something was lost in translation when it came to the method of their preparation. Still, soft boiled is OK too.
The Prado, Madrid

Velázquez: “Las meninas
Then took a leisurely stroll to the Prado – is this one of the most magnificent art galleries in the world or what?? Of course, so far I have merely browsed the Louvre, and managed to miss the Hermitage entirely (it closes only on Christmas Day and 5th May - ’Victory Day’. I was in St Petersburg on 5th May). Both remain on the ‘to do’ list. However, the sheer number of masterpieces in the Prado is far more than one could ever do justice to in one short visit: Bosch, Dürer, Raphael, Goya, el Greco, Rubens, Murillo, and of course the incomparable Velázquez: “Las meninas”. I bought a postcard of it to send to Pandora. I am sure she will appreciate it.

Goya: 'The Family of Carlos III'

El Greco: 'El caballero de la mano en el pecho'

Bosch: 'The Garden of Earthly Delights'

Then, from ‘el Bosco’ (as Hieronymus Bosch is known here) to ‘el vasco’, and to lunch with Alex. We arrived at the restaurant at 1.30, the absolute earliest opening time; and even then Alex laughed with the staff about being the first to arrive: ‘una Australiana...’ Three hours, a bottle of excellent Rioja and much talk later, I retired para una siesta antes de la opera, y con un companion para el Bulli. Alex tells me that his mother is pleased that I have moved to London, because she likes London. My first visitor?

After my siesta, I went off to the beautiful Teatro Real for a repeat performance of ‘Eugene Onegin’. My seat was not as good as the free one last night – I was in the second tier balcony – but still the sound was excellent and I found it quite riveting the second time around. The star of this cast was of course Andy, with his beautiful Lensky. He played and sang the part quite differently to last night’s Lensky. Andy’s Lensky was heartbreakingly pitiful, and it actually made me cry. This happens on rare but memorable occasions at the opera *happy sigh* I must say that the Tatiana tonight (Ekaterina Scherbachenko) did a wonderful ‘Letter Scene’ (that’s the famous bit from this opera).  Click here to hear Andy's Lensky in the big aria. Click here for Andy in another big Lensky scene, with the chorus and 'Olga'.  Click here to hear The Letter Scene with last night's soprano, Tatiana Monogarova

Gosh, you hardly need to go see the full opera now, do you?

Afterwards I went and stood outside the stage door to wait for Andy, as arranged. It was fun watching the artistes emerge in their day clothes, with lots of the chorus still in their 19th century hair and makeup. I was surrounded by a sea of Russians. While I was waiting I made a new friend: a local lady was autograph hunting and pounced on anyone she thought was one of the principals. I was drafted to take her photograph with the bass, and with Andy when he emerged. Andy exchanged greetings with a couple of buxom Russian chorus members, and told me a story about one of them, a big lady with big hair. She is not actually a singer, but rather a supernumerary - an actor. She was working in the canteen at The Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow when the director spotted her, and said 'I want her in my production!' It seems she has just the looks he wanted. Her main role is to sit through several acts eating cake. She has now toured all over the world with the Bolshoi, eating cake. 

We adjourned to a cafe opposite the wonderfully lit Royal Palace for a celebratory drink and some tapas. The evening was mild and warm, the lights delightful and a busker with a violin was playing just about the whole of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’. I could come again.

Madrid. Midnight.

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