Four Days in Paris

Paris Opera, Palais Garnier (Photo: Eric Pouhier, Wikimedia Commons, above)

Four days in Paris! We are staying in a rather cramped hotel a few minutes away from L’Opera and the Galeries Lafayettes, but then eveywhere you stay in Paris is rather cramped unless it’s the Georges Cinq or its ilk. Paris is not so much for the music but for being here, window shopping and observing the ever-fascinating French. We saw Traviata at the Bastille with the stunning Sonja Yoncheva but the lighting was in such stygian darkness we could barely make out who was who. The designer seemed to want each scene to be a floating blob of light in the middle ot total blackness. Nice concept maybe but most of Traviata is in daylight or brilliant party scenes. In comparison, last night’s Lear by German composer Aribert Reimann, (commissioned in the 1970s for the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau) was prison bars next to Traviata’s gilded cage. A fearsome opera by turns with discordantly shrieking orchestral paasages then groaning, moaning stasis. Depending completely on outstanding singing actors, it was well served and received tremendous applause from the remaining audience who had not left at the interval! Our group had very mixed responses, some loving it, some hating it, but all loved cruising around the magnificent foyers of the Opera’s Palais Garnier before the performance and during the interval.

But the highlight of our Paris visit has been the visit to the wonderful new Philharmonie de Paris designed by Jean Nouvel who designed the Central Park complex in Broadway Sydney. This hall is designed with the Berlin Philharmonie’s concept of ‘hanging vineyards’ with a huge inverted mushroom baffle over the auditorium giving magnificently even acoustics to all seats. We heard Richard Goode play the Emperor Concerto and Herbert Blomstedt conduct the Orchestra de Paris. After the interval they gave a superb performance of Mahler’s 1st Symphony.

Philharmonie de Paris (Photo: BastienM – Wikimedia Commons)

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