Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Now temperatures have risen again, so that it snowed almost all of yesterday and that it's snowing richly today, is neither here nor there when it all melts away before it reaches the ground. The ice that had spread out across riddarfjärden is now slowly melting away. Allover is that depressing, dripping sound from drainpipes. I can't stand this!
The feeling of winter is now completely gone again, it has been replaced by this tepid humidity. The honeysuckle on the balcony might be budding soon - wich i would love if this was in may and not the middle of january...now it's just saddening.
It looked like the water on riddarfjärden would freeze as it's done as long as i can remember -then it would turn into this huge open space where you can walk for several kilometres, not last year though, or the years before that -the last time was in the winter of 2005 wich was remarkably cold. As it looks this winter might turn out to be just as mild and dreary as it was last year - just like five months of march, wich is really the dingiest, dullest month of all.
It is just as depressing as a summer that completely rains away -or that has no rain at all...
We have had mild winters before, but nothing like this. This just feels like the end of the world. I so miss that exhilarating feeling of walking in this magical, pristine winterland, over frozen waters, the brightness of the snow, the frost crystals on the windows.
Illustrations by Johann Heinrich Füssli and myself
Sunday, January 18, 2009
I never thought i'd say this; but i so wish i was in Washington, DC. -now...or in a fiew weeks - January 29th. When those who are lucky enough to be thereabouts can see - given that it's not sold out - William Sharp and Dominique Labelle in Monsigny's lyric drama "Le Désérteur" (1769) at the Kennedy Center with Ryan Brown and Opera Lafayette; a conductor and an orchestra i discovered a couple of years ago when they made an excellent recording of Antonio Sacchini's 1786 opera "Oedipe à Colone" for Naxos...
Monsigny by Carmontelle
The composer Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (1729-1817) was -along with Grétry and Gossec that i mentioned in a recent post - a giant in his own time, but virtually forgotten and rarely performed today and recordings are nonexistent, and "Le Déserteur" was a huge success - it's about "the resourceful heroine Louise who wins a pardon from the king for her fiancé Alexis who is accused of desertion from the army after he was tricked into believing she had married another..." (excerpt of text from the Kennedy Center) Here's a clip i found on youtube with bits from a performance at the Théâtre Impérial de Compiègne in 1994:
Needless to say how much i love this music - it makes me nostalgic somehow - reminds me of performances at Drottningholm in my childhood - and everything else i love about the 18th century, though Monsigny hasn't been performed there in modern times - but was in the 18th century - for example, in honour of Queen Sophia-Magdalena on Magdalene's day, July 22 in 1779 when Monsigny's "La Belle Arsène" was performed.
Ingmar Bergman filmed his "Magic flute" at Drottningholm, and i watched it constantly as a child, -that, along with Scola's "La Nuit de Varennes" and Carné's "Les enfants du Paradis" -i still have the tapes, and they always transport me back...even though it wasn't a very happy childhood...but that had more to do with the world around me - just as it does now...
I will be going on an on about Drottningholm and it's environs, in many, many future posts...
All illustrations courtesy of Réunion des Musées Nationaux.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
I just wanted to share my christmas tree with you before throwing it out...wich was due days ago really - but i couldn't bear to do it just yet as it hadn't begun losing it's needles yet...
It's just a tiny tree, wich has more to do with my tiny apartment and lack of funds, than my 18th-century fanaticism - in the 18th century - at least in sweden - christmas trees weren't much bigger than this and were placed on the dining table.
The huge, gaudy fabergé-egg bauble i got some years ago, shortly after my mother's death as a small homage, as she loved all things russian.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Ok, I might have whined too soon - yesterday it felt colder and the air was crisp and cool - I even think i saw a light sparkle of frost in the grass and the ground felt harder, and this morning it was positively freezing out there. -though i won't be fully satisfied until there's a blizzard or even possibly complete snow-mayhem and that i'm able to walk across the ice to the City Hall!
Top-illustration by Wenzel Hollar
Bottom, Moa with the City hall in the background.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Just to comfort myself i' m posting a fiew pictures i took some two weeks ago, it was staggeringly cold, almost -10 C - And i took Moa for a walk around Djurgården - to Stockholmers what Central park is to New Yorkers - and everything was so beautiful... I'm sure by now the ice on the canal is completely gone, and the ground all thawed and soaking wet. But at least it doesn't rain and i so hope that the cold will return...or maybe i should just move to Provence or something -now that the entire northern hemisphere of the world seems to be enjoying a proper winter -except for us...
The way things look now, this winter seems to be getting as mild and worthless as the last, wich really worries me, we had a fiew lovely, heart-stoppingly cold days around christmas and new years, although scarcely any snow and the little that did come just dripped away and the thermometer now shows +6 C, so depressing! I would so much love a little winter...i'd go out flattening bastardly car's tires if it would help!
But i am so excited about the 2009 season at Drottningholm! They haven't presented any details yet, but they will be giving us Handel's "Ariodante" and Monteverdi's "L'Incoronazione de Poppea" -part of their Monteverdi series - last year was "Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria" and the year before that "l'Orfeo".
-Below is a beautiful duet from "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" with Anne-Sofie von Otter and Mireille Delunsch in the roles of Nerone and Poppea respectively, with Marc Minkowski conducting:
But foremost i am an avid Handelian and severely hope that Christophe Rousset will return for "Ariodante", -in 2000 he conducted Handel's "Tamerlano" wich returned in 2002 and wich i unfortunately didn't see. In 2003 it was "Alcina" wich is one of my favourites...and it was a fabulous performance. Christine Schäfer was Alcina, Anne-Sofie von Otter, Ruggiero -though Von Otter was in surprisingly bad shape... The director was Pierre Audi, set/costume designer, Patric Kinmonth, and in 2005 they and Rousset returned, and this time - to my immense joy - with something in Sweden so rare as french baroque! -"Zoroastre" by Rameau wich i went seing with my mother...it ran again in the following year - when it was also filmed and made into a formidable dvd - a fiew years ago the performances at Drottningholm were traditionally broadcast on national television, something i really miss...i don't know why they stopped. -Below is the final scene from Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito" filmed at Drottningholm in 1987.
the "L'Incoronazione di Poppea" will probably be an all-swedish production, like the two previous ones by Monteverdi but for "Ariodante" i ferociously hope for a return of Christophe Rousset, and in the title-role i'd like to see Ann Hallenberg - one of my favorite singers, a fabulous mezzo. She's swedish but rarely ever performs here, but is very much in demand everywhere else and has fortunately made several fabulous recordings.
I was so excited last year when she was up to sing the role of Penelope in "il ritorno di Ulisse", though i sadly missed it, and then made a fiew appearances in Stockholm in December, she sang in Mozart's Mass in C-minor at the Nobel prize concert, in Bach's "Christmas oratorio" and songs by Chausson with no less than Marc Minkowski conducting! Follow this link to hear Ann Hallenberg sing Judith's aria "Parto inerme, e non pavento" from "La Betulia Liberata" by Mozart, the conductor is Christophe Rousset.
This is the woman i'm hoping to see and hear.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
It often grieves me that there are so fiew recordings of the music of the walloon composer André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741-1813), -let alone on period instruments...
Grétry was only a name to me when this wonderful dvd came out a couple of years ago, it's titled "La Petite Musique de Marie-Antoinette" and is a filmed concert from Marie-Antoinette's little private theatre at Trianon. With the orchestra Les Agrémens lead by the belgian clarinet virtuoso, Guy van Waas.
Truly delightful ballet music and symphonies, interspersed by a fiew arias and duets by Grétry and his fellow walloon François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829) sung by the soprano Sophie Karthäuser and the baritone Jean-Yves Pruvot. An absolutely lovely concert in this charming little theatre -where we see the "ghost" of Marie-Antoinette (in a rather horrible wig!) appearing here and there. There is also a documentary about the theatre itself.
Then i discovered that the belgian label Ricercar had released a couple of cds with the same orchestra - and leader, playing music by both Grétry and Gossec, one titled "Grétry - Airs et Ballets" with pretty much the same programme as on the dvd and also Karthäuser singing the airs, and then two with symphonies op. XII and VIII by Gossec, and this one with symphonies for various solo instruments by both Grétry and Gossec - as well as by Dieudonné-Pascal Pieltain (1754-1833) and Antoine-Frédéric Gresnick (1755-1799) - two other Walloons working in paris at the same time. I't just gorgeous music, beautifully performed - so beautiful and so redolent of everything one loves about the 18th century. Complete and uncomplicated pleasure!
...And then; this summer Ricercar re-released a live-recording from 1991 with Ricercar Academy lead by Marc Minkowski (an old favourite of mine!) of Grétry's opéra ballet "La Caravane du Caire" -wich had it's premiere at Fontainebleau on the 30th of October in 1783. A sort of "the abduction of the Seraglio" story set in Egypt. It's an absolutely dazzling recording with infectuous dance music as well as a fiew excerpts of the music for d'Hele's comédie "Le Jugement de Midas" from 1778, with La Petite Bande under the baton of Gustav Leonhardt and recorded in 1980. I cordially recommend them all!
I am still not satisfied of course; for there is still no decent recording of Grétry's most famous work, the comédie-ballet "Zémire et Azor" from 1771, libretto by Marmontel -whom Grétry often worked with - a lighthearted beauty and the beast story in a middle eastern setting. The only existing recording is a rather boring one from the 1970s, on modern instruments conducted by Edgard Doneux - sheer elevator music!
I actually saw Zémire et Azor when it was given at Drottningholm in the summer of 1993, conducted by Louis Langrée. I was eleven and went with my mother and her friend whom i always thought incredibly chic - at that time i wouldn't have cared enough to know Grétry from any other composer... It was first performed there in 1778, seven years after it's creation.
The story is of Sander, travelling along with his servant Ali. Shipwrecked they find themselves on an island with a magnificent garden and palace - wich appears to be deserted, it's great hall set for a banquet - but they don't see a living soul, they help themselves to the buffet...
-Sander has three daughters back home: Fatmé, Lisbé and Zémire, his favourite. Before leaving he promised them gifts; Fatmé and Lisbé wished for lace and fine ribbons but all Zémire asked for was a rose...in a charming trio sung by the sisters; "Veillons, mes soeurs"
-So In the garden of the palace Sander picks the most beautiful rose he can find for Zémire and is then stopped by a beast-like man, Azor - really a transformed prince and the owner of the palace. Azor says that Zander must pay with his life for stealing the rose...unless he can persuade one of his daughters to take his place. Zémire agrees to sacrifice her life for her fathers and Ali takes her to the palace. She almost faints with terror upon seeing him. Here is Azor's aria: "Du moment qu'on aime" -sung by Rufus Wainwright (!) from the film "L'age des ténèbres" by Denys Arcand:
But Azor appears to be a proper gentleman and shows Zémire her family back home in a magic mirror...the scene depicted below, by Pehr Hilleström from the swedish production in 1778. (i apologise for the poor quality)
-Zémire even gets to visit her family as long as she promises to always return to Azor.
When she returns from one of those visits, she finds him in despair as he thinks that she has abandoned him, she protests that she cares for him -and the magic spell on Azor is lifted now that he has found someone who loves him, and so he is turned into his old, handsome self and claims his kingdom - with Zémire as his consort. And then they live happily ever after...
I only wish that some period instruments ensemble would record it!
"Nina ou Les Ennuis de l'absence"
Niclas Lafrensen, le Jeune (1737-1807)
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
I just love this design! It's from the swedish factory of Marieberg and from the mid 1770s. I first saw one in the catalogue of an auction house, i use such catalogues for inspiration for objects to fill my drawn interiors with, that one missed it's top and had a little rabbit at the fot of the stairs that goes up the base of the vase, i just love the details - the little banister, the balustres, little knobs, the reeds and flowers, the decor in black and grey on white, with a little trophy-group with a bow, arrows and a quiver on the vase. Then i found another one, depicted below, just like it while browsing the photo library of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux, that's in the collections of le Palais des beaux arts - Lille, that one had a polychrome decor, also with a rabbit and a basket and barrel on the vase, so delightful!Then a couple of weeks ago i passed by one of the finest antiques dealers in town and there it was! This one also in black on white but with a dog sitting at the bottom of the stairs and its top crowned by a blackberry. Oh how you must think me deranged! It's the kind of shop where you have to ring a bell before they let you in, so i didn't dare to, to get a closer look until today. It's price was about fourteenhundred dollars, so, sadly as i am penniless i won't be getting it, but they were kind enough to let me take some photos so that you too, if you share my insanity, can drool over it and dream of it standing on your mantlepiece, just like i do in my desperately obsessive mind...
Monday, January 05, 2009
Yesterday Moa and i went out to Drottningholm, the royal palace with it’s vast gardens. -a place i love and will be writing a lot more about in the futue... I was delighted to discover the lakes and ponds in the english park frozen and turned into huge ice skating-rinks – a shame i can’t skate. Hardly any snow yet though, wich would have made things all the more beautiful.
We walked around on the ice, out on small islets normally inaccessible, everything was just as it should be in winter except for the shortage of snow, i had almost forgotten what it was like as last winter was horrible and just rained away - wich felt like a bad sign as i have been worrying and obsessing over all the talk of climate change of recent years…but we’ve had mild winters before so maybe it’s not all that bad...i remember some ten years ago when two friends of mine, both born in late december, foolishly they decided to celebrate their fifteenth birthday with a picnic at Drottningholm, and it was rainy and muddy; the ground was like walking on a soaking wet sponge.
Speaking of Drottningholm i found these clips that some sweetheart has had the kindness of posting on youtube that are part of a lovely documentary on ”dance’s past” from 1979, instigated, written and narrated by Dame Margot Fonteyn.
Here she gives a little tour of the well-preserved court theatre at Drottningholm, and it’s absolutely charming! The whole documentary is really worth watching, unfortunately they've disabled embedding of the clips so you have to follow these links:1 (13) and
-the part with Drottningholm starts in clip 1 (13) with a lovely little animation at about 3:23 and continues in clip 2 (14).
Thursday, January 01, 2009
New Year's eve was nothing special, i decided to spend it with my dad in my childhood-home, just a fiew blocks away from my apartment. We had a gorgeous lobster and some Dopff brut, then ox filet with garlic and parsly and a decent shiraz, then i planned to make an apple tart but opted for some fresh, cut pineapple with chocolates and coffee - and then some more Dopff at the stroke of midnight while we saw the new year in on television with Jan Malmsjö and Anne-Sofie von Otter. I was invited to a party, but way out in the suburbs and i'm glad i didn't go - can't cope with crowds, especially not now.
I do hope we get a decent winter this year, it snowed generously in the end of November but then just thawed away and then it rained and it rained, but now for a couple of weeks it's been cold, and the rooftops covered with sparkling layers of frost - no snow so far but i really, desperately hope for more of that or i shall get terribly depressed! Oh, enough about that! -i should get some sleep...
Goodnight and Happy New Year!views from my balcony the other day.
The remains of our little feast. A pretty little still-life in the sink - don't you think?