Category Archives: Art

The Phantom of the Sonnambula

La Sonnambula di Bellini, 5 November 2011

I never got around to uploading this photo which I took (I STOLE!) at the ROH a few weeks ago. The orchestra started playing but the curtain got stuck and did not open at all. Despite a great desperate attempt to open it by hand (during the performance) they had to stop and start again – without the curtain and 45 minutes later. It was definitely quite heartbreaking event to assist to, like watching a stranded whale or something. Also any attempt to solve the problem was more and more cringing, especially with the audience there between amused and supportive. It makes me think how ephemeral and tenuous the theatrical spell is and how easy it is to break it and transform the whole affair into an old heavy wreck.

I thought that they still pulled it out pretty well, despite the accident. From reading the reviews, one could think that Dame Sutherland and Pavarotti held the curtain down, that night. However, I did find Gutiérrez almost impeccable and perfect for the role, but also the other singers I found very appropriate, for the right or wrong reasons. And yes, the staging is irritatingly wrong. My favourite review is by George who talks about an Exquisite Eglise.

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Danse Serpentine

Yesterday I went to see Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement at the Royal Academy of Arts. There are many reasons to like this exhibition – certainly the catalogue is pretty amazing and the focus on the work and intellectual research by Degas behind the artworks is very well presented. One major highlight is the collection of 26 sketches for the Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans which he drew while rotating around her.

However, in this dissection of the study and thought process, I found that the simple beauty of the artworks got a bit lost, and so the balance between the effort to understand and represent the movement (the dynamic tension and all that) and the ability to catch the fragility, femininity and concentration of the girls at the same time. I completely agree with the review by the Independent (which obviously explains everything much better than I do). I would rather spend my 20 pounds (!) for the ticket to read all that in a good essay but then enjoy the works without this strict guidance.

There is a section which compares Degas’ work with pioneering contemporary photographers. This includes the film above by the Lumière Brothers which was coloured ‘in post-production’, as we would say. It’s pretty amazing and I’d like to share it.

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