Greg was to meet me at 12 at Łazienki Park for one of those free open-air Chopin piano recital, but as L and I walked to the center, I got Greg’s SMS saying that he has to cancel – his aunt in Wrocław just died.
I feel bad for Greg. I know the aunt is dear to him, and I am not sure how well he will take this, even though his aunt has not been doing well with the cancer. I would really love to meet Greg, but I want even more for him to have tranquility in his mind.
L took me to see various things that either the book or Robert didn’t tell me about. Actually, there are lots of things that Lonely Planet: Eastern Europe doesn’t say, which is really amazing and irritating. For instance, most people know that there’s a (very poignant and wonderfully presented) Warsaw Rising Monument, but the book never mentions about the Justice Department behind it, let along the three goddess statues that hold up a part of the building at the back, together with a pond beside them.
The weather is great; luckily I opted for a tank top and a pair of shorts instead of a t-shirt and long jeans – perhaps too cute-sy for L. Being Taiwanese and hence equipped with a Taiwanese photographic sense, L offered to take a lot of photos for me. Somehow my messy hair (I thought) made me self-conscious and less ready to smile, although later the results proved to be better than I thought.
L also showed me more foods. Yesterday it was a yogurt shop owned by the “rich fat Polish lady who owns more than 20 places in the Old Town,” and today it’s some very sweet (overly sweet, as is the tendency in Poland) pastries, and later some very good Thai food that can make me cry.
L seems to have a fondness for the plentiful and sizable parks in Warsaw, and while the sky turned grey when we reached Łazienki Park, the temperature is perfect, and the breeze in the woods are most agreeable. Peacocks are everywhere, as can be seen in my photos.
I was keen to return home early enough, hopefully to get some rest before the evening opera, and L had to leave at 4pm for some work-related appointment, so we hopped on a bus as it started to rain a bit. As it turned out, I hardly had any time after taking a shower and before leaving for the opera. Greg was already there; I advanced and hugged him, not caring whatever the f the norms are in Poland. Greg decided he was not in the mood for the opera, so I – again in a humble t-shirt and jeans, in contrast to some lovely dressed ladies and gentlemen
Pique dame is one of my favorite operas. To me it probably beats even the more famous Eugene Onegin by the same composer. It is not a small deal for me to see this opera.
Maybe it’s a good thing that the soprano is merely adequate; otherwise my emotions would come even closer to overflowing. The tenor probably sounds a bit like Vladimir Atlantow – a bit steely, but thankfully less unyieldingly. And as the night proceeds, he proves in his finally aria (the drinking song) how he can adopt varied emotions. For at least the second half of the performance, I got the feeling that, while he may not have the greatest volume, he can well be a very good Siegmund (Die Walküre). It’s a pity that the not well-focused soprano can’t compete with him in terms of volume, among other things, even though she “almost” rose to the occasion in her final scene – after all that was her last chance to win the accolades!
The production is a mixed bag. The way the first and last scenes are set in a casino is fitful, and all the dancing and s—— of the male dancers that opened the final scene are great. And while the separating of the closer part and the deeper ends of the stage by various screens at different points of the opera tend to work well, it isn’t really the best idea to put only the dancers on the stage in the central choral scene, while assigning the choir that do the actual singing from the balcony seats. What is truly annoying is the scene of Queen of Spades’ bed chamber – the huge X-ray photo and the brain structure graph simply don’t make any sense at all, and the stage directions given to this old lady character also don’t make much sense. Finally, even though I understand the way the director presents Liza’s final scene is a more symbolic than realistic one, to present the stage with absolutely no sense of stage depth is simply not the best way. In previous scenes the director employees a projector to show thing like emotive storms, and it works perfectly, especially in Herman’s several dramatic scenes, but in Liza’s final scene, all the slowly flying silhouettes of birds don’t really enhance the effects of presenting the heroine’s agony.
On the other hand, the two apparition scenes are wonderfully executed, especially when at the end how an illusionary tunnel is created with all the dry ice and very smart uses of multiple projectors, the tunnel with Herman’s dead body as its center.
Oh, as for the singers, most of them are less than adequate; even the baritone, who has the big aria, had problems with his high G – WTF? The only one who did well is the duchess (Queen of Spades), who has a very slim figure and can be either a hoch-dramatische or a mezzo with a potentially lustrous bottom. The funny thing is that she was the one who got the most flowers. Later Greg’s Buenos Aires-based friend told me that she’s famous in the region and previously sang Carmen. Maybe I should do a background check on her sometime.
I met Greg and his very well preserved and groomed friend who flew in from Buenos Aires for a drink. While his friend speaks very good English, I soon realized this wasn’t a very good idea; on the one hand, I felt I was almost interrupting the get-together of two friends who haven’t met for a long time, and on the other hand it would have been nicer to devote more time to my host L. Besides, I was emotionally exhausted enough after seeing the opera – after the duchess’ death scene, I was already so afraid how I was going to react in Liza’s final scene and had the tissue paper ready while clinging to the seat’s edge. The scene turned out not to have such effects on me, but the overall experience was quite something.
It was shortly past 11 when I arrived home. L was already brushing his teeth, and he showed what he had cooked. Well, I should have known that, even though I was not hungry at all after a big breakfast, a big Thai lunch, and a tiny yogurt for the entire day – it’s about L being such a lovely host, not about how much food I actually need to consume.
[Photos of peacocks, opera and more in Warsaw = here]