Today when parking my bike in front of the Royal Library I noticed Marie’s bike already standing there. Of course I couldn’t be sure that it was her bike, but it looked a lot like it and Marie has been known to frequent the Royal Library… So I went to the reading room I thought was most likely to be her choice. No Marie, but plenty of French dictionaries for correcting my French exercises. Then I went to the other reading room – the one I like. No Marie there either. So I concluded the bike must have belonged to someone else. After having studied for some hours I went to the café to have some coffee and check my e-mail. The inbox contained a message from Marie beginning with the words: “I am at The Diamond (nickname for the Royal Library) working my brains out.”
The message was sent around the time I had entered the building.
After the coffee I went to the rest room and as I entered the cubicle my eyes fell on a cd-case left on a shelf above the toilet. It was a recording of Don Giovanni conducted by Daniel Harding and with Peter Mattei as the main character. There was no doubt in my mind: Marie had left it there like a small trail. She is the only one I know who owns this recording and who else would bring a recording of Don Giovanni to the Royal Library and forget it in the rest room?
So I put it on top of my little private mountain of books and laptop and left the cubicle. Only to spot Marie’s bag peeping out from behind a wall. And it was hanging from the shoulder of – Marie!
She was waiting for the someone in the cubicle to leave so that she could search for her Don Giovanni!
Sju jætter? How weird was all that?!
For a more extensive post on Mario Perniola and The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic, see this post .
I’ve got a presentation on Mario Perniola’s The Sex Appeal of the Inorganic in two days, which is very difficult stuff, and I’m a little stressed out about it, to tell you the truth. So what am I doing online, you ask? Well, I’m trying to lift my spirit by reminding myself of the value of a good education! And I’m doing this by repeatedly watching this absolutely awesome clip I found on youtube – a wonderful Sesame Street spoof on the song “Don’t take your guns to town” – here it is :
As Big Bird and Johnny Cash teach us in this little video, only tragic things come from strutting about in town, trying to show off accomplishments that you don’t really have. And what an important lesson that is. Personally, I’m going straight over to my desk right now to re-read those chapters in Perniola’s book I didn’t quite get after reading them just one time. There’s no way I’m going to take my ones to town and get laughed at by my fellow students on Friday.
Professor: …so, as you can see, the mask, and thus the lie, plays an important part in the writings of Stendhal. The lie is the all-important factor in Julien’s relationship with Mathilde…
60-something woman student: But you’re forgetting the fact that one always feels really bad when lying!
Professor: Oh… well…. I don’t know about that. I’d say that while some lies would leave you feeling guilty, there are lies that you could get away with without feeling so terribly remorseful.
60-something woman student: I always feel bad when I’m lying!
Professor (eager to move on): Ok. Then Heaven certainly holds a place for you.
60-something woman student: No, how do you know I wasn’t lying to you just now?
Professor: Well, if that’s the case, then I hope you’re feeling absolutely miserable right now. Ok, moving on…
– Copenhagen University, the Faculty of Humanities
Aimlessly looking through old documents on my laptop tonight I found some diary records from my time in Rome in 2002. I lived there from January to July while studying at one of Rome’s universities.
I found one note I liked a lot.
This is where our adventure takes place.
5th of February 2002.
Slept late. Then I went to Palazzo Venezia to go to the library. I found it, deposited my passport for the key to the locker where I left my bag. Then I entered my name in a large register. The library is a confusion of oddly shaped and sized rooms with open bookshelves in three storeys. Apparently the books aren’t ordered by any particular system other than an arbitrary number which you will have to find in order to locate the volume you are looking for. No such thing as an order by topic or author. There is a database, but it only contains books that have entered after 1998, but that goes not only for books written after 1998 but could go for any book. 1998 was when the base was established. All other books are on index cards. So you cannot just look for a pre-1998 book in the index. It could just as well be in the ever growing database – remember – no system.
When you have found your title you have to find out which of innumerable numbers on the card is the collocation number. And then you have to find the room containing books with the initial of the collocation number, and then on which storey that initial is located. Then you should look for the staircase, well hidden among the shelves. And then – there is the book!
First victory of the day – I have deciphered the code and found the book I was looking for.
Next book. The code is different. I search on cards and walk through all rooms – no such collocation number. The librarian is busy but a lady in the queue tells me that I should look in the author index. There I find the same collocation number. Back at the librarian I am told that the book is in another department on the other side of the entrance. I am not allowed to bring the victory book over there, so I put it on a special shelf and leave for the other department. Which is closed for lunch until 14.30. My watch tells me it is now 13.45. I give up and ask the librarian where I can check out the book I have found. She points to a dusty corner in the farthest room. Hidden between two bookcases I find a small counter. It will open after two o’clock so I wait. At two a balding employee with three ears turns up. Triumphantly she tells me that to borrow books I must show documentation from the university, two passport photos and some sort of ID. So I produce my student’s card, two passport photos and leave her momentarily to collect my passport at the entrance. The three-eared employee is clearly disappointed but reluctantly makes me a library ticket.
Second victory of the day.
Books are lent for a week and renewals are only made by personal address and for a maximum of a month. I was lucky I didn’ t want to borrow more than two books since that is all you can borrow at a time and I was also lucky to be there today since books are only checked out on two weekdays.
Third victory of the day: I present my receipt to the guard, hand in the key to the locker and exit radiant with joy to Piazza Venezia with the book in my arms. I smile all the way to the Danish Academy.
I guess all libraries have to be deciphered when you first enter them. But this library was the most reluctant I have ever been in. It was situated in the rooms whence Mussolini held his speeches to the Roman people, so maybe that explains the bad karma. I liked it though. So completely disorderly and so overly filled with books that any book lover would have given in immediately. It was also crowded with students, so crowded that my few attempts at studying there were complete failures. I did have a key to the Danish Academy and their library where I was allowed to study. But as soon as summer approached the heat made it impossible to stay there. Rome didn’t have enough places for students to read so my hunt for a desk and some quiet led me to different libraries and academies (the American Academy was quite nice but they only let me in once). I even studied in the cast collection of the university surrounded by other desperate students and hordes of plaster copies of ancient statues.
Today I went to the Danish Royal Library. How nice it is to sit in the Harry Potter-like reading room with the eleven books you have just checked out and plenty of peace, time and space for your perusal.
Surely nothing as exotic as three-eared employees and Fascist atmosphere but quite, quite comfortable.
By the way… you may ask why I had two passport photos ready for the bitter employee. Well… when in Italy you should always carry lots of passport photos and copies of you passport if you have a wish to engage with any sort of authority or offical place (be it libraries, national registers, university canteens). You never know when you are going to need them, you only know that you will need them at some point.
These are the cousins Jesper Langballe and Søren Krarup.
They are both clergymen and members of parliament for the right-wing extremist Dansk Folkeparti. They are everything un-pie. Bad people.
But tonight I saw a dim light through the vapours of intolerance these men emit.
They have threatened to leave parliament if a new bill is passed! This bill would prohibit smoking in all public places of work. And since the cousins are smokers, and since they perform their duties in a public place of work they would not be able to smoke all day, lest they leave the building. They find this unacceptable.
I was already for this type of law. Now I am certain it is the best for the State of Denmark.
Here is another staged photo already! Again we are trying to capture the essence of the opera Tosca.
The roles are reversed here; Marie has left the menacing air that surrounded her in the previous staged photo in favour of a more delicate, feminine expression: She is in this photo portraying a frightened Tosca, complete with wide eyes and a mouth opened to utter a desperate “Aiuto!”, helplessly caught in the arms of brutal Scarpia, portrayed by the shrewd-looking gentleman in the picture, who is peering ominously over the rims of his glasses. “Mia!”, he’s saying.
Photographer Anna has taken care to depict the murky atmosphere of the scene by making sure that the lighting in the picture was appropriately dim.
The Confidential Attachées bring you: the staged photo!
It should be obvious that we are posing as the opera Tosca. We are the opera.
Marie does a disturbingly close portrayal (handbag and all) of the bad, bad Barone Scarpia. Anna is of course Tosca, a part she was born to play since she is blonde. The gentleman to the left does a remarkably daring Mario Cavaradossi – in red! And look : they are enjoying the stars remembering better times, Mario exclaiming “E lucevan le stelle” and indeed they were.
The backdrop is Ponte Sant’Angelo and Castel Sant’Angelo by night.
This is the first in a series of staged photos. We are looking forward to present you with stunning examples from our collection and completely new ones made exclusively for The Confidential Attachées.
Within less than ten days I have had the fortune to attend two opera productions directed by Peter Konwitschny. Last week I was in Berlin where I saw Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Komische Oper, and tonight I re-experienced Richard Strauss’s Elektra at the Copenhagen Opera.
Così fan tutte was focusing on two extremes in love:
1. How teenagers become adults, and innocent adoration changes into erupting passion. The scenography even had stylised volcanos on stage (continually covered by the sensible but vainly repressing Fiordiligi).
2. How failed love can lead to cynicism and bitterness.
Both extremes were quite discomforting for the characters, mainly the teenagers (i.e. the young couples), but of course also promising and exciting. The change from child to adult was shown with rag dolls. Guglielmo and Ferrando carried around doll portraits of Dorabella and Fiordiligi and vice versa. The guys even preferred to address the dolls in the scene where they are leaving the girls to go to war. The girls were a bit annoyed by this, thus signalling a further advanced maturity recognisable in most teenage girls.
Since we were dealing with teenagers the main plot stayed quite undramatic – I mean how wrong can it go when you are only 15? Worst case scenario? That you grow up! And this was of course what happened (volcanos and all).
Fiordiligi and Dorabella wrapping up their dolls…while moving on to new adventures.
I have seen other productions in which the piece was interpreted as a tragedy (see for instance Patrice Chéreau’s direction from Aix-en-Provence). In Berlin this was not the case at all. All performers were good actors and I laughed hard and spontaneous more than once which is very nice in a comic opera!
Don Alfonso with silly girls.
If looking for tragedy you should turn to Don Alfonso, and even he was more tragi-comic than really tragic. It was clear that his past offered some sad stories since he kept playing Russian roulette and putting up sour faces and sporting stubble and dark circles under his eyes. So it was his bitterness and possible depression that spurred the drama. I like a depressed Alfonso, but this time it turned into comedy when Alfonso-the-Drama-Queen pointed a sausage to his forehead and fired… This was ok, only because I am a great fan of sausages and found their presence in a production of Così fan tutte hilarious.
Musically the performances were good with at least one truly unforgettable voice among them: Maria Bengtsson’s soprano. She was amazing as Fiordiligi! It seemed to me she sang piano or pianissimo most of the time and with such beautiful delicacy and nuance.
Stella Doufexis as Dorabella did a very good job too and Gertrud Ottenthal’s Despina was firm and beautiful. Klaus Kutter as Guglielmo was nice, but quickly forgotten and Peter Lodahl (Ferrando) whom I know of (since he is Danish) was all right, but nothing more. He seemed unable to turn down his volume and some of his arias seemed speedy and gave me the suspicious feeling that he needed them to be fast in order to survive. I don’t know if this is true…
Don Alfonso was sung by Christian Tschelebiew and he did very well – a good one to direct eyes and ears to. I had hoped to see Dietrich Henschel in the part but this was not a bad switch. I really liked him – maybe also because he was the only real man on stage as my companion remarked…
When you end an opera by eating sausages and discussing whether the barytone and the soprano should marry – or maybe the soprano and the tenor or maybe, maybe, yes, it would be easiest if the tenor and the barytone got each other…then it all seems pretty silly (at least when it is done by a tenor speaking German with a strikingly thick Danish accent). Silly is completely ok when it comes to Mozart. I don’t want to seem too plain but I really had Tom Hulce’s hysterical laughter from the film Amadeus in my ears when I left Komische Oper. In the long run I think I prefer a more serious/tragic interpretation but as a little piece of rococo chocolate this was perfect. And the absurdly surreal moose couple in the beginning was wonderful!
Far from rococo, chocolate, moose and sausages with mustard was this evening’s performance of Elektra. I think this production (which I have seen before) is one of the best I have ever seen of any opera. It is extremely violent and extremely thought-provoking in terms of today’s society.
I was shaken by the brilliantly performed score, the world class singers and the grandiose direction. Together they make a sublime conglomerate of cruel beauty and pure terror.
Elektra with the axe she kept dragging around. The axe her father had been slaughtered with.
The conversation between mother and daughter (portrayed by Susanne Resmark and Eva Johansson) was so terribly calm and at the same time so terribly grim. When Klytämnestra starts dancing her victory dance after having confessed to her awfully bad dreams it perfects the already central and most frightening scene.
You can have a stainlessly white leather three-piece suite and still have a lot of blood on your hands!
Peter Konwitschny is a magnificent artist.
Recently I was roaming youtube, searching for a video for Johnny Cash’s cover version of Sting’s “I hung my head”, wanting to listen to the song. I didn’t find any original video for the song, but instead I found something that really restored my faith in the Teenager d’Aujord’Hui, namely this:
This melted my heart, which is otherwise as hard and tough as an indiarubber ball. The video is just adorable! In a world where Paris Hilton releases records and Britney “pro-life/anti-baby seat” Spears is idolized, these three lovely teenage girls have decided to make a reenactment of a Johnny Cash song. I really love that, as well as the sense of humour and sincerity the girls display in the video. Too cute.
Yeah, I realize that I sound like that annoying old aunt we all had who would pat our heads at family-get-togethers, going “What a nice young girl you are, nothing like all those bullies who hang around in the streets”, but I don’t care. These girls are adorable. *pats their heads*
My favourite part? The bicycle getting up and rolling on by itself at the lyrics “The horse, he kept running”. Pure genius! Although the sheriff’s inquiring gesture at “The sheriff he asked me/why had I run” and the widow’s martyr-tear come pretty close.
Angelika Kirchschlager! In Copenhagen! Singing lieder! Wonderful!
Such a warm voice with an endless spectre of nuances combined with all sweetness possible. Schumann’s and Schubert’s lieder were delivered with utmost seriousness, longing and roguish twinkles in the eye according to what was demanded.
Coming home to only one cd in my entire collection with this voice was disappointing – even though it was as Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro). I will have to find some recordings as fast as possible!