Covid-19

The spread of this awful coronavirus has resulted in the loss of numerous projects planned for 2020, many of them booked over a year in advance. I haven’t been able to see the Labeque sisters play Philip Glass in Bordeaux, Berlioz’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Strasbourg, Benjamin Britten’s opera ‘Peter Grimes’ in Frankfurt, Bruckner and Shostakovich concerts at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, nor to visit exhibitions at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the once-in-a-lifetime van Eyck show in Ghent. I have also had to cancel my planned trip to the Aix-en-Provence festival in July to see Alban Berg’s ‘Wozzeck’.

However, the virus has sadly cost many people much more than just the loss of travel opportunities and this is its real tragedy. Hopefully, at some point in the not too distant future, we will see an end to it and a return to a life as near normal as possible.

Ingres and more in Montauban

At the Musée Ingres Bourdelle in Montauban in the Tarn-et-Garonne department of south-west France, recently reopened after a three year renovation, for two excellent exhibitions.

‘Constellation Ingres Bourdelle’ displays paintings by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, born in Montauban in 1780, and sculptures by Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, a pupil of Ingres, who was born in the town in 1861. The exhibition also includes works by students of Ingres, as well as twentieth-century artists, such as Pablo Picasso, who were influenced by him. Bourdelle’s works are compared to those of Rodin and the presence of paintings by Edgar Degas, Maurice Denis and others provides a context for artistic creation during this period. The second exhibition, ‘Dans l’atelier d’Ingres’, displays the museum’s incredible collection of Ingres drawings – 4,507 works, the largest collection in the world.

Ingres 'The Dream of Ossian' (1813)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres ‘The Dream of Ossian’ (1813)

Ingres 'Christ Delivering the Keys of Heaven to Saint Peter' (1820)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres ‘Christ Delivering the Keys of Heaven to St. Peter’ (1820)

Portrait of Ferdinand-Philippe d'Orléans' (1842)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres ‘Portrait of Ferdinand-Philppe d’Orléans’ (1842)

Ingres 'Portrait of Madame Gonse' (1852)

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres ‘Portrait of Madame Gonse’ (1852)

Émile-Antoine Bourdelle 'Head of Apollo' (

Émile-Antoine Bourdelle ‘Head of Apollo’ (1900 – 09)

Bourdelle 'Grand Warrior of Montauban' plus Vuillard and Degas

Émile-Antoine Bourdelle ‘Grand Warrior of Montauban’ (1898 – 1900, cast 1956),    flanked by Edouard Vuillard ‘Lucien Rosengart at his Desk’ (1930) and Edgar Degas ‘Portrait of the Artist with Evariste de Valernes’ (c.1865)

Auguste Rodin 'Eve' (1907)

Auguste Rodin ‘Eve’ (1907)

Pablo Picasso 'La Petite Corrida' (1922)

Pablo Picasso ‘La Petite Corrida’ (1922)

Pablo Picasso 'Paul, as Harlequin' (1924)

Pablo Picasso ‘Paul, as Harlequin’ (1924)

The museum also has a permanent collection of paintings from the Renaissance to the modern era, formerly the collection of the bishops of Montauban, including the recently identified ‘Portrait of a Monk’ by Jan van Eyck:

Jan van Eyck 'Portrait of a Monk' (15 century)

‘Goya: avant-garde genius’ in Agen

In Agen, in the Lot-et-Garonne region of south-west France, for the exhibition ‘Goya: avant-garde genius. The master and his school’.

The exhibition followed the career of Goya from his time as a designer of tapestries and as a portrait artist whilst at the courts of Kings Charles III and IV in Madrid in the 1770s and 1780s, through his ‘Caprichos’, published in 1799, his ‘Disasters of War’ etchings from 1810 – 20, and the ‘Majas’ paintings, as well as a variety of works concerned with witches, fantastical creatures and religious and political corruption.

Goya exhibition

Goya 'Self-Portrait' (1783)

Francisco Goya ‘Self-Portrait’ (1783)

Goya 'Mariana de Waldstein, Marquesa de Santa Cruz' (c.1798)

Francisco Goya ‘Mariana de Waldstein, Marquesa de Santa Cruz’ (c.1798)

Goya 'Cannibals' (c.1800)

Francisco Goya ‘Cannibals’ (c.1800)

Goya 'And they are like wild beasts' (1812 - 15)

Francisco Goya ‘And they are like wild beasts’ (1812 – 15)

Goya 'The Balloon' (c.1816 - 24)

Francisco Goya ‘The Balloon’ (c.1816 – 24)

Goya 'Capricho with flying animals' (c.1818-19)

Francisco Goya ‘Capricho with flying animals’ (c.1818 -19)

‘L’Enfant et les Sortilèges’ at Opera Limoges

At Opera Limoges to see an entertaining production of Maurice Ravel’s opera ‘L’Enfant et les Sortilèges’. First performed in 1924, the second of Ravel’s fantasy operas (after ‘L’Heure Espagnol’ 1907), the opera tells the story of a child ordered to stay in his room as a punishment. Magic takes over as toys, household objects and animals come to life. Back-projected images onto a black curtain provided the special effects that brought the story to life.

L'Enfant et les Sortileges 1

L'Enfant et les Sortileges 4

L'Enfant et les Sortileges 2

Ravel and de Falla in Toulouse

At La Halle aux Grains, Toulouse, for a concert with a definite Spanish flavour. Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under Spanish conductor Josep Pons played a first half of Ravel’s ‘Rapsodie Espagnole’ and ‘Piano Concerto in G major’. The soloist was renowned Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, who returned to the stage for a stunning encore with a solo arrangement of the ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ from Manuel de Falla’s ‘El Amor Brujo.’  The second half began with Ravel’s ‘Alborada del Gracioso’ before continuing with an excellent performance of de Falla’s ‘Le Tricorne, Suites 1 & 2’.

Josep Pons and Javier Periannes

Josep Pons and Javier Perianes

Ravel: ‘Rapsodie Espagnole’; Ravel: ‘Concerto for Piano in G major’; de Falla: ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ from  ‘El Amor Brujo.’; Ravel: ‘Alborada del Gracioso’;  de Falla: ‘Le Tricorne, Suites 1 and 2’.

Ravel, Poulenc and Schumann in Agen

An extremely varied programme at the Théatre Ducourneau, Agen, in the Lot-et-Garonne department of France, by Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine under Douglas Boyd. Beginning with the orchestrated version of ‘5 Piéces enfantines’ from ‘Ma Mère l’Oye’ by Maurice Ravel, followed by an excellent performance of Francis Poulenc’s ‘Concert champêtre pour clavecin’, with the extraordinary Jean Rondeau on harpsichord. The second half saw a beautifully-played ‘Symphony no. 2’ by Robert Schumann.

Douglas Boyd

Douglas Boyd

Jean Rondeau

Jean Rondeau

Ravel: ‘5 pièces enfantines’ from ‘Ma Mère l’Oye’; Poulenc ‘ Concert champêtre pour clavecin’; Schumann ‘Symphony no. 2 in C major’ opus 61.

Liszt and Shostakovich in Toulouse

At La Halle aux Grains, Toulouse, for an excellent concert by the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse under Tugan Sokhiev. The first half saw Liszt’s ‘Piano Concerto no. 1’ wonderfully played by the renowned French pianist Lucas Debargue, who was deservedly called back for two encores. The second half was a powerful performance of the ‘Eighth Symphony’ of Dimitri Shostakovich, an epic work which evokes the suffering of the second world war.

Lucas Debargue

Lucas Debargue

Tugan Sokhiev

Tugan Sokhiev

Liszt: ‘Piano Concerto no. 1 in E Flat’ S.124; Shostakovich ‘Symphony no. 8’ opus 65.

Leonardo da Vinci at the Louvre

At the Louvre, Paris, for the spectacular exhibition of the works of Leonardo da Vinci on the five-hundredth anniversary of his death. Although Leonardo was born in Italy in 1452, he died in Amboise in the Loire Valley, France in 1519, where he was in the service of Francis I, King of France.

The exhibition was presented chronologically, beginning with exquisite drapery studies drawn during Leonardo’s apprenticeship in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, and then followed his career from Florence to Milan to Rome and finally to France.

Whilst there are a limited number of paintings by Leonardo, the exhibition used other means to fill out his story. For example, infrared reflectograms and preliminary drawings allowed the process of his artistic technique to be examined. However, it was the inclusion of amazing notebooks such as the Codex Leicester and Manuscript B, with drawings and text in Leonardo’s hand, which best illustrate his extraordinary talents – with their designs for a helicopter and a tank, studies of the bones and muscles of the human body, drawings from the natural world and the findings of his scientific experiments.

Leonardo 'Benois Madonna' (1480 - 82)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Benois Madonna’ (c.1480 – 82)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Saint Jerome' (c.1480 - 82)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Saint Jerome in the Wilderness’ (1480  – 90)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Portrait of a Musician' (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Portrait of a Musician’ (c.1483 – 90)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Virgin of the Rocks' (1483 - 94)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Virgin of the Rocks’ (c.1483 – 94)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Manuscript B' (c.1487 - 89)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Manuscrit B’ (c.1487 – 89)

Leonardo da Vinci 'Vitruvian Man' (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Vitruvian Man’ (c.1490)

Leonardo da Vinci 'La belle ferronniere' (c.1490 - 96)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘La Belle Ferronniere’ (1490 – 97)

Leonardo da Vinci 'The Virgin and Child with St. Anne' (c.1503 - 19)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne’ (c.1503 – 19)

Leonardo 'Codex Leicester'

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Codex Leicester’ (1506 – 10)

Leonardo da Vinci 'St. John the Baptist' (c.1513 - 16)

Leonardo da Vinci ‘Saint John the Baptist’ (c.1508 – 19)