Sofonisba Anguissola's 1565 portrait and a modern-day live version
A phone call out of nowhere.. names of Moscow friends are dropped.. a meeting point is thereafter hastily arranged.. I find myself waiting at the Entree des Artistes of the Teatro Real for "Elizabeth de Valois" to arrive.
Tatiana, let's call her like that, has come to the Ciudad to perform in "Don Carlo" the role of the French Princess. "Drastvuitie!" - I tell her in my very best Russian, when she arrives, dressed in white and with the usual Slavic svelte long arms and beautiful long fingers, although paradoxically suntanned.
Sipping our respective drinks, in the warm afternoon, we talk opera, a subject rather warm to my heart, the way wine-buffs elaborate on the merits of a particular vintage of Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Tatiana complains that, with the almost Visconti-like obsession with the historical veracity of every detail on stage, she is made to wear a dress that weights more than herself. An exact replica in fact of the dress of Madame de Valois in the famous portrait (depicted above) one can see at the Museo del Prado. "And the collar, you can't believe it! How is one supposed to sing comfortably wearing that?".
I tell her of my shock when, many years ago, attending an Uncle Placido's performance of "Don Carlo" at the Met, I recognized, among the flags depicting the possessions of King Felipe, the Coat of Arms of the Kingdom of Portugal. Historically true, of course, but it always tastes as if one has to host a small living pachyderm in one's oesophagus...
She was amused with the recollection of my visit to the dressing rooms of the Bolshoi, when I was honoured to witness a Royal Ballet grand ballerina removing her make-up while all the fuss of an end of a tour was going on. ( Another Elizabeth, now that i think of it). Efforts will be made to replicate the experiment in the insiders' areas of the Teatro Real.
What one is prepared to do for the sake of maintaining the standards of this blog...