Thursday, October 27, 2005

Alfonso Alaya

Volvo's creative advertising in the Gran Via Posted by Picasa

Maria Guerrero

The ceilings of the Teatro María Guerrero Posted by Picasa

William Shakespeare

Male acting female roles ...

Edward Hall's production of William Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" Posted by Picasa

An invitation to dinner from the Crusader is something one does not refuse unless there's a very solid previous engagement, a Minister in town or an unpostponable rendez-vous. I had tickets for "The Winter's Tale" at Centro Dramático Nacional - Teatro María Guerrero, but since it was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. and MDT (Madrid Dining Time) in Winter is 9.30 p.m. I though I had a fighting chance to see if not all at least most of the play.

In fact I just managed to see the Acts I to III, which is mostly grim and grey .(After the interval, the last three acts, which take place sixteen years later have a redeeming tone and there's a near holywoodesque happy end).

To refresh the memory of the Honourabble Reader those run-for-your-Prozac first three Acts can be synopsized like this:

When Leontes' (King of Sicily) old friend Polixenes (King of Bohemia) wishes to leave after a court visit, Leontes asks his wife, Hermione, to try persuading him to stay longer. Hermione succeeds, but Leontes then suspects her of having an affair with Polixenes. His jealousy getting the better of him, Leontes plots to poison Polixenes. Hermione is thrown in jail and brought to trial for adultery despite the words of the Delphic oracle (who has proclaimed Hermione innocent). While imprisoned, Hermione gives birth to a daughter, which Leontes promptly disowns. He also commands A. to abandon the baby in the desert.
Tragedy soon besets Leontes as the trial progresses. His only son dies from grief over his mother's predicament. Hermione too is reported dead. This is enough to make even Leontes realize what his jealousy has cost him (...)

Depressing stuff, no?

To add pain to injury the Propeller Company, directed by Edward Hall, sticks to a as- close-as-possible-to-how-it-was-done-in-Shakespeare's-time concept , and so we had an all-male distribution. It's a bit like transposing to Theater the fashionable playing of Ancient Music in original XVII century instruments. We all remember recent films where the action is set in Shakespearian times and where this gender-crossing thing is put to good dramatic use ( a man-actor and a woman-actor (needing to disguise as a man) both competing for the same female role; a woman-actor who has to disguise as a man to perform a male role.. O dear!, we've been there lots of times). As long as the director sticks to 1610's clothes and Elizabethan theatre codes the all-male cast can be swallowed ( although it's politicallyyoffensive to the hard-fought for rights of women to be on stage). But when, as it was the case yesterday, the action is set in a contemporary set with actors dressing in modern clothes, including suits and ties, the akwardness of men performing the roles of Hermione, Perdita, Pauline or Emilia becomes, to my taste, unbearable. I didn't get in what sense are we close to Shakespeare's original spirit. Was Uncle Willie writing with certain male actors in mind when creating the lines for his female characters, or was he not hoping that one day the lifting of the ban on female acting would enable the full potential of Juliets, or Hermiones or Rosalinds to shine through?

If it's to enact modern day versions of Shakespeare's plays does not an all male company incur the risk of being a gayish thing? Or is it homophobic to wanting a lovely innocent non-adulterous loving wife to be performed by a lovely innocent loving non-adulterous looking actress? At least, thank Goodness, we were spared falsetto voices, or it would have been a very camp thing indeed. The actors playing Hermione or Pauline were very good, not doubt about it, and, I'll give you that too, they were not trying to be "girls" but men-actors performing female roles. In the end, even if I don't doubt the artistic integrity of Company Director Edward Hall, it all sort of becomes a gimmick to flag up these particular productions of Shakespeare's work among the hundreds that leave the UK production line every year.

When one goes to see "The Winter's Tale" one wants to refresh one's ideas about how to deal with jealousy, both in oneself and in a third party . The BootsGirl pretends my blog makes her jealous and I was hoping for something in the Leontes-Hermione relationship that would have allowed me to be clever by half and enlightened her on the traps and punishments of jealousy. Most of the time I was instead frantically arguing, in mute mode, with the play's director about the incongruity of using men to perform as women.

Don't get me wrong: the mise-en-scène was first rate, the acting was good to very good to periods of brilliance (specially Adam Levy as Pauline and Simon Scardifield as Hermione!) and it was a memorable half-night.

And the Honourable Reader will excuse my outburst but it's bliss indeed to attend English-spoken theatre...

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Federico Fellini

(strip) Teasing the Good Society...

innocent pleasures... Posted by Picasa

From time to time this blogger of yours has to face a difficult moral dilemma. Where should his loyalty stand? Towards the Honourable Reader or towards the Trustful Host? If one witnesses excellent blog material should one go ahead and post it, irrespective of the sacred laws of hospitality and good manners? The Honourable Reader shouldn't worry, this blog will not go tabloid. There are principles of privacy preservation that this blogger would not infringe. ( And that explains why the live characters of these stories never have their real names splashed in this blogspot domain).

(I had my Sony-Cybershot with me all the time but I didn't felt it would be proper to use it. The photo depicted above is a re-crop from a shot published in the photo-album "People" which carried material from Moscow night life in October 2003. )

Crucial here was getting the authorization from the Host to publish anything on the party's épater-le-petit-bourgeois event.. Armed with that green light and after careful camouflaging places and names, there we go:
La Frankeniathimifolia enticed me with promises of a wild party. Wild, I said to myself with a condescending smile, in this city, where you are even more strict on society's tie-wearing dinner parties than in St James's or Pall Mall? Wild, when the idea of outrageous is a copy-cat translation of a bad Almodovar film? Why has great unconventional fun become synonym with eye-offending colours and trans-gender orientation? Couldn't we have a bit "La Dolce Vita" parties returning, with glamour and healthy heterosexual decadence? Is it asking too much? Well, I'm glad to tell the Honourable Reader that we were quite near Uncle Federico's standards... and in downtown Madrid.
It all started very much as it's expected in a non-weekend dinner party in the Ciudad. Even punctuality was honourably upheld. (Although I must confess that I arrived 48 minutes late due to the disorientation of the GPS equipped navigational device in a city where roadworks are two a block). The mix of people was good, with the Arts and the Professions, Spaniards and non-Spaniards, Tight-assed and Porro-smokers, jeans-wearing straightforwards and elaborate fashionistas all in very balanced proportions. Good also the caipirotchkii (yes, the plural of caipirothcka is not an easy one, both in grammar and in the drinking life). Familiar faces. Familiar female faces from a blurred private soap-opera, which a bachelor's life always turns into.
The dinner was amazingly good considering the extremely short 48-hours notice. I thought they didn't do hostesses made of this strong stuff anymore, but I was proved wrong. (I said so to Frankeniathimifolia and it seemed to me that in her smiling reply she was submitting a CV for a well-rewarded job).
Early in the night, one or two friends, in the know about this blog, poked me into www-immortalizing the party. I replied that I needed one good story moment, a party in itself not being blogabble just like that. Otter, my dear long-time-no-see Otter, remarked: "You're going to have your moment, don't worry. Not sure if will be to everybody's liking.. but that's a different story". I caught her by the elbow, and tried to extract some more information from her with promises of gardens of delights ... but to no avail.
So, we sailed through, from the well-garnished tables to the veranda smoking-room, from the nikkydesaintfallesque sofas to the italianate classical chairs, from the Warhol pictures to the pop-art video-installations.
Pudding time arrived and went, and then a surprise was announced. We were asked to sit wherever we could find a place, and that meant floor included, and then the music started. (Not immediately but after some expert fixing from the iberoamerican waiter ("Man of my life! Been more than 13 years with me!"). Very loud, very syncopated musi.. suspense was building up... and then Sonia arrived. Slav-looking, wearing college girl standard outfit. Ultra-mini-skirt of Scottish clan pattern, white shirt generously buttoned off, tresses, knee-lengtht socks.. and stilettos (!). We all realized then what was going to happen. Either the distant bacteria-free pattern or the lap-dancing, in your face, type was all that needed confirmation. The music went on, the tresses got undone, a guest (my companion from diplowork as a matter of fact) was left standing so that a chair was added to the show. Another guest was asked to the improvised stage (some of us, male peeping-toms, felt uncomfortable and simultaneously relieved that we had avoided being the compère in the erotic performance. The skirt opened quite easily, as expected.. off the shirt went.. a multicoloured glass-beaded bra seemed to betray a large silicone implants zone. A few minutes later we confirmed our first wild guess. At this juncture, the Teddy-Bear, seated next to me, with a tone of alarm in her youthful voice whispered: "But... is this suppose to end up as an...Orgy?". I reassured her. One thing is to expand the boundaries of society entertainment another is to cut oneself from the social world. The strip-titillation continued, involving cream rubbing of the D-size fake boobs and whisky spilling on very much the same area. As it came to its end, the strip that is, with full frontal pubic nudity, the "Man of My Life" Ecuadorian waiter accidentally kicked the whisky glass that was lying on the floor. "There goes the mammary lubricant", I thought for myself. And that was it.
A murmur at first turned quickly into some loud buzz. Everybody was trying to be more man-of-the-world or experienced-lady than his/her neighbour. I smiled and gave the thumbs up to the organizer of our soirée who was looking my way. Got her point perfectly. To shake this self-smiling bourgeois fauna out of their very squared certainties. An innocent pleasure. To tease them just a little.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Viktor Erofeev

Moscow photographic nostalgia Posted by Picasa

Alvaro Siza Vieira

old houses never die.. Posted by Picasa

(Nota bene: every photo included in the "blog-cybershots" sub-series were taken by this blogger of yours on a SONY Cyber-shot digital camera.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

Pierre Corneuille III

Clarice or Lucrèce?...

illicit photography taken during the performance of "Le Menteur" Posted by Picasa

( It's thrilling to take a snap shot at the stage while a performance is going on, flash turned off... only the infra-red beam might get me into trouble... DVD-pirating as the next step? )

Paris Hilton

Is this what shopping is all about?...

a shop-window in a posh area of Madrid.. Posted by Picasa

( Always carry a micro digital camera with you when going out to buy yourself the FT Weekend at the usual quiosk in Calle Serrano)

Pierre Corneuille II

Actors thanking applauses at the Teatro de la Zarzuela Posted by Picasa

(I was hoping that I had managed to post a small cybershot-videofilm, but it looks i still have some homework to do..)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Jean-Lois Benoit

A bar-hopping "Le Menteur"...

The Jean-Louis Benoît's mise-en-scène of "Le Menteur" Posted by Picasa

JulSoup thought (for herself) that to see this blogger of yours three times on the same week would be too much. The Winged-One, with perfect psychological balance, managed to decline without hurting any feelings. Inviting the Pinky Samosagoan didn't crossed my mind, her knowledge of French for a night at the visiting Comédie Française possibly not up to needs. And then the obvious choice crossed my mind: ClaireDeLune, the cute Franco-Spaniard I met a couple of months ago, who sells futons for a living. Surely, one whose professional worries are related with the comfort in bed would prove suitable for the bed manoeuvres of a XVII Century play? She agreed, smiling on the mobile phone, to meet me at the Zarzuela Theatre half an hour before the performance.
And that was how an innocent cultural trip turned into a dive in la noche madrileña. After dealing with "Le Menteur" and the lie-detector material of Dorante's hesitations between a blonde and a brunette (Clarice et Lucrèce) we could just have had a classical post-theatre supper (debriefing of respective evaluations, maybe some autobiographical bits invoked by Lucreces of yesteryears and more recent Clarices). In fact, we end up in a small group hopping from tapas bar to drinks bar, from drinks bar to club and from club to latenight club. Siestas and plenty of rest on a rainy Saturday and then, a couple of hours later, the carousel started all over again. More pre and after dinner drinks in a fashionable Moorish restaurant, more bars & clubs, with the night rushing to its end.
Nurturing my surprisingly mild hangover on Sunday, in bed, very late in the no longer morning, I kept wondering about what had I gained by my incursion into serious night-living... apart from keeping old reflexes of predatory smiles alive, I mean. Instant dopamine-mediated gratification driven by alcohol, the speeding tempo of dancing music and the sense of being witness to a secular tribal Mass? Socio-anthropological observation of the boy-meets-girl's patterns in a town where the seducing power seems to rest firmly in female hands? Speculation about how the night fauna of a given city might be an element on assessing the level of development of the respective society? (Comparisons involving the one and only night life of Moscow sprung to mind).
In the end a doubt persisted. How can one keep the motivation - at the respectable age of this blogger of yours - for an all-night outing? I realize then that to engage in this "voyage au bout de la nuit" week-end size I had to lie. To lie to others and to myself. To the smiling Clarice and to the hopeful Lucrece, or was it the other way around? Corneuille got it right in 1643, deception and lies are what you should expect when you are tempted by the twin beauties of the Place Royale. Youth and Passion, I mean.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Anna Akhmatova II

Beauty explains a lot...

Anna Akhmatova in 1899 in Sebastopol, then part of the Russian Empire, now Ukraine Posted by Picasa

Every contemporary of Anna talks about how beautiful she was in the beginning of her womanhood. Unfortunately, we have the famous photo of 1922 (used in the cover of the biography by Elaine Feinstein), when she was already 33 years old, but not one of her "prime time", so to speak. As a ten years-old she was as stunningly beautiful as the photo above depicts.
We can only imagine how she must have been when almost everybody in bohemian Petersburg was falling in love with her...

Anna Andreevna Gorenko

Lost in translations...

The cover photo is of Ms. Akhmatova in 1922 Posted by Picasa

This biography of Anna Akhmatova, the great female poet of the Russian language, has been in my bedroom for the last couple of months. I read eagerly the first half when it's about immediate pre-revolutionary times, events around 1917 and the first decades of Revolution - and then I lost interest. Russia is a bit like that for me, and for many others as well. Fascinated to understand how Pushkin erupted in world literature, to stare in awe at the very existence of Tolstoy, to try hard to understand what Lenin (and Stalin too) was all about ... but afterwards the viagra-like qualities of Russianness are no longer there. Almost impossible to sustain one's sense of cultural and intellectual arousal when the grey soviet turn-offic reality takes over.
Against my principles I'm going to recommend a book without having read it to its last page. I have a good excuse this time, though. I've just returned from the Cí­rculo de Bellas Artes, a centenary and very active cultural institution of this city, where I have listened to Ms Elaine Feinstein herself, the biographer of Akhmatova and author of "Anna of All the Russias", published in London a couple of months ago.
Ms Feinstein is a poet herself, something I had no idea, and although British and influenced in her early relationship with poetry by the grand Americans such as Elliot and Pound, she confesses feeling now like descending from the Russian poetical tradition of determined women, like Tsvetaeva or Akhmatova. During the seminar she did not use words as such but I got the impression that this descendant of Russian Jews who migrated to England has, with Marina and Anna, "re-discovered" her Russian identity. (More and more we will have to accept with total normality that we carry not one identity (the national or nationalistic one) but an array of identities. The quicker we learn to be at ease with all of them, the better. Some of us refuse to aknowlege a proto-EuropeanUnion identity we now carry with us; others turn a blind eye to XV Century stains of "impure blood" in their lineage; many of us get emotional with former colonies' football national teams..).
Elaine Feinstein realized what Poetry means in Russia and how Poetry was essential in her life (and in the life of Marina Tsvetaeva). She assimilatedd the canon, so to speak, and became -althogh writing in English- a Russian poet herself.
Most of that late morning literary session at the Circulo, organized to commemorate a Spanish poet, ended up dedicated to the phenomenon of translation. (Ms Feinstein is a renowned translator of many Auntie Marina's poems). At some point both another translator who was in the panel and part of the audience were buying the concept that literary translation made by talented writers/poets is literary art itself (some went as far as saying it should be recognized as a separate literary "genre", for goodness' sake!). Well, it's the same old story as with academia texts and literary criticism. Those who write it would like to have a piece of the glory we attach to the "real thing", that is to the product of a creative writer or an original poet. But no way. The translator of Pushkin is not a Pushkin or a less-talented Pushkin but something else. He might even be a Pushkin himself but not as a translator of Pushkin. Did I made myself clear?
Who cares who did translate the poem written in 1917 by Anna Akhmatova starting with "Along the hard crust"?
Along the hard crust of deep snows,
To the secret, white house of yours,
So gentle and quiet - we both
Are walking, in silence half-lost.

And sweeter than all songs, sung ever,
Are this dream, becoming the truth,
Entwined twigs' a-nodding with favor,
The light ring of your silver spurs...

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Jorge Sampaio

self-explanatory collage of photos taken during the "Cumbre" in Salamanca Posted by Picasa

Paul Oxborough

a painting by Mr Paul Oxborough Posted by Picasa

Listening to a not very successful performance of Don Giovanni..

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lorenzo da Ponte

Read all about it!

Lobster caviar as a weekend self-indulgence Posted by Picasa

Last week was full of epiphanies I wanted to blog about. "Don Giovanni" at the Teatro Real made be think one more time about how crucial is the Don Juan vs Casanova dilemma; a dinner in Puerta de Hierro where the subject of Belle Epoque erotica was surprinsingly introduced; a trip to Salamanca where I symbolically rubbed shoulders with the New Sovereigns, gathered at Summit level; some weekend reading on the film-making of "Metropolitan" , the closest American cinema ever got to an European Art Movie. So, I decided to get rid of all that. If interested, start reading below.

Whit Stillman

"Urban Haute Bourgeoisie" in Manhattan et al ...

literature about literary film language Posted by Picasa

What is a blog for if not to be able to convey the respective blogger's idiosyncrasies? I'm unashamedly an Art movie type of cinema goer and I prefer an intelligent and complex dialogue (or an adaptation of Jane Austen's superb language) to any special effects, no matter how hyper-pyrotechnic they might be. The best and most efficient "literary dialogue" that has been script-written in the US in recent years belongs, in my view, to Mr Whit Stillman, who happens to direct himself those priceless jewels.

"Metropolitan" (1990), "Barcelona" (1994) and "The Last Days of Disco" (1998) have gathered such a recognition as something simultaneously fresh and classical in American cinema that a collection of critical essays on these films have recently been published. Entitled "Doomed. Bourgeois. In Love ", using the self-definition of the characters in "Metropolitan" , and edited by Mr Mark C. Henrie, it's a must-read for Stillman groupies like myself.

As Henrie points out: " Democratic and meritocratic America has never had much time for gentility, and radical ideologies in principle despise the well-born. For these reasons, the gentlefolk tend to appear in our popular art either as villains or as fools. But Stillman's films insist that there were (and are) true virtues to be found in this class and its ideals."

If the Honourable Reader might feel sometimes tempted to indulge in Anti-Americanism from a supposedly Cultural High Ground position, sniping at provincial and child-like Americans, this little book and in particular the viewing of Stillman's films will cure you of that infantile disease.

Juan Carlos I

A "Cumbre" in Salamanca...

Ibero-American Summiting Posted by Picasa

"What are these Summits for? " asked with a skeptical tone in her voice the most recent addition to the European diplo-community in Madrid, JulSoup, with rhetorical fake naivetevé.

This blogger of yours, hesitating between the paternalistic answer from a more senior fellow of the same line of business and the tongue-in-cheek remark that would made him score some extra brownie-points, opted resolutely for the second option.

"My dear Jul, I can only speculate about that. There's, for sure, a trend of rising personal intercourse between the leaders themselves. In fact, "They" are into such first name basis relationships and they bump together so frequently that I'm expect they will start address each other by "Mon Cousin" any time soon. No need for executive machineries, nor, God help us, for indirect diplomatic exchanges. Say, a direct phone call to the Austrian Chancellor perhaps from a very powerful Cousin and Turkey gets the nod; or a call to whatever Palace the Moroccan Sovereign finds Himself to be and some barrier-mountaineers are softly re-accepted in the right side of a border. As things stand, they really do need to take care of personal chemistries, of their shared memories of events worldwide.. General intimitate acquaintance...Children's photos.. Bond-building..

"Okay, okay, I got your point. Like XVIII Century Monarchs, I see" - interrupts my bubbly co-drinker with an impatient voice. "But what is it about Summits, then? Why not just sticking to bilaterals or small groups?".

I indulge in a couple of seconds of silence. (Pause) - as Harold Pinter would have had it, if this was one of his recently Nobelized plays - . "Interesting question. Specially because you take for granted that nothing of substance will ever come out of a Summit, which I find myself tempted to agree if Mr McLuhan had not theorize about it long time ago. Even if substance is ready beforehand it's the liturgy that will make it translatable to the masses, you see? On the other hand haven't you heard that in a group of peers it's only when they are all together, in one place, that the "real" hierarchy becomes apparent? To make it clear, for all these new Sovereigns meeting together, what is the untold pecking order - that's what Summits are for."

JulSoup smiled and reached for the flûte.

Andrew Steptoe

Don Giovanni, standing up to God....

a Trilogy made in Heaven... Posted by Picasa

The most ridiculous thing about the opera “Don Giovanni” is, of course, the sugary moralizing epilogue just after the dramatic scene when the great seducer goes to Hell.

Many intelligent conductors did the right thing and ended their live performances at that sulphurous point, including Mahler himself when he was the Director of the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra, but unfortunately it's no longer the case.

What makes that final scene between Don Giovanni and the Commendatore’s Statue one of the most dramatic climaxes of all the opera repertoire? Metaphysics, I should say. Not only because of what’s at stake phylosophical or theologicaly speaking, but because the genius of Mozart made sure we understood with our senses that there is something transcendental happening ..

As the Honourable Reader might recall, our hero is at that moment in something akin to the very last crossroads. He has lived in full a life in which he had “denied God, mocked religion, deflowered innumerable women and knowingly pursued a path of unremitting wickedness”. He still gets his chance to save his soul. He is asked to repent. He refuses. He makes a choice, a free choice. Not the atheist’s choice of someone who has yet to be convinced that God exists. No, he had just sensed the strange horrifying coldness of the Statue and then, after his first refusal, he has started to feel the pain and the heat of Hell itself . He had just been given the proof that God and Satan are disputing his soul. But then again, he rejects God. He refuses to come over to God’s side. He chooses, we are led to realize, the Forces of Darkness.

The idea that he had been working for Evil and that both his inclinations and pride have prevented him from saving his soul, even as the evidence of what would follow could not be made more clear, are terrible to contemplate. Only with the help of Mozart’s music we can sail through it relatively undamaged.

For some, that defiance, that measuring up to God Himself, is the heroic defining moment of Man on Earth, finally empowered and able to fly away from the nest without the mothering care of God.

I think that it’s of the utmost bad taste to turn an horrible unsavoury character into a revolutionary icon.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Harold Pinter

Private screening of a Belle Époque erotic film?

Naughty Forefathers Posted by Picasa

It's not everyone who can claim to spend an evening on a place full of memories of a Nobel Prize Award for Literature in the very same day the Wise Men (?) from Stockholm have decided to confer upon Harold Pinter,CH the ultimate literary accolade. To what lengths is this blogger of yours prepared to go in order to satisfy the Honourable Reader, one might ask?
The near-theatrical set was a small dinner-party with that blend of formal informality and high-browed frivolity that characterizes, in a way, Society here. We were ten, like the little Negroes of Auntie Agatha's famous crime novel. There were enough characters and lack of information about respective backgrounds (to a new in town, like this blogger of yours) to try to do something "Pinteresque" out of it. Even UST could be perceived across the table (for those less familiar with Hollywood script-writing jargon, UST stands for Unresolved Sexual Tension, an essential ingredient of your average blockbuster, meaning the situation whereby the audience senses that the two main characters might end up at it).
What really enlivened the after-dinner coffee & Port wine was the mention of the existence of modern video copies of erotic/porn movies made in the golden times of His Majesty Alfonso XIII, belonging to a series entitled "Nuestros Picaros Abuelos" (loosely translatable as "our naughty grandfathers" ). We even had a glimpse at the videoboxes with the suggestive imagery which I have submitted above to the curious, hopefully delighted, attention of the Honourable Reader.
Some of us were skeptical as to the actual hardcore content of films made in the 20's and made our inquiries timidly. "But, how is it? What does it really show?" - asked my neighbour with candid curiosity ."Must be something more subtle than... You know..". The owner of the videos looked at us with the triumphal smile of a 14 years old boy revealing juicy truths to his younger brothers: "What do you think they're doing, for Goodness' sake?" She made a pause (Pinter again) and then let it out : "Follar, claro!". Now, the Honourable Reader might not have been expecting the use, in that particular social context, of the slang version of the verb "to fornicate" (on top of it, rather less used in Society than its English equivalent in Anglo-Saxon dinner-parties). We all understood that our naughty grand-daddies were not to be underestimated...
A guest, who happened to have a cinema as one of the businesses he keeps going, went then so far as suggesting we might organize a private after-hours screening of the picaresque films in a real nickelodeon. With drinks on the house but no viewers allowed to seat in couples on the back rows. Another guest, smiling and self-confident because of being clearly the better dressed of all the female dinner companions, got almost carried away, and declared that she might take care of the invitations herself. With a final flourish she added that she was thinking of hand-writing it with a permanent ink marker on the photographed breasts of detached pages of "Interviú" (the local soft-porn magazine).
That reminded me a poem I read recently which I have been attempting to translate for the benefit of the Honourable Reader:
“If my fingers were spray canisters of black ink /
Yours breasts would be full of graffitti/
Like a propitious wall in a sordid backstreet ”
Pinteresque enough?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Anna Brochet

BigSister is watching you...

A celebrated CIBA photography of a painting by Anoushka Brochet Posted by Picasa

Anna and Anouska or Anushka sound nice, no? Is Ada better, like in a certain "Miss Ada's Room" in a SouthKen hotel? Plenty of time, Ribenka.

Don Juan Tenorio

Don Juan, an unrepentant sex-addict...

"Don Giovanni"s production at the Teatro Real ( Act I, Scene IV) Posted by Picasa

The Mibel Expert, a charming inhabitant of the diplomatic offices at Calle Pinar, 1, took the trouble to purchase the tickets from the Teatro Real website. Off we went, through successive check-points manned by fluorescent-jacketed traffic wardens (called here, very post-modernly "agentes de movilidad") who try to prevent everybody driving his own private car from getting near the Opera house.

Seeing "Don Giovanni" in Spain, with a Spanish director, is an interesting addition to the curriculum of a Mozart/Da Ponte groupie ( one should say Mozart/Da Ponte the way one says Lennon/McCartney or Gilbert/O'Sullivan). As the Honourable Reader knows very well and will probably resent to be told as if He was an ignoramus, the character of Don Giovanni stems from a creation of Tirso de Molina, a Spaniard, about a century earlier. So drinking D. Juan Tenorio in their breast milk, like Spaniards do, would legitimize, so to speak, a preferential insight into Don Giovanni's psyche. Was that so? Not sure.

You need to have a special insight to read the mind of such a overwhelming FB ('fucking bastard', for those of you, poor prudes, not knowing the acronym) as D. Juan. One is tempted to say that one would have to be either Mr DaPonte himself (a leacherous, lewd man who wrote the libretto, among other jobs he was working on in parallel, day and night "diverted only by Tokay, snuff, coffee, and a nubile 16 year-old" ); or a successful dashing-looking baritone who has performed many times that demanding role to generalized acclaim, like Mr Rodney Gilfry; or a man who had been there, indulging in serial seducing, as with a kind of unquenchable thirst for passionate love, like Mr Giacomo Casanova (or, some might say, this very blogger of yours, which I rush to disclaim as false, calumnious and actionable in Justice).

Let's cut the crap, as they say in B-movies, with heavy New Jersey accent. There are only two things that justify our obsession with "Don Giovanni" the opera, and neither of them is the mere enjoyment of great music. One, to confront an FB in its pure state, to stare at that terminal polygamous hyper-eroticism and take little personal notes; two, to try to make something out of the dinner-party where the (Statue of the) Commendattore turns from Guest to Host. (About this latter, near- metaphysical, issue I'll blog about separately)

To address the FB issue first: I think Gilfry got it absolutely spot on. Don Giovanni is a bad boy, a spoilt brat that has never stopped a second to consider that there might be red lines in one's behavior. He has an addictive personality (he would be heavily into crack, horse or GHB if he was living in this day and age) and he gets his adrenalin rushes, his kicks, out of sexual humiliation of women. He enjoys sex alright, but in his refined taste as a Gentilluomo what he really craves for is surrender. After a while, blasé, only the ultimate kick, playing with death itself, can make his blood levels reach the needed dosis. He's prepared to do almost anything once he senses that there's a more rare and exquisite sensation on offer. The Commendattore's resurrected self carries a invitation to rub shoulders with Death Herself, the ultimate lover. Drug-taking and death-wish, so Kurt Cobhamian, no? So, Jim Morrisonesque, so JamesDeany...…

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, (in particular Ladies) , Don Juan is not a man who loves women, let's be crystal clear about it. He loves himself (as a matter of fact I don't think he ever stops to meditate in such deep thoughts as to whether he could theorize about emotions, affections and sex, and get some self-awareness from that: he, to put it simply, doesn't do Freud); he lets his dick do all the talking and all the action too. Now, that last feature can be extremely and very powerfuly endearing to women, who time and again, would rather be Queens for an hour (with plenty of fluid-exchanging taking place) than Duchesses all their lifes. But Don Juan/Don Giovanni has no redeeming features. He is no Valmont (who dies not out of arrogance but of romantic will to be redeemed by one noble gesture stemming from his love towards Mme de Torvelle). He is no, definitely not, no Casanova (no Henriette that could have redeemed him and Elvira was condemned to failure).

In fact, Don Juan is a shame for our profession. Those of us who have kept our hearts pumping with the sense that a new passion could be on the way; those of us who felt the pain of un-reciprocated love but still persevere; those of us who delude themselves by being sure each time that this last young soul might be the one - we do not recognize ourselves in Don Giovanni. A collector of sexual experiences is not one of us, I hope I made myself clear.

Casanova is not a choir boy, for sure, and he has the masculine arrogance, mixed with sexual charism, that made him write these words, in his The History of My Life:

" The man who loves and knows that he is loved rates the pleasure he is sure he will give the loved object more highly than the pleasure which that object can give him in fruition. Hence he is eager to satisfy her. Woman, whose great preoccupation is her own interest, cannot but rate the pleasure she will herself feel more highly than the pleasure she will give; hence she procrastinates as long as she can because she fears that in giving herself she will loose what concerns her most - her own pleasure".

Why am I saying all this, the Honourable Reader might ask, already with signs of hyperventilation and close to exasperation? Because people, in particular women scorned in their desires, tend to amalgamate Don Juan and Casanova, and pretend it's all the same. It's not. Don Juan is the mirror at which unhappy women look, with faces turned ugly by love-pain, and find themselves beautiful. Very quickly it becomes easy to leap from Don Juan/Lovelace/FB seducer to Casanova/Their own lost lover and from there to All-Men-Are-The-Same.

That's why I believe the Program and leaflets of a Don Giovanni production should carry a kind of Health Warning: "Take Don Juan as the paradigm of What-Men-Really-Are-Given-The-Chance at your own risk".…

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


The Confucian Balance of Self and Other...

The discrete charm of the chinoiserie Posted by Picasa

Yuan restaurant, in Velazquez, Friday night. Chinese Haute Cuisine on offer. A very pleasant "pandilla" with the usual mixed blood ( Andalucian-Castillan-Navarro-Cuban-Argentino-Paraguayan) plus two compatriots of this blogger of yours. Argentinian men are handsome specimens of the latifundium owner type one normally associates with Jerez. In between the dim-sun and the Imperial duck we had a very raucous party going on (one just loves to be able to use an adjective as powerfully sounding like "raucous" once in a while..). Some of us decided to continue to indulge our drinking habits at a private apartment, and at the risk of not having his favourite spirit at hand a bottle of Bombay gin was hastily accquired by the Smiling Porteño. I happily obliged when asked to tell the story of how can a once promising medical doctor become a full time diplomat. Causing the biggest effect on the listening public is still the line when, after a convenient Stanislavskyan pause, I reveal that my entrance "thesis" to the Foreign Ministry was on "Comparative Nuclear Doctrines of the U.S. and USSR". Never lets me down, that one. Admiring features, impressed smiles but also one or two suspicious glances ( "Is this guy trying to bullshit us?" -type of look).
Should I mention my slim and timid neighbour at table, the un-coupled madrileña who was invited to redress the boy-girl balance at table ( since this blogger of yours is prowling the streets of the Ciudad as a solitary wolfish person)? Better not. Well, I just did, no?

Victorino Martín

Death Penalty at Las Ventas..

Retro Sci-Fi image at a corrida Posted by Picasa

The "Victorinos", from the ganaderia of Victor Martín, are supposed to be the bravest (and more expensive) toros bravos of the whole Ibero-American world. Last corrida in Las Ventas was sold out accordingly.. Rupert invited me to attend this 73rd (I repeat, 73rd !) bullfight of this year's season in the Mudejar-inspired arena of Madrid.
Close to my seat (or rather a spot on the stone stands turned comfortable with a cushion rented for 2 Euros) are the steep steps that have to remain free during the bullfight mass. An usher, a young man with plain clothes and a Airline Captain hat, seats down on these steps, just next to me, for the death of the sixth and last bull of that afternoon. He says hello and engages in some quick critical reviewing of the latest corridas with obviously long-acquainted aficionados. In front of me, a hardened finca-owner likes something in what was said, turns back and offers the young man a cigar. "Thank you! Can't smoke while on duty, but I'll smoke once this corrida over". He smiles, at the same time keeping an eagle eye on the stands around him to prevent people from standing up and start to leave their places. He's very strict. The bull is about to receive the "coup de grâce". A death penalty executed by a sword-carrying matador is a serious business, to be watched in silence and with due respect.

Bruce Wayne

Super-heroes partying in a toff suburb...

Leopard-woman and bat-bear...Posted by Picasa

Last Saturday the "Golden Youth" birds of Madrid engaged in a concerted migration from their usual drinking territory, in the upper floor of "Pasha", to a detached villa in the posh neighborhood of Puerta de Hierro, where four fun-lovers were throwing a fancy-dress party. The theme had something to do with Comics and Super-heroes.
I hesitated on what actually to wear, and decided for Bruce Wayne, the only super-hero in Americana who has a hint of effortless elegance. A cape and bat-logo carrying teddy-bear was the code to the role I was assuming. I must say that although the party was great and populated by a impressive array of quite beautiful looking young Zorras, Incredible Girls, Catwomen, and Wilmas (from Flintstones, who in Spain are called "Picapedras" !! ) I didn't enjoy it as much as it would have been the case, say, a decade ago.. And why was that? Insufficient moisturizer and beauty sleep? Sticking to water because of being afraid of crashing recently acquired 350 horsepower toy? Still difficult adaptation to loud flamenco-derived beats? General stuffiness of posh chicas? All of the above?
The Pink Samosaiguana was ravishing but petulant as usual, no doubt enjoying the various courtships on the diminutive lawned garden..
As this blogger of yours was leaving, at around 4.30 am, BigJo exclaimed with genuine, un-feigned surprise "Already! Now, that the party is about to begin?". These are the night-hours of this City. But I was dying to get rid of the responsibilities of 4x4-parenthood to be able to grasp at last a stiff "Famous Grouse" with soda...

Roberto Rosselini

A bucolic alternative to key-codes on front doors...

Refusing HichTech solutions... Posted by Picasa

What does a DolceVita Host, living on a fourth floor, when a dinner guest (this blogger of yours) claims the street door is refusing to open? Going downstairs himself armed with the right key? Sending instead his manservant, occupied at that very minute in giving the last touch to the dinner-to-be? Enveloping the key with hastily crumbled paper and throwing the resulting arts & crafts ball to the pavement, hoping not to cause damage either to the parked cars or to the cranial target (this blogger of yours if the Honourable Reader has already forgotten) at close to street level? No, there must a better way. More ecological, more elegant, both hassle and decibels-free. That's when a solid cultural background becomes handy. Trips off the Amalfi coast in anchovy-and-butter toasted yachting cruises, viewings of neo-realism iconic films in University smoke-filled amphitheatres, and a genuine distaste for unnecessary technology.
A little basket, the real thing, not an ersatz in mouldable plastic (gasps of horror!) and a strong-enough rope made of hemp (not nylon! - re-gasps of rejection), and the trick is done. Like a pre-spacetravel shuttle the basket brings down slowly but surely its Sesame-like content. The Madrid building becomes a façade in a popular street of Naples for about six minutes..
In case the Honourable Reader might be tempted to ask, I rush to rest Him and to confirm that the dinner-party itself was as pleasant as the prelude..