This blue marble

– and yet it spins


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Cante y baile

barcelona-2After 10 years, it was still there. In the vaults of an old building at Placa Reial. Of course it was, since it’s been there since the 60s. Still as fresh and interesting – and a little freshened up as well.

But this time there was not only baile (dancing) but also cante flamenco, singing. And oh, what singing! It was grief, longing, and despair vocalized. Intense pain and saudade shoved through a microphone into the speakers and making the air in the club vibrate and my hair stand on end.

Before we left, the crying turned into an impromptu party: the stage was invaded by a bunch of visitors, kicking off their shoes and joining the show in jeans with bare feet. It turns out one does not need the step-shoes or the frills-dress to put on the airs of flamenco passion.

(Barcelona, Spain; March 2017)


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Music mass tourism

vienna-12Who cares that Vienna was twice sieged by the Ottoman Turks, had its shares of plagues and epidemics, and was taken by Napoleon twice. What is remembered of Vienna today is the art, the Habsburg dynasty, the horses, the cakes, the waltzes; and the good, slightly decadent, living. And of course the music: Haydn, Schubert, Strauss, Mozart, and the rest.

Unfortunately, businessy people know how well tourists remember. And so we toured a quite stripped-down apartment of Schubert, where the receptionist spoke little English and knew little of the person whose life was on display. And at night we went to the most beautiful, little, fresco-decorated music chamber, where the Mozart played was barely tolerable. I guess we have now been there, done that, and gotten the T-shirt.

But a little mystery was discovered: why did Schubert write his sheet music notes on the higher end of the staff as mirror image to what is published? If you look at the “upside down” notes they face left, not right. Was he left-handed or just lazy?vienna-13(Vienna, Austria; February 2017)


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Somewhere between poetry and insanity

wigmore

“Occupation is essential. And now with some pleasure I find that it’s seven; and I must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down”

(Virginia Woolf’s last diary entry before her suicide)

Somewhere between poetry and insanity tonight. Alice Coote sang Virginia Woolf’s diary entries, and letters from 19th century patients locked up at a mental illness asylum. “Strange Productions” was the aptly named title of the insanely poetic letters, commissioned by Wigmore Hall from Nico Muhly.

Wigmore Hall is a constant favorite. Not because of the (also insanely) beautiful venue, but because of the director and his creative team who commission modern classical pieces with a flair. Never bored here, although sometimes mindlessly enthralled.

(London, United Kingdom; January 2017)


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Interlude: above Russia

businessclassLovely ones, please rewind to mid-August with me. We are about 11 kilometers up in the air, flying over Nizhny Novgorod, skirting past thunder clouds scattered on both sides. Thunderbolts light up the dark above Russia. The time is 1.30 am. I am sipping a glass of ice wine and thinking about my flight out to Bali one year ago. I was in a low mood, pondering about pain and loss and the hardships of staying alive.

This year I indulged by upgrading to business class and stepping out in Singapore for a night. I am probably not going to need to mix melatonin with a martini like I did last year. And at least today I will not write about pain and losses and the hardships of living. Because life is so hard, I have become selfish. Because we all must put our own health and wellbeing first, we must also consider our own happiness first. There are few people in this world who put our own happiness first, so better not take the chance they are going to do it forever. longbarSo I do as I choose. I do as I please. I have been forced to trade off a huge chunk of my life, which definitely justifies some indulgence. And so I allow myself, without shame, to fly business to Bali to practise yoga, eat delicious raw food, spend time with myself and friends, and to be pampered by a luxurious spa in the jungle. And I will begin with having a Singapore Sling in the Raffles Long Bar with a couple of long-lost friends.

You should try it some time, too. longbar-2
(Above Russia and in Singapore; August 2016)


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Afternoon tea with Lady Georgiana Cavendish

afternoontea-2Lazy Sunday afternoon sunlight drizzled through a window and hit gold: her golden hair, golden violin strings, and golden decorations on the grand piano. There was lovely music in the air, and fluttering sleeves and rustling taffeta skirts. Lady Georgiana Cavendish was alive again just for this day – and she had brought her talented friends. And meringues. And tea cakes. And much humor.

Slowly sipping a fresh cup of darjeeling we enjoyed this parenthesis of a Sunday, an afternoon when time stood still. Where music and meringue towers were most important to all those present.afternoontea-1(Helsinki, Finland; October 2015)


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Interlude

halosenniemi-1It was sunlight of a tired day, still pushing through the old windows. It was words, and a cello. It was a bird on the roof, suddenly emerging through spoken letters and taking flight in the room. It was poetry and incredible voice artistry, the most unusual sounds from a cello, and a quirky violin.

Live today. Tomorrow you can’t anymore.halosenniemi-2(Halosenniemi, Tuusula, Finland; July 2015)


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Ready for tonight’s performance

Riga-4Red velvet, a huge crystal chandelier, and four kilograms of gold make worthy premises for tonight’s performance. How lovely it would be to sit up there on the first balcony when the first tunes for the Barber of Seville shoot into the air. But alas, it was not to be this time.

Upstairs was a gorgeous red room with high windows that was once used as the rehearsal room for the ballet. This time its walls heard the most soulful arias accompanied by a single piano. And this was no rehearsal but a lovely surprise. How lucky we were.

Riga-3(Latvian National Opera, Riga, Latvia; January 2015)