Chapter 28 – Thirteen years in Paris

    When I think of our thirteen years in Paris, what comes back to me more than anything else is my stepfather Arne’s rather frequent visits form Sweden. My visit to Helsinki when Arne had a very serious heart attack is part of the story about my much beloved stepfather.  Arne died in 1986, the year we moved to Lyon (well, to Genas). I went alone to his funeral, probably because of our animals and the need to babysit them in Paris.

Arne’s visits were always accompanied by theater, opera and good restaurants. If we just stayed home we most likely had something interesting for dinner since both Arne and John were pretty good chefs – and John is a very good one. Arne cooked his own version of sweetbreads one time in Paris at rue Jean-Marie Jégo and I still remember that he put a bit of cayenne pepper on top. I am not very fond of cayenne pepper but it was done discretely and his culinary feat was very much appreciated.

We very soon concluded that Arne preferred to go to a restaurant of his own choosing. So rather than going to Chez Allard (two stars at one time, later one star) in the 6ème arrondissement, we tried to go to restaurants that had been recommended to him. In one case I believe it was Arne’s good friend from his childhood, Lars Schmidt, Ingrid Bergman’s last husband, who at that time lived in a château south of Paris. Ingrid had then moved to an island that she owned close to Fjällbacka, Bohuslän on the west coast of Sweden. Lasse, as Arne always referred to him by his Swedish nickname, owned a couple of theaters in Paris, and he always gave Arne tickets for the three of us to the Théâtre Montparnasse in rue de la Gaîté, where we went several times when Arne was in Paris. It was usually good, and I remember a performance with the excellent actress Annie Girardot in the role of Madame Marguerite de Roberto Athayde, a one-person show. This kind of show might seem risky, but Annie Girardot carried it off wonderfully well. This must have been already in 1974, probably Arne’s first visit with us in Paris.

The performance was a tour de force by this excellent actress, all alone for a couple of hours on stage playing a school mistress in front of her 6th grade class. “”Mais, cette “Leçon” va être complètement baroque : tour à tour absurde, tragique, cynique, comique.” 1 Annie Girardot was splendid, a very memorable evening for the three of us, even though Arne didn’t understand much of her French flood of tempestuous words, and I don’t suppose John and I got all of it either.

_________________

Arne’s and my culinary experiments had started in the fall of 1953, my first term at the university in Lund when I lived at home. Mother, sadly, was in a clinic after a breakdown. Arne and I quite often enjoyed eating gourmet food. Veal kidneys and sweetbreads were some of our favorite experiments. Calf’s liver was a more common delicacy. Oh yes, and Wienerschnitzel, veal cutlets first dipped in eggs and then in bread crumbs – delicious if cooked right. We invited Arne’s very best friend from his youth, Curt, an army afficer  who was then the head of Ystad regiment, a colonel at the time. He  was going to go very far.

Once he was invited for dinner with his family, wife and two sons. I don’t remember what Arne and I had cooked up that time, but it was a very pleasant evening. A couple of more times Curt came over alone, and I remember those evenings well. Curt was a true charmer and when he laughed with his eyes shining from  sheer joy he was irresistible. One Wienerschnitzel evening  stands out in my memory.  Arne and he had been close friends ever since high school, Nya Elementarskolan in Stockholm. and they now went over old memories. I can still see Curt laughing heartily and contagiously. I was quite smitten.

___________________

Now, Arne’s childhood friend, Lars Schmidt was most likely also responsible for what must have been one of our most memorable culinary experiences in Paris during all those years. The restaurant was an old-style restaurant in the 3rd arrondissement, Chez l’Ami Louis, close to la Place de la République. It was the most memorable Paris restaurant visit I can remember. It was most likely thanks to Lars Schmidt that we found our way to this historic restaurant in the heart of old Paris, the quartier of the Ars et Métiers.

The memorable restaurant Chez l’Ami Louis at at 32, rue du Vertbois, in the 3rd arrondissement. ‘(Slim Paley)

Arne was the host and he outdid himself in a way I will never forget. We had ordered a lamb roast that was supposed to be one of their favorites culinary masterpieces. Arne ordered a Bourgogne vieux to go with the lamb. When he was offered to taste it, he shook his head and said No, this was not the wine he wanted to go with this excellent lamb roast. He asked what would be the really good Bourgogne vieux and the sommelier recommended a presumably very expensive wine. Arne had never been very spendthrift but he wanted this evening to be memorable and the wine to be perfect. We were ready to eat and I tasted this very special old Burgundy wine. I closed my eyes and sighed from sheer happiness. I had never tasted a wine like this. I said so to my very dear stepfather and he agreed. It was perfect. The lamb was perfect and everything was like heaven. As we finished our superb meal, Louis himself came into the dining room to greet his customers and of course he stopped by and chatted at some length when he found some regular customers. This is a wonderful feature of the best old restaurants in France. Once the main work is done with in the kitchen domain, the owner and chef himself comes out and walks around the dining room chatting with everybody and making sure that everything was perfect.

Our very good friend Jean-Max, a true Parisian of the old school (and who is also the president of DEVA Europe), told us the other day that l’Ami Louis is one of those authentic old Paris restaurants in the quartiers Ars et Métiers and le Marais that are the most genuine to be found in terms of old gastronomic palaces. In fact, far from being a ‘palace’, like la Coupole in Montparnasse 2 , l’Ami Louis is a rather small, intimate and very Parisian old restaurant. It started with Louis himself coming to Paris from the provinces, like the chefs of many other top-standard Paris restaurants in those old quartiers that form a periphery around les Halles. Those were once called ‘the lungs of Paris’– les poumons de Paris. 3

This unforgettable dinner at Chez l‘Ami Louis took place in the early eighties, after many other pleasant dinners with Arne, in restaurants or at home.

However, on the negative side, I remember a dinner at ‘Chez Allard’ – in the 6e arrondissement, in  the quartier St Germain des Prés – when we had especially ordered suckling wild boar for Arne and myself and were expecting a culinary feast. We were served pork chops. I am surprised that I didn’t tell them to take it back, but somehow I didn’t. However, we never went back to Allard after that extreme disappointment.

In fact it was the second time I was really upset at Allard – the first time for extremely bad service when we were with our American friends, Wes and Patsy, who now live in Nijmegen, Holland. They wanted to place the four of us at a small corner table for two, but there was no way I was going to let them get away with that since we had clearly reserved a table for four people. We got a bigger table, but the bad service continued throughout the evening. However, we thought we might try the usually very much appreciated restaurant once again on the evening of the suckling wild boar. That was the last time for Allard. I do believe that when you reserve a table under the name of O’Neall they think they can fool you because you are probably American.

Wonderful ‘Chez Benoît’ close to la Place du Châtelet

At another top restaurant, Chez Benoît, close to la Place du Châtelet in the 4th arrondissement and behind Le Théâtre Sara-Bernhardt (now Théâtre de la Ville) we have noticed something of the same thing. However, as far as the food goes there is nothing but the highest praise for this very chic restuarant. Chez Benoît is another jewel in the area bordering on les Halles, southeast of the former Halles and close to the Seine. John found out about this exceptional restaurant after the Computing Center 4  was invited to a luxury dinner at that gourmet restaurant by the Control Data Corporation (who supplied the Center with their hardware). The few times we were there, we always ordered in advance lamb roast stuffed generously with veal kidneys.

Parismarais.com says “There is no place a more Parisian bistro than Benoît. The only bistro in Paris to have a Michelin star, this restaurant located in the heart of Paris near Les Halles and the Marais is a true champion of the tradition.” As far as the Michelin stars are concerned, Parismarais.com, however, is wrong, since there is a site on the Internet that says “The 15 Best Places with Michelin Stars in Paris“. Also John and I went to a couple of those fashionable restaurants, but we still tired of it and found it a waste of money. Which was not the case with Chez Benoît though.

One evening, however, we had the misfortune of being placed in the inner room and we realized right away that it was a disaster. The room was teeming with noisy Americans who spoke to each other loudly across the room. People who had never seen each other until this evening talked about places they had been to, dominating the entire room and without the slightest consideration for the people who were not involved in their shouting match. The next time we reserved for rôti d’agneau aux rognons de veau, we made very sure that we said ‘in the outer room’ Oh well, some Americans do deserve their reputation as being loudmouthed and vulgar tourists. 

___________________

We have so many good memories of Arne’s visits to Paris and one of them was Arne’s and my long walks through Paris. I worked very short hours at l’Ecole Centrale de Paris and two days a week I didn’t have any classes at all, so I could often come with Arne on his long walks. I could barely keep up with this elderly man who had the most unbelievable stamina as far as walking goes. We walked kilometers in Paris, and once Arne was looking for a somewhat special restaurant where he wanted to invite me to a really good meal. We didn’t find one and when we at last ended up at Avenue de l’Opera, we had to make do with a merely touristy place set back west of the avenue.

The library in this 300 year old museum.

Another time Arne had the idea of going to the back of l’Opéra de Paris, le Palais Garnier, to visit the old library and museum. It was fascinating and we certainly spent over an hour looking at old costumes, instruments, sheet music, books, more books and handwritten manuscripts, sculptures and everything imaginable in a museum of this kind.

“The modern museum has five rooms which display three centuries of the Paris

Kalioujny by_Gestalder

Opera’s history through paintings, costumes, drawings of scenery and  models of set designs. Altogether, the museum conserves 8,500 objects.”(Wikipedia)

“Around 1863 Charles Nuitter had begun cataloging the Opera’s archives, and on 15 May 1866, he became the official archivist. He also published several books on the history of the company.  Théodore Lajarte was appointed librarian in 1873 and embarked on the systematic organization of the Opera’s scores and instrumental parts. In 1876 he first published his two-volume inventory of the library’s holdings covering the period from 1671 to 1876″ (Wikipedia)

Kalioujny was a Czech dancer of Russian origin who spent most of his artistic life in France 5

_________________

In May 1981 there was an emergency call from my sister Gun about Arne who was in Helsinki and had had a serious heart attack. I took the first possible flight to Helsinki and found Arne already out of intensive care. The whole thing is quite an amazing story that finished well for us and for Arne who lived five more years after this scary event.

In Sweden they now write dates starting with the year, then month and day. So Gun wrote 07.07.21. In Finland they interpreted this as if he was born in 1921 and they did almost the impossible to save his life. In fact they brought him back to life after his heart had stopped working. They would most likely not have worked as hard on him if they had known that he was born in 1907. They actually resuscitated him. I spent three wonderful days in Helsinki after Gun and Per had gone back to Lund. Masses of rhododendrons were blooming in front of the hospital in this late month of May. I went to see Arne at least once a day. I held his hand and we talked. I felt the life taht had come back in this beloved body.

I walked around the city, went to Sibelius Park and past the extraordinarily beautiful Sibelius monument.6  I went on down to the bay that Helsinki is located on, a bay off the Gulf of Finland, which goes all the way to Saint Petersburg in Russia.

It was a cool and windy day and I was standing looking out over the water with white crests on the dark blue-grey waves and a few nicely heeling sailboats. My whole being was immersed into the scene. It was a true epiphany moment. I have rarely been so one with nature. I didn’t exist as a separate human being but just as a part of the drama that surrounded me. From the impressive Sibelius monument in the park to the sailboats on the white-crested water I was totally overwhelmed by the force and beauty of it all.

We had quite a few more visits from Arne after he had nearly died in Helsinki. He now said that he was not afraid of death because he knew what it was like. He had been there.

We went to the opera a few times with Arne and I remember one time when we were getting ready to leave for the opera and Arne who always bought the same Italian shoes because they fitted his narrow and long feet was desperately looking for the newest pair which he was sure he’d packed. Eventually he found out that he had actually been wearing all the time one new and one older shoe. Arne would always be properly dressed for theaters and especially for the opera, but gone are the days when he loved to dress up in tails and even a top hat for the premieres in Malmö. He once said that only the mayor of Malmö and he were wearing top hats at one premiere.

I have leafed through all the programs I have from l’Opéra de Paris  and even though some are missing, it is quite a bunch. However, I can not remember for sure which operas we saw with Arne.

________________

In 1986 Arne became very seriously ill after having suffered from angina pectoris for a few years. It was clear this time that he was not going to recover. He was 79 years old. I traveled to Sweden in all haste in the early summer of ’86 and I saw a dying man in the hospital. I hugged him and I was crying. He could speak only with great difficulty, but he said some warming words to me, which made me understand that he knew who I was.I am getting all teary-eyes as I am writing this. There was no telling how long he was going to last, but not very long after this, My sister Gun told me that the end had come.     

The funeral was, as Arne had said he wanted it to be, a happy event, not a mourning event. He was directing the play of life and death to the very last and beyond it.

His much younger brother Birger was there of course and made a very moving speech. Arne’s best old friend Curt, a retired general now, was there. He had once been Arne’s and my dinner guest a few times in Malmö in the fall of ’53, when he was the head of Ystad Regiment on the south coast of Skåne.

His presence at the funeral quite moved me since I knew that he was taking care of one of his two sons who had severe psychological problems. Curt came up to me just to shake hands and I’ll never forget the way he looked at me. I said I am Siv, Arne’s daughter. You came to see us quite a few times when you were in Ystad. He said “I know”, but he looked at me as if he were saying “Where have you been all my life?” He had been divorced for many years at that time and his entire life had turned into a mass in minor. I’d had a crush on Curt ever since those days in Malmö and I was extremely moved.

My cousin Agneta (Lydén) was there and she cried so hard I had to try to console her. I held my arm round her shoulders, and she cried her heart out. I tried to calm her down with soothing words, which she has never forgotten. Apart from those couple of incidents, the entire event was not marked by any ‘tristesse‘. It was the way Arne had told my sister Gun he would want it to be. There was much happy talking and a few very nice speeches.

One day here in Genas I said to John “You know, John, I miss Arne.”John said: “So do I.” I was moved.

___________________

During these thirteen years we traveled a lot, and among other places we went to London a few times. And always in London we saw at least one play, we went to Selfridges’s in Oxford Street and we went to Foyle’s wonderful bookstore in Charing Cross Road where we walked down to the basement and looked over the wonderfully messy stacks of books which reminded us of the old bookstore, Barnes and Noble  in New York City, where, in the old days, you could walk down to a somewhat less scruffy-looking basement and find the real jewels.

A quiet pause in beautiful Soho Square, much tidied up since the bohemian and run-down days.

We went to Soho Square which neither of us knew of from previous separate visits. It doesn’t at all look downtrodden any more, just quiet and beautiful. 

We visited the British Museum and its fabumous collection of stolen artifacts from the old world, Egypt mainly. We bought some minor Kashmir scarves and things in the very special store across from the museum. We heard a group of mostly young people singing Christmas carols outside Saint Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square. It was the end of November, it was cold and I was wearing a new Irish tweed suit from Selfriddges. The singing was delightful and we have always wondered how it is the the British are so musical and the French not. This was a very nice surprise.

The magnificent entrance on Cromwell Gardens to the V&A Museum (by By Diliff – Own work,, Wikipedia)

In 1988 we finally got around to visiting the V&A (Victoria & Albert) Museum, the jewel of art and design in its magnificent building on Cromwell Gardens just south of Knightsbridge and Kensington Gardens. It is only a stone’s throw away from the Roayl Albert Hall where I once went to a Promenade concert in 1955 with my dear friend Melville, who introduced me to London. The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is right there too.

In this nonpareil museum the very rooms are part of the art exhibit. If I ever saw anything vaguely like it, it would be Glyptoteket in

In 2000, an 11-metre high, blown glass chandelier by Dale Chihuly was installed as a focal point in the rotunda at the V&A’s main entrance.  Wikipedia)

 Copenhagen, but this is on a far superior level with its enormous number of art objects and its splendor. Some works of art were donated to the V&A, others were of course bought with the money the British Empire stole from its colonies in all parts of the world, and which they certainly thought they had a perfectly legal and moral right to. The museum was founded in 1852. You will find art of all imaginable forms from various European countries, from India and from several other Asian countries.

We must have been seriously overwhelmed during our visit, because we don’t remember very much of what is in this magnificent museum. Surprisingly enough, we have only one picture from the interior and that is one of Victorian costumes. If we ever decide to go back to London one more time, I believe it would be to revisit the V&A Museum. We would take a couple of days for the museum alone and hopefully also get in a visit to a theater. 7

We met with one of our Swedish girls, now a guide in London, Katarina from Stockholm, the daughter of my very close friends from my youth, Britt and Ingvar. We first saw her at the hotel where she had her guiding headquarters, which was far better than ours that year, which happened to be pretty much of a dump that time, even though the exterior looked fine. We also went to her home in a street called something ending in

Siv in front of a couple in Victorian dress at teh V&A museum.

‘Mew’ — such a cute street name. She worked as a guide for Swedish tourists in London, and she loved her job. It ended after a year or two though. She got married to the nice man, Anders, and had Britt’s and ingvar’s first granddaughters, being the oldest one of three sisters .. They now have seven grandchildren in all, of both genders.

Now John being the one he is, it was a must to go to Simpson’s in the Strand for dinner. We went there a, at least twice. When John called to make a reservation, he wisely asked if tie was de rigueur. The answer was ‘Yes’. John of course had not brought a tie, so we found on at Simpsons in Old Bond Street. Funny coincidence, and I don’t think it’s the same Simpsons. Apparently the name of this men’s clothing store is Daks Simpsons, so the likeness in the names is just a coincidence.

The atmosphere at Simpson’s in the Strand is sober and low-keyed, not snobbish. No noisy Americans here. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding was the choice we made both times, since it just could not be more succulent than here. The noisy Americans might well be at the Savoy, which is close by, but certainly very different. But we also had delicious steak and kidney pie at Lyons in Fleet Street, which leads up to St Paul’s Cathedral. This was an area that I remember seeing still in rubble after the war in 1955, all around St. Paul’s there was nothing but rubble. I was amazed and shocked. Ten years after the end of the war London had not yet quite recovered, not by a long shot. Leicester Square was another shocking surprise where you could still see the ghastly destruction from the blitz during the war.

London today is a glitzy place of theaters and museums galore, Picccadilly Circus has been totally chnaged and much of its great charm gone by the seemingly eternal ‘Guiness Time’ neon sign with the enormous clock having been replaced by  — what else, Mc Donald’s increasingly tasteless  and domineering signs plus a multitude of IT signs. Even the Coca Cola sign is better than IT, in my opinion, since it was there as long ago as in 1955.

_____________________

I had been to concerts in London in 1955 with my dear friend Melville, who first introduced me to London, its very modern Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall right south of Kensington Gardens. I had seen plays in London before I got to London with John, even the historic play by Agatha Christie at Ambassadors Theater,with one of my  protégées

Agatha Christie’s play, ‘The Mousetrap’ at Ambassadors Theatre in London — in 1966, and still running.

 when we passed through London in 1966, a group of thirteen young American girls and I as their chaperone. It is still running today, but at a different theater, Since the opening in the 50s, it must now be the children and grandchildren of the early audiences who are now seeing it. Amazing. I do believe it beats the most long-running performance in Paris, which is Ionesco’s La cantatrice chauve and La leçon at La le Théâtre de laHuchett in le Qiuartier Latin. (‘The Bald Soprano‘ and ‘The Lesson‘) Or doesn’t it beat Ionesco?

I quote from ‘Leçon de français‘ “What’s created the renown of this place is that for fifty years here we’ve been performing The Bald Soprano and The Lesson by Ionesco. It’s the world record for a consecutive run of the same show in the same place. Well, to begin with, the success was the success of a discovery. People came to listen to a new kind of humour. The Theatre of the Absurd, to begin with, surprised.” So it seems that Ionesco takes the price over old-fashioned Agatha Christie. I saw that performance around 1070 and even at that time it was a sensation, the way it seemed to have been running forever.

We even all of us saw the musical, Oliver!, all arranged by ‘Simpsons Study Tours’ or rather its sister company in London who arranged our entire 8-week tour through Europe — badly. Oliver!, a musical based on Dickens’s ‘Oliver Twist’, was seemingly a great success, but I found ti a very lackluster performance, as did in fact several reviewers, if I remember right.

However, now with John as my guide, theater in London became a much more interesting thing.

The first play we saw together was Tom Stoppard’s Jumpers, a play and a playwright I had never heard of until then. I was back in the U.S. and my school at Mamaroneck after the one year in Paris when I had met John.Came Easter and I had nothing to do with myself. It was 1972 and it was getting close to Easter vacation. There was nobody  in the U.S. I could go and see during my vacation. So I found a charter company (which I lived to regret, since they had gone bankrupt and closed down when it was time for me to go back home).

We had a good time seeing all John’s Collège de France friends, Roberto among others. When it came time for my returning from London, John generously suggested accompanying me. So that got to be out-r first visit together to London. We saw Jumpers and I donn’t suppose we had much time for anything else. I am not sure if our first visit to Simpson’s in the Strand was in ’72 or rather in ’83, which was to become our second trip to London. That was after we had sold our fermette in l’Indre and it was after our big tour of the United States in 1979. But I do know that we have been to Simpson’s in the Strand on two occasions. Both times equally pleasant and delicious. We might go back one day and see how it has changed. After thirty years it simply can not have remained the same as the last cenbtury’s refined, low-toned gentleman’s-club-like restaurant.

Jumpers‘ was an exciting play and an excellently staged performance, lively and funny.  It was on at the Royal National Theater on the south bank, right across the Westminster Bridge crossing the Thames from the Houses of Parliament.

Tom Stoppard makes fun of the field of academic philosophy — in the person of George Moore university professor of philosophy — and “likening it to a less-than skillful competitive gymnastics display.” (Wikipedia)  Stoppard also makes fun of the exercise-nut, Archie JUumper, Vice-Chancellor of George Moore’s university. To complete this whimsical story, a murder mystery is also added to this highly unconventional play.  Dotty is George’s disturbed wife, played by Diana Rigg, the only actor I had ever heard of. I knew her as the smart and funny Emma Peel in ‘The Avengers‘, a pretty funny television series in the sixties that I often watched in New Rochelle.

Quote from Wikipedia:

“George Moore is a faded and slightly foolish philosophy professor employed at a university whose slick, exercise-mad Vice-Chancellor Archie Jumper forces a tumbling and leaping curriculum on the faculty.” (Wikipedia)

In the fall of 1983 we saw a second play by Tom Stoppard — ‘The Real Thing’. We were somehow less impressed, but it got excellent reviews and it was a success. It opened in  November 1982 and we saw it in the fall of ’83. We were not really impressed by the play, but it was a clear success and so, I suppose that the fault lay with us.

In the fall of 1988 on our next visit to London we first saw ‘The Secret of Sherlock Holmes’, a play by Jeremy Paul, at the Wyndham Theatre. Sherlock Holmes was played by Jeremy Brett who later got to be the Sherlocjkl Hollmes to at least one generation as he played the part on television between 1984 and ’94.. It was great fun.

We also saw The Tempest at the Old Vic with Max von Sydow as Prospero in 1988. I was not terribly carried away by the play itself, even though I love Shakespeare, to read and to watch and to listen to (e.g. BBC excellent radio productions). However, what made this a very special evening, at least for me, was my idea to go backstage and try to talk to Max von Sydow. , We managed this with a little white lie to the man (porter?) at the entrance. He asked if we were friends and I said Yes.

Max von Sydow came out of his dressing room just about finished with his de-make up and re-dressing. I said I was the daughter of Arne Lydén and I mentioned the beginning of Malmö Stadsteater with Sandro Malmquist and Arne Lydén. They were indeed the very beginning of the therater’s existence, even though there were also guest directors. Max von Sydow said with quite a bit of nostalgia that those were indeed the beginning and it was Malmö Stadsteater that was at the very beginning of his interest in the theater. He lived not far from Malmö and he probably saw every play at the theater. He was 18 years old when the theater opened in 1944. I couldn’t get myself to say that it was a wonderful performance, and Max probably knew well that it was not, but I did say something positive about his acting. He is always a wonderful actor, always just right, the same as many of the other Ingmar Bergman actors. I made a mistake by speaking Swedsih too much since John didn’t understand what we were saying, but he forgave me. It was fun speaking Swedish with Max von Sydow. He actually seemed to enjoy our little chat too, and John nudged me so I did switch over to English finally.

How we managed to also go to the Covent Garden I am sure I don’t know, but we have definitely been there twice. The first time was the fun time and I do think it must have been in 1983, even though for some reason I don’t have the program around here in my binders where I have saved all my programs.

We suddenly had the idea of trying to get tickets to Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss II at the Covent Garden, where neither of us had ever been. It would have been in 1983.  We got back to the Covent Garden in 1988 to see Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky — Robert Lloyd as the feared Boris and Eva Randovà as Marina.  Boris However, the only seats we could get were up right under the roof, what we in French call ‘le poulailler’ — where the chickens roost at night. We knew the operetta well and even though we were sitting so very far from the stage we  really enjoyed the show.

I had seen Die Fledermau (Läderlappen) at the Stockholm Royal Opera in 1962 with wonderful Elsabeth Söderström as Fra von Eisenstein, the female lead. The New York Times wrote in 2009 in their obituary “the  revered Swedish soprazno”. She performed at the Met in the early sixties and then again in the eighties. The other leading Swedish soprano of that day was Maragreta Hallin whom I saw as Desdemona at Malmö Stadsteater in a guest perforamnce by the Roayl Opera in 1964. She was heavenly, but never did perform internationally. It is said that she was inhibited by her lack of knowledge of English. Well, as Desdemoan she was a dream. That was the same year I later moved to the United States.

Back to the Covent Garden and the poulaiiller. fun interlude where the main singers have fun show off with a song from their own country. The hostess/soprano makes a joke about being from Ohio, which she clearly was. I don’t seem to have the program, but it would most likely have been Barbara Daniels  Big laughter from the audience when she starts speaking English. And she sings an American song, I forget which one. It might well have been from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. It probably was. I don’t remember the other jokes, but here were of course several and the audience enjoyed it immensely.

In our recording at home Jussi Björling sings a Swedish national song, not the anthem, but almost. We had a fine time up in the poulailler. Also at the beginning of the party when the Emperor Franz Joseph calls to say that he can’t come, the princess/hostess says Hallo Josi, wie get’s dir? It’s of course hilarious to hear the hostess — even though a princess — treating the emperor as ‘du’ and calling him by a nickname — a fun little detail in the libretto.xx

Our vision was good back in those days, and our hearing too, and it was of course lucky that we knew the operetta well. From up high we came down a pretty small staircase, and since we wanted to see the foyer, we went around to the main entrance and saw … Daniel Barenboim coming down the big fancy stairway with a couple of other men, his white silk scarf loosely arranged around his neck over his black evening coat. We saw Daniel Barenboim once at the Philharmonic Hallat the lincoln Center (renamed Avery Fisher Hall in 1973) doing a piano concerto, being both the pianist and the conductor, and we have always very much admired him as a conductor especially.

The Barbican Centre 1988 Shakespeare — magnifivcent cultural  complex, 1988 or ’83. Amazing when I thought about how all of this was nothing but a huge pile of rubble on my first visit to London  n 1955. Rubble all the way from St Paul’s to where the Barbacan Centre was created

The Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses a library, three restaurants, and a conservatory. The Barbican Centre is member of the Global Cultural Districts Network….

was officially opened to the public by Queen Elizabeth II on 3 March 1982. (Wikipedia)

_________________

London was great fun, but it was in Paris that two of the most unforgettable opera and ballet events took place.  I have already mentioned Peter Grimes by Benjamin Britten with the unique Canadaian tenor, Joh Vickers in the role of Peter. I suspect that my feeling that has stayed with me ever since we saw that opera stems from the opera in Paris, not the Met at the Lincoln Center. (Chapter 24 – An active year with John in New Rochelle) in the spring of 1973. This was now three years later and the important part is that I now already knew the opera.  The music haunts me and Peter Grimes going mad in the final scene almost breaks my heart. To me Jon Vickers ios Peter Grimes, and I don’t care about the way Benjamin Britten himself did not like Vickers’ interpretation.

Another performance that will stay with me forever was The ballet Petrushka, music by Stravinsky and the choreography directly based on the choreography from the beginning of the 20th century when the Ballets russes performed if in France “Petrushka was first performed by Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris on 13 June 191 Vaslav Nijinsky portrayed Petrushka with Tamara Karsavina as the Ballerina. Alexander Orlov portrayed the Moor, and Enrico Cecchetti the Charlatan — Wikipedia1

The unique Russian ballet dancer, Rudolf Noureyev

This too was a repeat from the performance we had seen in New York City in October 1972 at the City Center, by the Joffrey Ballet. It was a wonderful performance, but… it was not with Rudolf Nureyew. So in 1976 we saw Petrushka with the Paris Opera ballet and Rudolf Nureyev. 8

This outstanding performance is far from being just ballet. It is mime in its utmost perfection and it is theater at its very best. To see Petrushka heartbroken when he is rejected by the Ballerina, here played by Noëlla Pontopis., the formidable Prima Ballerina at the Paris Opera.

We saw a large number of operas in Paris, but among all the Verdi and Mozart, one that I remember well is Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach. If I remember right, Arne was with is that time and itw as probably the time he had traveled to Paris wirth one old shoe and one new one. He had found the perfect Italian hoes for his long and narrow feet and so he bought the same ones several times. He was trying to find his best pair the evening we were getting dressed to go to the opera, but what he did find was how he had traveled with one old shoe and one new shoe. Oh well… We dressed up to go to the opera in those days; usually a long skirt a

0remeber Hoffman standing on a table in the first act singing Kleinzach, and fires burning at the front edge of the table. I was just hoping Hoffman’s long black rob would not catch fire.

Tales of Hoffman by Jacques Offenbach, 1974 with Nicolai Gedda as Hoffman. When he sang ‘Kleinzach‘ he was up on a table with flaming fires all along the front of the table and I was worried his long black robe would catch fire.

La Bohème– Puccini Possibly my favorite opeara ever.  We saw it again here in Lyon and it’s always wonderful.

ILe nozze de Figaro — as it says in  the program, 1974 with the incomparable Teresa Berganza

Alfred Brendel, German baritone

Continued – Chapter 28 (Part 2) – Our Swedish girls – and other memories

 

 

 

 

  1. “But this ‘lesson’ is going to be completely baroque, in turns absurd, tragic, cynical, comical”
  2. Mentioned in Chapter 22
  3. Les Halles, in the 1st arrondissement, which used to be the gigantic wholesale food distribution center of Paris were closed down in the early 70s and in the place where they used to be there is now a green area on the ground level and a monstrous huge underground shopping center called Le Forum des Halles, which very soon became a hangout for noisy and destructive youths. The police may have taken care of that problem by now though.
  4. CCPN, Centre de Calcul de Physique Nucléaire
  5. Alexandre « Sacha » Kalioujny, né à Prague le et mort à Paris le , est un danseur étoile et pédagogue de la danse tchèque, ayant vécu surtout en France.
  6. Sibelius Park & Monument
  7.   The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A) in London is the world’s largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects.[ It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Wikipedia
  8. Nureyev & Pontois in Petrouchka 1976 — Rudolf Nureyev, Noëlla Pontois, Charles Jude and Serge Peretti in Fokine’s Petrouchka. Staging by Nijinska and Golovine.Music by Stravinsky. Paris Opera Ballet 1976.