Arminio (1737): George Frideric Handel



(Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe, 17 February 2016)

So, by a remarkable stroke of luck, my business trip coincided with the Karlsruhe Handel Festival. By even more remarkable good fortune, Parnassus were staging their new production of Handel’s Arminio on the night I arrived and there was an excellent seat still free right in the centre of the eighth row of the stalls. As they say, it would’ve been rude not to.

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Art in Frankfurt

The Frankfurt skyline

I’ve had quite a few business trips over the last few months, but this week’s expedition to Frankfurt came together in a particularly satisfying way. I was only there for one full day, but thanks to cunning planning of my flights and a relatively brief business meeting, I had plenty of time free to explore the city’s museums and to take two very exciting trips to nearby towns. In a blissful stroke of luck my trip coincided with the Karlsruhe Handel Festival, so I even managed to squeeze in a performance: you can read about Arminio in another post. All in all, I had a wonderful time and here are a few recommendations if you should ever find yourself in that part of the world.

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Three Days in Berlin

Museumsinsel Berlin

Last week I was sent to Berlin for a few days on business, which meant that I was finally able to knock several major museums off my ‘to do’ list. I’d only been to Berlin once before, as part of a sixth form trip, during which our programme took us to the Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and Wansee but signally failed to consider anything pre-1933. In desperation, during a couple of hours’ free time when all the other girls went shopping, I begged my teacher and a hapless friend to come with me to the Gemäldegalerie, and my abiding memory of the entire school trip is standing in front of Caravaggio’s Amor Victorious, uncertain whether to be scandalised or delighted.

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Xerxes (1738): George Frideric Handel

Handel: Xerxes


(Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf, 2 May 2015)

When my friends joined me at the interval of Oper am Rhein’s Xerxes, they found me clutching my prosecco glass with a slightly wild look in my eyes. “I haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on!” I whimpered. Since I’d spent three hours watching another production of Xerxes only two days beforehand, this might sound surprising; but Stefan Herheim’s interpretation of Handel’s opera is an entirely different beast from Hampstead Garden Opera’s offering. Anarchic, exuberant and splendidly insane, this was more Carry On than Covent Garden.

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Strange Beauty: Masters of the German Renaissance (2014)

Cranach: Cupid complaining to Venus

(National Gallery, London, until 11 May 2014)

If forewarned is forearmed, then I went to this exhibition fully armed with the mixed (and sometimes frankly baffled) reactions of friends and colleagues. The National Gallery are clearly trying to do something slightly different in this show, and the ambition itself is commendable, but they just don’t quite pull it off. The key distinction I’m going to have to make in this post is between the works on show, which were indeed beautiful, and the concept of the exhibition itself, which seems to skip confusingly between several different driving themes.

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Elizabeth and her German Garden (1898): Elizabeth von Arnim


After discovering Elizabeth von Arnim* through The Enchanted April, I was keen to read some more of her work and the natural next step was to find a copy of this book: her first novel, published in 1898. It has been a complete joy to read. Presented in the form of a diary by the semi-autobiographical Elizabeth, it takes the reader through the span of a year in her beloved garden in Northern Germany, following her trials and errors in planting and her passionate appreciation of the way every season affects her little corner of the earth.

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Dr Copernicus (1976): John Banville


Goodness, it’s been a while! Sorry about that; the Easter holidays are mainly to blame. I went home to the country for a long weekend to see my parents and other relatives, and didn’t get much reading done, although it was nevertheless a very productive break: I came back with thirteen new books and a costume for the Goodwood Revival in September. I had taken this book with me as something to read in the quieter moments, but it turned out to require a severe effort of concentration, and I’ve taken longer to get through it than I expected, given that it’s less than 250 pages long.

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