“The image that resists all explanation” – Part 1

Only 2 hours journey by Eurostar and Adrian and I are able to pay a visit to the city of Brussles and its Musee Margitte Museum. 

The legacy of the famous surrealist Rene Margitte is explicitly presented in the life of the Belgian capital. A few building around the Grand Palace have his well-known objects painted on their walls. Many shops sell gifts and art items with Margitte’s signature images. The museum of his works is very well attended by an international crowd.
 
 
It opened on 2nd June 2009. Its creation was result of the enthusiasm, efforts and  professionalism of the Belgian state and Belgian economical, art and civil community. 
This devotion to treasure the national art heritage and made it available for the public its not specifically Belgian or European. 
The same cultural ambitions I have experienced in Chicago. The Modern Wing of the Art Institute designed by Renzo Piano and also opened in 2009 contains at least 11 Margate’s canvases and drawings including the famous “Time transfixed”1938.
 
 
However, the Museum in Brussels has the biggest world-leading collection of works by Margitte . It is situated in the renovated Hotel Altenloh on The Place Royale. 
The Museum has an unusual structure. The exhibition is spread on three floors and the tour starts from the top floor. 
 


The paintings are accompanied by lifeline explanations and photographs.The visitors can read  Margate’s own words in French and see many drawings, posters, book illustrations, photographs and even movies. 
It is a very well thought-out and organised museum. The gift shop sells pleasant items. Despite the overwhelming visiting crowd the museum still excludes  a sense of space. 
The only big disadvantage is that there is no cafe on the premises. I hope this issue will be soon attended to. 
 
 
That leaves us with only one thing – to enjoy the unexplainable world of Rene Margitte. 
I often hear that everything in art has already been created. 
This argument does have a point yet I do not think it applies to really talented artists. 
Their artistic style is unmistakably unique and visionary, art to be followed. 
 
 
Let’s look at some of the painting of Rene Margitte and their contemporary resonance:
 
 
In 1927 Margate painted “The female Tief” and the “Man from the Sea” – two canvases from his “black period” when he constructed his “ enigmatic visual world”. 
 
Nearly 100 years later see what appears:
 
 
 
The canvas “The Secret Player” was created in 1927. 
 
Again, 96 years later,  in 2020 we had the global Covid pandemic.
 
Could you recognise the crises – a woman wearing a mask, a frightening flying black turtle in the sky, skittles turning into trees, and a losing team?
 
 
 
 
 
 
“Great expectations”1940. 
 
The grounded, stable, even reassuringly round trees could present ambitions rooted in “community and creativity, with goals like feeling connected whole and healthy”.
 
And the highly ambitious, skinny and unstable tree with a few leaves but reaching for the sky.
To be continued….

Bravissimo Maestro Donizetti!

I struggled this week to decide about attending the opera, The Elixir of Love (L’elisir d’Amore), by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. 
In order to come to a decision I weighed up the pros and cons. 
Cons were a few. 
The local theatre. The Regent Centre, was broadcasting the Royal Opera House production in the middle of the working week. 
The show starts at 19.15 and lasts around 3 hours with an interval. 
Additionally, I had to travel back and forth to my house numerous times.
 
 
Pros included the light-hearted libretto with a happy ending, the world-class production and cast. 
Above everything else was the splendid music of the genius Donizetti who wrote the music for the opera in just 6 weeks.
 
So, I moved in favour of the live broadcasting and thank God, I did. 
It completely lifted me, physically and psychologically for the rest of the week. My tiredness disappeared, I felt inspired. I happily sang phrases of the well-known aria “ Una Furtiva Lagrima” at home and work.
 
The synopsis of the opera is simple. The plot develops around the deep love of a poor, naive village boy Nemorino for a rich and attractive girl Adina. 
To complicate the situation a rival, the military sergeant Belcore appears on the scene. 
Nemorino feels he needs a miracle to win over Adina.
 
Fortunately for him, a con artist called Dr. Dulcamara arrives in the village. 
 
In a moment of pure brilliance Dr Dulcamara produces the desperately needed love elixir (a half bottle of a cheap Bordeaux wine). 
 
At the end, Adina realises that she has always been in love with Nemorino who is now conveniently rich and very popular among the village girls following the death of his uncle. 
 
The love rival Belcore marches away to conquer other women’s hearts. 
Dr Dulcamara’s business flourishes after the success of the love juice. 
 
 
 
 
The culmination of the opera, in my humble opinion, is the performance of the extraordinary aria “Una Furtiva Lagrima”(“A secret tear”) in the second scene.
 
Everyone knows this aria. Two tenors – “The Matchless Singer” Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti made it famous worldwide. 
 
The aria, its words and transcendent music speak to the human soul. It creates tranquility – that exquisite moment when our hearts know that the person we love loves in return. The flash of discovery that we are loved. A heartbeat of relief, ecstasy and faith.
 
Music says it all. Magic!
 
 
The cast is outstanding. The star of the show is the American soprano Nadine Sierra as Adina. She has the complete package – brilliant voice, beautiful face and figure (especially legs) and is an excellent actress. 
The decor compliments the story but disappointment washes over me when I discover that the same decor was used for the production of the opera some years ago. We live in an era of recycling and economic crises.
 
 
 
 
The next morning my husband Adrian brings me my usual cup of black coffee in bed. 
The elixir of love works for us without fail. 
No secret tear though – big men don’t cry. 
 

Guten Abend, Herr Wagner!

The new opera season in Great Britain commenced with a Big Bang – the Royal Opera House  presented the first chapter of the Wagner’s epic cycle “Der Ring des Nibelungen” – Das Rheingold.

Before last Sunday I had never seen a Wagner opera. The “What’s on” rubric on the Royal Opera House’s website informed me last week that The Rheingold’s production would be broadcast in 1,341 local cinemas in 20 countries around the world. The local theatre ticket costed £18. You can check – the entrance fee for the Royal Opera House is between £193 and £325. 
 
 
 
I can assure you my attendance was only 10% linked to the incredible ticket price and the short duration of the Wagner opera.
The other 90% I allocate evenly to the ravishing music of Wagner, the dramatic story and the creative troupe. 

I had already admired the brilliant conducting of the musical director Antonio Pappano in Puccini’s Turandot last season and was looking forward to seeing the work of the controversial Australian- born but Berlin-based director Barrie Kosky. 

 
 The performance began with a shock – an old woman with long white-grey hair and beautiful delicate face totters across the monochrome scene. She is completely naked. Naked and vulnerable – she is the Mother Earth Erda (splendid acting by the 82-year old Rose Knox-Peebles).
 
Her presence on the stage is a marvellous innovation of Barry Komsky which is a clear parallel to the current state of the planet and holds the four scenes of the opera together.
 
If Richard Wagner, the 19th century German composer with emblematic beret, was living nowadays I am pretty sure he would be a big hit at the box offices of Netflix or Amazon Prime.  
The spectators know the synopsis of The Rheingold, they know how the story ends. And yet, they are totally absorbed by the imaginative reality of Wagner and his powerful music. 
It feels like we follow a chilling thriller on Netflix or watch a Grand Slam tennis match. 
Emotions run high in a short space of time, intense ups and downs with a power struggle, betrayal, greed, love, curse, exploitation, murder and humiliation.
 
 
Moreover, the singing actors wear modern 21st century clothing.
The Rheingold maidens appear in  black lace slip dresses, the dwarf Alberich is in a grey suit or jogging outfit, the gods parade in polo britches and high boots and the giants are tattooed and wear sunglasses. 
By the way, the entrance of the giants in scene 2 is outstanding – a real scene from The Godfather, simple and brutal.
 
 
 
 
Antonio Pappano performs Das Rheingold in his last season as a musical director of the Royal Opera House but he will come back as a conductor for the next three chapters of the cycle. 
The second instalment of the Ring and an opera in its own right is Die Walkure. Its duration is five hours with two intervals.
 
 
The prominent Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini visited the performance of Wagner’s opera Lohengrin which lasts 4 hours and 35 minutes. 
Afterwards he famously concluded “ One cannot judge Wagner’s opera Lohengrin after a first hearing, and I certainly don’t intend to hear it a second time”. 
Scusa Maestro Rossini!

 

The delightful performance of Das Rheingold and the chance to hear the world’s most popular Wagner’s motive “The Ride of the Valkyries” in Act 3 of Die Walkure motivate me to raise my game.

Bis zum nächsten Jahr, Herr Wagner!

Creative eccentricity

This story happens on two continents, actually on a continent and an island of another continent. 
The main characters are a gifted artist with turned up and waxed moustache, a ballet buddy and an art lover (not so famous as Adrian).
At the beginning was an invitation. It came from my ballet buddy Catherine who has a very simpatico ability to organise wonderful cultural trips. 

The London adventure this time aimed for the immersive experience exhibition of the most popular surrealist in the world – Salvador Dali (the gifted artist).
 
The London visit took place on Monday and believe or not,  I (the obscure art lover) already had tickets for the ongoing exhibition of the Spanish painter in The Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday the same week.
 
 Splendid coincidence!
 
 
The showcase in London is digital. In a big hall of a former boiler building the art of Dali comes to life. His bizarre figures, unrecognisable forms, exotic animals and peculiar environments move around the walls, spread on the floor, emerge from the sky (ceiling), disappear and come back. 
 
The digital projections make the audience a part of this fantastical world which whispers its secrets and desires. Background electronic music adds additional flavour to the whole experience.
 
An epiphany moment (at least for me) reveals Dali’s passion for science and technology. He not only befriended some of the most distinguished scientists of 20th century as Freud and Einstein but he enthusiastically celebrated fundamental scientific achievements as discovery of the DNA and cybernetic. Dali was one of the first artists to work with computers.

 

The little shop at the exhibition end offers some souvenirs and Catherine buys a lovely print for her artist brother.
Chicago’s Dali exhibition is a traditional one. 
The queue in front of the room 289 (exhibition room)  is so long that it nearly reaches the nearby cafe. Inside the room a new very-slowly-moving queue is formed by visitors who want to read the curator’s notes about Dali’s life and artistic endeavours. 
Still, the moment you move away from the line even rescuing not to see the first few paintings, the mysterious land of surreal dreams and thoughts drags you as a magnet. 
The exploration of Dali’s “hand-painted dream photographs” demands intellectual efforts and at the same it is so alluring. 
 
 
Honestly, if someone ask me to choose between the two exhibitions I would not know what to say. What is evident to me is that the dreamy planet of the emblematic artist exists happily in any forms of presentation. 

The lighthearted London showcase exhibits a confident awareness that the visitors would gain unexpected insights into this familiar or not so familiar art.

Chicago exhibition raises the bar much higher, the audience know that the artist is brilliant and they are there to see, enjoy and memorise his brilliance with their own eyes. 
 
 
Excellent result for the genius of the self-promotion!

Racing out of a fireplace

There are many reasons to visit Chicago, Illinois. 
In my case one of the top attractions was the opportunity to spend time in the Modern Wing of The Art Institute of Chicago. 
The Modern Wing was designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. If you have not heard of him I will mention only two of the buildings in his impressive professional portfolio – the George Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Shard in London. That will explain some of my excitement. 
The Wing was opened in 2009 and hosts extensive exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. 
The notorious art lover Adrian and I hastened to the second floor of the gallery, where there is a permanent exhibition of the paintings of my favourite modern artist, the Belgian surrealist  Rene Magritte. 
Here the dream comes true – I am in front of his painting “La duree poignarde”. The story goes that Rene Magritte did not like the literal English translation of the title, “ongoing time stabbed by a dagger”, so it is known as “Time Transfixed”.
 Strange title and strange painting. 
In the centre of the canvas is a white-grey fireplace. It is build in a room with a wooden floor, a greenish-yellow wall and yellow-brown wooden wall panelling. The fireplace is solid and well structured. On the mantelpiece are a black clock and two candle sticks. A mirror with a golden frame hangs above. The viewer can see the back of the clock and one of the sticks in the mirror. 
 
Everything appears stable, customary, boring. Well, nearly everything. From the fireplace a locomotive, at full steam, forges ahead. It appears to be coming out of a tunnel and moving at top speed through the air. Nothing will stop it.
 
What is this? Of course, it is not possible that a locomotive can come out of a fireplace. Some awkwardness and confusion creeps in because it is difficult to comprehend. What does the painter want to tell us? If he wanted to shock or surprise us he has  definitely succeeded.
 
The only way to grasp some understanding is to try to get behind the confusion. 
Where could a locomotive accelerate from a fireplace? A possible answer is – this happens in our mind, consciously and/or subconsciously. That is how we formulate innovations, ideas, thoughts, dreams. 
On the other hand, a possible interpretation is that the solid structures we build in our lives are never able to stop the march of time and change, even if we try. 
Or, maybe so called ordinary lives as depicted by the familiar room and fireplace are full of magic and mystery, we just need to open our eyes to them. 
As the cliche says, take what resonates with you. Wrapped in my thoughts I move to the next room. There is a group of small children, having a workshop guided by two art teachers. One of the teachers finishes his explanation and asks for questions. A little boy raises his hand and asks seriously, “Sir, was this artist on drugs when he painted this picture?”
Every perception counts.

Pourquoi pas La Boheme!?

Christchurch local theatre, The Regent Centre, scored really high this week. 
After the recent broadcasting of the exquisite performance of Puccini’s opera Turandot by the Royal House of Opera, on Tuesday the theatre showcased the most loved Puccini opera La Boheme.
What a joy for all opera lovers in the area! 
The theatre was packed despite the dreadful weather. The wonderful staff were doing a fantastic job as usual. They were especially good at politely leading the late comers to their seats when the show already started.
 
The event was organised by the Hurn Court Opera charity. 
This charity gives the opportunity to young, promising singers to express their talents and to have much needed experience on stage.
Although La Boheme is an opera from the19th century, the story still resonates deeply with the endeavours and desires of any generation.
The dominant theme is tragic love –  at the end,  the flower-girl Mimi dies in the arms of her lover the poet Rudolfo.
 
Yet, the opera has many another layers. In its centre are four penniless young artists, – the poet Rudolfo, the painter Marcello, the musician Schaunard and the philosopher Colline. They live in the Latin Quarter of Paris and grapple to buy food and heat their rooms in the cold winter. 
But the four friends share everything in the most selfless, generous way. 
Rudolfo burns his manuscript to warm the room for his friends. 
Schaundard earns some money from an eccentric English gentlemen and he buys food for his friends and takes them to the cafe Momus to celebrate Christmas. 
When Mimi is dying, Mussetta, the lover of Marccelo, sells her earrings to ensure Mimi has medication and a muff. 
Colline sells his warm winter coat to raise the money needed for Mimi’s care. 
The opera audience does not know whether the four artists are talented or not. 
What the audience gets to know is that all of them are fully dedicated to their creative pursuits and nothing, even very dramatic circumstances, could make them earn money in more mundane jobs. Is that suffering in the name of art or stupidity? 
 
On the other hand, when the four friends do have money the party goes on. They love beautiful women and they give them treasured presents. They accept that their lovers live with rich sugar daddies  and at the same time suffer jealousy. They support the love affairs of their landlord but are deeply morally offended by the fact that he is married. 
Who says human beings are rational?
The artists of the Hurn Court Opera told the story passionately. 
Their performance was a breath of fresh air. The singers are very gifted with beautiful and powerful voices.
 I will not be surprised if I see some of them one day on the stage of world-class opera theatres. 
The director of the set design Michael Hurt deserves some special applause for the clever way the stage decor was transformed between the acts. 
Interestingly, the Metropolitan Opera New York will host the performance of Le Boheme from Friday, 21st April until 9th June 2023. If you are interested here is the link bit.ly/3mQCRRx

Cold exposure is hot!

Cold exposure provides a wide range of health benefits and practice takes many forms. People who were born or live in countries  such as Norway carry out cold therapy for at least a half of year. 
Those who live near the sea or river can connect with local groups for swimming in cold water. 
The wellness industry provides the latest hit – the Finnish cryo cabin which is great for recovering after challenging physical activities. Its computer is very close to what I imagine as artificial intelligence. 
Or, you may practise the Wim Hof (The Ice man) method. 
His method combines gradual exposure to cold combined with breathing techniques and exercises. 
If you are interested in his method you have a few options: 
Firstly, sign up for his boot camp in Poland where you may be lucky to be guided by the one and only Wim Hof. 
Secondly, join a day dedicated to the Wim Hof method in the local luxury hotel. The guide will be a certificated instructor of the Wim Hof method. 
Thirdly, follow my example and upload the WimHof app on your phone. I just paid my subscription for the third year running. 
 
I hope you realise that these methods of cold display demand time and money – the two things we are always short of. 
Therefore I offer you a simple, ingenious solution – take a 2 minute daily dose of cold shower and reap the benefits of cold exposure without investing time or money (even saving them!).
I took this idea from the Wim Hof app and gradually tailored it to my needs and lifestyle. 
I began modestly by having a cold shower each morning for 1 minute and when I felt ready I increased the time to 1.5 minutes and then to 2 minutes. I tried staying longer under the cold water to discover that a cold shower for 2 minutes works best for me. It is long enough to deliver the benefits and short enough to keep me doing it every day.
I start with a hot shower and then turn it cold. The timer alarm on my phone helps me to ensure the exact time.
As a result I have taken my daily dose of cold exposure for the last 2 years and I am still going strong. The benefits are tremendous. 
However, one thing is worth mentioning – every time you go under the cold water you encounter stress and shock regardless of how long have you been practising. 
The way you deal with the stress depends on your personality and the context. Some people just jump into the cold water and feel the shock.
I approach the challenge differently by firstly exposing my arms, then my feet, followed by my face. Then I endure the stronger shock of exposing the front of my body and finally the crescendo – the cold water is pouring over my shoulders, back and head. And after that, bliss – I stay under the freezing cold water and enjoy it. 
Every day is different. 
Sometimes I pray for the phone alarm to ring for the end of the session, sometimes I want to stay in the shower much longer
Some days I am so eager to have the shower and to experience the bliss, another days I do not want to do it and it takes all of my willpower. There are days when the shower stays hot. 
The reasons for these deviations vary but nowadays I know that the body and mind will request the cold shower again without fail.
Because very pleasant things happen outside the cold shower programme apart from some  excellent blood test results. 
I become calmer, more creative and more adaptable. Even if you have a calm temperament I assure you that you will experience a degree of improvement. Life feels good. 
If life brings upheavals which you usually avoid or procrastinate about you will begin to face them head on with full self awareness that despite the stress or pain you undergo you will endure and solve. 
And not only that – the solution which you have found is simple, practical, cost and time effective as it is the 2 minute daily dose of a cold shower. 

Life in the square

 
 
I usually take the tube to Euston station and walk towards Tavistock Square when I visit Bloomsbury in London. Fate, in the face of roadworks, diverts me to Gordon Square.  
 
The Square is snuggled between the tall, dark-purple coloured Edwardian buildings. The instantaneous feeling that this park is somehow unusual comes to me. The park is not so meticulously maintained as Tavistock, somehow it is less organised, more left on its own. 
Yellow paths cross the bright green grass. Birds are singing and one of them flies to a birdhouse in a tree, pokes around it for a while and playfully disappears just before I focus the camera. 
 
A young mum pushes her pram into the garden and with a deep sign of relief sits on one of the benches. She tenderly takes her baby out of the pram and protectively embraces her. The picturesque Hansel and Gretel style cafe at the entrance of the park opens for service.
A green sign next to the cafe presents unclear pictures of strange people dressed in fashions from  the last century. 
 
Only if you stop and read the text under the photos (or you may already know) do you learn that behind the fence around the park, across the road, is Number 46 Gordon Square, the house that accommodated the famous Bloomsbury group in the first half of the 20th century. 
 
There is extensive literature about this influential group – “The Old Bloomsbury” and the new generation of “The Bright New Things“ that transformed the group into “The New Bloomsbury” of the Jazz Era. 
The group was controversial. Its members definitely were ahead of their time. They had a rebellious approach to creativity and to the way of living. From the distance of the first quarter of 21st century the group seems avant-garde and old-fashioned at the same time. Two Bloomsbury Group themes are fascinating for me:
1. The Bloomsbury Group was a “family of choice”. 
 
The group members were families, friends, lovers, spouses and colleagues. They maintained life-long ties of affection, mutual support, understanding and acceptance. They provided a safe environment where everyone could be themselves without fear or embarrassment. The truth was their ideal and experiments with innovations and sexuality were strongly encouraged. 
 
They were an informal group, with loose ties, yet, they existed as a group for 30 years. 
2. Bloomsbury was a group of equality. In 1904 four Stephen children – brothers Adrian and Thoby and sisters Vanessa and Virginia moved to Number 46 Gordon Square after the death of their father. 
 
The future creator of the painting “Conversation”, Vanessa chose the house. The siblings were in their 20s and were free from having any adults to supervise their social interactions that conventions of the Victorian era demanded. The two sisters met the friends of their brothers (mostly graduates from Cambridge) on an equal footing. They openly and honestly discussed with them every aspect of life without any taboos.
 
During their lives Vanessa and Virginia not only acted as a glue and caring “mothers” for the group but developed very successful careers as a painter and a writer. 
Many people think the group was “privileged and perverse”. Group members definitely were talented and provocative.
Dorothy Parker said it geometrically “They lived in squares, painted in circles and loved in triangles”. 
Was it the charm of the bohemian Bloomsbury that inspired their imagination and their open mindedness? 
Was it possible that the intimate beauty of Gordon Square, its safe greenness and its peculiar yellow paths influenced their lives? 
One thing is for sure – there was no other place on the earth wherе The Bloomsbury Group could be born. 

Football fans know better or why to visit Turandot

Visiting world-class shows is quite costly but fortunately live broadcasting makes these performances accessible. 
 
In March 2023 the Royal London Opera presents Giacomo Puccini’s opera Turandot and the local entrepreneurial theatres offer it on their screen to opera lovers. 
The neighbourhood Regent Centre theatre also broadcasts the opera and I am lucky to attend it on a friend’s invitation. 
 
Of course, The Regent Centre is not the Royal Opera theatre, still it provides the needed feeling of entering the realm of drama and dreams. The theatre’s kind and helpful staff (or volunteers) make us feel very welcome. 
 
 
 
 
 
Everyone knows the opera Turandot. If you insist you have never heard of it ask the football fans around the world about the most famous opera aria “Nessun Dorma” ( the translation is “None shall sleep”). The aria is from Turandot. 
 
Football people will sing it for you or will show you the performance of the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti at the 1994 World Cup on YouTube and you will remember it. 
 
Opera Turandot is a wise choice to introduce someone new to the art of opera and to show them that enjoying opera is not intellectual snobbery for at least three reasons:
1. First and foremost, Guacomo Puccini’s music vibrates with the rhythm of our hearts. 
 
The well known aria Nessun Dorma is in the final 3rd Act of the Opera. The stage is dark and mysterious, Chinese style lanterns move by a wind and the sense of danger and threat prevails. 

And the hero, Prince Calaf, son of Timur, enters the stage. The tenor Yonghoon Lee wears a bright red shirt in contrast to the darkness of the stage. His beautiful and powerful  voice is rising and falling, resonating with the hopes and wishes of the heart, leading to the moment of strength and determination. 
 
That is the apotheosis of the aria and the opera – the determination to overcome the challenges, to conquer, to win. Are you surprised that the football world loves the aria? Check the translation of the famed last world “Vincero”of the aria! (*The answer is at the end of the post)
 
 
2. Secondly, Turandot is a mysterious and exotic opera. It is set in ancient China and has all the ingredients of alluring entertainment – drama, tragedy, murder, love.
 
 Even the story of creating the opera is unusual  and you will be captivated reading the facts about its history and completion. 
 
The libretto is typical for the era of Romanticism.The plot does not follow logic, it looks strange for our 21st century brains but who says magic and love are rational?
 
 
3.  Finally, the Royal Opera House offers a first-class production. 
The cast, the orchestra and the conductor Antonio Pappano, the costumes, the stage design and the broadcasting are the best. 
You do not need to be an expert to recognise the quality of the performance and the highest possible standard of what opera art can offer. 
I have one more argument up my sleeve to convince you to visit Turandot. Why don’t you listen to the singer Aretha Franklin performing soulful interpretation of Nessun Dorma. Do you like it?
https://youtu.be/k33sINjn9o0
 

*I will win

Ballet Club strikes again

My friend Catherine and I are developing a taste for the art of ballet, particularly classical ballet – the one where delicate ballerinas in white tutus and pink pointe shoes do pirouettes and danseurs in tights hold them in the air. 
Recently a friend of mine informed me that visiting ballet had become very trendy, mainly among mature audiences. I am delighted to hear that Catherine and I are trendy and not so sure about the maturity.
 

The performing company is the Varna International Ballet – the troupe is visiting Bournemouth as part of their 75-year anniversary tour of the UK.

Varna is a city on the North East cost of the Bulgarian Black Sea. It hosts the Varna State Opera House and the well-established annual Varna International Ballet Competition.

The Varna ballet troupe is international. Bulgarian presence is limited to the role of Berthe, Giselle’s mother and one ballerina in the Corps de ballet.
The Bournemouth Pavilion theatre is not completely full, there are noticeable empty seats. A possible explanation is the performance of the more popular Swan Lake the following evening. 

Still, the atmosphere is electric and the audience is enthusiastic. There are many mature ladies around. Two of them are openly flirting with the bartender in the Circle bar, another loud group of six take seats on the first row of the stalls and energetically flirt with the flamboyant conductor. I wonder if that is what our friend meant about the mature interest in ballet. 
Our seats are perfect, second row from the stage. I find the design of the orchestra box ridiculous, The public cannot see the orchestra or the body of the conductor but his head sticks out like the head of a scarecrow.
 
Next to us is a beautiful young girl who I suspect is Bulgarian. Near miss, she is Turkish. She studied art in her home land and now works in the family restaurant in Charminster. She comes to the ballet in her day off. 

The show is called Giselle. It is a classic ballet in two acts. The music was created by the French composer Adolphe Adam. Giselle is a romantic fairytale about the life-saving power of love. 
The ballet group tells us the story in an elegant and expressive manner. 
The first act is alluring but the real knockout is the second act. It is exquisite and mystique, wonderful and engaging. 
The choreography is superb, the technique – flawless. The costumes and the decors convey the aesthetic of the narrative. The show even uses modern technology to present the spirits of the Wilis (young virgins who died before their wedding day) in the second Act.

The audience sincerely congratulate the artists and orchestra (special applause for the conductor from you know who). The ballet alters our mundane day with a spark of love and magic and lifts us up.

Catherine and I promise our Turkish neighbour that we will visit her restaurant on the days she works there. Yes, we need to book a table as the restaurant is very busy. That is not a surprise – with a waitress who studied art and visits ballet this restaurant should be great at staff recruitment. 
How will our ballet delight continue? Being very fond of the music of Tchaikovsky I am going to book tickets for The Nutcracker.