Tuesday 31 January 2006

Strasbourg diary

We were in Strasbourg for the weekend, mainly so that we could go to see Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini performed by L'Opera National du Rhin in Strasbourg's lovely 19th century opera house. A full review of the performance will appear in the next few days.

Strasbourg's opera house is a lovely little traditional 19th century one. The only drawback of the charming interior is the insufficiently raked stalls, so the view from your seat was a little variable.

It never fails to amaze me, when wandering around smaller French towns, that you so often come across branches of French Harmonia Mundi shops. They all stock a lovely mix of world music, jazz and classical music featuring the record labels own highly distinctive recordings. They provide a classical music browsing experience which has no parallels in England, where the record shop seems in terminal decline. How do they do it! We took advantage of an offer on their Musique d'Abord series and bought Charpentier's David and Jonathan in William Christie's recording (with Veronique Gens and Charles Daniel in the choir, Marc Minkowski playing bassoon, Christoph Rousset on harpsichord and Gerard Lesne a prime soloist).

We visited the lovely Palais de Rohan, opposite the Cathedral; this is a heartwarming success story as, despite many vicissitudes, the 18th century state appartments have much of their original decor and many of their original furnishing. In the annexe, nestling amongst the bewildering array of local ceramics, we were surprised to come across a portait of Silberman the organ builder. Quite why he was here, I do not know?

On leaving the Palace we were drawn across to the front of the Cathedral by the distant count of a haunting voice. This turned out to be a counter-tenor called Luc Arbogast, busking outside the cathedral, singing to his own lute accompaniment. In the cold, cold, cold weather his performance was to be applauded, especially with a voice as hauntingly meliflous as this. The songs seemed to be mid-way between folk and medieval troubadour songs; Arbogast's appearance reflected this with his tattoos, silver jewellery, striking shaved head. We bought one of his CD's but have not had a chance to listen to it yet, I'll report back.


  1. Anonymous4:21 pm

    I have also seen L. Arbogast in Strassbourg. Have you already listen to the CD? Is it good?

  2. I've not heard the CD yet, I'll report back when we've had chance to listen to i.


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