October 19, 2019

Au Lapin Agile, a trip back in time to a quintessential Parisian cabaret

Cabaret can mean two things in Paris. If you are looking for topless women, champagne, feathers and lots of glitz, head for the Moulin Rouge, Lido de Paris or Crazy Horse and their glamourous ilk in Montmartre.

If you want something less expensive, very musical and a little bit retro, head for Au Lapin Agile for “poèmes et chansons (poems and songs)” and shots of cherry house wine.

Cassita, resident chanteuse Au Lapin Agile

Lapin Agile Owner Yves Mathieu

There is a resident group of professional singers who lead group sing-alongs and perform mini-sets of their own throughout the evening. Everything is in French but those who do not speak the language can enjoy the familiar melodies and soak up the timeless atmosphere with paintings covering the walls as they sit at wood tables that very well may be ancient.

The little house cabaret has existed since 1860 when it was first named Rendezvous for Thieves followed by Cabaret for Assassins.

In 1875, Artist Andre Gill painted a rabbit jumping out of a sauce pan thereby giving the venue its new name, Gill’s Rabbit. Before 1900, the title evolved into the Agile Rabbit or Au Lapin Agile, a delightful historical play on words.

The great cabaret artist Aristide Bruant (immortalized by Toulouse Lautrec) bought the club after the turn of last century and created a meeting place for struggling yet creative luminaries such as Picasso, Modigliani, Apollinaire and Utrillo.

Some of the current excellent performers include Patrice and Oona, a singer-songwriter duo, singer guitarist Gerard Caillieux, baritone Frédéric, the son of the current owner, Jean-Claude Orfali, pianist extraordinaire and Cassita, a clarion-voiced accordionist who summons up the spirit of Piaf.

If you want to brush up on your French before a visit, here is a page of lyrics from group songs sung at Au Lapin Agile.

au-lapin-agile.com/paroles/

This September, Au Lapin Agile was kind enough to let us bring Cabaret Connexion 2019 to their venue on their off night. David Edelfelt and I presented our Porter in Paris show with guest stars Jacques Protat, Jean-Jacques DeLaunay and Ava Logan, followed by Paris Qui Chante featuring Christine Steyer, Jean-Claude Orfali, Mylène Launay, Maryline Rollet, Francoise Miran and resident chanteuse Cassita. Angelina Réaux, Claudia Hommel and Anne and Mark Burnell were guest stars in the regular Friday show later in the week.

David & Elizabeth playing at Lapin Agile 9-19

A few words of advice, use the restroom before you are seated because making that trip once the show has started is problematic. If you want a beverage besides the cherry wine, order that at the beginning of your evening. For those who have trouble sitting on hard benches, opt for one of the banquette seats lining the walls.

The current owner since 1972, host and singer Yves Mathieu and his family have been have keeping the flame alive by including French song favorites from the last hundred years all the way back to folk songs from the 15th century. Bravo, Yves and family!

For the real heart of Montmartre and perhaps of musical Paris, an hour or four at Au Lapin Agile is what the doctor prescribes.

Tuesday to Sunday, 9pm-1am
Cash payments only
22 Rue des Saules, 75018 Paris France

Here is the English site for visitors, but the French site has more info.

au-lapin-agile.com/1-au-lapin-agile-anglais/

au-lapin-agile.com

Villa des Roses in Sète, France

Villa des Roses Entrance with Claudia Hommel

I found my dream residence in Sète, a charming town on the Mediterranean in France.

The Cabaret Connexion spent the day at this private property that featured a pool, gardens, terraces and a workshop room with three glass walls overlooking the pool and lush greenery. There were two pianos in this concert/work space including a gigantic Pleyel grand piano. This is literally the studio I have seen in my imagination.

Villa Concert Studio

Kyle Hustedt led an intriguing workshop on risk-taking in cabaret before we broke for lunch. Our unofficial tour chef, Cappy Kidd, foraged a delightful meal of just-caught seafood, cheese, fresh bread, delectable fruit and vegetables served on the sun-drenched terrace. Villa des Roses had tables and chairs scattered throughout the property so one could choose which bucolic nook in which to dine.

Our afternoon session was led by the incredible Angelina Réaux with her emphasis on “A Matter of Style.” Her own prodigious skills as an actress as well as a singer were an inspiration throughout the Cabaret Connexion in France.

We were in Sète so we could participate in a Festival of Song held in this port city. We gave an impromptu concert for guests at the Villa des Roses as we rehearsed for the evening’s concert held in the center of town.

It was with regret that I said goodbye to the owners and their enchanting Villa des Roses. If they ever put the home and property up for sale, perhaps they should give me a call?

Van Gogh, Starry Night Art Experience in Paris

After two different ex-pats in Europe urged me to catch the Van Gogh, Starry Night art exhibit in Paris, I took notice. This was indeed no ordinary art exposition, but an Art Music Immersive Experience at the Atelier des Lumieres in the 11th arrondissement near the Père Lachaise Cemetery.

L’Atelier des Lumieres, the first digital center for art in Paris, opened in 2018 with a show featuring the work of Gustav Klimt. Would that I had a time machine to catch that show now. Bing images will have to suffice.

The current show featuring Vincent Van Gogh’s work is an otherworldly mix of his painted images from faces, to furniture, to landscapes to the famous starry night painting. Van Gogh’s brush strokes are almost palpable; his handwriting is even scrolled across the 140 video projectors throughout the former iron foundry.

An incredible sound system surrounds you in music of various types while you soak up the Van Gogh images. The soundtrack includes Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Maria Callas, Miles Davis, Die Moldau by Smetana and an eerie version of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in C Major. However disparate the musical pieces are, they all seem to complement the enchanting visuals.

Some people choose to sit or stand in one area while viewing the multi-media presentation while others meander through the industrial space. There is a mosaic lined water pool on view below the main floor, a balcony and two additional viewing rooms, one round, the other glass or mirror-lined.

Two shorter eye-popping films play between the periodic Van Gogh program, Dreamed Japan, Images of the Floating World and Verse by Thomas Vanz but the real draw is Van Gogh, Starry Night (La Nuit Étoilée). The Atelier des Lumieres site recommends to plan for an hour in the space.

If you or someone you know is going to be in Paris through Dec. 31, 2019, please suggest they catch this impressive art and music experience. Admission may not be purchased at the venue, so order your tickets on-line. 14.5 Euros per adult and well worth it.

The official site: https://www.atelier-lumieres.com/en/van-gogh-starry-night

If you can’t attend, here are Bing images from the Van Gogh show:

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=van+gogh+exhibit+paris+2019&id=D0FAA86B1F68580C3D995F75F91BB7BE1E83B1B4&FORM=IQFRBA

Movie Musical Binge

I watch very few movies these days, so I was in Seventh Heaven on the United flight home to Chicago as I binged on three film musicals.

The Greatest Showman absolutely delighted me with lovely music, great acting especially from Hugh Jackman and the over-all art direction of the film. Watching the movie on a small screen was disappointing however, so seeing it again at a movie theater is on my agenda. Music Box Theater are you listening?

I have a special connection to all four A Star Is Born movies which deal with the topic of a couple on opposite fame trajectories. My mother loved black and white movies so the engaging 1937 film starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March was introduced to me at a very early age.

A Star Is Born (1954) with Judy Garland and James Mason I saw as foreign exchange student at a film revival house in Paris. The vibrant visuals of Technicolor mesmerized me, and English has never sounded so good to me.

Both Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson were idols of mine so the 1976 version was for me, unmissable. The movie soundtrack got heavy rotation on my home stereo as well. Evergreen, the song hit from the movie, was an ear worm at piano bars everywhere.

I did not have high expectations for the 2018 adaptation with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but I must admit that the film at least goes toe to toe with the 1976 film. Cooper’s singing is surprisingly good but his acting and directing are excellent. What can I say about Lady Gaga? She sings, acts and dances like the super star she is. Her French singing on La Vie En Rose was pretty magnifique, too.

My eyes started to hurt, but on I went to Bohemian Rhapsody, a biopic starring Rami Malek as Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. Malek had caught my notice as the intriguing lead in the TV series Mr. Robot, but his embodiment of Mercury went beyond all expectations. Malek has moves! True, his singing voice was electronically mixed with that of Mercury and Canadian singer, Marc Martel throughout the movie, but he goes full throttle with the accent, the teeth prothesis and the sheer physical excitement of a Mercury performance. Be sure to watch the end credits so you can catch Mercury himself in full stage glory.

Like a binge monkey, I started Mary Poppins Returns only to be cut off by the pilot’s voice ten minutes into the movie, noting our imminent arrival to Chicago. Had there been time, I would have finished the Poppins film, gone on to the new Disney Dumbo remake and finished with Rocketman.

When is my next transatlantic flight so I can have another personal music film festival? Note to self: remember to pack eye drops.

Glessner House Courtyard concert on Sept. 25

I recently played a concert in the Glessner House courtyard with bass player Jim Cox. The evening was so lovely that I wanted to let people know about the second show I will be doing with guitarist John Papodolias on Wednesday, September 26 from 6 pm to 8 pm.

Attendees bring their own food, beverages, blankets and lawn chairs. It’s like a mini-Ravinia experience with Italian white lights strung across the Glessner House courtyard giving a soft glow to the atmosphere.

The cover charge is $10 per person and that also includes a tour of the museum after the show if desired. How could you pass up a chance to see Glessner House at night without crowds?

A little about Glessner House which is one of the understated gems in the city. William Tyre, executive director and curator of the museum has worked tirelessly for 12 years to provide a historical and architectural experience like no other.

John Jacob Glessner (an industrialist involved with the beginning of International Harvester) and his wife, Frances hired notable Chicago architect H. H. Richardson to design them a stunning home in the Prairie Avenue district, south of Chicago’s Loop. Completed in 1887, the 17,000 square feet of space looks like a fortress from the exterior, but feels cozily intimate inside. The owners of Victorian homes must have looked a bit askance at this forerunner of more modern Chicago architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan and Mies Van der Rohe.

My outdoor live music event would be a great way to experience the Glessner House, but a visit any time of the year is a must for anyone interested in Chicago history or architecture. Locals and people from all over the world find their way to this architectural masterpiece. Join them!

www.glessnerouse.org

Cece’s Veggie Co. Noodled

I was tempted to buy a spiralizer, a gizmo that cuts vegetables into long noodles akin to spaghetti but my accident rate with anything sharp dissuaded me.

Cece’s Veggie Company to the rescue. I purchased Organic Butternut Squash in the refrigerated section of my local Mariano’s grocery store, but I have also seen the product at Whole Foods.

You can eat the noodle-like veggies raw or sauté them for 4 to 6 minutes in a fry pan. For one version, I used my favorite spaghetti sauce on the sautéed noodles and hardly missed the usual pasta taste. A salad of meat and veggies with the raw noodles also made a very satisfying meal.

The Noodled section of the company features spiralized beets, sweet potatoes, yellow squash and zucchini as well as the butternut squash. Cece’s also sells riced veggies like cauliflower, broccoli and a medley of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and green onions. Grillerz look like cottage fries and come in three varieties, carrots with white sweet potatoes, mixed sweet potatoes and summer squash with a garlic herb butter sauce included.

Business concerns continue to find surprising ways to feature vegetables and Cece’s Veggie Company is a big contender for top banana (okay, it’s a fruit). The company uses the tagline, “Simple but twisted.” But in a really good way.