March 31, 2020

Virtual Tours of Notable Places: The Prado in Madrid

People have been posting ideas on how to use one’s “home time.” As much as I love music, I do, on occasion, need to explore other topics.

I was remembering visits to favorite art museums which led to thinking about famous museums that I have not yet visited. Uppermost on my wish list is the Prado in Madrid, Spain. Here is a five minute clip that highlights some of the Prado’s art treasures, including paintings by El Greco, Velazquez, de Goya and my personal favorite, the triptych work by Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights.

I erroneously assumed that Guernica by Pablo Picasso was also at the Prado. In reality, the famous large canvas is in Madrid, but at the Museo Reina Sofia.

Here’s to seeing Madrid and its art treasures when the world returns to health.

Our Towns by James and Deborah Fallows – A 100,000 Mile Journey into the Heart of America

Husband and wife team James and Deborah Fallows traversed the United States from 2013 to 2016 to observe how some communities are re-inventing themselves for the 21st century in their travel memoir, Our Towns.

With James piloting a single engine plane, they visited such places as my home town of Sioux Falls, SD, Greenville, SC, Pittsburgh, PA, Fresno, CA, Bend, OR and countless other towns from coast to coast.

They observed thriving places and made a list of 11 signs of civic success. Divisive national politics do not impair local projects. Each locale has its movers and shakers. Things get done when there are partnerships between the private sector and government. People know their town’s story. Their downtown is still viable. Their city is near a research university. Community college classes are available. K-12 schools are doing a good job. Successful towns welcome newcomers, including immigrants. Civic plans like bike trails and parks indicate an effective mayor or town council. Small businesses like craft breweries are encouraged.

This is an uplifting story of innovation and cooperation that the mainstream media seldom highlights. Anyone interested in the true state of our country should read Our Towns. To Lori Lightfoot and all of the presidential candidates: this little book should be on your reading lists!

Cafe Sabarsky/Neue Galerie in NYC: A Little History

Although I have not yet visited Cafe Sabarsky and the Neue Galerie on New York City’s Upper East Side, I did a little research on this storied venue.

Art dealer and museum organizer Serge Sabarsky and entrepreneur, philanthropist and art collector Ronald S. Lauder discovered a common interest in German and Austrian art and culture of the early 1900s. After Sabarsky’s death, Lauder created Neue Galerie in 2001 to honor his friend.

Located on New York’s Museum Mile, 5th Avenue from 83rd Street to 105th, Neue Galerie is the former William Starr Miller mansion at 86th Street.

The second floor is dedicated to Austrian work of the early 1900s from the Wiener Wekstätte movement and by luminaries such as Gustav Klimt, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele. Third floor contains work from the same time period by the Bauhaus movement and artists that include Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Lyone Feininger, Otto Dis and George Grosz.

The museum campus includes a bookstore, a design shop and two Viennese restaurants, Cafe Sabarsky and Cafe Fledermaus.

Cafe Sabarsky features light fixtures by Josef Hoffmann, furniture by Adolf Loos and banquettes upholstered with a 1912 Otto Wagner fabric. Periodic cabaret evenings and chamber music concerts benefit from the on-site Bösendorfer grand piano.

Here is a link for Cafe Sabarsky:

kurtgutenbrunner.com/restaurants/cafe-sabarsky/

For more info on the Neue Galerie:

https://www.neuegalerie.org/

Père Lachaise Cemetery: A stroll through time

Five of us Cabaret Connexion singers had just seen the Van Gogh Art Immersive Exhibit in Paris and noticed Paris’ famous final resting place, Père Lachaise Cemetery nearby. It was a beautiful fall day so we agreed to wander amid the shady trees and ornate crypts and graves in search of a few artistic ghosts.

I had been to Père Lachaise years ago but this was before cell phones and the internet so I wandered fruitlessly, unable to find most of the famous grave sites. As luck would have it, three Cuban ladies in front of us were being led by a small man who seemed most knowledgeable about the environs. We started to tag along, after asking if we could join them.

It turns out that Paul, the man in question, was a volunteer docent who lived in the neighborhood and knew Pere Lachaise like the back of his hand. Off we trotted to see some of the most famous graves.

The cemetery is large so we had to cover a lot of beautiful terrain in between burial spots. I was able to touch the memorial with Chopin’s remains, although his literal heart remains in Poland. I gazed with bemusement at the gift-strewn Jim Morrison grave, and nodded with appreciation at the memorials to Moliere, Honore de Balzac and other literary luminaries. Some of my personal favorites were artist Modigliani, singer-songwriter Gilbert Bécaud, mime Marcel Marceau and beloved author Colette.

Some tombs and crypts are ancient and falling apart, but others are decidedly new. Our guide pointed out more recent head stones with colored photos embedded, most notably victims of the Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo bombings. A promenade through this restful place is a journey through culture and history.

The highlight of our walk was the tomb of Edith Piaf where we serenaded her with La Vie En Rose. Passersby were filming our little Cabaret Connexion group so our homage to the Little Sparrow may be floating in the electronic ether somewhere.

As our time ran short, I thought with regret of the many other grave sites I had wanted to visit, Oscar Wilde, Abelard and Heloise, Sarah Bernhardt and countless others. Having a guide made this a much more gratifying afternoon experience so we gratefully tipped him at the end of our afternoon.

Paris Greeters, link below, has people available to lead you through Pére Lachaise although this may not be the organization of our wonderful and knowledgeable guide, Paul. We never even got his last name.

This famous cemetery is like the Louvre Museum; don’t try to catch all of the highlights in a frenzy. Take your time and really experience the few things that you do see. Bonne chance.

Link to the full roster of people buried at Pere Lachaise: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_burials_at_P%C3%A8re_Lachaise_Cemetery

Paris Greeters: https://greeters.paris/en/

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?