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Sunday, October 27, 2013

National Portrait Gallery

It is an odd thing that when I am overseas I go into Museums and Art Galleries but I do this considerably less when at home (unless it is a historic house).  I'm not entirely sure why this should be.

The National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery are both near the Coliseum and yesterday I had a nose around the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibits range from around 1500 to the current day. I have to admit I'm not a big fan of 20th century art and my preference was for earlier works.

One of the things that struck me is the number of portraits of people who no doubt were famous in their time but today we've never heard of. Still it doesn't make them any less interesting to view. Indeed one of my favourite pictures was of a couple called Dacre. The detail and skill in the painting made me appreciate the talent of the artist.

There is a portrait. The Mission of Mercy: Florence Nightingale receiving the Wounded at Scutari by Jerry Barrett. For me the highlight is the two muslim girls at the extreme right. The veils and expressions are perfect and they alone would have made for a fascinating portrait. (if you click on the link you can see the painting).

Another fine portrait is of Ayuba Suleiman Dialloou a black muslim slave who came to London in 1733 and was freed from slavery after a public appeal. The portrait is on tour and will be at the National Portrait Gallery until 16th March 2014.

You can take photos inside (there are few paintings where you can't), I elected not to as I decided I'd rather spend my time appreciating the paintings. I apologise for those of you who may never get the opportunity to visit..... maybe another time.

Most of the museum is free (although a donation is suggested) and well worth a visit.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Madam Butterfly

I have my friend Cheryl down for the weekend, we were off to day to the Coliseum to see English National Opera's production of Madam Butterfly. The production is the Anthony Minghella one.

The set was quite sparse but this was more than made up for by the costumes and the lighting. The  later was very effective in providing atmosphere.

The story is a little more believable than say Turandot. Butterfly falls for and marries a cadish US naval office called Pinkerton. Pinkerton gets her pregnant goes back to America (he doesn't know she's pregnant) and then comes back 3 years later with an American wife breaking Butterflies heart. He and his wife offer to look after the boy but Butterfly says Pinkerton has to ask her to his face. As Pinkerton arrives he finds that Butterfly has killed herself.

The two ladies singing the rolls of Butterfly (Mary Plazas) and her servant Suzuki (Pamela Helen Stephen) were very good George Van Bergen playing Sharpless was fine. I wasn't so impressed with Pinkerton (Timothy Richards), I felt at times he was struggling to be heard and I wasn't convinced by him as a predatory character.

The puppet to play the child works but does it add emotion? the black "ninjas" used to move things about on stage worked well I thought.

The death scene was well done with the running blood from Butterflies death scene being represented by the belt/sash on her Obi.

The tunes were good but I felt at times it lacked subtlety. I will also add that I feel that the translation to English seems to draw away some of the emotion.

I enjoyed the emotion, the lighting and the female singers. It's one I want to see again in another production.

ADDENDUM: In case of any doubt I did enjoy it!
ADDENDUM II: The theatre was full. When I saw Fidelio at the ENO the balcony was virtually 1/2 empty.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


At one point this morning it went so dark you needed the lights on and the rain hammered down!

But after lunch it looked cheerful so off to Paycocke's the home of wool merchant Thomas Paycocke built around 1500.

The garden is one I could be at home in. Lots of nice places to sit and read a book.

I've never been in the tea room before.

first time I've been offered a choice of milk!! We had Victoria Sponge (a bit soggy bottomed) and a rather nice Coffee & Walnut cake.

The heavens opened on the way home!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kirby Hall and Lyveden New Bield

I was out with Trish today playing with different lenses. of course the weather could have been kinder, it was just dull and grey.

First stop was English Heritage's Kirby Hall. The Hall is Elizabethan and today it is a semi ruin with some rooms roofless.

So next stop the National Trust's Lyvden New Bield. This looks like it is a ruin but isn't. It was built, as a lodge, for Sir Thomas Tresham who died in 1605 before its completion. His son was implicated in the gun powder plot and the lodge was left as it.

It is fascinating to visit as you can see the outlines of the Elizabethan garden. I will freely admit however that my reasons for the visit were to visit its newly opened tearoom. I had the Roast Carrot soup which was delicious (and was sat by a real fire, bliss!).

This is the team room!

Of course we had to pop back to the tearoom and shared a piece of Victoria Sponge and Apple and Cinnamon cake..... it was lovely. The tearoom is up there as one of the best in the Trust. I will be revisiting because the cream and savoury tea's sound rather good..

Good day shame about the grey skies.