02 November, 2009
Mozart redux and other citified stuff.
What is there to do in Paris on any given evening, besides eating as well as a god might and paying as lavishly as a king can? There's Mozart, for one. I'm not referring to the airy, refined sort of work one might listen to at the Palais Garnier, also known as l'Opéra de Paris. Anything there is sold out months in advance, well beyond my normal capacity for planning.
For Mozart in full technicolor version 2009, you take the Métro line 12 to the Palais des Sports, a much more modest Palais that clings to the edge of the Péripherique (Paris' beltway/ringroad, a highway that circles the sprawling city). There, surrounded by the mostly very young (read: pre-adolescents and teenagers), you'll find yourself carried away on a frothy, occasionally bombastic, musical tale of Mozart the composer. Do not expect much in the way of historical accuracy or his own indelible, influential music. Imagine instead a show that inhabits the space between the 1980s hit Rock Me Amadeus of German group Falco (don't pretend you don't remember; for a refresher, pop into YouTube) and Tom Hulce's prancing, bravura performance in the film Amadeus.
The musical's audience anticipated many of the songs performed, and flipped on their cameras for their favorite parts which, while anthropologically mildly interesting, was somewhat horrifying, as occasionally, the darkness was lit by a veritable sea of small glowing rectangles. They were busy recording instead of experiencing...Judging by the applause and raising of cameras, the darker musical performance of the actor portraying Salieri, the Viennese rival to Mozart, was actually somewhat favored over the lead of the eponymous show. He did seem to display somewhat greater range and vocal fortitude (and he is performing in the video above). All in all, a few catchy numbers and a fun evening. It is now being performed in Paris but will also be touring the rest of the country; for more information click here.
As for other ongoing shows, the Musée du Luxembourg, just off the charming Place St. Sulpice, is exhibiting Tiffany (the glassware, not the jewelry beloved of Audrey Hepburn). American artisan, yes, but well-respected by the French, and executed with more virtuosity than I had previously realized. The small but interesting show runs through January 2010.Doesn't that sound a decade or so away? It isn't.
But the best show of all isn't going anywhere: the endless, endlessly changing Parisian array of small shop-windows, streets, galleries and squares are just made for extensive exploring, and you can easily break from the milling hordes of tourists by taking a side-street or two--or better yet a bike.Even the locals are resorting to them (in the form of the sturdy-looking low-cost, pay as you go Velib') in greater and greater numbers, as navigating the city by car becomes ever more wearisome.
If the thought of all this walking, riding and exploring makes you hungry (or am I the only one?), I have a excellent antidote to weighty bistro food: authentically bright, fresh Italian. At lunch hour, head to moderately-priced Alfredo Positano located at 9, rue Guisarde (just off Place St. Sulpice again) where you'll find yourself in the lively company of more than a few Italians with their kids, and well-heeled local suits (the Sénat is on the other side of the St. Sulpice church). The restaurant bustles, the staff is animated and jovial. There are a lot of regulars. I was in heaven, between the steak-like slices of porcini mushrooms and generous shavings of Elba white truffle, both of which are now in season. Heaven!They also serve pizzas with great toppings and fabulous crunch here, if that's what you're craving, but for a near-religious experience, order a simple caprese salad with bufala mozzarella, underpinned with peppery arugula--and a side order of unforgettable (really, I swear) foccacia. You don't go for the decor, you go for the buzz, and the sway of spoken Italian. You go, above all, for the food. And then it's out the door, back to all things Parisian.