Art goes down better on a full stomach, I think. With that in mind, a snacky J and I hit the 4.50 all you can eat buffet at the Paper Tiger in South Kensington (between the tube station and the Victoria and Albert Museum). It was rather dank and cavy in the restaurant, but appropriate given the low rent they must have to afford their cheap prices – well, they also compensated with over priced tea and other beverages. Ten items sounded convincing enough for me to brave the depths. In exchange, I got egg fried rice and all the egg rolls I could manage – these being the best things on offer. Also available: slightly chilly sweet and sour pork, bland black bean beef, some kind of chow mein thing that was pretty good but just … lacking something, mystery chicken dish (I think it wanted to be tandoori but it just didn’t resemble any chinese food I’d ever had), Nothing Nothing soup (all it needed was a stone), unflavored yet cooked noodles, and … chicken wings. And wontons and dipping sauce. Next time, I’ll eat at the Oriental Canteen, which charges just maybe a pound more for a meal but delivers much, much better food. Oh well, live and learn – and at least this was a cheap lesson, and extraordinarily quick.
We headed to the V&A afterwards for their “Daily Life in Renaissance Italy” exhibit, which is kindly available to Oyster card holders at a two for one price. In some ways, this exhibit really did take on the stuff that doesn’t really get covered much in museums – the daily workings of a household, which is very woman-centric. So there was lots of stuff about cooking and sewing and childbirth that you wouldn’t normally see, such as “birth plates” and lots of paintings of women post-baby. I got creeped out about living a life where my contributions were basically based on biology and I had a one in five chance of dying in childbirth. Woo. But most of the stuff just seemed so inconsequential – an olive/vinegar cruet, some pins, a few beat-up pewter plates, and eight people shoulder to shoulder in front of them. Grr. The highlights of the exhibit were (for me) the nice Fra Angelico work they had and the gorgeous blue and white terracotta tondos (Della Robbia, of course) depicting the months that had adorned the ceiling of Cosimo De Medici’s study. There was also some leatherwork from a Venetian “Gold Room” – apparently all of the wood would be gilt, and the walls would be covered with gilded and painted leather, so the whole thing would just glow – a perfect effect for that lovely Venetian light. I loved that they were so popular they tried to legislate them away. Down with the authorities who try to crush beauty!
Anyway, mostly I didn’t think this was worth much of a bother, though I did like all of the paintings that were exhibited. The signs really should have been higher up and I wish there had been less people there. (One can only imagine what the Leonardo exhibit was like, since there was a line to get in after you’d bought tickets.) We finished up the outing with some tea and a scone, eaten (of course) in the Morris, Gamble and Poynter Rooms, which is tied with the Sainte Chapelle and the Asam Church in Munich as the most beautiful places I’ve every been. The MGP rooms are probably best, though, because you can sit in them and natter.
Then it was off to Covent Garden for some pre-show shopping. Ultimately, we bought <1) hot chocolate mix (half off) and 2) some 2nd flush Darjeeling from two different Whittard shops and 3) a few very cheap tools for the gig J is supposed to be working tomorrow AM. I failed at buying boots; I'll try the Clark's up the street and see if they inspire me more. (I had no luck even finding a Clark's today, which maybe meant I was in a nicer neighborhood or something. I did find a Birkentstock store, though, and they had boots, so who knows.) After a very light dinner at Paul (soup for me and quiche for J), we went to the very sold out Carmen at the Royal Opera House, tickets for which (and blocked view at that!) were his Christmas present from me.
*looks at the time* My, it’s late. I think the ROH Carmen was a great production, if a wee bit too sexed up for my taste – I just don’t think flamenco dancers should ever lift their skirts to mid-thigh, and given the period in which it was set I really found the behavior of the gypsy women impossible to swallow. But the staging was generally very good, all of the singing and music was right on target, and the costuming was fun. So what wasn’t to love? I think that this Carmen will be the one I hold in my mind through years and years of non-sexy singers with no stage presence and no ability to flirt on stage. Did Carmen cast a magical spell on Don Jose, or was he just an obsessive loser? Tonight, it seemed that sorcery was the right answer, and Carmen herself seemed a little bit more evil because of it. But at the end, when she said, “Carmen will live free!” I was right there with her, watching Don Jose grabbing her by the hair and trying to shove her in a little box like those poor Renaissance wives. You said it, girlie, I just wish that at the end you’d had your own little knife with you.
(This review is for a performance that took place on December 28th, 2006. The review was migrated from my other blog.)