Saturday, April 09, 2011


This is the weekend we've been waiting for -- the first of the many thousands of daffodils that surround Fritz's center have opened, and up here at the house, crocus are pushing up through the carpet of leaves.  The fall crop of lettuce, bok choi and spinach in the cold frame are flourishing and providing plenty of salads. 

The Symposium at Greenfield on French opera wound up on Wednesday.  It went very well, the crowd that attends being lively, highly literate and very interested in the little personal stories and tales so bizarre that they trump any fiction.  They've told me that they particularly like the bits of historical context that I have always used in my teaching to tie the art to the political and cultural conditions that fostered its creation.  I opened with a short explication of the Second Empire:

We begin with the great engine of French society in the last half of the 19th century, the Second Empire.  Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, lackluster nephew of THE Napoleon, blundered his way into the position of President of France and one day, on the chance nobody was looking, staged a coup d’etat, declared the return of Empire, with him and his exquisite wife Eugenie as Emperor and Empress. The French, thrilled at the prospect of the return of Imperial glory, approved wholeheartedly.

How many of you remember the Dot Com boom of the 1990s?  OK, now imagine 16 years of that, accompanied by an immense surge in confidence and creativity.  Imagine also all the self-indulgence that unlimited capital and credit, unencumbered by any sense of morality, can spawn – and you’ll have just scratched the surface.   

Paris became the City of Light with miles of gas lamps illuminating new grand boulevards; the massive new sewer system ended annual epidemics of cholera and became an unlikely international tourist attraction; the first planned industrial suburbs and the first department stores in the world were built; the great web of train track radiating from Paris to all of France and on to the rest of Europe was laid down.  The Suez Canal was dug and inaugurated by the Empress on the first ship to sail through; two World Expositions showed off France’s arts, sciences and industries; the Statue of Liberty was designed; the Emperor brokered Italian independence from Austria; the grand, glittering Salle Garnier, aka the Paris Opera was designed; and Les Grandes Horizontales, the fabulous courtesans who had emperors, tsars, kings, great financiers and industrialists kneeling at their feet, became the symbol of Paris as the world capital of l’amour.

English poet Wilfred Blunt captured it perfectly: “Paris! What magic lived for us in those two syllables!  What a picture they evoked of vanity and profane delights, of triumph in the world and the romance of pleasure!  How great, how terrible a name was hers, the fair imperial harlot of civilized humanity!”   Now, if an Englishmen could get THAT frenzied -- well, you can just imagine!

A suggestion was made at the end of the session that I do American opera next year, which Fritz suggested be enlarged to Opera in English; that would allow me to include  composers like Henry Purcell, Benjamin Britten and William Walton in the program.  I think I could have a lot of fun with that. 

For more on the Second Empire, during which some literally unbelievable things took place, I recommend John Bierman's  Napoleon III and his Carnival Empire.  Cardinal, 1990


A friend who is involved in the art scene in Manchester, NH sent me this notice of a creative new way to keep the downtown business areas of a city vital in hard economic times, as well as to promote the work of local artists of all kinds. 
White Flag Gallery, a pop-up fine arts venue, opens in Manchester
By Renee Mallet, Manchester Arts and Crafts Examiner April 4, 2011

Empty store fronts have become the norm, not just in downtown Manchester but in cities across the country. In an effort to curb these vacant store fronts from dragging down the businesses around them and to give small start-ups a chance to build a customer base many landlords and city councils are, more and more, turning to the idea of pop-up stores to help.

A pop-up store is when a business or group opens up a short term store in an otherwise empty space. Landlords love the idea because it not only gives them a small amount of revenue from a rental that otherwise would be sitting empty but it brings in people who might not otherwise view the space. Landlords hope that one of these customers will decide the location and space is right for their established enterprise and that they’ll end up a long term lease.  The advantage of a pop-up store for a small business or group is the short term use of a location without having to come up with first, last, and a security deposit- or having to make a long term commercial lease commitment.

The White Flag Gallery is Manchester’s first pop-up art gallery. The gallery will be hosting art exhibits, most often for just one night, in various locations around the city. Their first exhibit will be ‘The Big Takeover’, featuring work from artists around the area, for sale, for just one evening.
The White Flag Gallery is hoping their impromptu art nights will not only help local artists reach a wider audience but also help local landlords fill some of their empty spaces. The White Flag Gallery is Manchester’s first pop-up art gallery and ‘The Big Takeover’ exhibit is being sponsored by the Manchester Arts Commission and GoodGood Manchester.

I love the pop-up gallery idea! I think it would go over well in Portland.

We already have pop-up restaurants which allows the potential restaurateur an opportunity to test an idea and possibly build a following before taking the big leap.
I would love to see Paris, just once.
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