Our hotel in Berlin was near Checkpoint Charlie. Here I am standing in a streetscape created by the extraordinary artist, Yadegar Asisi, whose panorama places the visitor next to the Berlin Wall on an autumn day in the 1980s. Born into a family of Persian refugees, Asisi was educated in East Germany. Fascinated by both genesis and decay, in nature and in human endeavour, Asisi creates astonishing historical panoramas where the onlooker ‘becomes her own director’. A painful but illuminating experience.
Speaking further of General Blücher, who appears in my novel The Chase, we happened upon this painting by Adolph Menzel in the Alte National Galerie in Berlin today. Menzel excelled in many styles, not least the depiction of major political and military events. I did not previously know his work and had never seen this picture of Waterloo. It shows Wellington and Blücher meeting at Belle Alliance after it was taken from Napoleon and the battle was over.
I appreciate the new review of THE KING'S SHADOW by Yvonne of A Darn Good Read, here. A quote: 'Cheryl Sawyer's excellent research skills, combined with her interpretation of the political situation of the day and her ability to write a good story, bring to life a very interesting period in history. Simply told, it is informative as well as entertaining. Her easy to read style moves the plot along at a smart pace. The dialogue flows naturally and the characters, whether historical or fictional, are well developed.'
Entering the elegant opera house for La Traviata during the Munich Festival was a highlight of our trip. It’s many years since I reviewed opera professionally, but humour me as I give you a glimpse of this production (July 15, 18). Rolando Villazón and Sonya Yoncheva would no doubt have transformed it, had they not both cancelled. Instead it was left in the brave, frenetic hands of Ermonela Jaho, who almost managed to rescue it—on her birthday, as it turned out. In total control of her sumptuous voice, Jaho as Violetta was haunted from the first moments—I have never heard any soprano sing the key word ‘Gioir!’ with such anguish.
This is a woman’s story and Jaho told it on a tide of nervous energy. The production, however, had flaws. The conductor and orchestra played as though they were bored with Verdi, and to be bored with Verdi is to be bored with life. Pavol Breslik as Alfredo was no match for Jaho’s dramatic intensity. Like the excellent Simon Keenlyside (Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s father), Breslik also struggled with absurdities of direction, which provided constant upstaging along with rearrangements of clothing.
In Munich. We've been travelling through the Schwarzwald--the picturesque Black Forest--and across Swabia and Bavaria to get here. Meanwhile The King's Shadow has been published by Endeavour Press. It's been heralded by 5-star reviews on Amazon, and independent reviewers like Nicki J Markus have already begun to respond: Nicki's review is here and on Goodreads.
I'm in Stuttgart on a research/musical/pleasure tour. Munich tomorrow for La Traviata. Meanwhile my latest novel, The King's Shadow, has been published by Endeavour Press and is available here on Kindle. Thank you, Endeavour!
In the middle of the 18th century in France, thinkers, writers and natural philosophers like Émilie du Châtelet and Voltaire proposed the development of a tolerant and egalitarian society based on freedom of speech and belief, and true justice for all. An enthusiastic amateur painted this mural at some stage on a building in full view of the local administration of Lunéville, near the palace of the Dukes of the Lorraine, where Voltaire and Émilie spent a great deal of time as guests of King Stanislas of Poland. My kind of graffiti—and it has lasted in pride of place! The château currently houses an exhibition, ‘Château of the Enlightenment’. France, cradle of freedom, how tragic that in our time so many of your sons and daughters are losing their lives to hate-filled murderers.
Happy 14 juillet. In memory of the brilliant, the funny, the beloved, the inimitable Russell Haley, who died this month in Whangarei, New Zealand. I always find Marc Chagall's work both tender and joyful. Russell would have loved Chagall's stained glass in Reims Cathedral.
I am heartbroken. I have come halfway around the globe to hear Rolando Villazón sing Alfredo in La Traviata in Munich next week and he has cancelled due to ill health. But that's international opera for you. After eight years as an opera reviewer in Australia I should be au fait. Above is a shot of the National Opera of the Lorraine, taken yesterday in Nancy. Am I lucky or what? On balance, yes. Soignez-vous bien, M. Villazón, j'admire toujours votre voix magnifique.
My next novel in the Victor Constant Investigations series is Death in Champagne, set in and around Joinville in the Haute Marne. Revisiting the area is rewarding. Places I've already chosen for crucial scenes in the book yield rich possibilities that I never suspected when I combed the surroundings from memory. An example is this abandoned house just visible as you enter the tiny village of Rupt, not far from Joinville. A hidden gem that I'm grateful to have stumbled across.