Sunday, July 08, 2007

A (Mostly) Sunny Day in Potsdam

[Schloß Sansouci]

Sunday morning I woke up and the sun was shining. For the first time in nearly a week, I would be able to wear my sunglasses.

While Bruce enjoyed his beauty sleep, I headed out to Alexanderplatz to pick up some gifts for my niece and nephews. Bruce asked if I could find him some muscle relaxants to deal with his spasms, but on Sunday most pharmacies are closed. The ones on opposite sides of Schönhauser Allee listed the other as one to check in emergencies. Both were closed.

Around noon we headed down towards Potsdam. We had a little bite to eat at the station, and then caught the bus to the castle and park. The gardens are lovely and the Schloß is a wonderfully ornate structure (see photo above). The castle is accessible to wheelchairs, but you can only visit during specific tours and the earliest tour available was at 4:20. That would be pushing it if we were to make our 6:00 curtain for Der Rosenkavalier.

However, the combined ticket for the Schloß and the Bildergalarie were free for both of us (since I was helping him with the chair). We decided to skip the Schloß and go to the Bildergalarie -- the first independent art museum in Germany, built in the 18th century. The first entrance led to a long winding staircase, so we decided to descend into the garden to come in from the bottom.

[The tiered garden at Sansouci]

It was a little difficult getting Bruce down the steep ramp, since my fear would be I would trip and then he would go flying. After we made it to the bottom and wandered around the fountain, we saw that the lower entrance to the Bildergalarie was, in fact, half way down the slope, and there was no way I was doing to push him half way back up, so we decided to visit the rest of the gardens and make our way back leisurely.

At the Potsdam station we had a snack and discovered a rather nice soft drink. Called Apfelschorle, it mixes mineral water with apple juice to make a rather tasty apple soda.

We got to the Komische Oper on Unter den Linden with about 20 minutes to spare. We were a little surprised to discover that the performance of Der Rosenkavalier was expected to be 4.5 hours. Bruce was rather disturbed as he does not like to stay out quite that late.

[The ornate interior of the Komische Oper]

Neither of us had ever seen this opera before, but thank God, I checked out a summary of the plot on the internet ahead of time. Both Bruce and I were a little bored by the first act, though the events were somewhat livened by the untraditional casting of the role of Octavian -- the princess' younger lover, and later, the Rose Knight -- with a woman. Both of us preferred Mozart to Richard Strauss, though I pointed out that Strauss is known for the complexity of his music.

We stayed for the second act, which was a lot more interesting, both dramatically as well as musically. In act I, set in the princess' palace with her court, the costumes were all very much 18th century -- the time in which the story is set. In act II, however, which is set in the home of the parvenu Fanimal family, the furniture is very much 19th century, while Sophie, the daughter who is to be wedded to the boorish baron, is dressed in early 20th-century clothes.

At one point, when Octavian and Sophie are discovered by the baron in an embrace and the father throws a fit, the entire stage suddenly slanted dangerously to the right, remaining askew for the remainder of the act.

[This looks like a shot from Act III, since the set is of the palace, but now it is entirely upside down and at a slant]

Both Bruce and I enjoyed this much more, and Bruce would have liked to stay to find out what they did in Act III, but he was concerned about over tiring himself by staying too late, so we left around 9 pm.

This will probably be my last blog entry from Europe. We have a full day planned ahead of us. After I post this I'm going to breakfast, and then to check out the timetables for the express bus to the airport tomorrow. I have a 9:35 am flight to Newark, and I need to figure out how early I have to leave the hotel tomorrow morning to make the flight.

Then we're going to the Brücke Museum in Dahlem. It was a really tough choice: do we go to the Wannsee Conference Villa and then the Max Libermann Villa in Wannsee or to the Brücke Museum? I did the full tour of both last year. But I haven't been to an art museum this whole time in Berlin, and I very much want to pick up some of the catalog books at the Brücke, so I've suggested we do that.

I was hoping for a continuation of the good weather today, but it's been lightly drizzling since I got up.

After the museum, we should have time for an early dinner at KaDeWe before we head back to the Komische Oper one last time to see Die Fledermaus. This will certainly be much more accessible, and it is one of my favorite operettas. Since we won't get back until after this internet cafe is closed, I'll make the final entry when I'm back in Los Angeles.


uncle les said...

dear boy,
casting octavian with a female singer is not non-traditional. (unless you were meaning to imply that strauss' original conception was non-traditional, which by the way it was not. see: mozart, cherubino, le nozze di figaro.)
octavian was written for female voice, almost always sung by a mezzo, though occasionally negotiated by a soprano (i.e. elisabeth soderstrom, lisa della casa, sena jurinac).
it is long and can be a tough slog for a first-timer. but, too bad you missed the third act; the final 20 minutes are sublime.

J.B. said...

Yes, I wondered if that might be the case. Not being familiar with the opera, I didn't know that.

I also wish we could have stayed for the third act, but that wasn't possible.