Wednesday, July 15, 2009

From the Jardin des Plantes to Rodin's Sculpture Gardens

Yesterday morning we returned to the Jardin des Plantes so I could gather more details for a story that takes place in its zoo. It's been awhile since we've been to a zoo. We enjoyed wandering around looking at wallabees, black swans, orangatangs, eagle owls, yaks, and some giant African tortoises that looked at first like huge sculptures. The Rotunda especially interested me, since that is where the elephants in my story lived, back in 1870, before the Siege. The Rotunda is closed right now for rennovation, and there don't seem to be any elephants at the zoo at the moment. But Rajan took lots of pictures for me (I left my camera in the apartment). I have a pretty good idea what the zoo would have looked like to my characters.

Then we walked back to Rue Mouffetard to the little triangle where the musicians played the night before and had a light lunch, and stopped by the apartment to pick up my camera before heading out for the Rodin Museum.

The Rodin Museum is a wonder! It's housed in what used to be an old hotel where Rodin rented four rooms and lived for the last nine years of his life. (The poet, Rainer Maria Rilke,rented one room, which suggests something about the poet's relative livelihood.) Now the whole two-story building is a museum containing Rodin's innumerable and wonderful sculptures, as well as his art collections which, I was happy to see, included some of the Impressionists' works.

We must have spent about three and half hours walking through every room in the building and making the rounds of the garden areas. These are truly sculpture gardens: bronze figures everywhere, most of them portraying characters from Dante's Inferno. One piece was the famous "The Thinker", which is supposed to be Dante himself. We took picture after picture. Such amazing works of art: so lifelike in their postures; so emotional in their expressions. This is probably one of the best art experiences of my life.

After that, we walked home. A long walk, but enjoyable.We broke it at one point to have a glass of wine and talk about what we had seen. But, the day's art treats weren't over.

In the evening, one of my favorite operas, La Traviata was shown on TV. It was a filmed live performance, with Patrice Ciofi as Violetta and Vitorio Grigolo as Alfredo. I may have their names misspelled, because the credits were flashed on and off so quickly. Both had luscious voices and were good actors who made you enter the story and believe it. When it was time for curtain calls, the audience went wild with their applause. Once again, a French ending to a fabulous day: The opera was sung in Italian, but the subtitles were in French!

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