Friday, 17 April 2015

Mid-April, back in Bari

It really is spring ... what a joy. Blossom everywhere and warm wind wafting the fallen petals along the street...
It was the same in Amsterdam, where I've just spent over a week. Went back chiefly to visit the exhibition Late Rembrandt, in the Rijksmuseum.
Words cannot describe the astonishing effect of standing in front of those portraits made by Rembrandt his later days.
As if you are waiting for the person in the picture to speak... knowing that you are looking at a square of flat canvas covered most miraculously with strokes of paint. I looked and looked ... saw to my amazement, for instance, that in the portrait known to me as Hendrickje bathing, the woman's skin was painted with a grey-blue on her arms and thighs. I observed the thin outline of black paint marking the edge of skin against a vague background in some of the portraits. To put it one way, I supped on beauty ... as did thousands of others. It was extremely crowded, but reasonably quiet. My head is still full of those faces: old Rembrandt, Lucrezia about to die, an old woman reading, young Titus looking up from his reading, Bathsheba just finished reading, Hendrickje smiling softly to herself as she wades into the water...

Then out into the sun and the magnolia blossom.
I also attended a splendid concert of Bach cantatas: the Easter cantata and Kom, Jesu, Kom ((two m's maybe??)) with Amsterdam Bach Ensemble, beautifully baroque, in the Willem de Zwijger church in south Amsterdam.
Then a most interesting theatrical performance in Dutch of Queen Lear ... modern adaptation of Shakespeare's play. Clever transposition of the story: Elisabeth Lear, head of multi-national, getting old, wants to hand over the business to her three sons ... same old story of arrogance, lust, cruelty and gradual learning. Brilliant acting from the lead, Lear, powerful deterioration into poor weak old woman (not quite perfect in her mind). During the final speech there was dead silence in the theatre. Something approaching catharsis touched us! I missed the wonderful resounding language of Shakespeare (incomparable) but the adaptation was clever.

On my final evening in Amsterdam I attended a "talk" in a literary meeting house, De Bali (formerly Amsterdam prison) where excellent cultural activities take place.
This was about Vasily Grossman. I learned a lot and the presentation, by four speakers interspersed with reading from Grossman's work, was excellent, varied, amusing, and sober in turn.

So back to Bari and the joys of Italian food and the colours of the sky over the water ... We will possibly leave in about a week, if the boat is ready, and sail slowly southwards; she's still out if the water and having her bottom cleaned. And much to do on her insides. I'm washing clothes and cooking meals. And of course, reading and speaking Italian.

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