Monday, February 12, 2007

We are in Birmingham!

Steve and I got to Manchester, England on time despite some delays at the gate and due to inclement weather. Our pre-purchased train tickets were for a latter journey but the ticket agent waved us onto the earlier trains at both the airport station and at Manchester Piccadilly. We were in Birmingham just over an hour ahead of our plans. There was melting snow everywhere but the temperature wasn't cold and the wind was calm. We pulled our suitcases to Mathias flat. We had a key, dropped the bags, and walked back into the city center with ample time to grab a program and tickets to the matinee.

We are fortunate that someone had just turned in two very good seats in a section called "the stalls". I'd call it the first balcony or the loge. The view was excellent. The crowd filled the auditorium, nearly sold out. The curtain was up exposing the stage, a view to another, outdoor theater with a few rows of benches and two wooden seating stands. Dancers dressed in period costumes wandered in, two soldiers practicing their swordsmanship, flower sellers, actors preening before the performance, etc. Finally, the ballet "started" with excellent, live music when the mock theater director announced the play.

This unique opening totally transported me into a magical world. The sets, lighting, costuming, and humor held me there. Among the cadets was my Mathias. He looked great. His wig of long brown hair looked totally natural. He was perfectly part of the group in which he danced. The group was perfectly part of the whole. The blend of acting and dancing was charming. The sword play was unlike anything I could have imagined. It was totally excellent and yet wonderfully funny. The dancing was fantastic: lovely ballet from the soloists and principals mixed with basically character dancing from a strong, supporting corps. The ballet was in three acts and didn't seem half as long as the time that past. The narrative was so obvious that one didn't need to read the plot beforehand. The story and movement were seamed perfectly together. This was what all ballet ought to be, something that anyone, regardless to prior experience or knowledge, could appreciate and enjoy. Everyone around us seemed as spellbound as I felt.

Mathias found us in the lobby after the performance and we went to dinner at a nearby Oriental restaurant. It was very interesting to see the performance again so soon after the first viewing. It had an entirely different, slightly better cast. Knowing what would happen and what to expect allowed me to focus on the choreography. I found the ballet more brilliant the second time and I enjoyed it completely. I was amazed how entertaining and happy the show played out while it was still mostly a tragedy. Of course, by that time I was exhausted. Fortunately, the next day was Sunday. We slept in.

Well, that was yesterday. We caught the train for Worcester and arrived desperate for coffee. Mathias was out of anything that might have resembled breakfast! We had strong coffee and pastries before finding the cathedral. The exterior was magnificent but the interior was completely wonderful. Fortunately, Steve and Mathias liked it too. My camera got a good workout and we enjoyed many conversations while strolling from the aisle and nave into the elaborate choir and finally into the crypt. We walked along the Severn River watching dozens of swans and a few crew teams practicing. Finally, we window-shopped down the unique, Tudor-styled old shopping streets before taking the train home.

Today, Mathias went to class and rehearsal while Steve and I went to the art museum to see the great collection of Pre-Raphelite paints and the recently opened juried show of local work. The permanent collection galleries were all painted in vivid colors and there was an obvious interest to include children. One room had "dress up" clothes for kids. Another room, right in the middle of the exhibition space, was for "hands on" art. Yet, another room (impossible to avoid) focused on teaching various approaches to art. As a result, there was an energy in the air and well behaved kids really LOOKING at art with their parents. I liked this.

The juried show carried a sign that over 1500 entries were submitted. Only 235 were selected. I totally disliked the jurying of awards but was really impressed by the overall quality of the local work. The space was incredible. The signage clearly indicated the name of each piece, the artist, and the media. The catalogs included the prices. Like most juried shows, there were wildly overpriced pieces and some good buys. The show only open about two days ago and a few pieces already had red dots. Media included the usual oils, acrylics, and traditional 3D pieces with many others listed as "mixed media". There were also two altered books, some fibers, and several completely unique works. I took notes.

Steve and I didn't have lunch at either the Newt or the Toad restaurants. We had "food" at a place called EAT. Then we went shopping for Mathias. We returned carrying four bags of food at almost the same time as did Mathias. We spent a relaxing hour and a half, like a normal family. Mathias played an incredible football video game. He was the Steelers. The sound effects included Madden's voice and often I'd glance up from my embroidery only to be surprised by the computer animation. My mind kept thinking it was "real". Steve cheered for the Steelers and bought tickets to Birmingham Royal Ballet's performance at the Virginia Arts Festival. This was the first day that tickets were available on-line. Finally, Mathias had to return to the company for another rehearsal. Steve is cooking steak for a late dinner after Mathias returns.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tell Steve not to use the white pepper on the steak! Glad you are having a great time!