23 March, 2013

The sun's ashine in the blue

After having sent my father off on his plane back to Chile and faced flight delays because of the snow in European airports, I have returned to Nairobi immediately to go on stage, taking part in a production of a delightfully British musical.

'Glamorous life' portrays the life and works of Welsh composer Ivor Novello who lived in the first half of the 20th century and produced popular hits during the first and second world wars. The cast is all dressed up for a dinner party during the 1920s in the first half and then during the 1940s in the second half. We play and sing deliciously old-fashioned and romantic music while our audience is having a three-course meal.

Concentration was high before the show in the men's changing room last night - or was it everybody reflecting on the oddity of heavy snowfall in England in late March as broadcast on the television? We all had a great time on stage afterwards because the weather is fine here in Nairobi and Novello's music is so light-hearted it is difficult not to be happy when hearing it.

Waltz of my heart
Ivor Novello, The dancing years, Hallmark

Grief should ne’er approach the fair

I have spent one month in cold still wintery France lately because my father had to undergo two operations for unrelated problems. Coming out of hospital after major surgery is hard on the patient because doctors discharge their patients as soon as the latter can stand on their own. This allows the hospital to reuse the room for another patient. So the first few days out of hospital are really hard because one is back home but one no longer has all the medical and general care provided by the nurses.

I decided to leave Nairobi to go take care of my father for a whole month between the two operations and after his second operation. I think it was a wise decision because I noticed how debilitated he was from the grueling experience: one is asleep during the operation but it takes a long time to get over the pain afterwards. So I spent ten days in our Parisian flat, one week in a Bordeaux hotel while my father was being operated upon and another week in our aunties’ house in the Southwestern seaside village of Mimizan. My mother could only come for two weeks because she had lots of things to sort out back in Chile in preparation for my parents’ final move back to France in May when my father retires.

The good part of looking after my father was that he had to be fed lots of good food in order to get back into shape so I spent a lot of my time cooking and preparing his favourite dishes to make sure he would eat. I just needed to watch out for his now strict diabetic diet and control all sources of sugar in his food. That meant cutting my own consumption of wine and – alas! – desserts so as not to be tempting him. This was one more reason to stay at home and eat home-cooked food, the ingredients of which are easier to monitor than what one eats in a restaurant. Special highlights for my father were the beef roast I prepared on his second day out of hospital in Paris, a butter pan-fried sole meunière freshly fished out of the sea by the local fisherman in Mimizan and the roasted suckling lamb chops and shoulder, the leftovers of which I then recycled into a simple but delicious Basque stew. 

While in Bordeaux my mother and I tried out some of the numerous restaurants in town because we could not cook at the hotel. Of course, my father was jealous and sulky because he was eating hospital grub. I was delighted to catch up with Antoine Moga, a high school and agricultural university friend, who took my mother and me out for a delicious dinner and a refined bottle of 2002 Burgundy wine. Antoine works as a wine broker for the more prestigious Bordeaux wines so I guess he has very good suppliers.

While the food was French, the music was British. When in Bordeaux my mother and I got an opportunity to go to the city’s grand opera house to take our minds off our ordeal. We saw a good show of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in a very minimalistic stage setting, which fitted the extremely concentrated and tragic plot of the piece. All this time, I was working on solos and ensembles for a musical based on the early 20th century Welsh composer Ivor Novello’s life and works; I also managed to squeeze in an hour of tuition with my Parisian voice coach Mary Saint-Palais to prepare my solos. I had to know the music by heart because as soon as I would come back to Nairobi, stage rehearsals would start for the musical show. Read more on that in my next blog post.

My father is now well and resting at home in Chile.

Dido and Aeneas
Henry Purcell, Les arts florissants, William Christie, Harmonia mundi