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Les Journaux

Music and art news from the European press.

According to George Loomis's review (Verdi's 'Un Ballo in Maschera': A Berlin production that soars, January 29) in the International Herald Tribune, the new production of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera at the Berlin Staatsoper has many things to recommend it. The directorial team, Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito, has brought a fresh perspective to the opera, with an unusual twist on the Act II moment when Renato recognizes Amelia. Also rather noteworthy is Loomis's uncharacteristic raving about "the sterling performance of the young Polish tenor Piotr Beczala [pictured] as Riccardo, which has Berliners drawing comparisons to Jussi Björling. He is certainly the best in this challenging role since Pavarotti. The voice has ample heft and a fine ringing sound." Put that name on your list of singers to watch.

It's film award season, and that includes the Césars, sometimes known as the "French Oscars" (Le Figaro, January 25). Films to add to your Netflix queue are Olivier Dahan's La Môme (starring the lovely Marion Cotillard, who won the Best Actress award at the Golden Globes, as Edith Piaf) and Claude Miller's Un secret (starring Cécile de France and Patrick Bruel, based on the novel by Philippe Grimbert), which both received 11 nominations.

The new French Minister of Culture, Christine Albanel, is trying to institute a new tax to finance restoration costs for France's many historic monuments, according to an article by Vianney Aubert (Une taxe pour sauver le patrimoine, January 21) in Le Figaro. A surcharge of 2 € per night in hotels classed four stars or above would raise 50 million € for the patrimony. The most recent survey of the state of French historical sites has classed 42% of them en mauvais état, an increase by 10% over the report from five years ago. Think of your night at the Ritz as a civic duty.

Like most major artists working during the formative age of photography, August Rodin (1840-1917) had a conflicted relationship with the new genre. The sculptor famously said, "It is the artist who tells the truth and photography that lies" but had some 7,000 photographs by Edward Steichen and others discovered in his archive when he died. As reviewed by Claire Guillot (Rodin en deux dimensions, February 1) in Le Monde, a new exhibit at the Musée Rodin in Paris, Rodin et la photographie, through March 2, shows 200 of them to the public: "The first images from the workshop, often anonymous, are tools above all. The sculptor, who reinterpreted his works again and again, used photography as a support for his future works. He manipulated the prints, inverting the figure of Psyché, who as a result mutates into Mercury. Photography is much more easily manipulated than plaster!"

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