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Monday, March 23, 2009

Cezanne and The Ballet in Philadelphia

The crowds line several aisleways on both sides of the hall to see Cezanne

The best $200 I’ve ever spent:

An all-day outing with the Smithsonian Associates to see the new Paul Cezanne show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the ballet, “Cinderella,” performed by the Pennsylvania Ballet at the 150-year-old Academy of Music, “the oldest grand opera house in the United States still used for its original purpose.”

A magnificent day in every way. We went up via chartered bus, leaving from the Air and Space Museum at 6:45 a.m.

The tour leaders were Ursula Rehn Wolfman, a frequent lecturer around town on all things about the arts and literature, and Harvey Walden of the Smithsonian.

The title of the art show is “Cezanne and Beyond,” and its only venue is Philadelphia. You are looking for Mont Sainte-Victoire? I counted eight (and a half; one may have been Mont Sainte-Victoire in the background) and likely missed a couple.

I suppose the words “and Beyond” mean to encompass some of the artists Cezanne influenced for many (!) of their works are in the show, too: Picasso, Matisse, Ellsworth Kelly, Jeff Wall (mind blowing light boxes: the clarity!), Giorgio Morandi, also now appearing at the Phillips. To the unsuspecting “and Beyond” may be even more of an attraction if one knew all the others included.

At times though they can dwarf the master with their own adaptations of Cezanne’s paintings which are juxtaposed after, in-between, and before the followers'. If this makes no sense, please go and see for yourself.

On our visit we had a personal escort to squire us around and give short talks about many of the paintings before we ate a delicious lunch at the Museum with exquisite service.

Our next stop: Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet where many adorable little girls in all their ballet finery breathlessly awaited the performance, too.

It was all enthralling: The dancing, the lighting, the sets, the costuming (on loan from a Texas company, Edward Barnes, one of the dancers told us afterwards in a "private audience"). And the music! Not taped but performed live and in person (ahem) by the ballet company’s own orchestra. Everything merged to make a beautiful production in a glamorous hall. Beatrice Jona Affron was the conductor.

I could have looked much longer at the lovingly rendered coach which was drawn by four “horses” and which did not stay on stage long enough for me to grow weary of it. The step”sisters” (actually males) provided delightful humor with their antics and “gowns.”

If you think for one nanosecond that because the Cezanne show doesn't end until May 17, that the crowds will be smaller now, dream on. We visited on a Saturday morning, and I don't know how the Museum could have crammed more in. At about $24/head, the Museum is raking them in, and that's good, given the state of the arts these days. You go, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Ballet, never disappointing, thoroughly entertaining and producing beautiful memories, visuals, and sounds of a lovely springtime day in Philadelphia.

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