Monday, February 15, 2010

Perfection in Paris

Today was a perfect day to understand how perfect some things in Paris are. I had a course at l'ENS, the best school here, and I saw a ballet at the Opera Garnier - you know, where The Phantom of the Opera takes place.

At the course this morning, we talked about education in France, how it changed from the middle ages until now, and how that education impacts the way students read. Central to the lecture was the struggle between Latin and French as languages that were taught - classically, students were taught Latin, even though French was the vernacular. Then, eventually, they switched. Then, we talked about which books were added to the cannon - or the books that everyone should study. He basically had a list. I'll try to remember. Middle Ages: La Chanson de Roland, Ronsard, Rabelais (thankfully, I've read excerpts from all those, so I knew what he was talking about); 17th century: Racine, Corneille, Pascal, Moliere; 18th century: the Enlightenment philosophers, namely Voltaire, Rousseau, and Diderot (but not too much Diderot, he said, because I suppose he didn't love Jacques le fataliste like I did); 19th century: this was tricky, because Romanticism was frowned upon by the universities, but eventually they accepted Hugo and Baudelaire. Of course, he said, these aren't all the great authors one should read - but they're the basis of a complete education. He also talked a lot about other authors, and couplings of two authors that people should relate all the time, like Corneille/Racine and Aesop/La Fontaine. Then, he talked about the notion of a classic. He said that, when one reads a classic for the first time, that person is really rereading it. It was an incredible statement! I'm such a nerd...

After class, I went to a Resto U (cheap restaurant for students) with my new friend from my class! She's from China, but we both spoke French, so no problems!

Then, tonight, I went to a ballet at the Opera Garnier. I thought it was going to be an opera, but it wasn't. I guess the next one's an opera. This was La Dame aux Camelias (I'd put an accent in, but I'm lazy and it's late), which is based on the book by Alexandre Dumas, fils. This story was also the story of the Verdi opera, La Traviata, which I liked more because I think I have more of an appreciation for opera than for ballet. But, the building was incredible! The chandelier is phenomenal, and now I think that The Phantom of the Opera is a crime for even thinking about defacing that wonderful building. The ballet was cute, I suppose. The dancing was enjoyable to watch - but the spectacular part was that I was watching a ballet in Paris! This ballet was probably the epitome of the perfect ballet. I'm sure every movement was flawless, the choreography was genius, and the lighting, staging, and scene changes were seamless. Even though I'm not able to recognize all that while I'm watching, I have a feeling it must be true. To me, it looked like a flawless performance - the dancers all seemed weightless all the time (and I'm sure for some of the ballerinas, that statement is almost completely accurate), and they were all coordinated from what I could tell. But, it was nice to see something perfect, even if I couldn't recognize it myself. The pit orchestra was certainly perfect - I wish they had had more to do, or even a little acknowledgement in one of the fifteen million curtain calls.

I suppose that my point is, I think it's really incredible that there's so much perfection in this one city. It's evident why it's such a center for France and even for Europe. I don't think any city in the United States can compare - New York comes close, but even New York doesn't have the tradition, the architecture, or the appeal that Paris has. It will be fun tomorrow to go to my literature class about how Paris inspires literature and learn a little more about what makes this city so great!

1 comment:

  1. I am getting a little worried that you like Paris too much. You may not want to come home on May 29.