Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 and The Year of The New

Now that we're at the end of the year, it's worth noting that early on 2015 was designated The Year Of The New. New things would be done, new places visited, new things seen - it was time to be brave and jump in with both feet. Everything might not be a success but why not take a few risks since the dividends could be enormous.

So, what sort of things were new?

First of all, there were new art galleries to visit and, sometimes, new favourite artists to discover. At the start of the year we went to Leighton House Museum, the former home of Victorian painter Frederick Leighton, and it was there that I became aware of Lawrence Alma-Tadema and started hunting out paintings by him. See? A new obsession can be started anywhere.

Another new favourite was the Musee Marmottan Monet in Paris, a suburban mansion house converted into a great small gallery with exhibition spaces and a great shop that sold books in English. It was great fun to wander round the museum not knowing what the next room might hold - anything from medieval illuminated manuscripts to an exhibition of paintings about women's toilet habits. It was a lovely discovery and a musee I will definitely return to.

I've never been a big fan of portrait paintings but this year seems to have been full of exhibitions of portraiture. From the late Rembrandt exhibition at the National Gallery and the great Sergeant exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery at the start of the year, through the self-portraits of artists in Vasari's Corridor in Florence, to Goya and to Mme Vigee Le Brun at Le Grand Palais in Paris right up to Giacometti at the National Portrait Gallery this week - lots of portraits. I would never have expected to see so many portraits in any one year and learn to look at them. And make up stories about the sitters.

It was also the year to experiment with dance and opera. I'm a regular at Matthew Bourne (now Sir Matthew, of course) productions but I'd never seen a classic ballet. Equally, I've been to comic-opera like Gilbert & Sullivan but not seen a full-on classical opera production. Seeing a production of 'Peter Pan' by the Welsh National Opera was disappointing (so much so that I didn't even blog about it) but 'The Barber Of Seville' was better. I'm still not sold on opera but will give it another go in the spring with 'Il Traviata'. A far greater success was ballet.

2015 is the year I fell in love with ballet. It started with a trip to the Royal Opera House to see 'Woolf Works', a new ballet piece based on three novels by Virginia Woolf and that resulted in booking more tickets. There was the full-length fairytale of 'Cinderella', the 'Triple Bill' of different short ballets and then the masterpiece of 'Romeo & Juliet', a classic ballet on a grand scale by the Royal Ballet and I was hooked. The energy and athleticism of the dancers, the glorious costumes and sets, the lighting and the wonderful music, all contributing to taking the story forward. I suspect you need to see the right thing to  start to love ballet and I was very lucky this year that I saw the perfect productions that caused me to regret not seeing ballet for the last 30 years - so much missed but so much to explore in future.

There were lots of other 'news' in 2015 of course (including a new job) but these are some highlights. Things I never imagined I'd like - like ballet - have emerged as things I now love. I've broadened my horizons and that's a good thing. So people, if you're reading this take a risk in 2016 and try something new, something you haven't done or thought about before, something to surprise yourself. Be brave!

I officially designate 2016 as The Year Of More New!

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