This weekend, finally, Paula Rego’s retrospective at the Tate Britain, the first time I’ve seen most of these extraordinary paintings outside of books. Spanning seven decades from the surreal to the austere, the experience was as powerful as seeing Goya’s black paintings in Madrid for the first time, the same feverish intensity. The same day, the first visit in almost two years to the Royal Opera House for Leos Janácek’s Jenůfa, also the first time I’ve seen and heard a live performance of the first opera I bought on CD when still a teenager (for reasons I no longer recall).
Reading this weekend took the form of drifting between Virginia Woolf’s essays, Geoffrey Hill’s Now and Collected Poems, 1952-1992, Jacques Roubaud’s essays on poetry, and slowly rereading Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. I’m also continuing to languidly thin my library, aiming for a collection that is both smaller and more concentrated.
Ovid in the Third Reich
By Geoffrey Hill
non peccat, quaecumque potest peccasse negare,
solaque famosam culpa professa facit.
Amores, III, xiv
I love my work and my children. God
Is distant, difficult. Things happen.
Too near the ancient troughs of blood
Innocence is no earthly weapon.
I have learned one thing: not to look down
So much upon the damned. They, in their sphere,
Harmonize strangely with the divine
Love. I, in mine, celebrate the love-choir.
Please state more about yourself. Very self-serving in fact to state you are less interesting than your reading, no mystery intended. We are useful for you to increase your concentration and attention…
I haven’t been brave enough to go to the opera yet (I went to the cinema and the Royal Albert Hall once each since July 19th and was disconcerted to find everyone maskless and no checks at all about Covid situation at the entrance), but would have loved to see Jenufa. And the exhibition sounds like a must-see.
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The Tate Britain are diligent about asking visitors to wear masks, and most followed that advice. The Rego exhibition ends at the end of October. I’m pleased that it’s so popular, so do book ahead. Mask-wearing at the opera house was minimal, so you may not feel comfortable there.
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