Masterpiece: Les Misérables

It’s no secret that Les Misérables is one of my favorite stories of all time. I’ve read the book and seen the musical, the film with Liam Neeson, the film with Jean Gabin and the one with Harry Barr. I’ve loved them all.

I lost track of time and missed the premier of Masterpiece’s newest Les Mis, but fortunately, I taped it and am now ready for episode 2.

Beginning with Thénardier (Adeel Akhtar) robbing the pockets of soldiers killed at Waterloo. As luck would have it, Pontmercy, a solider, wakes up and mistakes Thénardier for a savior. Then in the prison where Jean Val Jean (Dominic West) toils away while being abused, beaten and tricked by the guards and Inspector Javert (David Oyelowo), a 19th century French Pharisee. Early on we also see Pontmercy’s wealthy father-in-law who’s taken custody of his grandson when the boy’s mother died. Vehemently opposed to Pontmercy’s politics, the grandfather forbids Pontmercy to see his own son, Marius, a cutie pie in velvet and frilly collars.

Fantine’s story of meeting Felix, Cossette’s father, this production starts earlier in the book than the musical. We get to see the slimy, philandering Felix who loves and leaves poor, naive Fantine. Interwoven with Fantine’s story, we see Jean Valjean get freed from jail and encounter hostility and injustice till he’s welcome by the saintly Bishop Digne.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the story. It’s a lush production. I always have an odd feeling about computer graphics. I can tell it’s not real (or faux real). I sense something lacking in the vast settings that must be computer graphics.

The story spans decades and contains several plot lines. Victor Hugo dedicated each section of the book according to a main character. The screenwriter has woven several sections together and the chronology’s changed. Some things seem to be simultaneous here, when they weren’t in the book. For example, at the end of episode 1, Fantine’s holding her daughter Cossette, who looks like she is at least a year old. Yet Felix just abandoned her a few hours before. I thought Fantine got pregnant after Felix left her. Also, Jean Valjean has just left the Bishop’s. It seems the timing is off between Fantine, whose story doesn’t need much time to progress to the next stage, and Jean Valjean, who took many years to get to the next point when he’ll meet Fantine.

Even though there are some differences between other productions and these do bother me, the annoyance is small and Les Misérables is a story that can’t be ruined. (Knock on wood.) So far this series is off to a good start.

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Sepia Saturday

This week I decided to try to make a video for my Sepia Saturday post. I used a free service called Spark by Adobe. It’s quite easy to use, but I’ll make a how-to video on using Spark this coming week.

I think that ballooning is such a romantic endeavor and still is. I haven’t been in an open air balloon, but would love to try it.

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Columns

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Phnom Penh

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London

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National Museum of China at night, Beijing

Each week Cee of Cee’s Photography challenges bloggers with a fun prompt. This week we’re to find photos of subjects that feature columns or vertical lines.

If you want to see more fun photos, click here.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Domes

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London

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Pekanbaru, Indonesia

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Richard H. Drieshaus Museum

Each week Cee of Cee’s Photography challenges bloggers with a fun prompt. This week we’re to find photos of subjects that feature arches, semi-circles or domes.

If you want to see more fun photos, click here.

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I Puritani

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Friday I got student tickets for the Lyric Opera Chicago’s production of I Puritani. Written by Vincente Bellini, I Peritani is the story of Elvira, a young girl in love with Arturo, but whose father promised a soldier named Riccardo that he could marry his daughter. Understandably, Elvira is beside herself.

However, she soon learns her father’s reconsidered and will permit her to marry Arturo. It all sounds grand, except to Riccardo, who’s now jealously plotting against his rival. Unaware of Riccardo’s response, Elvira is on Cloud 9 and preparing for her wedding.

The story takes place in the 17th century England when the Royalists are at war with the Puritans. The disposed queen, Enrichetta has been captured and brought to the castle where the opera takes place. She’s able to hang out wherever she likes for some reason. As she’s sitting in a courtyard, Elvira sees her and decides the best way to see how her veil looks is to put it on this other woman she doesn’t know. Queen Enrichetta dazzles in the veil. For some reason, Elvira leaves the queen forgetting the veil. What ensues is a case of mistaken identity when Arturo promises to help Queen Enrichetta escape. He’s seen by Riccardo, who plots to show Elvira her fiancé “cheating on her” with the queen.

The music and singing was heavenly. During the first intermission, college night attendees could attend a Q & A session with a woman who works with technical aspects of the production. This was informative, but I’d prefer it if they speaker prepared about 5 minutes of a talk and then opened the floor to questions. As I don’t know opera well, I am not able to think up questions.

Before Act II began, a man announced that the singer playing Elvira had taken ill and the understudy took over. She did a fine job, on par with the star, to my unsophisticated ear.

For the second intermission, the curtain was up and a stage manager narrated what the 50+ professionals were doing to transform the set. That was fascinating to see.

The opera lasts 3 hours and 35 minutes and since I either get the 10:35 pm train or I have to wait till 12:15 am, I wouldn’t get home till 1 am, which I wasn’t in the mood for such a late night so I left after the second intermission. I’ll have to find a DVD of this opera to see the ending. While the story is quite contrived, the singing, music, costumes and set made I Purtani excellent.

Victoria, Season 2, Week 3

Entente Cordiale

This week Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and her court journey to France. She hopes to convince her cousin Louis Philippe not to marry his son off to a French princess, which would bring about a terrible political alliance as far as England’s concerned.

A corny subplot was the Duchess of Buccleough complaining about all things French, the baguettes, the people, the lack of toast. I feel sorry for Diana Riggs as this role is something of a poor man’s Violet of Downton Abbey.

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Château d’Eu in Normandy where Victoria et al visited the Louis-Phillipe

Albert pouts and broods a lot as he’s carrying the secret that he might be illegitimate.

Victoria feels insecure about being unfashionable compared to the French ladies. She asked Skerret to get her some rouge. Skerret delegates the task to Miss Coke, who speaks some French and we all learn that French women not only wear more make up than the French but they take veal, put it on their face and then put a leather mask over their faces while they sleep. And you thought K-Beauty had some strange products!

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Painting from this event, by Eugene Lami

Victoria is well received at the French court despite her qualms. When she wears rouge, it creates a bit of a stir. Albert chastises her for that later. He’s disgusted by the artifice of French society. He is out of place there. However, midway through the show, he’s walking in the woods with the French prince and some British nobles. He spies a waterhole and is compelled to disrobe and skinny dip! Soon all the men except the French prince are in the water. Then Victoria and the ladies happen by. Victoria is amused to glimpse Albert frolicking. There’s a rather overdone camera effect with all this diffuse sunshine on Victoria. A more natural effect would have been more fitting.

Back at the castle, Victoria teases Al for his skinny dipping. Then he confides to her how he fears he’s illegitimate and she responds by telling him she doesn’t give a hoot about his pedigree. She loves him.

Albert moves on to another success when he uses a grape metaphor to illustrate how politically bad a marriage between the French prince and a Spanish queen would be for England. King Louis-Philippe concedes and promises our royals they have nothing to worry about.

Back home, the duchess is happy to tuck into some boiled mutton or toast. (She’s far from a foodie.) Albert’s relaxed. And as absence makes the heart grow fonder, Victoria embraces her children with joy. There’s a bit about how Mr. Francatelli’s received a perfumed love letter. Mrs. Skerret feigns indifference.

Then da da da daa, Lord Peele announces that That tricky Louis-Philippe is hitching his son to the Queen of Spain. Seems the trip was a failure. All that seasickness for naught.

As Victoria had nine, count ’em nine, children the episode ends with her telling Albert is is pregnant.

All in all, the episode, which was based on history, was good. I didn’t expect the double cross. I didn’t miss the usual storylines with Skerret’s ungrateful cousin.

Next week we’re to see the Irish Potato Famine.