In case you hadn't noticed, I really love this place! Not just for its always fascinating history, the monuments, the size of the city. Nor just for the great neighborhood we live in. Or the great bus routes that run right by our front door, not to mention metro access, literally next door. Or the food, the wine, the cheeses! Even though, yes, the city and the country have problems, just like every place in the world, nonetheless one of the things I love most about being here, and admire greatly, is the "institutional" support for the arts and culture, that makes life just a bit more pleasant for everyone.
You have to pay to go to a lot of museums here, like the Musée d'Orsay, for instance, where the current Manet exhibition is packing in the audiences by the thousands. But what happens when the Musée d’Orsay closes their impressionist gallery for renovation? Well, the paintings can be lent to other establishments while work is going on! And, voilà, a new exhibition, Paris at the Time of the Impressionists makes its welcome appearance at the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall). But, unlike the Musée d'Orsay, admission at the Hôtel de Ville is free! And with two large exhibition spaces, we've also thoroughly enjoyed exhibitions there about the history of the Paris Commune in the 1870s and, currently, one on role of the literary world during the Occupation of France during WWII.
It's not always city government that provides these niceties for the populace, though. This past week, underwritten by various corporations, cinemas have been offering movie admissions at their theatres for just 3 euros, instead of the usual 11 euros and up. Alas, the dearth of good movies kept us from taking advantage of this offer!
I guess the bottom line here is that people in France pay a lot of taxes, but the revenue doesn't all go to making sure the transportation works and that you get good medical care (both of which are true). A fair amount also goes to improving the quality of life for citizens, be it free admission to museums, an ephemeral garden in the city centre, the Paris Plage that goes up each July and August along the banks of the River Seine, etc. etc.
In Paris, under the direction of city hall and le ministère de la culture et de la communication, official musical events were offered at major sites, such as at the Louvre, where Neeme Järvi conducted l'Orchestre de Paris, or at the Musée d'Orsay, where Kurt Masur directed the Orchestre National de France.
But it wasn't just classical offerings. Jazz, World Music, Pop, Rock, Electro, Blues, Folk: if it was music, you could hear it that night!
In our 2nd arrondissement, we spent a lovely afternoon hour in an auditorium at the Passage Colbert, listening to young pianists perform Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninov, Scriabine and Brahms.
Outside, near the Mairie, stages were being set up, mixing boards configured, ready for a staggeringly loud rock concert later in the evening...
...when the little square was jam-packed with happy music lovers
As well as the "big" musical offerings, I just loved some of the "local" concerts that were springing up on almost every street.
Meanwhile, over at St. Sulpice, on the Left Bank, these three young people had the musicians all to themselves, for a while.
As night began to fall, Matthew and I went out again, and found a group of musicians performing French folk songs behind the venerable Église St. Eustache, with the audience (lyrics in hand) happily singing along.
...and this couple gave a great swing dance demo. My feet were tapping!