6 July 2019

Ode to Cologne

Tosca on the Rhine






This picture (above) doesn't show Cologne today, but does contain an early likeness of the famous cathedral, together with a popular Rhine Cruise Ship in the foreground, and the brutal martyrdom of St Ursula, who, perhaps, had upset one of the city's notorious Köbes, a disgruntled class of servants, tasked with dispensing  Kölsch, a frothy, acidic excuse for beer that is inflicted on indigenes and unsuspecting wanderers alike... 

The image does not show the railway station....

This picture (below) shows the cathedral in a more modern aspect, with building site in the foreground, and later towers in addition.  Shot through the coarse muslin drapes of the wonderful Wolfman Rothfisch Museyroom (I suspect that's not the name, but this is not supposed to be accurate.....)








I try not to travel with preconceptions, as these inevitably lead to disappointment (and weigh down your hand baggage), but it is Bill Nighy impossible to voyage without some scepticism.... So I thought perhaps that Cologne would be a little old school, somewhat sedate, not without charm, shall we say?








But no!  This is Brühl.   On the outer garments of the colonial city, and in a moderate condition of health, given the times (our times, hard times....)





{By the way, a native of this suburb was Max Ernst, and the much improved Neo-classical Benediktusheim here is a very fine museyroom indeed.....}








Separately, in Bonn (one time capital of the West) we see them film Meggie Merkhel (some mistake? Ed?) arriving at the Rathaus.  A seventeen stone minder asks politely through gritted moustache whether I am Presse, but I refuse all royalties and recognise no one.









And then, in Aachen, or Aches le Chapeau as I think I hear it described, I see the eternal struggle of mankind enacted in the sulphurous confines of the central gardens....









And then kneel in awe of the extreme ceiling where Charles the Great (Charles Le Mange, or Karl Der Mango) was born/created/christened/married/crowned/died/buried..... [I said this wasn't a guide book....]







Back in Cologne the natives are unimpressed....  [Try hugging this hoodie, Davie....]








But there are reminders of how great it was [once upon a reich] to spur and boot.....








Though it is much more Adidas these days....







Then, as a treat, Tom Owen, principal oboe with The Gürzenich-Orchester Köln [Der gebürtige Engländer Tom Owen erhielt seine musikalische Ausbildung an der Purcell School of Music, an der Royal Academy of Music und an der Musikhochschule Hannover bei Klaus Becker. Bereits mit 19 Jahren gewann er den „Royal Academy of Music Oboe Prize“, dem viele weitere folgten. Er gastiert regelmäßig als Solo-Oboist bei führenden Orchestern wie dem Bayerischen Staatsorchester München, dem City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, dem Gewandhausorchester Leipzig und der Staatskapelle Dresden] invites us to the Köln Oper, to see Tosca, at Staatenhaus 1, in the Rheinpark.  








The opera (in Thilo Reinhardt's production, premiered here in 2012) opens in the church of San Andrea della Valle (near where I once caught my daily bus in Rome) and aerial bombardment interrupts the mass.  Deafening percussions shake the altar, and the congregation flee in fear.  








I am not sure who is bombing who, as black-shirted fascists, marshalled by a Hitler/Himmler figure - himself is in thrall to the loud and leery Scarpia (South Korean Samuel Youn, reprising his success in 2016) - soon appear to be in charge, but perhaps the native Colonials in the audience understand.  When the dark sky flashes with airborne ordnance, and your safety is blasted to ruins with the lives of your loved ones, no one knows nor cares who is triggering the bombardment.....  






It is too much to consider, but the real agents of destruction tend to be far from the front line, sitting proud in their tousled crowns, bunkered in arrogance and ignorance, pleasuring themselves at the expense of others.  Cologne was smashed out of recognition in the Second World War, and now, after nearly eighty years, it is still attempting to revive itself....

Praise be it can't happen again?











The mighty Dom rises above the Rhine, above the morass of swirling peoples.









Admired by all sorts.....








All sorts.....








None of whom (me most certainly included) would ever have the nerve to climb a true stairway to heaven, like this one.....







Back at the Oper, Tosca is brilliant.  The cast (including American Adina Aaron and Argentine José Cura) is cosmopolitan and the chorus magnificent, and the terrifying story of perfidious arrogance and abuse of power, combined with the horrifying destruction of innocence, is so frighteningly pertinent to our times that I don't notice the passage of Erdinger Weissbier, herring salad and schnapps until it is way too late to turn back......









By coincidence, Tosca has been associated in another way with Cologne since 1921, for Tosca Eau De Cologne Splash is a true German classic. Still one of the most popular fragrances in Germany today, this fragrance was first made in 1921 and has a dedicated following.

Tosca Eau De Cologne Splash possesses top notes of fern, honeysuckle and magnolia, middle notes of pink peony, peppercorns and heliotrope and finishes with base notes of amber, vanilla and magic lantern orchid.

Spicy. Fresh. Totally Tosca. 


{The original Eau de Cologne is a spirit-citrus perfume launched in Cologne in 1709 by Giovanni Maria Farina (1685–1766), an Italian perfume maker who had settled here.  The famous Eau de Cologne 4711 is named after where it was made at Glockengasse No. 4711. It was developed in the 18th century by Wilhelm Mülhens and is one of the oldest still produced fragrances in the world. On 12 December 2006, the perfumes and cosmetics company Mäurer & Wirtz took over 4711 from Procter & Gamble.}








It is night. A warm summer night in perfumed  Cologne. Birds flutter above the Hohenzollernbrücke as trains rock back and forth, trundling into the dark, shaking the forty thousand or so 'Love Padlocks' shackled to the fencing









Cyclists flit by.....







Flit, flit.....






Flit, flit flit.....







And then we are startled by the latest vehicle to hit the streets of Cologne (barely two months legal here but now ubiquitous)....  An electric scooter, leading to utter confusion in the cycle lanes, 

And also on the pavements.....










And so, fortified by a small flask of Jägermeister (a digestif made with 56 herbs and spices at a strength of 35% alcohol by volume.... the flagship product of Mast-Jägermeister SE, headquartered in Wolfenbüttel) we take refuge in an underpass, amongst the spirits of Köln, past, present, and future.....








Spicy. Fresh. Totally Tosca. 



Nell'ora del dolore
perché, perché, Signore,
perché me ne rimuneri così?

Vissi d'arte

From Act 2 of Puccini's opera, Tosca


Screen Shot 2019-07-07 at 1.11.57 PM.png
For my mother


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