21st & 22nd July 2018: Swan Lake in Madrid (Spain)

21st July: The housefront

This Saturday/Sunday getaway was a birthday present, and I have to admit that I was super excited about it – the main part of the present was a hotel night in Madrid and tickets to watch the (British) Royal Ballet in the Spanish Royal theatre, the Teatro Real. And I mean stall tickets, I was over the moon.

The day started at the Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, where there was an exhibition about yokai, the Yumoto Koichi Collection (Miyoshi, Hiroshima). It was called Yokai: Iconografía de lo Fantástico (Iconography of the fantastical), and it was rather interesting. It holds a collection of different items related to mythological creatures of Japan, yokai [妖怪] – there are scrolls, woodprints, games, pottery, even clothes and accessories. This was an interesting exhibition, and having seen it would later save me a trip to Miyoshi, allowing me to discover Takehara instead.

Rolls of paper, kimojo jacket and blookwood painting, showing different scenes and beings from Japanese mythology

After the exhibition, we went to the Green Tea Sushi Bar & Cocktail Room, which turned out to have the most overpriced mediocre sushi ever. The place was ridiculously expensive but fortunately we had booked with a special 50% discount, which made it bearable. However, fair is fair, and the tataki was delicious, and the chocolate coulant turned out to be amazing.

Lunch. Sushi boat, sald, tuna tataki, edamame, and an ice cream scoop

The hotel was in the right smack of Madrid, a short walk away from the Teatro Real and we had tickets for 17:00. Before sitting down we took a small exploration walk through the different rooms, including the ball room. I really loved the whole building and in particular the blue room and the ball room.

Royal theatre snippets - the main hall, the stage, the stands. Most curtains are a rich burgundy colour.

Swan Lake happens to be my favourite ballet – I love Tchaikovsky in general, though the stars have always aligned against me watching Sleeping Beauty. In Swan Lake, the evil sorcerer Rothbart turns maidens into a swan during the day, and they turn back to women at night as long as they are near the enchanted lake. The ballet officially opens with Prince Siegfried celebrating his birthday. He receives a crossbow as present, and he is later told by his mother that he needs to choose a bride the next night. As he becomes upset his friend suggest going hunting. In the forest, Siegfried becomes separated from the group and meets Odette, one of the swans. She explains of her predicament, and they eventually fall in love, and Siegfried invites her to the ball in which he needs to choose his bride. The next night, however, Rothbart sends Odette’s magical doppelgänger, to whom Siegfried swears love. Witnessing this in swan-form breaks Odette’s heart. As he realises his mistake, Siegfried makes it back to the lake.

The ending of the ballet changes. Sometimes it is a happy one when the spell is broken. The original ending has both Siegfried and Odette dying together to break the spell. Another alternative is that only Odette dies, but Siegfried manages to kill Rothbart and break the spell – this was the one that the Royal ballet played, and it managed to make me a puddle of happy goo. As Siegfried raises Odette’s inert body over his head, I shuddered all over. It was magnificent.

Snapshot of the credits, Showing Akane Takada as Odette and Odile, William Bracewell as Prince Siegfried, and Thomas Whitehead as Rothbart

The cast after the play taking their bows.

After the performance was over, we had dinner in the Plaza Mayor and then walked towards Puerta del Sol, then back went to the hotel to catch some sleep.

Square Plaza del Sol lit by night

22nd July: The backhouse

On Sunday we went back to the Teatro Real because we had booked one of the visits they offer, the technical one. During this visit you walk through the inner areas of the theatre, and even more interestingly, the upper area.

We saw the main hall, and afterwards we went first onto the backstage, then the backstage, and finally onto the stage where the Swan Lake props still stood, so that was really cool. The visit finished climbing up to the upper area of the theatre to see the views and the theatrical rigging system.

Empty royal theatre, showing the stalls from the stage, the backstage, and the view of the cathedral and the royal palace from the upper windows.

Finally, we had a bite to eat and we headed home for the weekend, and I have to say, I was happy as a skunk.