A couple of nights ago, I was invited by a nice new friend, whom I like, to a concert — classical music, which I also like, so I accepted. Only later did I find out that the concert would be in a private castle and that we would likely meet the old Belgian aristocracy who live in the house.
Well, how about that?
So I dressed up, evening clothes and my sky-high heels. I met my friend for dinner at a nearby restaurant, La Maison du Cocher. I was very impressed with the service; the gentleman who waited on us was, I think, one of the owners, or at least he acted like it, which of course is a good sign. And the food was good. A side note: if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you won’t find a lot of (read: any) restaurants outside of Brussels with anything besides a vegetarian salad on the menu, and some places, like this lovely restaurant, will have nothing. But if you’re lucky, and the restaurant is good, as this one is, they’ll make a nice vegetarian meal for you. But don’t try for vegan — they won’t know what to do with that at all.
But I digress.
After dinner, we headed to the Chateau Morval, which isn’t actually a castle, but rather what we would call in the US, a “mansion.” It’s an 18th century residence that was built to replace the former family residence. No telling how many rooms, but it is enormous. There were folding chairs set up in rows in one of the rooms, with a big grand Steinway at one end. The room was grand, too, with high ceilings and old rugs, and hundred year old (or more?) paintings on the walls of family ancestors. As we found our seats, we passed a pair of chairs that had sheets of paper on them reading “Ct et Ctesse d’Oultremont.” The owners of the castle.
The concert, the opening of the series called Printemps Musical de Silly (that’s the town, “Silly,” not the, um, silly town. Or maybe it is silly; I don’t really know it. In any event, this first in the concert series was, as we say in the southern US, a humdinger! The pianist was terrific, a young Belgian named Jean Capelle. The baritone, another young Belgian, was the exceptional and prize-winning Sebastien Parotte. The soprano, again young and again Belgian, was world-class Julie Mossay.
So other than being Belgian, what did these three have in common? They are young! Because the Printemps series is intended as a showcase for young talent. But their youth is a ruse to draw you in, and make you suspect nothing. In fact they are ridiculously talented, far beyond their years, and not just in music. The two vocalists are gifted actors who have clearly done a lot of stage work. They sang an hour and a half of comedic duets and solos, complete with body language that made the French lyrics inconsequential for my friend, who is just beginning to learn the language. And of course, they sang wonderfully.
Afterwards there was a lovely reception where we did, indeed, meet the Count’s family. His sons, both older men themselves, were charming and friendly, and my friend and I were the only Americans there, so we drew some attention, in a good way.There was champagne, orange juice, chocolate, hors d’oeuvres. We met some interesting people other than the aristocracy, too. It was an altogether lovely evening.
I was so impressed, I bought a season ticket. It goes right up to the end of the school year, and there’s something every weekend. I’m pretty excited. But I’m not sure it will top this night. Here’s a sampling.
Here’s a link showing information about Printemps Musical and with a photo of the castle.