In London

How wonderful to be back in London where there is so much to see and do. I spent a season here in my early twenties, living in Wimbledon and exploring the museums and galleries with every spare minute and penny that I had. John and I have been back many times and always find something new and unexpected. This morning it was The Foundling Museum near where we’re staying in Bloomsbury.

The Foundling Hospital opened in 1741 after considerable effort and fund-raising on the part of Thomas Coram. It was a haven for abandoned babies and the cases of tokens left with these babies by their mothers – a battered thimble, tiny glass hearts, a ceramic fish, a silk bag with initials embroidered on it – could break your heart. The statistics on child mortality were shocking to us. 75% of children born in London in those years died before the age of five. 90% of children in workhouses (an alternative to the Foundling Hospital) died before the age of five.

Thomas Coram was able to interest Hogath to support his Hospital by donating paintings and convincing his contemporaries to do the same. I was delighted to see that my favourite composer, George Frideric Handel, was also one of the Hospital’s principal supporters. He conducted regular benefit performances of the Messiah in the chapel and wrote the Foundling Hospital Anthem. In his will, he bequeathed a fair copy of the Messiah to the Hospital; the score is part of a small but wonderful display of materials relating to Handel’s life and work. We sat in big red leather chairs and listened to arias from Rinaldo, surrounded by busts and scores.

Lunch near Covent Gardens, a look at an exhibit at the British Museum comparing the cost of living between Roman and contemporary British soldiers, and now a bit of a rest before we go out to see a production of Terrence McNally’s Master Class in the West End.

And tomorrow afternoon we fly to Brno.

Later: Master Class was extraordinary. Tyne Daly as Maria Callas: an amazing and intelligent performance. Not an off-note (literally: the students in her class were all first-class singers, particularly the actress playing Sharon Graham; her Lady MacBeth was thrilling), not a moment when the action lagged or faltered.

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~ by theresakishkan on February 9, 2012.

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