I sadly had to attend two funerals this week and the reason I mention it to you is that at both events, something magical happened. One was of Hubert Martin, a successful banker, president of the Friends of Paul Claudel and a great music amateur who died at 103. At Saint Pierre de Neuilly, his daughter Laurence Dumaine Calle and her three brothers Xavier, Régis and Stéphane, organized a well attended ceremony where the surprise beauty was a bright yellow mimosa flower arrangement on the casket. Not only, it illuminated the church but also each one of our hearts. And the smell was magical. It also reminded us that Hubert, as his children, were brought up in Marseille, where mimosas will soon be in season everywhere.
For Marie Christine Perreau Saussine, who ran many literary prizes and knew everyone in the publishing world, the magic came from the priest Père Antoine d’Augustin, curate of the superb basilica of Notre Dame des Victoires. Born Meyer (she is banker Jean Claude Meyer’s sister), and raised in a Jewish family, MC as she was called, was christened and educated as a catholic. She professed to be an atheist but believed in the power of friendship and love. At her funeral, the priest managed the most brilliant homily, talking about her and her dual religious culture in such an intimate way that we all believed he had been having tea with her every day. She was a great intellectual and had an original vision on life, a strong character and always remained a free spirit. The priest underlined her vitality and joy but also her frankness in talking to her friends, showing her very strong opinions, and described the spirit of the divine running into her blood. The Kaddish was read at the end of mass. At 85, he was still running the prize she created in memory of her son Emile, a professor of political philosophy at Cambridge and at Sciences Po who died of the heart at 38.
On a lighter note, I was mesmerized by tenor Pene Pati at Théâtre des Champs Elysées. Born in Samoa he was raised in New Zealand and learned to sing with his father and his brother Amitai. They were serious rugby players, and as an encore, they both sang Samoan songs and acted the rugby dance on stage. It was hilarious. His voice is completely overwhelming and the name of Pavarotti circulated in every mouth at intermission. After “Rigoletto” at Unter den Linden in Berlin last year, he will sing again with Amitai in Beatrice di Tenda, directed by Peter Sellars, at the Paris opera next month.
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