Wednesday, August 6, 2008
“Taking Sides” At Chichester Festival Theatre
We will not be in any hurry to get out and about this day.
We plan to leave the hotel at 9:30 a.m. and walk to Chichester Cathedral, where we will spend the morning.
Chichester Cathedral was begun almost 1000 years ago; the Cathedral celebrates the 900th anniversary of its consecration this year. It is a large and beautiful Cathedral, with a very unusual feature for Britain: it has a separate bell tower, just as many Italian churches have a campanile. The Cathedral’s architecture is largely Norman but, like most English cathedrals, it features a variety of styles and decorations, reflecting the fact that it was built over many centuries and continues to evolve.
Chichester Cathedral was erected upon the site of a Roman settlement, and an ancient Roman mosaic is preserved in the Cathedral floor. The Cathedral has many beautiful and unusual monuments—a monument to the first human being killed in a railroad accident is one of the most fascinating memorials in the Cathedral—and in the last fifty years the Cathedral has aggressively commissioned windows, murals, monuments and other artworks from contemporary artists. One of the Cathedral’s most famous works of art is the window created by Marc Chagall. Another famous work commissioned by the Cathedral is Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms”, premiered at the Cathedral in 1965.
The grave of Gustav Holst is in Chichester Cathedral.
We will explore the Cathedral exterior and interior in depth, and examine the monuments and artworks. When we have completed our explorations, we will have lunch in the café located in The Cloisters.
After lunch, we will walk back to our hotel and retrieve the car and drive to an attraction three miles outside the town of Chichester: Goodwood House, an estate owned (but not occupied) by The Duke Of Richmond.
Goodwood House is open to the public, on average, only thirty to sixty afternoons each year. According to the Goodwood House website, it will be open to the public on this particular afternoon, so we plan to take advantage of the opportunity to visit the property.
The Duke Of Richmond was a title bestowed upon an illegitimate son of Charles II (“The Merry Monarch”) and, over generations and through marriage into other titled families, three additional titles have been acquired by The Duke Of Richmond: The Duke Of Lennox, The Duke Of Gordon and The Duke Of Aubigny. Accordingly, the present incumbent is officially known as The Tenth Duke Of Richmond, The Tenth Duke Of Lennox, The Fifth Duke Of Gordon And The Duke Of Aubigny.
Goodwood Estate is presently occupied by The Heir Apparent Of The Duke Of Richmond, Charles Henry Gordon-Lennox, Earl Of March, Darnley and Kinrara; his second wife, Janet Elizabeth, The Countess Of March (and daughter of The Third Viscount Of Ascot); their son, The Heir Apparent Of The Earl Of March, 13-year-old Charles Henry, Lord Settrington; and Lord Settrington’s younger siblings, The Honorable William Rupert (age eleven) and The Honorable Frederick Lysander and Lady Eloise Cordelia (seven-year-old twins).
I believe that Lord Settrington’s older half-sister, Lady Alexandra, no longer resides at Goodwood House and now resides in London, but my information on this latter point may not be up-to-date. It is not always easy to keep up with The Peerage.
On the rare afternoons it is open to the public, Goodwood House may be visited by taking either a “stewarded” tour or a “guided” tour. From the Goodwood House website, I cannot for the life of me figure out what is the difference between the two, but on August 6 only “guided” tours—and not “stewarded” tours—will be offered, so I guess it makes no difference for our purposes.
The “guided” tours are one hour in length, but there will be one 90-minute “connoisseurs” tour precisely at 2:45 p.m. on August 6, so we will take the 2:45 p.m. “connoisseurs” tour in order to see as much of the house as possible.
Goodwood House is a very unusual structure: it consists of three sides of an incomplete octagon. The building was constructed over a prolonged period of time, in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but the interiors were completely transformed early in the 19th Century, redecorated in The Regency Style. The interiors remain consistent with The Regency Style to this day, and are considered to be among the finest Regency interiors anywhere.
The public rooms are supposed to be very grand, very beautiful and very sumptuously adorned. The house is filled with paintings, furniture, porcelain and tapestries of the very greatest interest and highest quality.
The painting collection includes grand portraits, including Royal portraits, by Van Dyck. It also includes scenes of London commissioned from Canaletto. There are also English paintings by George Romney, George Stubbs, Joshua Reynolds, Henry Raeburn and Thomas Lawrence.
The furniture is British and French, with French furniture taking precedence: The Third Duke Of Richmond was Britain’s Ambassador To France during the reign of Louis XV, and The Duke personally commissioned numerous pieces of furniture from France’s finest cabinet-makers. Further, The Duke purchased enormous quantities of French furniture on the open market during his years in Paris. He purchased even more French furniture during The French Revolution, when French nobles were frantically trying to sell whatever they could unload at whatever prices they could obtain, and he and his heirs continued to acquire furniture from France at bargain prices for over half a century after The Revolution.
The porcelain is Sevres and, once again, it was acquired by The Third Duke Of Richmond during his diplomatic service in France. In fact, the Goodwood House Sevres porcelain, a complete and astonishingly-elaborate dinner and dessert service, was commissioned directly from the Sevres Porcelain Factory. Moreover, Goodwood House’s Sevres dinner and dessert service is of the greatest rarity because it features not one but two primary colors, blue and green, virtually unprecedented at the time of its commission (1765). The entire service is on display in the Card Room.
The tapestries are Gobelin, a gift to The Third Duke Of Richmond from Louis XV himself. The tapestries portray scenes from Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”, and are supposed to be extraordinary.
(London’s National Portrait Gallery contains a magnificent portrait by George Romney of The Third Duke Of Richmond and Lennox, as he was styled at the time. My brother and I made a point of showing the painting to my parents and Josh last September. The portrait is in profile, with The Duke glancing down at a book while sitting outdoors at Goodwood. The tower of Chichester Cathedral is in the distant background. It is my favorite George Romney painting anywhere. The National Portrait Gallery version of the painting is only one of several versions, and I suspect that there must be another version of the same painting at Goodwood House. The Third Duke Of Richmond And Lennox is also one of the figures portrayed in John Singleton Copley’s grand history painting, “The Collapse Of The Earl Of Chatham In The House Of Lords 7 April 1778”, also at London’s National Portrait Gallery. In Copley’s painting, The Duke is portrayed as having just finished speaking at the moment of Chatham’s collapse.)
I think we will enjoy going through Goodwood House very much, whether we be guided or stewarded through the premises.
How likely will it be that any of us will ever again find ourselves in or anywhere near Chichester on a day that Goodwood House is open? The opportunity to visit the House will probably never repeat itself for any of us.
After Goodwood House, we will drive back to Chichester and spend some time walking the market streets and locating a pleasing restaurant for dinner.
After dinner, we will attend a second performance at Chichester Festival Theatre. Tonight’s performance will be in the smaller venue, the Minerva Theatre, which accommodates only 283 persons.
The play will be “Taking Sides”, Ronald Harwood’s drama about the de-Nazification proceedings of Wilhelm Furtwangler. The role of Furtwangler will be played by Michael Pennington, the actor who played the role of Furtwangler’s interrogator at the play’s world premiere, unveiled in this very theater in 1995. In the original production (directed by Harold Pinter), the very, very short Daniel Massey played the very, very tall Furtwangler.
The play itself is not very good--Harwood has no intellectual depth, and his play, among other things, turns Furtwangler's American interrogator into a cartoon--but I will not mind seeing the play again.