Throughout my time at St. Lawrence, I have made performing arts a constant element in my college experience, and I hoped to continue this while abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark during the Spring 2020 semester. With the help of the generous Cabot family, I was able to complete my project, and got to experience performance culture in three major cities across Europe! While in these cities, since the timings of some performances did not align with my break, and the COVID-19 situation hinted at our semester being cut short, I also used the time to explore local palaces and cathedrals as well.
The first city was Copenhagen itself. Here, the largest performing arts institution in the country, The Royal Danish Theatre, is an integral part of the country’s culture. I had the opportunity to explore two of the theatres that make up the institution, starting with the Copenhagen Opera House. This modern opera house is one of the most expensive ones ever built, and with the guided tour, I got to learn about the history of the building’s architecture, and explore areas that are usually closed to the public. The second was the historic Royal Danish Theatre, that is almost 150 years old. This building was the foundation of Denmark’s performance culture, and it was amazing to see all of its beautiful interiors. At St. Lawrence, I worked at the costume department under university theatre, and the highlight of the tour was getting a glimpse of their magical costume shop.
Apart from this, I visited the 17th century royal residence, Frederiksborg castle, in Hillerød, Denmark. There were art and furniture exhibitions that I got to explore, along with the famous Baroque style gardens. The second castle I visited was Rosenborg Castle, a Renaissance inspired creation, that was the summer house of one of the most famous kings of Denmark, Christian IV. I have taken several art history classes at St. Lawrence, and this was a chance for me to see the art works outside of the classroom.
The second city was Paris, France. In this bustling city, I spent a day vising the magical 159 year old Palais Garnier, and watching a George Balanchine Ballet performance at the modern Opèra Bastille. It was interesting to see both the old and the new that Paris has to offer. Everything from the architecture to artworks were breathtaking, and one thing was clear from these visits - the French are very serious about their theatre. Large groups of people in stunning, and expensive, garments made their way through the grand doors, while many stopped for the fancy refreshments. These performance halls are at the center of the city, and it felt as though everything was built revolving them. I even had the chance to learn about the history of Palais Garnier at the Musée d'Orsay. This museum is famous for their impressionist paintings, and it was amazing to see Claude Monet and Èdouard Manet for the first time out of my textbooks. Along with exploring the performance culture of Paris, I also used my time in the city to visit the Palace of Versailles. I saw where Marie Antoinette lived and walked across the Hall of Mirrors. It was the most magnificent feat I had ever seen, and I could barely fathom how this structure was built.
The third and final city was Prague, Czech Republic. This was wildly different from Paris, but equally as amazing. Here, I went to the Prague National Theatre and watched a romantic ballet performance, with the most intricate costumes. While it was a more casual setting, it also felt more free and comfortable. On a different day, I visited the Prague Castle along with its cathedral and towers. I left with a much larger understanding of its history and the role these architectural wonders served many centuries ago.
The grant that was awarded really gave me the space to explore my interests without restraint, and without it, my study abroad experience would have been wildly different. I am extremely grateful for the experiences I have had, and could not have imagined it any different.