By Ray Petersen — NIZWA: March 20 – ‘Les P’tites Ouvreuses’ is French, and translates in English to, ‘The Little Usherettes,’ and this week, a charming French soiree, or evening garden party, at the residence of the French Ambassador to Oman, Roland Dubertrand, ushered in the International Francophonie Week celebrations, with no little joi de vivre, or joy of life. In welcoming his many guests, the Ambassador noted that the Francophonie, or French experience, is alive and well in Oman, thanks to bold shared trade, business and commercial initiatives, and via the education sector, with the Franco-Omani Centre, Sultan Qaboos University, and the University of Nizwa, all particularly active and vibrant in the field.
The formalities completed though, the guests stepped into quite another world, as the French duo of Nadine Bentivoglio (Accordian/vocals), and Cedric Gonnell (Guitar / Vocals), took them on a toe-tapping ride to Nice, on the Cote d’Azur. Or at least, at times, that’s how it felt!
I think I know now why the poet John Keats wrote, “Give me books, French fruit, fine weather, and a little music played outdoors by musicians I do not know,” in yearning for relaxation, while Steven King, the famed novelist wrote of the beauty of the French language, being able to “turn dirt into romance.”
Gonnell is a fairly irreverent, typically Gallic, professional musician, who likes to think of himself as “trying to showcase the dynamism of dance, and our national identity, within our lives, and our music. As pasta is to Italy,” he said, “so is our music to us.” He spoke also of the poetic nature of what they seek to achieve, through energy, fun and enthusiasm.
Every tune, and they were all original compositions, paid homage to the Parisian café society we have all seen in movies, but rarely in real life, and Bentivoglio’s subtle mood changes reflected both the wit, and the elegance, that is synonymous with France. If this, obviously talented musician offers elegance, Gonnell is the reminder of the French comedy farces of years gone by.
Almost tipping his hat to the wonderful ‘Allo Allo’ English/French comedy television series, he is the ‘Rene’ of his stage, with a myriad of expressions and an investment in his characters that drew smiles and laughter. With wit, colour, and cheek, Gonnell always appeared to know something funny, that the audience didn’t, and it was a thoroughly engaging performance.
If the ambassador was looking for a practical Francophonie experience for his guests, I would say he would be a fairly happy man, and in the same vein, I know most of the guests, for their part, thoroughly enjoyed their evening’s entertainment. Me, I don’t speak a word of French, but it was, I think, “c’est magnifique!”