Saturday, February 18, 2017
Today started out cool but then warmed up quickly making for a bright, beautiful, Spring-like sunny Saturday. After making our way to Kensington Mr.T and I decided to go for a walk to soak up some much needed Vitamin D. Making our way to Bloor Street we walked east to Yonge Street before heading north to Crescent Road. Then walking past lots of fancy, big homes we followed Crescent Road as it wound through Rosedale. After heading over Mount Pleasant we wandered through a few streets eventually finding Glen Road which ended in a footbridge over Rosedale Valley Road. After crossing the bridge we discovered a tunnel under Bloor Street which led into St.Jamestown. We then walked down Bleecker Street to Wellesley before heading back home.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Last night I attended my first opera for 2017 (I missed last week's The Magic Flute because I was too tired from our vacation). It was the COC's final opera in Wagner's Ring Cycle, Gotterdammurung. Running for a total of five and half hours with two intermissions it is a marathon of an opera. Like any Wagner opera the music is beautifully orchestrated with lots of repetitive musical themes (leitmotifs) which are used throughout the piece to suggest mood and character development. This form of orchestral scoring has been more popularly known and used in the twentieth-century in films, like John Williams score for Star Wars, where each character has their own musical theme. On top of the character themes Wagner spends a lot of time retelling the story over and over making it a really long night.
The stage design by Michael Levine continued the themes he developed in the other three operas leading up to the finale. In the prologue the three Norns dressed in simple black modern outfits weave the threads of fate, red ropes against a stage defined by the scaffolding he used in earlier incarnations. The ropes then extend across the ceiling of the stage as they stretch from one side to the other. Throughout the evening Levine's colour palette consisted of black outfits, bright white lights and red accessories like chairs or couches. This minimalist approach allowed the director (Tim Albery) to focus on the singing and the story sung by the characters.
In the next scene the fire surrounding Brunhilde was suggested with a bank of red lights that ran along the back of the stage. In front lay a double bed bathed in white light where Brunhilde and Siegfried made their home on top of a mountain. Brunhilde who was dressed in a long black nightgown and a red dressing robe was beautifully sung by Christine Goerke. Throughout the entire opera she was able to capture the raw beauty and power of Brunhilde as she moved from joy and happiness to sorrow, hatred and anger. Her voice was matched by Andreas Schager's Siegfried but I found Ain Anger's Hagen the real star of the evening. Not only did his voice invoke the character of Hagen he was able to bring to life the darkness of intent behind Hagen's actions.
For the home of the Gibichungs Levine chose to create a modern office setting that reminded me of the design world invoked by Mad Men. There was a large metallic desk, two apple like computer screens (which later lit red effectively invoked evil) and a mid-century modern red couch backed by a bank of sheer drapes. It was simple and beautiful and the use of the corporate motif worked to define the greed behind the actions of Hagen, Gunther and Gutrune. The only times it seemed a little out of place was against Seigfried's sword Nothung.
The metallic desk used by Levine later grew in proportion becoming in essence a mini stage that was used for the betrothment and betrayal scenes. I really thought that the desk was actually a powerful stage element that could have been used more effectively throughout the entire piece. As a platform it could have stood in for the mountain on which Brunhilde is prisoner more effectively than the bed and table and chairs that were actually used. Levine is a master of minimalist design using simple elements to define his sets but I found too often throughout the evening the curtain which drew to one side was drawn while the orchestra played. If Levine had used the desk as the primary stage element along with his effective use of lighting I think there would have been less need for set changes in back of the drawn curtain, which in the first two acts seemed far to long and drawn out.
Because of the length of the piece the evening was split into two intermissions, and I found myself too tired to continue after the second intermission, so sadly I did not see the finale. I would have liked to stay to the end but I needed to get home for a good night's sleep.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Yesterday it snowed all afternoon covering everywhere in a blanket of snow. For dinner we ordered pizza from Pizza Nova and then spent a quiet evening at home hiding away from the cold weather. Today when we awoke the temperature rose to plus 4 meaning a lot of the snow melted. We needed to head out to the market to pick up dry goods and veggies because we had nothing left in the house. After picking everything up we decided to go for a shot walk just so we could get out and soak up some of the warm although damp day. We walked through Kensington to Spadina stopping in Home Sense then Winners before walking back on King to Portland street. We then checked out the Winners on Queen before heading home to relax inside for the rest of the afternoon.
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Tuesday, February 07, 2017
This morning Mr.T and I arrived back home after 10 days of cruising to the Eastern Caribbean. We left a week ago Saturday flying from Billy Bishop airport to Newark. From there we caught the train into Penn Station then walked down to Trader Joe's to pick up some of their yummy snacks for the cruise. We then walked up 6th Avenue from 21st street, stopping for a toasted bagel in a local deli before heading on up to 46th street. We then walked west to the terminal and found ourselves earlier than last year and facing a long line to get on board the ship.
Once on board we had to wait for our room to be prepared and hung out in one of the lounges until the all clear was given and we sailed down the Hudson past the Statue of Liberty and the ship sailed under the Verrazano Narrows bridge. The next three days were spent at sea as we sailed to our first port San Juan, Puerto Rico. While on board we met a really nice couple from Brooklyn, Celeste and Tim while having lunch in the Grand Pacific dining room, who basically adopted us as part of their extended family. They were there with Celeste's sister, Joanna, her partner Susie and Celeste's brother Alfred. For the rest of the cruise we spent time with them enjoying the seating area on the back deck, my favourite spot on the ship.
After exploring the path we made our way back to the city through the Puerto de San Juan then walked along calle San Francisco to our favourite public beach the playa Escambron on the east end of the Old City peninsula. At the beach we swam for awhile before walking back to the ship.
The next day the ship docked in St.Thomas, not one of our favourite places so we decided just to head into town to catch a cab to Magens Bay. One of the reasons neither of us really like St.Thomas is that as American Virgin Island the culture is so car focused without any real attention to either pedestrians or public transit. In a way it is a microcosm of American culture with all of its worst elements and none of its best. However the beach is supposed to be one of the best on the island and we found it really peaceful and beautiful. Again we spent a long time swimming in the surf while lots of little fish nibbled at the dead skin on my feet. Mr.T was thrilled that I was receiving a treatment that others pay for through the nose at pricey spas. I have to admit it was a strange feeling and I was afraid of stepping on the poor little fish. After our swim we caught a cab back to the ship for a relaxing afternoon.
The next day we docked in St.Maarten, our favourite of the Eastern islands. The place is split between a Dutch and French side with the ship docking just outside of the main Dutch town of Philipsburg. Unlike St.Thomas there is more attention to the needs of everyone on the island and lots of mini buses that run continuously ferrying people all over for a few dollars. It really is an example of efficiency without too much greed and shows what can be done, compared to the expensive taxi system that operates on St.Thomas. After walking to the town and walking up and down the streets we caught one of the mini buses to Maho Beach, but the waves were just a little too intense for us so we just explored the area before heading back to the town and then the ship.
That night the LGBT group the friends of Dorothy changed their venue from one of the bars to a more secluded section in the Bliss Lounge so we decided to check it out. There we met a really nice group of older gay men who all knew each other from previous cruises and invited us to join them for the next couple of days. It was really nice to finally connect with a group of LGBT individuals who were fun to talk with.
The next day the ship docked in Tortola for a short day before it began the journey back to New York City. Tortola like St.Thomas doesn't really offer a lot except beaches and at that point we really didn't have interest driving again over the mountains to the other side of the island so we went for a walk the opposite way we went last year and discovered a really beautiful park that overlooked the harbour. Sadly, while the rest of the waterfront really isn't that attractive (it would be nice to see the park extend the entire length of the harbour) we sat there for awhile soaking up the sun as it rose over the marina.
For the next couple of days at sea we spent time with both the men from the LGBT group and Celeste and her family. On Sunday night we had dinner with the LGBT group in the Grand Pacific dining room giving us a chance to get to know everyone. Finally on Tuesday morning the ship arrived back in New York early in the morning and after lining up to get off we found Manhattan drizzly and wet, so we caught a cab down to Penn Station where we caught the train to Newark for Newark airport. Because the weather was so bad we caught an early flight back to TO, completing our ten day trip to the Caribbean.