Wednesday, May 04, 2016


A Night at the Opera

Last night I attended my last performance at the COC for the 2015-2016 season. The opera was Rossini's seldom performed Maometto II directed by David Alden. While the opera is long and drawn out it was nice to see something that has seen so few performances. The performance began with silence as the curtain rose to reveal two rounded sections of plastered classical inspired walls. Visually it was understated beautiful and muted in tone and colour, focusing on greys and dramatic black costumes. I was hoping that the evening might be akin to one of Robert Carsen's minimalist takes on opera. Entering the stage a group of soldiers dressed in nineteenth-century styled uniforms, which looked like they walked out of the Union Army from the Civil War carried guns with bayonets. Seeing this I wondered what did this have to do with either the text of the opera which takes place during the 1470s or when it was written in 1820. The head scratching I experienced did not bode well for the rest of the evening. 

I have written before how opera directors need to be aware that every element that is used in opera to tell a story needs to come together cohesively. When certain elements leave the audience wondering what is going on in the director's mind it takes away from the overall beauty of the piece. The story is pretty straightforward featuring love between rivals and mistaken identities, between the Turkish leader Maometto II and the leader of the Venetians and his daughter. What makes the opera so beautiful is the music which predates Wagner's use of music to set dramatic mood. Unlike other bel canto pieces the story features no identifiable arias and instead opts for an overall development of place and mood through music. While there are no real standout arias the singing throughout is still an exercise in skill featuring lots of scales, trills and embellishments. 

While there were a few dramatic touches in the staging, especially the church scene and Maometto's tent, Alden used some movable panels in interesting ways. However I found myself distracted by the blocking Alden used to move people around the stage. More often than naught people came and went in a manner that did not add anything to the overall story or experience. Added to the awkward blocking was a lot of standing and singing which meant that there was little drama. This combined with odd costume choices, why were the Turks dressed like ninjas and why did a witchy woman run around with a skull and a scythe? I also did not understand the hanging bodies (although this seems to be a common theme at the COC lately). There were too many directorial choices that just didn't make sense. I understand what Alden was trying to do but to often it felt forced and didn't really place the opera in time or space. I guess I was hoping for more colour and style after all operas like this which placed with the fascination with the east in the 19th-century loved the exotic. At the same time Alden could have easily update the piece making it more relevant today, instead for me the whole thing felt confused. 

The singing on the other hand was stellar. All three of the major leads, Eriso sung by Bruce Sledge, Anna by Leah Crocetto and Calbo by Liz DeShong were standouts on their own and were also beautifully blended when they sang together. Luca Pisaroni on the other hand as Maometto I found weak. While he had a nice voice it didn't have the power or gravitas of the other three which meant that when he sang with them his voice disappeared into the background. 

May the 4th be with you

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Cable Woes

This morning I spent another 40:00 minutes on the phone with Rogers about billing. Back in March I decided to change my cable package because things were getting just too expensive. Then in April I had to call them again because my bill was still showing the costs for the old package, so imagine my surprise when I looked at my most recent bill and found that I was till being billed for the old cable package. It turns out their system and the online system I see do not match. Really? Three months after cancelling the original package I was still paying for it. 

Is it any wonder that people are migrating away from cable when they not only charge for everything but also when they use business practices that are archaic and dated. I know that if we had the options available in the states, including Hulu and other streaming services I would cancel cable immediately. As it is our only other options are Netflix, Shomi and Crave. I guess I will wait until December when Rogers is supposed to be implementing a new system which allows users to purchase what they want and I will pare everything down to the bare essentials. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

A Quiet Saturday

Yesterday began cool but gradually warmed up as the day developed. It was nice to finally have a bright, sunny day so that we could get out again into the garden. After picking up our dry goods from Kensington Market Mr.T touched up some stain on the deck doorways before we decided to go for a walk to Fiesta Farms. Last time we were there we were surprised that they had a good selection of plants earlier than everyone else. We picked up some onions, leeks, swiss chard and basil. Walking home we planted the onions and leeks in the south garden and the chard in one of the rail planters. We also added some parsley seeds to some of the parsley that actually survived the winter and some beet seeds next to the leeks and onions. We figured this plants are the sturdiest and they would have the best chance with early plantings. 

For dinner we walked over to Fresh hoping to find the place less busy before dinner hours, but it is always busy. Mr.T and I both hate the close table seating they have and were lucky to score a booth, which at least makes the experience a little more bearable. After we made our way home and settled in for a quiet Saturday night. 

Happy MayDay

Friday, April 29, 2016

Memento Mori

Goth Home Design?

Queers & Class

Interior Designer Peter Marino

I have been thinking a lot about the relationship between gay men and class of late. When I first began meeting gay men as a young queer boy I was fascinated by the worlds they invented for themselves. There was something magical in how gay men reinvented themselves using a queer aesthetic to create new worlds. So much of what they created seemed so far removed from the worlds I knew and I was drawn to gay men who surrounded themselves with beautiful things. Think of Emory's quip in Boys in the Band, "Oh Mary, it takes a fairy to make something pretty." Why is it that gay men are so drawn to design, style and aesthetics? 

One of the most fascinating things about queer culture, at least the queer culture I knew, was that it allowed men of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds to mix together. As a friend once stated there was no difference between a CEO and busboy at the baths, save how they wore their towels. Unlike most heterosexual worlds which rarely mixed outside of their socio-economic groups gay men were drawn together by desire. This meant often that what separates us in day to day life could disappear, especially when desire trumped social status. This was one of things I loved about queer culture, the ability to meet so many people from different ethic, racial and social backgrounds. 

At the same time while sex and desire created social fluidity there was also a desire by some gay men to reinvent themselves through their surroundings. This act of self-realization is a fascinating subject and it interesting how gay men craft environments that elevate and separate themselves from the world's from which they came. Many times I have been in queer homes and am pleased to see how a working-class gay men acquired the attributes of middle-class style in the name of taste. The same can be said for middle-class gay men who then acquire the style of those of the leisure classes. Of course the process is fuelled by the ability to cross social and class boundaries. After all because gay men meet through sex, they are able to see how the other half lives. At the same time there is a conscious cultivation of style and taste that is uniquely queer that shows up in gay male homes.