Tag Archives: opera

On Stage

Dylan had his first performance in the National Ballet’s Nutcracker on Sunday. We have tickets to one of his performances next weekend, but at the last minute Ward and I decided to get standing room seats because it was, after all, Dylan’s first performance!

And we were very glad we did. Last year, Dylan was in three operas – Peter Grimes, The Masked Ball and Don Quichotte – so it’s not his first time on the Four Seasons stage, but this was his first time dancing on that state. Dancing is what he loves to do, and we both had one of those “feelings swelling up within” moments when he first came on stage.

Also, there were the stairs. He has to run up and down some stairs in one of the scenes, and he only got to rehearse on the actual stairs once, last week. He didn’t run down them quickly enough during the rehearsals, so he was a bit late in his timing. He’s a kid who’s more on the cautious side, so has never been one to rush pelmel down stairs. So he’s been practicing – on the condo stairs, the subway stairs, basically anywhere we could find stairs.

And he did wonderfully! His timing was fine, and while there was one minor mishap – he has a chicken, attached to him, that’s “chasing” him and the chicken got caught at the top of the stairs at one point, but the boy behind him managed to loosen it – no-one in the audience was any the wiser that a glitch had occurred.

This video gives a backstage view of the production:

It seems a little chaotic, but Dylan says it’s not. In fact, he says it’s all very organized, same as the operas he performed in last year.

Meanwhile, #UncleJohn, the opera Ward is in right now, also started performances last week, with this week seeing the last of the performances. #UncleJohn is a modern interpretation of Don Giovanni, and everything is sung in English. (Ward doesn’t do any singing – he’s an extra, and plays a cop.)

Coincidentally, Ward will be auditioning tomorrow for an extra’s role in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Don Giovanni! If he gets the part, he’ll be in rehearsals through much of the holidays. Dylan has five more performances, so the next few weeks could be quite hectic for us, not counting the holidays!

As for me, I’m quite content to be in the audience occasionally. I have absolutely no hankering to be on stage – although I certainly wouldn’t mind writing something that gets produced on stage!

My Two-Minute Super Bowl Sunday

Muted light gives the place a warm, intimate feeling common to the best pubs; its glow is a soft, all-encompassing glow, a welcoming gleam that blends everyone together. Happy, contented people fill the room; the noise is more than a din, less than a roar.

I perch on a tall bar stool, comfortably placed next to a wide ledge that’s just the right size for my wine glass and a couple of appetizers snagged from the trays offered by the passing wait staff. It’s hot in here, but not hot enough to feel oppressive.

It’s a scene, I imagine, that’s being played in bars and pubs across North America on this Super Bowl Sunday. With one exception: images flicker across the screen of the large television hanging on the wall, but no sound emerges; its volume has been turned off. A glance around the room reveals no-one is giving the television any attention.

And then, suddenly:

“Quiet, everyone!” The voice rises above the noise; it holds authority and more than an edge of excitement. The crowd gives a soft murmur, and the noise dies down.

Someone turns the volume on the television up, louder and louder.

It’s the Super Bowl.

All eyes in the room turn to the screen, and there is an expectant hush as the camera zooms in on the beautiful, smiling blonde woman.

Renée Fleming begins to sing the American national anthem. The room is soft with the silence, its collective breath held as Fleming’s voice soars effortlessly. When she hits and holds that second-to-final high note there are many, many cheers. And when it’s all over, the room erupts with even more cheers, with whistles, with “bravas”.

Someone mutes the television again. The din returns. The game has begun, and once more, the images flicker silently across the screen. No-one is watching.

That, my dear friends, was how I spent my Super Bowl Sunday this year. The afternoon had started with the opening performance of the Canadian Opera Company’s The Masked Ball (Un ballo in maschera), in which my ten-year-old son, Dylan, has a small role as a supernumerary. Afterward, we headed over to the after party held at Fionn MacCool’s, a pub across the street from the Four Seasons Centre, where the Canadian Opera Company performs.

Yesterday was the first time an opera singer has sung the national anthem at the Super Bowl. And I had the pleasure of experiencing that historic moment in the company of a crowd of professional opera singers. It was absolutely priceless, a moment I will always remember.

What about you? How was your Super Bowl Sunday? Did you watch the game or do something else?

Our Week of Opening Nights: ‘La Bohème’ and ‘Peter Grimes’

A week of opening nights. Or at least, that’s what it feels like.

August and September were the months of rehearsals, and October is the month of performances. With both Ward and Dylan having supernumerary parts (ie non-singing) in two different Canadian Opera Company productions, our calendar looks pretty wild!

Here is Ward in costume for La Bohème. He’s the one on the left – and he looks very different here than he does in real life!


There are twelve performances, so if you’re in Toronto during October, dinner and La Bohème would make a great night out. La Bohème opens on Thursday, October 3.

Dylan plays one of the fishing village boys in the COC production of Peter Grimes. It’s quite a tragic tale, and a very powerful and intense experience (there’s a scene in Act III that always sends shivers down my back when I’ve watched it during rehearsals).

Here’s Dylan with the other "super" boys, and tenor Ben Heppner, who plays the title role:


And here’s Dylan in costume for the church scene (he’s the one in the middle). I’m not sure if he’ll have the hat on for the performances, as he didn’t wear it in the most recent rehearsal:

photo (3)

And in his non-Sunday, running around clothes:

photo (8)

One of the best things about Dylan’s involvement in Peter Grimes has been hearing him sing, when he comes home from a rehearsal, some of the lines that Ben Heppner sings as Peter Grimes. Dylan’s one of the understudies for the role of John, the boy apprentice, so he’s had a great opportunity to watch and listen to Heppner – and it turns out he has quite the musical memory. I’ve watched far more of the rehearsals than he has, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to sing any of the lines for you! (Well, aside from a little ditty where the chorus sings "John’s a fisherman, John’s a fisherman" …)

Peter Grimes opens on Saturday, October 5. Another great opera to catch if you’re in the mood for opera in October!

The Root of Our Current Kitchen Sorrows

It’s a sad, sad state of affairs in our kitchen right now.

You see, I am (temporarily) in charge of dinner.

Yes, you can feel sorry for my kids, they who must bear the brunt of this change in the domestic cooking arena.

And to make things worse, it’s all more or less my fault.

Early in February, I got an email from the Canadian Opera Company (well, I did, as did all the other subscribers to the COC’s newsletter). They had some interesting news: they were holding an open call to fill over a 100 “supernumerary” roles for their upcoming spring productions!

If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering, what’s a “supernumerary”? Luckily, the newsletter spelled it out for me:

Supernumeraries, a.k.a. supers, are the extras of the opera world and play a variety of non-singing roles. They are vital to enhancing the operatic experience presented on stage.

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably know the following about Ward, my significant other:

(1) he teaches martial arts for a living


(2) he’s the (one and only) cook around here.

What you probably don’t know is, he’s a huge opera fan. So when I read that email, I got really excited. “You’ve got to go to the casting call!” I said.

Ward was hesitant, never having even contemplated doing anything like this before. But I was persuasive, and when the date of the open call rolled around, off he went.

You probably know where this is headed, right?

Yes, Ward was picked to be a “super”: he’s playing the role of a peasant in the COC’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites, the story of an order of Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution.

dialoguesPhoto credit: Canadian Opera Company

If you get a chance to attend the performance, which runs in Toronto from May 8 to 25 at the Four Seasons Centre, Ward says he’s in the front row in several of the scenes in which the supers play a part. Look for the tall guy with light brown hair and blue eyes, dressed in peasant robes. (Mind you, I think all the supers are in peasant robes. And there are about 60 male supers. So okay, you might not be able to pick him out.)

Ward’s been having a blast, attending the rehearsals, hearing some great opera almost every night, getting to meet some of the main performers.

The downside? I’m temporarily in charge of the kitchen. Because there are a lot of rehearsals in the evenings, both during the week and on weekends.

Which means, no one to cook dinner.

So far, we’ve been having a lot of takeout. As I mentioned in my last Sunday Salon post, I’ve even taken to doing the 40 minute walk to Chinatown to pick up congee and Chinese donuts (which Wikipedia tells me is called youtiao) and then doing the 40 minute walk back. The walking is a good thing, because having a lot of takeout does not add up to a particularly low-fat diet, if you know what I mean.

Then there’s that good old standby, grilled cheese. And sandwiches. I am particularly gifted in putting together ham and cheese sandwiches. I will even cut off the crusts if you so desire.

And let us not forget frozen lasagne. Thank goodness for frozen lasagne. It kind of feels like a home-cooked meal. So far we’ve tried two kinds: the Longo’s store brand and the President’s Choice brand from Loblaw. Everyone here likes the President’s Choice one better.

Now I just have to get through most of May.  If  you have a suggestion for a quick and very very easy dish that even I can make, please please please let me know in the comments. My children will thank you.

Since this post mentions food to a certain degree (although it mostly discusses the root of our current kitchen sorrows), I’ll be linking it up at Weekend Cooking, a regular feature that runs every Saturday at Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday Ramblings: Hollywood, Tosca, and Americas Test Kitchen

Whew! What a wild week this has been. I’m supposed to be in my “less busy” season, but somehow, what with projects showing up earlier than expected, I ended up with three deadlines this week. That kind of stuff is only supposed to happen in November and December!

So I thought it would be good to unwind with a rambly post. Because a lot of other stuff happened/is happening so I have tons to talk about.

As I type this, guess where my daughter, Hayley, is? In Hollywood!

She flew out on Thursday morning to spend a few days with a good friend of mine, Holly Sorenson. Holly’s the executive producer of ABC Family’s Make It Or Break It, and they’re shooting the season finale right now. We thought it would be a great way for Hayley to experience a real live television set in action, so to speak, so she took a short break from her filmmaking studies to fly out to LA.

HollyandHayleyHayley and Holly on the MIOBI set

I love this picture of the two of them on set! They’re having a great time together, and Holly took Hayley out for some pampering, too:

hayleypampering2Hayley getting some pampering

And if you’ve never watched Make It Or Break It before, you’re in for a treat! The show follows a gymnastics team on their journey to the gold; Season 3 premieres next month, and you can catch up on the earlier episodes online.

While Hayley’s deep in Hollywood excitement, I’m going to the opera for the very first time tonight! A friend of mine has season’s tickets, and she asked if I’d like to go see Tosca. I listen to opera only via Ward, who loves it (we’re planning on going together ourselves once we’ve really settled into our city lives), but other than that, I’m a total opera newbie. So I thought a classic opera like Tosca would be a good way to start my opera experiences.

My main dilemma? I have nothing to wear! <insert wail here> And while you might have heard other people say this kind of thing, I can assure you, I truly have nothing to wear. I don’t have dress boots, so that leaves out all my winter dresses (all one of them) and winter skirts (all one of them, too). I know you can wear jeans to the opera but I’d like to be dressed at least a cut above jeans. So the only thing I have left are these black cotton pants which are in no way dressy – but they’re not jeans! I’ve decided to be happy with that.

(I can’t even wear my dressy ankle boots because it snowed last night, and given the choice of walking in snow and ice in heels or my sturdy, dependable Thinsulate boots … well, let’s just say I’ve never been one to pick fashion over comfort and safety …)

Okay, this has been a long ramble, but I’ve really got to tell you about a fabulous recipe resource Ward recently discovered. (And then I’ll stop rambling – I promise!). It’s the magazine version of The Best of America’s Test Kitchen: Best Recipes and Reviews 2012, and it is simply amazing.


So far this week, Ward has made the following recipes:

Chicken and Slicks: this is the Appalachian version of chicken and dumplings. We had it last night and it was SO delicious. You make your own noodles for it (well, I didn’t – Ward did all of that), and instead of using water in the noodle recipe, you actually use chicken broth. Very tasty noodles, very tasty dish.

Cod Fish Cakes: ever have a fish cake and it really tasted more pasty than seafood-y? The fish cakes Ward made from this magazine were the absolute best I’ve ever tasted, and that includes fish cakes I’ve ordered at a restaurant. Solid chunks of cod, with nothing to hide the flavor. Yummy!

Black Bean Chili: I didn’t have any of this, because I’m not one for chili, but it fits the bill for a vegan entrée for Ward. He had a bit of trouble getting the beans soft, but other than that, he said it was delicious.

Rosemary Focaccia: our latest joke is that this recipe alone is worth the cost of the magazine (It’s $9.95, kind of hefty for a magazine but really really worth it). Seriously, I’ve never had focaccia that tasted this good: fluffy with just the right amount of density and chewiness, and a beautiful rosemary flavor through and through.

It’s a plan-ahead recipe, as you have to make the starter between 8 and 24 hours before you prepare the actual dish. You also need a very hot oven, and since our oven is very close to our fire alarm, every time Ward opened the oven door, I had to stand on a chair and fan the hot air from the alarm so we didn’t set the thing blaring. But it was well worth it – it’s so good, Ward has made it twice this past week.

Okay, I’m done rambling, like I promised!

And since I can’t ramble and not talk about food at one point or another, I’m including this as a Weekend Cooking post. For more food-related posts, make sure you head over to Beth Fish Reads!