Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Salomé a bit of a let down.

We saw the COC's production of Strauss' Salomé last night and were, on the whole, disappointed. The singing was fabulous, and I particularly Alan Held's Jochanaan (John the Baptist) and Erika Sunnegardh in the role of Salomé. But one expects great voices and orchestral accompaniment from this company.

What didn't work for me, surprisingly, was the direction. I normally like pretty much anything that comes through the hands of Atom Egoyan, both his films and his plays. This was my first time seeing this opera and I kind of didn't get it, I guess. There was a mixture of business suits and Roman attire. A very stark set. Projected images that, while interesting, seemed dated. It was all very...eclectic.

Now, it's not the modernity that did me in. I loved Peter Sellars' production of Tristan und Isolde earlier in the season. I'm a relatively new opera goer of only a handful of years. Perhaps I'm just starting to find my bearings.

Photos: Canadian Opera Company

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Is that Benedict Cumberbatch?"

Sitting in a screening of Atonement last night, Dorothy leans over to me and whispers those words. It had been a while since I'd seen the film and, sure enough, there he is in the role of soon-to-be-known as bad-boy  Peter Marshall, chocolate tycoon. I'm terrible at recognizing faces and, with the little reddish moustache, it probably would have taken me a while to figure out why he looked familiar.

But the entire screening was like seeing the film for the first time. We were at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and I had dutifully read Ian McEwen's novel in the days before the screening. I guess that's the point of the series: to understand how books are made into films.

To assist the audience, the screenwriter for the film Christopher Hampton had been invited to join interviewer Eleanor Wachtel on stage after the screening. As you may be aware, it is not obvious who the narrator is until the end of the novel, where there is a surprise regarding the veracity of certain scenes near the end. Hampton's first draft of the screenplay began with this end. When the director was switched out and Joe Wright took over, he asked Hampton why he had chosen to do this, and on subsequent rewrites, the screenplay switched back to follow the narrative line of the novel more closely.

One other large change between the novel and the film was that final scene. Originally set in the the Tallis home, which has been turned into a hotel, the narrator returns there for a birthday party and upon retiring for the evening, she writes the final section of the book and the truth is revealed. It's a very interior scene and likely would have been difficult to film without the use of voice-over, which Hampton was dead set against. Instead, the scene is shot with the narrator being interviewed on a television talk show, permitting the final revelation to happen more naturally.

I am trying not to give away too much about the novel which, if you haven't read it, would make an excellent summer read. The first half is set in an English country home in a hot, sultry season. Kiera Knightly should get an award for best scene in a bathing cap.

The final novels in this series are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzby Moredecai Richler, with guest director Ted Kotcheff (June 3. I'm hoping it will present a print of the restored master) and Midnight's Childrenby Salman Rushdie, with guest director Deepa Mehta (June 24).

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday choral report

Circumstances only permitted a half hour rehearsal this morning, but our music went reasonably well.

During the Offertory we sang Josquin's Ave Maria, presented below by the Tallis Scholars. (My email subscribers may not be getting the embedded video. If you'd like to see it, go to the link to my blog at the end of the email.)

During Communion, we presented Jesu Dulcis Memoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.

We were rather short of male singers this morning, with only one bass and two tenors, one of them a substitute for our cantor, but I think we managed to pull it off with our organist singing whichever male part needed him.

I spent a lazy afternoon, finishing up another read-through of Atonementby Ian McEwan in preparation for the screening tomorrow at TIFF, part of the Books on Film series. Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will be there for an interview with Eleanor Wachtel after the screening. The novel is so layered with emotion (or lack thereof) that it was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the porch.

It will be a busy week. Besides the screening, we are seeing two operas at the COC (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) and then Michael's final music concert of high school on Thursday,where he will be featured playing a tuba concerto composed by another student at the school.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1.  Michael and I attended Bésame Ópera last evening, presented by Opera 5, a small group of young singers. Presented at Gallery 345, they staged two Spanish operas, El Retablo de Maese Pedro by Manuel de Fallo and Goyescas by Enrique Granados.  Opera 5 wants to bring opera back to the masses:
  2. When opera was developed it was meant to combine all art forms and we intend to push that to the limit by combining opera with any and every distinct art form such as dance, photography, visual art, performance art, creative writing, and even culinary arts by showcasing new talent in each medium. (About Opera 5 
    Last night's production included shadow puppets in the first half, sangria and tuna ceviche at the break, and some beautiful visual effects involving wardrobe in the second half. The cast was superb, with the only difficulties being the sightlines in the small-ish space. I will definitely be back for next season.  
  3. I have failed miserably at getting to anything at HotDocs this week. I went down to try to get a same day ticket for Rent a Family Inc on Tuesday but they only had rush tickets and I was there two hours in advance. I decided not to wait around and risk not getting in. Yesterdays pick was bumping up against the opera. So I need to get better organized next year.
  4. I wandered into Belle de Provence yesterday when I was on my dress-hunting expedition. They sell scented soaps, candles, tableware, and other French loveliness. I adore liquid soap from France, even the inexpensive stuff. The scents are very natural, unlike North American products that all seem to have a chemical/not-made-in-nature smell. My in-laws bring Le Petit Marseillais brand soap in these funky earth-friendly tubes when they visit, and when I run out, I get a supply of a similar product in large bottles at Winners (1L of liquid soap for 9.99), which is WAY less expensive than what I saw in the shop. I suspect that the packaging changed, or something. If you see a gal in the bath products section at Winners sniffing all the bottles, it's probably me.
  5. We're off to an engagement party this evening, but if we weren't, I'd be joining Michael at Baroque Idol with the Aradia Chamber Ensemble at the Music Gallery. Young composers have been invited to submit works for the baroque ensemble and then the audience gets to vote. The winning composer gets a commission.
  6. My new to-list app for iphone is kicking my butt. It's the gamification of personal productivity. Check it out.
  7. It was HOT outside today.
  8. We're seeing two operas next week at the COC. Because of Z's travel schedule, we had to switch around some dates, which left us with Strauss' Salome (directed by Atom Egoyan) on Tuesday and Dialogues des Carmelites (Poulenc) on Wednesday. 
Thanks for dropping by! Feel free to leave a comment below.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Gatsby Mania

Who's not excited about the upcoming Baz Luhrmann extravaganza that will be The Great Gatsby, brought once again to film?

I wandered up to a local mall to find a dress for an event tomorrow night (last minute, I know!) and caught sight of some of the marketing spin happening around the premiere.

Chapters had a display that included two different editions of the book plus some others set in the same period or with the same theme  (Rules of Civilityby Amor Towles, Bright Lights, Big Cityby Jay McInerney, The Emperor's Childrenby Claire Messud, Call Me Zeldaby Erika Robuck.)

Over at Brooks Brothers, two of their windows had been thus styled:

I've read the novel a few times and understood more with each reading. I'm very much looking forward to the film, and won't be at all disappointed if it doesn't replicate the book (as no film really can). I enjoy Luhrmann's visual excess so it cannot really disappoint.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Thoughts of May

We resodded our lawn last year while doing some exterior renovations. We had a very overgrown and neglected garden, the product of the toil of a loving gardener in the past, and left to its own devices (and occasionally simple mowed short) by the owner before us. We wrestled with it, trying to weed and wrangle it into shape for the past few seasons, but it was overwhelming. So a backhoe plowed it up last year, new topsoil was added, and sod rolled out covering the old beds and rocky areas.

There were some stalwart plants that lay dormant under the sod, for the have pushed their way through. Three little clumps of new life on a bed of greening grass

A metaphor for something I'm sure.

My spring plans include garden filled with herbs (basil, mint, oregano, rosemary), tomatoes, onions, garlic; a new-to-me bike; life on the back porch; and floaty clothing with bare feet in sandals.

If they could make sheets like this....

....I know where there's a market for them. (Of one. Now living in my basement.)

A Shirt That Can Be Worn For 100 Days Without Washing, Still Doesn’t Stink

Monday, April 29, 2013

The nest just got fuller

Headed to Kingston today with the SUV to pick up Alex and the stuff he's collected over 4 years at Queens. Luckily, he had no furniture that needed to come home today, but he still managed to fill all the cargo space with bags and boxes, lamps and computer equipment. He left a few things there to bring back next week when he's there for a couple of days of work.

We had Dim Sum for lunch at a new resto on Princess Street and his housemate Jerry joined us. He'd helped out with loading the stuff and is a friendly, interesting guy with a good sense of humour.

The so-called ghetto looked pretty bad today, with trash all over various yards, furniture strewn on lawns, and porches piled high with stuff coming in or going out of the houses. I feel sorry for "regular" residents of the city, and by that I mean non-students, who have to put up with this unsightly mess. It's the end of the regular school year as well as garbage night, so it's pretty crazy.

I could be looking at the past through rose-colored glasses, but I have no recollection of this kind of behavior back in the early 80s when I lived there. First, I don't think many of us had that much stuff. We sold, donated, or gave away things we no longer wanted. We bagged what little trash we generated. The disrespect shown for the city and other residents is appalling.

It's great to have Alex here for the summer. He's starting his graduate program next month and is looking for work that will permit him to move out on his own. The four of us had dinner together and discussed possibilities for a summer vacation together. My boys are now 21 and 18, men really. It's stunning to live together and realize that we produced them.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

From the divine to the devil

The Divine

I used to publish a Sunday Choral Report detailing what we sang in my church choir. When we returned to Canada five years ago, we were lucky to land in a parish with a fabulous organist and traditional choir at the 11:30 am mass. We rehearse from 10-11:15 on Sunday mornings in preparation for that mass, so there's no weeknight rehearsal which is best for a choir made up of  professional singers and musicians (who sing)  as well as strong amateurs.

Our organist/director has a love of the Renaissance so we often sing from that era. This  morning was no exception. For the offertory we sang Nigra sum sed formosa filia Jerusalem by Tomás Luis de Victoria. The first line of text (originally from Song of Solomon) replaces the singular filliae (daughters) with filia (daughter) pointing to Mary. The full (English) text is as follows:
I am a dark-skinned but comely daughter of Jerusalem,
Therefore have I pleased the Lord
And he has brought me into his chamber
And said to me: arise my love and come.
For now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone,
The flowers have appeared in our land,
The time of pruning is come.
Chanticleer performs it here.

During Communion we sang Homo Quidam in a setting by Jean Mouton. I cannot find a recording to share, but the text is translated as:
Certain man organized a great dinner and sent his servant at the hour of dinner so that he said to his guests to come: Because everything is prepared.Come to eat my bread and to drink my wine that I prepared for you.
Quite an appropriate Communion hymn.

The Devil

After mass, I travelled south to my my monthly book club meeting where we shared our thoughts onGone Girlby Gillian Flynn. [No spoilers follow.] A psychological thriller featuring an arguably evil protagonist, I personally found it both hard to put down and necessary to set aside as the tension rose. Themes of marriage, life in the big-city vs. small-town South, the fate of print journalism and the impact of the 24-hour news cycle and quest to be first with "the" story were all present and considered by the group. While the book was rated on average 8/10 with a small range (7-9), differences of opinion were expressed about the protagonist's mental state and motivation for the events detailed in the novel. We all loved her plotting (with some debate over how much closure the ending achieved), her sense of humour, and agreed that we'd all see the movie together when it comes out. We had one new member today, and a couple of usual members were absent, but the discussion was excellent. It topped the Best Pick for 2012list.

On my drive home, I considered my descent from the divinity of the mass and the music we sang, to the discussion of evil and how it comes into a person, a marriage, and a world. On arriving home, I was greeted by my husband sitting on the porch with the papers, a whisky, and a cigar, the first time we've had our furniture out on the deck this spring. Life in the middle seems pretty ok.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

New Name and Home!

New Name

After (sort of) randomly deciding to restart blogging yesterday, I chose Domestic Bliss: The Empty Nest as my new blog name. A bit of a misnomer because the nest will in fact be getting fuller over the summer but, you know, I'm working with that goal in mind. I've read that introverts don't suffer from empty nest syndrome and I'm pretty sure that despite how much I adore my boys, life will be quieter (and less messy) when they're gone.

The blog has a new, possibly likely temporary look. It's sitting in a different place, but that shouldn't make a substantive difference to my readers, if there are any left.

Skip down to next section if you're not interested in the nuts and bolts of blogging.

I was greeted with the news that my blogging platform (Posterous) would be no more after April 30. Posterous was bought by Twitter a while ago so I guess this was inevitable, but I hadn't been blogging and thought no more about it.

Until they told me that I had to back up my blog by April 30 or it would be gone.

I had used the Google platform Blogger in the past and that archive was still around, so I decided to simply move my Posterous blog back to Blogger and integrate it with my old blog

Except that it wasn't that simple.

After some extensive googling, it seemed that the only reasonable way to do this was to move my Posterous blog to Wordpress, and then from there to Blogger. This involved setting up a (temporary) Wordpress blog, various stages of importing and exporting files, and then presto! Oh wait. I had to fiddle with my domain host and make sure that the new blog had the same name. But by just after midnight last night, I had it.

Start reading here, if you left me there for a moment.

Bottom line for you, my readers. If you were receiving emailed posts from my old blog, you will need to sign up again (see box to the right). Except for my mom. I took the liberty of signing her up myself.

Some of my posts will duplicate material that I post on Facebook. I have some readers who have not joined the borg Facebook so I like to share with them too. Feel free to delete without reading.

If you just liked to visit, my blog address has stayed the same:

If you want to add me to your feed reader, you know what to do.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Seven Quick Takes Friday


1. Oh look! My computer remembered my password to log into my blogging site. It's been a long time, but perhaps spring is pushing me to get back in the game, so to speak.

2. It will be a busy summer. Boy number one has written his last undergraduate exam and will be coming home from Queens next week. Boy number two is aching to get outta town, but he has to finish grade 12. He'll be at McGill in the music performance program next year, and already has an apartment and a roomate. So we'll have them both through the summer no doubt, and that may try our patience at times, but we're hoping for payback of an empty nest in the fall.

3. I need to get my ass in shape. Seriously. I may be at a personal worst weight-wise at the moment. Am considering getting a hipster city bike if I can find a decent one for a reasonable price. Must also ramp up the walking. With no dog in the house, I have little motivation to get outside and just cruise the 'hood. 

4. I have a couple of house projects launching: we are in the process of swapping my office and our dining room. The latter will go into half the living room, and the former will now be in the room off our kitchen. I want to make these pseudo-built-in bookcases to fit one wall:



We also need a new mattress, which is the best time to upgrade to a king bed. Every time we sleep in a king in a hotel, we remark how much better sleep we get. I've found the mattress I think I want and now need to find a bed to put it on. I kinda like this one:

Source: via Janet on Pinterest


5. I picked up this book when I was placing an amazon order the other day. It was written in 1959 and I'd seen a review of it somewhere. It's rather retro, but still has some excellent advice for women today.

6. I learned how to create a form using Google Drive this week. My book club needed to vote on a book for our summer "big read" and I had the feeling that previous in-person discussions were kind of difficult to manage. The votes are coming in and it looks like the chosen book will be.... not telling! I'll announce it at our meeting this Sunday.

7. If you're a friend on Facebook, you've probably seen some of these items already. I'll need to figure out how to keep the blog fresh with new content, but this is at least a start. Sorry it's been so long.