Mermaids, Cats, and Pokemon Go

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Kristine Opolais as Rusalka

I guess whinging about not having done anything fun in a month worked, because in the three weeks after that, I attended an opera, painted for an art installation, and got a Twitter-length story published.

The opera:

I had gotten tickets for Dvořák’s Rusalka when I went to the Czech Republic last spring, but the opera was cancelled without notice. B-cat, being wonderful, took me to hear Met Opera’s brand new production for St. Valentine’s Day.

[Instant summary]
Rusalka is Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, with the mermaid being a water nymph, her dad being the biggest downer of a water sprite, and her wood nymph friends being nicer than her crappy sisters. No one’s happy in the end.
[/sum]

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The costumes are gorgeous — Kristine Opolais’s water nymph dress is an entire pond floating with water lilies!! The Foreign Princess resembles Monica Bellucci’s Mirror Queen in The Brothers Grimm. The wood nymphs are good dancers, and one of the main trio is East Asian and a beautiful singer. And the Prince, Brandon Jovanovich, looks just like Michael Fassbender.

I’m usually not the biggest fan of German operas, but I love every single second of this one — the music, libretto, and acting combined. Rusalka is my new favourite opera.

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Having trouble smiling because I ran out of moisturiser and lip balm

The painting:

Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival put together a giant koinobori (those tube-shaped carp flags/kites) art installation for display in VanDusen Garden. “Giant” is no exaggeration when the diameter of each fish scale exceeds half my height.

B-cat and I painted our scales at Joy Kogawa House. Two strokes in, I remembered I don’t actually like painting, so I sped through the rest. Still, it’s neat to see how the painting changes with sunlight shining through the thin nylon (see above) vs. under indoor lighting, with a table underneath (see below).

The festival begins March 30, 2017.

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My cat (tentative title: “Kibble Sky”) and B-cat’s geometric shapes

The story:

Gotham Writers has posted results for its 16-word “memoir” — story summing up the year, technically — contest for 2016, and mine is one of the finalists. It’s not much of a story, but I’d say I managed to cram in a lot of information about the entire year (how 2016 is Pokemon Go?).

gotham 2016 memoir contest

To be clear, I only had Pokemon Go open at the crematorium because my entire extended family minus two members was playing it. It was a day-long funeral and I laughed and cried the entire time; don’t judge. And I only downloaded the game because, after the car accident, i.e. after being stuck on the couch in pain for two months, I really, really wanted to walk and run again. So the logical thing* to do was to install a bunch of apps that required real-life walking and running.

*It’s totally logical! I have a degree in philosophy!

The Happiest of Rothbarts

Fools always dance really well.

A few days ago I saw the broadcast of Bolshoi‘s Swan Lake, the most Rothbart-lovin’ production ever.

January was a bust, with heavy snow, B-cat’s injuries, and my cold and flu keeping us indoors. My blood pressure did return to normal (about 80/54)… soon after this phone conversation with the blood clinic:

Blood worker: Are you and B-cat planning to give blood in January?

B-cat: I’m planning to go when Monica does.

Me: Your website says I can’t donate again ’til mid-February.

Blood worker: Are you planning to donate again?

Me: Yeah, though I’ve been dizzy for more than a month and my blood pressure dropped to ##/##, so I’m not really looking forward to it.

Blood worker: Why don’t we delay yours ’til March? But is there any way to have B-cat come sooner?

Me: I could just go with him and watch.

Blood worker: That’d be great! You could even come in April, but we really need his blood type.

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Somehow this intermission photo managed to make the host, the translator, and Rothbart all look glum

It’s okay. No one needs Prince Siegfried, either.

In this production featuring Yuri Grigorovich‘s 2001 choreography, Denis Rodkin‘s Siegfried doesn’t get to dress or dance like a prince, and he knows it. He can only do so much with the boring choreo, it’s no wonder his emoti-meter is stuck at “fairly pleased”. Also, everyone in his court looks grim.

Ballet Friend S argues Svetlana Zakharova‘s Odette is as bland as her prince. I think Odette is tearful and not excessively bird-like, and Odile is lots of fun, with black swan friends who mingle with the white flock to form interesting patterns on stage. S and I bicker over the set design (I think it’s Impressionistic and cool; she thinks it’s bizarrely gothic and sloppy), but agree the costumes are lovely: goldleaf and silverleaf on romantic tutus and an all-silver pancake tutu with a silver filigree standing collar. Never mind the Fool’s cap is so tiny it makes him look like a bumblebee.

Me: “The Fool (Igor Tsvirko) dances really well!”

S: “Fools always dance really well.”

Pssht. Clearly I’m no fool.

Regardless, it’s Artemy Belyakov‘s Baron von Rothbart — here, “Evil Genius” — who’s the star in the eyes of Grigorovich and the costume designer. His choreo is more effective, his outfit more dashing. Even his pas de deux (!) with Siegfried is sexier than the prince’s dance with either swan. Of course the story ends with Belyakov getting his way. This means the audience doesn’t get the happy-ending bit of Tchaikovsky, but who can refuse such a handsome Rothbart?

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The Bolshoi will broadcast A Hero of Our Time live in cinemas on April 9.

PC Nutcracker

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S (the best dancer at one of the schools I go to… or went to, before the car accident) took me to Ballet BC & Royal Winnipeg Ballet’s last Nutcracker (on tour) of the season.

There’s lots to like about the production:

  1. RWB is a little different each year. This year’s Nutcracker takes place in 1910s Canada and includes hockey, people falling on icy sidewalks, and polar bears. So Canadian;
  2. Soft colours and fine painted details make lovely, realistic costumes and storybook backdrops;
  3. Makeup & costumes look good on the non-white dancers, too, and the “multicultural” bits are more balletic and less racist than most! (Incidentally, the Arabian costumes should’ve been First Nations);
  4. No more bear baiting or obvious favouritism among the kids. A bear comes into the house for food. So, so Canadian.

Conversely:

  1. S feels the 1930s opening is pointless if the Kingdom of Sweets is just business as usual;
  2. Smallest mice look like clones of Disney’s Goofy (same face and colour and all) while the Mouse King looks like a dog-headed man;
  3. Chinese/tea dancer still has double buns, arms forming permanent Ls, and hands fused in gesturing “1”s. At this point she may as well be using those fingers to push up the corners of her eyes, she’s such a stereotype;
  4. All the angels are blonde!… you want me to say. Actually, the wigs are so metallic gold I don’t give a damn.

No one was spectacularly good or bad, which perhaps makes for better holiday viewing than placing awesome virtuoso dancers alongside people who fall out of jumps. The choreography was too safe, though, wasn’t it?

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Photo from RWB, since my curtain call photo failed

On a side note, we sat dead centre in the lower balcony (as mentioned before, S has high standards for everything ballet). The view would’ve been perfect if the mother and child in front and two women another row down didn’t lean forward the entire time. Behind them, to S’s left, a man with a wedge-shaped head started playing with his little phone in the middle of Act I. After I asked him to turn it off, he squirmed and rustled wrappers for over an hour. S says she was afraid he was going to attack me, but he merely threw a fit from a safe distance at the end before running away.

If you think not being racist is being too PC, you wouldn’t like this production. Otherwise, you can still catch the RWB Nutcracker in Winnipeg later in December.

Opera and Hallowe’en

I like chamber music.

I like opera.

Ughn. Apple pen. Chamber opera.

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This Hallowe’en (technically Oct. 30) was my first City Opera Vancouver event and first chamber opera, even though I do like both chamber music and opera and it makes sense to like this, too. I guess it’s a little off-putting that they hold their events at churches… But how often do you get the chance to hear Mozart’s “lost” or unfinished operas? I didn’t realise any existed! So B-cat and I headed downtown to the varnish fume-filled Christ Church Cathedral for his month-early birthday.

It’s likely all artists have half-finished work somewhere, but according to the essay [that I just realised was written by my old opera prof!] in the programme, Mozart was fairly happy with the music he had in these fragments — i.e. it wasn’t like sitting down to read someone’s first draft. Like you’re doing now. I’m so sorry. The music is distinctively Mozart, and while the second act’s Zaide (first performed on what would’ve been the composer’s 110th birthday) is the most complete and therefore most absorbing, the story Maria Reva wrote to weave three operas into one is excellent. The company seems to do clever things with a small wardrobe as well, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s conductor Bramwell Tovey, whom I thought was there in a cameo, is fun to see in the main non-singing role.

Good music, good voice, good acting. City Opera Vancouver’s next production runs from November 1 to 11, unless you have money to blow on the ferry to Victoria.

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Female Riddler (with a free book from the tour)

I figured that was it for Hallowe’en, but on the 31st, B-cat took me on the “Lost Souls of Gastown” walking tour… despite being on double crutches himself. We were lucky it wasn’t raining, because the lovely maple and ginkgo leaves everywhere did make the ground slippery.

Like the COV opera, this tour links a multitude of pieces — here, BC history — with a skillfully written frame story. It is not at all cheesy: the struggles and sorrows of Vancouverites past are what will haunt you.

Picasso in the VAG

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My favourite painting there

Earlier tonight, B-cat and I took three buses downtown to catch Picasso: The Artist and His Muses at the Vancouver Art Gallery. B-cat was in pain and on crutches, some idiots stepped on my ankle and bumped my head, the #19 reeked of vinegar, and still I would say the correct response to hearing about a “medical emergency” (Vancouverites know what that means) at the skytrain stations is not “I feel so sorry for you and anyone who couldn’t take the skytrain”, but rather “I feel so sorry for anyone related to the person who’s now a ‘medical emergency’ on the tracks”.

 

Well then.

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My favourite piece there

Pablo Picasso apparently had a lot of [(increasingly) younger] women over his 92 years, and the 60+ pieces at the VAG cover the six women who most inspired him. One of the first things you see in the exhibit is a life-sized photo of Picasso’s first, a ballerina with the Ballet Russes:

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Fernande Olivier

And the last thing you see is a room of works by women, alongside a scholarly yet clear explanation that Picasso’s “muses” were subjected to the male gaze and that, while it’s important to understand a master artist’s work, it’s also important to understand he worked in a time when (among other issues) no one would’ve considered any woman an artistic genius. Feminism isn’t that difficult.

Tomorrow (Oct. 2) is the last day of the Picasso exhibit. The gallery will be open ’til 9 pm.

Yes, the title is a pun.