Opera! In Vancouver!

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You may recall my whining about Vancouver Opera’s lousy customer service over the years (and my very subtle gloating about their downsizing into a mere “festival”).

There wasn’t even time for me or other non-fans to feel their absence, because a new company immediately came on the scene: Heroic Opera, whose vision is to “produce only operas of Wagner, Strauss, and Verdi“, put on a production of Wagner’s Die Walkure in June.

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Tasty German pretzel and cherry strudel–proceeds go to the church’s sponsored refugees

[If you’re interested but fuzzy on the details, this is the part of the Ring cycle that deals with Siegmund and twincest, not Siegfried being a hero.]

Like the opera B-cat and I saw last November, this took place in a church. The surtitles were projected (crookedly and with typos) onto a board behind rather than above the artists, who sometimes blocked the view. The wardrobe was contemporary. A couple of the Valkyries were a little wooden…

Nothing really mattered except the voices. The voices were strong and beautiful. Sarah Templeton as Sieglinde was particularly expressive, though her interaction with David Gibbons‘s Siegmund made both of them seem more vulnerable and lovable.

The opera was so good it didn’t feel five hours (including intermission) long.

Heroic Opera’s next project, which won’t be ’til their next season, is a joint one with Opera Mariposa: Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera in November. Keep an eye on tickets/dates here.

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Above: Ryan Caron, nihonbuyo dancer. Below: B-cat

Oh, and two weeks ago, B-cat took me to Nikkei Centre‘s fundraiser tea & silent auction in return for my taking him to the opera. Proceeds went towards the Japanese-Canadian museum’s exhibitions and programs.

We had a (mini) traditional tea ceremony with Maiko, who taught all the tea ceremony classes we’ve taken, tasted other teas and canapes, and watched two snippets of buyo dance. I enjoyed the dance most of all, though I’m a completely uninformed spectator beyond ballet.

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Proof of admission is a lovely green floral ribbon tied around the wrist!

Other than the opera and tea, I’ve missed all the events going on recently, thanks to graveyard shifts and daytime courses.

Don’t be like me; go out and support the arts! If you’re in Vancouver, you can even start tonight with UBC Opera‘s production of Ariadne auf Naxos. Let’s make this a summer of German opera.

 

This isn’t the Coastal City Ballet We Know

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Ill-fated programme (mine) for an ill-fated romance (Giselle’s, not mine)

I’ve been so overwhelmed by courses and a new dayjob that Coastal City Ballet‘s Giselle just tiptoed up on me. If not for some bickering with a ballet teacher about availability (“You won’t be here Friday.” “Yes I will!” “S said you’re all seeing a performance that day.” “…Huh?”) I would’ve missed it.

It would’ve been a shame, too. CCB has become unrecognisable… in a good way. This performance took place at Vancouver Playhouse, an upgrade (especially in sound) from Centennial Theatre in North Van. The choreography and dancing are good, and nearly all the costumes make sense. Maybe it’s why Coastal City now refers to itself as “a company for emerging dancers” rather than a pre-professional company?

I’d given B-cat the tickets as a St. Valentine’s Day gift; my ballet friend S met us there; and during the first intermission I discovered I was sitting next to G, a classmate from Goh Ballet. That made three people I originally met at three different ballet schools! And the one thing all of us minus B-cat disliked was the Princess’s outfit.

Why, in a world in which grown women clearly wear full skirts with voluminous underlayers, is she wearing a fitted (Edwardian?) jacket and narrow skirt with a bustle???

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The Prince’s betrothed is 3rd from the right, back row, in a ridiculous hat

Giselle and Albrecht convey emotion well as a sad, sweet couple. It’s one of the male villagers, though, who stands out most with his power and control. I only recall reading that he’s from Japan… as we seem to have left our programmes at Guu Garden after the performance. Damn S for suggesting that restaurant.

So while I can’t credit him by name, the three of us (again excluding B-cat, who, now that I think about it, said little about anything. Did he even enjoy the event?!) thought this unknown male the best danseur of all. Keep up the good work!…

See Coastal City Ballet’s Giselle in Surrey on June 9, regardless of what you thought of them before. They’re so worth it.

Pick up another programme for me while you’re there?
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My prograaamme

 

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?).

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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.