Opera! In Vancouver!


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.

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.

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.

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.



Quick Lit Fest Recap


Room held their first lit fest ever two weeks ago, at various locations in Vancouver. I attended the readings at Cartems Donuterie — marks off for spelling “doughnut” the wrong (US) way — where I shared a stump stool with B-cat. It was that packed.

Room is a Canadian, feminist literary magazine that is worth reading even though they keep rejecting my submissions (haha); their recently published anthology was out of my price range, so I only bought a hipster doughnut. The weird parmesan type was the only one left. Like the tea and works read, though, it was surprisingly good. B-cat got about 10 raffle tickets, more to support the cause than to win a prize, so of course he didn’t win. ;’)

Last night I attended a thing hosted by The Tyee and talked to some interesting people. Other than that, my life hasn’t been terribly cerebral lately… so here’s a picture of B-cat with his cat for your enjoyment.


He Sees Me Rollin’


On Feb. 13, I took B-cat to the Richmond Animal Protection Society Valentine fundraiser. We liked the burger buffet and goody bags, made use of the donation cupcake table, and tried the coin toss for booze, but B-cat’s favourite was the guess-the-number game.


Like its high school/office/supermarket variations, this involved a container (an oversized novelty martini glass here) filled with candy (cinnamon red hots), the number of which you’re supposed to estimate. Instead of guessing like anyone else, B-cat the physicist sat down to serious calculation and was only 100 pieces off the total of 2950.

Cupcake in hell

He won a pretty backpack, speakers, and a large bottle of Grey Goose vodka (from France!). We don’t drink, but he was planning to buy vodka just for making vanilla and mint extracts anyway.

This is what you show kids when they say they shouldn’t have to study math in school “because you never use it in real life”.

Math, yeah!


Words, Words: UBC Alice 150 Tea Party and Vancouver Writers Fest

Happy 150th birthday, Alice in Wonderland!

I attended two literary (but mainly amusing) events recently.

The main week of Vancouver Writers Fest has just ended, and I’ve heard a dozen authors for free just by volunteering for two days (despite spending half of that time in the bookstore — never again).

Pretty sweet deal, eh?

New self-help book
New self-help book

TJ Dawe was my favourite at the spoken word event. His joint book with Chris Gibbs, The Power of Ignorance, is a mock self help manual by an oblivious but largely well-meaning idiot. It isn’t as funny as his own work and person seem to be, but it is surprisingly clever… and bittersweet.

After hearing readings by a few horror authors, all of whom were a little bad at presenting themselves, I picked up Samuel Archibald‘s new collection of short stories. Arvida is also a surprise; though I’m only halfway through (I tend to read several books at once), there is nothing all that Gothic or fantastical in it. Promo hype aside, it’s perfectly respectable literary fiction of the type belonging to, say, Alice Munro or Carol Shields. There is something decidedly feminine about the style.

“A Mirror in the Mirror” is the closest Archibald gets to horror, though.

Arvida by Samuel Archibald
The streetlight made Arvida and my Compass Card holder mauve/pink

Having won a seat at the sold-out Sunday brunch in the volunteers’ raffle, I finished the festival with strong tea, mimosas, two giant slabs of pate, and some of the best readings of the week.

Steven Hayward, my favourite there, read from a short story in which he pokes fun at himself and the short story genre. Hilarious. Of course I’d left my credit card and everything else at home during a bag switch, so I’ll have to track down To Dance the Beginning of the World some other time.

Sunday brunch at VWF
Sunday brunch at VWF

The week before VWF, my friend S, a current English major, invited me to an Alice-themed tea party at University of British Columbia.

Hosted by UBC’s department of language & literacy education, the Golden Afternoon event began with a buffet-style afternoon tea with smoked salmon and watercress sandwiches, featured a number of poetry readings by professors, and ended with a rare books tour and croquet “match” in another building.

Proceeds went towards libraries.

Vermin in my teapot!

As you may know, 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Not at all good at math beyond high school algebra and formal logic in philosophy, I find the two Alice novels almost tedious in the amount of footnotes necessary.

Yes, I’m a dumb-dumb.

Macarons from the sweets buffet

As a children’s story, though, and along with everything arising from the originals (except the awful Tim Burton film), Alice is delightful. I particularly like the Christopher Wheeldon ballet performed by the Royal Ballet, which B-cat gave me in DVD form last Christmas.

It’s rare that a ballet trumps (haha) the literary source material.

My first plate of sandwiches and tarts

The readings were the highlight of the event. Dr. Carl Leggo and Dr. Kedrick James were passionate and amusing; I don’t think I’ve heard such energy in recitations since high school, when the best teachers read that way and told us that was how poetry should be read and heard.

There isn’t much Alice material on display — the children’s books in the rare books room are more interesting — and the croquet thing didn’t go anywhere, but it was otherwise a fulfilling afternoon.

E and me

The Illustrated Alice exhibition ends on Hallowe’en (Oct. 31, 2015).

P.S. It takes me two hours to bus there. If you live nearer to UBC or can drive, you may as well go.

Poetry readings by the Mad Hatter and March Hare