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.

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Prague’s Queen of the Night

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At the Czech State Opera

The trip to Prague began with my mother leaving her phone charger and cash behind and B-cat’s printer running dry to spit out pale, dreamy Google maps for me.

I should be able to see everything anyway just by walking around, I thought.

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I’m not a fan of King’s Day (or researching local holidays before a trip)

After a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam (like what B-cat and I had last year, but with less map reading and more King’s Day), I abandoned my respectable plans of getting to the hotel by train, tram, and foot and hired a cab. The next morning, when my feet were no longer smooth piles of mush, I pulled out the faded maps and tickets and read that the first opera we were seeing would take place in June.

So I spent an hour apologising to the young man at reception as he played phone tag with the opera house on my behalf. Eventually we discovered that the Narodni Divadlo (National Theatre) had pushed back Rusalka from April to June without notice, emailed me the purchase confirmation with the original date, and switcheroo-ed the tiny-print dates on the .pdf tickets attached to the email. Very professional.

Thanks to my generally being lucky and good at walking (and so humble), my mother and I saw almost everything I wanted and official websites recommended, minus only a few distant sites — she decided the long train trips weren’t for her. Although we missed Dvorak’s very Czech piece on the first day, we caught Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute) at the State Opera on the last.

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I knew the music would’ve been good no matter what, but Jana Sibera as the Queen of the Night managed to improve upon it. Martin Srejma’s Tamino is decent and Milos Horak’s Papageno is endearing, but Sibera blows them off the stage with her powerful voice, with more energy than the sun. Even my mother, who’d never heard an opera before and echoed my brother’s “Why not see a movie?”, left praising Sibera’s performance.

We both marvelled at the flimsiness of the costumes the State Opera comissioned? borrowed? though — treasures like the semi-sheer dresses made of polyester lining material struggling to stretch over visible hoops that, for one of the Queen’s underlings, gave up and collapsed to one side during Act I. Papageno and Papagena’s outfits may belong on the hosts of some unpopular TV show for kids, but at least they seem to have sturdy construction and adequate amounts of fabric. And the paper plate sun medallion…

Really, the only time the shoddy wardrobe isn’t a distraction is when Sibera was on stage.

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Besides the opera, I saw three of the top libraries in Prague — two of which regularly appear in “World’s Most Beautiful Libraries” listicles — visited Konopiste Castle and the Kafka Museum, and fell into/crawled through a forest full of stinging nettle, among other things.

I’d recommend Prague to you for a culture-filled adventure in the cleanest city I’ve ever seen (that’s including Japan), but I want to go with B-cat in the near future and don’t want too many other tourists there. Haw haw.