Sunday, November 30, 2008
First off, along Yonge Street, was a rather odd but very glamorous fairy/jewels display. I didn't quite get it, but then I was a little thrown by the use of mannequins (as grumpy looking as the models they are based on) as the ethereal fairies. Nonetheless, the displays were colourful to this human magpie.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
~ The Marschallin, Der Rosenkavalier
"After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." ~ Aldous Huxley
"Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness." ~ Maya Angelou
As for that night 24 years ago, it was magical but I missed the camaraderie of the slips and returned there for subsequent performances. During the intermissions we would hang over the railing and watch those occupying the boxes receive their champagne and smoked salmon. Beside me a young couple opened their picnic of pork pies and carrot sticks. Closest to the stage, in seats from which you could see nothing, stood music stands with lights for those who wished to study the score as they listened. Harried young men dashed in with seconds to spare, wildly looking around realizing that after running up several flights of stairs to get there, they had forgotten to get a house program. "It *is* Baltsa tonight isn't it?"
"Without music, life would be a mistake." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
It was Baltsa indeed, the night I saw Der Rosenkavalier. I was 20. It was directed by John Schlesinger, with sets designed by William Dudley and costumes designed by Maria Björnson. The whole thing was like a dream. The Greek mezzo Agnes Baltsa was Octavian, Kiri te Kanawa was the Marschallin and Barbara Bonney was Sophie. The film of the opera has Anne Howells as Octavian, but it is the same production and I love to watch it. In the final trio, the three performers stepped forward, letting the set seem to dissolve behind them as they sang that indescribably beautiful music. That same music has the power to work miracles on me, and for this I am more grateful than I can express. Tonight, I was collating a must-listen selection of opera for a friend, and this was the first piece I thought of. I hardly remember walking out of the theatre, but I know that my feet were about a foot above the ground. It was a foggy night and people were spilling out of wine bars and drinking and laughing in the streets, as they have a way of doing in London still. It was all a beautiful haze and doesn't seem that long ago.
"It is cruel, you know, that music should be so beautiful. It has the beauty of loneliness of pain: of strength and freedom. The beauty of disappointment and never-satisfied love. The cruel beauty of nature and everlasting beauty of monotony." ~ Benjamin Britten
On a bit of a Strauss kick, last week I watched the DVD of the Met's Arabella with Kiri te Kanawa and Wolfgang Brendel... I highly recommend!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
I finally finished The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie. My mistake was trying to read it in dribs and drabs. This didn't work. I couldn't keep everything straight. So, finally, almost through the book, I just started it all over again and read it over two days while away at a lake. It was a delicious read, full of poetry and fire, ravishing women, power-hungry men, exotic locales and plot twists that leave you wondering what is real and what is fantasy. Almost every character existed in history in one form or another and the research Rushdie did is mighty impressive. The character of the Mughal emperor, Akbar, is one that stays with me. His self-reflection is beautifully written and possibly will be all that I take from this ravishing book, that seems in some ways, a wonderful in-joke, possibly written for a very clever and informed bunch of Rushdie's friends.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Come into these arms again
and lay your body down
The rhythm of this trembling heart
is beating like a drum
It beats for you it bleeds for you
it knows not how it sounds
For it is the drum of drums
it is the song of songs
Once I had the rarest rose
that ever deemed to bloom
Cruel winter chilled the bud
and stole my flower too soon
Oh loneliness Oh hopelessness
to search the ends of time
For there is in all the world
no greater love than mine.
Love o love o .... still falls the rain
Love o love o .... still falls the night
Love o love o .... damned forever
Let me be the only one
to keep you from the cold
Now the floor of heaven is laid
the stars are bright as gold
They shine for you they shine for you
they burn for all to see
Come into these arms again
and set this spirit free
Written and performed by the wonderful Annie Lennox.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Well, I only attended one, and this was at Trinity College just last weekend. Bruce accompanied me. It took place in the college's lovely Seeley Hall. It's pictured here.
Trinity College Chapel is a gorgeous building:
We explored the quadrangle:
And wandered over to Queen's Park to look at the statue of King Edward, which is pretty impressive:
I was at a fundraiser last week at the Winter Garden Theatre and worked my way conscientiously through the delicious food stations that were set up. One of the appetizers that was brought to me as we were sitting with one of the many tasty plates we consumed was this little morsel. Well, not so little really. My companion made the clever point that in some restaurants, this bacon-wrapped sirloin bit of heaven (topped with truffle cream) would be the main course. And you'd get to pay handsomely for it. Here it was just an appetizer and as I type about it my mouth waters... do you know the feeling when your mouth waters and your teeth sort of feel soft and achey? I'm such a carnivore. GrrrrrrrRRRRRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrrr. The actual show was very good, all stand-up, with Mike Wilmot as a stand-out stand-up, among several, and headliner Lewis Black topping the bill. Er... excuse me? How did I not know about this man before? My (face) cheeks were aching the next day from the laughter. Of course several glasses of wine certainly got the audience in a giggly mood. I love outrage and Mr. Lewis is a master (and my new secret boyfriend).
Then I roasted a chicken, and tried brining for the first time. This lovely organic specimen came out juicy and crispy. Mmmmmm...
The chicken in his brine:
Mr. Chicken all ready to roast:
New food fun of the week took place on Saturday when I baked up a batch of Betsy's soft and chewy ginger cookies. They are delicious! The recipe makes heaps... something like six or seven dozen. I lost count as we sampled them... hee hee! Thanks Betsy. You are such a brilliant baker! I downed - er - a couple - while delving into a new book on Sunday afternoon.
I've been watching and listening up here, and paying far more attention to your election process than I did to our own federal election back in October. I voted though, as I am so grateful to be part of that process and I know all my American friends will be voting. I know that some of you will vote one way and some the other. To all of you, all the best for a safe and peaceful election day.
(Gobama! Hee hee!)
Sunday, November 2, 2008
[sounds of BPG doing a search]
Uh oh... I just found out that Criterion has it in their catalogue, featuring "lush colour transfer". Sigh... Criterion is one of my weaknesses, but... hey! $23.96! This is way cheaper than some of their other sets. Mmmmmm, I know what I'm treating myself with this week.
Okay, I'm going back to my work now. Hee hee!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
THE WINSLOW BOY (1999)
Sir Robert Morton: "Oh, you still pursue your feminist activities?"
Catherine Winslow: "Oh yes."
Sir Robert Morton: "Pity. It's a lost cause."
Catherine Winslow: "Oh, do you really think so, Sir Robert? How little you know about women. Good-bye. I doubt that we shall meet again."
Sir Robert Morton: "Oh, do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men."
(Jeremy Northam as Sir Robert and Rebecca Pidgeon as Catherine in The Winslow Boy, 1999)
This is a favourite of mine, and I just watched it again yesterday. The Winslow Boy is based on a 1946 play by Terrence Rattigan that was - in turn - based on a real event that took place in 1908. In the story, a family fights to save the honour of their 13-year-old son, expelled from Osborne Naval College for allegedly stealing a postal order.
The David Mamet-directed 1999 film version is intriguing. The cast includes Nigel Hawthorne as Mr. Winslow; Gemma Jones as his wife; Rebecca Pidgeon as their daughter Catherine, a suffragette; and Jeremy Northam as Sir Robert Morton, the brilliant barrister who takes the case.
It may be set in 1908, but this isn't Merchant-Ivory fare. You won't find a single golden-light-bathed moment, and for this I give thanks. What makes this film magical for me, is that there isn't evidence of art direction anywhere. I get the distinct impression that this might be about as real as it gets when it comes to recreating that time period. Nothing is designed to invoke oohs and aahs.
The idea of family is powerful: the relationships between members of the Winslow family are beautifully drawn. You know Mr. Winslow loves and respects his prickly, intelligent daughter, and there are times - no doubt - when, as much as he loves her, he might dislike her. Her mother is a simpler woman and doesn't quite understand the suffragette she spawned. The older brother is a little hapless, the younger one is endearing. Sir Robert is brilliant and enigmatic.
I like Roger Ebert's review and you can read the entire thing here.
As to the business of casting his wife in the role of Catherine, I think David Mamet did a grand job. Her English accent is impeccable and her prickly reserve and lack of people-pleasing skills is pretty refreshing from the regular line-up of Brit-dram fluffballs.
BURN AFTER READING (2008)
"Osbourne Cox? I thought you might be worried... about the security... of your shit."
(Brad Pitt as Chad)
I finally got out to see Burn After Reading last night, the latest Coen brothers film. What a cast: George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Brad Pitt and J.K. Simmons. The cast list alone would imply that we were going to see something with heft, some intellectual weight, but basically this is great slapstick with some thought. It's surprisingly short too, only about 90 minutes. This film marks two occasions: the enrolling of J. K. Simmons (the dad in Juno) as my new secret boyfriend, and the first time I've really enjoyed Brad Pitt in anything, and that includes Fight Club, which I thought was great, but I didn't actively enjoy it in a "woo hoo!" sort of way.
"I... love you too much to condemn you."
(Gary Oldman as Dracula)
Halloween night we'd planned to see... well, Halloween (1978). I'd never seen it and thought, hell, isn't it supposed to be a horror classic? 10 minutes in I reckoned not, so we switched over to Bram Stoker's Dracula. This film just fascinates me. It's the best of things and the worst of things. Visually it's stunning. Some of the casting is successful, with Gary Oldman in the title role, head and shoulders and fangs above the rest; Keanu Reeves is on the other end of the spectrum, deeply miscast, as he was to be even more magnificently the next year in Much Ado About Nothing (1993).
My romantic self particularly loves the framing backstory of Count Vlad from the 15th century and his tragic love story with Elisabeta. As operatically overwrought as it is, it seems by far the most authentic part of the film. There's a lot of ham elsewhere, including Anthony Hopkins who seemed to be in training for his scenery-chewing turn in Legends of the Fall (1994). (Damn, I forgot how much I loved that film, or rather, loved laughing at it, especially Brad Pitt - him again!. In LOTF he takes off for France to do some fighting in WWI, with his freshly-shampooed and well-layered long hair. My friend F and I were respectful of the sniffles and sobs we heard around us in the movie theatre, but once we got outside... well, we never stopped laughing over it. I think my favourite moment was the old First Nations retainer stomping his way around the dead bodies in the last scene - who the hell cares about spoilers for this one? - with his deadpan voiceover: "I was hungry for scalps but it wasn't my kill." I hope a First-Nations committee got up in arms over that one. SOMEONE had to!)
This film potentially has the most over-the-top tagline in history:
A Heart-Load of Maddening Beauties... In Gasping Gowns... A Fortune in Furs... A Ransom in Jewels... In a Song-Studded Romance of Paris in Lovetime!
Blimey! It's also got Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, Irene Dunne, and Randolph Scott (surely the most beautiful man in film history?) It boasts a fictional (I hope) musical troupe named the Wabash Indianians (I kid you not) and the first film outing of the song Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.
It's sentimental, heart-warming, stylish and indulgent. If this is what the Great Depression managed to pull out to distract the public from their very real sufferings, I sure hope this current economic crisis we are in can at least create some similarly-enchanting diversions.