Opera, and other stuffs

Ok. So. . . That was an AMAZING opera production. AMAZING!

I must admit to preferring early opera to Romantic or Classical opera. I just like the music better. Don’t get me wrong, I do ocasionally lurve the Mozart, it’s just that well. . . He never really hits my heart the way earlier music does.

That being said – if you’re in Toronto, I HIGHLY!! recommend going to see Opera Atelier’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Guest conductor, Italian Stefano Montanari, is charismatic, expressive and a great leader for the exceptional Tafelmusik Orchestra. He didn’t even let smacking his stand light off at the Concertmaster phase him. Did I mention that he was expressive? Veeeeeeerrrryyyyy expressive. My fearless leader and I could imagine that Mozart would have conducted very similarly to him, which did add quite a lot to our viewing pleasure. I’m only sad that I don’t have several sets of eyes so that I could have watched him throughout the opera as well as the action on stage.

And boy, was there some action on stage, let me tell you.

They definitely played on the Opera Buffa aspects of the piece – there was a certain amount of Ham Acting going on. But it was never too much. They played with that line (between hilarious and tedious) and never crossed it. There was a freshness to the performance that maintained its buoyancy throughout the show. No miscasting either – the stars were definitely suited to their roles.

The sopranos were effervescent, in this soprano-heavy opera. Carla Hutanen as Zerlina, Peggy Kriha Dye as Donna Elvira, and Meghan Lindsay as Donna Anna were all superb. The different colours of their voices suited them particularly well to their respective parts and they are all fabulous singers. Donna Elvira was my favourite, but then I’ve enjoyed Dye’s singing for several seasons of Opera Atelier productions now, and she always delivers the goods. And then some.

On to the basses: Leporello, played by Vasil Garvanliev (who, oddly enough, I have actually sung with. If briefly – he was a member of my Sunday choir for a few months, before he got all famous and stuff) was both buffoonish and endearing. And damn, but he can sing. He is also able to act with his singing voice, which isn’t something everyone can do well. Opera Atelier mainstay Curtis Sullivan (playing both Masetto and the Commendatore) was great as usual. Though, to be frank, he’s got a better baritone range than bass range and for some reason he keeps getting bass-y parts. He can sing the lowest notes, he just doesn’t have the same power on them. Though this was less evident in this performance than in his turn as Sarastro a few years ago (Sarastro’s solos are one of my favourite things, ever, so I must admit to some disappointment there. . .). And finally, Phillip Addis as Don Giovanni himself. Hoo Boy. I’d let him seduce me too. He has a beuatiful, supple bass voice – it just flows over you like silk and cashmere and some smooth alcohol that i can’t think of right now. I definitely came close to jumping out of my seat to jump into his arms. . .

The cast is intentionally young and fresh which adds a believability to the insanity of the story-line: only young people are that dumb about stuff. Also, the chorus and dancers were great. Not to mention the tight pants on the men – Opera Atelier is definitely known for their busts and bulges and this performance was no exception.

And, in the tradition of saving the best for last, the tenor. You thought I’d forgotten about Don Ottavio, didn’t you?! Well, how could I with Lawrence Wiliford playing the part?? I’d seen him previously as Damon in the Opera Atelier production of Acis and Galatea last season. And, forgive me basses (you are my one and only true love, never fear), but holy hells can this man sing. Don Ottavio’s solo brought me to tears. Wiliford, in contrast with the majority of opera singers, has very little vibrato, and sings with a pure tone. And what a pure tone. He also has incredible power and supreme control over his voice that is simply a treat to hear. This guy could sing the highway code at me and I’d swoon. I’m not kidding.

All in all, I’m going to have to say that Opera Aetlier’s Don Giovanni is a masterful production that marries beauty for the eyes and beauty for the ears in one sumptuous spectacle that is not to be missed.

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Now for some life stuffs. . .

I can’t wait for work to be done so I can go for a lovely swim. I might be having some sinus troubles that are spreading to my ear canals, but hopefully the Otrivin will offset the water in the ears. I should really invest in some ear plugs for swimming, what with my being prone to ear infections and all . . . But regardless, I’m going to love my swim – it’s been a little bit of an indulgent week so far – Hallowe’en, opera and a lovely meal out, no exercise. . . – that I really need to get back on that horse.

Though, I did do a little hike yesterday afternoon, so my week isn’t a total loss exercise-wise. I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist yesterday for a routine check up. Well, I was supposed to have my check-up, but a lateitude of buses made that unpossible. So I’m going again next week, and this time before work, so I won’t have to deal with afternoon rush hour that somehow starts at 2?? When did that happen??? Well, anyway, I walked home from there – From Weston and Eglinton to Dundas and Islington. If you know that part of the city, you’ll know it’s a bit of a hike – about one and a half hours or so, walking pretty fast. I listened to the Sixteen’s recording of the Missa Papae Marcelli, so I didn’t really notice the time. At all.

And then, after a very satisfying nap (thanks Otrivin!) we sang some beautiful music for the Samhain/All Souls service – which went swimmingly 😀  And there was booze and food after the service (with stupidly tastsy pierogies. mmmmmm pierogies. . .).

To wrap up, I’m just going to let you know, Dear Internet, that my posts will become rather more infrequent in the next little while, as my plate, it is full – I’m almost finished my Christmas shopping, but I’m waiting for my yarn to arrive to start the immensely long to knit list (it’s like externally-enforced procrastination, I prefer internally-enforced myself. . .), I have two belated X-mas present dinners to plan and execute, music to learn for Wednesdays as well as a Carol Concert I’m doing with some friends, baking, preparing a TARDIS cake for a friend’s Dr. Who Indoctrination Marathon this weekend, a cake and a tasty present to bake for my dad’s birthday, more baking, buttloads of knitting, etc. ad infinitum. Not to mention working full time and being desirous of exercising regularly (to offset the extreme amount of eating that will be happening in the next couple of months. . .). I’m tired just thinking about it. . .

Well, I’m really looking forward to the recipe I’m going to be trying out for the TARDIS cake! That’s going to be fun 😉

I hope your holiday-season lead up isn’t super stressful, Dear Internet. I know I’m only doing this to myself, but it isn’t Christmas without several nervous breakdowns, I always say.

p.s. There will be a separate post of some photos regarding Hallowe’en coming your way soonish. . . so stay tuned!!

Let’s hear it for the arts!!

I should be on my way for a lovely swim right now. Tuesday is my swimming day now (and maybe Saturday and/or Sunday if I ever get my act together. . .). But, instead. . . I’m going to meet up with a good friend (my fearless leader, actually) for a lovely dinner and Don Giovanni.

With my good luck for being born in Toronto, I have access to some awesome stuff – Opera Atelier being one of my favourites. Mostly due to the amazing operas they put on. Though, the tights pants worn by the dancers (and stars too. . .) shouldn’t be overlooked. In the spring we’re seeing Lully’s Armide, which I am sooooooooo looking forward to.

Also on the topic of the arts, I went with a couple good friends to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of The Wizard of Oz (with the mobile playing on the big screen). Which was amazing!!!!! We got to dress up in costume (I’ll show a picture of my crazy costume as soon as my friend uploads photos!). And see other people in cool costumes, some of which didn’t have a whole lot to do with the show (pikachu??). Even some of the players in the orchestra dressed up. Which was awesome. My favourite was a bassoonist who dressed up as Dorothy, but kept his beard 😉

Well, I’ll keep it short – I’m almost at the station, and my phone is acting up again. Stupid phone.

Talk to you later, Dear Internet. I’ll let you know how the night went!

Blarg. I was in the middle of an x-mas- themed addendum when my mom called and so the stupid iPhone application thingy deleted everything I’d just written. So I’m too annoyed to rewrite it. I’ll fill you in when I post about the opera in more depth.

Sooo annoyed. Stupid phone.

Yet another last-minute insane Katie project. . . Brought to you by – Insomnia!

Hey there!

This post, as previously indicated, will not be about food. Or music. Instead, I will show you some pictures of my most recent insane project spurred on by sleeplessness. Wheeee. . .

sewing it up, using the "whatever thin papper I had around" transfer methodthe finished purse. sorry no precess shots - too busy making the damn thing

close up of finished embroiderywith stitched border

the "bead" I made from a bunch of semi-precious stone I had lying aroundthe bead on the bag

ironing the patch in preparationpinning it into place

sewing!close-up of the finished product

the clutch! and it hold a fair amount of stuff

I needed something to put all my stuffs into at the super-shnazzy wedding I attended this past weekend. So last week, I made and embroidered a bag. I cannot justify this insanity, but I did end up with a super-awesome clutch! I used the fabric from the dress I’m going to be making, and lined it in scraps from the dress I had made for the super-shnazzy wedding. I embroidered a patch with Aimee Ray’s Circle of Mermaids pattern, which I fell in love with on Feeling Stitchy, which is a great resource for those wanting to get into/look for inspiration in/find like-minded sewists who love embroidery and other stitchery arts. I’m sorry you can’t really tell what the colour of the main fabric is from these photos – it’s an almost electric teal, and really gorgeous.

I guess I should also show you that super awesome dress I had made for said shnazzy wedding.

Here’s the inspiration dress (I found photos on my desktop! how organized am I. . .)

see Dear Golden Vintage's Etsy page for more beautiful clothing

so gorgeous!

It was so gorgeous, that I had to have it – but it was a size small, and I am not a size small. . . So I found a dressmaker who could recreate the gorgeousness. And here’s the version she made for me:

sorry about the burry :(me and the boyfriend, looking like a total nerd. so cute :)

You’ll notice, Dear Internet, that I went with a much darker titanium-silver fabric. I think I works better than the pale silver would have, with my hair and skin tone. Also, I couldn’t find a fabric that matched the original. And hey, I fell in love with the fabric I found, so it all worked out in the end.

I also made the jewelry that went with the dress – I used a bunch of different shades of dark pearls (5 strands for 20$ at the best bead store on Queen Street!) that played off the dark silk tones in the fabric. Learning to string pearls was a bit of a learning curve, let me tell you. . .

Here’s a close up of me and the boyfriend, you can see the jewelry better in this one

jewelry close-up!

It was a beautiful ceremony, in a beautiful venue. The food was astounding, and we had loads of fun dancing the night away. Not to mention the copious quantities of alcohol.

Now I get to look forward to making my own dress (we’ll see how that goes. . .) for the next wedding I’m attending this year. As well as a second attempt at that Circle of mermaids pattern. . . soooo many ideas of where to go with that one. . . I can’t wait to go raid the sewing store for more embroidery floss 😉

What are you looking forward to, Dear Internet?

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On a more unpleasant note – I’ve spent most of the afternoon in pretty excruciating pain, which has luckily subsided into the only occasional stabby badness. You might or might not be able to tell from these photos, but I have a lovely skin condition that, until I got a new dermatologist a few years ago, had me basically in chronic pain territory.

So strapless dresses, v-necks, deep scoop necks, etc. all make me a bit leery, cause it’s not to fun to have people staring at your chest (possibly disgusted). It’s taken me a while to accept these damn scars (a product of sun damage from not one, but count them two! reeeeeeeeeaaaaaallllllyyyyyy bad sunburns growing up, and a bout of bad skin in teenage land, thanks to dad’s genetic code) and I generally now prefer to keep them covered to protect them, but I’m happy that I’m at least starting to push myself outside my comfort zone and show some more skin every so often. The only problem being that they occasionally flare up with painy and I have to get more injections. Which equals a half a day of total badness.

So, if you please, when I have more pictures that may show my scars, just don’t stare at them unnecessarily, I’ll be able to tell 😉

And now for something completely different!

That’s right! I’m going to talk about food! Heavens forfend!!!

Of course, it’s a really short post, and soon to follow will be several completely non-food-or-music related posts. On which topic I’m reminded that I should probably do another music related post, since it’s been rather heavily skewed toward food so far. I blame my nearly music-less summertime.

What I want to share with you today, is my super-tasty corn pancake recipe! That’s right, I’m going to send a recipe your way! How exciting is that, Dear Internet??

This is actually adapted from a recipe for Kentucky griddle cakes in Country Living’s Country Mornings Cookbook (1989).

Katie’s Corn Pancakes

Makes a boatload of pancakes – enough for at least four hungry people, maybe even five. But that depends on how well you share. Recipe halves easily.

Ingredients

2 cups yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

2 tsp sugar (or less, whatever you’re comfortable with)

1 tsp salt (also optional, I almost never use it in my cooking)

1 tsp each baking powder and baking soda

2 cups buttermilk (you shouldn’t skimp on this, buttermilk adds a boatload of amazing flavour, without a lot of calories)

2 large eggs

4 tbsp vegetable oil (also optional – i forgot to use it the last time, with no detriment to the pancakes, just make sure to oil the pan between each batch)

2 cobs of corn, cooked and shucked (see below for a tasty barbequed corn recipe that works beautifully in this!)

4-6 green onions, diced (you can also use a large handful of chives, or half of a sauteed onion if you prefer)

Method

1. In large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda and powder).

2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs, and oil until combined; mix into dry ingredients until all the dry has become wet.

3. Add corn and onions, and stir until just combined. Add a bit more buttermilk if the consistency is a bit too thick. If too runny, feel free to add a bit more flour (though this has never happened to me).

4. Heat a frying pan, coated with a bit of vegetable oil (whatever your preference, canola works well), to medium high heat.

5. Spoon about 1/3 cup of batter onto hot pan, making 3 or four pancakes (however much room is there in your pan), and let fry for a few minutes. When the top starts to bubble, and the bottom is nicely browned to your preferences, flip (this requires some dexterity, but if this enormous klutz could master it, I’m sure you’ll have no problem, Dear Internet) and let the top brown evenly. The second side takes less time. When evenly brown and firm (but springy) to the touch, transfer to a platter and keep warm in the oven (about 200-250F works well here).

6.Continue until the batter is used up, and bellies are full o tasty pancakes.

Tasty Barbequed Corn

Makes however many cobs of corn you feel like making. And works equally well eaten straight from the barbeque, or as leftovers in anything – especially tasty tasty corn pancakes!

Ingredients

Several Cobs of Corn (fresh!!)

Butter or margarine (room temp, or a bit melty)

A huge pile of fresh herbs, chopped fairly fine (parsley, basil, mint, oregano, and thyme all work in whatever combination you like. Yes mint! it’s not a just a dessert garnish!!)

Several chopped green onions (or a shallot)

Smoked paprika, or chili powder

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

1. Eyeball your corn – figure how much butter you’ll need to coat it fairly evenly. Mix in enough herbs and onions to have a nicely green buttery goodness in your bowl. Sorry I can’t describe it better. I would estimate that for 5 cobs, you’ll need about 1/2-3/4 cup of butter or margarine and a couple large handfuls of herbs.

2. Add in several teaspoons of paprika or chili powder and pepper to taste. Rub onto the cobs.

Note: you can use one of two methods here, whichever you like best. You can 1) either pull back the leaves gently (leaving them attached at the base), pull out the silk, then slather the cobs in the herb butter and fold back the leaves and tie them in place and barbecue them like that. Or 2) you can shuck and wash the cobs, slather them in the butter, then wrap them first in damp parchment or waxed paper (to keep them nice and moist) and finally in tinfoil.

3. Barbecue the corn until done. You can pull back the leaves, or tinfoil (whichever method you used), and check the kernels – they should glow with an inner golden light and pop juicily if poked.

Just so you know, don’t ask me about barbeque methodology. I know how to turn them on, and clean them, but I leave the charring of meat to the boyfriend and my father. It’s a manly bonding ritual I don’t want to intrude upon.

I hope you enjoy some tasty corn pancakes, Dear Internet! While we still have fresh corn. . .

MUSIC!!

Ok, The Internet, I know this blog has been rather more heavily slanted toward the food end of the blogging spectrum that I originally proposed.And this post won’t fully rectify that discrepancy, but I’d like to actually start talking about the music in my life. Shock!


Last night A couple nights ago (ooops. . . forgot to finish this post yesterday. . .), I went over to a friend’s house for a Settlers of Catan games night (awesome game, by the way – if you at all like board games, check it out!). There was too much food, too much alcohol (if that’s even possible), and some lovely music. Which reminded me that I’ve been super derelict in my duty to make this a blog about music, as well as baking. Though, I should take a moment to tell you that part of that too much food I just mentioned was a cake that I baked, from the archives of the lovely Smitten Kitchen. Which everyone enjoyed (yay!) and there will be a new blog post on the making-of that delightful confection to come in the near future. Keep your eyes peeled for that one!!


But back to music – after the game (where the person who’d never played or seen the game before was the winner. . . we were soft on him. That’s right we let him win to make him like the game more. Next time it’ll be different), we all congregated in the living room and listened to a recording of the piece of music our fearless leader wanted to look at. (This of course is for the quintet I sing with, not the Sunday choir.)

We might have finished singing for the season, but that doesn’t mean we can’t start preparing for the next one. We’ve been having soprano issues for a while now – our first (and the closest to our hearts) ended up not being able to sing on Wednesdays (the day we sing) because of work (and then eventually ended up moving back east to be closer to her family this past December.) Then was the month of trying to figure out not having a soprano (while awesome, four (or more)-part harmony is the best so we ran through a few until we found a great singer with whom we had a really good blend (and, incidentally, helped me to become more confident in my own voice, which also helped the blend). But her work was making it harder and harder to justify taking a whole evening out of her schedule, and at the end of the year she decided that, though she’ll help out when we need her, she can’t come back full-time in the fall. Our fearless leader has gotten in touch with one of the sopranos we’ve had sing with us as a sub before, but she’s not sure yet if she can do it. She has a sister who might be able to, and another sub we’ve had might work out. But it’s all up in the air right now. Sigh 😦

That’s a really long-winded way of saying “We practiced a piece for 4-part lower voices” – specifically, Vicotria’s Duo Seraphim, arranged for TTBB, in case we need to have a few weeks of soprano-free services. Luckily I am an alto with a pretty decent three-octave range, and the first tenor part doesn’t really challenge the lower end at all. And after listening to the piece, we actually ran through it (sight-singing 101) a couple of times. And I felt like I had finally come home. It’s only been a few weekes since singing wrapped up for the season, so I hadn’t realized how much I really missed it.

We weren’t perfect, and I don’t think the large amount of alcohol I consumed was too helpful here either. . . But it was still heavenly. I’ll have to start carving out a chunk of time each week to keep in practice, as well as to learn some new music we’ll be adding to our repertoire in the fall.

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I hope you’ll bear with me for a moment, but I have something I need to get off my chest about the singing I do. As I said in one of my first posts, I have been singing since I was 6 or so. Somehow I ended up in the junior choir at my church – my Dad’s been big into music his whole life and his parents before him, so it’s not too surprising I ended up singing. So I grew up in a choir, and absorbed a love of choral music by osmosis. I might not have had any classical training, but “singing my whole life, pretty much” is nothing to sneeze at in terms of experience.

That being said, we have a choir master/organist (CM/O) who doesn’t trust us. Over the last few years, I have begun to really notice this problem, especially since I also now sing in a very small group where we literally have to trust each other or it’ll just fall to little bitty pieces. We also sing everything a capella, so we occasionally go flat or sharp – but we go flat or sharp together because we’re actually blending with the voices we’re singing with. On Sundays, our CM/O plays the organ (unfortunately very loudly) while we sing (even ahem especially for pieces that are supposed to be a capella), and plays the piano very loudly during rehearsals. We can’t hear each other, how can we blend? If we go flat (which we occasionally do, cause hey! we’re actually human. Surprise surprise), the sections of the choir can’t hear each other, can’t blend with each other, so we end up singing in different keys (on the most spectacular failures). And then CM/O gets frustrated with us and plays the right chord at us really loudly right after we’re finished singing. Might as well just scream “Hey!! You guys sound like shit!” And the more she plays loudly with us, the less confident we are in our blend, and more problems crop up. . . It’s been really hard to go from one group that sings with trust and challenges us to try new (and sometimes scary hard) music, to one where our CM/O will tell us how rests work. . . I know you want consistency, but thanks so much for the patronizing, it really makes me feel great.

Another issue is the kind of voices she prefers: Operatic voices. And this is a choir, apparently. So, having a nice little choral voice in this choir has given me a really big problem of trusting my own voice – for a long time I thought my voice was crap, because of this CM/O. Insecurity issues. But, do you know how hard it is to sing, and sing your best, in a choir where you know your sklls aren’t really appreciated? If I hadn’t started singing on Wednesdays, I’d still be under the impression that I was a useless member of the choir. In addition to giving me an inferiority complex, the kind of singers our CM/O prefers make it really hard to have a choir that blends – operatic singers don’t blend (some just can’t), and in many cases they have voices that are massively huge, which is another barrier to good blending.

And I like our CM/O – she’s quite a good keyboardist and composer. She’s a really interesting person to talk to. I’m just getting to the point where I don’t know if I can actually stay in this choir for much longer. I’ve been saying this for a while now (and the boyfriend will just sigh and shake his head since he’s heard it a bunch of times before), but I might soon be leaving the choir I’ve been singing with for the past 22-or-so years. And that’s really very scary – what if I can’t find a new choir with people I like as much (especially since I have such a hard time warming to people anyway) and who sing as much great music (even if we do fairly often sing the same things over and over again)?

What if I can’t find a choir that would like to have me??

I have the summer to think about these things, and maybe look into finding a voice teacher (if I have a reliable source of income at some point) to help me potentially get into a more professional choir. I don’t know what I’ll do, but I’m already sad at the idea that maybe this is the end of something that’s been such a huge part of my life.

Any thoughts, Dear Internet?