Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A true Christmas Miracle story in Elmvale Acres

Over the Christmas season I visited my local nail salon. I love this little place, it is a family business, they make excellent vietnamese tea and coffee and I always learn a lot about culture, politics during my treatments. This time I had a new beautician. My nail tech Anna (not her real name) who was doing my pedicure was chatty and pleasant, she had a pierced tongue, a young child and a dog and clearly enjoyed her work. We exchanged pleasantries about dogs and the weather. Anna was young with a one year college diploma and I did not expect much in the way of a deep or profound conversation.

This is a very unusual nail salon. I almost always have a deep and meaningful conversation but I was sure that this time would be an exception. My server was pleasant and wore clothing a little too tight and expressed some unsophisticated opinions. As I moved on to have my nails done, I was the only customer in the shop. Ling was doing a complex french manicure Anna told us an amazing story.

She had two other girls saved some 75k over a period of years and build and founded an orphanage in Vietnam. Ling who is Vietnamese had tears in his eyes and I was speechless. She was not wealthy, nor particularly well educated but was moved by the plight of abandoned babies.

She then revealed that she and her husband have similar plans for an orphanage in Africa. They gather donations, never really advertise and somehow the miracle happens. Her husband came in to have coffee with her. He was a very young, modern looking man but not wealthy. He was teaching ESL in a local school to adults.

What struck me was the modesty and yet the immense scale of what she had done all on her own. While many of us who are in more fortunate positions whine and complain about the state of the world, Anna and her friends all of whom are of modest means actually did change the world, one baby at a time.

"Why don't you tell the world" I said to Anna, excited by her mission and very excited. Anna told me that her mission employed a widow lady who otherwise would be destitute and she runs the orphanage. Anna does not want publicity, it is known to a few. She does not want it to be too big. Anna went on to say that she does not tell people what she does and few suspect it, but decided to share it with me.

I found myself thinking of the Christmas story. This was announced to a few shepherds, it was a very low key event, much like Anna's miracles. I left the little salon with pedicured feet and pretty snazzy nails but also with my heart warmed and my spirit tremendously humbled.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Das Rheingold

Yes I attended my first ring opera two weeks ago. I heard the metropolitan opera stage Das Rheingold. Robert Lepage designed a stage that was spectacular. Many of the singers were suspended and the stage itself allowed them to walk vertically at times. This was particularly good for the god of fire and trickster loge sung beautifully by tenor Richard Croft.

Wagners Ring series is like the Lord of the Rings, there are no cute arias but rather motifs. The opera begins with the Rhine maidens suspended and flapping their flippers singing about the gold when the gnome Alberich sung by Eric Owens appears. He steals the gold and makes a ring (sound familiar) that will give him great power.

Wotan, the chief of gods sung by Bryn Terfel has problems of his own, the giants Fasold and Fafner are demanding payment for constructing Valhalla. Wotan promises his daughter Freia to be wed to one of the giants as payment. Freia is horrified and her mother Fricka sung by Stephanie Blythe intervenes.

The entire opera is like reading a Tolkein novel, you enter into a world of gods, dragons, rings and promises and giants. The giant Fasolt sung by Franz-Josef Selig sings a very touching aria about the fact that Freia gave him light in his dark world.

There is a fantastic scene where Wotan and Loge enter the realm of Alberich, the land of the Nibelung far beneath the earth. You hear the clamour of hammers and anvils as they mine gold for the greedy Alberich who has enslaved them because of the ring.

This was my first taste of a Wagner opera and I loved it. Far from being entertained, or charmed (although I was thrilled by the staging) I was carried away to a land of mythology, with magic fruit that bestowed youth and vigor (I want one), the god of thunder, Donner (brother of Freia who swung his hammer and hit the stage causing lightening to explode in a thunder of music and brass!), Wotan, gnomes under the earth, giants and a magic ring.

I can't wait to hear the ride of the Valkeries in the next HD production. What a joy!

Don Pasquale ..comic genius

Where else can you hear world class singing, follow stage antics, chases and patter songs like you have never heard before except in Opera.

Don Pasquale is one of Gaetano Donizetti's comic operas. Anna Netrebko, usually a more tragic singer is hysterical in the role of Norina, the femme fatale who teaches the greedy Don Pasquale a lesson he will never forget.

Netrebko masterfully sang her part while dancing and laughing and plotting with her brother Dr. Makatesta sung by Mariuz Kwiecien. Netrebko was hysterical as the demure nun straight from the convent, with pink stockings!!

John Del Carlo sung the role of Don Pasquale. His facial expressions, trembling lips, heart palpitations and comic affect were magical. His patter song with the doctor was astonishing. I have never heard a bass sing with such clarity diction and coloratura~ (in the base clef)

The opera danced merrily along and was immensely entertaining. James Levine himself conducted the orchestra, arguably the best opera conductor in the world.

What a treat! Well done metropolitan opera.

Karine's Blog

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