Tour members meet at the Flying Opera Magic Carpet to drink afternoon coffee, gorge on petit fours, and watch two Los Angeles Opera digital shorts. Petit fours are tiny layer cakes covered in fondant with candy decorations on top.
Readers, Have you ever driven down Interstate 40 toward Santa Fe, New Mexico? You may have stopped at Gallup for gas and a few pieces of Navajo or Zuni jewelry on sale there. Gallup is “the city” for Navajo Reservation residents. LA Opera invites Angelinos and their friends to watch Blackhorse Lowe’s new film entitled Gallup in English and Na’nízhoozhí in Navajo.
In the video, Gallup/Na’nízhoozhí, Anthony Roth Costanzo and Davone Tines sing music by Matthew Aucoin written to poetry by Jake Skeets. Lowe and Skeets are both Navajo artists. Skeets, who grew up in Gallup, gives his hometown a leading role in his poetry. Lowe’s film is an unflinching yet tender portrait of the city in 2021. The film opens with two mystical beings emerging from the rugged New Mexico landscape. They explore the city of Gallup, the ceremonial capital of Native America, known as Na’nízhoozhí in the Navajo language. As night falls, the supernatural beings melt into the desert under a star-filled sky.
Tour members also watch Brown Sounds, the product of an all-Black creative team masterminded by the extraordinary Raehann Bryce-Davis, a rising star whose 2020 LA Opera appearances made audiences stand up and take notice. Brown Sounds is an evocative vocal piece tailored specifically for Bryce-Davis’ ravishing mezzo-soprano by composer Ayanna Witter-Johnson. In this uplifting new digital short, Brown Sounds reveals a sumptuous visual treatment from a dynamic assembly of artists: filmmaker Jérémy Adonis, fashion designer Allan Virgo, and dancer Lateef Williams. They Brown Sounds is presented by LA Opera in collaboration with they unite in a joyous celebration of Black art, Black bodies, and Black consciousness. African American Art Song Alliance, Aural Compass Projects, Black Opera Alliance, the National Association of Negro Musicians, and the Philadelphia Dance Company.
After the LA shows, we embark on the Magic Opera Flying Carpet for a private air field near Chicago, flying over Gallup and the Navajo Reservation enroute. Arriving early in the morning, we have a hearty Chicago breakfast of pancakes and eggs with the trimmings waiting for us. This evening tour members view Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after a dinner of Chicago-style pizza and custard-filled canoli.
On May 7, 1824, Beethoven shared his 9th Symphony with the world even though he could not hear it. On May 7, 2015 The Chicago Symphony celebrated the anniversary of Beethoven’s most glorious and jubilant masterpiece with Conductor Riccardo Muti. An exhilarating testament to the human spirit, Beethoven’s Ninth bursts with brooding power and kinetic energy and culminates in the exultant “Ode to Joy.” Singers are: Camilla Nylund soprano, Ekaterina Gubanova mezzo-soprano, Matthew Polenzani tenor, and Eric Owens bass-baritone. More info at: http://cso.org/beethoven9
We leave Chicago in the wee hours of the morning for another small private air field, this one outside the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. It’s a short hop and we land in the middle of a gorgeous pink dawn. After a buffet on the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, our bus takes tour members to the Philadelphia Museum of Art for a few hours of free observation. Don’t miss Winslow Homer’s Lifeline. It’s overpowering!
Later, we meet for the ultimate iconic Philly food, the cheesesteak. Invented by Pat Olivieri of Pat’s Steaks in 1930, a true Philly cheesesteak requires thinly sliced beef and a crusty roll. But the choice of cheese, provolone, American, or Cheez Whiz-is a matter of great debate. Also on the menu is tomato pie made with fresh tomato sauce infused with oregano, and focaccia-like dough topped with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese. It’s another staple at many Italian eateries in Philadelphia. Tour members sample some of each menu item before the concert.
Sounds of Spring is now live on the Opera Philadelphia Channel. Readers with season passes may watch anytime until August 28, 2021. Opera Philadelphia presents this special streamed concert that was originally presented live at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.
This program of operatic favorites features Music Director Corrado Rovaris leading the Opera Philadelphia Orchestra. Singers include: baritone Norman Garrett, soprano Ashley Marie Robillard, soprano Sarah Shafer, mezzo-soprano Anastasiia Sidorova, bass-baritone Michael Sumuel, tenor Daniel Taylor, and bass-baritone Ben Wager. These artists sing music from: The Marriage of Figaro, The Elixir of Love, Simon Boccanegra, Romeo and Juliet, Carmen, The Most Happy Fella, Candide, South Pacific, and West Side Story. LINK: https://www.operaphila.tv/videos/sounds-of-spring
Opera Philadelphia lets Manon sit backstage to watch the show and she finds a bent nail to keep as a souvenir. Perhaps she has heard that finding a bent nail for luck before each performance is an old Italian opera tradition.
The Magic Opera Flying Carpet takes our tour to New Jersey and we bus to the “Shut Up and Eat” restaurant in Tom’s River in our pajamas so as to secure their famous 13% discount. Waffles, Bacon, Egg and Grits Casserole, Eggs Bennie, are all delicious here. The restaurant is only open early in the day and they don’t take credit cards. Cash only!
Tour members crowd into a Spanish tapas restaurant for their pre-show dinner. I’m having a brown bag meal with Manon because we need time to arrange for her to sit on the Met’s paint bridge to watch Carmen. Some people actually feel that cats do not need to see opera! Quel dommage!
The cast for Bizet’s Carmen includes: Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras, Leona Mitchell and Samuel Ramey. The 1989 show is complete with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus conducted by James Levine.
As soon as we arrive back at the air field in New Jersey, we rearrange our belongings for Naples. A night spent flying the Atlantic is mysterious and leads to dreams in a state of partial consciousness. Shapes and ideas appear out of the darkness below that would never occur to me if I were fully awake. Because such dreams lead to artistic awakening, I am beginning to keep a pad and a set of oil pastels near my reclining seat.
Teatro San Carlo of Naples presents Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana at the San Carlo Theater as seen in December 2020 conducted by Juraj Valčuha. Santuzza is Elīna Garanča, Turiddu is Jonas Kaufmann, Alfio is Claudio Sgura, Mamma Lucia is Elena Zilio, and Lola is Maria Agresta.
Here in Naples, we have a chance to compare Chicago and Neapolitan pizza and we don’t find much difference. Chicago offered a wider range of toppings, but both are good eating.
After taking off from Naples at night, we enjoy breakfast inflight. We stop in Stockholm later for refueling and some traditional Swedish meatballs served with boiled potatoes and lingonberry preserves. We also spend some time at the Stockholm Art and Culture Museum.
Then we fly on to Umeå. Norrlandsoperan is found in Umeå, the “Town of Silver Birches.” Located near the mouth of the Ume River, Umeå. is the capital of Västerbotten County in Norrland in Northern Sweden. Umeå, like much of Sweden, takes pride in locally sourced food such as reindeer, elk, char, whitefish, lingonberries, arctic raspberries, and Västerbottensost, a smelly but delicious aged sharp cheese. Some tour members take box lunches of smoked Arctic char, Västerbottensost cheese, sugared Arctic raspberries, and tea with them on a hike in the local mountains. We all meet for dinner at a downtown restaurant.
Currently, Norrlandsoperan is presenting a Verdi pastiche called Love and Politics. When private love affairs become entangled in political intrigue, the outcome is often tragic. The protagonists in Love and Politics have no choice but to watch helplessly as they suddenly become pawns in a game they thought they could control. With Love and Politics, Dan Turdén embarks on his position as artistic director of Norrlandsoperan. The performance combines four Verdi operas based on Friedrich Schiller’s plays: Don Carlo, I Masnadieri, Luisa Miller, and Giovanna d’Arco, into a reflection on the many faces of love caught up in power games. The show was recorded in 2020. There is a spoken introduction in Swedish that lasts for five minutes.
Sung in Italian. Subtitles are available in English.
After a nightcap on board the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, we leave for Birmingham, England so we can avail ourselves of their famous English Breakfast. The Lord Clifden Restaurant is one of Birmingham’s hidden gems. This urban pub serves a variety of Full English breakfasts including one with an eight ounce rump steak. Their “Brummie” includes locally produced Lashford sausages and traditional West Midlands black pudding.
Birmingham Opera Company’s production of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk is a viscerally immersive experience. Graham Vick’s promenade staging of Shostakovich’s bleak 1934 tragedy of adultery and double murder with 150 volunteer actors and chorus in a disused nightclub is no exception. Birmingham Opera Company LINK operavision.eu Click on operas under performances. Click on Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.
After another “Brummie,” the tour departs for San Francisco where the company’s 2016 rendition of Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa is streamed on July 10 and 11 only. The San Francisco Chronicle hailed that staging of Jenůfa as a triumph.
The pilot says the Magic Opera Flying Carpet is close to its weight limit. He suggests some of our gourmands walk back to LA.
Photo of Raehann Bryce-Davis in Brown Sounds courtesy of LA Opera.