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Urban Shocker's Neighbourhood Watch

Drats, there are two really awful family situations right now - this is not dissimilar to the summer of 2010 - and we are beginning to feel a bit put upon. Gay couples seem to be the go-to stalwarts in some families. The chance that I may get off to some of the 2012 Luminato events is slim to nil.

Maybe my partner and I will soon score a day "about us" and not some-or-other-ailing in-law. Failing that, Luminato 2013 looks like a fair bet.

We do have tickets to TSO's Mahler 8th for Wednesday, and I'm awfully glad we bought those tickets a long while back, nothing can keep me away from it.
Do tell us how it goes!

I may hear the next free Tafelmusik concert tomorrow afternoon ... with Dr. Zerafa's art talk in the evening.

What impressed me about Einstein was how coherent it was as a whole, and how true to itself, compared to the car wreck ( I can't help but return to it as a failed example of something that aims high ... ) that was Semele. Einstein was far weirder, at just about every level, than the attempted east-meets-west staging of Handel's opera, yet it was consistent and held together as it's own ... world ... or universe ... or whatever you define it as ... for the whole four and a half hours. And the sets ( I particularly liked the tall building scene, with the saxophone soloist ) were gorgeous. And there was humour, which I wasn't expecting, especially with the nerdy chorus who sang from the orchestra pit for some of the time. And great dancing. And the "ending", if it could be called that, was surprisingly schmaltzy and down to earth after all the Einstein analogues of trains, and elevators, and rocket ships that we'd been carried along with for the whole evening.
Last Saturday to Grace Church on-the-Hill for the Grand Finale of Tafelmusik's Baroque Summer Festival, with my plucky, madcap friend Mrs. Smith and her vivacious new blonde gal pal Gloriana. And what a delight it was, though the church was as hot as last year. After the intermission we heard Charpentier's magnificent Mass for two choirs and two orchestras, H.3, with Zelenka's Cum sancto spiritu to send us off into the warm summer night.

Last night, in the heat, to the ROM for a patron's preview of their big new dinosaur show. They're all casts, of course, and I still can't quite warm to that, but the shapes of these monsters suggests how Porsche might have designed dinosaurs if they'd been around then - sleekly dynamic and aesthetically powerful.

Today, in more heat, to see te Dreamland exhibition at the Textile Museum, and on to the Bata Shoe Museum to see Roger Vivier: Process to Perfection.
It's been so long since I've had the time to post a few culture oriented things. Very busy summertime, mostly good with the exception that one of our extended family is quite ill, and that situation is taking gobs of our time.

I was supposed to comment on Mahler 8th; it was terrific in every way. Having such enormous choral forces present can be exciting, but such a thing can overwhelm almost any acoustic, and that was the only iffy part. TSO really dazzled in this piece as did some of the soloists (essentially Adriana Chuchman and Erin Wall).

Here is Kaptainis' review on the Mahler:

In response to your comments about the new Montreal concert hall and whatnot, well, I had to attend a funeral in Montreal last week, and so I stole some time to run off and see the hall in the flesh. The final product has endured some criticism, theme "lost opportunity", and I totally agree. In fact, I am underwhelmed with it in almost every respect. Street aspects are strange and do not "strike a chord" (sorry) with their surroundings. Interior? Well, you may like it but it's surely not to my taste. Acoustics are not being praised as I expected that they would. I could carry on at length about exactly how the opportunity was squandered, but I don't feel it's worth the bother. (Maybe in person). I felt that Diamond's comments about Erickson were disingenuous and truly out of place. I still feel strongly that RTH can be turned into a top flight concert hall with another 40 million or so. Not unthinkable in this town right now.

For the next amazing Toronto high culture season, we are re-seated at the opera, and have scored the coveted parterre seating, yes, yes, yes !!! We got our TSO subscription, too, and we will be re-arranging a few concerts because our series contains some stuff we just don't wish to hear (starting with de Falla, count me out of that one).

Do walk along the Queen side of the opera house, and behold the opera season posters. The COC surely knows how to tantalize their audience. Quite a lineup for 12/13.

I am involved in courses during the next year, plus music lessons, and I also hope to have time for some very extensive AGO touring. I'm hopefully not overloading my plate.
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Thanks for your assessment - surprising that the acoustics in Montreal aren't better. So we're still number one in Canada. D+S's Mariinsky 2 is up next and I wonder how that'll turn out?

I'm still in Ring 4, Wednesdays, and got my tickets a few weeks ago - quite happy there, and the gaggle of gay men in my row are v. nice, but since I've tried everywhere else I may subscribe in the parterre one of these years.

Have done quite a bit of gardening lately, cutting down three lilac trees and simplifying the back garden. Made batches of jam last month. The redcurrant bush has produced slighly less fruit for the past couple of years though; it became enormous because I didn't prune it. I've cut it way back now.

I'd like to get a tree planted next year. LEAF have a good selection ( a Kentucky Coffee Tree, or an Eastern Redbud maybe ) and the City subsidizes them, so for $200 max. one gets a healthy little tree planted by experts. The City had the huge and very rotten silver maple out front of cut down last month, and in the spring I'm getting them to plant a tulip tree. My neighbours are getting a linden.

A horrible summer for ragweed, apparently. I've been so congested, though it has only been in the past few years I've noticed the problem. Maybe I should do something about it, buy some Claritin or something.

Have been reading, reading, reading ... including a biography of Robbie Ross and a book about Bosie and Oscar ... and walking, walking, walking and enjoying the east end.
^ It is a bad summer for ragweed!

Enjoy what's left of the summer. I am taking off now for the huge annual family party up in Muskoka, 4 days of it. Should be fun.

I always find this time of year to be exciting, and more than that; I guess the word is stimulating. This has to do with the restart of the activities in the city: concerts, operas, theatre, gallery-going, in short the things that make Toronto great. Of course we look forward to seeing you at the opera and hopefully the symphony as well (will keep you in the know as to the concerts we choose there; tips: don't miss Dausgaard's Mahler 6th, and don't miss James Gaffigan's Stravinsky).
As my neighbour and former TSO subscriber friend Dapne remarked a few months ago, "If the TSO do Pictures at an Exhibition one more time ... I'll scream!". Sure enough, when I glanced through their new brochure, there it was a couple of pages in - and they're doing it a second time, later in the season.

But I'll be at the Koerner, and Mazzoleni Hall, this year and next, to see several recitals and concerts.

Got caught in that huge downpour last night, walking home along my street. At a certain point I realized it was futile to try and outrun the storm, so I strolled through the deluge and enjoyed it instead. It was literally breathtaking. I found myself laughing at it too, arrived home soaked right through, stripped everything off and left my clothes in a soggy heap in the hall, and ran upstairs for a towel. Thank goodness I hadn't left the skylight open. Even my leather wallet was soaked through. My jeans and shirt are drying in the garden.
^ Everyone should allow themselves to react that way to a deluge of rain - just getting soaked by it and enjoying it. I've done it. Good on you!

Re. TSO - I grimaced when I saw Pictures at an Exhibition in the program, too. Yes, two grimaces. But there is a lot of good stuff in their forthcoming season as well, including A Toronto Symphony. I have decided to cherry pick my season this time around. The opening program with the John Adams piece is of interest to me.
... I'm hoping for a female Coffee Tree, with big, dangly seed pods.

Cutting down three lilacs, sawing up the branches for collection by the City and digging up the stumps and roots has proved to be a pleasant enough workout. Up next, transplanting a blackcurrant and the redcurrant before the new tree goes in.

A day at the Museum yesterday for Alexandra Palmer's talk about Big, the ROM's upcoming fashion and textiles exhibition. Plans afoot, I believe, to redesign the public plaza on Bloor in some sort of way, with HP involved, and a sculpture too - though why that's needed I really don't know, since the Crystal is already one of Toronto's most memorable sculptural forms.

When will they close C5 and turn it into a gallery, I wonder?
Hello all culture queens. Sorry to have been so absent, family reasons of course are to blame, and they are not easy issues at all. Yuck.

My squeeze and I are off to Europe for 8 days (October 4 to 11) and for that reason I've had to reschedule my first COC opera which would otherwise have been on October 10.

When I get the chance I'll post all classical music and jazz things we'll be attending during the next season. The entire COC season is enormously enticing. The TSO season is less than enticing during the fall, and therefore all of our TSO tickets are in the first few months of 2013. There is abundant jazz in this town and I partake of that, too. I guess I am a jazzaholic, so I do wonder if you all would welcome my reviews on that music?

Do be well! Oh, and during my absence please get Ford removed from office, he's just such an overall offence to everyone.

Edit: I neglected to mention that I watched a televised version of that controversial Tosca production, starting Karita Mattila and Jonas Kauffmann, on the weekend. The production really holds up (I was in NYC to see one of the first performances of it with different principals singing). It would be fabulous to hear these two singers at a future COC production in Toronto. Kaufmann truly has it all (ahem) and Mattila's middle and high registers are blisteringly attractive and expressive; she has huge vocal control.

I love that Alexander Neef for having the cojones to bring super singers to Toronto ... what's not to like? Our Canadian singers get the stage, and at the same time we are getting some of the great international ones.
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I loved Il Travatore. World-class signing and direction.... the direction deserves accolades, because it is a difficult Opera to stage coherently.

Would it be inapropos of me to gently snip the two-storey bun off the head of the woman who sits in front of me? This fantasy has distracted me two performances in a row. In it, I use over-sized garden shears and a chortle for effect.

Also, maybe one of you musically-inclined types can identify the following musical element: When a song/piece (?) ends in a very obvious manner, as if almost cueing applause..... To me, it seems like much of the opera-going crowd are zombies, responding to these cues, independent on whether or not the effort was good enough to interrupt the production with applause. I feel as though one could belch out a horrible aria, and as long as it ended with a strong blast from a tuba, everyone would leap to their feet. That said, the singing was wonderful.
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^ Well, I don't know what that particular musical element, as you put it, may be called. What I do know is that in opera presentation, it is completely acceptable to stop the action at the end of the big shiny tunes, where applause is anticipated. I've been in other opera houses around the world and found that it is in the dna of opera audiences everywhere to reward particularly good efforts. Speaking for myself, well, I don't go nuts like that if the offering hasn't been good. Composers (say Verdi, Puccini, Wagner) wrote moments into their works that were probably intended as stop-action pieces. I like those moments because it gives the singers a chance to strut their stuff.

Die Fledermaus was wonderful, last night. My time is short today and so I can't write at length. Michael Schade is a fabulous Eisenstein, and the rest of the cast is resoundingly excellent. This production invites updating with references to the present time and the director took the cues beautifully, I'll say no more.

Looking forward to my reschedule of Il Trovatore, Friday night perhaps more than I can say.
Il Trovatore was as great as all the write-ups said. This was one of the best sung and best presented operas I've ever seen. As per what all the critics have been saying, the singing is uniformly excellent, all the same I appreciated our own baritone Russel Braun's contribution the most, it was an utterly wonderful evening of acting and singing from him, even if he had a couple of scary moments (he may have had a cold or whatever).

I've been in touch with Shocker (who would by now be in England on vacation) and he advises us that he has moved on. In his own words, "Keep Calm and Carry On" ... and with respect to this thread, don't forget to turn out the lights on your way out.