Summer in the City 2018 Part Two

It is already mid August, and soon summer will be over. How did that happen? Now it seems I am trying to squeeze all the good summer things out of the next few weeks, just as I am squeezing all I can out of life. Once you hit your seventies things change subtly like waking up very early in the morning. I remember when I was a teenager I could sleep all day. Just wondering if this waking up thing is just a way of stretching out the years. By the way, the picture above is a resident coyote at my golf club in the city.

Well, no matter as I always say, ‘it is what it is’ and move along. Except that friends are getting sick, and many are dying like my old friend, Jacques, who lived in Cognac, France, and produced some of the finest cognac around, so fine that Hennessy had him produce their cognac for them. Jacques was a fascinating man beyond his profession. He was a cyclist and preferred cycling up the great hills in France than cycling down. Go figure. He also played a mean soprano sax and loved Dixieland. When we visited, his band would come to his chateau, and he would have a Méchoui, or roasted lamb over an open pit, and we would eat the succulent meat until we were silly. I often sang with the guys, some of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime or Weill’s ‘September Song, not exactly Dixie land, but they would accommodate me. Speaking of the chateau, it was like many, always in a state of renovation. Charles and I stayed in a glorious bedroom in the tiniest bed, so tiny that I had to hold on to the side table not to fall into him. Of course the French in the days of the chateaux were very small people, in stature, but large in character. We will miss dear Jacques.

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Jacques in the middle playing his heart out 

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Jacques and Charles a few years ago before Charles died his hair white

In June, we travelled to Vancouver for a long weekend to see our grand daughter and her parents, and our middle son, Niels. This time Charles and I did a bit of touring and walked through a large swath of Stanley Park on a glorious sunny day. We will be visiting that beautiful city in late September and sightseeing with our British friends. I will write more after that trip. There are many Vancouver and Montreal visits in our future. Those of you who are blessed with grand children are certainly lucky if they live nearby. It seems I am always planning a trip to make sure they know us, and how much we love them. It is important to connect and watch them grow up.

the best views in the most beautiful city
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at the beach with Niels and Mia his dog, and the Granville Market

Speaking of family, my dear foster/step sister, Sally, celebrated her eightieth birthday with her immediate family, a few very close friends, and us. What was so special about the event was the fact that her children organized the dinner at a favorite restaurant. It was an evening of generations, and an evening filled with love. Sally and her husband Neil have a fine family, and they should be proud of their accomplishment as parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I joined the family as a teenager after my parents died, and I lived with Sally’s parents.  My book Aria: Song of a Life will give you the details if you have not already read it.

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Sally and Neil happy in their 80’s –yes!

Charles and I went to the Art of Banksy exhibit and found the mystery surrounding the artist compelling. It was an excellent exhibition in a factory like setting with many of his graffiti works represented. Afterward we went to Drake’s Commisary nearby which wasn’t worth the walk, all trendy atmosphere with very poor, tasteless food.

 

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brilliant Bansky

My dear friend, Liz, asked us during the late spring if we wanted to go to a concert with The Eagles. Naturally I said yes, even if I didn’t quite know who they were. Now I should explain that when this famous, popular band was making its name, I was a young opera singer and working all the time either performing or learning my music. I just didn’t listen to pop/rock music. The last rock group that I knew was The Beatles. That was my time warp. However, when I met Charles in the eighties and we went to dances at the ski club they always played rock and roll. We also started to listen to the ‘Looking Back’ shows on the radio that were all the rage. I loved what I heard. So when I asked Charles about The Eagles one night, he started singing Hotel California and I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. I thought I’d better bone up on them before the concert, so I listened to all their hits and read their Wikipedia entry etc. etc. I was informed when we went.

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The Eagles crowd

It was an experience. Certainly not like any classical concert or opera. It took place at The Air Canada Centre now know as Scotiabank Arena. We decided to go early and have dinner at a nearby restaurant called e11even so that we just had to walk a short way to the arena. The restaurant was stunning and stunningly expensive for hamburgers. Guess they have a captive crowd. And speaking of crowds, I was a bit worried about the crowd factor as there are so many unknowable’s these days when you are in a large group, but the age of the audience was definitely close to ours, lots of gray hair. It was all very civilized although we went through security and Charles’ beloved tiny Swiss Army knife on his key chain was absconded by the security guys, and they couldn’t be convinced to keep it until after the show. It was a terrific show, however. I wore earplugs and Charles removed his hearing aids, but the sound was definitely not ear crushing. One of the original members, Glen Frey had died, I knew all this from my studying, and his son, Deacon, took part in the concert. Vince Gill, a wonderful country singer, took over many of the lead vocals. There was a light show that was spectacular, and because Liz is so smart she knew the order of the songs (good old Google) and the encores, so we could escape before the masses at the end, for my comfort level. We took the subway there and grabbed a cab on our return. It was great fun, and I found myself humming ‘New Kid In Town’ while I was swimming the next morning.

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before The Eagles

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light show from a distance

The other concerts that I attended this summer were part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival which is an annual themed festival of chamber music. It was the brain child of Jane Smith, a determined, committed woman who had a dream of a summer music festival in Toronto, and made it a reality. She is still a force. This year the theme was entitled ‘Reflections of Wartime’. Jonathan Crow, the brilliant violinist, is the Artistic Director. It is worth taking a look at the link and seeing the sorts of programming that was offered. Our favourite was the chamber concert with The New Orford String Quartet. They were joined by pianist Pedja Muzijevic, and the last number on the program was the Elgar piano quintet, an absolutely sublime work; from The Eagles to Elgar. Hmm. We also attended the Big Band Celebration, which was almost a treat. The group with young performers sitting beside their mentors played brilliantly, but the programming was a bit obtuse, not quite what we expected, although we did get one Vera Lynn song. Ranee Lee, the guest singer, was more jazz oriented than big band, but it was a pleasant evening. There are many, many recitals, master classes, and concerts. Every year I hope to attend more, but find our busy Stratford schedule just doesn’t allow it. We usually take the subway in and eat at The Museum Tavern across the street from Koerner Hall, where many performances are held. I love the fried chicken appetizer, which is a considerable portion, and I always ask for honey with it. Yum.

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The Museum Tavern bar

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brilliant Jonathan Crow

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on the subway after the concert

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gorgeous Koerner Hall

We love The Stratford Festival, and always plan on attending opening night and a few days following. This year ‘The Tempest’ was the chosen work by Shakespeare. There was a black tie dinner first, and we sat with our friends, the brilliant actor, Colm Feore and his wife, the incredibly creative and equally brilliant choreographer/director, Donna Feore. All was going very well when we were asked to vacate the dining area of the theatre. So we all got up and went outside to discover that there had been a bomb threat and the show was cancelled. It was quite unreal, so much so that I asked Charles to move my car away from the front entrance of the Festival Theatre, not really thinking about the consequences. At some point many of us returned to our hotel, The Bruce for champagne, talk, and general disbelief. When the director of the Festival, Antoni Cimolino arrived and went for a powwow with the police, we just hung out for hours. The star, Martha Henry, who plays Prospero in The Tempest, arrived with her staff in hand from the production. It was all rather surreal.

The Feore’s at home and succulent lamb chops for dinner

From what we understand it was a hoax and no one is saying who played it. Pretty costly one I would say with all the theatres dark that night, and audiences who had travelled to get to Stratford etc. etc. Certainly you get the picture. The second night, which was the opening of The Music Man, a show that we are involved in supporting, went on without a hitch, and to wild applause including a lusty singing of ‘Oh Canada’, with a high note thrown in by yours truly. This show directed and choreographed by Donna Feore is simply marvellous. I have seen it three times already, one more to come. The cast is delightful and the dance numbers with the children are stupendous.

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after dinner before the bomb threat

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ready for Rocky Horror, waiting at The Bruce after the bomb threat, and with Donna at  opening of Music Man

We saw To Kill a Mockingbird, with Jonathan Goad, which was riveting, and the campy, trashy Rocky Horror Show. Please access the links because you can see the cast and hear them. Charles and I went in matching black t-shirts with a corset etched in white on them, and we were both blown away by the setting, the performers, many of whom had sung and danced primly in The Music Man the same afternoon. Not sure how they do that. They are indeed special. I guess that is why Stratford is considered the best of the best. The New York Times visited this summer and gave the shows rave reviews. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/theater/rocky-horror-show-the-music-man-stratford-festival.html .

views of Stratford offerings, and the Stratford bus from Toronto

Can we ever have enough of Stratford? I think not. We visited yet again and saw The Tempest, Coriolanus, and An Ideal Husband. All three were excellent. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde was very funny. I understand from friends that some of the opening performances of this were not nearly as good as the one I saw. Comedy takes a deft hand. The actors were on top of it. We laughed a great deal and enjoyed all the performers who seemed to relish their roles, particularly Brad Hodder who did a sort of young John Cleese turn as Lord Arthur.

The Tempest with Martha Henry as Prospero was a tour de force for this 80-year-old actor. Her cloak had pieces of material sewn into it from the cloaks of all the other Prospero’s who have appeared at the festival. The performance was excellent, although after the matinee of ‘Husband’ and a lovely dinner, I got a bit snoozy.

Not sleepy at all though during the breathtaking Coriolanus directed by Robert Lepage. This amazing movie like production with projections– well you would have to see it, but I shall quote the NY Times review to give you an idea. “The riveting Stratford production, staged by the internationally renowned director Robert Lepage, is essentially a live film. As if to trumpet the transformation, it even starts, after a jaw-dropping teaser of a prologue, with a projected credit sequence. That prologue — in which a huge bust of Coriolanus mysteriously starts speaking — is a pretty good example of the thrilling stagecraft Mr. Lepage delivers throughout. (He is also credited as the set designer.) Using projected imagery, live video, sliding diorama-like boxes and panels that converge and dilate in front of the action, he creates stage equivalents of pans and tracking shots, irises, close-ups and letterbox.”

 

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The speaking head of Coriolanus

The Avon Theatre was packed and the performances are well sold if not completely sold out. Who would go to see Coriolanus normally? It is certainly not a top ten of Shakespeare, but excellent reviews, and mostly word of mouth have brought people to this small Ontario town for this unique production.

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one of the scenes with guards at the border texting

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Coriolanus and his mom, the imposing Andrew Sills, and the scary Lucy Paecock

My summer would not be complete without golf parties as part of member/guest days where a lot of crazy fun women dress up and enjoy golf and a fine meal, often in costume.

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butterfly theme with two zany catchers
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So I will leave you now. I am off to Greece for a cruise in a few days, and you know I will report all. I love that you follow me and I also enjoy your comments. So please continue to leave them. Also if you wonder about the recording at the beginning, it is just me reading the blog in podcast style.

Cheers!

Riki

 

 

 

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