The fall turned out to be very busy. Concerts were happening in halls, and restaurants were open indoors, all of course allowed if you were vaccinated. And we were. So we decided to attend an absolutely brilliant concert of the Sondheim musical Follies. My dear friend, Richard Ouzounian, had been telling us about the performance as he was the director and creator of this version of the show at Koerner Hall. He was so excited and so were we after we saw it. I thought that a concert version of a musical would be very static, but not in Richard’s deft hands. As well, the story on paper is a bit confusing, but again everything was clear. Richard is brilliant. The cast was all star and lead by Eric McCormack of television and movie fame, everyone was committed and wonderful. I particularly liked Ma-Anne Dionisio as Sally, a beautiful singer with a touching stage presence, Lorraine Foreman, who did a star turn in one number and I believe she is in her 90’s. Wow! And really all the singers including old opera colleagues like Mary Lou Fallis and Ben Heppner shone in their cameos. Jackie Richardson sang up a storm as they say, and Cynthia Dale is a consummate professional as is Charlotte Moore. Marcus Nance was terrific, and I could go on, but what an evening of entertainment. There had been limits on the seating until just a day or so before when the government opened capacity for venues, and thoughtfully the producer offered tickets to front line workers. It was a memorable evening with great singing and acting by the huge cast. Sondheim would have been proud!
Another wonderful evening of music was part of a cocktail party at the Arts and Letters Club. The invite came from the Concours Musical International of Montreal. I am sponsoring a prize for a young opera singer who is an audience favourite, but this event was focused on art song and featured Adrianne Pieczonka, the renown singer, accompanied by the brilliant pianist Robert Kortgaard. Vaccinations once again mandatory and masks, but they came off to sip champagne and eat delicious hors d’oeuvres. It was not a long concert, but it was simply beautiful with wonderful acoustics in the old hall. Adrianne has a rich, deep soprano voice with lots of colors in the sound, and she sang my favourite melodies of Fauré. We had a lively discussion afterwards about my pet peeve and it seems hers, of singers using music stands when giving a performance. It turned out to be a delightful evening.
As you know if you have been following my blogs, I love food and I enjoy our closest friends who live down the street. We often share dinners, whether on Zoom or in person once a week. They have this amazing back garden that they have transformed into a very special hideaway. Watching Wouter haul out pile after pile of earth and then put in wooden planks to make a fabulous place for a table and umbrella and of course patio heater, and then install a gazebo that houses an area called The Bistro with couches and fire table and covered against the rain, was just marvellous. A proud moment when it was all finished, and now used often. There was even a roof raising with some neighbours. And we are among the lucky friends who have eaten many meals there and even taken part in a Zoom wine tasting. Fun to be outdoors in the chilly months. One evening we sat and ate and watched the rain fall around us and really it was a giant storm, but we were cocooned in this space, and Oscar who is always included, enjoyed it as well.
Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October and I always love to make a traditional dinner with turkey and all the fixins’ as they say. This year the Ouzounian family joined us as they have done often and Liz and Wouter. The starter was a serving of smoked salmon which we ate in the garden and then the dinner in the dining room inside. Turkey with stuffing, I make it in the bird, gravy, roasted smashed potatoes, beans, and squash which I love almost whipped up. One long established part of our dinner is to circle around the table and have each person present talk about why he or she is thankful. It is sometimes funny, sometimes tearful, but always thought provoking and intimate. Charles and I are lucky because we get to celebrate Thanksgiving a second time when we are in Florida. It is the holiday that keeps on giving.
I like to visit the Art of Gallery of Ontario when we are at our northern home and I booked tickets for us to see Picasso, painting the blue period, which we both found fascinating, particularly as his art at the beginning of his career, was so vastly different from later on. I enjoyed this wander through the exhibit and because of Covid, visitors were limited in each gallery. Afterwards we had lunch in AGO Bistro a restaurant formerly known as Frank. It was just fine, we each ate delicious grilled cheese sandwiches on a brioche. I also booked tickets to see the opening Met opera production shown on HD at our local Cineplex theatre. I went with Sharon who is a member of my opera club in Florida and an avid opera fan. We saw Fire Shut Up in My Bones which is a new opera that is written by Terrence Blanchard, the first black man to have an opera presented at the Met. And what an opera! It was riveting from the first chords in the orchestra. The story revolved around a young man, Charles, and was portrayed by the brilliant Wil Liverman and the young Char’es baby, by a 12 year old Walter Russell 111, who often mimicked the action of his older self and sang in unison with him. It was haunting and mesmerizing at the same time. All the singers were fabulous and Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducted. My only problem is that I want to see it again. I read that the Met will do another opera by Blanchard, called Champion, about a real life boxer. Blanchard is a highly respected jazz musician and his music also reflected that idiom. The music in Fire was rich, melodic, and totally underlined the action and the story. Sharon and I left the theatre exhilarated. Bravo to the Met!
Perhaps the most exciting moment in the fall was the announcement by the US government that the land border would be open from Canada on November 8, and we could cross and do our yearly migration. Not quite as exciting as last year when we decided at the last minute to head south for vaccinations offered by Florida to snow birds who had residences in that state. If you read my blob; Carpe Diem 2021 https://wordpress.com/post/suddenly70.ca/8230, you might remember our helicopter trip over the falls and then our drive with glider in tow to our home. This year we could just pack up car and glider trailer, grab Oscar, well he was waiting to go as soon as he saw suitcases in the front hall, and even as we packed he hopped in the back seat of the car, just in case we might forget him. I booked motels for the road trip which would take us two and a half days. Whew! No helicopters this year as they were totally booked into December and they had raised their prices considerably. We just had faith that the border would open and it did. We left on November 9, arrived, November 11, and got our booster shots on the 12. And it is lovely here in Florida where I am writing today. Great to see old friends, to walk up hill every morning with the dog, to swim in our condo shared pool, and just to eat on our lanai. I am back to entertaining, playing golf and singing once weekly with Neil on Facetime and Zooming our French conversation classes every Tuesday, and of course continuing our weekly dinners with Liz and Wouter on Zoom. They just sit on our dining room table in my laptop, and it is almost as if we are together. We celebrated Hunukah here with Florida friends.
We will be heading north and west for Christmas and New Years. I am really looking forward to meeting our newest grand daughter, Neve, and watching Sway open her Christmas gifts on the morning of that special day. New Years plans will be back in Toronto at our home. I will tell you about that in the next blog.
Meanwhile I want to wish you all a wonderful season of festivities and hope that we all have much health and peace in the New Year. It would be wonderful if the pandemic would just go away, but I fear it won’t, and we will just have to manage to live with it and try to protect ourselves with booster shots, masks indoors and continue to be alert.
Till the next time,
PS. Sadly, we have cancelled our Christmas in Canada. Four flights with many tests and reduced capacity in restaurants, many more restrictions due to the very quickly spreading Omicron variant. Even though we both have our boosters we decided to just stay put here in Florida, invite some friends who do not have family here, for Xmas dinner, and do more Zooming with Liz and Wouter for Christmas and New Years Eves. I have been busy planning menus, running to the UPS store to send more gifts to our grand daughters and regrouping. Let’s hope this pandemic leaves us and we can resume travel in 2022.