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Posts Tagged 'frank pesci'

Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part V

magic-flute-ticket1Word to the wise: programs are £4 apiece at ENO, and cash only.

Thus it was that all I had for Emily to sign at the end of the evening was my considerably-large ticket stub.

Thus it was, too, that I kept thinking to myself throughout the production, “Man, I wonder who that Sarastro is? It sounds a lot like Robert Lloyd,” and had to ask Emily afterward, “Who was Sarastro?”

“Robert Lloyd,” she answered.

“Oh. Well, that explains everything.”

Flute was, well, Flute. I’ve seen it probably more than any other opera, and as a piece of theatre, it just doesn’t wear terribly well for me. The dramatic impetus is silly, the reversal in terms of who the bad guys are is extraordinarily abstract, and the more people try to explain how deep it actually is the more it sounds like Wolfie and Manny just pouring a bunch of pretentious nonsense onto the page. I’ve never seen a great staging of it; because it is so ridiculous, there’s not really staging so much as there is performers moving around whatever the director’s concept is. This concept involved Tamino fighting off a bear attack with the flute.

Let me say that again: there was a bear attack, which Tamino fought off with the flute.

As Frank put it, “I was not prepared for the bear attack.”

That said, as a piece of music, it is incontrovertibly wonderful. When it’s well-sung, you don’t worry too much about the ridiculousness, and luckily, this production was well-sung. It was a reasonably young cast, save for Lloyd, and everybody brought a lot of energy and musicality to the table. Emily held her own very well and sounded like a million bucks; she has always been a perfectionist in the five years I’ve known her, so I expected no less. Her overall approach struck me as being very similar to that of Kurt Streit‘s; there’s a very similar slender, shimmery, laser-pointer-accurate approach that blossoms when she’s darn good and ready for it to blossom. Like Streit, it’s a bit early music-y in that regard, and it allows a lot of musical artistry to be displayed that might otherwise get lost in the blast of a vocal firehose.

Following the show, Megan, I, Frank, Emily, and Ayla, an old schoolfriend of hers, and her boyfriend went to a bar called The Marquis for a drink. (“I’d like a Booker’s Manhattan and some nachos.” “I’m sorry sir, but we aren’t serving cocktails or food any longer this evening.” “So what can I order?” “Beer.”) Just about the entire cast and the conductor were there, too. You know, in high school, we went to Denny’s after shows for coffee and cheesesticks. In Seattle, a place called McMenamin’s provided the post-performance libation and nourishment. It’s nice to know that, even amongst seasoned professionals at a very high professional level in a different country, the initial impulse after a performance is to go out and drink something bad for you.

Afterward, it was becoming imperative that we Feed the Megan, so there was a Parting of the Couples. Frank and Emily had an early morning trip to Scotland for an audition and also needed to eat something; we hugged goodbye, affirmed that we hoped it wouldn’t be three and a half years before we saw them again, and that was that. Thanks for making time to see us, guys — it was awesome.

We had a light dinner at a restaurant called Browns. Good pasta, good wine, decent service, not obnoxiously expensive. At the request of Megan’s father and mother-in-law, we toasted them in absentia; I managed to get the cuff of my brand new white shirt in the marinara sauce.

It was Valentine’s Day, we were together, we were in England, we had seen friends, we had seen one of those friends in an opera, and Megan had given me daisies.

Doesn’t get much better than that.

Then it was off to bed; we had to get up early to make it up to Oxford in the morning.

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Nice ways to spend Valentine’s Day or, things I’ll probably only ever be able to pull off once, part IV

“I get really nervous about anniversaries and holidays,” Megan told about a month and a half ago. “You always come up with these big, extravagant, amazing things and I feel like all I have to offer is just some dumb little daisy.”

“That may be how you see it,” I said, “but to me it’s the most beautiful daisy I’ve ever seen.”

Thus it was that, on our Valentine’s Day in England, Megan was on a quest for daisies.

We finally found ourselves up and about around 11:30am; we were to meet Emily and her husband Frank at 3:30pm, so we had some time to kill. We set to finding real coffee (since the room was outfitted only with Nescafé and an electric kettle) and food; thankfully, we found both at the Caffé Strand just around the corner from our hotel. There we had excellent coffee, in fact, as well as terrific grilled croissants. I think we got out of there for around £11 — do note that they are cash only, if you are inspired to go. Also, I hadn’t realized before that if you’re just ordering coffee (rather than an espresso drink), the convention is to specify black or “white” (with cream added). If you just ask for coffee, they’ll ask you what kind.

We still had about three hours to kill and breakfast to walk off, so off we went.

It was a chilly but clear day; chilly enough that when we walked by the street vendor selling fresh roasted chestnuts that we got some, and nice enough for the obligatory hi-we’re-tourists-let’s-pose-with-Lord-Nelson’s-lions photos. (By the way, it’s a little harder to climb up there, as well as a farther jump down, than it immediately appears.)

From Trafalgar Square we walked to Westminster Abbey, passing a demonstration in the vicinity of Downing Street regarding an issue in Sri Lanka. I have to plead ignorance on what the exact issue was; a group called the Tamil Tigers was being protested as terrorists, with the British government having some involvement. For some reason I am not sure I can explain, I found the whole thing fascinating and am curious to know more.

From Westminster Abbey (we didn’t go in; I have something of an aversion to paying to go into churches) we walked to Westminster Cathedral. Now, when I was here a year and a half ago, I had no idea where I was going and walked from Victoria Station to Westminster Cathedral back to Victoria Station via a route so convoluted I don’t think I could reproduce it even if stinking drunk, blindfolded, and forced to walk backwards. Turns out it’s a straight shot along Victoria Street. That made me feel quite dumb.

Anyway — every time I’m in Westminster Cathedral I think to myself, “You know, you’re not actually using all of these beautiful Byzantine chapels… can I just take one back with me for my church?” There was a wedding going on while we were there; I suppose having one’s wedding at a landmark like that necessarily entails the presence of tourists. The one time I’ve been in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York there was also a wedding going on. We spent probably about an hour there; Megan’s souvenir was a bottle of holy water which she is going to send to her father.

We strolled back in the direction of Leicester Square, and met Frank and Emily at the Pret A Manger (“Ready to Eat”) in Leicester Square. “The Pret”‘s concept is, more or or less, organic and healthy fast food; it’s very good and more-or-less reasonably priced (although if somebody can explain to me the logic behind London’s quirk of charging extra sales tax if something is eaten in, that’d be most appreciated). We caught up for awhile, then decided to go to the National Portrait Gallery for a bit before Emily’s 5pm call.

Beforehand, however, Emily decided to drop some things off in her dressing room at the theatre, so we all followed her backstage. Virtually every backstage area of every theatre I’ve ever been in has been identical; this managed to cause my stomach to clench up a bit walking around back there, but I just reminded myself it wasn’t IU’s Musical Arts Center and I was fine. One way or the other, it was worth it to get to see, um, “Madam”.

“Bride of Frankenstein?” I asked. “You’re not the first person to say that,” said Emily.

The Gallery was cool to see, but as Megan and I both noted, it’s very odd when anything after 1400 A.D. just strikes you as too modern for your interests. On the other hand, the banter between Frank and me about some of the individuals depicted, such as a person named “Alcock,” reminded me that I have actually missed the two of them a good deal.

Then Emily was off to her call; Frank followed Megan and me back to the hotel so we could change into our opera clothes; then it was a full-on hunt for daisies.

See, we had seen a number places throughout the day where daisies might be procured, but each time Megan had deferred, not wanting to carry them around all day or just have to take them back to the hotel. We figured, what the heck, surely there’s an obvious place to get flowers in the theatre district?

Well, eventually, yes, there was — initially, however, there was not a florist as far as the eye could see. I even stopped somebody I saw carrying flowers and asked where they had bought them; “Nowhere near here, sorry,” was the answer. Finally we noticed the grocery store Tesco, which is where Megan was able to find her Valentine’s Day daisies to give to me at long last.

Then it was off to the opera.


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