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BWW Feature: ONLINE OPERA VIRTUAL TOUR NOV 6-14 at Home Computer Screens

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Watch Opera by Black Composer for Free on LA Opera Website

BWW Feature: ONLINE OPERA VIRTUAL TOUR NOV 6-14 at Home Computer Screens

Los Angeles Opera notes that it was the first opera company to launch original programming in response to stay-at-home orders. LAO's response has been so successful that the company decided to offer online programs on a permanent basis so that opera enthusiasts can enjoy them on their screens at any time. Currently, on the LA Opera website there are "Living Room Recitals," "Opera Happy Hours," "Coffee with Conlon" episodes, and even pub-styled trivia games.

Free digital tickets are now available for The Anonymous Lover which premieres online Saturday, November 14, at 5 PM Pacific Time. The Anonymous Lover is a 1780 comic romance by pioneering Black composer Joseph Bologne, known as the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Conducted by Music Director James Conlon and directed by Bruce Lemon, Jr. The opera is presented in a socially distanced stage setting that blends both modern film and traditional opera staging. The online stream will be available for viewing through November 29, 2020.

As a preview of the performance of The Anonymous Lover, tenor Anthony Ciaramitaro sings a "Living Room Recital" of songs by Bologne. Ciaramitaro, a member of the company's young artist program, will perform with pianist Ben Malensek on Thursday, November 12, at 4 PM Pacific Time.

Our Virtual Opera Tour Group meets to board the Magic Opera Flying Carpet at LAX. We enjoy canapés with wine as we take off for San Francisco. Dinner will be Banh Xeo at a popular Vietnamese restaurant. Banh Xeo is a large, crisp crêpe bulging with pork, shrimp, and bean sprouts garnished with fresh herbs and accompanied by a variety of pungent sauces. After that entrée and some Che Bap (sweet corn pudding), no one will be hungry at intermission.

San Francisco Opera online features Giuseppe Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) on November 7 and 8, 2020. Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas is King Gustavo, the monarch whose love affair puts him at odds with his advisor, played by baritone Thomas Hampson. Conductor Nicola Luisotti leads a superstar cast including Heidi Stober, Dolora Zajick, and Julianna di Giacomo. A Masked Ball is only available on November 7 and 8.

From San Francisco we board the Flying Opera Magic Carpet for Pittsburgh and a vocal competition just for mezzo sopranos. Arriving in the late afternoon, we head for a Belgian restaurant to eat moules et frites. The mussels are bathed in a broth of white wine, shallots, and parsley, the fries crisp and hot. We top off the meal with decadent, cool chocolate mousse and smooth, hot espresso.

Pittsburgh Festival Opera (PFO) presents the 10th Annual Mildred Miller International Voice Competition featuring 13 mezzo-soprano finalists in an online concert on Friday, November 6 at 4:00 PM PST. Winners will be announced online on Sunday, November 8 at 4:00 PM PST. At the same time on Saturday, November 7, PFO will offer a tribute to Mildred Miller. "We look forward to seeing everyone for this incredibly special online event," asserts Marianne Cornetti, Artistic Director of PFO.

In 1978, Mildred Miller, for many years a featured artist at the Metropolitan Opera, founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh (now PFO). Miller joins internationally acclaimed mezzo-sopranos Marianne Cornetti, Jane Bunnell, Nancy Maultsby, and Susanne Mentzer as an adjudicator for this year's competition.

The 2020 finalists are: Veena Akama-Makia Little Rock, AR; Lindsay Kate Brown, Waterloo, NY; Maire Therese Carmack, Seattle, WA; Alice Chung, Loma Linda, CA; Avanti Dey, Kingston, Ontario, Canada; Taylor-Alexis Dupont, Orlando, FL; Khady Gueye, Bronx, NY; Emily Harmon, Barrington, NH; Kimberly Milton, Lakeland, FL; Talin Nalbandian, Los Angeles, CA; Hannah Shea, Harrisburg, PA; Hilary Grace Taylor, Dallas, TX; and Kate Tombaugh, Streator, IL.

Access to the competition online is free at or PFO's Facebook page. A suggested donation of $35 from those who are able to give is appreciated. PFO has more goodies on its Youtube page:


Manon-la-Chat, the French and English speaking cat who travels with us, loved the moules I saved for her and reluctantly agreed to wear a leash for a walk. We sauntered around the treeless environs of the opera house where she could not jump to a perch beyond my reach, returning to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet without incident, for once. Last time we both landed in a thorn-ridden thicket when a motorcycle roared by.

Next stop, Covent Garden. We take off at night under a bright moon that showers its silver rays over the tips of the waves below. A few sparse clouds below look like feathers fallen from the wings of angels. I wish I could hear their songs. For me, night is always mysterious and it invites meditation on the forces of life itself.

After a smooth flight, we land outside of London and later bus to Covent Garden for some of London's famous meat pies. Ours are served with gravy and side dishes such as mashed potatoes and peas or jellied, smoked eel.

At the Royal Opera we see a program of arias by the Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artists celebrating "Meet The Young Artists Week." Composers include: Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini. The concert features sopranos Alexandra Lowe and Masabane Cecilia Rangwanasha, mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Wake-Edwards and Kseniia Nikolaieva, tenors Filipe Manu and Andrés Presno, baritone Germán E Alcántara, and bass Blaise Malaba. Collaborating pianists are: David Gowland, Michael Papadopoulos, and Michael Sikich.

Covent Garden Jette Parker Young Artist Program Concert:

Since it's only a one-hour flight to Liège, Belgium, from London, we go shopping in the morning and leave after lunch. Remembering the Belgian restaurant in Pittsburgh, for dinner in Liège, we order moules et frites. I found the flavor more interesting in the US but the service has more panache in Belgium. Manon gobbles down the mussels anywhere she can get them. As for the frites, she prefers to keep her kittenish figure.

The Royal Opera of Wallonie offers Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The Royal, one of three major opera houses in the kingdom, is located at the center of Liège. In a daring transcription of Madama Butterfly, Stage Director Stefano Mazzonis Di Pralafera, general and artistic director of the Royal Opera, tells of a disastrous love affair between a Geisha and an American officer in defeated post-1945 Japan. Music Director Speranza Scappucci conducts while Russian soprano Svetlana Aksenova interprets the title role and Alexey Dolgov portrays Pinkerton.



From Liege, we take another short flight to Budapest for Jonas Kauffmann's recital and some spicy paprika to chase away Hungary's gloomy weather. Bográcsgulyás (goulash)was once a back country soup cooked by herdsmen in cast iron bogrács cauldrons over open fires. The authentic dish actually consists of a thin broth with chunks of beef, onions, paprika, tomatoes, and pepper. It's served with freshly baked white bread and chopped paprika salad. Our downtown restaurant cooked it in this rustic manner and brightly costumed waiters served it in charismatic 19th-century style.

Jonas Kauffmann open air recital in Budapest is from Aug 2020.

We stay in town for dessert after the concert and board our Magic Opera Flying Carpet for the ten hour flight to Baku at midnight. Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, is the largest city on the Caspian Sea. Known for its harsh winds, Baku is located 92 ft below sea level. UNESCO declared the inner city a World Heritage Site in 2000. Although 97% of the population is Muslim, Azerbaijan's constitution does not proclaim an official religion and all major political forces in the country are secular.

Tour members order a variety of dishes, including Plov and Dolma, at our Baku bistro. Plov is a classic Azerbaijan dish featuring saffron-flavored rice, cooked with beef or lamb, onions, prunes, dry fruits, eggs, and fresh herbs. Traditional Azeri Dolma is prepared using rice mixed with minced lamb, mint, cinnamon and fennel wrapped in vine leaves! For dessert, we order sesame halva in pastry and pistachio baklava with tea.

The Akhundov Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, formerly known as the Mailov Theatre, was built in 1911. In 1910, famous Russian soprano Antonina Nezhdanova visited Baku to give concerts at various performance venues. At a ball organized on the occasion of Nezhdanova's departure, she was asked whether she would like to visit Baku again. She said "no" because in a city of wealthy people no one had built an opera house where singers could fully demonstrate their musical talent. Daniel Mailov, who had grown to admire both Nezhdanova's voice and persona during her tour, asked her to revisit Baku in one year to attend the opening of the new opera theatre he would build in her honor. Nezhdanova was the first singer to perform at the new opera house.

Rigoletto was filmed at the Azerbaijan Opera in 2012.

The Rigoletto is Evez Abdullayev, Gilda is Albina Shagimuratova, the Duke is Teimuraz Gugushvili, and Sparafucile is Ali Askerov.

Javanshir Jafarov conducts the orchestra of the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater. It's not a perfect show, but I could not resist a trip to Baku.

After the opera, Magic Opera Flying Carpet has a major re-boarding check-in because of the long flight from Baku to Sidney, Australia. The weather is good, the flight is smooth and only Manon-la-Chat is occasionally awake enough to enjoy the mysteries of night over the ocean. When we stop in Dubai to refuel and have breakfast in the airport, the English-speaking waiter recommends Balaleat, a traditional Emirati sweet and salty breakfast dish of vermicelli and eggs spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron, topped with pistachios and garnished with orange blossoms. Sicilian pizza for lunch onboard is quite boring after Balaleat.

We spend the day on the Carpet, arriving in Sydney late at night. Some folks get off to stretch their legs and enjoy the down under sunrise. By noon Sydney time, people are alive again and we lunch at a hotel in The Rocks. Its menu includes kangaroo burgers and crocodile spring rolls along with more common foods. Dinner is take-out from a food truck at Wooloomooloo (Woo-LOO-moo-LOO) Wharf. I love their flaky lamb shank pie with mashed potatoes, mashed peas and gravy. Lamb and gravy is Manon's idea of heaven and she plunges her whole head into the dish. When she finishes, I wash her face and she's angry with me all evening.

Opera Australia presents Leo Delibes' delightful but rarely heard Lakmé at the famous Sidney Opera House with Emma Matthews, Aldo Di Toro, Stephen Bennett, and Dominica Matthews. Emmanuel Joel-Hornak conducts and Roger Hodgman directs.



We return to the Carpet for a good night's sleep and an Australian breakfast. Sausage, bacon, eggs, toast, hearty porridge, and a bit of salad gird our loins for the long haul to Chicago.

Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center presents a free virtual concert celebrating Black artistry, hosted by world-renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee. The concert features prominent Ryan Opera Center alumni and current 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members.

Program Notes:

NOTE: Music opens with LOUD BELLS.

Photo of LA Opera Orchestra in Rehearsal by M. Broussalian

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From This Author Maria Nockin