Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Feature: ONLINE OPERA VIRTUAL TOUR SEPT. OCT.3-10 at Home Computer Screens

Article Pixel

A Scare on the Way to St. Petersburg

BWW Feature: ONLINE OPERA VIRTUAL TOUR SEPT. OCT.3-10 at Home Computer Screens

Los Angeles Opera has a new "Living Room Recital" with mezzo-sopranno Taylor Raven sings with three different pianists, Jeremy Frank, Nino Sanikidze, and Brendon Shapiro. She sings:

"Night" by Florence Price

Two songs from Hector Berlioz's Les Nuits d'Étè


"Le Spectre de la Rose" ("The Ghost of the Rose")

"Prayer" by Leslie Adams

Four songs from Xavier Montsalvatge's Cinco Canciones Negras

"Cuba dentra de un Piano" ("Cuba inside a Piano")

"Punto de Habañera" ("Habanera Point")

"Chévere" ("Cool")

"Cancion de Cuna para Dormir un Negrito" ("Lullaby for a Black Baby")

"A Song Without Words" by Charles Brown

The LA Opera at Home series, "Coffee with Conlon," lets viewers watch the Music Director discuss all things opera over a fresh cup of joe. Viewers can listen while drinking their coffee of choice and submit questions for the Maestro, some of which he will answer on the show.

As the sun sets, we pick up our luggage and head for the airport. Since our first stop is St. Petersburg, we make sure every passenger has a coat, because no one needs heavy outerwear at this time in Los Angeles. Onboard, we offer wine or almond milk and there is a dark chocolate mint on each pillow. Manon has a private cat treat and the knowledge that there are no dogs on this trip.

Having been asleep for a few hours, I am awakened by an unaccustomed noise and strong vibrations. Something is wrong and we are above the eastern edge of the United States, about to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the pilot announces that we are cleared to land at Gander, Newfoundland, for repairs. Our co-pilot says he had noticed noises in the engine a few minutes earlier, and called the last possibility for landing before crossing the ocean to see if it has an appropriate repair facility.

We have to take our hand luggage with us and spend the night in the Canadian terminal. Shops and the restaurant at Canadian Forces Base/Gander Airport will not be open until morning. At least the waiting lounge is warm and has wifi. I email the Mariinsky Opera in St. Petersburg to ask if we can see Betrothal in a Monastery a day later than planned because of the emergency. After considerable explaining, they agree.

We arrive at St. Petersburg where we have a restaurant reservation for shchi and pirozhki. Dating back to the 9th century, Shchi is a traditional cabbage and meat soup served with other vegetables, condiments, and a dollop of sour cream. Pirozhki are small buns stuffed with potato, cabbage, mushrooms, meat, apple slices, cherries, cheese, or lemon curd. Glazed with egg, the buns have an inviting golden glow.

We meet for the 1998 filmed performance of Sergei Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery, also known as The Duenna (The Governess). This four-act comic opera has English titles. The libretto by Sergei Prokofiev and Mira Mendelson was based on Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play, The Duenna.

Valery Gergiev is the conductor, Vladislav Pazi the stage director.

Soloists are Nikolai Gassiev as Don Jerome, a nobleman of Seville; Aleksander Gergalov as Don Ferdinand, his son; Anna Netrebko as Luisa, his daughter; Larissa Diadkova as the Duenna; Sergei Aleksashkin as Isaac Mendoza, a wealthy fisherman; and Vladimir Vaneev as Padre Augustine, superior of the monastery.

Betrothal in a Monastery:

After a nightcap, we bid adieu to beautiful St. Petersburg and reassemble aboard the Flying Opera Magic Carpet for our trip to Sicily. We will enjoy the warm climate and see Franco Zeffirelli's 1982 Pagliacci, one of the best opera films ever made. We will view it at Cinematocasa, an exclusive movie theater available for private parties in Palermo. For dinner before the show, we order a Sicilian city's pasta dish, Busiate alla Trapanese, made with fresh tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, and twisted local pasta. Our dishes are topped with a grilled Italian sausage and eggplant.

The Pagliacci cast includes Teresa Stratas, Placido Domingo, and Juan Pons. Franco Zeffirelli directs. Georges Prêtre conducts the orchestra and chorus of La Scala.

We arrive in Paris early the next day and use our time to locate a famous book store, Le Pont Traversé (The Crossed Bridge) . Currently, it is open daily at 62 Rue de Vaugirard, but scheduled to close its doors on December 31, 2020. The store's closing denotes the end of an era that saw scholars and politicians spend hours under its opaline chandelier and among its 11,000 books. I delight in some miniature conductor's scores and Manon gets a miniature of her Puccini namesake.

For lunch at a local bistro, we have onion soup topped with bread and sharp cheese For dinner we order herb-marinated, slow-cooked duck confit which we pair with white wine and ratatouille, a dish made with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. No, Manon, there is no mouse in it and the French restaurant's own chat d'attaque won't let you in the kitchen to check.

At the Bastille, Carmen is Béatrice Uria Monzon, Norah Amsellem Micaëla, Sergei Larin Don José, and Gino Quilico Escamillo. The director is Alfredo Arias and the conductor Frédéric Chaslin.

It seems England is not the only country that has feline singing societies.There is one that meets on the roof of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. They do very different music, however. They specialize in music by twentieth century composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. Tonight, they are singing some of the choruses from the opera Moses und Aron.

Since it's already sunset when we arrive in Vienna, tour members dine in the Carpet's cabin on home made borscht, a sweet and sour beef stew topped with sour cream. Taking a cue from the Feline Singing Society, we offer a film of Arnold Schoenberg's opera Moses und Aron for in-cabin entertainment.

The opera's director is Willy Decker. Maestro Michael Boder conducts ChorWerk Ruhr and the Bochum Symphony. Moses is Dale Duesing and Aron is Andreas Conrad.

The Vienna stop is our "open" day this week. The Magic Opera Flying Carpet is parked a short tram ride from the Graben, the Staatsoper, and the Naschmarkt. We often shop at the Naschmarkt, which has been in place since the 16th century. These days, patrons can buy fresh fruit and vegetables from around the world, along with exotic herbs, cheese, baked goods, and seafood. There are also many small restaurants which offer sushi, kebab, seafood, traditional Viennese food such as Kaiserschmarrn.

As the sun sets, we assemble at the Wiener Staatsoper for Beethoven's Fidelio, the opera that opened the post-war rebuilt Staatsoper with momentous jubilation on November 5, 1955. Our video, with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein, dates from 1978. The cast includes Gundula Janowitz, Lucia Popp, René Kollo, Adolf Dallapozza, Manfred Jungwirth, and Hans Sotin.



From Vienna, we fly west to Bayreuth for Wagner's Tannhäuser, an opera we hope to see live in Los Angeles in the spring of 2021. This video is from 1978 and not as visually clear as we might like. It still has Bayreuth's wonderful chorus under Wilhelm Pitz, however. The conductor is Sir Colin Davis, and the director is Götz Friedrich. The cast includes Gwyneth Jones as both Elizabeth and Venus, Spas Wenkoff as Tannhäuser, Bernd Weikl as Wolfram von Eschenbach, and Hans Sotin as Landgraf Hermann.

Die Eule (The Owl) was a frequent restaurant haunt of Richard and Siegfried Wagner. After the opera, we sit in its garden and enjoy red wine under the vines. We then dine on sauerbraten and venison goulasch dishes, the menu titles of which relate to Wagner's operas.


Our last stop is at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. We see the New Years' Eve performance of Die Fledermaus from 1983. Placido Domingo conducts, Kiri Te Kanawa is Rosalinde, Hildegarde Heichele is Adele, Doris Soffel is a completely bald Prince Orlofsky, and Herman Prey a conniving Eisenstein. Although the singing is in German, the spoken dialogue is in English.

Die Fledermaus:

After the opera, we embark for the return to Los Angeles hoping that there will be no more unexpected stops.

Photos by Los Angeles Opera.

Related Articles View More Los Angeles Stories   Shows

From This Author Maria Nockin