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BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR NO. 46 at Home Computer Screens

Song and Opera in California and Wesrtern Europe

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR NO. 46 at Home Computer Screens


LA Opera's newest digital short film, Death, unites the striking visuals of celebrated filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, the Emmy-nominated director of the Michelle Obama documentary Becoming, with the intriguing harmonies of composer Tyshawn Sorey, a recipient of the MacArthur "Genius Grant" Fellowship. Set by these two modern artists, verses by the most influential Black poet of a past generation, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), take on newfound resonance for the present day.

Hallgren's short film gives us a peek into Sorey's creative process. Using only the voice of mezzo-soprano Amanda Lynn Bottoms and the accompaniment of pianist Howard Watkins, she crafts a ravishing, reflective setting for Dunbar's poem. Part of the LA Opera On Now platform of digital programming, digital short films are presented free of charge. To learn more, and to watch previously released digital shorts, visit

Los Angeles Magic Opera Flying Carpet Tour members see this film during an afternoon spent on the vehicle. Afterwards, they enjoy dinner and dessert from Highland Park's Fusion Burger. Later, they attend Pacific Opera Project's filmed performance of Richard Strauss's comic-tragic Ariadne auf Naxos in which Manon-laChat will pretend to be Zerbinetta's itinerant cat. We arrive early for the performance. While we sit in the bus chatting, we notice a young man feeding cats at the end of the lot. It's Brendan Sliger, the Bacchus, making sure no Highland Park kitty goes hungry while he sings there.

In Pacific Opera Project's Ariadne auf Naxos, Ariadne is Tracy Cox, Zerbinetta is Sara Duchovnay, and Bacchus is Brendan Sliger. The conductor is Stephen Karr and the director is Josh Shaw. English titles.

Having slept soundly on the parked Carpet, we enjoy a take-out breakfast from Honey Bee's House of Breakfast that includes El Salvador style Portuguese sausage, fried plantains, rice, tortillas, and pancakes with of a variety of toppings. Since we packed up what we don't need until we arrive in Europe, we take off for San Francisco and our parking place north of the city.

Waterbar, one of San Francisco's foremost seafood restaurants, is situated on the waterfront of San Francisco's Embarcadero, just south of the "Cupid's Span" sculpture. The restaurant features panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, the Bay Bridge, Treasure Island, and the city's skyline. Tour members are enjoying Maine lobster bisque with crème fraîche, sourdough croutons, and truffle oil followed by fried Maine lobster with spinach risotto, lemon beurre fondue, and arugula. Dessert will be served on the Magic Opera Flying Carpet after the opera.

San Francisco Opera's film of Puccini's La Rondine is available this weekend February 20-21 only. Free opera streams are viewable on demand with registration at, beginning at 10 A.M. Pacific time on the first streaming date and they remain viewable until 11:59 P.M. the following day. Current San Francisco Opera subscribers and donors of $75 or more retain access to opera titles after their window of public access. For more information, visit

In La Rondine (The Swallow), Angela Gheorghiu is the courtesan Magda de Civry and Ukrainian tenor Misha Didyk is Ruggero. Anna Christy is Lisette and Gerard Powers is Prunier. Stephen Barlow directs Nicolas Joël's 2007 production and Maestro Ion Marin conducts. English subtitles.

Ice cream cakes are waiting for us back at the magic Opera Flying Carpet. Each dessert has a base layer of white cake. Our chef tops it with coffee ice cream, another cake layer, and vanilla ice cream with butter crunch crumble. All of that is covered by a thin chocolate shell. We serve it with tiny glasses of chocolate liqueur and mugs of coffee or hot chocolate.

After all is packed away, we take off for England. Most of us go to bed while I call ahead for a Birmingham breakfast we can dive into as soon as we arrive at our parking place outside the city. Brummie bacon cakes are savory scones with cheese and crispy bacon. Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce mixed with milk give them a bit of extra tang. Our chef serves them for breakfast with fried eggs and tomatoes. The weather is cool and rainy, so most tour members spend the day resting, reading, or doing crafts. We have several water colorists who paint interesting semi-abstract or impressionistic landscapes on our trips.

For dinner, I am taking tour members to the Bottega restaurant for beef carpaccio. The dish is inspired by the works of Renaissance painter Vittore Carpaccio who used bright reds and whites in his paintings. Beef carpaccio features thinly-sliced, grass-fed eye round that has been rolled in north African spices with of horseradish cream, topped with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and garnished with local arugula leaves that shine with olive oil.

The Birmingham Opera Company offers a new orchestral version of Beethoven's Fidelio. Florestan is Ronald Samm and Leonore is Jane Leslie MacKenzie. The conductor is William Lacey and the director is Graham Vick. In this opera, under the most complicated circumstances, when the world seems impossibly dark, a woman takes her life into her own hands. She risks everything to save her politically imprisoned husband. The Birmingham Opera Company's production is set in an enormous circus tent. It mixes professional and amateur performers to explore the meaning of oppression. Recorded in 2002. Subtitles are in English

We stay the night parked outside of Birmingham so we can eat an English Breakfast before flying to Milan. Arriving at our spot in the general aviation Airport, we take out the luggage we need for Milan and its cool climate. Our bus takes us into the city for an early dinner of Ossobuco or bone with a hole. Braised in a mixture of onions, carrots, celery, white wine and broth, a veal shank or ossobuco is cooked until it is fork-tender and melts in the mouth. The best part of this dish is the jelly-like marrow at the centre of the bone.

Ossobuco is often served with risotto alla Milanese, a dish said to date to the 16th century. One of the apprentices working on the Duomo's stained-glass windows added edible saffron-normally used to color stained glass-to white rice with cheese and bone marrow. Manon says the veal marrow is similar to that of the birds she catches. We told her to be quiet about that unacceptable habit of hers. She says we should cook her birds like we do our own chickens.

In The Magic Flute from the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, in 1995, Tamino is Paul Groves, Pamina is Andrea Rost, The Queen of the Night is Victoria Loukianetz, Sarastro is Matthias Hölle, Papageno is Simon Keenlyside, the First Lady is Adina Nitescu, the Second Lady is Petra Lang, the Third Lady is Lioba Braun and Monostatos is Sergio Bertocchi. The conductor is Riccardo Muti, and the stage director is Roberto de Simone.

After a good night's sleep and a continental breakfast, it's time to take off for Hannover, Germany where it is snowing. We make sandwiches of cold cuts and cheeses for lunch and bus into town for a dinner that begins with a Hochzeitssuppe of chicken broth and meat, noodles, asparagus, raisins, beef meatballs, and egg. The main course is Schlachteplatte, a pungent meatloaf made from local varieties of sausage.

Staatsoper Hannover offers Handel's Trionfo del Tempo e del disinganno (The Triumph of Time and Disillusionment) .

In this oratorio, each of four lives is at a crossroad. Four people stumble in the darkness of night. In Handel's 1707 oratorio Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno, the desire to live is at odds with the realization of one's own mortality. Recorded in 2020, with attention to COVID regulations, the performance is sung in Italian by Sarah Brady, Nina van Essen, Nicholas Tamagna, and Sunnyboy Dladla. David Bates conducts and Elizabeth Stöppler directs. Subtitles are available in English.óperas

After the opera, we return to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet for late night dark chocolate cake mit schlag obers (whipped cream on top) and cocoa with shots of crème de mint. We leave for San Francisco that night.

The sun rises as we fly to San Francisco. We see reflections of sun beams dancing on the waters of the north Atlantic as we travel ever westward, ever closer to the Bay Area. We greet the light of day with orange juice and bacon strips decorated by bright scrambled eggs. We have a head wind and San Francisco is still two hours away. Manon looks up from her bacon bits with complete nonchalance. She is happy with food and friends on her flying carpet.

We park at our usual Novato airport spot and bus into town to lunch on San Francisco style hot dogs. Our "dogs" come with mustard, sweet relish, freshly chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, peppers, and sour kosher pickles, all on steamed poppy seed buns. Some tour members stay in town and will meet us later at a Greek restaurant. Back at the Carpet, I call a plumber to fix an unflushing flushable. Really! Six feet of silk scarf down the potty? It's a shame, but we no longer want the once-lovely scarf.

At the Greek restaurant, the staff serves us iced ouzo, roast chicken marinated with garlic, and lemon as well as Horiatiki, a classic Greek salad containing tomato, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. For dessert we choose traditional walnut & honey baklava with praline ice cream. After some strong demitasses to counteract the ouzo, we are ready for Verdi's final opus, Falstaff.

In a production of Verdi's Falstaff from Lyric Opera of Chicago, Olivier Tambosi directs bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as Falstaff, soprano Ainhoa Arteta as Alice, baritone Fabio Capitanucci as Ford, and soprano Heidi Stober as Nannetta. Maestro Nicola Luisotti leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. English subtitles

To have a special breakfast before taking off for home, we order the works from Brenda's French Soul Food. Our server brings us scrambled eggs with crispy oyster bits, bacon, and scallions, as well as grits, beignets, and brioche French toast with butter-pecan sauce. San Francisco is always a good place to eat. Now it's time to go home but we will come back to Baghdad by the Bay every week in March for Wagner's Ring Cycle. It's time to think of tasty snack foods for long acts as we flyback to sunny Los Angeles.

The photo, courtesy of LA Opera, is a still from Nadia Hallgren's film Death.


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From This Author Maria Nockin