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BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

Four Operas in the States and Three in Europe

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

This holiday week the Virtual Opera Tour's Magic Opera Flying Carpet is making its first stop at Opera San Jose for their magnificent online performance of Three Decembers. It costs $40 to watch on demand.The price is a bit steep, but the story is affecting, the music is fabulous and the performances are riveting.

The vehicle takes off after lunch, allowing us to have a leisurely dinner in San Jose. Tonight everyone has arrived costumed as an actor or actress who probably did not have a happy home life. The more divorces and scandalous affairs the performer had, the better. Bankruptcies are a plus, too. At a Middle Eastern restaurant in the Silicon Valley, costumed waiters, who seem surprised to greet more than fifty patrons also in costume, serve us roast lamb and Anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese. While we eat, a musician accompanies an enchanting young danseuse on his bouzouki.

Three Decembers is a chamber opera by Jake Heggie composed to a libretto which Gene Scheer based on Terrence McNally's unpublished work Some Christmas Letters. Heggie wrote the role of actress Madeline Mitchell for Frederica von Stade who played it in multiple productions. The three parts of the opera are set a decade apart and involve Christmas letters from December 1986, 1996, and 2006. The opera tells the story of the famous actress and her two adult children as they struggle to know and love themselves and each other. Three Decembers premiered in 2008 at Houston Grand Opera. Now online at Opera San Jose, Three Decembers is a smash hit with Susan Graham as Madeline.

Opera San Jose's Three Decembers is sung in English with English titles.

After the opera and a few sips of "nightcap," we load up for Chicago and Lyric's Pasión Latina. Chicago is the meatpacking capital of the world, so it offers visitors the best in ribeye steaks. On arrival, we board a bus and head to the "Green Door, " once known as a gangster haunt. It is one of the historic locales where legendary wise guys are said to have made deals for the delivery of weapons and prohibition liquor.

Celebrating music from the Spanish-speaking world with world renowned soprano Ana María Martínez, are tenors René Barbera, David Portillo, and Mario Rojas, as well as bass-baritone Richard Ollarsaba. Two current 2020/21 Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members-soprano Denis Vélez and baritone Ricardo José Rivera also join the program. These artists perform selections from Puerto Rico, Mexico, Cuba, Guatemala, Argentina, and Spain, accompanied by Ryan Opera Center Music Director Craig Terry and current Ensemble Pianist Chris Reynolds.

Pasión Latina from Lyric of Chicago with Ana Maria Martinez will be available free of charge for a full year.

Leaving Chicago after a full Mexican breakfast, we make the short hop to Houston, landing at Ellington General Aviation Airport seventeen miles southeast of downtown. Manon is tired of being cooped up in the cabin and we go for an uneventful walk around the field. She "helps" me knit until it's time to get ready for dinner and the opera in town.

Resi's German Restaurant still has its Chanukkah Special, a generous portion of smoked salmon on golden-fried potato pancakes topped with scrumptious chive-laden sour cream and accompanied by a sweet-and-sour pickled beet salad. Some of us opt for the fish while others order Wiener schnitzel with red cabbage and pomme frites. We all enjoy the Bavarian beer on draft.

Emil Tchakarov conducts Houston Grand Opera's Aida in a 1987 production by Pier Luigi Pizzi. The cast includes: Mirella Freni as Aida, Placido Domingo as Radames, Stefania Toczyska as Amneris, Ingvar Wixell as Amonastro, Nicolai Ghiaurov as Ramfis, and David Langan as The King.

They let Manon sit backstage to watch the show and she finds a bent nail to keep as a souvenir. Perhaps she has heard that finding a bent nail for luck before each performance is an old Italian opera tradition.

Our one-night stand at the Met is for Rossini's Il Barbiere di Siviglia takes place on Wednesday December 23. The Magic Opera Flying Carpet lands in New Jersey Wednesday morning and our party heads for the "Shut Up and Eat" in Tom's River in their pajamas so as to secure their famous 13% discount. Waffles, Bacon, Egg and Grits Casserole, Eggs Bennie, are all delicious here. The restaurant is only open early in the day and they don't take credit cards. They leave no paper trail. Tour members crowd into a Spanish tapas restaurant for their pre-show dinner. I'm having a brown bag meal with Manon because we need time to arrange for her to sit on the Met's paint bridge to watch The Barber. Some people actually feel that cats do not need to see opera! Quel dommage!

Rossini's 2014 Barber of Seville stars Isabel Leonard, Lawrence Brownlee, Christopher Maltman, Maurizo Muraro, and Paata Burchuladze. Michele Mariotti conducts. It is available Wednesday, December 23, 2020, only.

As soon as we arrive back in New Jersey, we rearrange our belongings for the French Riviera. A night over the ocean is mysterious and leads to dreams in a state of partial consciousness. Shapes and ideas appear out of the darkness below that would never occur to me if I were fully awake. Because such dreams lead to artistic awakening, I am beginning to keep a pad and a set of oil pastels near my reclining seat.

With only twenty-four hours to spend on the Riviera, we opt for eating indoors on the high cliff over the sea in the early morning and enjoying beach restaurants in the warmest part of the day. Salade Niçoise is the platte du jour.

In 1983, American composer Philip Glass completed the opera Akhnaten based on the life and religious convictions of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. Glass penned the libretto together with Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel, Richard Riddell and Jerome Robbins. Houston Grand Opera presented its American premiere, directed by David Freeman in 1984.

Phelim McDermott directed a new co-production of Aknaten presented by English National Opera at the London Coliseum and presented by LA Opera at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in 2016. ENO revived this production in London in 2019. The Metropolitan Opera presented the work during its 2019/2020 season and sent it in high definition to movie theaters across the globe.

L'Opera de Nice presents it's own production of Akhnaten online through the end of this year. After the opera, we watch the lights along the coast for a while while sipping a local wine. Early in the morning we take off for Lake Como at the foot of the Italian Alps.

The shores of Italy's Lake Como add to the beauty of a resort known for dramatic Alpine scenery. The lake has three slender branches that meet at the town of Bellagio. At the bottom of the southwest branch lies the city of Como, home to Renaissance architecture and a funicular that travels up to the mountain town of Brunate.

We eat dinner at the Blue Willow in Bellagio beginning with sweet melon and salty prosciutto. Although the meal is on the expensive side, we opt for risotto with truffles and follow it with the chef's special vanilla pudding accompanied by a sweet Moscato dessert wine. From the restaurant we walk the theater.

This production of Massenet's Werther features winners of the 2020 AsLiCo Singing Competition. The opera contest from Como was founded in 1949 as As.Li.Co. (Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana) on three fundamental principles:

1) To identify young, exceptional operatic talent;

2) To provide musical and theatrical training for these artists;

3) To produce operatic performances of the highest calibre in which to display these artists.

Massenet's Werther is a French opera based on The Sorrows of Young Werther, a loosely autobiographical novel by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. First published in 1774, it was one of the most important novels in the Sturm und Drang period in German literature and influenced the later Romantic movement.

After the show, we chat for a while but settle into our seats before midnight because it is a long flight to our next stop, Kiev, Ukraine.

Subtitles are available in English. On demand streaming can be seen from Dec. 13, 2020 to June 13, 2021.



Kyiv or Kiev on the Dnieper River is the capital of Ukraine. An important cultural center of Eastern Europe, it is home to high-tech industries, higher education institutions, and historical landmarks. Kiev probably existed as a commercial center as early as the 5th century. The city was captured by The Vikings in the 9th century but was destroyed by the Mongols in 12th. Kiev prospered again during the Russian Empire's Industrial Revolution in the late 19th century. Almost completely ruined during World War II, it recovered in the postwar years, and is now the area's third-largest city.

Arriving at our assigned airstrip, we board our bus for town and our first encounter with the famous Chicken Kiev. Located on one of the city's most famous streets, Kanapa serves Chicken Kiev accompanied by chamber music and walls full of artwork. From Kanapa, we walk to the municipal theater for Christmas Eve, an opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov based on a Ukrainian folktale.

No one pays much attention to my open-top shopping bag, the one with the clear plastic viewing area for Manon. She loves Chicken Kiev and the greasy bits that fall onto her fur. She was still enjoying a cat-wash when we arrived at the opera. I wish there was some way Manon could see the stage but here it is impossible. She says she enjoys napping and listening, however



Some members of our party go to Vienna and will return later. They are going to try to bring us back a Dobos Torte. The rest of our group are already enroute to to Los Angeles and sunny, warm skies.

EXTRA Bonus Material: The Three Tenors' Christmas Program from 2008 in


Photos of Susan Graham by David Allen.

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