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BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

Opera in the American South and the European North.

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer ScreensLos Angeles Opera's Modulation, presented in collaboration with the Prototype Festival, adapts opera and theater to a new interactive format. Audience members are in control as they navigate through a landscape of new musical pieces-each with its own visual component-exploring the strands that weave lives together over this past tumultuous year.

The voices of extraordinary artists show us the irrepressible power of music to provide comfort and instigate contemplation of ourselves, our art, our world. Access to Modulation, available January 8-16, 2021, costs $25 per viewing household. Access will enable you to enjoy Modulation for one week.


The Online Virtual Opera Tour meets at the Magic Opera Flying Carpet which is loading up at LAX on Saturday morning for the flight north to Livermore Valley. Onboard, we enjoy a brunch that includes vanilla, caramel or mocha lattes, and eggs benedict. Livermore Valley Opera presents Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte's Le Nozze di Figaro in a performance performed at the Bankhead Theater in 2017. This Figaro, set in Hollywood in the 1940s, tells a witty yet profound tale of love, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Alexander Katsman conducts and Brian Luedloff directs. Bernardo Bermudez is Count Almaviva, Lacy Sauter is Countess Almaviva, Efrain Solis is Figaro, Christie Conover is Susanna, and Kristin Chio is Cherubino. Sung in Italian, the opera has English supertitles.

After the opera we leave for the state of Georgia and in the morning we enjoy a tasty southern breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, and freshly made coffee. Trying to interest Manon-la-Chat in the grits that I loved as a child, I cut up bacon and mixed it in, but she eats the bacon and dribbles the grits all over our flight compartment. Comment dit-on "hot yukkie mess" en Français? By late afternoon, she is considerably more interested in fried chicken, corn dogs, and even a piece of waffle I bring back from a Tenth Street restaurant along with honey-jasmine bubble milk tea. I do not reveal the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my dessert, a brown butter almond brittle ice cream sundae, and did not save any for Manon-la-Chat.

Atlanta Opera offers a 48-hour stream of composer Viktor Ullmann and librettist: Petr Kien's Der Kaiser von Atlantis for $20. Viktor Ullmann's critically acclaimed chamber opera, The Kaiser of Atlantis, was written in 1943 in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Before his death at Auschwitz, Ullmann gave the score to a colleague, but the opera remained unperformed until 1975 when De Nederlandse Opera staged it in Amsterdam.

A haunting allegory about redemption despite the worst of humanity, this new production of The Kaiser of Atlantis features The Atlanta Opera Company Players in a chilling satire built for our time. Although the filmed version brings the audience on stage with the performers, this new production introduces innovative staging elements built for keeping cast, crew and audience safe during successful performances in a time of pandemic. The cast includes Michael Mayes, Alek Shrader, Kevin Burdette, Daniela Mack, Calvin Griffin, Jasmine Habersham, and Brian Vu. One "person" will sit in the wings. Hidden just off-stage in the folds of a curtain, is our Manon who loves the theater but cannot see very well from the audience.

The opera is performed in German with English supertitles.

Since it takes eleven hours to fly from Atlanta to Helsinki, we leave at noon,
after a brunch of sausage, eggs, cereal or grits, and Atlanta's special maple-bacon-cheddar doughnuts. Before leaving, we break out our heavy winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves so as to be ready for whatever weather the Baltic coast of Finland wants to throw at us. We are told to expect turbulence and we are not disappointed. Landing just before noon, the polite sun waits to rise upon our arrival.

Restaurant KuuKuu is known for high quality food and wine served in an attractive modern aesthetic. Located in the arts district, it is ideal for pre-theatre dinner. The sea creatures that grace dishes of salmon soup, poached whitefish, and boiled crayfish have slept deep in the Gulf of Finland the night before restaurant patrons consume them.

For desert, we sample the famous Runeberg Torte. The small circular rum cakes topped with icing and jam commemorate Johan Runeberg, whose poem "Ensign Stal" forms the lyrics to the Finnish national anthem. We enjoy the cakes with smooth, aromatic Finnish coffee.

This evening's Don Giovanni is a filmed live performance first seen at the Helsinki Festival in 2013. Director Erik Söderblom sets the opera in a modern film studio, but Maestro Ville Matvejeff conducts, old style, from the harpsichord. The cast includes Waltteri Torikka, Tapani Plathan, Ida Falk Winland, Anna Danik, and Joska Lehtinen. Titles are in English.

After the show we snuggle up to our recliners with some schnapps for the night's light show. In the morning, we will be off to warmer and maybe even sunlit Berlin. I am dreaming about the sun. Berlin's forecast is cloudy all week with temperatures one degree above or one degree below freezing. Manon assures me no cat is out in this weather and she determines to sleep through Berlin until she arrives at the city of her birth, Paris.

After a 2-hour nonstop flight, we are greeted in Berlin by sleet-ridden Wellington boot-weather that is only a few degrees warmer than Helsinki. We stretch our legs and bus to Kreuzberg for a lunch of hot creamy potato soup and freshly made bockwurst. The links contain not only veal and pork but also myriad other meats that were available early this morning. Our chef makes fish bockwurst, too. Either is the perfect complement to a stein of Berlin's famous bock beer. Tour members try drink variations that include weizenbock, made from wheat, and eisbock, a much stronger brew made by freezing the beer and removing ice from it.

Massenet's Cinderella, known in French as Cendrillon, is at the Komische Oper, one of Berlin's three opera houses and it's a short bus ride to the theater. Cendrillon is Nadja Mchantaf; Madame de la Haltière, Agnes Zwierko; Prince Charming, Karolina Gumos; Fairy, Mari Eriksmoen; Noemie, Mirka Wagner; and Dorothy, Zoe Kissa. The conductor is Henrik Nánási and the director is Damiano Michieletto. Sung in French, the opera's titles are in both German and English.

A local café sends mulled wine to the bus and we enjoy it on our route back to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet. True to her word, Manon is asleep when we return. Flying into a crowded area like Paris is easier at night. We take off for the city of light in the wee hours of the morning and awake to café au lait and croissants. Later, we bus into the city for a gourmet meal of entrecôte et frites (steak and fries) doused in a mysterious, garlicky green sauce. The restaurant offers us second helpings and I take mine to go.

At the Chatelet in Paris, tour members see Mozart's Così Fan Tutte in a 1992 rendition with English subtitles. Amanda Roocroft is Fiordiligi; Rosa Mannion, Dorabella; Rodney Gilfry, Guglielmo; Rainer Trost, Ferrando; Eirian James, Despina; Claudio Nicolai, Don Alfonso. John Eliot Gardiner conducts and Peter Mumford directs.

Back at the Carpet, I munch on fries while Manon, who has been galavanting with her French friends while we were at the opera, tears into the steak with wild abandon. Again, because of crowded airspace, we take off at night for the 12-hour trip over the north pole to San Francisco. It is good to get home again, but fog horns proclaim zero visibility for the California city dedicated to the patron saint of animals.

We relive the opening night of San Francisco Opera's 97th season as we watch a free streaming broadcast of Frank Zamacona's 2019 Romeo and Juliet. It stars American soprano Nadine Sierra and New Zealand tenor Pene Pati in their role debuts. Streaming starts Saturday, January 16, and continues through Sunday January 17, 2021.

It's not cold, but it is damp, so a mug of mulled wine becomes a welcome nightcap. Now it's off to dreamland for Manon and me. We will wake up to warmth, sunshine, and just the tiniest bit of smog in our beloved City of Angels.

Photo of drawing by Angelica Negrón for LA Opera's Modulation.

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From This Author Maria Nockin