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BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR No. 41 at Home Computer Screens

Food and Opera in California, Italy, Sweden, as well as Canada's Excaiipurr Cafe

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR No. 41 at Home Computer Screens

In collaboration with the Prototype Festival, Los Angeles Opera offers Modulation, an exploration of opera that adapts it to a new interactive format. It is available through January16. The voices of the extraordinary artists involved demonstrate the irrepressible power of music to provide comfort and instigate contemplation of ourselves, our art, and our world. Access to Modulation costs $25 per viewing household.

The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings will stream for free Jan. 15-29. The promise of the American dream runs up against hard realities and uncontrollable forces in this new digital short from Missy Mazzoli, the innovative composer of Song from the Uproar and Breaking the Waves. She wrote this surreal musical myth for modern times with librettist Royce Vavrek. James Darrah directs this video that tells of a ghostly sodbuster who haunts the mind of a farmer striving to survive in extreme conditions.

This week's Virtual Opera Tour meets in LA for the short hop to San Francisco. We offer cocktails in flight and after landing, steaks broiled to order with salad and pomme frites. Our bus will take tour members to the War Memorial Opera House for Romeo and Juliet after dinner.

The San Francisco Opera continues full-length free opera streaming Jan. 16-17 with the 2019 presentation of Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. The performance in French with English subtitles features Pene Pati and Nadine Sierra as the young lovers. The next weekend, Jan. 23-24, SFO will offer Saint-Saëns' most popular opera, Samson and Delilah, starring Clifton Forbis and Olga Borodina.

San Fran Romeo

The morning after Romeo and Juliet we order take-out from Louisiana French Soul Food for a brunch buffet that includes Baton Rouge fried chicken with hot pepper jelly, Creole Eggs Benedict with pulled pork, shrimp and grits with spicy tomato-bacon gravy, and fried catfish Po' Boy Sandwiches.

We fly a short hop to Livermore Valley where we spend some free time reading, knitting, or writing until the bus takes tour members to a vineyard farm-to-table picnic eatery. First, we retrieve the orders we placed online at the drive-up window. Many tour members pre-ordered wines to take home and those are stowed with the luggage. After that, boxed dinners are distributed and we bus to a group picnic site. The weather is warm and dining al fresco on super thick sandwiches is delightful. Manon-la-Chat and I share pastrami.

Livermore Valley Opera is now offering a film of its 2016 rendition of Wagner's The Flying Dutchman originally performed at the Bankhead Theater. The Music Director is Alexander Katsman and the stage director is Olivia Stapp, Philip Skinner is The Dutchman; Eugene Brancoveanu, Daland; Marie Plette, Senta; and David Gustafson, Erik.

Early the following morning, we leave for Regina Saskatchewan, a new stop for us. (It is pronounced with an "i" as in pie). Manon wants to check out Regina's Excalipurr Cat Café which combines coffee and tea with rescuing cats, many of which reside in the cafe while awaiting their forever homes. The Excalipurr homes hundreds of cats each year.

Regina Opera's 2019 Carmen features Conductor Gregory Ortega and Stage Director Linda Lehr. Carmen is Lara Michele Tillotson, Don José is Christopher Trapani, Micaëla is Alexis Cregger, and Escamillo is Jaeman Yoon.

After the opera, we enjoy some hot mulled sweet wine as we begin our flight to Teterboro, New Jersey, the nearest general aviation airport to the Met. Manon is excited with the anticipation of seeing her friends from the Grand Tier Restaurant again, and promises to mind her manners in the big city. "No dumpsters, Manon," We land after a good night's sleep and when we open the doors, gray daylight blows in accompanied by a piercing cold wind.

I pull one of Manon's toys across the floor as we wait for the bus to take us to Shut Up and Eat for breakfast. Since we get a discount for arriving in our nightclothes, some of us take daywear along. Eventually, I put a skirt over rolled up pjs. Hope they stay rolled up! Rain falls in buckets as we eat.The North Atlantic coast is wet above as well as below so most tour members opt for a day indoors.

For dinner, we bus into the New York City for super hamburgers with all possible fixings. I like mine with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, raw onion, and Louisiana hot sauce. Sweet potato fries go well with it. So does seven-layer cake for dessert.

On Sunday, January 17, the Met streams its 2014 staging of Dvořák's Rusalka starring Renée Fleming, Emily Magee, Dolora Zajick, Piotr Beczala, and John Relyea, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Look for the opera link on the day it is streamed.

After the opera, we pick Manon up at the Grand Tier Restaurant where tour members sip hot mulled wine or hot chocolate before bussing back over the George Washington Bridge to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet. Our plane takes off in the rain for Stockholm and we do not expect the weather to get any better en route.

It snows all day in Stockholm, but it is a dry snow unlike the sleet we often see in New York. We have reservations for dinner and are very pleased with what comes to the table: green soft-shell crab, anchovy-studded Swedish meat balls in cream gravy, and individual princess cakes for dessert. Princess cake consists of sponge cake topped with pastry cream encased in a green marzipan shell.

At the theater, we see the famous Ingmar Bergmann filmed version of Mozart's The Magic Flute from 1975. It brings back memories of a time when flying to Europe for opera was something NYC teachers often did in summer.

In this performance, Josef Köstlinger is Tamino; Irma Urrila is Pamina; and the Three Ladies are Britt-Marie Aruhn, Birgitta Smiding, and Kirsten Vaupe. Håkan Hagegård is Papageno; Birgit Nordin is the Queen of the Night; Ragnar Ulfung is Monostatos; and Ulrik Cold is Sarastro. Eric Ericson conducts the Swedish Radio Symphony. Please click the cc button to choose a language for titles. On "settings," click subtitles then under "options" choose 0% opacity for subtitles background.

After the opera, we join local fans for hot glogg, a drink not very different from English mulled wine. Leaving Stockholm at night, we head south for Venice through soupy fog and tumbling black clouds. It's a good night for a long, deep sleep. In the morning, after an on-board brunch, we arrive to better weather in Padua, outside of Venice.

Our chartered vaporetto takes us into the city for dinner and a performance of Rossini's Semiramide. We eat at a local restaurant near the Venice's famous La Fenice (Phoenix) theater. From among the prix fix dinners, I choose an old favorite, fegato all Veneziana (Venetian style liver). Manon loves it as much as I do since it is mainly calves liver, bacon, olive oil and carmelized onions. She spits the onions on the clean carpet! Katz!

We see La Fenice's Semiramide in the version produced in 2017 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Rossini's death. The cast is as follows: Semiramide, Jessica Pratt; Arsace, Teresa Iervolino; and Assur, Alex Esposito. The conductor is Riccardo Frizza and the director is Cecilia Ligorio.

On the way back to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, we sing Italian and American folk songs while downing hot drinks of the kind one enjoys when someone else drives the vehicle. Luckily, it's a short ride. One gentlemen misses the boat and tries swimming across the dark canal. We bring him dry clothes and pay his fines as soon as we hear he swam the back stroke with a police-boat escort and landed in jail.

We say good-bye to Venice as the city requests we not return with anyone who can't behave responsibly. Manon and I agree. We take off for our Otello Comparison Duo, two operas on the same subject by two different composers: Rossini and Verdi.

Milan's food is different from the usual Italian cuisine. Since the city is inland and close to the Alps, it features meat, not seafood, and butter rather than olive oil. For dinner there, we order bean soup, which comes with a spoon standing up straight in the bowl, and coteletta all Milanese (breaded veal fried in butter). The latter is not unlike Wiener schnitzel but I don't say that.

Milan offers its 2001 production of Verdi's Otello by Graham Vick. Riccardo Muti conducts Placido Domingo, Leo Nucci, and Barbara Frittoli.

The following morning we fly the short hop to Pesaro on the Adriatic coast. First, we try the city's coffee specialty. Moretta Fanese is a combination of coffee (usually espresso), lemon zest, and equal parts of brandy, rum, and anise-flavored liqueur. The drink is made by heating sugar, lemon, and alcohol before adding brewed coffee on top. The coffee needs to be carefully poured so it does not mix with other ingredients. Moretta is typically served in small glasses where the layer of liquor, coffee, and foam are visible. According to a legend, the drink originated among sailors and fishermen who used to drink alcohol-laced coffee beverages before setting off to sea.

In this performance of Rossini's Otello from the 1991 Pesaro Festival, Otello is Chris Merritt, Desdemona is Cecilia Gasdia, Rodrigo is William Matteuzzi, and Iago is Michael Shade. Stage director Pier Luigi Pizzi designed the scenery and costumes. Gianluigi Gelmetti conducts the Turin Radio and Television Orchestra.

Pesaro is open late and tour members opt for pizza after the show. We order Pizza Rossini, a thin crust with tomato salsa, rosettes of white aioli, and a green garnish in the center: the colors of Italy. Back at the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, we debate the merits of the two musical versions of Shakespeare's story, comparing the similarities in their libretti and the differences in their music. Most people barely notice when we take off for Los Angeles and a return to sunshine.

Photo: a scene from The West is a Land of Infinite Beginnings courtesy of LA Opera

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