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BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR. 42 No at Home Computer Screens

Food and Opera on the West Coast, East Coast, and Europe starring Beczala, Dessay, Oropesa, Minelli, Andrews and Stritch.

BWW Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR. 42 No at Home Computer Screens

Los Angeles Opera was the first to launch original programming in response to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Because of the success of its online programming, LAO decided to make that feature a permanent part of its offering and to give it a name that reflects fresh and innovative interpretations of thea??art form. Welcome to LA Opera On Now. The digital short, Modulation, an exploration of a new interactive format, is now available through February 28 for $25 per viewing household.

The unforgettable but unsettling world of composer Ellen Reid's Pulitzer Prize-winning p r i s m returns to LA Opera for two weeks of free streaming starting January 26. Librettist Roxie Perkins' story follows a mother and daughter as they struggle to explore the trauma of sexual abuse and the elasticity of memory that may follow in its wake. Reid's distinct sonic world erupts with vibrant color and manipulated sounds to set the tone for James Darrah's fascinating production.

This week's Virtual Opera Tour meets in LA for the short hop to San Francisco. We offer cocktails inflight and a choice of Chinese and Thai dishes after landing. Our bus will take tour members to the War Memorial Opera House for Samson's "haircut" after dinner. The San Francisco Opera continues its full-length free weekend opera streaming on Jan. 23-24. Saint-Saëns' most popular work, Samson and Delilah, stars Clifton Forbis and Olga Borodina. Frank Zamacona directs and Patrick Summers conducts this filmed performance from 2008.

After Samson literally brings the house down, we take off for Northeast Philadelphia Airport, 25 miles from the City of Brotherly Love, where we can park the Magic Opera Flying Carpet and enjoy the features of its luxurious 1920s private train decor.

For breakfast we order Philadelphia Scrapple, a mixture of pork and cornmeal, in addition to our usual brunch items. Despite an inch of snow on the ground, Manon-la-Chat and I walk around the airport where there are no trees for a cat to climb. Her feet are soon cold, however, so she rides most of the way snuggled into my woolen coat. I will have to get her booties like the ones sled dogs wear.

Opera Philadelphia's performance features soprano Lisette Oropesa as Violetta in a 2015 production of Verdi's La Traviata seen at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Oropesa hereby serves notice that this is one of the definitive roles of her career. She is one of the few artists who has both the coloratura and the acting ability that the role requires.

The Opera Philadelphia Channel now presents the digital premiere of conductor Corrado Rovaris and director Paul Curran's renowned production. The performance features newly remixed audio co-starring tenor Alek Shrader as Alfredo and baritone Stephen Powell as his father. A stream purchase includes La Traviata: Five Years Later, a program with the opera's artists hosted by Opera Philadelphia Artistic Advisor Lawrence Brownlee. Performed in Italian with English captions, La Traviata is available on-demand with a seven-day rental for $20.

After La Traviata, we take off for Antwerp and Opera Ballett Vlaanderen's Finally 2021 Concert. Again, this is a pay-to-watch concert, but artists need to earn money just like the rest of us, and we need to pay them for enriching our lives. The cast of Finally 2021 was originally engaged to perform Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, so they have big, strong, resonant voices.

We watch the sun come up over the low, or nether, lands that border the Atlantic Ocean's eastern shore. This is the view observed by sailors for many centuries as they traveled between Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Landing at Antwerp, we serve brunch al fresco on tables set up outside the Magic Opera Flying Carpet. Belgian breakfast consists mainly of toast topped with meat, cheese or fruit spreads and coffee. We add Croûtes Dorées, otherwise known as 'spiced French toast.' Traditionally made with sweet, fluffy brioche bread, the slices are dipped in egg and milk flavored with vanilla, nutmeg and other spices.

Later, we eat dinner at a small fish eatery located near Antwerp's Grote Markt (large market). The restaurant's chef prepares freshly-caught seafood in an open kitchen and we can watch him assemble our order. While casual patrons eat at high tables in front of the restaurant, our group dines on garlicky razor clams a la plancha, deep-fried codfish with creamy homemade tartar sauce, or crisp shrimp croquettes, with pomme frites and white wine in a nautically decorated room upstairs.

The cast of Finally 2021includes tenor Michael Weinius, soprano Carla Filipcic Holm, mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, and bass Goran Juric. Musical director Alejo Pérez leads them in excerpts from Mozart's The Magic Flute, Beethoven's Fidelio, Verdi's Macbeth, Berlioz' Damnation of Faust, as well as Wagner's Die Walküre and Lohengrin. Access costs 10 Euros.

After the opera, we stop at a bar built in the 1920s, for Rodenbach Belgian beer, a red brew that comes with a tiny bowl of salty shrimp. The next morning, after a pleasant breakfast of toast with a variety of spreads and a plethora of Antwerp's excellent lattes, we fly the short distance to Paris for Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Enroute, Manon tells me of her memories of Paris. She spent dark days and icy nights out in the snow when her former family moved to an apartment that did not allow animals. I hold her close and assure her that she has a permanent home with me. Eventually, some chats d'allée showed her where she could get away from the cold and wet streets. She also found a group of kitties who like to sing on the roof of L'église de la Madeleine in the evening. She hopes to rejoin them tonight. La Madeleine, originally designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army, is in the city's 8th arrondissement.

The cast for Francois Rousillon's production includes Dorothea Röschmann as Pamina; Piotr Beczala as Tamino; Natalie Dessay as the Queen of the Night; Detlef Roth as Papageno; and Matti Salminen as Sarastro. Ivan Fischer leads the Paris Opera Orchestra.

After that excellent Flute and some Paris dark and divine hot chocolate, we bus back to the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, picking up Manon at La Madeleine on the way. This evening she was singing duets with an English cat named Ellesbury who would like to tour with us someday.

The Weather Service tells us we can put away our rain/snow gear and don bright woolen coats for our next stop, New York City. We will park in Teterboro as usual, but we are bound for Carnegie Hall, not the Met this time.

Since time is short, we have sent ahead for several types of pizza. Bee Sting Pizza from the East Side delivers a soppressata (salami) pie made with a soupçon of honey. It's spicy with an irresistible hint of sweetness. Vegetable pizzas from the West Village are hearty and filling, with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and pecorino Romano cheese. Neapolitan-style pizzas from the East Village come with prosciutto de Parma, Brussels sprouts, and the perfect amount of char. Manon finds the combined aroma is overwhelming.

As our bus takes us to Carnegie Hall, I still miss the restaurants I frequented as a young girl: The Russian Tea Room after the ballet and the Carnegie Deli after concerts. The restaurants may be gone, but Carnegie Hall is as lively as ever!

My Favorite Broadway: The Leading Ladies in Concert recorded in 1998 at Carnegie Hall

The Kind Of Beauty That Drives A Man Mad -Tony Roberts/Robert Morse

Welcome Skit - Julie Andrews

Nowadays - Karen Ziemba/Bebe Neuwirth

Hot Honey Rag - Karen Ziemba/Bebe Neuwirth

Adelaide's Lament - Faith Prince

Don't Rain On My Parade - Judy Kuhn

Life Upon The Wicked Stage - Anna Kendrick/The Kit Kat Girls

If He Walked Into My Life - Jennifer Holliday

Nothing - Priscilla Lopez

Could I Leave You - Dee Hoty

I Can Cook Too - Lea DeLaria

Look For The Silver Lining / Tomorrow - Andrea McArdle

Down With Love - Audra McDonald

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered - Marin Mazzie

Liza With A 'Z' - Rosie McDonald

Sing Happy - Liza Minelli

Some People - Liza Minelli

Orchestral Break

I Wanna Be A Rockette - Karen Ziemba/The Rockettes

Falling In Love With Love - Rebecca Luker

Someone Like You - Linda Eder

Man Of La Mancha - Linda Eder

Love Changes Everything - Audra McDonald

Everybody's Girl - Debra Monk

Ain't Misbehavin' - Nell Carter/Luther Henderson (piano)

Mean To Me - Nell Carter/Luther Henderson(piano)

I'm Going Back - Faith Prince

Fifty Percent - Dorothy Loudon

I Never Said I Love You - Audra McDonald

And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going - Jennifer Holliday

The Ladies Who Lunch - Elaine Stritch

One (finale) - The Ladies Of Broadway

After the Ladies Who Lunch, we all need a cup of coffee! We drink it as the bus rolls up Broadway, and over the bridge to New Jersey. Then we load up and take off into the flood of blackness to await the California sunrise.

Photo of Raehann Bryce-Davis by Tom Cornille Courtesy of Opera Ballet Vlaanderen.

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