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Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

Experience the music of Weill in Los Angeles, Jewish food with Donizetti in New York, Pagliacci with pasta in Sicily, and Bellini with Yakitori in Tokyo

Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens For her Los Angeles Opera Signature Recital filmed at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, accompanied by pianist Jeremy Frank, sings a collection of her favorite songs. They perform works by 20th-century composer Kurt Weill, including "Lonely House," "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," "My Ship," "Speak Low," "One Life to Live," "Le Roi d'Aquitaine," "Berlin im Licht," "Das Lied von der Harten Nuss," "Je ne t'aime pas," "The Saga of Jenny," "This Time Next Year" and "September Song." LAO will stream the recital until July 1, 2021


After the recital, staff and tour members flood onto the Magic Opera Flying Carpet. We travel east over the Rockies and across the plains to coastal New Jersey. Musing in the depth of the night, I dream of strong storms and rising sea levels clawing away the Jersey beaches. Arriving at the airport, we pick up our hot brunch from Shut Up and Eat and spread it out on the buffet table while our recorded Bayreuth trumpet calls summon hungry tour members.

Later in the day, our bus transports us from New Jersey to dinner at a historical lower Manhattan delicatessen restaurant that advertises mile-high sandwiches served since 1888 by theatrically cranky servers. Although the wait staff is less than obsequious, their chopped liver on hand-braided challah bread and pastrami on dark rye with caraway seeds is scrumptious. After a bit of street congestion and passage under a few "orange" traffic lights, we arrive at Lincoln Center.

On Sunday, May 16, 2021, the Met offers Donizetti's Roberto Devereux

starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Elīna Garanča, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecień, conducted by Maurizio Benini. The 2016 production is by Sir David McVicar.


As tour members fill the waiting bus, small bottles and packaged sweets emerge from coolers under the seats so that everyone but the driver can celebrate on the way to the airport. Soon we are aloft, enroute to Leeds, England.

Having been asleep for a short time, I am awakened by an unaccustomed noise and strong vibrations. Something is wrong and we are above the eastern edge of the United States, about to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Finally, the pilot announces that we are cleared to land at Gander, Newfoundland, for repairs. Our co-pilot says he had noticed noises in the engine a few minutes earlier, and called the last possibility for landing before crossing the ocean to see if it had an appropriate repair facility.

We have to take our hand luggage with us and spend the night in the Canadian terminal. Gander Airport shops and restaurant will not be open until morning. At least the waiting lounge is warm and has wifi. I email Opera North in Leeds to ask if we can see their Das Rheingold later than originally planned because of the emergency. After considerable explaining, they agree.

Arriving in London, our bus from the airfield stops in the Covent Garden area for traditional hot meat pies with mashed potatoes and gravy. Just the aroma in the "Pie Station" is enthralling. The pastry itself takes me on a trip to the luxury of Victorian living. After coffee and gelato at Portobello road, we drive to Leeds for the beginning of Wagner's Ring Cycle, Das Rheingold.

Opera North's Cast for Das Rheingold includes Michael Druiett as Wotan; Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke as Loge; Jo Pohlheim as Alberich; Yvonne Howard as Fricka; Richard Roberts as Mime; Giselle Allen as Freia; Andrew Foster-Williams as Donner; Mark Le Brocq as Froh; James Creswell as Fasolt; Mats Almgren as Fafner; Claudia Huckle as Erda; with Jeni Bern, Madeleine Shaw, and Sarah Castle as Rheinmaidens. Richard
Farnes conducts. Peter Mumford designs and directs.


After the opera, we spend the night on the stationary Magic Opera Flying Carpet so we can enjoy a fine English breakfast in the morning before leaving for Verona. We eat eggs, herring, bacon, sausage, potatoes, tomatoes, rolls, and wonderful fresh Irish butter. I add a caramel latte. Manon enjoys some matjes fillets on the Carpet's carpet . . . so now I need to wash out a smelly spot fast before we take off for Verona.

Arriving outside the city of Verona, the sky is a cloudless cerulean blue as we land. We have reservations for dinner at a chic restaurant near the theater. There, we sample Risotto all'Amarone, a brightly colored dish that features Veronese wine with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Vialone Nano, a local rice. Instead of eating dessert at the restaurant, we purchase all sorts of confections from the loud vendors who verbally advertise their wares during the opera in the huge open-air Verona Arena. Verdi's Otello stars Vladimir Atlantov and Kiri Te Kanawa. The 1982 production is conducted by Zoltán Peskó and directed by Gianfranco de Bosio.

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After a nightcap, we bid adieu to beautiful Verona and reassemble aboard the Flying Opera Magic Carpet for our night flight to Sicily. Enroute, Manon, who slept all day, is sitting in my lap listening to music.

"I wish I could go to the opera," she says with a sigh. "Sometimes you take a shopping bag with you, could I ride in it?"

I said, "Maybe you could, but you would not see anything."

"If you make a cut out and sew it up with clear plastic, I could see out the window.

"Manon, would you promise to stay in the bag? I'm serious about that because if we get caught, we all get thrown out."

"O, mee-rowr, I promise crossing my heart with my back paws, bien sûr, I will stay in the sac."

We open our door to an even warmer climate and look forward to seeing Franco Zeffirelli's 1982 Pagliacci, one of the best opera films ever made. We view it at Cinematocasa, an exclusive movie theater available for private parties in Palermo. For dinner before the show, we order Busiate alla Trapanese, a Sicilian pasta dish made with fresh tomatoes, almonds, garlic, basil, and twisted local pasta. Our plates are topped with a grilled Italian sausage and eggplant.

The Pagliacci cast includes Teresa Stratas, Placido Domingo, and Juan Pons. Franco Zeffirelli directs. Georges Prêtre conducts the orchestra and chorus.

After our evening in Palermo, it's on to Paris for books, as well as food and opera. We arrive in Paris early in the day and use our time to locate a famous bookstore, Le Pont Traversé (The Crossed Bridge) at 62 Rue de Vaugirard. Unfortunately, it closed permanently on the last day of 2020. Its loss denotes the end of an era that saw scholars and politicians spend hours among the 11,000 volumes under its opaline chandelier. Now, it is a local bistro, where we order coffee with cheesy quiche Lorraine and ratatouille, a dish made with tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and eggplant.

"No, Manon, there is not one piece of petit rat in ratatouille and the restaurant's chat d'attaque won't let you check his kitchen."

It seems that England is not the only country that has feline singing societies. There is one that meets on the roof L'eglise de la Madeleine in Paris. They sing very different music, however. French cats specialize in music by Impressionist composers like Gustave Charpentier. Tonight, while we are at the Bastille, Parisian cats are singing some of the music from the opera Louise.

At the Bastille, there is an interesting, completely choreographed performance of Bizet's opera, Carmen. Sergei Larin is Don José, Carmen is Béatrice Uria Monzon, Norah Amsellem is Micaëla, and Gino Quilico is Escamillo. The director is Alfredo Arias and the conductor is Frédéric Chaslin.


On the trip from France to England, tour members dine in the Flying Carpet's cabin on one of our chef's special recipes. It's his Russian grandmother's home made borscht, a thick sweet and sour beef stew made with beets, carrots, onions, and potatoes. Just before serving, each portion is topped with sour cream.

We are flying to London for Rossini's Ermione at Glyndebourne Opera. Recorded at Glyndebourne's superb new opera house, this production of Rossini's Ermione, an almost forgotten tragic opera, has proved to be an unequivocal success. Based on Racine's Andromaque, Graham Vick set this account of the Greek and Trojan love tangle in the classically-inspired auditorium of an Italian opera house, rather than in ancient Greece. The cast includes Anna Caterina Antonacci as Ermione; Diana Montague as Andromaca; Bruce Ford as Oreste; Jorge Lopez-Yanez as Pirro; and Gwynne Howell as Fenicio. The conductor is Colin Davis.


When the opera is over, we return to London and the Magic Opera Flying Carpet for a good night's sleep. After our English breakfast, we fly to Naarden in the northern part of the Netherlands. For dinner in Naarden, we eat thick, dry-aged rib-eye steak, served with a choice of sweet or white potato fries in the Porterhouse Restaurant. Then, we move on to an outdoor cafe for dessert and coffee.

Naarden's Grote Kerk (Great Church) on Marktstraat (Market Street) dates from the 15th century. Prior to the Protestant Reformation, it was named for St. Vitus. It is one of the oldest churches in The Netherlands, having survived the Spanish invasion of 1572 and the subsequent burning of the town. The church has numerous wooden vaults painted with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. These were hidden for many years but were rediscovered in a recent restoration. The church is the venue for a number of cultural activities such as concerts by the Netherlands Bach Society.

At the Grote Kerk in Naarden, the Netherlands Bach Society performs Bach's Mass in B minor. Between the opening "Kyrie" and the final "Dona nobis pacem," there are arias, duets, and ensemble sections for four, five, six and even eight voices. The Netherlands Bach Society recorded this performance on December 15, 2016, for their series, All of Bach.

Cast: Jos van Veldhoven, conductor; Hana Blažíková, first soprano; Anna Reinhold, second soprano; David Erler, alto; Thomas Hobbs, tenor; Peter Harvey, bass.

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After a quiet night on the Flying Carpet, we sample a Dutch breakfast. They do not let the English outdo them. We feast on several kinds of meat with wonderfully fresh eggs, sweet butter, creamy cheeses, and all kinds of lattes.

When we arrive in Tokyo, the weather is stormy and we need our heavy coats. Tour members are excited to taste authentic Japanese dishes such as Yakitori skewered chicken. We go to a restaurant that specializes in the dish. For their Yakitori, chunks of chicken breast are marinated overnight, then brushed with a sweet soy glaze and grilled over charcoal. While chicken is most common, you can also find other skewered meats and vegetables on the Yakitori menus. Because of the advanced level of Japanese chicken butchery, liver, gizzards, and skin also make regular appearances on those menus.

In Tokyo we see a 2002 production of Bellini's I Capuletti e I Montecchi starring Mariella Devia and Sonia Ganassi, conducted by Daniele Callegari and directed by Pier Luigi Pizzi.

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We top off the evening in Tokyo by tasting numerous varieties of Japanese beer and listening to equally numerous drinking songs offered by tour members from various countries. Tomorrow we return to Los Angeles and sunshine.

Photos of Susan Graham courtesy of Los Angeles Opera.

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