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Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens

Opera and Food from New Zealand to Scandinavia and back to California.

Feature: ONLINE VIRTUAL OPERA TOUR at Home Computer Screens For those who are unfamiliar with our touring vehicle, the Magic Opera Flying Carpet, here's a description. Our flying carpet was hand woven in Detroit by Soraya of Bagdad and her team of Persian-born weavers. Soraya's ancestors wove the original rug mentioned in the Arabian Nights. On top of the carpets are four 1920s-vintage, freshly decorated private railroad cars permanently connected to each other. Each passenger has a reclining chair that converts into a bed, as well as a desk, TV screen, and overhead shelf, all of which can be curtained off for sleeping. Each car has a lavatory and a shower. We carry 30 passengers and a crew of six.

On the evening of June 12, we take off from Los Angeles for the 14-hour trip to Auckland, New Zealand. It's winter in New Zealand, so, we have our heavy clothing with us. Manon-la-Chat cannot imagine it Is that cold a day away, but she has her tightly, hand-knitted pink sweater along whether she wants it or not. We have a buffet breakfast on the Magic Opera Flying
Carpet and land outside of Auckland in the late morning. Later we bus into the city.

Eating the mild-tasting, soft-textured indigenous shellfish, tuatua, is believed to be a Maori tradition and these tasty shellfish are enjoyed all over the country in chowders. A New Zealand traditional cooking method, hāngi or "earth oven" uses steam to cook meat or poultry with root vegetables wrapped in leaves. Wraps are placed in a basket, and cooked slowly on top of heated stones inside a deep hole in the ground. For lunch on arrival, we enjoyed tuatua chowder and smoky-tasting hangi chicken in a downtown Auckland restaurant.

Since we will only spend a day in Auckland, we go shopping right away. I buy some not-too-expensive Maori artwork for the Magic Opera Flying Carpet. For dinner in a bistro near the theater, we gorge ourselves on green-lipped mussel chowder and roast leg of lamb with rosemary potatoes, candied carrots and mint jelly.

For this edition of San Francisco Opera's In Song Series which originates in Auckland, Samoan tenor Pene Pati explores the intersection of European opera and traditional Samoan music. Pene reveals, in this deeply personal story, how family and Samoan culture have influenced his music.


For breakfast before leaving Auckland, we order whitebait omelets, consisting of crisp fish cooked with egg and flour, along with our usual sausages, potatoes, biscuits, and lattes. Our flight to Bergen, Norway, includes a refueling stop in Bankok, Thailand, at night, after 11 hours of flight time. Many of our passengers bus into town. I understand are a staple in the Thai diet.

Surprise! I found a 24-hour Mexican restaurant in the airport. Manon and I had fish tacos with coffee for me and some extra creamers for her. I order a taste of home: huevos rancheros (fried eggs, refried beans, bacon, sausage, and tortillas) for the tour members' breakfast when we leave Thailand in the morning. We spend the day reading and listening to music enroute, arriving in rainy daylight at Bergen near midnight. The airport is closed, but it is all right with us because we are going to sleep until morning no matter how light it is.

We awake to a bustling airport with many small restaurants. I select a waffle house where the heart-shaped main items are topped with either fruit or Brunost caramelized brown cheese, known as Ski Queen in the US. Brunost is created by boiling milk, cream, and whey until the mixture is brown and the sugars have caramelized. It's a little sweet and the combination of the cheese flavor on the sweet waffles is delightful.

For our pre-show dinner we locate a restaurant called The Hungry Pig. There, our meal begins with an appetizer platter of Norwegian favorites made with smoked salmon topped with sprigs of dill. It is a delicious start to a meal of flavorful battered, fried codfish and chips with a variety of sauces.

Bergen National Opera's 2021 production of La Clemenza di Tito tells of jealousies, ambitions, and love affairs during the reign of the emperor Titus. With a promising young Norwegian cast that includes a fabulous counter-tenor, Mozart's last opera speaks to the question of choosing a leader in a difficult time.

Tito is Bror Magnus Tødenes; Vitellia is Beate Mordal; Serviliais Frøy Hovland Holtbakk; Sesto is Adrian Angelico; Annio is Ingeborg Gillebo;

Publio is Christian Valle. Edward Gardner conducts the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra and Grieg Chorus.

Streamed on OperaVision until October er 2021.


After a quiet night and a full brunch, the Magic Opera Flying Carpet departs for Helsinki, Finland, and a passionate rendition of Puccini's Tosca. Fish is hugely popular in Finland, as the huge amount of lakes and proximity to the Baltic Sea offer a diverse range of species. The favorite local fish in the capital is the Baltic herring. The best place to find freshly caught herring is near the south harbor where there are numerous restaurants. Some of the most popular herring variations include pickled fish, sour cream, and raw onion rings.

We eat dinner at a harbor restaurant in Helsinki where the view of fishing boats and sailboats makes us want to join a fishing party when the weather is better. Finnish National Opera presents Puccini's Tosca from 2018 with English Subtitles. The cast includes: Ausrine Stundyte as Floria Tosca, Andrea Caré as Mario Cavaradossi, and Tuomas Pursio as Scarpia. The director is Christof Loy and the conductor is Patrick Fournillier.


We serve hot chocolate to returning tour members, and before retiring, we get ready for an early morning takeoff for Hamburg.

We park the Flying Opera Magic Carpet outside the city of Hamburg and enjoy the pleasant weather before boarding our bus for the city.

The Hamburg Outer Alster Tour is an experience on a small sailboat. Five passengers sail for ninety minutes on each two-masted sailing vessel. After a brief introduction to the boat and "cutter" sailing, tour members and the cutter captain sail off into the harbor. Passengers can actively operate the pods and sails under the skipper's guidance or simply enjoy the magnificent panorama of Hamburg from the water while the captain sails the boat. There is no food on this tour.


We go to a waterfront restaurant for dinner and some guys order grünkohl (kale) und beilage (what comes with it). The vegetable is stewed for several hours before it is served with smoked pork or other meat, pungent sausage, and zesty fried potatoes. The kale season is often celebrated by groups of friends or colleagues doing a 'Kohlfahrt' or Cabbage Pilgrimage. After walking for several hours playing drinking games, they eat as much grünkohl as their bellies can hold at a local restaurant and dance until morning.

Our pilgrimage is to the Staatsoper Hamburg for Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor which is based on the true story of Jean Dalrymple. Lucia loves Edgardo, the last heir of her family's enemy clan. They are in danger, but Lucia refuses to betray her love. A ring falls to the floor. The nightmare begins as the nocturnal sky fills with lightning and thunder. Madness reigns. There is one corpse, then another.

Staatsoper Hamburg's Lucia di Lammermoor turns the city into a stage. Inspired by worldwide women's protests, director Amelie Niermeyer has filmed dancers in the city and invites them into the theatre via video. They rush to the aid of the main character Lucia, who, like the director, asserts herself as a woman in a man's world.

Cast: Lord Enrico Ashton is Christoph Pohl; Lucia is Venera Gimadieva; Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood is Francesco Demuro; Lord Arturo Bucklawis Beomjin Kim; Raimondo Bidebent is Alexander Roslavets. The
Stage Director is Amélie Niermeyer. Giampaolo Bisanti conducts the Philharmonic State Orchestra of Hamburg and Chorus.


Lucia will be streamed on OperaVision for three months.


After the show in Hamburg, we leave for a short hop to London and a hearty English breakfast. The rest of the day is free and we meet at the Coliseum for the opera in the evening.

English National Opera presents Bizet's Carmen in English. Carmen is Justina Gringyte, Micaëla is Eleanor Dennis, José is Eric Cutler, and Escamillo is Leigh Melrose. The English translation is by Christopher Cowell. Richard Armstrong leads the English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The original version by Calixto Bieito, is revived by Joan Anton Rechi. The Live screening from the London Coliseum took place in July 2015.


We stay the night in London so as to enjoy an English breakfast before taking off for Milan. We leave for the short hop in the early afternoon so we can enjoy a leisurely pre theater dinner at a restaurant near the theater after parking and taking out bus to town.

Ossobuco, (bone with a hole), our pre-ordered entree, is a braised crosscut veal shank with jelly-like marrow at the centre of its bone. At our downtown restaurant, it arrives with onions, carrots, celery, and polenta. We also enjoy wine or soft drinks, and sweet, cream-filled cannoli that finishes the meal in high style.

The Teatro alla Scala presents Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in its 2015 production with the Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala conducted by Franz Welser-Möst. The director is Frederic Wake-Walker with design by Antony McDonald. The cast includes: Carlos Álvarez, Simon Keenlyside, Diana Damrau, Markus Werba, Golda Schultz, and Marianne Crebassa.



For a nightcap on the Flying Carpet, we have Tiramisu and coffee or brandy which, of course, can be combined. We are flying to Belgrade, Serbia, the land of Slivovitz Plum Brandy, one of the strongest liquors served in Europe.

Belgrade, located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, is the capital city of Serbia. One of the most important prehistoric cultures of Europe, evolved within the Belgrade area in the sixth millennium BCE. After 279 BC, Celts settled the city, but it was conquered by the Romans during the reign of Augustus before changing hands several times between European and Byzantine rulers. In its strategic position, the city has been battled over in one hundred and fifteen wars, razed forty-four times, and bombed five times.

Arriving in Belgrade, I look for a restaurant that serves the Serbian food I learned to love when I worked in Austria. The cevapcici sausages I ate in Salzburg are very common in Belgrade. Ćevapcici meat is a mixture of ground pork, beef and lamb spiced with salt, pepper, copious garlic, parsley, and Hungarian paprika (or New Mexico chili). The grilled sausages are served on artisan bread with red pepper sauce, chopped raw onion and sour cream.

After our meal of soup, cevapcici, and pomme frites, we are off to the opera. The Symphony Orchestra and Choir of Radio and Television Serbia present Carl Orff's Carmina Burana Conducted by Bojan Sudj. Soloists include: Marija Mitic, soprano; Dejan Maksimilijan Vrbančič, tenor; and Ivan Thirion, baritone. LINK:

Outside the opera house, there is an ice cream truck doing good business with the exiting patrons. We join them and eat apricot and other unusual flavors of ice cream on the bus.

Having had a wonderful time in New Zealand and Europe, we board our Magic Opera Flying Carpet for the return trip to Los Angeles. Los Angeles Opera's presentation of Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky is available online from June 17 to July 18, 2021. The libretto by Jean Cocteau is based on Sophocles' work. The cast includes: Oedipus, Russell Thomas; Jocasta, J'nai Bridges; Creon, John Relyea; Tiresias, Morris Robinson; Shepherd, Robert Stahley; Narrator, Stephen Fry; Conductor, James Conlon; Chorus Director, Grant Gershon; Lighting, Azra King-Abadi. Stage Direction, Matthew Diamond; Animations, Manual Cinema. The English translation is by E.E. Cummings with titles courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The running time is approximately fifty minutes without intermission.


Although it is interesting see daylight until almost midnight in Scandinavia, we find that clouds cover the sun on many days and the shorter sunlit days of California are still a thoroughgoing delight.

Photo of J'nai Bridges courtesy of L A Opera.

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From This Author - Maria Nockin

Maria Nockin worked at the Metropolitan Opera in New York while attending  Fordham University across the street from Lincoln Center. At the same time, she studied voice, piano, and violin... (read more about this author)

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