Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Krista's awesome horse had a leopard pelt under the saddle, plus a badass hatchet and a...broom?
And I'm just having a grand old time. I told the operator/conductor/carousel lady that this was the best merry-go-round I'd been on in a while. I also resolved to ride the merry-go-round every time I go to the mall, because frankly, this mall is pretty depressing. I mean, they card people! For walking in the mall! Plus, it's only a dollar and it's a pretty long ride :)
So after Kelly and I had our romantic dinner, we met up with Winny, post-show, and Kara and Shane (Kelly's boyfriend), post-work. We went in search of drinks and some dinner for Kara, and eventually took shelter from the coooold in a lovely cafe, the name of which escapes me right now. But it was lovely, at least in terms of selection and tastiness. But the service SUCKED.
Anyway, round about 11:30, the rest of the gang arrived in town: Susannah and Brock had driven up from DC/Charlottesville together after work, so they dropped stuff off at WInny's place adn came and found us, at which point we wandered to a pub down the street for a nightcap and visiting. I was damn near dead at this point (hence I ordered a pot o' peppermint tea), but it was excellent fun, all the same. How could it not be?
The next day, Kara and Sus and I went to Blondie's, a sports bar on the upper west side, to watch the NU homecoming football game with the NU Club of greater NY. They had purple t-shirts for sale that said "NU York" on the front and the Blondie's logo on the back, which, for the bargain price of $5, I just couldn't pass up. The game itself was uneventful (unless you count dominating most of the game and then blowing a 35-point lead as eventful...sadly seems par for the course in NU football), but I DID win a free pitcher of beer! I was on fire with the winning of free stuff that weekend. Sus left to go wander at some point, but Kelly, Shane, and Kara's roommate John (also NU '05) joined over the course of the game, and I ran into Katherine Kilgore, my former classmate (Music '06), so it was a good time, minus the pathetic football.
En route back to Kara's, we stopped at Dean & Deluca, where I purchased a container of mini black & white cookies and $.18 worth of candy corn, and at this great wine store where everything is $15 or less. They were having a tasting and giving out free cookies fresh from the convection oven, so it was pretty sweet.
So then I found a dinner place, this thin-crust pizza joint called...Piazo? I think that's it. Very tasty, very speedy, good meeting point for the whole crew before we went to Winny's show on E. 26th.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Bizet’s 1875 masterpiece follows the exploits of Carmen, a free-spirited gypsy who works in a Seville cigarette factory in the early 19th century. One of opera’s most famous femme fatales, Carmen seduces the soldier Don José and falls in love, only to be pursued by Escamillo, a famous bullfighter. Entangled in her own web of seduction, Carmen ultimately dies for her freedom.
In her Syracuse Opera debut, Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah’s Carmen possessed an undeniable electricity. When she arrived onstage, the production got a much-needed jolt of energy. With a warm voice across all registers, wild, curly hair, and exotic-looking features, Nesrallah sounded and looked the part; but her characterization lacked the sultry spiciness Carmen is known for.
This Carmen manifested her power not through feminine sensuality, but by assuming a masculine physicality. At the same time, Nesrallah’s playful, frenetic energy often read more as petulant pre-teen rather than calculating, pleasure-seeking seductress.
Still, mama’s boy Don José, played by Syracuse Opera veteran, tenor Drew Slatton, fell under Carmen’s spell. Initially unimpressive, Slatton’s thin tenor developed into a fuller, richer sound over the course of the opera; as his Don José unraveled, Slatton improved in every aspect of his performance.
Artistic Director Richard McKee’s traditional production started to come together once the company slogged through the sluggish first act. A trio of flamenco dancers, led by Marisa Guzman-Colegrove, helped liven things up at the start of the second act; from there, the show found its energy.
The middle two acts of this four-act opera contain wonderfully written vignettes for quintet or sextet, which were among the opera’s finest moments. Though the full-chorus numbers never gelled in terms of rhythm and unification, the small ensemble scenes showcased well-matched voices and tight harmonic precision without sacrificing dramatic content.
The latter acts also saw impressive performances from the secondary leads, who carried the evening.
As Escamillo, Syracuse baritone Jimi James proved that not all local singers are subpar, contrary to conventional wisdom. James rose to the challenge of performing the opera’s most recognizable tune (“Toreador’s song”) with an assertive, full voice, conveying Escamillo’s swaggering chest-puffery through vocal color instead of physical caricature.
Soprano Donita Volkwijn, in her company debut, gave the evening’s best vocal performance as Micaëla, whose wide-eyed innocence came across not only in Volkwijn’s acting, but also through her full, unblemished tone. Even her shimmering pianissimo reached the back of the auditorium with pinging clarity.
Under the baton of John Mario Di Costanzo, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra opened the opera with a spirited overture and played with a sensitive ear for balancing the singers throughout.
On loan from Opera Cleveland, the sparse set, awash in ochre hues, set the tone for a lackluster first act. (The costumes’ subdued palette, dominated by the dusty mustard color of the soliders’ uniforms, only dampened the atmosphere further.) Platforms of varying heights provided a versatile landscape for the entire opera, morphing from town square to tavern to mountain hideaway by adding a few façade pieces or tables. Most effective was the second act’s set: gnarled chandeliers hung from the ceiling among textured burlap panels, creating a rustic, old-world dive bar.
But, cobbled together with costumes rented from a Toronto company, the production overall seemed mismatched. McKee’s unimaginative staging was replete with community-theater clichés that should have been left behind in college-level opera workshop class.
And woe unto those who don’t speak French – at Friday’s performance, the supertitles were so sporadic and thin that they might as well not have been there at all. Entire scenes were reduced to just two sentences flashed above the proscenium, or not translated at all – and even with such meager material, the titles still managed to fall out of sync.
While the musical elements were mostly there, the whole production never quite cohered. But with technical and artistic improvements and continued recruitment of remarkable new talent, the Syracuse Opera can reach a level of professionalism consistent with Syracuse’s other arts organizations.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Since my first practice with the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble kept me from attending a pre-Thanksgiving thanksgiving dinner, I sent this pumpkin pie cake (and some cookies) in my stead. Just call me Martha Stewart!
And now, back to work...
A Man for All Seasons
All his life, Cazenovia artist Jim Ridlon hated snow - until he taught himself to like it.
Determined to come to terms with Old Man Winter, Ridlon took up his brushes and started painting. The resulting collection, "Changing Seasons," is on display through Nov. 11 at the Earlville Opera House Art Gallery in Earlville.
"Changing Seasons" depicts the seasonal shifts of Central New York through 80 small, under glazed acrylic paintings. Under glazing means the painting is composed of several layers of paint and enamel, rather than completed all at once. Adding glazes between the layers of paint (usually a pattern) lends a feeling of depth and brings out the colors more, Ridlon said.
As he studied the season's first snow through sketches and photos, Ridlon discovered patterns of dark and light within the subdued palette of sepia and ochre tones. From these beginnings, he created nearly 150 small paintings.
"I really liked the pattern in them and what you could do with composition. That started (this series) . . . so I just continued. I did the first part of spring, the first part of summer, so I had this series of seasonal changes. You can't beat the colors here this time of year. It's spectacular."
Ridlon, 72, lives in Cazenovia with his wife, Katherine Rushworth, art critic for Stars magazine. He has a bachelor's and master of fine arts degrees in sculpture from Syracuse University.
Originally from Nyack, Rockland County, Ridlon attended SU on a football scholarship. He went on to play in the NFL from 1957 to 1964, first for the San Francisco 49ers and later The Dallas Cowboys.
Ridlon continued his studies in the football off-season, pursuing his master's in sculpture first at Stanford University and then at San Francisco State College. He put school on hold when he was traded to Dallas, but saw an opportunity to finish his degree if he returned to SU as a part-time football coach, lecturer and graduate student. He stayed at SU for 36 years as a football coach and professor of sculpture in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
"I think I was working probably 110 hours a week at one point," Ridlon said. "But once I got my degree, once I got into teaching, it's been the greatest life imaginable. It was really worth it."
Sculpture and assemblage (think collage in 3-D), have been Ridlon's primary media throughout his career, at least in terms of commissioned work.
He has also completed major commissions for corporations like Disney and ABC. Composed of hundreds of pieces of famous sports memorabilia such as Peggy Fleming's ice skates, Muhammad Ali's robe, and a soccer ball from Pele, the assemblage he created to commemorate the 25th anniversary of ABC's "Wide World of Sports" is slated to join the Smithsonian Institution as part of an interactive exhibit.
But Ridlon estimated that sports-related art, most often the product of a commission, comprises a mere 5 percent of his artistic output. These days, painting trumps sculpture as his preferred means of expression, and he finds inspiration in landscapes, flowers and gardens.
"Nature turns me on," Ridlon said, "not so much bodies bouncing off each other."
The "Changing Seasons" exhibit originated as a small-scale study for a series of larger, museum-sized paintings, which he is currently working on in his new studio space, a renovated barn outside Cazenovia.
Although he recently displayed some paintings at the Handweaving Museum & Art Center in Clayton, he has no plans for future shows. "I really want to concentrate right now," Ridlon said.
"I'm so excited about doing these big paintings and having the space to do them."
Saturday, October 28, 2006
Music to one's ears is subjective. To some, the soaring arias of a classic opera are intoxicating. To others, the mechanical melody of a racetrack abuzz with cars has a similar effect on the senses.
The New York State Fairgrounds provided a venue for both sounds last month as Syracuse Opera took up residence preparing for "Carmen" as the Super DIRT championship race raged outside.
The Syracuse Opera will open its 2006-2007 season Friday with "Carmen," Georges Bizet's masterpiece, in the Crouse-Hinds Theater at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center.
Rehearsals began in the fairgrounds' youth building nearly four weeks ago, with set pieces arranged before murals of grazing cows and a banner reading "Let the Journey Begin with 4-H." With coats pulled tightly around them, members of the opera chorus sang in the chill of the cavernous space, their voices bouncing off the concrete floor.
Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Nesrallah created some much-needed heat with a sultry, passionate rendition of Carmen's signature aria, "L'amour est un oiseau rebelle," better known as "Habanera." Nesrallah swaggered and tossed her wild hair as she sang to the chorus, which responded energetically during the refrain. In high heels, fishnet stockings and a brown trench coat over her costume, Nesrallah was coy, sexy and convincingly Carmen - and that was just the first rehearsal.
This tune, along with the "Toreador's Song," is among the most recognizable in all of
opera. Even people who aren't familiar with the genre might recognize these melodies from soundtracks, commercials and even cell phone ringtones.
Syracuse Opera artistic director Richard McKee kept Carmen's widespread appeal in mind when planning this season's productions.
"This is kind of the hook for the season," McKee said. "We always try to have what we call a 'top 10' opera that we hope has an attraction beyond the usual opera audience."
Bizet's "Carmen" has long had a place in the canon of opera classics. Set in the early 19th century in Seville, Spain, the plot revolves around the gypsy Carmen, a free-spirited femme fatale, and her seductive exploits. Don Jose, a soldier, is one of the many men whom Carmen ensnares, an affair that proves fatal in the end.
Although he has been directing operas for nearly 20 years, McKee has staged "Carmen" only once before, a somewhat surprising revelation, given the popularity of Bizet's masterpiece and McKee's personal fondness for it.
But his first experience with "Carmen" from the director's chair was, McKee said, "not a good experience." On top of having to work with a chorus and an orchestra unfamiliar with the demands of an opera production, McKee faced every director's nightmare: his leading lady was a diva.
This time around, McKee is excited to have another go at "Carmen" with his Syracuse company. He's looking forward to working with his own chorus, and he has assembled a strong group of leads, both newcomers and familiar faces, from Central New York and beyond.
Nesrallah makes her debut with Syracuse Opera as the opera's protagonist. For Nesrallah, as for many a mezzo-soprano, Carmen is a dream role. She first played the part in 2003 with the Saskatoon Opera in Saskatchewan, Canada.
"It felt so natural and so, this was the role that I was meant to play," Nesrallah said. Instead of feeling pressured to succeed, Nesrallah said she was relieved when she finally had the chance to portray Carmen. "When it's something you've been waiting your whole life to do and you get onstage and you have that comfort, then you know your instinct has been correct."
Nesrallah's debut engagement with Syracuse Opera marks her fourth turn as the Spanish seductress. The best part of returning to a role like Carmen, Nesrallah said, is that each time you find more depth to the character; "The treasure never runs out."
Tenor Drew Slatton, most recently seen in Syracuse Opera's "Tosca" and "Macbeth," returns as Don Jose, the soldier tormented by his feelings for Carmen. Slatton believes he has sung Don Jose nine or 10 times in his career; it's one of the roles for which he is most frequently engaged.
"There's a lot going on in this poor man's head," Slatton said. "(Don) Jose is very interesting because he's very imbalanced, and he has a lot of psychological torment, some of which is not mentioned in the opera." Like the other principals in the cast, Slatton has read Prosper Merimee's 1845 novella from which the opera derives to gain further insight into his complex character.
And what opera would be complete without a love triangle? Soprano Donita Volkwijn, from Cape Town, South Africa, makes her Syracuse Opera debut as Micaela, a young girl from Don Jose's hometown who also happens to be in love with him.
Though they met for the first time not long ago, Nesrallah, Slatton and Volkwijn already have a rapport, onstage and off.
"We just met Sunday, and we've known each other 20 years," Slatton quipped.
But it's not just a collegial dynamic among performers that leads to a successful production. These singers contend that great art is a result of discussion and participation, evident in the Syracuse Opera.
"It doesn't happen a whole lot that we're allowed to have input into the characters we're creating," Volkwijn said. "In opera today it's a choice between a two-dimensional character or a caricature. Being able to discuss with everyone involved is quite a luxury."
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
was in his first show - all the more reason to go this past weekend! That fact also compelled two of my other dearest friends, Susannah and Brock, to travel north, and yet another good friend from high school, Anthony, is in law school at Columbia, so the weekend turned into a mini-reunion of sorts.
But that wasn't the only reunion going on - I got to spend a lot of time with two of the best roomies ever, the lovely misses Kara Reinhardt and Kelly Nolan. Kara generously gave me shelter for the weekend, so it was just like old times! Only we never shared a bed in college...
So ANYWAY, I arrived at the Port Authority on Thursday evening, fresh from my first-ever (I think) Greyhound travel experience. I've done my fair share of bus travel (church choir tours, school chorus trips, etc.), so that held few surprises. Kara and Kelly met me at the station, and we schlepped ourselves around the 40s and 50s between restaurants until we settled on VYNL, where Anthony and Kelly's boyfriend Shane joined us for a tasty dinner. After the food, we headed south a few blocks to Mercury Bar to watch the end of the NLCS game 7, where Anthony and I furtively cheered on the Cards among the hometown crowd of rabid Mets fans (So sorry!). When the game ended, we opted for a cab up to Kara's sweet digs on the upper east side.
In the morning, I met Linda at 59th and 5th for a morning of shopping - mostly of the window variety. After a visit to the swankay 24/7 Apple store at the top of 5th Ave., we moseyed down to the Gap, where I promptly dropped $50. So much for window shopping. Anyway, I bought myself a nightgown - yay! - and this shirt from Bono & Co's (PRODUCT) RED line:
We shopped our way down the street until we got to Macy's at Herald Square; even though it was chilly and wet and trying to rain all morning, it was really nice to just WALK. That's something I don't do much in Syracuse, unfortunately...
So, we went to Macy's because I wanted the friendly folks at Clinique to match a foundation to my face and give me a free sample - I'd read about the promotion in the paper - and I was also hoping to find a replacement pair of the Alfani sunglasses that the dude who stole my car stereo back in August nabbed. No sunglasses, but I did score some free foundation that appears to match me pretty well.
As we wandered through the vast makeup section, the Benefit counter called out to us - Free eye makeup sessions! We'll teach you how! Linda and I were enticed by the notion of actually knowing how to apply makeup, so we dropped in. When I sat down, Natalie, my lovely makeup artist, had me fill out a card and took a Polaroid "before" shot, part of some "Now to Wow" promotion that was going on. Sooo, she did the left side of my face, then let me finish off the right side, and snapped the "after" photo once my transformation was complete. It was good enough to sell me on the eye palette they were hawking, so I coughed up $30 and went along my merry way.
Fast-forward to 6 hours or so later, when Kelly and I were leaving the Gap (had to purchase something long-sleeved because it had gotten FRIGID). I got a call on my cell from an unfamiliar Boston number, and when I answered, it was some random British guy. Turns out Random Brit was from the Benefit counter at Macy's, calling to tell me I'd won more than $200 worth of Benefit cosmetics! SCORE! Unbeknownst to me, I had entered myself in a contest when I had my makeup done - the "Now to Wow" contest - and of all the pictures of madeover Macy's patrons, they thought mine were the prettiest! Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. (Plus, I always like to ham it up for the "before" picture when doing makeovers - I do a really good forlorn, unkempt look (I like to call it my "day" look) - so I think that made my transformation seem all the more impressive.)
So that was pretty awesome; I LOVE free stuff. Anyway, that went a bit out of order, so back to midday now...
Winny came up from his SoHo/Tribeca apartment to meet me and Linda in Herald Square, at which point Linda went off in search of some empanadas and Winny and I trekked back south to his neck of the woods and had a delightful lunch at the Cupping Room Cafe (sought out by George "Zagat" Case, visiting the previous weekend). The sun had come out by this point, so after checking out Winny's palatial new digs, we meandered our way up to Union Square, where we hopped on the subway and headed for 42nd street. Before we put in our names for the Avenue Q ticket lottery, we went for a Jamba Juice/Tasti D-Lite snack. There was some sort of photo shoot going on outside involving Times Square, a very skinny, very cold, VERY tall model, taxicabs and a fog machine, so that was pretty entertaining to watch. Before Winny had to go to the theater to get ready for his show, we tried our luck at the lottery, but it was to no avail. Once Winny hopped the subway, I headed for the Gap in search of long sleeves, which pretty much brings us up to speed...
So Kelly met me there, and she scored a great pair of dark-wash trouser jeans for $10, and then Macy's called, so we caught a subway down to Macy's to pick up my winnings. At this point it was dinnertime, so we headed further south toward NYU. We tried to get in at Mario Batali's Otto Enoteca - listed in NY Magazine's 101 best cheap eats - but it was packed and noisy, so we passed on the hour-and-15-minute wait and wandered down Bleecker Street instead. We found a lovely place called Foccaceria, I think, and enjoyed a tasty tasty dinner before meeting up with...
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Monday, October 23, 2006
So, here 'tis, your Monday Picture of the Day!
Thursday, October 19, 2006
I'm supposed to be writing a paper analyzing my transcription of U2's "With or without you," but I cannot for the life of me FOCUS. And it's due in like 8 hours. Fortunately, it's about halfway done...so I think I might be better served to hop in bed now and get up early to finish, which sadly will entail forgoing the a.m. gym trip. Maybe I'll manage to squeeze that in after class is done and before I hop the Greyhound bus to NEW YORK CITY! (Or maybe not, but it's a noble aspiration nonetheless.)
Anyway, point of this post is to tell y'all of my upcoming trip to the city, after which I will surely have some interesting anecdotes and many pictures of the day - speaking of which, If I'd had my digital camera with me I would have had an amaaaazing one for tonight, of the "courthouse" in East Bejesus where the assistant D.A. wasted hours of time I could have spent writing the paper I'm now avoiding by failing to show up on time to his own party. Hellooo? 3rd Wednesday of the month is always D.A. night at the Tyre Town Court, doy! Anyway, it was hilariously tiny, and I wish I could have shared it with all of you. Ah well.
Point of this pointless post is to say, stay tuned for NYC hijinks with the Georgia crew and some of my favorite roomies ever! I'm gonna shake off the dust of this small town...
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Unlike some of the recent spate of jukebox musicals, “Mamma Mia!” isn’t just a theatrical tribute to ABBA. Instead, it’s a story about a young woman in search of her father before she gets married. Her quest brings three of her mother’s former flames to their Greek isle home on the eve of her wedding, and the story unfolds from there – by way of ABBA’s greatest hits.
The national tour of “Mamma Mia!” arrived in Syracuse’s Crouse-Hinds Theater Tuesday night, kicking off the 2006-07 Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series.
As Sophie, the bride-to-be, Syracuse native Carrie Manolakos infused her character with naivete and spunk. Annie Edgerton and Laura Ware gave the performance its best moments and biggest laughs as Tanya and Rosie, Sophie’s mom’s saucy best friends.
Anthony Van Laast’s exuberant choreography showcased the strength of the full company throughout. One of the show’s most imaginatively staged numbers, “Lay All Your Love on Me,” had the future groom’s buddies performing in flippers and scuba gear as they whisked him away for a bachelor party.
An uncomplicated set comprising two rotating structures effectively evoked a modest taverna, and created various interiors when repositioned. Costumes, too, were simple, in bright solids and Mediterranean monochrome; blessedly, Disco-era fashion reared its ugly, glittering head in only one scene.
Telling a contemporary story through decades-old Swedish pop is no easy feat, but Catherine Johnson’s book handles the challenge admirably. Most songs fit comfortably – even logically – and some treatments verged on comedic brilliance. Rosie’s hilarious “Take a Chance on me” provided one such moment.
“Mamma Mia!” was a hit with the sell-out crowd, who sang along to ABBA’s best during the show. This production doesn’t try to be something it’s not; like ABBA’s music, “Mamma Mia!” succeeds because it’s downright fun.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Anyway, here's the picture of the day for Tuesday (sorry, Monday didn't have much to get excited about). Actually two - apparently we didn't look friendly enough in the first one, so Mackenzie's boyfriend told us to look "less separate" or something...
Sunday, October 08, 2006
Live and learn, right? Or so I hope...
Anyway, much to blog about, but the candy corn brick in my belly tells me it's time to throw the towel in on the day. So I'll just play a little catch-up and give you the pics o' the weekend, from the Lafayette Apple Festival. Yumm.
We opted instead for the somewhat shorter line at the barn next door - here we have the dumpling, what looked to be two preparations of pie (one more cobbler/crumble-like), the turnover, and the über-tasty cider donut. I partook of the latter, and it was magically delicious.
Friday, October 06, 2006
Thursday, October 05, 2006
[the t-shirt design at left is today's picture o' the day]
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
But here's today's picture, all the same. These are my New Shoes, in case that wasn't clear.
In other, non-material news, Joan Vadeboncoeur (entertainment columnist at the Post-Standard and perhaps my favorite employee there) told me I got a gold star on the day for writing a story about Ballet Hispanico. SWEET.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
[I actually had a great picture of the day this morning on the way to class - it was a beautiful autumn morning and the quad was quite lovely; I figured I'd catch it after class. But right as I was walking into the building, it started raining, and the day never recovered. Needless to say, it's a mistake I won't make twice!]
Monday, October 02, 2006
This will be something cool, interesting, entirely inane, perhaps even whimsical, yet relevant - basically, just something that makes me feel happy. To kick off this series, I'll give you a couple - one for the last few weeks (Oktoberfest, at right) and then today's picture. Enjoy - and be sure to check back every day and hold me to it!
Here's today's - it's my story in the Post-Standard (yes, it even got the banner at the top of A1 - pictures of kittens can take you far in life!):