Sunday, November 4, 2012

Opera York La Traviata

Opera York has once again deployed an artistic dream team to thrill music lovers and sate sensation seekers; their vehicle: Giuseppe Verdi’s, La Traviata. It is a noble calling to paint our world vibrant and colourful when “The skies of November turn gloomy,” and I, for one, was ecstatic to have the dismal greys banished from my soul and replaced by beauty and passion and excitement.  Such is the operatic experience I have come to expect from Opera York.

Opera companies the world over have been staging Verdi productions this past year in honour of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Il Maestro, Giuseppe Verdi. Opera of  the very finest order, La Traviata; under the direction of well-seasoned artistic director, Sabatino Vacca, brought last night’s audience at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts to their feet in a collective afterglow of extended applause.  

I had the pleasure of introducing an opera virgin to the altar of this most divine of musical entertainment experiences.  Comfortably ensconced, not too many rows behind the orchestra, we willingly suspended belief in time and space and gave ourselves up to the magic of the night and, I am happy to say, opera gained a convert!

Dramatic stage sets and a delightfully animated and beautifully costumed ensemble cast evoked French party salons, an idyllic country retreat and an intimate feminine boudoir; settings in which the tragic story of the ill-fated lovers, Alfredo and Violetta unfolded.  The chorus was particularly strong and completely engaging. Although we go to opera to thrill to the diva performances, it is always the spectacle of a rollicking, frolicking chorus of singers that builds the anticipation and appetite for our favourite opera tunes and provides musical and dramatic foreplay for the story’s climactic arias – as it were.  

The opera principals: the two lovers; Violetta, sung by Mirela Tafej and Alfredo, sung by Ricardo Iannello,  and Alfredo’s meddling father, Giorgio, sung by baritone, Jeffrey Carl, were all riveting in their roles; demanding, complex feats of vocal gymnastics that mimic the emotional highs and lows of the storyline.  The story is about a beautiful woman in love with an equally-enamoured young man, pressured to give up her love, with tragic consequences to happiness and health, after the young man’s father accuses Violetta of destroying his own daughter’s chances for love and respectable marriage.  La Traviata was highly controversial when it debuted in the mid 1850’s because it dealt with explosive moral and social issues.  Verdi, even in his own time, was a man of great stature, an innovator under considerable public censure for his own romantic liaison. By addressing sensitive contemporary social issues in La Traviata, Verdi set precedent and departed from traditional opera storylines.

As Violetta, Tafej stunned us with her strength, vocal range and stamina and together with Iannello, created ecstasy on stage but I found myself especially moved by Jeffrey Carl’s interpretation of Giorgio Germont, the zealously interfering father.  Much of the story’s plot gets moved along by Giorgio’s actions; his character goes through immense change from accusing manipulator to remorseful father and last night, in one of my most stand-out impressions of the production, Carl commanded the stage as he exquisitely emoted each nuance of a painful character development.

Wonderful things continue to emerge from the Opera York dream machine.  The spring production, Feb. 28th and March 2nd will turn to the lighter side of life with Franz Lehar’s, The Merry Widow; mark your calendar for a perfect date night!


Opera York’s next must-see production will be on the lighter side with Franz Lehar’s, The Merry Widow.














Music Season In Toronto!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Carrott Muffins À La Juddzz...

These went perfectly with my coffee this morning.  Try them!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My November Evening Walk

It's mild tonight with a teasing south wind that's stirring all of the dried leaves and grasses and pine boughs into a susurrus moonlight sonata.  Everything looks so different at night, it's just like going away.  The large century homes alit from within and without; reflections on stained glass and chandelier, barely curtained windows affording generous glimpses of artwork and parlour and intimate glimpses of families at leisure and wistful glimpses through lofty dormer windows of a study with shelves of books and an aged head bathed in yellow light bent over, presumably to write, at a desk before the window.

Past that old street and the town hall; again lit, in preparation for something a little later perhaps because there's no one about, then past the Anglican church, slightly abuzz from a social event, smokers chatting outside by the door.  Across main street and along the sidewalk there, but only shortly, before I walk through the dimly-lit garden path to the park.  And then I stop, not for the first time, to look at the two tall weeping willow trees that frame the nook of "Max's Garden," only this evening with no one else around to hear the wind and feel the wind and follow the wind, it's "Judi's Garden." 

Past the nook it's darker. I've never walked here at this time of night before.  I know where the grapevines grow at the edge of the stream that I can now hear as it laps along and joins in like a harp, with the shimmering nocturnal symphony.  I picture the red-winged black birds and chick-a-dees that hide in the tangled caves by day and alongside me the merry ghosts of daytime populate the night air and make of an otherwise uneasy meander, a comforting but quiet reverie.  I close my eyes and lift my face to the warm breeze. I can feel again.  I breath in, slow and deep as the efficacious magic of the elements against my cheeks exfoliate once again the chains around my soul. I am alive.

At the end of the pathway before it turns left to the small wooden bridge where the lake meets the stream I am surprised to find everything - the pathway, the tops of the tall swooning grass fronds and the skipping wavelets on the lake awash in light cast from vigilant towers in the park beyond. I stop again in the centre of the bridge where the lake meets the stream and I look towards the lake - "Fairy Lake," but with no one else there to hear its giggling splashes and see its surface change from a murky black to an awe-ful spectacle of dark Persian blue and to hear me as I murmur, how beautiful, it's "Judi's Lake."

and now, time for tea...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Richmond Hill - In Love With Opera York!

It was palpable...

Last night, at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts, operatic gastronomy was served.  The stage was set not only for a sensually delectable opera experience but also for an unabashed declaration of love from the patrons of Opera York whose numbers, swelling to near capacity, proved that this regional opera company with world-class talent is a vital part of a vibrant community.  

It was magic...

From the glittering lights in the foyer, to the sparkly-eyed smiles on the faces one encountered at every turn, from the waves of excited conversations that rose  and crested, then tumbled over one another in unintelligible splashes of effervescent anticipation, to the feathery breeze that teased as the throngs swished by to take their seats; one knew that a splendid sorcery was afoot.


Season 15 of Opera York began with Puccini's, Madama ButterflyOpera-philic maven (of just one year) that I am, I know that Puccini's, La Boheme heralded season 14.  For opera newbies and perennial partakers alike, Pucinni is the perfect choice; his operas are iconic, his characters and arias are familiar to everyone because of their appropriation by movies, books, TV and radio commercials.  Whether last night's vast turn-out was due to the particular opera selection or simply because Richmond Hill residents have, after 14 years of superior offerings, developed a lusty appetite for quality entertainment, I can't say.  I can say, though, that a strong representation by every age group was impressive, gratifying and a testament to the success of Opera York's signature phrase-as-mission-statement - Opera For Everyone.

Sabatino Vacca, the visionary artistic director of this production had a strong sense of the relevance of the social issues around which the story was crafted to parallels in today's society, calling it "an opera for our epoch." There was no want of emotional rendering in any of the performances: Romulo Delgado as  Pinkerton, displayed all the subtleties of conflicted cavalier, Deirdre Fulton as Cio-Cio San, was a luminous but eventually tragic victim of love.  Always a delight to the eye and the ear, opera also has that unique ability to renew your soul as it invariably propells you through the myriad emotions and trials of its characters then leaves you spent and drained after heaving from your own gut, any stagnant terror, or grief or pain you never had opportunity to vent.  Perhaps that's why we not only love opera but, indeed, need it...

Opera York's next production, Die Fledermaus, by Johann Strauss with artistic director Geoff Butler, is scheduled for February & March of 2012. 

what is opera - don't try to form an opinion from tv or youtube

Opera York, now in its 15th successful season has primed the people of this vibrant, receptive community to expect the best.

From the glitter of lights in the foyer, to the sparkle of smiling faces one encountered at every turn,

Expectation, excitement

It reaches down and cleanses the soul of stagnant emotions. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Opera York Warms Up November!

There's no need to mope about the end of summer when opera season begins! 

For immediate release,

October  29, 2011


Madama Butterfly on stage at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts.


York Region, On…Opera York in its 15th season proudly presents the production of Madama Butterfly, at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Arts.  The opera opens on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 8:00 pm and has a second performance on Saturday, November 5, 2011 at 8:00 pm.  This year Opera York is offering student pricing at $25.00 a ticket.


Madama Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini.  In 1904, A U.S. Naval officer named Pinkerton casually marries a 15 year old Japanese girl nicknamed Butterfly who is totally entranced by him. After several weeks Pinkerton leaves with his ship intending to find his American wife when he gets home.  Unknown to Pinkerton, Butterfly has his son and waits faithfully for Pinkerton to return.  Finally, three years later Pinkerton does return but with his American wife.  When Butterfly discovers this, she is devastated.  She takes the sword her father used to commit suicide and after a tragic farewell to her son, takes her own life just as Pinkerton rushes into the room to save her.



Opera York’s artistic director for Madama Butterfly is Sabatino Vacca. Deirdre Fulton is playing Cio-Cio San (Madama Butterfly).  Suzuki is played by Louisa Cowie, and B. F. Pinkerton is played by Romulo Delgado.

Deirdre Fulton, new to the Opera York team, has been praised in Opera Canada for her “outstanding voice” and “powerful presence”. Deirdre has been touring throughout China since 2009 with Opera Juenesse and performed in Graz and Wiez, Austria under conductor Edoardo Müller.  

Romulo Delgado returns to the Opera York team after his European debut in Austria 2011 singing Don Jose in Bizet’s Carmen at the Opern Air Festpiele in Gars am Kamp. In 2010 he sang the role of the Duke of Mantua in Opera York’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto and the review spoke of a striking lyric tenor sound that is “powerful and smooth with an ingratiating Italianate tone.” (Opera Canada) 


Opera York received the RAVE award from the City of Vaughan 2010.  This award was given to the company for its role in education and mentoring young artists.


To find out more about the production of Madama Butterfly or Opera York please visit their website at 


Madama Butterfly

November 3, 2011, at 8:00 pm

November 5, 2011, at 8:00 pm

Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts (10268 Yonge Street)

Tickets $40 - $50, Students $25

Box Office:  (905) 787-8811 or go to



Media Contact:

Lola Davidson, Opera York

Cell:  (647) 292 – 3995,




Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Recycled Treasures in Georgetown Ontario

Recently, I reported back about a shopping trip to Georgetown's Wastewise Recycling Centre, commenting that the lighting in the book section was decidedly deficient. The shopping was so good though that I wasn't deterred; nevertheless, on a return trip today I was almost blinded by the newly illuminated aisles that operations manager, Debbie Smart, told me about. 
Halton's Wastewise is the brainchild of a band of local citizens who didn't want to be neighbours to the planned large-scale garbage sites that were ear-marked for their community.  In its 10,00 square foot facility, almost every conceivable household item is tagged, classified and re-sold or recycled to the benefit of all.  The Wastewise community prides itself in staunchly supporting the four pillars of sustainability: the social and cultural nurturing of the community, protecting the environment, managing waste with a front-end approach and serving as an economic model for other operations. 
Today, after picking up another small stack of books, I caught up with Debbie for the first time.  She's off to Tofino, BC - for a well-earned vacation I'm sure!  Debbie, you and your people at Wastewise are doing a wonderful job; keep it up (when you come back from BC that is!)