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Proving Up

September 29, 2018
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Proving Up

Music by Missy Mazzoli
Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Adapted from the short story “Proving Up” by Karen Russell

September 28, 2018, Miller Theatre at Columbia University

With my beloved wife staying in a villa in Tuscany, enjoying Italian food, wine, and language, and doing a little singing, I need to fill in my time somehow. So I got a discount ticket via my Columbia ID to this almost brand new chamber opera (it premiered January 19th this year). The Met Opera has just announced that it has commissioned Ms. Mazzoli to write an opera for them to be performed sometime in the next few years, which is a pretty big deal considering how often they perform a) new and especially b) composed-by-women operas (they’ve done two, ever, in the 140-ish years they’ve existed).

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Acadia National Park, part two

August 29, 2018

Day 4

This was our most epic day in terms of walking, as we spent pretty much the whole day on a long loop that got us to the summit of Acadia mountain, up and down a couple of smaller peaks, and back to the start again. This gave us a series of amazing views, as well as some beautiful remote forest ramblings, and we even came across a snake on our path!

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Acadia National Park, part one

August 29, 2018

Mount Desert Island is an island in Maine that contains Acadia National Park, and we decided a few months ago that it would be our first American summer holiday destination. It has about five times the area of Manhattan, but about, about 1/1000th the pop density (about 11,000 people). Here’s a little diary of how our trip went and the things we saw and did.

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Faraway Places

February 21, 2018

Manhattan feels huge and full of many wonders (which it is!). But now that we’ve seen many of the ‘greatest hits’ we have started to explore a little further afield. So we are gradually filling in the map and seeing some new neighbourhoods, with the added bonus of getting some time in open spaces wide enough to actually see the sky and horizon. Here’s a couple of the latest.

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Holiday Time

February 5, 2018

After Christmas we had a strange feeling – no work, no urgent duties, nothing in particular to organise, and we finally had a couple of weeks to simply enjoy the city, as well as sleep in and laze around and eat lots of delicious leftovers and baking. Here’s a bit of a rundown of what we managed to get up to.

We had a couple of big events booked in already for our Christmas time enjoyment. The first was the New York Ballet’s Nutcracker, for which we had got some seats perched way up on the 5th tier with a terrifying drop down to the main floor. This did give us great view of the overwhelmingly huge, bright, sparkly, and colourful scenery and it was a gorgeous thing to experience. Particularly in the first half there are tons of children on stage and it is all about the costumes and the story telling and the spectacle rather than blowing you away with incredibly technical dancing (although it had some fabulous moments of that too). This is a pretty representative taster:

It was just pure joy and fun and one hilariously over the top costume after another. I don’t think we’ll become ‘go every year’ type people but it was a wonderful thing to experience. It was also really cool to see the theatre itself, because we’ve gone to the Lincoln Center for the Met Opera a few times but hadn’t yet checked out the other major bits of it. Turns out the ballet is just as huge and fancy with the spectacular lobby and the sheer gigantic size of the theatre.

The next night we did in fact return to the Lincoln Center for The Merry Widow starring one of Lis’s idols, Susan Graham, in the title role. Kinda like Nutcracker, it was also less about spectacular singing and more about the huge gorgeous sets and crazy folk dancing scenes and the storyline which never really gives too much doubt that love will win in the end. How can you listen to this and not feel happy and have your heart melt a little!?

I think we both still have a feeling of being kind of intruders when we go to these types of huge shows. The huge scale of everything and the luxury of the productions, and even arriving at the enormous plaza itself with the famous fountain and the thousands of fancy-looking New Yorkers in the fur coats makes me feel like I’m sort of just sneaking into something that is meant for a whole different class of people. But thanks to the wonders of student tickets we get to enjoy and be swept away by it all.

You might have heard that 2017 was one of New York’s coldest ever New Year’s Eves. On December 30th, with snow coming down steadily, we headed out to Brooklyn to go to a pop-up store where a designer that Lis loves had set up a sale. Trudging through snowy streets to an obscure little shop felt like a real winter adventure, and Lis ended up with a fabulous jumper:

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Alongside hip looking cafes and shops there were also the novel (to us) sights of rows of buildings with signs in Hebrew and Jewish families with the men wearing furry shtreimels that seemed very well suited to the conditions.

Since we were all the way over in Brooklyn we’d decided it would be fun to take the ferry (or ‘ship’, as Lis described it to make it more epic) to the stop under the Brooklyn bridge. Waiting for it to arrive was a very cold experience, but we got some fabulous wintry views across the river back to the big steaming chimneys and skyscrapers.

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The ride was quick and efficient and we landed in Dumbo where there is a great park running along the river with great view spots and tracks, leading up into some historic streets in Brooklyn Heights and further in to some big war memorial/civic squares near the Borough Hall.

The whole place was fairly deserted and obviously covered in snow, and it was all very grey and dreary looking. Kind of reminiscent of some depressing film set in Eastern Europe perhaps.

It is really so much fun getting out to these sort of places and getting to have the combination of new places, different architecture, different eras of city history, along with the weather that we don’t really get back home. It’s a great little walk too because you get the big famous sights of the Brooklyn Bridge and the downtown skyline mixed with cute little housefronts and neighbourhood life. A handful of people were out clearing the snow from their front steps and walking their dogs, but tourist numbers were definitely on the low side.

New Year’s Eve itself was indeed extremely cold. The idea of cramming into Times Square never really appealed, but it appealed even less with the forecast -13 C midnight temperature. We briefly watched some of the live stream, but mostly spent the evening with some delicious nibbles and wine and a couple of episodes of The Crown. A perfect way to end the biggest year of my life so far!

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Christmas in New York!

January 23, 2018

 

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The space-saving yet fabulous Christmas tree designed by Lis

 

In the few days before Christmas I felt like I spent a lot of time wandering to various shops to get all the supplies (and utensils & pans!) that were needed for our Christmas feast. We had planned out what we wanted to make and I had picked up a few extra snacks and such, but it still took a while to get everything together given the availability of various ingredients at the different nearby shops. I cooked up some risotto in advance to make into arancini balls, made some chipotle mayo and spinach and feta dip, plus a chocolate/cranberry/pistachio loaf/log thingy. A nice way to pass the time until Lis arrived home!

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Catching up!!

January 18, 2018

Not only did I take a break from work over Christmas, but I also seem to have taken a month off from posting. Whoops! But never fear, I shall catch you all up on what’s been going on.

Shortly after my last post, Lis flew off back to New Zealand to perform in the Messiah with the Auckland Choral Society (and did very well indeed!), leaving me to my own devices for about a week and a half leading up to Christmas. Before she arrived back I spent a fair bit of time just veging out and catching up on some reading and saxophone practice, but I also got out and about a little bit, because there are always ten billion things to do in NYC – if you are at a loose end and have a little bit of cash there’s almost too much to choose from.

We got our first snow of the winter on Friday the 15th, and after cooking up some leftover vegetarian sausages I braved to cold to see what the neighbourhood was looking like and to grab a few snaps:

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