Tag Archives: opera

A bit of fun. :D

Disclaimer: this is all the Offspring’s fault!

Have a great weekend,

-runs and hides-

p.s. the music is Habanera from Carmen, a brilliant opera composed by Bizet. You’re welcome. 🙂

p.p.s. oh what the hell! This is my favourite video of Habanera:

And if Habanera doesn’t ring any bells, Aussie might remember a certain commercial for garage doors?…at 2:20. 😉


I’ve just been introduced to Nightwish – the love child of heavy metal and opera – and I’ll be listening to more of their music in the future. For now, I just want to save this song to my blog so I can find it without relying on memory, or searching Youtube for hours.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Nightwish:

I know this kind of music won’t be to everyone’s taste, but look at those faces in the crowd! So young and so turned on to the music. They know the lyrics, just like the crowds at a ‘normal’ rock concert. It’s wonderful to see, because they are the ones who may advance the evolution of opera into a vibrant art form for the future.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised as Evanescence was a huge phenomenon. This is from eleven years ago:

One of the things that always drew me to Metal was that it was melodic. Melody with a driving rhythm equals passion to my ears.

Anyway, it’s Monday morning, and Nightwish has given my day a fabulous start. I hope yours starts, or ends, as well. 🙂


Heavy Metal Opera…Epica

Blame Matthew Wright for this post. He’s a mad, Kiwi historian and author who just introduced me to a European phenomenon. I love it. Tell me what you think!

The two faces of Epica:

And then this:

Oh, and Vokhtah has finished it’s free run. Much love to everyone who downloaded the ebook. You guys are wonderful. XXXXX


Tech woes…

You know how sometimes a great idea turns out to be bloody awful? Welcome to my day.

I now, officially, only have a $hitty Outlook365 webmail client to work with. What’s worse, I’ve lost all the emails that used to live on my Opera Mail client. So if any of you emailed me in the last 12 hours, sorry, it’s all gone. Every. Last. One.

The one good thing out of today’s disaster is that I managed to export my Contact list before everything fell apart. The bad thing is that the Contact list only works with Opera Mail so unless I can get Opera Mail back up and running, I’ll have to re-enter the contact list manually. I don’t like my chances because apparently, few email clients like playing with Outlook365 email. The reason is something called ‘Exchange’. Exchange plays nice with the crap that is Outlook. It does not play nice with much else.

So, I have three options:

  1. Reinstall Outlook from Office 16
  2. Continue to use the shitty webmail client for Outlook365 email
  3. Keep searching for a non-Microsoft email client that works with Exchange

I’ve read about some workarounds including, Davmail & Thunderbird, Thunderbird & Exquilla, and eM mail [$49]. The first two will probably send my hair white, not grey. The last I refuse to even consider because saving money was what got me into this mess in the first place. And not even that much money…

Less that $100 AUD. That’s what I saved today by deleting my hosting account with GoDaddy.

“What with what?” you say.

In order to have your own website, you need a) a domain and b) a web host for that domain. There are lots of webhosts but I was using GoDaddy. Domains are peanuts – about $20 per year – but the web hosting can really mount up, especially when you have to pay a lump sum for the whole year.

That’s what I was facing this morning, so I rang Godaddy and asked if I could ditch the webhosting but keep my email addresses. The answer was yes, but the implementation did not turn out to be as easy, or cheap, as expected. For starters, the email addresses were linked to the hosting, but wait! For just $50 per year, I could get a plan that would allow me to keep both emails going.

“Great!” said I. “Let’s do it.”

That is the point at which I should have asked for ‘more information’, hung up and done some research. Clearly I didn’t, but that decision was at least partly due to phone fatigue. I’d waited 15 minutes to speak to a person in the first place, so by the time this plan was offered, I just wanted to get it done

I think you can probably guess the rest, not the nitty gritty details, but the general gist. I was committed, the process began, it was too late to turn back, things went wrong. And then things went even more wrong. 😦

Now here I sit, scratching my head and wondering how on earth I’m going to get myself out of this one. I do still have my email addresses, and they do sort of work, so if you write to me I ‘should’ be able to answer, but for the moment, that’s it. And I’ve wasted the best part of the day digging this particular hole.

So, the moral of this story is that Outlook365 is not great unless you’re committed to using Microsoft’s Outlook as well. Given how much I love Micro$oft, I’m feeling kind of sick at the moment.

Not happy,


TORUK and beyond

The Offspring and I went to see the Cirque du Soleil production of TORUK last night and it was spectacular, but not quite as magical as the production I saw a great many years ago. Clearly, nostalgia played a part, and I do know that memory cheats, but some of the real differences are worth mentioning.


Back when I saw Cirque du Soleil for the first time, the performance was under a Big Top, and although huge, it made the experience much more intimate. Last night’s performance of TORUK took place in the Rod Laver Arena, and to me, the place is insanely big.

This is a photo I took before the performance began:

Apologies for the quality of the photo, but that hand on the right makes a perfect point – the other side of the arena is a looooong way off and the people there look like fly specks. The dark, purple area in the middle is the ‘stage’.

The Offspring made sure we had excellent seats very close to the stage, but I was still gobsmacked by the sheer size of the place. It felt more like a football oval than the venue for a performance.


Another point of difference between then and now was the security. Every single person was checked – bags and bodies. The security guy didn’t wave the wand thingie over me – too grey and inoffensive looking? – but the Offspring was wanded, and the efficiency of the security people was both reassuring and rather scary. Way back then, there was no need for such stringent security, and I’m saddened by how much the world has changed.


Melbourne has more public transport than most Australia cities. We have an excellent train network and the inner city area is well supplied with trams as well as buses. Nevertheless, we are also a city of cars, and never has that been more obvious than last night.

The Offspring and I left home at 6pm for an 8pm performance. We drove. We barely made it to the performance in time.

Part of the problem was that Friday night traffic is always bad, plus there were road works at a critical point on one of the feeder roads leading to the Rod Laver Arena. But most of the congestion was caused by the venue itself.

This is a map of the area:

You can see how close the venue is to the Melbourne CBD. The CBD is well supplied with public transport, but the area around the arena is for cars only, and the roads were ‘chockers’ [stop-start to you non-Aussies]. What’s worse, the Rod Laver Arena is not the only venue in that particular stretch of real estate. The area bounded by the purple line is full of public venues, and they all seemed to be in use last night.

In hindsight, we should have parked elsewhere and walked, or taken one of the cute little rickshaw-type vehicles that work that stretch of road. But we didn’t know what conditions would be like and had a terrible time getting there. At one stage we thought we might miss the performance altogether.:(

That kind of stress is not conducive to magic, so I was not in my happy place when the performance of TORUK began. Nevertheless, there was enough magic in the show to bring a huge smile to my face. You see, TORUK is like a modern day opera with circus elements.

Opera? Really? Yes…well, sort of. If you think of opera as a story told through music and acting then TORUK is not far off the mark. Cirque du Soleil has always been known for creating beautiful, evocative music, sung in a ‘language’ no one understands. In fact, like opera sung in Italian, the ‘no one understands’ bit is the true genius of the music because it does away with the language barrier completely.

And then there’s the story. TORUK takes the Avatar concept and subtracts anything overtly ‘human’ from it. The story is Na’vi-centric [the blue natives of Pandora] and follows three young heroes – two males and a female – as they overcome great obstacles to gather five sacred objects. These objects are needed to stop a volcanic eruption from destroying the Na’vi sacred tree.

Anyone familiar with gaming would immediately recognize the story as a ‘quest’ plot, and as with the Lord of the Rings, the quest is also a story of personal development. Told through mime, and action sequences that showcase the circus elements, the story is complex enough to need a ‘narrator’, and this is the one element I could have done without. Every time the narrator spoke in English, I fell out of the story.

The Offspring disagrees with me about the storytelling aspect of the performance, so I may be in a minority of one here. Nevertheless, I believe the English actually broke the magic that I’d come to expect from earlier productions. I have no idea whether the rest of the audience felt the same or, like the Offspring, appreciated knowing what the hell was going on.

Anyway, that was the only element that was a negative for me, and it was more than counter-balanced by some of the other, innovative elements of the show, such as the puppets. Controlled by performers in dark body suits, the ‘beasts’ of Pandora really made me smile, but then I’ve always loved puppets – Dark Crystal anyone? – and the Japanese art of Bunraku.

Couldn’t resist showing you some examples. First up is a scene from the Dark Crystal by the late Jim Henson:

And from the other side of the world, Bunraku from Japan:

The TORUK puppets were not quite as sophisticated as either of these two examples, but they were still amazing and totally unexpected in a ‘circus’ performance. But then, Cirque du Soleil has always been more than just a circus. Right from the start they refused to have live animals, and although they used to have clowns, the more death defying circus acts were always woven together into a theme that told a story of sorts.

Those innovative, non-standard circus elements are what made Cirque du Soleil such a ground-breaking company, but TORUK has taken that evolution to a new level. It is story-telling with music that uses circus elements instead of being defined by them. The result is a spectacular and beautiful performance.

And yet, if I’m honest, it was still the death-defying, gasp-inducing circus elements that really took my breath away, and two ‘acts’ really stood out. One featured a gymnast working on something like the ‘rings’, and the second featured a gymnast/contortionist.

My dad was a champion gymnast in his youth, and I learned to appreciate the skill through him. Especially the rings:

The rings are all about strength, control, skill. The young man who performed a version of the rings in TORUK used only straps. If Dad were still alive he would have applauded his strength and artistry.

The second element that blew me away was a contortionist who bent his? her? body into impossible positions while balancing on what amounted to a very large seesaw. The following Youtube video isn’t from TORUK but it does show how amazing the Cirque du Soleil performers can be:

I should also mention the performer who ‘juggled’ five boomerang type thingies. Simply amazing.

And did I mention the sets, props and light show? I’m not sure how they did it – laser projections perhaps – but they made it look as if water were flooding across the stage. Colour me gobsmacked.

Would I recommend TORUK to others? Oh god yes. Seeing TORUK was our big treat and Christmas present this year, and it was worth every penny. 🙂





Barcarolle by Offenbach

The Offspring and I were talking last night, about some of the loveliest arias in opera, and neither of us could remember the name of this one, so I looked it up [thank god for Youtube].

This glorious version is sung by two, young sopranos with amazing voices…and tiny waistlines! The days of girth are gone. 🙂

As you listen to this video, please bear in mind that this is a rehearsal….

The mezzo with the warm, deep voice is Elina Garanca. The soprano with the soaring upper register is Anna Netrebko.

So happy to have found two new [to me] opera singers.



The SPAM folder ate my homework

I love my Opera email client, really I do, but the SPAM detection feature is vicious. It’s supposed to ‘learn’ what is and is not SPAM from what I do with the items in my inbox, so when I first installed it about a month ago [after the pc upgrade] it flagged  nothing as SPAM. Fair enough. Now though, it seems to be eating emails at random. Not happy Jan. 😦

I would not have known what my SPAM folder was up to if not for this new course I’m starting tomorrow. For days now I’ve been checking my inbox 10 times a day for some important emails from the course providers, and getting quietly more uneasy with each day. Why were they not sending me the info. they had promised?

Imagine my surprise when I get a call today from the course providers wondering why I hadn’t responded to their emails.

Feeling totally flustered and guilty [had I somehow missed these all-important emails?], I finally thought to check my SPAM folder… and there they were. But they were in good company. As my eye scanned the list of supposed spam, I saw emails from friends who are in my contact list. That is not supposed to happen.  What the expletive deleted ?

So friends, neighbours, and fellow denizens of the internet, if I haven’t replied to your emails it’s because the SPAM folder ate them. 😦

I’m scrambling to catch up with the things I should have done for my course, but as soon as that’s done I will scour my SPAM folder and unspam all of you. Promise.


My heart will go on – Vittorio Grigolo

Young, Italian, cute, and with a voice to die for. In this first video clip Vittorio sings the Celine Dion hit from Titanic. I still love this song so you’re just going to have to suffer!

And to provide a bit of contrast, the next video has him singing Nessun Dorma from the opera Turandot. You’ll recognize it as soon as it begins.

In case you’re wondering, it’s hot and I just don’t have the energy for anything more cerebral.



Turandot – Barbara Hendricks

Once upon a time there was a Princess called Turandot and she was a cold hearted bitch. She proclaimed that she would only marry the man who could solve three riddles that she set however the price of failure would be death. Despite Turandot’s cruelty many suitors tried to win her hand and died.

And then Prince Calaf came to her court incognito and fell in love with her. The Prince’s advisers and his serving girl Liu tried to talk him out of declaring himself but the Prince refused to listen. He truly was in love. Perhaps that was why he managed to answer all three riddles correctly, yet despite this Turandot still refused to marry him. The Prince released Turandot from her promise and said that he would be willing to die if she could guess his true name by morning.

Desperate to get the Prince out of her life Turandot and her minions turned the court upside down trying to discover the Prince’s true name. They found that the only person who knew the secret was the Prince’s own serving girl Liu but she refused to betray him. When Turandot asked Liu why she would not speak the serving girl finally admitted that she loved the Prince too much to betray him. Liu was tortured and when she thought she might break she killed herself rather than betray the man she loved.

This is not the end of the story but for me the death of Liu is the climax, at least in a musical sense, of the opera Puccini wrote about Turandot  and the Prince. Whether you love opera or hate it I defy anyone to hear this aria sung by Barbara Hendricks [as Liu] and not be moved by her glorious voice. It is not the kind of voice you may have heard in the past…and hated. Trust me, just for a few  minutes and listen

Puccini died before he could finish the last act so the death of Liu is the last thing he wrote and I believe it is one of the  most beautiful pieces of music ever written. The role of Liu requires a coloratura* soprano voice and Barbara Hendricks has one of the purest yet warmest coloratura voices I have ever heard. Her voice soars to the highest notes with effortless grace and makes dramatic sopranos sound like screeching harpies. I apologise to any true opera buffs out there but most sopranos really do sound awful.

Oh and I should mention that the opera was finished by someone else along the lines of what Puccini intended so the Prince eventually melts Turandot’s heart and they live happily ever after. Hrumph.



* coloratura soprano – is a type of operatic soprano who specializes in music that is distinguished by agile runs and leaps. The term coloratura refers to the elaborate ornamentation of a melody, which is a typical component of the music written for this voice. [wiki]




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