Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Canadian Opera Company presents Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ (January 20, 27, February 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 17, 21, and 23, 2018)

Verdi’s Rigoletto, a searing exploration of patriarchy, power, and commerce, returns to the Canadian Opera Company this winter with a production from acclaimed American director Christopher Alden. A tragedy on a Shakespearean scale, the opera is brought to life by an all-star cast and conducted by pre-eminent American maestro Stephen Lord. Ten performances take place at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts on January 20, 27, February 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 17, 21, and 23, 2018.

One of the world’s most popular operas, Rigoletto’s subject matter was considered highly controversial at the time of its composition in 1851. Verdi and his librettist, Francesco Maria Piave, faced opposition from state censors for the opera’s depiction of an immoral and abusive nobleman. The COC’s production, set during the height of the Victorian era, unearths that culture of toxic masculinity and permissive patriarchy, in which men possess enormous wealth and influence while keeping women subservient and nearly powerless.

Internationally renowned Canadian designer Michael Levine illustrates the wealth, privilege and sensuality of the 19th-century court with luxurious and handsomely designed set and costumes, which earned bursts of applause when the production premiered in 2011. The darkly atmospheric lighting is by Duane Schuler.

The star-studded cast is led by commanding English baritone Roland Wood in the title role. He brings his “rich and authoritative sound, his jovial tone…hiding a stormier one that comes to the fore with volcanic intensity” ( back to the COC after an acclaimed debut in 2014’s A Masked Ball. He is joined by American soprano Anna Christy, “nimble of voice, body and spirit” (New York Times), as Rigoletto’s doomed daughter, Gilda.

Christy reunites with American tenor Stephen Costello, who “has the kind of voice that sets the audience—even at a dress rehearsal—atwitter” (Wall Street Journal), after their critically acclaimed performance as the doomed star-crossed lovers in the COC’s 2013 production of Lucia di Lammermoor. Costello shares the role of the Duke of Mantua with American tenor Joshua Guerrero in his Canadian debut. Praised for his “heroic, beautiful sound” (Washington Post), he sings the role on February 11, 17 and 23.

Georgian bass Goderdzi Janelidze makes his Canadian debut as the assassin Sparafucile; Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule makes her COC debut as Sparafucile’s sister Maddalena; Canadian bass Robert Pomakov is Count Monterone; Canadian mezzo-soprano Megan Latham is Gilda’s nurse, Giovanna; and Canadian tenor John Kriter reprises his role of Borsa from the COC’s 2011 presentation.

Recent graduates and current members of the COC Ensemble Studio round out the cast: bass-baritone Neil Craighead and soprano Lauren Eberwein are the Count and Countess Ceprano, respectively; baritone Samuel Chan is the Usher; and mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh is the Page.

All performances of Rigoletto feature the COC Orchestra and Chorus. This is a co-production with English National Opera and was last performed in 2011. Verdi’s Rigoletto is sung in Italian and presented by the COC with English SURTITLES™.


Single tickets for Rigoletto range from $35 – $225 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at, by calling 416-363-8231, or in person at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts Box Office (145 Queen St. W.). For more information on specially priced tickets available to young people under the age of 15, standing room, Opera Under 30 presented by TD Bank Group, student groups and rush seating, visit



If you are needing a respite from the wintery chill this February, pick up tickets to the Canadian Opera Company’s ‘Rigoletto’ from Verdi (January 20, 27, February 1, 4, 6, 9, 11, 17, 21, and 23, 2018). Not only will you be swooning along to the epic score but the artists and staging will provide you with next level aahhh’s.

Every note tells a story during ‘Rigoletto’. Set in the Renaissance, it deals with the inequalities of the social structure in Hugo’s and Verdi’s own time. Written in a heightened melodramatic mode, it is pointedly accusatory regarding the abuses of monarchy. It is a nightmare about an all-powerful and irresponsible ruler.

The detail echoing in the tragedy as extolled by English baritone Roland Wood will make your knees tremble in your seat. His emotional arch and painful moments alongside Anna Christy will prompt you to question and reflect on not only the happenings on stage but what is happening in the media today during the performance.

As Director, Christopher Alden states, “The title role of Rigoletto retains much of the bile and acid humour of the jester in Hugo’s play, somewhat humanized by Verdi. The anti-hero is dark and brooding, locked into his own obsessions and repressed fantasies. In public life, as part of the nasty and competitive little world of the Duke’s court, he has climbed to the top of the ladder of power by dint of his malicious wit. Mocked by others because of his physical deformity, he has achieved success as a brilliant mocker. In his private life, Rigoletto reveals a positively schizophrenic new personality, sweetly sentimental in his desire to keep his daughter pure and uncorrupted by the outside world.”

Who needs a mid week afternoon soap opera when melodrama meets formality in “Rigoletto”? Christy and tenor, Stephen Costello collide with so much force and unbridled drama – their exchange will satiate you far more than any online gossip blog.  Their sense of energy and resolution could perhaps inspire a spark in your own personal romantic love stories.

Alden says, “Rigoletto is a genius of denial. His obsession with Monterone’s curse as the source of his misfortune is an easy way out of facing up to his own responsibility as the master of his fate. He is a paradigm of the patriarchal 19th-century male whose power is built on the subjugation of women, disenfranchised and locked safely away at home, while he goes to work in the newly industrialized, dog-eat-dog Darwinian jungle. Gilda is an image of Rigoletto’s soul, kept pure and uncorrupted, far from the soulless marketplace. Rigoletto’s mistake is in thinking he can neatly divide himself into these two separate compartments. When the barriers between them come crashing down, Rigoletto unwittingly kills the thing he loves.”

The landscape of the production is rich and luxurious. Wooden panelling, gorgeous soft furnishings, dresses that are swung about like chandeliers and men’s smoking jackets that have never seen the outside of  a smoky home.  The sheer decadence could prompt you to have a hankering to sleep in one of the beautifully upholstered settees on stage within the first 5 minutes of the performance.

Watching the men in “the gaming room,” where they retire after dinner to smoke and drink, read their papers, and play games of power, control, and domination was wonderful mix of decadence and drole. The room represents both sides of Rigoletto’s life, the workplace and the home. The Duke, a personification of unbounded libido, rules there. The trump card he holds over the men of his court is that at any moment, in full view and fully within his feudal rights, he could seduce their women and humiliate them in the process.

“Rigoletto” is a wonderful operatic production to get lost in over the winter. I encourage you to feel out the performances by Canadian Opera Company artists that will allow you to warm up your extremities and perhaps reflect on 2018’s socio-economic climate with murmurs of wrongful misdoings with a gentle reminder that with new years, bring new beginnings.


HOT Ticket Giveaway: #FNLROM Friday January 26, 2018: Contemporary Live

The Royal Ontario Museum’s (ROM) Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) series, presented by Ford Motor Company of Canada, Ltd., delivers Toronto’s best Friday night destination with the hottest DJs, live performances, food and drink, and an opportunity to experience the Museum like never before.

Friday January 26, 2018: Performances

#FNLROM: Contemporary Live on Friday, January 26, 2018. This special encore event celebrates the new ROM-original exhibition Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, presented by TD Bank Group, with exclusive exhibition access, vibrant live performances, and conversations with the artists.


TiKA: An artist, DJ, cultural producer, and advocate for the empowerment of female creators, TiKA is a distinct performer and visual hypnotist. Having opened for major R&B heavyweights like John Legend and NAO, TiKA has released two EPs, with her debut full album Anywhere But Here and a short film on the way.

Blackburn: A band of brothers – literally – Blackburn is made up of Duane (lead vocals), Brooke (guitar), Cory (drums), and Robert (harmony vocals and songwriting on the newest release). The Blackburn name has ties to Toronto’s music history: their father Bobby Dean Blackburn is an R&B artist who performed the city circuit for over 30 years. Beyond the music, their family history is rooted in that of the Underground Railroad.

DJ K.I.: Known for his diverse mixing, DJ K.I. has been entertaining partygoers for two decades, spinning the hottest tracks in Reggae, Jazz, Soul, Funk, R&B, House, Soca, and Latin.

DJ Craig Dominic: This DJ’s signature jack-of-all-trades style blends top 40, urban, house, and more into one cohesive experience. Craig is a founding member of Blackness Yes!, a community-based committee that works year-round to celebrate Black queer and Trans history, creativity, and resistance.

Mel Boogie: Hailing from Toronto, DJ MelBoogie is one of the country’s best-known female DJs and radio hosts. She’s opened for legendary performers and entertainers such as Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Kevin Hart, and Major Lazer. Dedicated to developing independent artists and urban music in Canada, Mel is an advisory board member for the JUNOs’ Rap Category, and is the former Communications Director for UMAC, the Urban Music Association of Canada.

DJ L’Oqenz: A DJ, producer, music director, and Dora Award-winning sound designer, L’Oqenz’s passion for musical artistry has garnered the attention of local and international audiences. L’Oqenz has toured with Zaki Ibrahim, Motion, Tanika Charles, Jean Grae, Bahamadia, K’Naan, M1 (Dead Prez), Maseo (De La Soul), Kool Herc, and Saul Williams, and even ran DJ lessons with Prince Charles.

Feature Exhibition

Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art, presented by TD Bank Group, explores the deep rooted histories and enduring presence of Black culture in Canada. This ROM-original exhibition features the original work of nine Canadian contemporary artists: Sandra Brewster, Michèle Pearson Clarke Chantal Gibson, Sylvia D. Hamilton, Bushra Junaid, Charmaine Lurch, Esmaa Mohamoud, Dawit L. Petros, and Gordon Shadrach.

Exhibition Experience: Esmaa Mohamoud, Untitled (No Fields) 2017

Discover this featured artwork as a powerful performance piece at FNLROM: Contemporary Live. This wearable sculpture comments on the issues surrounding the gesture of taking a knee as a form of protest. While clearly referring to current events in the United States, the piece interrogates the longer history of exploitation and social control of specifically Black male bodies from the fields of slavery to the fields of athleticism.

ROM Connects: At this pre-FNLROM event, join the artists represented in Here We Are Here: Black Canadian Contemporary Art as they discuss their works in the broader context of Canadian identity. Free with RSVP, 6:00 to 7:00 pm. Click here for full details.

Food Fare

King Catering, Rachel’s Gourmet, Me.n.u., Delight Bite, Gushi, Mnandi Pies, and more.

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) Ticket Giveaway?

Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at the #FNLROM Friday January 26, 2018: Contemporary Live edition of Friday Night Live (#FNLROM).

Deadline for the Thirty Four Flavours and Friday Night Live (#FNLROM) Ticket Giveaway is Wednesday January 24, 2018.

TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL (Feb 3-4, 2018) and Ticket Giveaway!

The Toronto Tea Festival debuts “The TEA EXPLORER NIGHT” on Friday, February 2nd from 6pm – 9:15pm at the Toronto Reference Library. A combination film screening and meet and greet with the makers and star of the feature-length documentary film, The Tea Explorer (CBC Documentary Channel and 90th Parallel co-production) will be upstairs at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon, in the Toronto Reference Library. Sharing stories and samples of the finest puerh and other teas, world-renowned Canadian adventurer and writer Jeff Fuchs is live and in person. Also present for this evening will be the filmmaker/director of the film, Andrew Gregg. Get the inside scoop on life in the Himalayas along the Ancient Tea Horse Road and its long history with tea. Tickets at the introductory price of $65.00! Advance ticket sales only.

The TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL – February 3rd and 4th from 10:00am – 5:00pm at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon of the Toronto Reference Library, Canada’s largest tea festival returns with 50+ vendors plus traditional ceremonies, numerous tastings, and a full schedule of speakers.

Bigger and better than ever, vendors of tea, tea products, tea wares and health and related products are coming together to create the premiere tea event of 2018. If you’ve been before, you’ll know what a stimulating and enjoyable event this will be and if you’ve never been, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Rarely does a cultural and commercial enterprise have such an interactive and social aspect.  Presenters of Korean, Chinese and Japanese tea ceremonies, and speakers from around the world of tea and tea samplings are all included in the price of admission.

RETURNING – The Toronto Tea Festival brings back the Tea Tasters Box, an exclusive collection of premier loose-leaf teas, sampled and scored by a panel of tea lovers. #teatastersboxTO

– 50+ exhibitors/vendors

– tea ceremonies and speakers

– website is live and updated year around

– blind tastings daily to test your knowledge and your palate for prizes

– shop for premium high quality teas, blends, snacks, steeping vessels, ceramics, glassware, tea publications and more

What are the rules when entering the Thirty Four Flavours and TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL Ticket Giveaway?

Simple! Please sign up to Thirty Four Flavours Facebook, Twitter, or email subscription to enter the draw. When you have signed up please send me a Facebook message, a tweet or email ( telling me what you are excited to see at the TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL.

Deadline for the Thirty Four Flavours and TORONTO TEA FESTIVAL Ticket Giveaway is Wednesday January 24, 2018.

For a complete listing of the Toronto Tea Festival events and to purchase tickets in advance, please visit –

Tickets also available at Tao Tea Leaf – 934 Yonge Street (647) 728-3858

Ticket Prices: One Day – $15.00 or Two Day Pass – $25.00

VIP Ticket Prices: $65.00 (advance sales only) * above prices are before tax

Review: M. Wells Steakhouse (Queens, New York)


If you are looking for a neat culinary experience in a unique space that was once a mechanic shop – M. Wells Steakhouse will make you swoon right down to your woolly socks. I was whispered the name, M. Wells Steakhouse, by a waitress at Russ & Daughters in Manhattan a few years ago as the off the beaten path spot to check out. As luck would have it, I simply buried their name in a stack of receipts inside my Passport and forgot about it.
Upon my recent visit to Queens, New York in the Fall of 2017 – I pulled out that note and I promptly made a reservation at M. Wells Steakhouse as it was just a few blocks from where I always choose to stay In Queen’s.
M. Wells Steakhouse is tucked into a corner off a street surrounded immense windowed condos, little shops and people walking their dogs in the heart of Queens. You may miss it if you blink.

The space that greets you emanates warmth, a genuine care from staff, smiles and a rustic vibe that meets a sophisticated nod without the attitude is a perfect match for the solo traveller or a family gathering.
Etienne was my guide for the night. Also Canadian he was sure to provide me with the inside nod of what was indeed ‘good’ at M. Wells Steakhouse. The menu although not huge, does a wonderful job of speaking to what they do best and curated as such upon delivery.
I started off with a beautiful glass of La Pepie 2016 Muscadet. It was a perfect lure as I let go of the cold that was still sitting in my shoulders soaked in the November chill and let the warmth of the wine fill me up.
A delicious plate of fresh bread and butter quickly made its way in front of me. I was sat alone at the bar with a couple to the right of me indulging in their Pig’s Head entrée. I surveyed the small M. Wells Steakhouse space. Busy, intimate, dark but oozing a friendly ambiance. I quietly ate my bread and butter – fully content.

To start, I encourage you to dwell upon the Solomon Grundy. Think a potato waffle, pickled smelts, crème fraiche, roe and dill. It was fresh, delightful and Instagram worthy. Also, zesty and easy to digest with wine in tow. If you order any starter at M. Wells Steakhouse the Solomon Grundy has to be it.
The Chenas, 2016 wine from Christophe Pacalet followed. The layers of the wine versus food is a must. You may feel like a trifle dessert but the soothing element of the wine as it lacquers your stomach between bites is what makes a vacation meal or a night out meal great. Lean into it.
What followed was the Bone Marrow Escargots. Simply bone marrow escargots that were easily scooped onto the shell of a bone with a red wine jus. Light, exquisite and could be eaten on a Sunday afternoon at home in bed with a stack of novels on the go. This is what M. Wells Steakhouse does well – simple meals transformed into moments to dwell upon, have conversations about and to let one’s hard working body to rest in for a few hours on their watch.
The Pommes Alligot was the most eloquent mashed potato and cheese I have ever tasted. Not like your mother’s, not like your grandmother’s. If you are not a fan of mashed potatoes, the Pommes Alligot from M. Wells Steakhouse will convert you in a heartbeat. Ever so thankful to Etienne at M. Wells Steakhouse for encouraging me to give it a go. It was surely one of the many stars of the night.

The Venison T-Bone was the All Star Player of the night. Cooked supremely and accompanied by wild berries and brown butter – it had all the makings of a comfort meat that on a cold night in November could mend and replenish all the aches, pains and heart aches from the past year in one sitting. Pricey but worth every penny.
I relaxed with my Maple Pie dessert after a bit of a break from the sheer decadence of the main meal. The Maple Pie was a lovingly prepared bread pudding and not at all for the faint of heart. It is a worthy participant to leave room for after all the delicious protein from the main meal. Rich, oozing of a vintage childhood dessert – the Maple Pie will seal the deal. You will be having a restful sleep that night with this guy in your belly.
A space that is great for a tourist visit but also frequented by locals. When I was enjoying my meal, I observed many a young couple with their little ones, families and even single folk milling about having a drink, nice conversation over warm and inviting food. Be sure to dress comfortably and be ready to eat when you arrive for your seating is my best suggestion. You will be taken care of.
In the winter season, M. Wells Steakhouse will be a wonderful place to beat the snowy blues . Treat yourself to a few meals that are simply staged, uncomplicated and will indeed provide for an enriching experience. The conversations with friends and loved ones will be brighter and I guarantee you will feel restored.
Make a reservation at M. Wells Steakhouse before you leave town for New York or better yet make it a standing reservation once a month with friends and family. Starting off the New Year on the right foot with good food from M. Wells Steakhouse whilst celebrating your health, happiness and joy will serve you well.
Happy New Year!

Review: M. Wells Dinette (Queens, New York)


When you venture over to MOMA PS1 on a Sunday afternoon, brunch at M. Wells Dinette is a must. Not only will it satiate you but it will provide you with a feeling of calm as you sit quietly in a school lunch room dining alongside other patrons much like you did as a little one.
Upon my recent visit to Queens, New York in the Fall of 2017 – M. Wells Dinette was on the top of my list. After seeing the likes of Anthony Bourdain giving them major props – I figured, if Bourdain gave them a go, so should I!
I like mom and pop resto’s when I travel. Off the beaten path, relaxed, homey and staff that let me do my thing in a quiet corner. M. Wells Dinette fit all of those pieces to a T.
To start, I encourage you to dwell upon the Tuscan, Kale and Lemon Salad. Think currants, shaved pecorino that build upon the simplicity of a hearty kale salad. The lemon was soaked up into the kale leaves and provided an explosion of zesty flavour in every bite. Refreshing and clean. This salad will linger with you throughout your travel day. A healthy choice for those in your group who want something light.
Next, I indulged upon the Capellini and Crayfish Pasta which came with bonito flakes in light red gravy. Think simple. Tuscan, robust and knee knuckling delicious. If you check out M. Wells Dinette for anything before you go back to work and school this Christmas break – grab a bowl of this pasta. This meal is inspired by Chef Damien’s Georgian roots. A true measure of comfort in a bowl. The thinly veined capellini was cooked beautifully, rustically favoured with only the crayfish to support it. I felt every bone in my body instantly soothed after days of walking city blocks in the cold. Something I could have easily written home about in a heartbeat.

I luxuriated with a ginger beer from Regatta as I took in the space. White walls, school inspired tables and chairs, friendly staff and an ambiance that was befitting for a relaxed Sunday afternoon with friends and family. M. Wells Dinette is the perfect tucked away spot and just a hop, skip and a jump away from the subway line.
A space that is great for a tourist visit but also frequented by locals. When I was enjoying my meal, I observed many a young couple with their little ones, families and even single folk milling about having a coffee, nice conversation over warm and inviting food.
In the winter season, M. Wells Dinette embraces its French Canadian roots with the likes of the most decadent comfort food. When I visited, one of the owners, Hugue Dufour, was in the basement making Pot Pies as mentioned by my server, Montana. In Canada we say – Pot Pies for all!
The restorative vibe didn’t end there. After you have a nice meal with the team at M. Wells Dinette consider walking around MOMA PS1 and taking in some of the most lovely art in your own time.
Queens, New York is the place to visit when in town. M. Wells Dinette will take care of the hospitality and provide you with a nourishing meal before you head off for another adventure in MOMA PS1 or for more local fun and frivolity.
Happy New Year!