Tag Archives: culture

Review: ROM Friday Night Live (#FNLROM): Afro Fête celebrates Black History Month (Friday February 3, 2017)

16427227_601459110045253_8501358229578666630_n

New year and new jams at #FNLROM!  On Friday February 3, 2017 we celebrated Afro Fête as part of Black History Month with a jam-packed night of vibrant music, food and activations.  The evening featured live entertainment, DJs and special performances in the Museum’s stunning galleries.

The #FNLROM Afro Fête Performances did not disappoint with the likes of Exco Levi & High Priest.  Jamaican/Canadian musician Exco Levi paid tribute to the founders of reggae music with a modern twist of poetry and sound. This four-time Juno award winner has performed in multiple tours and reggae festivals around the world.

We also enjoyed Ammoye.  Rooted in the reggae music of her native Jamaica, Ammoye effortlessly glided from reggae and dancehall to gospel, soul and R&B. Over the years, Ammoye has been performing at events and festivals around the globe, and has shared the stage with Ziggy Marley, Freddie McGregor, Romain Virgo and Beenie Man.

The Afro Lounge was off the hook!  We ordered some West African street eats, grabbed a drink, and played a game of Ludo. Complete with a dressing room in the back, showcasing exclusive pieces from the Chinedesign summer collection inspired by the Museum’s current Art, Honour, and Ridicule: Asafo Flags from Southern Ghana exhibition.

Who Killed Colin Roach? We also explored the interconnections between race, justice and the state in this film by Isaac Julien.  Well worth a visit!

See you in the spring!

#FNLROM:

Afro Fête Tickets: $5 for ROM Members, $15 for Adults, and $13 for Students.

#FNLROM is a specially ticketed event for adults 19+.

For information and future tickets, visit rom.on.ca.

Holiday Stocking Stuffer: The Twelve Days of Christmas with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra – December 9 & 11, 2016

The malls maybe busy and we maybe run off our feet on our weekends – what better time is it to carve out some much needed early family and friends time before the holiday rush kicks in?

I encourage you to pick up tickets to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. It is truly an event for the whole family.

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me…a festive family concert! Sing along with your favourite carols and songs as part of The Twelve Days of Christmas—a hilarious live-action pageant, narrated by Canadian actor and improv comedian Colin Mochrie, that will have you rolling on the floor with laughter. If it isn’t already, the TSO’s annual family Christmas concert is sure to become your new holiday tradition!

These concerts feature the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the direction of conductor Earl Lee, with the Highland Creek Pipe Band, Resonance Youth Choir and Tha Spot Holiday Dancers.

Program:

JAMES STEPHENSON: Holiday Overture

MOZART/arr. Aubrey Winter: Allegro from Toy Symphony in C major

STEVEN REINEKE: “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

LUCAS RICHMAN: Hannukah Festival Overture

KRISTEN ANDERSON-LOPEZ: Music from Frozen

JOHN RUTTER: Candlelight Carol

TRADITIONAL/arr. Mitch Clarke: Frosty the Snowman

TCHAIKOVSKY: “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from The Nutcracker

TCHAIKOVSKY: Trépak from The Nutcracker

ANDERSON: Sleigh Ride

DELVYN CASE: Rocket Sleigh

RICHARD HAYMAN: The Twelve Days of Christmas

FINNEGAN, PLOYHAR, LUCK: Rudolph’s Christmas Medley

Tickets can still be purchased and they are reasonably priced at $26! True stocking stuffer pricing that will keep your wallet happy as well as you and your loved ones.

https://www.tso.ca/concert/twelve-days-christmas

Review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert’

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Original Score composed by Howard Shore Composer Howard Shore brings J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary imagination to vivid life with his Academy® and GRAMMY® Award–winning score to The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.  By the way, Howard Shore is Canadian!

Shore’s music expresses Peter Jackson’s film as an immense symphonic work—a uniquely developed vision drawn from centuries of stylistic tendencies. The music of The Lord of the Rings is counted among film music’s most complex and comprehensive works. This unique performance sets the score to the film, but allows the music to bear the narrative weight, creating a wholly new and dramatic live concert experience.

Shore’s score not only captures Fellowship’s sweeping emotion, thrilling vistas, and grand journeys, but also echoes the very construction of Tolkien’s Middle-earth.    Styles, instruments, and performers collected from around the world provide each of Tolkien’s cultures with a unique musical imprint. The rural and simple hobbits are rooted in a dulcet weave of Celtic tones.  The mystical Elves merit ethereal Eastern colours.

The Dwarves, Tolkien’s abrasive stonecutters, receive columns of parallel harmonies and a rough, guttural male chorus. The industrialized hordes of Orcs claim Shore’s most violent and percussive sounds, including Japanese taiko drums, metal bell plates and chains beaten upon piano wires, while the world of Men, flawed yet noble heirs of Middle-earth, is introduced with stern and searching brass figures. In operatic fashion, these musical worlds commingle, sometimes combining forces for a culminated power, other times violently clashing…and always bending to the will of the One Ring and its own ominous family of themes.

The music’s vast scope calls for symphony orchestra, mixed chorus, children’s chorus, and instrumental and vocal soloists singing in the Tolkien-crafted languages Quenya, Sindarin, Khuzdul, Adûnaic, Black Speech, as well as English. Original folk songs stand alongside diatonic hymns, knots of polyphony, complex tone clusters, and seething, dissonant aleatoric passages. It is purposeful, knowing writing, as contained in execution as it is far-reaching in influence; for within this broad framework resides a remarkably concise musical vision.

Shore’s writing assumes an earthy, grounded tone built on sturdy orchestral structures and a sense of line that is at once fluid yet stripped of frivolous ornamentation.

Says Howard Shore, “This is the first time that the complete score to The Fellowship of the Ring will be performed live to projection in Toronto. My first score for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, was the beginning of my journey into the world of Tolkien and I will always hold a special fondness for the music and the experience.”

—Doug Adams is a Chicago-based musician and writer. He is the author of the book The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films.

Review:

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

It was pretty fitting that we took in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in Concert’ last night as the end of the year creeps towards us. The 3 night sold out performance captured Howard Shore Academy Award ®– Winning Score at its essence and perfectly ‘lit’ the Roy Thomson Hall space with a musical respite from the damp weather outside.

There was a definite excited energy in the air as we took our seats above Roy Thomson Hall. We had a perfect view.  The space was filled and there were a few die heard fans in full Arwen gear in front of us.  We made sure to pick up our cocktails and popcorn prior to the performance.   It’s great that the Toronto Symphony Orchestra encourages guests to indulge on treats from the concession stand for evening performances.  It is a truly cultural experience watching a film and having the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s musical wares wash over you.

The nuances that Conductor, Ludwig Wicki, brought to the table last night amplified every note that may have gotten lost as we watched ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’ on the big screen in the past.  From the lovely Kaitlyn Lusk’s soprano solos and the Canadian Children Opera Company’s subtle but eloquent odes to the landscapes and intimate scenes between characters – the emotion was at its height last night.  There were tears, laughter, sighs of relief and ‘yes!’ in unison but the audience members.   We were in union last night.  Alastair Thorburn-Vitols the boy soprano was gentle in his intent with his performance but he was sure to provide the goose bump texture for the evening.   The evening was rich, diverse and beautifully curated.

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s deep bass made us cringe at numerous points throughout the performance. In those moments we constantly were made aware that the collective group of musicians, conductor and singers are true athletes.  A three hour performance with one intermission – we felt emotionally and physically raw.  Sure, these musicians are professionals – but how do they do it?  Not only were they able to evoke, provoke and keep up with a consistent momentum and still ‘slay’ us – they did it with joy, verve and it was gobsmackingly good.  The audience repaid the musicians with an epic prolonged standing ovation which was well deserved.

Music from the soundtrack that we visited in our travels together with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Shire and abroad included of:

PART I

Prologue: One Ring To Rule Them All

The Shire

Bag End

Very Old Friends

Farewell Dear Bilbo

Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe

A Conspiracy Unmasked

Three is Company

Saruman the White

A Shortcut to Mushrooms

Strider

The Nazgûl

Weathertop

The Caverns of Isengard

Give Up the Halfling

Orthanc

Rivendell

The Sword That Was Broken

The Council of Elrond Assembles

The Great Eye

Intermission

PART II

The Pass of Caradhras

The Doors of Durin

Moria

Gollum

Balin’s Tomb

Khazad-dûm

Caras Galadhon

The Mirror of Galadriel

The Fighting Uruk-hai

Parth Galen

The Departure of Boromir

The Road Goes Ever On…

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is definitely on to something here.   Last night was an excellent example of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra not only illuminating the beauty of Howard Shore’s score but also raising the bar on entertainment in the city of Toronto.  The audience lay in awe as we left Roy Thomson Hall last night and brimming with gratitude for an art that is hardly fading thanks to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s efforts and gracious talent.

https://www.tso.ca/

The Frick Collection: Guido Cagnacci’s ‘Masterpiece the Repentant Magdalene’ (October 25, 2016, through January 22, 2017)

cagnacci_norton_simon_cropped_800-586x509

Often times we get lost in the glamour and beauty of the collections from the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art that we forget about the off the beaten path works that are just down the street that can offer just as much creative inspiration when you are on holiday.

Have you ever heard of The Frick Collection?  The Frick is known for its distinguished Old Master paintings and outstanding examples of European sculpture and decorative arts.

The collection was assembled by the Pittsburgh industrialist Henry Clay Frick (1849–1919) and is housed in his former residence on Fifth Avenue. One of New York City’s few remaining Gilded Age mansions, it provides a tranquil environment for visitors to experience masterpieces by artists such as Bellini, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Gainsborough, Goya, and Whistler. The museum opened in 1935 and has continued to acquire works of art since Mr. Frick’s death.

A collection that inspired me during my visit to The Frick Collection was from Guido Cagnacci.  His ‘Masterpiece the Repentant Magdalene’ is swoon worthy and a true exhibition of a great master series.

Guido Cagnacci (1601–1663) is among the most eccentric painters who worked in seventeenth-century Italy. His works, mostly religious in subject, are known for their unashamed, often unsettling, eroticism. Even though his pictorial style was influenced by some of the greatest Italian baroque painters—the Carracci, Guercino, and Guido Reni—his figurative language always remained individual and highly recognizable. The unconventionality of his work led to his being almost entirely forgotten during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After exhibitions in Rimini and Bologna in 1952 and 1959, respectively, Cagnacci was rediscovered by Italian art historians and writers, but he still remains unjustifiably little known outside of Italy. Cagnacci’s ambitious Repentant Magdalene, a large canvas acquired in 1982 by the Norton Simon Art Foundation in Pasadena, CA, is considered a masterpiece of seventeenth-century Italian art.   Accompanying the exhibition in the museum’s East Gallery will be the publication The Art of Guido Cagnacci by Xavier F. Salomon, Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator. Principal funding for the exhibition is generously provided by the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.

Trained between Bologna and Rome, Cagnacci spent most of his life producing idiosyncratic pictures for religious and aristocratic patrons in his native Romagna, an area of northeastern Italy between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea. He worked in different cities of the region, in particular, Rimini and Forlì. For nearly ten years, in the 1650s, he was based in Venice, after which, in 1658, he moved to Vienna, where he died in 1663. Cagnacci was known for his unconventional lifestyle. In 1628, he was caught after unlawfully eloping with an aristocratic woman, and he was often described as living with attractive young women disguised as male apprentices. 

 Highly theatrical in composition, The Repentant Magdalene is based on contemporary literary sources and religious plays. It depicts an event from the life of Mary Magdalene, the courtesan who converted to Christianity and gave up her sinful life after her encounter with Christ. Shown in her room after meeting with Jesus in the Temple, Mary is on the floor at the center of the composition, her long blonde hair cascading down her side, her face reddened by high emotion, her body barely covered by a white sheet around her waist. She has discarded her worldly possessions, throwing away her luxurious clothes and jewels, which are scattered all over the floor, creating an astonishing still life. Her sister Martha has found her in this state. Simply dressed, Martha sits on one of the cushions on the floor, consoling Mary. Behind them, two servants are leaving the room after having found their mistress in such a state. To the left, two allegorical figures are depicted: a standing angel, its hair blown by the divine wind that ruffles its evanescent wings, banishes a levitating devil, complete with horns and tail, who approaches the window in an attempt to flee the room. These fighting figures represent Virtue and Vice locked in combat as Mary chooses to follow her virtuous new Christian life.

The Repentant Magdalene was probably painted in the early 1660s in Vienna for Emperor Leopold I. By 1665, however, the canvas was in Italy, in the collection of Carlo II Gonzaga, Duke of Mantua, at La Favorita, his villa outside of Mantua. The Gonzagas were closely related to the imperial family, so this may have been a diplomatic gift to them, or an acquisition from Leopold I. In 1711, it entered the possession of the Bentinck family in England, first at Bulstrode House and then at Welbeck Abbey, where it remained until 1981, when it was sold at auction.

The next time you are in New York, make some time to check out The Frick Collection.  Its boutique beautifully curated works will give you a lot to reflect upon in the days that follow.

http://www.frick.org/

Review: National Museum of the American Indian in New York

Like the U.S., Canada has it’s own historical connections with our First Nations roots. But there is also a history that is so dark and painful that even now deacdes later our First Nations people are experiencing the grief, loss and devastation inflicted upon them by Canada’s first European settlers.

When I visited the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian I was wary of what I may see and experience.  Instead, I immediately felt an instant emotional connection.  The beauty of the arts, costume and honour of America Indian culture is a beautifully curated in an inclusive and diverse manner.  The space also serves to kindly educate the public locally and abroad about what it means to be an American Indian and how important it is to dwell upon as one of America’s own First Nations.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Lower Manhattan, the George Gustav Heye (pronounced “high”) Center, opened in 1994 in the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, one of the most splendid Beaux-Arts buildings in New York. The museum features year-round exhibitions, dance and music performances, children’s workshops, family and school programs and film screenings that present the diversity of the Native peoples of the Americas and the strength of their cultures from the earliest times to the present.

The museum is a branch of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The National Museum of the American Indian was established by Congress in 1989. The Heye Center in New York opened in 1994; the Cultural Resources Center, six miles from the National Mall building in Suitland, Md., opened in 1999; and the National Museum of the American Indian opened in September 2004.

Exhibitions

The museum’s permanent exhibition “Infinity of Nations: Art and History from the Collections of the National Museum of the American Indian” showcases some 700 objects from Native North, Central and South America. Objects include an exquisite Olmec jade head, a rare Anishinaabe man’s outfit and a remarkable Charles and Isabelle Edenshaw (Haida) spruce root hat. This unparalleled assemblage of American Indian cultural material represents the tremendous breadth of the collections and the richness of Native art.

In addition, the museum hosts a selection of changing exhibitions that present and reaffirm the Native voice. The schedule includes exhibitions developed by the museum from its collections, installations of contemporary Native art and significant traveling exhibitions from other institutions.

unspecified

Cultural Arts

The museum hosts Native musicians, dancers, artists and elders in presentations of their art and cultural heritage and in informal programs that invite them to share directly with museum visitors the life ways and world views of Native peoples. Programs include dance presentations, hands-on workshops, storytelling programs and annual events, including the Children’s Festival and the Native Sounds Downtown concert series.

Film and Video Center

The Film + Video Center of the National Museum of the American Indian is dedicated to presenting the works of Native Americans in media. An international leader in the support and presentation of indigenous film and video projects, the Heye Center hosts the Native Cinema Showcase, an annual presentation of films held at the Santa Fe Indian Market in New Mexico. Screenings and discussions with filmmakers are also periodically held in the museum’s auditorium.

MUST SEE’s

‘Circle of Dance’ exhibit (October 6, 2012–October 8, 2017) Consistent across time and cultures is the use of the body to communicate and express—to tell stories, participate in the cycles of nature, mourn, pray, and celebrate. Throughout the Americas music and dance have always been an essential part of the spiritual, cultural, and social lives of Native peoples.

During your time at the National Museum of the American Indian, please check out their amazing and informative tours.  Specifically the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House Tour.  Tour highlights include a discussion of the history of the site, architect Cass Gilbert, and sculptor Daniel Chester French; viewing the Collectors Office with Tiffany woodwork; Reginald Marsh murals; and the 140-ton Rotunda dome by Rafael Gustavino.  It is a free tour and a great way to go a little bit deeper into what the museum has to offer on site.

Calendar of Tours:  http://nmai.si.edu/calendar/?trumbaEmbed=mixin%3d452896&filter1%3d_166522

http://nmai.si.edu/

Review: The Brooklyn Museum’s ‘Iggy Pop Life Class’ (November 4, 2016, to March 26, 2017)

michael-grimaldi

At the Brooklyn Museum you can explore an extensive and comprehensive permanent collection that includes ancient Egyptian masterpieces, African art, European painting, decorative arts, period rooms, and contemporary art. You’ll also experience intelligent, cutting-edge exhibitions and programs that reflect a fresh view of traditional and historical works as well as engagement with today’s most important artists and artistic practices and ideas.

This was my second time to the Brooklyn Museum.  I love that I can navigate the space within a few hours, dwell on works that that I want to see without hovering over people and also be guaranteed with some interesting pieces I can take away with me in my memory bank.

An exhibit worth checking out before March of 2017 is the ‘Iggy Pop Life Class’.

In Iggy Pop Life Class, Turner Prize–winning artist Jeremy Deller uses the traditional life-model drawing class to stage a performative event with Iggy Pop as model and subject. The resulting drawings, created by twenty-two participating artists, will be shown at the Brooklyn Museum from November 4, 2016, to March 26, 2017. Along with works depicting the male body selected from the Museum’s historical collections, the exhibition examines shifting cultural representations of masculinity across history.

Deller’s collaboration with Iggy Pop as a nude model is essential to his concept. A pioneer rock musician—as a singer, songwriter, musician, and actor—Pop began performing in the 1960s, becoming known for strenuous and unpredictable stage performances—highly physical, deliberately aggressive events that often left his body battered and cut. These corporeally charged acts radically confronted the rock and roll trope of male sexual appeal. As Deller notes, “Iggy Pop has one of the most recognizable bodies in popular culture. A body that is key to an understanding of rock music, and that has been paraded, celebrated, and scrutinized through the years in a way that is unusual for a man. It is also fair to say that it has witnessed a lot. It was for these reasons that I wanted him to sit for a life class.” For Deller, the life drawing class offered the opportunity to study his body in direct and palpable terms.

On Sunday, February 21, 2016, the twenty-two participating artists gathered at the New York Academy of Art, where Pop was the unexpected model. The artists represent New York’s diverse community, ranging from 19 to 80 years of age with varying backgrounds, and include undergraduate and graduate students, practicing artists, and retirees.

Iggy Pop Life Class expands on the ways in which different cultures have traditionally considered the male body by including objects from the Brooklyn Museum’s collection, chosen by Deller, that represent male figures from different cultures and periods around the world. Works include sculptures from ancient Egypt, Africa, India, Japan, and Mexico; prints and drawings by Egon Schiele, Max Beckmann, and Daniel Huntington; and photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, Horace Bristol, Jim Steinhardt, Robert Mapplethorpe, and John Coplans. “Pop’s use of his body in his performances, and Deller’s multifaceted approach to examining it through this project, offers the opportunity to discuss maleness, and to consider how feminism has expanded to apply not only to women, but  to all genders on the spectrum,” said Sharon Matt Atkins.

Jeremy Deller is a London-based conceptual artist Jeremy Deller (English, born 1966) is known for orchestrating large-scale collaborative projects. In 2001, Deller worked with former miners and members of re-enactment societies to restage a violent confrontation between the police and striking miners that had occurred in 1984 during the yearlong miners’ strike in the United Kingdom. For It Is What It Is, commissioned by The Three M Project and Creative Time in 2009, Deller toured the United States with a car destroyed in a 2007 bomb attack in Baghdad, inviting journalists, Iraqi refugees, soldiers, and scholars to share their experiences. He has developed several music projects including Acid Brass (1997), a brass band performance of acid house music. More recently, he created Sacrilege (2012), a life-size inflatable Stonehenge, and we’re here because we’re here (2016), a modern memorial to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme. Winner of the 2004 Turner Prize, Deller represented Great Britain at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013. His appreciation of academic drawing can be traced to his art history studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of Sussex.

Iggy Pop is a pioneer of rock music, Iggy Pop (American, born James Newell Osterberg, Jr., 1947) is a singersongwriter, musician, and actor. Born and raised in Michigan, Pop began performing in the 1960s. In 1967, he formed The Stooges, a band that significantly influenced the trajectory of rock music in the 1970s and 1980s. Pop became known for dynamic and unpredictable stage performances, a trademark throughout his career. His music has encompassed a number of styles over the decades, with well-known albums such as The Idiot (1977), Lust for Life (1977), Blah Blah Blah (1986), Brick by Brick (1990), and Skull Ring (2003). In 2010, The Stooges were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. March 2016 marked the release of Pop’s seventeenth album, Post Pop Depression, a collaboration with Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age.

Iggy Pop Life Class is organized by Sharon Matt Atkins, Vice Director, Exhibitions and Collections Management, Brooklyn Museum.

https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/

Review: The New York Botanical Garden and the Holiday Train Show®

The New York Botanical Garden is an iconic living museum and, since its founding in 1891, has served as an oasis in this busy metropolis.

As a National Historic Landmark, this 250-acre site’s verdant landscape supports over one million living plants in extensive collections. Each year more than one million visitors enjoy the Garden not only for its remarkable diversity of tropical, temperate, and desert flora, but also for programming that ranges from renowned exhibitions in the Haupt Conservatory to festivals on Daffodil Hill.

The Garden is also a major educational institution. More than 300,000 people annually—among them Bronx families, school children, and teachers—learn about plant science, ecology, and healthful eating through NYBG’s hands-on, curriculum-based programming. Nearly 90,000 of those visitors are children from underserved neighboring communities, while more than 3,000 are teachers from New York City’s public school system participating in professional development programs that train them to teach science courses at all grade levels.

NYBG operates one of the world’s largest plant research and conservation programs, with nearly 200 staff members—including 80 Ph.D. scientists—working in the Garden’s state-of-the-art molecular labs as well as in the field, where they lead programs in 49 countries.

The year 2016 marks the 125th Anniversary of the founding of The New York Botanical Garden.

_ivo4386

Review:

After hustling it all over New York during my first week, I decided to have a quiet Sunday and grab the Metro North train from Grand Central station and check out the New York Botanical Garden.  It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday away from a busy city and some relaxed time in nature.

I made a point to inhale the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory which houses tropical and desert plants.  I took my time walking through the space which was humid, damp and laden with a quilt of chirpy plants all dewy in their presentation.  The space is beautifully laid out and perfect for the whole family.  There are quiet nooks for you to sit down and take everything and friendly staff to answer questions.

I sipped my tea as I made my way over to the forest on the property.  This experience proved to be the most therapeutic experience on my trip.  Resembling that of Kew Gardens in England – the sleepy trees, a well maintained path, a rose garden, streams, a bridge and quiet respites made me feel at ease and welcoming of the peaceful quiet.  I took a moment to stand in a pile of fallen Fall leaves and make a memory for when my work week get’s me down.  NYBG is brimming with memory postcards and I was sure to snap them all up like collector cards.

Once I felt the Zen washing over me, I made my way over to the piece de resistance for the holiday season, The New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show®.  It is a beloved New York City tradition and it enters its 25th year with the exhibition’s first roller coaster. The Coney Island Cyclone will join NYBG’s collection of more than 150 replicas of New York buildings that are all made out of plant parts and enlivened by large-scale model trains. The Holiday Train Show opens to the public on Saturday, November 19, 2016 and runs through Monday, January 16, 2017.

In addition to the famous Cyclone, new this year are Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel (complete with LED sign) and the Elephantine Colossus, a gigantic elephant-shaped hotel from the 1890s. The Holiday Train Show already features several Coney Island structures, including the Galveston Flood Building, the Luna Park Arch, the Luna Park Central Tower, and the Luna Park Ticket Booth. All of the collection’s Coney Island models will be displayed in the Reflecting Pool of the Palms of the World Gallery in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. This year the 30-foot-long Brooklyn Bridge will be relocated to the Palms Gallery, completing the Brooklyn scene. The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge will also make its exhibition debut.

In the Holiday Train Show, more than 25 G-scale model trains and trolleys will hum along nearly a half mile of track past re-creations of iconic sites such as the Statue of Liberty, Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Terminal, The New York Public Library, and Radio City Music Hall. Artistically crafted by Paul Busse’s team at Applied Imagination, all of the New York landmarks—which include Hudson River Valley houses and other buildings from New York State as well—are made of natural materials such as bark, twigs, stems, fruits, seeds, and pine cones. American steam engines, streetcars from the late 1800s, and modern freight and passenger trains ride underneath overhead trestles, through tunnels, and across rustic bridges and past waterfalls that cascade into flowing creeks. Thomas the Tank Engine™ and other beloved trains disguised as large colorful insects delight children as they zoom by.

The next time you are in New York – push yourself to get outside of the bubble of the city and take the trip to the Bronx.  The New York Botanical Garden will make everything right in one visit.

http://www.nybg.org/home/

Review: The Woolworth Building Lobby Tour

woolworthfinal

In 1913 the Woolworth Building, hailed by architectural critics as an engineering marvel, soared 792 feet high into the lower Manhattan skyline, making it the tallest building in the world at that time. The awe-inspiring, technologically advanced steel frame structure was designed by renowned architect Cass Gilbert. In addition to the skyscraper’s mechanical underbelly, which featured high-speed elevator service, self-sustaining electrical power generation, heating, cooling, water supply and fire protection, its grand lobby was recognized as a stunning and picturesque work of art.

Today, the lobby’s spectacular stained glass, Byzantine mosaics, sculptures and murals are being appreciated by architectural enthusiasts and professionals, historians, artists and visitors from around the world due in part to the passion and perseverance of Cass Gilbert’s great-grandchildren Helen Post-Curry and Chuck Post. Upon the 100-Year Celebration of the Woolworth Building, named a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and a New York City Landmark in 1983, the interest in the building’s intricate and preserved lobby was overwhelming. And so, the Woolworth Lobby Tours were introduced in the summer of 2013 and are operated by the descendants of Cass Gilbert.

The lobby had been closed to the public for a number of years due to security issues and general traffic within a building that houses professional offices and soon to be residential tenants. But there was no denying the public’s interest in this “Cathedral of Commerce”, as its Gothic exterior beckoned passersby into its Romanesque cathedral style lobby with its magnificent marble staircase. Frank W. Woolworth, the chief executive of the F. W. Woolworth Company and owner of the popular five-and-ten-cent stores across the globe, commissioned Cass Gilbert to build the Woolworth headquarters. And while the skyscraper became a beacon for commerce and prosperity, the architect and the building’s principals upheld a sense of humor and pride which visitors can see amid the lobby’s many carved stone caricatures (Corbel sculptures include Gilbert with a model of the building, engineer Gunvald Aus taking a girder’s measurements, and Woolworth counting nickels), theatrical faces, symbolic animals, documented dates and trusted allies. These fun facts and details, and so much more, are exposed during the Woolworth Building Lobby Tours.

Review:

When you are on holiday in New York and want to slow it down a tad whilst also immersing yourself in the gorgeous historical architecture that is in the downtown core – pick up tickets for the Woolworth Building Lobby Tour.

The tour guide who greeted my group and I was energetic and was quick to usher us into the elements and look up at the Woolworth Building and all of its ornate detail.  We were given behind the scenes historical tidbits of the goings on between Woolworth and Gilbert while also honouring their legacy with a nod to their decisions that carved out the building that we took in during the tour.

Within such close proximity to the 9/11 site I was amazed that the building still stood almost untouched. Although under current refurbishment for a condo extension – we were advised by the tour guide that the units were worth millions of dollars and promised beautiful views within a listed building.

Make sure you look up at the ceiling in the lobby when you are on the tour.  It is laden with a rich and exquisite mosaic.  It will be something you will want to capture for your social media accounts and write home about.

The vault at the bottom of the Woolworth Building will make you giddy.  These are the vaults that you see in films – grandiose, intense and terrifying.  Well worth the price of admission to the tour.

The Tiffany elevator doors are also a piece de resistance.  Truly amazing and will give you a wonderful snapshot into a time where craftsmanship and finite detail was held in such regard.

The gargoyles and head statues outside of the building are perfect portraiture into what makes New York architecture unique.  Be sure to take some time after the tour to dwell on their beautiful faces and lifetime home on the Woolworth Building.

The building aches secrets and stories.  Stories of bygone time, styles, tastes, political discourse and changing times.  Secrets of whispers, affairs, hiring and firings and death.  The building is beautiful, a reverent stoic structure and keen to shine its best light on us and remind us that ‘they just don’t make buildings like me anymore.’

The Woolworth Building Lobby Tour is a must see whilst you are in New York or better yet if you are a local.  The Woolworth Building is a landmark building and can often be seen poking its peak at you whilst you are on your travels.  It is worth to make some time to pay it some homage for being one of the best architectural marvels in New York City.

Tour Pricing 

30-Minute / $20 – Exterior, lobby, history, questions and photographs

60-Minute / $30 – More in depth history about the construction, its owner and the architect

90-Minute / $45 – Includes mezzanine level and a brief walk to the Broadway Chambers building Days

There are now daily tours at 2:00 p.m. and extra ones on Saturdays.  Check out the private tours that are available for groups of 10 or more!

Home

Review – The Canadian Opera Company: ‘Norma’ (October 16 – November 5, 2016)

Searing drama and epic lyricism open the Canadian Opera Company’s 2016/2017 season with a new production of Bellini’s Norma. This bel canto masterpiece is a remarkable showcase for the rare soprano who can handle the demands of this title role and the COC production boasts the return of two of today’s most sought-after divas to its stage: Canadian-American Sondra Radvanovsky and South African Elza van den Heever star as the high priestess Norma. Norma was last performed by the COC in 2006 and returns for eight performances on October 6, 15, 18, 21, 23, 26, 28 and November 5, 2016.

Bellini’s opera tells of all-consuming passion and devastating betrayal when the Druid high priestess Norma finds her life in turmoil with the discovery that she’s been cast aside by her Roman lover for a fellow priestess. American director Kevin Newbury makes his COC debut with this new staging, co-produced by the COC, San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Gran Teatre del Liceu. One of the finest directors working in opera today, Newbury sets the action of Norma in a mythic, Game of Thrones-inspired milieu, brought to life through his creative team that includes recent Tony Award-nominee set designer David Korins, rising star costume designer Jessica Jahn and internationally acclaimed lighting designer Duane Schuler.

American maestro Stephen Lord has made a specialty of bel canto operas and conducts the graceful melodies and musical fireworks that distinguish the florid magnificence that is Bellini’s Norma, presented by this all-star cast with the acclaimed COC Orchestra and Chorus. Chosen by Opera News as one of the “25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera” (one of four conductors), Lord returns to the COC after past productions of A Masked Ball and Lucia di Lammermoor.

The title role of Norma demands a true diva to convincingly convey the character’s emotional range while effortlessly delivering some of the most vocally challenging music ever composed. Globally celebrated artist Sondra Radvanovsky, acclaimed in past COC productions of Roberto Devereux and Aida, now brings her “dramatically and vocally arresting” (New York Times) Norma to Toronto. Elza van den Heever mesmerized audiences in the COC’s Il Trovatore with her “plush, dramatic voice capable of formidable power and dazzling high notes” (Associated Press) and delivers triumphant performances with premier opera companies around the world, including a Norma where she is “breathtaking throughout … with her controlled virtuosity, [has] the audience anxiously awaiting every note” (Bachtrack).

American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard is acclaimed by critics for her passionate intensity and vocal beauty. She returns to the COC after a much-admired performance in La clemenza di Tito to make her role debut as Adalgisa, Pollione’s new lover, a character that demands supreme dramatic and vocal sensitivity and authority in order to harmonize with Norma and deliver the duets that make up some of the opera’s greatest musical moments.

American Russell Thomas is one of the most exciting vocal and dramatic talents on the international opera and concert scene. His “gorgeous, warm tenor” (Globe and Mail) makes a swift return to the COC, after his recent Dora Award-nominated turn as Don José in Carmen last spring, to sing Pollione, Norma’s Roman lover. Russian bass Dimitry Ivashchenko, last heard as “a menacing, vocally chilling Hunding” (New York Times) in the COC’s recent Die Walküre, is Oroveso, Norma’s father.

Recent COC Ensemble Studio graduate soprano Aviva Fortunata is Clotilde, Norma’s maid. Ensemble Studio tenor Charles Sy is Flavio, Pollione’s friend.

Norma is Bellini’s best-known opera and was the composer’s personal favourite. Bellini claimed that, were he shipwrecked, it was the score to Norma that he would try to save.

Norma is sung in Italian with English SURTITLESTM.

TICKET INFORMATION

Single tickets for Norma range from $35 – $235 and box seats, when available, are $350. Tickets are now on sale, available online at coc.ca, 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 coc.ca.

16-17-01-MC-D-2627

Review:

It is rare to find an opera that will re-awaken all of your senses in one sitting. The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bellini’s ‘Norma’ is beautifully curated but also littered with a deep symbolic spirituality rarely (and yet authentically) brought to stage with such intensity of heart, soul and mind.

“Casta Diva” from ‘Norma’ as sung by the great, Elza van den Heever is transformational. You will appreciate every note like it is a fine wine early on in the performance.  Take a moment to close your eyes and meditate on its essence.

The ‘coloratura’ is an appropriate word in defining the ‘decorative singing’ as seen in “Casta Diva”. The audience will be immersed in it when breathing in ‘Norma’. The opera is ornate, full blossomed and aromatic in its delivery.  The libretti are illuminated as it is colored in with broad strokes.  Don’t be afraid as you are assaulted with every flower, leaf and root as it comes flying at you in musically noted symbolism and text throughout ‘Norma’.

The Druid’s religion of sacrifice, rituals, human and animal sacrifice are central to the Druid ethos and seen on stage through the images of Ritual of Oak, Mistletoe, bulls, sacred forests and burning effigies. These pieces provided the audience with a gorgeous texture throughout the performance. The audience is transported not only to a specific place and time but also a culture not all that different from our own in the present.  Themes of community versus exclusion, monogamy vs. adultery, the religious right vs. atheism and expensive love triangles.

The actors and actresses oozed a Games of Thornes meets Medea aesthetic in their luxe costuming, knotted hair and metallic tattoos. The exquisite visual stage décor specifically outfitted with totem bullheads on the walls and Norma’s children’s miniature elements of war reflect sacrifices and conflict.

As per Kevin Newbury’s Director’s Notes, ‘Norma’s moments with her children are deeply moving to me, especially in the hands of two gifted singing actresses: Sondra Radvanovsky and Elza van den Heever. Her rumination about whether or not to kill her own children envisions both a Medea-like act of revenge and an act of protection from the violent world she knows awaits them (as in Toni Morrison’s classic novel Beloved). In our production, Norma breaks the cycles of violence as she turns the war machine into an effigy and the instrument of her ultimate sacrifice.’

Elza van den Heever has set the bar high in her performance as ‘Norma’. Toronto audiences will be hard-pressed to not want to tear up when we encounter Bellini’s work in our future thanks to her dynamic performace.  Alongside Isabel Leonard, as ‘Adalgisa’, both women take us on a rollercoaster of emotions while also demonstrating to us the sheer complexity of girl drama at its finest.  Giggles, tears and a melodramatically drawn out, duh duh duh, will be experienced sequentially in this performance.

Russell Thomas can do no wrong as ‘Pollione’. Russell’s quiet yet powerfully serene presence fills the space with so much ambiance and intent that one can’t help but dwell upon each word sung from the deep crevices of his pained heart.

The three artists collide with such force and prove to be a wonderful reminder of the athletic artistry exhibited by Maestro Stephen Lord and his artists and musicians. They collectively, beautifully shape together The Canadian Opera Company’s production of Bellini’s ‘Norma’.

The audience was on their feet before the curtains closed and there was a joyful yet heroic mood felt in the Four Season of Performing Arts air. The audience was sure to let the cast and crew know of their sincere gratitude.  The cast’s emotional faces demonstrated that they accepted it.

There are only a few performances left – I encourage you to check out ‘Norma’ before she is gone.

http://www.coc.ca/

Art Gallery of Ontario: “Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh & more” (October 22 – January 29, 2017)

van-gogh-vincent_la-nuit-etoile-starry-night-over-the-rhone_1888

This fall, the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) invites visitors to accompany some of the greatest artists of the 19th and 20th centuries on a spiritual journey of self-discovery. Organized in partnership with the renowned Musée d’Orsay in Paris, Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more breaks new ground by exploring the mystical experiences of 36 artists from 15 countries, including Emily Carr, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Vassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Claude Monet, Edvard Munch, Georgia O‘Keeffe and James McNeill Whistler. This major exhibition, which features close to 90 extraordinary paintings and 20 works on paper, debuts on Oct. 22, 2016 and runs to Jan. 29, 2017, before opening at the Musée d‘Orsay in the spring of 2017.

The years between 1880 and 1930 were marked by rampant materialism and rapid urbanization. Disillusioned with traditional religious institutions, many artists across Europe and North America searched for an unmediated spiritual path through mystical experiences. They conveyed their feelings of unity with nature and the cosmos in some of the most famous landscape paintings ever created. Gauguin found inspiration in the faith of peasants in rural Brittany; Monet sought solace from the First World War through hours of contemplation beside his waterlily pond at Giverny; and van Gogh looked for consolation in the starry skies over Arles.

Mystical Landscapes was conceived and developed by Katharine Lochnan, the AGO‘s senior curator of international exhibitions, together with guest curators Roald Nasgaard and Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, in addition to Guy Cogeval and Isabelle Morin Loutrel of the Musée d‘Orsay.

Over the five years it has taken to develop the exhibition, the AGO has been assisted by a multi-disciplinary advisory group drawn largely from senior faculty at the University of Toronto. Leading experts in the fields of theology, history, astrophysics, medicine and psychology have looked at nature mysticism and art through different lenses.

“These masterpieces convey experiences that cannot be put into words”, says Lochnan. The feeling of connecting with a deeper reality—a power much greater than ourselves—is a mystical experience. These experiences may reach any of us through the contemplation of nature and the cosmos. We are moved by the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the stars in the night sky, the reflections of the moon on lakes, the power of the ocean waves and the vision of snow-capped mountains. These paintings convey the artists “mystical experiences of something greater than themselves. It is primarily through the contemplation of nature that they have seen with greater clarity.”

Mystical Landscapes will take visitors on a journey through Europe, Scandinavia and North America, beginning on a path through the woods and ending with a view of outer space from a mountain top.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night over the Rhone at Arles from 1888, which prompted him to write about feeling ―a tremendous need of —shall I say the word—religion…so I go outside at night to paint the stars‖;

Paul Gauguin’s vivid Vision after the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) from 1888, painted during his sojourn in rural Brittany;

Claude Monet’s Water Lilies (Nymphéas) from 1907, which he painted after hours of Zen-like meditation beside his Japanese water garden;

Edvard Munch’s The Sun, created to inspire students in the wake of his well-publicized nervous breakdown between 1910-1913;

Georgia O’Keeffe’s Series I – from the Plains from 1919, showing the terrifying power of an approaching thunderstorm in Texas;

A series of mystical lithographs by the recently rediscovered French artist Charles-Marie Dulac, which illustrates St. Francis of Assisi‘s Canticle of Creation.

“We have been given extraordinary support for this project from institutions around the world,” says Lochnan. “Many of the loans are ‘magnets’ in their home museums and are very seldom lent. This unprecedented level of generosity reflects the very genuine excitement and commitment to the ideas explored in this exhibition which have never been fully addressed through art historical research.”

Lenders include the Musée d‘Orsay; Tate Britain; National Gallery of Canada; National Gallery of Scotland; National Museum, Stockholm; National Gallery, Oslo; National Gallery, Prague; Leopold Museum, Vienna; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Art Institute of Chicago; and many other institutions worldwide.

After stepping through its doors, visitors to the exhibition will feel an immediate sense of escape from the world outside. While designing the in-gallery experience, AGO Senior Interpretive Planner David Wistow has carefully considered ways to help audiences draw their own emotional connections to the art works. “We welcome people to contemplate the role of spirituality in their own lives, and their connection to a deeper reality,” says Wistow.   The artists’ mystical journeys prompt us to ask our own questions of, ‘Who are we, and why are we here?'”.

An illustrated catalogue will accompany this exhibition—one of the most ambitious publications in the AGO‘s history—and will be available in English and French. Featuring essays by 19 scholars and curators from across Europe and North America, including those who served in an advisory capacity, it will be for sale in shopAGO.

AGO members receive free admission to this time-ticketed exhibition. More information on the benefits of AGO membership can be found at http://www.ago.net/general-membership.

Mystical Landscapes: Masterpieces from Monet, van Gogh and more is organized by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto and the Etablissement public du musée d‘Orsay et du musée de l‘Orangerie, Paris.

http://www.ago.net