Saturday, March 21, 2015

perfect weather!

Was such a nice change from last year's rainy evening... we have now attended three years (all three years) Wine Walk to Ca d'Zan the Ringling mansion and estate. For those of you who know us or have attended the IPNC (International Pinot Noir Celebration) with us in Oregon, the ALL three years will not surprise you. My IPNC attendance -at ten plus years- and Phil's -at closing in on- 20 years would indicate that we are loyal to our wine events LOL....

here were the good and bad things about this year's Wine Walk


  • Number One thing - the weather was perfect
  • Number Two thing - the terrace at the Ringling was the VIP Lounge and was an absolutely perfect spot to - well - lounge around waiting for the sunset and finish off the eating path that takes you from the front door to the Bay... 
  • Number Three thing- although I found nothing fabulous in the extra wines poured for the VIP ticket holders - it was a nice idea to have some extra stations along the way
  • Number Four thing- several of the food stations were wonderful! The France one was my personal favorite but the American and the Spanish also had some good eats as well. 
  • Number Five thing- the band was really good and well located so the music could be heard but wasn't overwhelming.
  • And a shout out to the Cake Zone for the fabulous cup cakes!


  • The very first station was not at all ready and had no food or wines out despite it being more than five minutes after the opening time when we arrived  - hence no review of the German station except to say I would recommend against using this caterer as they clearly can't get their shit together...
  • None of the wines were fabulous- and now I know that we have been seriously spoiled at the IPNC over the years with fabulous tastings of wines up to and including the Madame Bize-Leroy's wines, but seriously, this is a one night event - not a three day festival and yet a higher per hour cost than the IPNC.... 
  • On a beautiful night like last night NOTHING should be held inside like the American station was last night - not that I don't like the circus museum but with such stunning weather - this part should have not been in a dark hall inside - and they too had issues - no one there to serve the beer they were hyping (not that it matter to me)  and the security woman was way over the top officious at that location - she clearly had the "gun and badge" syndrome...

However- nothing could have put a damper on the lovely evening - a great way to spend a few hours!

here are links to the two prior years:

the entrance - you can see the blue sky weather we were blessed with!

the bay side of the house-

as the sun set the windows reflect its glorious hues

the menus-

an interior view

this would be an impressive thing to win-

because you can see the view of the tower in this aerial shot of the mansion-

and here is the menu that we missed because they weren't ready despite the security forces holding everyone for five minutes past the opening hour- I would definitely skip having these folks do any catering for you!

all in all a lovely evening but with some execution of logistics issues that made it just a shade under perfect...but hey, not everyone can be Pat Dudley! (the woman who ran the IPNC for many years) and so we continue towards our season's end- up tonight Itzhak Perlman at the Van Wezel. Stay tuned for more...

Friday, March 20, 2015

three recent reads...

so in between having guests for lunch and getting a bunch of household work done (new light fixtures and outside outlets) and various other things- I found time to get some reading done- and caught up with several books that I have been looking at on the shelf for quite some time (ahem...maybe even longer than that- LOL)

enjoyed these first two and am enjoying now The Interestings which was popular a while back (I may be the only person who has yet to crack open that copy of Da Vinci Code - LOL) 

anyway- I can recommend all three of these books- 

The Dead Beat is non fiction and is about those who write the obits and excerpts a number of fabulous gems from various obits of the famous, the not so famous and the unknown...published in English language newspapers (mostly here in the US and in the UK)

from the blurb this could be mistaken for chick-lit but it was much better written and a deeper exploration of the ups and downs of being married and what it takes to live with someone for decades... (and not kill them- LOL)

and here is what I am reading now and loving- only about 100 pages into the 500+ but it is going fast! a good sign!

and here is one I got more than half way through by sheer force of will and then decided I could call it complete - as I said to Phil, this would have been better to read the cliff notes- waay more information than it could take and still be an interesting story - and despite its good review (however many years ago) it just couldn't hold my attention to the finish....

so on we go.... this is our last very busy arts/culture/sporty week for this winter - with the opera last night, the wine walk tonight, Itzhak Perlman on Saturday and the Cards on Sunday - then CBGB at Bern's on Monday and Asolo (second to the last play for the season) on Wednesday... busy week and soon it will be the farewell tour of our favorite restaurants before we head up north.... so stay tuned...

a night at the opera

For many years I had season tickets to the Lyric Opera in Chicago but I gradually let them go by choosing packages with fewer and fewer operas.  the truth was I really didn't want to hear them sing yet another Marriage of Figaro, or Tosca, or La Boheme, or the Magic Flute, or the Barber of Seville... the old war horses - about every five years the rotation would start again with a few less frequently sung operas thrown in for variation- several that come to mind- The Cunning Little Vixen, the Cav-Pag combo and an occasional new opera like The Wedding.....

So why am I telling you this? because I am always on the lookout for things that are rarely sung and would be something new to hear.  Il Trittico was sung at the Met a few years back and I enjoyed it immensely - the three separate acts being completely different in tone- and also getting to hear them sing Gianni Schicchi was a highlight (since it is so familiar yet had not been staged at the Lyric in more than a decade of my subscriptions.)

When I saw that the Sarasota Opera was doing a season with Tosca (yawn) and Marriage of Figaro (yawn) and Don Carlos along with the Rimsky-Korsakov Golden Cockerel, I spang into action and bought tickets for the Golden Cockerel.  I had never heard it sung or seen it staged before - a NEW (to me) opera!!!!

Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was famous for his ability to produce rich and exotic melodies as well as masterful orchestral textures, such as in his treasured orchestral masterpiece, Scheherazade. Already in his late years, but captivated by a poem by Pushkin, the Russian master was compelled to write The Golden Cockerel. The opera tells the story of the bumbling King Dodon who enlists the help of a magical golden cockerel to protect his country from attack. However, the poor King and his land fall prey to the seductive powers of his adversary, The Queen of Shemakha. (from the website for the opera)

So last night we went to hear the Golden Cockerel. Here are the good things about the opera:

  • the music was beautiful and the orchestra was excellent
  • the costumes and the sets were absolutely magnificent
  • the singers all did a very nice job
  • the opera was light-hearted and funny
  • the opera house is a little jewel box
  • and, we had great seats...

here is the synopsis from the opera email -

The Golden Cockerel

Stepping before the curtain, the Astrologer tells the audience that they will see a fictional tale from long ago which will have a good lesson for them.

ACT I - A great hall in the palace of King Dodon
King Dodon, surrounded by his court, complains that while he once was a young and vigorous warrior, now he just wishes to rest. Unfortunately his enemies threaten from the East and he is anxious and cannot sleep. His sons Princes Gvidon and Afron propose illogical solutions, which are applauded by all except General Polkan who dismisses them as unfeasible, much to Dodon’s annoyance.
The Astrologer appears and offers King Dodon a cockerel that will crow a warning when there is danger. Dodon is delighted and offers the Astrologer any reward. The Astrologer asks for Dodon’s promise to fulfill his wish in the future and leaves.
As Dodon begins to doze off, the Cockerel crows, warning of danger. He calls his sons to deal with the enemy. The two Princes reluctantly go off to war and Dodon settles back down to sleep.
The Cockerel crows a second time, waking Dodon and renewing the danger warning. Polkan tells the king that they must go to battle. Dodon reluctantly puts on his old armor and awkwardly mounts his horse, going off to war. Intermission

ACT II A dark night in a narrow gorge
The war has not gone well. King Dodon and General Polkan arrive to survey the damage. Corpses are everywhere; including both Princes, who have managed to kill each other.
The mist clears and a tent appears. It  opens to reveal a beautiful woman, the Queen of Shemakha. She sings a hymn to the rising sun. Dodon and Polkan admire her as she approaches. She tells them that she is their enemy who plans to conquer their city with her beauty.
The Queen begins to entice Dodon, who is confused by her attentions. She invites him to sing which he at first resists until finally succumbing to her entreaties. When he does, she laughs at him. She then reflects sadly on her homelandand Dodon promises to make her happy. Breaking from her sadness she encourages Dodon to dance with her. Since he hasn’t danced since he was a child, he declines, but again she encourages him and he breaks into a wild dance to the amusement of the Queen and her retainers.
Exhausted, Dodon begs her to return with him to his kingdom, where he will give her everything. The Queen agrees to marry Dodon and preparations are made to depart as the Queen’s servants mock the old king. Intermission

ACT III  Outside Dodon’s palace
The crowd is told that the king has been victorious and will bring home a new Queen.
Dodon and the Queen arrive in a procession to the cheers of the crowd. The Astrologer returns and asks the King to fulfill his earlier promise by giving him the hand of the Queen of Shemakha. Dodon finds this ridiculous and offers half his kingdom to the Astrologer, who nevertheless persists. In his frustration, Dodon hits the Astrologer on the head with his scepter, killing him.
The Queen is amused but Dodon thinks this is a bad omen for his wedding day. The cockerel begins to crow and lands on the King’s head, pecking at it until the King falls dead. The crowd laments their dead King as everything goes dark.
When light is restored, the Queen and the cockerel have vanished.


The Astrologer reappears before the curtain and reassures the audience that this was just a fairy tale and only he and the Queen were real.

and here is the other stuff- LOL-

The story makes no sense and even within any given act or scene is inconsistent. The program said it was based on a Pushkin ("Ah! Pushkin!"- LOL a joke from our trip to Russia) poem based on a Washington Irving story from Tales from the Alhambra. It was so muddled there was really nothing to do but go along and enjoy the fabulous scenery and costumes and music and singing- LOL - which really was more than enough for an enjoyable evening.

and - the golden cockerel was waaaaaaaaaay toooo fidgety for me- and that was a distraction- it was sitting there in the upper right rear of the staging forever breathing in and out and fussing with its feathers and generally distracting from the action in the front of the stage... it became a ridiculous part of an already ludicrous story...

but as I said- it was still a completely enjoyable evening! Tonight we are off to the Wine Walk to Ca d'Zan (year three) and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous and that means we will be dining on the terrace on beautiful Sarasota Bay!

hey- life is good!