Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spring isn't usually considered harvest time but there are some things here that we do make or dig up as winter ends.  Above, the take a couple of days ago of turnips (the little ones) and parsnips from the garden.  Fritz left them in the ground to winter over as several of the root vegetables taste better, radically sweeter in the case of the parsnips, if left to freeze in the ground.  We had them roasted in the oven, brushed lightly with some olive oil.  Just perfect.

This is the result of the first boil off of the sugaring season.  The sap is flowing pretty well this year.  Fritz placed the taps in eight trees.  One turned out to be dry, but the other seven have been flowing well, four of them quite well indeed.  We've been emptying the gathering buckets twice a day and as weather conditions are close to ideal -- days in the forties and fifties, nights with frost -- we've gotten about 85 gallons of sap so far.  The three and a half quarts, above, were made from 35 gallons of sap, confirming the classic formula of 40 gallons of sap for one gallon of syrup.  We're boiling down a second batch today.


Two views of the Boston Conservatory of Music's new theater in which A Place of Beauty, the opera for which we wrote the libretto based on the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner, will premiere on May 14.

The Conservatory took the building that held the theater and gutted everything but the stage.  A stage and the scenery fly loft above it is always a special construction with extra steel columns to support the grid from which hangs all the stage masking, flying scenery and stage lighting; so that wasn't touched as the expenses would have soared.

However, everything else is new.  The Auditorium (above) features excellent sight lines for its 309 seats, ditto for the acoustics.  There are brand new rehearsal rooms, backstage areas, etc.  The set on stage is not for our opera, but for Kurt Weill's One Touch of Venus that was in technical rehearsals on the day I visited.

There's still no actual loading dock or freight elevator for loading in scenery, costumes, etc.  The Conservatory exists on a very crowded block with a narrow alley for access to the rear of the building.  Everything comes in the front door and goes up to theater level in either the standard passenger elevator or is carried up the stair wells by hand.  Fortunately, the design I've worked out with the director consists of small mobile units that can be assembled on stage once their component parts have been loaded in.

We will have very limited technical set-up and rehearsal time in the theater before dress rehearsal and the performances.  I'll be working with the light hang for the dance production that immediately precedes us in the space, refocusing lighting instruments and changing color filters as necessary for our needs.  Fortunately we have only one special lighting effect.  There will probably be a fair number of light cues, however, as there are a number of scenes in the opera with transitional action between them.

I will start construction this coming week.  Next Friday we meet at the costume designer's studio and we get to meet soprano Barbara Kilduff, who portrays Isabella Stewart Gardner, to work out the various costume changes, some of which actually occur on stage during the action.


I'm twelve days away from the beginning of a two day symposium on French Opera that I'm giving at Greenfield Community College in north-central Massachusetts.  French opera has always been a favorite of mine, as I grew up with the language at home.  I had always known that opera was used by the French royal court to demonstrate the power of the nation via politically charged spectacle.  But in researching the origins of the French school of opera, I discovered that Kings Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and many of the major noblemen of their eras were accomplished dancers who appeared on stage, generally as gods from ancient mythology or other characters important to the theme of the opera and/or flattering to them personally.

Louis XIV styled himself as The Sun King around whom all revolved, the source of power and all benefit to the nation, the guardian of all intellectual activity.  His character on stage, therefore was Apollo, the god of the sun, and also of truth and prophecy, medicine and healing, music, poetry, and the arts.  The sepia drawing above is of the young Louis in his famous Apollo costume.  As he aged and gave up dancing on stage, he attended performances in the center seat of the front row, the high ostrich plumes of his stage headdress replaced by his famous wide-brimmed black hat piled high with red plumes that he wore throughout the performance, probably making anyone seated behind him extremely unhappy!

To be near the King, even behind, was much more important than to see the show!
Oh, absolutely, Jérôme. The classic horseshoe-shaped opera houses of Europe were much more about sightlines to the other areas of the audience to see who was sitting where in relation to the Royal Box, than about sightlines to the stage.
Turnip oven fries. Yummy.
I love parsnips and don't eat them often enough. Congrats!
That maple syrup is worth it's weight in gold! Lucky you! :)
It's a very labor-intensive operation, Tiger, whether a two-man private situation like ours or one of the big commercial syrup producer farms and that makes it expensive to the consumer.

In our case it's all sweat equity -- hauling the sap to the evaporator and gathering and cutting firewood for the boiler. But the rewards are just tremendous!
Spring is upon us (officially today). Enjoy!
after all, fine words butter no parsnips
I love all root vegetables & my husband recently made Turnip/Appple Soup. Yummm...

I love reading about the progress of your original opera.

I get strangly turned on by this talk of Fritz's tapping & sap pouring...
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