Monday, April 18, 2011

I didn't mean for more than a full week to go by without posting, but it's getting very busy as we're in the last month before the opening of the opera whose libretto we wrote, and which I'm designing.  The premiere is May 14 at the Boston Conservatory of Music's newly rebuilt theater.  As always, our company produces relatively modestly but this particular project is being treated as somewhat special; we have an important singer headlining the cast, and the subject matter celebrates an icon of the arts and of Boston history.

I'm building the set pieces in a new workshop that Fritz's nephew and I have been developing upstairs in a storage area of the Center.  It isn't finished yet but is far enough along that I can build relatively small pieces easily; every piece of scenery has to be built in small sections that can be transported easily in my car and then assembled into the larger scenic units when we move into the rehearsal hall adjoining the theater in early May.


In the meanwhile, we had some events going on here that have occupied a lot of time.  Fritz and I  been hosted a small reunion of some classmates of his from the Quaker boarding school Westtown Friends School in West Chester, Pennsylvania.  They began to arrive on Friday and the last departed before lunch today.  We cooked, they brought lots of wine and champagne, and last night we went out to one of our favorite places, Newick's in the town of Dover, just north of Portsmouth, NH.

Newick's overlooks The Great Bay, what in Europe would be called a fjord.  It extends inland northwest from Portsmouth Harbor, then turns sharply southward and widens into a large bay, fed by many rivers and creeks draining into it from all directions.  During the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, Great Bay and its rivers were New Hampshire's version of New York's Erie Canal, a conduit for materials and finished goods from the coast to inland cities and towns.

Newick's sits on the shore where red Route 4 and Yellow Route 16 come together a third of the way down from the top, just a bit left of center.  It's a no-frills kind of fish house: long tables covered in checked plastic table cloths, walls of windows looking south and west over lovely Bay views, and 650 seats.  The fish is fresh off the boats; prices are very reasonable unless you want lobster which is pricey everywhere.  I'm especially fond of their extra thick seafood chowder, fried oysters and steamed clams.  Service is excellent.

In the heyday of freight transportation by water, the stretch of the Bay Newick's overlooks would have carried lots of gundalows, specially designed flagt bottomed, shallow-draft river freighters descended from Dutch freight scows.  With a hinged mast to allow them under low bridges and a capacity of 50 tons, the 19 foot wide, up to 70 ft. long gundalows were the aquatic 18 wheelers of their era.

Railroads with their greater speed and longer range eventually ended the reign of the gundalow as the preferred freight transport.  These days there are once again gundalows in Portsmouth Harbor, Great Bay and on the Pisscataqua River, carefully researched and extremely authentic reproductions owned and operated by The Gundalow Company out of Portsmouth.  Used as teaching tools and as centerpieces of various activities on the water.  A couple of years ago we were supposed to have heard Handle's Water Music on a gundalow in the Harbor.  Unfortunately, the weather was iffy and the event was moved indoors on shore.


The hot (in several senses), hunky German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is featured on a recent CD of arias from the impassioned Verismo school of Italian opera.  Reviewer Zachary Woolfe in the New York Times gave the CD high marks, with a couple of reservations like this one:

"the larger problem with the disc is simply that an hour of nonstop masculinity gets a little exhausting. It turns out there‚Äôs only so much virility one can take." 

Well perhaps, but not in some of the circles in which I travel!"

Jonas! Now we're talking!
I have friends, Lauren and Neel, that I have had forever. Lauren has a Blog Sill+Life and comments on my blog now and then. Her husband, Neel, went to that same Quaker school in West Chester. I visited once and it was pretty neat.
Your Friend, m.
That verismo disc is a real curate's egg IMO. He does get the passion of Canio, but I feel uncomfortable with the voice-in-parts syndrome and the lack of roses and sunshine in the voice.
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