Saturday, November 30, 2013

Eating Cajun at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen

After seeing "Tristan & Yseult" at Berkeley Repertory Theater, we decided to stop by for a late lunch at Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen in Berkeley.

May years ago, after graduating from Georgia Tech in Atlanta, I moved to Houston, Texas to work for Compaq Computer. While living in Houston, I started to love and appreciate spicy cajun cooking, especially in restaurants such as Pappadeux's. Living in California, I have to not seen many restaurants offering Cajun dishes.

I liked Angelina's Louisiana Kitchen. It was definitely more like Cajun style food in Houston - but not as spicy (as probably most Californians would not be able to tolerate it).

We started our meal with "Hush Puppies" which are fried cornbread balls. They were delicious, with a bit of a spicy kick. I usually prefer plain corn bread with honey, but these were equally delicious.

Inna ordered "Buttermilk Fried Chicken", which was really delicious and well prepared. She let me share a few bites and it tasted exceptional.

I ordered "Crawfish Etouffee" as one of my favorite Cajun dishes is "Shrimp Etouffee".

For dessert, we ordered "Bread Pudding" with Bourbon (everything tastes better with Bourbon!)
We really liked the bread pudding!

Review: Tristan & Yseult at Berkeley Repertory Theater

Today, we saw the Berkeley Repertory Theater's production of "Tristan & Yseult".

King Mark rules with his head, until he falls head over heels for his enemy’s sister. Based on an ancient tale from Cornwall, Tristan & Yseult revels in forbidden desires, broken hearts, grand passions, and tender truths. It’s another marriage of gorgeous music and ingenious staging from the acclaimed creators of Brief Encounter andThe Wild Bride. Embrace comedy and spontaneity in this West Coast premiere for an irresistible night of love!
Overall, we found the production extremely silly and we found it hard to watch. We left after the first half, as we could not stand it anymore.

The combination of drama + silliness did not work for us.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: The Barber of Seville at San Francisco Opera

Today, I saw "The Barber of Seville" at the San Francisco Opera.

The stage had a beautiful modern rendition of Seville, Spain. It was elegant and classic at the same time.

The costumes of all of the performers were richly detailed and appropriate for the opera. I especially enjoyed the small touches, like the rising moon, the bicycles that Figaro rode, the beautiful balloons, the car, (and snow in the performance).

I really enjoyed the this production of the classic Rossini opera - and being in the front row near the orchestra - was also quite special. The role of Figaro was played by Audun Iversen and he sang with a nice, clear voice. The Count of Almaviva's part was played by Alek Shrader and did not have such a strong voice (as I think is warranted for that role). The part of Rossina was played by Daniela Mack, who sung it quite well.

As a comic opera, it was entertaining and enjoyable. If I could wish for anything, it was for a stronger voice for Count of Almaviva, to make his part more outstanding. I liked the way the orchestra played and enjoyed hearing dual harpsichords (like in Rossini's day).

Overall, I would recommend seeing this opera - especially if you can get seats up close, as the beautiful costumes and the elegant set really make it worthwhile.

Here are some photos that San Francisco Opera posted on their website (taken by Cory Weaver):

According to Wikipedia:

Act 1[edit]

The square in front of Bartolo's house
In a public square outside Bartolo's house a band of musicians and a poor student named Lindoro are serenading, to no avail, the window of Rosina ("Ecco, ridente in cielo"; "There, laughing in the sky"). Lindoro, who is really the young Count Almaviva in disguise, hopes to make the beautiful Rosina love him for himself—not his money. Almaviva pays off the musicians who then depart, leaving him to brood alone. Rosina is the young ward of the grumpy, elderly Bartolo and she is allowed very little freedom because Bartolo plans to marry her, and her not inconsiderable dowry, himself – once she is of age.
Figaro approaches singing (Aria: "Largo al factotum della città"; "Make way for the factotum of the city"). Since Figaro used to be a servant of the Count, the Count asks him for assistance in helping him meet Rosina, offering him money should he be successful in arranging this. (Duet: "All'idea di quel metallo"; "At the idea of that metal"). Figaro advises the Count to disguise himself as a drunken soldier, ordered to be billeted with Bartolo, so as to gain entrance to the house. For this suggestion, Figaro is richly rewarded.
A room in Bartolo's house with four doors
The scene begins with Rosina's cavatina, "Una voce poco fa" ("A voice a little while ago"). (This aria was originally written in the key of E major, but it is sometimes transposed a semitone up into F major for coloratura sopranos to perform, giving them the chance to sing extra, almost traditional, cadenzas, sometimes reaching high Ds or even Fs, as is the case of Diana Damrau's performances.)

Problems playing this file? See media help.
Knowing the Count only as Lindoro, Rosina writes to him. As she is leaving the room, Bartolo and Basilio enter. Bartolo is suspicious of the Count, and Basilio advises that he be put out of the way by creating false rumours about him (this aria, "La calunnia è un venticello" – "Calumny is a little breeze" – is almost always sung a tone lower than the original D major).
When the two have gone, Rosina and Figaro enter. The latter asks Rosina to write a few encouraging words to Lindoro, which she has actually already written. (Duet: "Dunque io son…tu non m'inganni?"; "Then I'm the one…you're not fooling me?"). Although surprised by Bartolo, Rosina manages to fool him, but he remains suspicious. (Aria: "A un dottor della mia sorte"; "To a doctor of my class").
As Berta, the Bartolo housekeeper, attempts to leave the house, she is met by the Count disguised as an intoxicated soldier. In fear of the drunken man, she rushes to Bartolo for protection and he tries to remove the supposed soldier, but does not succeed. The Count manages to have a quick word with Rosina, whispering that he is Lindoro and passing her a letter. The watching Bartolo is suspicious and demands to know what is in the piece of paper in Rosina's hands, but she fools him by handing over her laundry list. Bartolo and the Count start arguing and, when Basilio, Figaro and Berta appear, the noise attracts the attention of the Officer of the Watch and his men. Bartolo believes that the Count has been arrested, but Almaviva only has to whisper his name to the officer and is released right away. Bartolo and Basilio are astounded, and Rosina makes sport of them. (Finale: "Fredda ed immobile, comme una statua"; "Cold and still, just like a statue").

Act 2[edit]

A room in Bartolo's house with a piano
Almaviva again appears at the doctor's house, this time disguised as a singing tutor and pretending to act as substitute for the supposedly ailing Basilio, Rosina's regular singing teacher. Initially, Bartolo is suspicious, but does allow Almaviva to enter when the Count gives him Rosina's letter. He describes his plan to discredit Lindoro whom he believes to be one of the Count's servants, intent on pursuing women for his master. In order not to leave Lindoro alone with Rosina, the doctor has Figaro shave him. (Quintet: "Don Basilio! – Cosa veggo!"; "Don Basilio! – What do I see?").
When Basilio suddenly appears, he is bribed to feign sickness by a full purse from Almaviva. Finally Bartolo detects the trick, drives everybody out of the room, and rushes to a notary to draw up the marriage contract between himself and Rosina. He also shows Rosina the letter she wrote to "Lindoro", and convinces her that Lindoro is merely a flunky of Almaviva.
The stage remains empty while the music creates a thunder storm. The Count and Figaro climb up a ladder to the balcony and enter the room through a window. Rosina shows Almaviva the letter and expresses her feelings of betrayal and heartbreak. Almaviva reveals his identity and the two reconcile. While Almaviva and Rosina are enraptured by one another, Figaro keeps urging them to leave. Two people are heard approaching the front door, and attempting to leave by way of the ladder, they realize it has been removed. The two are Basilio and the notary and Basilio is given the choice of accepting a bribe and being a witness or receiving two bullets in the head (an easy choice, he says). He and Figaro witness the signatures to a marriage contract between the Count and Rosina. Bartolo barges in, but is too late. The befuddled Bartolo (who was the one who had removed the ladder) is pacified by being allowed to retain Rosina's dowry.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Review: Evita (San Jose Center for the Performing Arts)

Today, I went to see the musical "Evita" at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.

Evita had a few memorable songs, like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina", but I found it a bit boring.
I think the show was a bit too long and I was wondering when is it all going to finally end.

It seemed to me that the overall story was quite weak and it was difficult to follow many of the songs. Maybe it was the San Jose production, but this musical did not endear itself to me.

Compared to some of my favorite musicals, including Grease, Cabaret, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, and Les Miserables, this had to rank at the bottom.

My wife really hated the show. When the second act started, she had to step out (as she was not feeling well), and threw up. It was not a musical that she would ever want to watch again.

According to Wikipedia:
Evita is a musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. It concentrates on the life of Argentine political leader Eva Perón, the second wife of Argentine president Juan Perón. The story follows Evita's early life, rise to power, charity work, and eventual death.
The musical began as a rock opera concept album released in 1976. Its success led to productions in London's West End in 1978, winning the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical, and on Broadway a year later, where it was the first British musical to receive the Tony Award for Best Musical.

There  are a number of good videos on Youtube, showing the famous songs from the musical.

Act I

  • "A Cinema in Buenos Aires, 26 July 1952" – Crowd°
  • "Requiem for Evita" – Chorus
  • "Oh What a Circus" – Che and Crowd
  • "On This Night of a Thousand Stars" – Magaldi
  • "Eva and Magaldi" / "Eva, Beware of the City" – Eva, Magaldi and Evita's Family
  • "Buenos Aires" – Eva and Crowd
  • "Good Night and Thank You" – Che, Eva, Magaldi and Lovers
  • "The Lady's Got Potential" – Che*
  • "The Art of the Possible" – Perón, Generals and Eva
  • "Charity Concert" – Perón, Che, Magaldi and Eva
  • "I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You" – Eva and Perón
  • "Hello and Goodbye" – Eva
  • "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" – Perón's Mistress and Men's Chorus
  • "Peron's Latest Flame" – Che, Aristocrats, Soldiers and Eva
  • "A New Argentina" – Eva, Che, Perón and Crowd

Act II

  • Entr'acte
  • "On The Balcony of the Casa Rosada" – Perón, Che and Crowd
  • "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina" – Eva
  • "High Flying Adored" – Che and Eva
  • "Rainbow High" – Eva and Dressers
  • "Rainbow Tour" – Perón, Advisers and Che
  • "The Actress Hasn't Learned the Lines (You'd Like to Hear)" – Eva, Aristocrats and Che
  • "And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)" – Che and Crowd
  • "Santa Evita" – Children and Chorus
  • "A Waltz for Eva and Che" – Eva and Che
  • "You Must Love Me" - Eva
  • "Peron's Latest Flame Playoff" - Soldiers**
  • "She is a Diamond" – Perón**
  • "Dice Are Rolling" / "Eva's Sonnet" – Perón and Eva
  • "Eva's Final Broadcast" – Eva
  • "Montage" – Eva, Che, Perón and Chorus***
  • "Lament" – Eva, Embalmers and Che