Archives for category: Travel

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We spent each day in Montréal, Canada, between Old Town and the city’s Place des Arts. Place des Arts–a very large culture-and-the-arts-plus-social venue–is where the now-celebrated opera Les Feluettes by Kevin March and Michel Marc Bouchard is playing, specifically at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on May 24, 26, and 28. We attended the sold-out opening night last Saturday!

We lucked out by booking a boutique accommodation at L’Auberge de la Place Royale, in Old Town, that truly was a home away from home–clean, tasteful, affordable, convenient, secure, and amidst many visitor attractions and amenities. If you click on the link, be sure to watch the video! The yellow front entry to this hidden gem is very unassuming.

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The walk between the two places was about 30 minutes on average, depending on how long we stopped to admire the old architecture, shop windows, eating places, galleries, etc., along the way. For most of the route, there is an “underground” shopping mall that is flat, clean, and bright. Selecting the underground, one misses Chinatown, a hill, tour buses, taxis, and well, everything that isn’t a mall!

Particularly special was the Notre-Dame Basilica where we listened to an awe-inspiring pipe organ.

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But back to Place des Arts. So much to see, so much to do. It is the heart of a hub called Quatier des Spectacles: 80 cultural venues including 30 performance halls with nearly 28,000 seats in approximately one square kilometer, according to the website above. For starters, the grand-opera venue is a 2,996-seat performance hall (the largest in Quebec). Wow! 😮

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The plaza of Place des Arts itself is bordered by St. Catherine, Jeanne-Mance, Maisonneuve, and Saint-Urbain streets. Indoors. Outdoors. Diverse. The entertainment was continuous, and mostly it was free. Something was always happening.

One day we saw the Mary Poppins cast sing and dance in the intersection. A large art installation of logs extending down the street provided sitting space. It is where we bought our tickets to see Cirque du Soleil. (We didn’t realize the big top was only two piers away from our auberge, so conveniently located that we could walk to the circus.)

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Friends stayed in the Hyatt Regency hotel on the plaza. When I bought flowers for opening night and needed a place to keep them until curtain time, the concierge offered to hold them for our friends and even provided a beautiful vase for them. The lobby is readily accessible, and the hotel is a convenient place to get a taxi. Several good restaurants make it hard to choose where to dine.

Next door is the Musée d’Art Contemporain with a permanent collection of 7,600 works. Sadly, we didn’t go inside. The building faces a large stretch of street-level fountains.

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On the roof is a photographic work entitled “La voice lactée” by artist Geneviève Cadieux.

In Old Town and Old Port, we were steps away from the best patisserie (almond croissants to die for) Maison Christian Faure, ethnic restaurants, cool bars and art galleries.

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Two museums. Cirque du Soleil as mentioned, bicycle paths by the river, everything very enjoyable. At nighttime there is an multimedia installation called Cité Mémoire at various outdoor spots in Old Town. Interesting, giant, images are projected onto walls and alleyways, and if you load an app to your phone, there is historical information about each place. It is a very creative, and an option for date night! It happens to be co-produced by the librettist Michel Marc Bouchard.

When it was time to leave this fine city, that reminds me of Paris, a taxi arrived at the curb in one minute and the fare was a flat rate to the airport. It was the only time we rode a taxi in Montréal except to go to the opera in our fancy clothes!

Please enjoy Montréal! It may be a while before I return. In the meantime, I’ll see you back at the studio. Thanks for coming with me to Canada! ~ Rebekah (Popo)

 

Because I’ve written so much about composer Kevin March and the world premiere of his opera “Les Feluettes,” I feel I should explain why I came all the way from Hawaii to Montréal to attend the big event. So many reasons why I am so proud of the composer’s accomplishment. The local press is generous with publicity. For example:

Excerpted from an article by

ROBERT EVERETT-GREEN

MONTREAL — The Globe and Mail

 

“Michel Marc Bouchard has seen several transformations of his landmark play Les Feluettes, through eight translations for the stage and in John Greyson’s film adaptation Lilies, released in 1996. Writing the libretto for the opera version meant cutting at least half of the play, the playwright said in an interview between rehearsals, and reshaping the rest to fit a musical setting.

““We had to make room for the music, and especially for the two leading parts,” Bouchard said. He also wrote brand new text for several arias.

“Even so, “I find it easier and more gratifying to write for opera than for film,” he said, “because there is a closer proximity between opera and theatre. There’s the same unity of time, action and place, which you absolutely don’t find in cinema.”

“He was contacted by the American composer Kevin March after March saw the Greyson film in 2002. They were talking about a possible collaboration when Opéra de Montréal and Pacific Opera Victoria each contacted Bouchard independently, about making an opera version of Les Feluettes. The work became a co-commission that will be seen in Victoria in April, 2017.

“The opera, like the play, is set in a prison where a less-than-saintly bishop is forced to watch a re-enactment of events in which he played a part years before.

“The 50-piece orchestra is in prison too, visible on stage throughout the piece, wearing costumes made using only what could be found in a jail. There are nine solo roles in the piece and a chorus of 20 – all male.

“The play contains an overt operatic cue, in the form of an amateur theatrical scene from a Gabriele D’Annunzio play, Le Martyre de saint Sébastien, for which Claude Debussy wrote incidental music. March’s eclectic tonal score includes crucial references to Debussy, as well as scenes set to Quebec folkloric music and ragtime. March said he has also associated certain motifs and themes with particular characters, giving himself room to allude to things even when they’re not seen or spoken about on stage.

“The stylistic diversity matches the range of different kinds of French used in the play, Bouchard said, though he had to eliminate Québécois speech from the libretto. “If the whole opera were in Québécois, that would work. But to have a French character and a Québécois character singing together, the Quebecker sounds grotesque and funny.”

“It was also hard to preserve the play’s humour, Bouchard said, because operatic timing is more rigid. In terms of the interplay between performer and audience, he said, theatre is a hot medium, while opera is cold.

“But the playwright also said he feels proud to be putting this story on the opera stage, which hasn’t seen many same-sex love stories. “This is about two men in love, and not as accessories, but in front, as the main characters,” he said.”

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Feels like Paris, but it’s Montreal. What a civilized and highly cultured city this is. Our place in Old Montreal by the river and Old-Port is in walking distance to bakeries for breakfast, specialty boutiques, museums, the entertainment venues.

We set out a little too early for a morning meal at the restaurants on either side of L’Auberge de la Place Royale (big, clean, comfy, tasteful double accommodation where we are staying), but a patisserie around the corner served specialty coffees, pastries, and madeleines with jam that fortified us for the walk to Place des Arts, the venue for the opera “Les Feluettes.”

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Although the performance isn’t until Saturday, Pete wanted to get our bearings and familiarize himself with the route. It was fun to see the advertising for the opera and my cousin’s name Kevin March, for he is the composer.

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Me, composer Kevin March, and Pete

Me, composer Kevin March, and Pete

We got together for lunch near the Place des Arts to learn about the opera project, and as Pete remarked, he felt he was hobnobbing with the likes of Puccini! No, no one is allowed to see a rehearsal (because there is nudity in the play), but yes, we’ll get together again, at least on opening night.

After we said “au revoir,” I noticed a ticket booth for the renowned circus of Montreal, Cirque du Soleil. There is 30% off the ticket price when you buy the day of the performance, so we said, let’s go!

“Luzia” is “le nouveau spectacle sous le grand chapiteau” (the new show under the big top). The big top happens to be two piers away from our place. See what I mean by “walking distance”?

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Oh, but what about dinner? The map on my iPhone revealed La Champagnerie that turned out to be very popular with the young, hip, sophisticated after-work crowd. Two glasses of proseco and a charcuterie board satisfied the desire to eat light.

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Montréal, je t’aime.

May 16, 2016, en route to Hornepayne, Ontario —

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VIA Rail Canada promotes its service between Vancouver and Toronto as “a more human way to travel.” I chose this method of going west to east across Canada because I’d heard how scenic it is.

Certainly it presents a continuous “movie” of geographical variety from the lush forests and snow capped mountains of British Columbia to the prairies and farmlands of Alberta and Saskatchewan, and from the flat grasslands of Manitoba to the many lakes and evergreen forests of Ontario.

I hoped a change of scenery with my spouse from our usual daily routines would be both relaxing and energizing. Four and a half days on the train. This would be our major vacation for the year, and besides, we could time the trip to include the opening night of the new opera “Les Feluettes” in Montreal on May 21.

So far, as I write this midway on the trip, we have not been disappointed. VIA Rail is giving us excellent service.

There is the range of travel classes on The Canadian train. We chose Sleeper Plus, a private cabin for two furnished with top and bottom single berths, toilet, vanity-basin, picture window, two nice chairs that fold away at night, and just-enough storage space. An efficient shower is down the companionway. It is not as luxurious as Prestige Class (double berth, private shower, leather furniture, more area) that we are told is fully booked for the summer.

No matter. We are rarely in our cabin during the day. There are wider views of the scenery from three dome cars. Our two favorites were the Panorama dome car with reclining seats, and the Park car (caboose) at the tail end of the train that was outfitted with a few Prestige cabins, a spiffy bar/lounge, a wraparound view out the back of the train, and an upstairs section with dome windows.

We also spent time in the Club car that is a lounge area with a dome as well, plus game tables. The friendly attendants who are fluent in both French and English serve canapés during happy hour. They give mini lectures off and on for passengers sitting in the dome. Two Dining cars have two seatings each for lunch and dinner. We’re eating well. The chef is happy to accommodate passengers with special dietary needs and will make reasonable adjustments to the menu, if you wish.

Intimate tables for four make it easy to strike up conversations with other passengers during mealtime. All the people we met were educated and well traveled. In our chats we learned that the economic and social problems/challenges are the same at everyone’s home base.

One of the most sobering conversations was with a mother and her 15-year-old son who got on the train in Edmonton; they are evacuees from the fire in Fort McMurray, Alberta, and are heading to be with relatives in eastern Canada. 90,000 residents evacuated the area in three hours, they said.

Otherwise it is a vacation of free time to read, write, photograph, mingle, and nap.

Learning about the railway itself is interesting. For example, it is a challenge for the passenger trains to stay on their timetable because freight trains have priority on the tracks. There have been very long waits for a freight train to pass. Delays can be expected. But, hey, we have time.

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Please see previous post.

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