So. It has been a really long time. I think a lot of things have happened, but I've been busy so I haven't noticed. Really, the most eventful moments have probably been in the kitchen. Oh, and the CD I released with Etherea that has been selling rather well. The digital release was on November 1st and it is available in hard-copy starting on Tuesday, the 15th. Currently we're 14 in the nation-wide "Billboard" charts and still number two (after falling from number one, which we held for a week) in the "traditional" new releases on iTunes. Ahead of Lang Lang and behind Hélene Grimaud.
Otherwise life is chugging along at its usual pace: lots of singing mixed in with some learning and then the boring "life" stuff. Halloween came and went; Ryan and I didn't do anything eventful (other than make dinner and help to hand out a little candy) because it fell on a Monday. November entered the picture and with it came the end of daylight savings. Now it is pitch dark by 5:30, which is a little sad. On the plus side we didn't get any of that pre-Halloween storm that blanketed the East Coast and the weather has been perhaps unseasonably warm. It might snow later in the week, but if it does it will probably just be a dusting. Otherwise I've been chipping away at learning La Calisto, thinking about technique, and working on some shorter assignments for school.
We have another ADP master class this Friday with the baritone Timothy Noble but luckily for me there is slightly less pressure as I'm not singing in the class itself, just in my coaching with him (we alternate, so all of us sing publicly in three classes but in private lessons for all six visiting master class artists, plus there are two extra classes this year, with Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge). I'm not sure what I'll be working on for Mr. Noble, but I've had Schubert on the brain of late so it may be some of that. My teacher recommended two songs of his to me: a short but beautiful one called "Florios Lied" (the only drawback being that about 45% of it sits on an F-natural, right in the passaggio...) and a 13-or-so minute long Blumenballade (or flower ballad) called "Viola." "Viola" is pretty awesome. It is somewhat like a giant version of the Goethe poem/Mozart Lied "Das Veilchen," but grafted onto a piano sonata or something like that. The poem (and song) alternates stanzas of storytelling with a refrain that, as one eventually realizes, rings with funeral knells for the dead violet. Per usual, the song is not so much about the different flowers of spring as it is about unrequited love. Poor Viola just gets too excited, stops paying any attention to anything but the coming of Spring, and then freezes to death. The music that falls between the refrain stanzas (there are a few strophes between each refrain) changes from strophe to strophe, with different textures and figurations in the piano reflecting the changing sentiments. It is rather nice. Highly recommend a listen.
So. I'm sure there are more things to talk about and think about, but for now I will segue to a photo essay, which will surely prompt memories...
Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away, we made butternut squash ravioli for dinner. Ryan and Comrade J are working the assembly line:
I went to see Mlle P. in a ceremony at her school a few weeks ago because she was nominated for an award and her parents couldn't make it. Her school is French immersion, so it was interesting for me to witness both Canadian public education and also hear a little Ontario French. Here she is proudly displaying her certificate!
That Friday, after attending the ceremony, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum (we had the week off for a fall break/extra rehearsals). It is the subject of some controversy, as a prominent architect was hired to update the building and he wound up designing this "crystal" that juts out from the original facade. The museum is next door to the school and I happen to think that it looks very pretty from the outside, but I have to agree with some of the critics when I say that I'm not sure it does much for the interior. The museum is somewhat confusingly organized, with a collection that is very strong in some aspects but lacking in others. The crystal is made of big windows, as the name might suggest, but these are also blocked to prevent harmful light from damaging the collections. So, one winds up wandering amongst dinosaur skeletons in a sort of strangely white atmosphere. Not my favorite. There were some smaller collections of art of all sorts, including a few beautiful early pieces and some interesting folk art, as well as a large collection of Asian pottery. Some of the most interesting pieces of Asian work were the early "native" pottery examples, actually, not the beautifully-formed pots with jade-colored glaze. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early Chinese pottery looks a lot like Anasazi/pueblo work from the American Southwest.
One of my favorite pieces, however, was a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary standing with the infant Christ in a crescent moon. It struck me as oddly similar to the Artemis/Diana-Selene conflation that occurred in the post-Classical era...
The trees are less golden now than they appear here, but there are still leaves left on the branches:
Since then, I've clearly been busy with some interesting food.
On Halloween, I baked "Pane Francese," following a recipe from Mr. Hitz's book, to have with roasted vegetables and buckwheat groats:
I also must have made stir-fry of some sort involving zucchini, and then noticed how beautiful they are in cross-section!
Last Sunday I made a pie crust with a little whole wheat flour because apples were on sale at Economy Fruit. So, I made an apple pie augmented with some leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and some almonds and oats.
The next night I decided I wanted to have some aioli, so I made it and lightly cooked some vegetables for dipping. It was reminiscent of some very good meals I had this summer at a friend's house! However, I was at a loss as to what I should do with the remaining egg whites. Until I decided to make French macarons: almond cookies, of course, with a raspberry-dark chocolate ganache. And they were pretty much divine. I highly recommend them. They are also apparently notoriously difficult to make but really behaved quite well. Not too tricky! I followed a recipe from Gourmet.com but made a few changes to their ganache.
Another picture, just for good measure:
A few days later I made my usual sojourn to Economy Fruit and picked up the following cornucopia-worthy items for only $6.50. The woman who works at the checkout might just actually be Demeter/Ceres. Seriously. Cere-ously.
The one drawback is that I have had to get very, very creative with the cabbage. Cabbage salad. Cabbage in couscous. Home-made falafel with cabbage. Andddd... that brings us to last night's dinner: minestrone soup.
I made vegetable stock by roasting vegetables and then made soup and bread in the evening. Here's the soup, bubbling away (before I added the cabbage):
And the bread, which was made following another recipe from Gourmet magazine involving bulgur wheat (and let me tell you... it is delicious!! I literally pulled one of the rolls out of the oven and ate it. The recipe made 12 medium-sized rolls and one medium-sized loaf):
And that, folks, is all for now. I need to spend some more time thinking about cabbage-filled recipes.