Monthly Archives: March 2020

…And If Opera Isn’t Your Thing, How about High School Musicals?

The Metropolitan Opera isn’t the only great musical institution that has been shut down by this rotten virus. The pandemic hit the US just as high schools around the country were preparing to stage their Spring musicals. The resulting cancellations have broken the hearts of thousands of drama club kids who have worked for months on what should have been one of their happiest and most memorable high school experiences.

Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti* did something to make things a little better.

The response was huge. You can watch some of the videos and read encouraging tweets from dozens of theatre people on her Twitter feed. You’ll find even more snippets at #SunshineSongs.

Nicely done, Ms Benanti!


*She also won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. Twice. Each.

If you haven’t seen her on stage, you probably know her from her spot-on imitation of Melania Trump on late-night TV.

A Gift from the Metropolitan Opera

Metropolitan Opera House

Metropolitan Opera House

Met to launch “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore Live in HD presentations streamed on the company website during the coronavirus closure

Because of coronavirus concerns, the Metropolitan Opera has canceled all performances through 31 March 2020, but there’s a silver lining: Each night for the duration of the closure, starting Monday, 16 March 2020, the Met will stream encore presentations from the award-winning Live in HD series of cinema transmissions on the company website for free. Learn more here.

All “Nightly Met Opera Streams” will begin at 7:30pm and will remain available via the homepage of metopera.org for 20 hours. The homepage link will open the performance on the Met Opera on Demand streaming service. The performance will also be viewable on all Met Opera on Demand apps.”

Here’s this week’s schedule:

March 16: Bizet’s Carmen
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna. (Originally broadcast January 16, 2010.)

March 17: Puccini’s La Bohème
Conducted by Nicola Luisotti, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas. (Originally broadcast April 5, 2008.)

March 18: Verdi’s Il Trovatore
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. (Originally broadcast October 3, 2015.)

March 19: Verdi’s La Traviata
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey. (Originally broadcast December 15, 2018.)

March 20: Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez. (Originally broadcast April 26, 2008.)

March 21: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczała, and Mariusz Kwiecien. (Originally broadcast February 7, 2009.)

March 22: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Conducted by Valery Gergiev, starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. (Originally broadcast February 24, 2007.)


With my goldfish-like attention span, I’ve never gotten into opera. I think I might give it a try this week.

This Year’s BBC Agatha Christie Adaptation — The Pale Horse

Under terms originally set forth in the Magna Carta, the BBC is required by law to broadcast at least one big new Agatha Christie dramatization every year. Since they can only remake And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and Death on the Nile two or three times a decade, BBC management occasionally looks to Christie’s lesser-known works for inspiration.

This year, they’re giving us Christie’s witchy 1961 novel, The Pale Horse. Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are absent from this one, but Ariadne Oliver—friend of Poirot, mystery novelist, and frequent stand-in for the author herself—plays a prominent role.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the cast:

The Pale Horse is available on BBC iPlayer in the UK, and starting this weekend, on Amazon Prime in the US.

New Orleans Dining: Four Favourites and a Memorial Service

It might have something to do with that fact that since I’ve returned from New Orleans, the economy has crashed and we’re in the midst of a world-wide epidemic, but I find myself thinking back on some of the pleasures of my little vacation, before everything went wrong. Life was so easy then, a month ago.

So I reviewed my favourite New Orleans meals and made up a list of the Best of the Best. I may wind up broke and sick, but I’ve got some lovely memories.


Best Starter

Boom Boom Shrimp at Acme Oyster House.


Best Main

Chicken Bonne-Femme at Galatoire’s.


Best Dessert


Ponchatoula Strawberry Shortcake at Commander’s Palace.


Best Sevice


Commander’s Palace.


Most Missed

“Did you ever walk into a bar and realise that you’d finally come home? This happened to me at Yo’ Mammas [sic]. Why? A jukebox full of Johnny Cash. Over 100 Tequilas. THE best burger in the World- topped with peanut butter. Lesbian bartenders who could kill you if they wanted. Did I mention the peanut butter burger?” – from Jake Burger’s review of  Yo Mama’s on the World’s Best Bars website.

Granted, my experience with dive bars has been somewhat limited in recent years, but of all the dive bars I’ve known and loved, I loved Yo Mama’s in New Orleans best.  And now it’s gone.

Besides being marvelously unpretentious and friendly, Yo Mama’s had something going for it that no other bar had: It was the home of the justifiably world-famous Yo Mama’s Peanut Butter Burger.

You think I’m joking. I’m not. Yo Mama’s Peanut Butter Burger was, quite simply, the best hamburger I’ve ever eaten. For verification of its greatness, check any of the online restaurant guides like Tripadvisor. This dish was amazing!

Yo Mama’s shut down a few years ago, but soon reopened under a new name with the same menu and staff. Even that bar has since closed. The world is a poorer place without them.


Contra Jake Burger’s note at the top of this section, I never heard a Johnny Cash song during my several visits to Yo Mama’s. The soundtrack was late-60s and early-70s hard rock like Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, and Cream, with maybe some Jimi Hendrix on the side, as it should be in any dive bar worthy of the name.

Mr. B’s Bistro — Lunch on 14 February 2020

Mr. B's Bistro

Mr. B’s Bistro

The “B” in “Mr. B’s Bistro” stands for “Brennan”, and in the New Orleans restaurant world, it signifies that you’re in good hands. The extended Brennan family owns and operates more than a dozen of the city’s best restaurants, including Red Fish Grill, Cafe Adelaide, Napoleon House, Ralph’s on the Park, and the jewel in the crown, Commander’s Palace.

Salad

Salad

This is Mr. B’s Royal Street Salad, made with whole leaf baby Romaine lettuce tossed with crumbled bleu cheese, bacon, and a fresh herb market vinaigrette.

Steak

Steak

And for the main, I had roast beef, cottage fries with more of that bleu cheese, and string beans. After a week of French, Cajun, and Creole cuisine, it was a very Anglo-American meal.

Café Du Monde — Dessert on 13 February 2020

I’d skipped dessert at Galatoire’s earlier in the day because I knew I’d be spending part of the afternoon eating beignets at Café Du Monde. You have to eat beignets at Café Du Monde when you’re in New Orleans.

Beignets are deep-fried, pillow-like pastries, served hot and covered with powdered sugar. They’re eaten by hand. Etiquette note: Traditionally, you hold a beignet in one hand, while simultaneously using the other hand in a frantic and futile attempt to brush the powdered sugar off the front of your shirt. It won’t work, but people will be impressed when they see you’re making the effort.

The original Café Du Monde Coffee Stand was established in 1862,* the year that the Union Army seized and occupied New Orleans, which somewhat ironically saved the city from much of the destruction that occurred in other Confederate locales.

Café Du Monde seats 400 and is open 24/7, except on Christmas Day and during the more severe New Orleans hurricanes. It shut down for seven weeks of cleaning and physical upgrades after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, for instance.

Best thing about it, other than the delightful setting and beignets themselves, is the price. Café Du Monde is one of those rare tourist “Must-Do” sites that doesn’t gouge its visitors. That serving of three delicious beignets costs less than $4.


*That’s 158 years ago. I did the math.