14 March 2012

Just a Cookie

I had a lovely outing this past weekend with a friend, so I thought I would share.

We met for dinner in Chinatown and had a lovely time there. Soft shelled crabs, spring rolls, my standard beef and broccoli and some shrimp-stuffed tofu in black bean sauce. I love how, in this particular restaurant, the bill arrives not only with the usual fortune cookie, but also with some fresh slices of orange. Ours was a little tart, but I think both of us liked it that way.

This time around, our fortunes were unremarkable, but the experience put me in mind of a fortune I had in that very restaurant some time ago, preserved in the photo album of my cell phone.

I, too, found it odd, and oddly amusing. This past Saturday, I shared that with my friend, but also with the chatty women who arrived at the table next to us and swooped in to take over our table as we left.

This wasn't the main goal of our evening. In fact, we were having dinner before going to the Monument National (a lovely theatre space that is home to the National Theatre School) for this year's production of the Atelier Lyrique of the Opéra de Montréal.

When I opted to include this evening in my opera season, I kind of expected something a little different. I expected some orderly excerpts from Rossini operas, perhaps with minor staging, but with some lovely performances from the up-and-coming singers who are involved in the Atelier Lyrique.

What we got was more staged and somewhat organized around a narrative, even if I didn't really get a good grasp of the narrative in the first act. I will start, however, but saying that I truly liked the staging and am ready to move in to the set anytime (is it odd that I keep thinking that about the opera sets I see?).

Act 1 takes place on a stormy night at Rossini's country home in Passy, France. He is dying and seeing spirits, but he is also his younger self working and making breakthroughs on his best operas. I have to confess that I wasn't following the narrative very well in the first act: I may have been too tired, but I was likely also a bit annoyed with the spirits part.

Act 2 was a gem. An innkeeper in Paris is readying a magnificent feast for Rossini, who is scheduled to arrive that evening. Yes, another stormy night. When someone comes to the door, it is not Rossini, but a group of four singers whose carriage has become mired in the mud. They are invited in and, when it becomes clear that Rossini will not make it ("He is never late for dinner!"), they are invited to stay for the feast, providing that they will sing for each course.

This second act had everything that I like about Italian opera: some very catchy and happy tunes, with lovely building duets, quartets and so on. At the end, we unfortunately return to the dying Rossini and his annoying spirits, but I have been sated by this point and am willing to let that slide.

If you're interested, the production plays again tonight (Oops! Too late!) and on 15 and 17 March. Check here for more information. This is the most affordable event of the opera season with the local opera stars of tomorrow.

Let me come full circle, though, and back to the cookie, or rather to the fortune that I found so odd, intriguing and somewhat saucy. I have yet to actually find a fortune that might guide me in my life choices, happening upon the "You would make a great lawyer" fortunes only after I had already resigned from the Bar.

I leave you instead with the fortune I found on the internet and not in a cookie, probably the most insightful I have ever seen.

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