Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Opera On The Cheap

Joseph Volpe almost persuades me to buy a ticket to the opera.

His memoir, The Toughest Show on Earth, recounts his rise from crack backstage carpenter to general manager of the Met. Along the way, his long hours ruined two marriages and his blunt manner (by his account) saved the beloved New York institution from union fights and out-of-control divas.

Since the Met is not real handy to me right now, I'd have to check out local opera. Somehow I doubt that I'd see the same elaborate, big-budget scenery that Volpe's directors put on the stage:

"Twelve Indonesian birds and seven pear puppets, carried by twenty running puppeteers, had to com and go during arias and duets. . . . A Las Vegas chorus of bird-headed showgirls on stilts had to peck and prance around Papageno as he fantasized about finding himself a girlfriend."

I also doubt my local opera offers running subtitles on little monitors mounted on the back of the chairs, another Volpe innovation. My, my, how that would enhance the show.

I guess I'll just make do with Volpe's book, in which he reveals which singers are the flakiest and flightiest. Is it the sopranos? The tenors? The basses? Read and find out.

He also vows that opera stars can come from anywhere, citing the case of one Charles Taylor, who was once a farmhand in Arizona, and a meth addict to boot. Let this be a lesson to those of us who have not yet reached our dreams.

My book pile also included a quittee: Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles. This skinny little book is a fictional letter of complaint. It sounded like a fun premise. Strangely, it was not fun at all.

I'm also about to give up on the current book on my nightstand, White Savage by Fintan O'Toole. 'Tis a very cluttered history about William Johnson of our pre-Revolutionary era. I suppose he acted as a liaison between European and Indian cultures, but I may never know for sure because O'Toole's exhaustive work is losing me fast. However, I've had some very nice naps with his book in my hands.

As for your recipe,  Taco-Filled Pasta Shells was a dish that came together easily after a hard week of crashing computers, a crock-pot dinner spoiled by a faulty electrical outlet and, worst of all, a cat adoption gone bad. It was comfort food indeed. It also makes extra to freeze for later.

Mine looked much juicier than what you'll find in the picture.

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