Ye Need Not Be Afraid of the Opera

We’re all about arts, culture, and new experiences here at For the Love of Awesome. Over the past couple of years, I’ve started seeing opera at the beautiful new Four Seasons Opera House in Toronto, but rarely without the company of my good friend Alia (@aliasaurusrex). Beyond being the best company, she’s also an opera singer, lawyer, and opera agent. Alia patiently explains the story lines, norms and etiquette of the opera to me each time we go so that I don’t feel out of place. She’s written a witty & informative piece to pass on this information so that Ye Need Not Be Afraid of the Opera!

You’re wearing your nicest pair of skinny jeans, your thickest and most ironic glasses, and you just spilled out of the newest head-to-tail pop up restaurant on West Queen West, eager to keep the good times rolling with some live music. Both the Phoenix and Lee’s Palace are hosting acts that you love, and there’s a storied DJ setting up shop for the night at Mod Club. But wait; just wait one second there – might you also consider… the opera?

Happily, you don’t need to be sporting a ball gown or tuxedo, since nowadays, your skinny jeans will take you from offal to opera (that’s right, I just did that). You also don’t need to be fluent in any of the four most common opera languages (English, French, German, Italian) to enjoy it either. Like insulin and stem cell science, Canadians also invented something magical called “surtitles”, which are the translated lyrics that slide across a screen above the stage so that we know what everyone is saying, even when the opera is in English (we owe that one to former Canadian Opera Company General Director, Lotfi Mansouri. But I digress.)

Opera season is presently in full swing across Canada and the rest of the world – travel to any major city between January and May and you will find several options for a night out. In Toronto, we have larger houses like the Canadian Opera Company (aka the COC, the largest in Canada), Opera Atelier (stylized with an emphasis on dance), as well as smaller avant-garde companies such as Tapestry New Opera, Against the Grain Theatre and OperaFive. The best part is, they are all excellent, and they all offer something different.

What is the opera, anyways?

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Best of Canadian Netflix

Although my lovely flat screen television gets very little play and I haven’t had cable in years, I love movies and get readily hooked on a good tv series.  I am a member of the internet generation – we stream, we download and for the low price of $7.99/month, we subscribe to Netflix.

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Relative to American viewers, Canadian Netflix selection is extremely limited (a fact I discovered upon logging into my account during a trip to the U.S. last year), but if, like me, your lack of cable says something about your taste in film and tv (less reality television and Hollywood blockbusters, more off-beat comedy and indie flicks) you’re in luck.  You might have to dig a little deeper to find the gems on Netflix in Canada, but here’s a list to get you started. For a second list created by Robyn, check out Part Two of our Netflix choices.

Television Series

If you haven’t already jumped on the zombie train, the Walking Dead is a damn good place to start.  I expected to hate this series, resisted it as long as possible, then caved and became rapidly obsessed.  The first two seasons of the AMC production are currently on Netflix, with the third season currently airing live.  It was surprisingly easy to get past my initial eye-rolling and become consumed with the lives of Sheriff Rick and his merry band of survivors in post zombie apocalypse America.  If you don’t believe me, check out the series’ long list of television awards and nominations.

I am currently watching the 4400 – a mid 2000s series that dramatizes the lives and investigation of 4400 individuals from around the world who mysteriously went missing over the course of five decades.  In the pilot episode, a comet deposits the missing 4400 back on U.S. soil on a deserted beach somewhere near Washington.  It turns out the 4400s were taken by the future and returned to the present with special powers to change the course of history.  Despite the sci-fi sounding premise, we never actually see the future; instead, the plot focuses on the development and difficulties faced by the 4400s  as they come to terms with a world that has continued without them and on the two National Threat Assessment Command (NTAC) agents charged with investigating the events.  The series ran for four seasons from 2004 to 2007 and if you can handle the dated fashion, is worth checking out.

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Former favourites at my house include Damages (a legal drama on speed) and Community (hilarious character-driven comedy).  Next on the list are the much talked about House of Cards; the cult classic, Twin Peaks; and the animated adult spy series, Archer.

Movies

Netflix is generally pretty behind the times when it comes to new movies, but has a great collection of cult classics (Donnie Darko, Pulp Fiction, Team America) and indie flicks (including Lena Dunham’s directorial debut, Tiny Furniture and Elisabeth Olson’s breakout film, Martha Marcy May Marlene).  Personal favourites include Howl – starring James Franco as Alan Ginsberg and anything starring or directed by Woody Allen (of which Netflix is home to several).

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Learning to Cook

I often walk by the corner of King & Spadina in Toronto gazing longingly into the Calphalon retail store at all of the high-end cookware that I’ll buy when I win the lottery or when I get married. Since I’ve gotten into cooking in the past few years, I’ve had a couple of friends tell me in passing that Calphalon does classes.  Well, thanks to gifting holidays and a very generous brother, I recently had a date with my Mom to take a hands-on cooking class to learn to make Vietnamese favorites!

First of all, the facility is gorgeous.  The teaching kitchen is open and very well designed with demo mirrors and video circuits placed strategically so everyone can see the instructor. Each of the 12 cooking stations is stocked with a huge variety of pots, pans and all the fancy knives you can dream of.  I have a classic Santoku style chef’s knife, and I have to say that one of the highlights of the class for me was chopping and dicing and playing around with other styles of knives, like the Nakiri style, to get a feel for them.

When we arrived the Chef Instructor Glenn White was cooking away in his teaching station. It turned out he had a craving for some tomato soup so he made enough for us too. Starting out the class with some home-made soup and fancy bruschetta was the warmest of welcomes!

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The menu and accompanying recipes for the day were emailed to us in advance and Glenn insisted that we leave our recipes to the side so that we could take a less studious, more hands-on and creative approach to learning.
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Current Obsessions

Although I will  readily adopt a trend when it fits well with my general style and aesthetic, I tend to think of myself more as a creature of habit, at least when it comes to the basics.  Despite a closet full of clothes, my day to day uniform doesn’t vary much (skinnies, my falling apart riding boots, and some combination of stripes/chambray with a scarf/cardi); I keep my linens white; paint walls grey; and believe in mustard accents in every room of the house.  This relatively simple palate facilitates my love of re-decorating and accessorizing and I’ve currently found myself obsessing over certain accents that I am itching to incorporate into my home/wardrobe.

Marquee lights – Perhaps it’s a (relatively) new found love of vintage, the year-round Junction Flea, or some unknown and repressed memories of the circus, but I have been obsessing over marquee lights for sometime now.  This obsession has me coveting a lofty space filled with exposed brick walls to properly showcase these pieces, but since a move isn’t in the cards any time soon, I have plenty of time to keep searching for the perfect piece.  If my obsession is contagious, check out Etsy for both vintage and reproduction marquee signs or make yourself a custom piece with these DIY instructions from the folks over at Oh Happy Day.

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Polka dots 
– To be honest, I didn’t think that polka dots were a current obsession so much as a life-long love, but the very first thing out of my boyfriend’s mouth when I asked about my current obsessions was “polka dots.”  I inquired as to whether I wasn’t always a fan of dots, but was informed that I’ve been particularly obsessed as of late.  A quick glimpse into my closet revealed about  a dozen dotted items, from jeans, through blouses and skirts, and I know a further look would reveal a polka dot weekend bag, multiple pairs of tights, and a scarf or two, not to mention the blanket I’m curled up in right now.  I will forever love Kate Spade and Marimekko for their shared love of dots and would likely have a kitchen filled with dotted dishes if not for the restraint exercised by the man of the house.

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Clockwise (sort of) from top left: Alice & Olivia top, Ikea bedding, Marimekko pants, Kate Spade Dress, Marimekko for Converse hightops, Hue tights, Toms shoe, Kate Spade watch, Marimekko coat, Kate Spade dishes and Marimekko pillow.

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Street Style Inspiration

This time of year is amongst my favorite for spending endless amounts of time online scouring the internet for fashion inspiration. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) has come and gone, and while I love seeing the runway shots posted by fashion royalty everywhere in the social media-sphere, it’s the street style pictures that I love the best.

Fashion industry professionals, influencers and muses don their best, most fashion-forward outfits to be photographed coming and going to the runway shows and offer a glimpse into how the newest trends are being interpreted by, arguably, the most creative and eclectic class fashionistas.

I’ve browsed the likes of WMagazine, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, Elle, Style.com and Vanity Fair and looked at hundreds of pictures to round up some of my faves.  NYFW may be a glimpse into Fall fashion, but the street style is a peak around the corner into late Winter and Spring, and I’ve got some takeaways for you:

  • Neon is still in, in a big way (yay!)
  • Don’t hide away your maxis for warm weather, they can be worn through the winter too
  • Apparently socks with open-toed sandals is cool now (mixed feelings about this one)
  • Black and white is safe, classic and always in, but try pairing patterns together for more edge
  • Floral and polka dots seems to be the patterns of choice, and judging from the runways, this is only getting bigger
  • Accessories are all about structured bags and architectural shoes

I’m walking away thinking this is truly a year where anything goes. Take a peak at some of my favorite looks:

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