Big Opera is dead, long live the … Small Opera?

For the second time in just the few years the Ottawa Opera Lyra cancelled the season. We managed to get full refunds so phew!

Part of me is sad about demise of opera company in a city that has too few already. Part of me is “well duh!” indifferent. Looking back at the last decade of my experience with this company, my favourite productions were the children’s version of The Magic Flute followed by the concert version of Thomas’ Hamlet. Therefore I will posit the following:

Waiting for Tsars’ Bride at the ROC

– I like opera but I do not like large productions in large halls

We were dozing off for the last act of Carmen at the Met and the only thing I remember from the Royal Opera is the gorgeous sets. I am sure that the cast was top notch, but I don’t really _remember_ it at all. Maybe if I wasn’t such a cheapskate and got front row tickets my experience would be different, but from where I usually sit, being able to hear anything is more of a feat of engineering on the part of the architect and the sound analyzing CAD software than the ability of the artist. Furthermore, the singers are chosen for their above average musical abilities leaving us with mismatch of their physical presence and the character they are trying to evoke. If I could tell the difference between a Diva and an average singer from where I am sitting, I might forgive this, but so far I have not been able to.

Waiting for Against the Grain’s production of Don Giovanni at University of Ottawa

– I like opera and I especially like small productions

Actually, I am lying, I can tell the difference between Ok singer and amazing singer, but for me that only really matters to a point. From theatre point of view I have had much better record of enjoying small productions with scaled down orchestra and supporting cast that is less than stellar if the storytelling and music “pull me in”. The two operas I’ve seen this year at the Chamber Music Festival knocked my socks off – for just $20!!!. When you consider the that you can watch the shows from the Met or ROC at the movies, I think the lesser cities can survive without the Opera Lyra style companies as long as they have a good serving of “budget” productions. What remains to be seen is whether the void left by Opera Lyra will be filled.

Film: The Intern

I am declaring 2015 a good year for sporty biking.

Getting better at this

Chris and I talk about biking for hundreds of kilometres at a time, but but we do only as much as we can given our fitness and opportunity to get out and ride. Last year I completed my first 100km ride; this year I did three 100km events. I can’t really get out there and do longer stretches, but I have been able to ride the 100km with increased ease and comfort.

Ralpha Ride

Nobody is going to notice I am not on a road bike…

The first of these events I did by myself, or really with a bunch of strangers. I would classify the experience as a pretty good disaster. It was billed as a friendly women’s only ride with groups delineated by their speed. I lined up with the 20-25km/h group and mentioned that I should be just peachy at that speed though I might fall out starting from stops or at longer hills due to heavier bike. The group consisted of the leader, two women in their late fifties who kept to themselves looked like they biked across the continent once or twice and another woman in roughly my shape that had just returned from cycling holiday in Majorca. Easy peasy.

Here is a good illustration of the ride:
The first twenty kilometres is just me riding to the event, I was on the paths so I kept to the speed limit (yes, I am that geeky). The next twenty kilometres were fine, all chit-chat and flat roads back to Kanata. At this point we were joined by a guy and a woman who (as I found out the following week) was familiar to my road racing friend. I am going to make an educated guess that they did the Grand Fondo the day before and were looking for an easy ride. I kept up for another twenty kilometres while the pace slowly increased and I kept falling off the back of the peloton and having to rush to catch up more and more. For goodness sake, I signed up for 25km/h max and we were going 28km/h up a hill. I bonked around kilometre 65 .

Now, I never thought that I would be inconvenienced by “we don’t drop anyone” policy or the existence of the broom car, but I was. The leader stayed with me and tried to coach me to catch up to the group – yah right, we were on the Galetta “And Up And Down” Side Road – I am not catching up to anyone, lady. And while the broom car was nice to have it was at the same time embarrassing. We made it to Fitzroy snack break (and caught up to everyone) at which point I told them that Chris was coming to get me and to head out without me. I waved them go and as soon as they were out of sight, headed home on my own terms.

Lessons learned:

– Despite the drama, at the end of the day I rode about 110km without too much discomfort
– I am not a roadie – don’t mix with roadies
– Don’t do group rides unless you are riding with friends you know are going to ride at your pace, and not just say they will
– I can ride 28km/h uphill – whoa!

MEC Century

Ready to roll

MEC ride was everything opposite of Ralpha. Chris and I started at the lovely Carp Fairgrounds and Luisa joined us in Appleton for the second 50km.


The weather was nice, the route easy, many other riders were at the same or slower pace than us so it was never just us on the road (though it was not crowded either). We even had enough energy to bike back to Kanata after the lovely dinner.

MEC Ottawa Century Ride 2015
At the finish line

Lessons learned:

– Long bike rides are great, long bike rides with friends are AMAZING!!!
– When doing an organized ride, stick with the route they’ve chosen. Prior to the day I had seriously considered returning by a different path. Indeed, Stitsville and Huntmar were blah (though not trafficy as I expected), but if we had avoided them we would have missed much of the pretty countryside.

Perth Cyclosportif


The day of the Perth Cyclosportif was a beautiful day, I did not even bother bringing my jacket, but I was working harder than usual to move the bike. I had come to expect this in the fall. The route took us through pretty cottage country with a bigger share of hills than we are used to. In retrospect, I am glad I did not look at the ride profile because I would have expected the last 20km to be easy-peasy downslope, yet this is where the head-wind hit us and Luisa and I had to switch the lead every few minutes to give us a break.

Even though this was the most difficult 100km I did this year it was also my favourite. Luisa and I were pleased that we were able to do 100km a whole hour faster than last year, even with more climbing and later on in the season. I don’t even think there were any new lessons learned except that while I am now unquestionably able to complete a 100km event, it can still give me a good run for my money.

At the rest point in Westport

Grandparents have been especially kind this year in babysitting department and I was not only able to get out and do these three events, but also a number of shorter coffee runs with friends. The outings with kids, though shorter and slower, aren’t anything to sneeze at either as Owen and Markus are getting heavy. Hauling them up the hill to the Wesley Clover Forest School off of Corkstown twice this weekend was a fun challenge.

Trip to Quitters in Stitsville earlier this summer

To close up this great season, Chris and I will, for the first time, attempt the coffeeneuring challenge. You can follow Chris’ twitter feed to check out all the great coffee places you can bike out to from Kanata.

As for next year, I would like to do the MEC Century and Perth Cyclosportif again. I would also like to attempt a longer distance, but in what form this will happen, I don’t know yet. We have been tossing around the idea of the Rideau Lakes Tour for a couple of years now, but even though I am fairly certain I can complete it now, I am not so sure I could do it without being completely miserable. In a couple of years it should be a no-brainer, right?

Laibach: The Next Generation

After ten years, I saw Laibach live again on my last day in Zagreb. Part of the performance included a set they were taking to North Korea.


Here is the review from T-Portal.

So how is Laibach doing in 2015? At first I was sceptical since half of the performers were younger than me, but then again, Laibach was always more of a collective. Though the last founding member left about ten years ago, the machine itself is still marching on across absurdity with aplomb.

Grieg’s unfinished opera

Hello Zagreb!

Whenever we go to Zagreb, there are a set of places we always visit. The lions at the Zoo are a perennial favourite.


Then there are numerous places that we have not been to before (or if we have been there, it has changed since). This year we had a good choice of new things.


Museum of Illusions was fun. We got caught on camera and were on the evening news.


We also checked out the Car Museum. I have actually been to that building, back when it was a bottle cap factory! I remember taking a few photos of kids squished together in BMW Isetta, but I can’t find them on my phone now.

My dad tried to capture a good picture of all three boys at the model railway exhibit. As if they could pose for a split second!


We checked out Da Vinci exhibit at the Velesajam (Fairgrounds). I have been to Velesajam many times over the years but it is the kind of place where you can’t see the forest for the trees. During the fair the place is teeming with people and goods and balloon stands and kitsch and pretty much anything that is flashy and loud.

This time the Velesajam was almost abandoned. There is only one obvious entrance and the Chinese Pavilion with the Da Vinci exhibition is almost on the other side of the complex. We wondered through the empty streets littered with fine attempts at large scale architecture from the second part of the 20th Century. And no, despite whimsical, or even stylish designs, concrete does not age well.


After seeing the exhibit, we decided to look for another entrance and effectively got lost in this proto big box mall. Here is a photo of my grandmother and my dad at the beginning of Velesajam some sixty years ago. Obviously, my kids did not invent utter indifference to looking at the camera while being photographed.

1952 scan0010

Eventually we ran into what looked like a Goth paintball field but turned out to be a movie set about war-torn Sarajevo (as we concluded when we saw a battered road sign pointing to Sljeme but calling it Jahorina). At this point I had to explain to Trevor why they are building a movie set instead of using computer graphics. Sigh.

Finally, another place we got to check out this year is the administrative side of the Zoo when we would drop off Trevor for his summer camp.


The Zoo has been well taken care of and the new additions are quite effective.

Film: Moonlight Kingdom

Trev and I spent the day downtown on Thursday. He had a doctor’s appointment in one of the skyscrapers and then we met up with Maria to eat street food. Trevor went for a burger and Maria and I got sticky buns. We run into Nona and Nada and later Trevor got to chase some ducks that stubbornly decided to live in the Confederation Park fountain. After a nice walk down Elgin street we said bye to Maria and headed off to the Nature Museum to see “Animal Inside Out”.

I feel ambivalent about nature museums in general. Despite the creepiness, I can’t object to taxidermy, I think displaying the animals as close to the real thing makes sense and the museums themselves would lose much of its richness had they resorted to papier-mâché versions of the real thing. I still find it eerie that the objects are kept in some sort of pre-decomposition stasis for such a long time. Plastination resolves the decay issues but is like taxidermy on speed; interest and creepiness both amplified to 11. OMG, a Cerebus!!! No, it is just a camel with its head split open into three…

After we finished the exhibit, Trevor wanted to stay and see all the other parts of the museum which took us to supper time. There were two restaurants on Bank street I have been wanting to visit for a while, so I arraigned with Chris to meet us at the Korean place with the rest of the crew. We rarely go to restaurants any more (other than quick lunches on workdays) so going as a family was an event in itself. The boys ended up eating Chris’ meal, Chris ate Trevor’s dish, I ate the boys’ soup, Owen cried until we ordered him tofu salad and then ate tree forkfuls of it because that’s all he ever wanted, the waitress was spoon-feeding Markus and so on. Surprisingly enough the outing was not a complete disaster.

Now I am sorry I did not take pictures of the day, but it is something that I very rarely do anyway. When I am doing something with the kids I tend to not want to distract myself with the camera, besides, Chris is the designated photographer. It was nice to spend the day with Trev. There have been a number of challenges in school and Chris and I have been racking our brains trying to make the best decisions. It is hard to understand why there is so much of head butting at school when at home he is as easy going as eight year olds come.

Film: Only lovers left alive

I am going to declare the 30×30 challenge a success. Sure, you can nitpick my definition of nature, but I counted any outdoors time that did not involve a parking lot or March Road. I counted March Road if it rained.


Some days getting the 30 minutes was a struggle. Chris and I dealt with it by making it a habit to go into the yard to sit for a few minutes before going to bed. I hope to keep this habit now that the challenge is over.

Even though our garden is a weedy neglected mess, it always surprises me how beautiful plants can be.


Irises and Heucheras are some of my favourites. I look forward to their beautiful flowers every year,.