Mercoledi Musicale

Many of the opera singers I grew up listening to on the Met broadcasts and eventually saw in various opera houses around the world have joined the roster of the angelic choir.  Some had long retired but others were still in their prime.  I think particularly of my darling Daniela Dessì, Lucia Popp, Arlene Auger, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, and Jonan Botha – just to name a few who were taken from the stage too early by cancer.  This morning the name of the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky was added to that list.

I only saw him perform live on one occasion – Il Trovatore at the Arena in Verona; he was very much the go-to-Verdi-baritone of the era.  However I never really thought that he was most comfortable in that fach – the velvet was there, the power was there, the drama was there, but somehow it didn’t always mesh.  He seemed most home in the music of his homeland – his Eugene Onegin was unsurpassed and his Prince Yeletsky in Pique Dame made you wonder what the hell Lisa was thinking in rejecting him.

In 2015 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and cancelled performances while he was receiving treatment.  He reappeared at the Met in September of that year and continued to give recitals.  I thought that this excerpt from Songs of the War Years, a concert programme he gave in Moscow and St Petersburg in September of 2016 would be a fitting tribute to this great singer.

Zhuravli (Cranes) is based on a poem by the Dagestani poet Rasul Gamzatov and set to music by composer Yan Abramovich Frenkel.  For Russians it has become a symbol of the soldiers lost in the Second World War.  A more complete history can be found here.

Rest in Peace –Покойся с миром

On this day in 1837: Canadian journalist and politician William Lyon Mackenzie calls for a rebellion against the United Kingdom in his essay “To the People of Upper Canada”, published in his newspaper The Constitution.

Lunedi Lunacy

One of the problems with political satire these days is that it is often indistinguishable from what passes for the truth.  I’ve been watching bits and pieces of Tracey Breaks the News on BBC One and though the satire is very UK/Euro-centric (go figure!) her impersonations are spot on and often very close to the bone.

And here’s that teenage boy whose voice is breaking – the ever fun loving Theresa May.

And then there’s everyone’s favourite celebrity champion of the worker – Jez Corbyn.

Though she may not be everyone’s cuppa, I still find she’s pretty damned good at taking the mickey.

On this day in 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis ends: In response to the Soviet Union agreeing to remove its missiles from Cuba, U.S. President John F. Kennedy ends the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.


Ein bisschen Volkskunst – A Baroque Procession

While compiling the little slideshow of the Jubilee Cook Book I came across another slideshow I had created in 2011 after a visit to Innsbruck and it’s wonderful Museum of Folk Art. Innsbruck was a city of many surprises and treasures that it was always a joy to stop in on our way to and from Salzburg.

Willy Or Won't He

Often when I am in a museum I find myself by-passing something that is a “major” attraction to focus on a more obscure work.  Last month’s visit to the Tiroler Volkskunst Museum was no exception.  They have so many wonderful pieces on display but for some reason one relatively small work caught my attention.

In 1772 in the market town of Tefls – about 40 kms from Innsbruck – the Confraternity of the Scapular celebrated the centenary of the society’s founding in the region.   Though the Vision of the Virgin to Saint Simon Stock is reputed to have happened on July 16, 1251 the laity were not granted the wearing of the miraculous garb until the 1500s. Confraternities sprang up throughout Europe as the pious vowed to faithfully pray to the Madonna and received the small pieces of brown cloth with the promise of salvation that the Virgin had pronounced…

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Valuable Recipes

Personally Tested and Vouched for by the Ladies whose names appear under the Recipes.

With that reassurance and trusting completely the good members of the Ladies Aid Society of Charlottetown’s First Methodist Church I purchased their Jubilee cookbook.

Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,September 1877 – twenty years before they published their fine cookery book.

It was one of the many items at the Christmas Craft Fair at the Sir Andrew MacPhail Homestead. Both Laurent and I have written about this lovely heritage site near Orwell and always enjoy both the drive out there and the grounds themselves. The Christmas Fair was a fine display of Island home businesses: stolen made by a charming German couple who have recently moved here; works by an 81 year old water-colourist who was born and lived near Orwell all his life; winter wear from a nearby alpaca farm; comforting blankets and throws from a local wool mill; and a gentleman selling Christmas pudding from a recipe his grandmother used during rationing in the first world war.

After a light lunch of homemade turkey soup and cheese scones we left with one of those plum puddings, a lovely watercolour, and a facsimile copy of the ladies’ recipes for all manner of delicious cakes, cookies, salads and sundries.

Almost as much fun as the recipes (I noticed that no temperatures are given as a good housewife knows if the oven of her wood stove should be fast or slow) are the advertisements.  Everything from dentistry, to undertaker, to that stove, and possibly the coal to fire it.  Some are amusing in their (to our eyes) naivety, others could well be written by today’s advertisers.  Though I think the one that takes the cake (not Mrs G. D. Wright’s Porcupine Cake!) is the final one from Bright New Bakery and Grocery at the corner of Great George and Euston.  Proprietor L. C. Wright tells the purchaser that:


Not exactly a roaring endorsement of the culinary artistry of the ladies of First Methodist but business is business.  I photographed (rather clumsily but I didn’t want to break the spine of the book) a few of the 72 pages – 50 of which are devoted to advertisements – and put them together as a slide show.  A left click on the cover will take you to the Flikr page and the slide show will start automatically.  Should you wish to stop it and go from page to page the controls are the bottom left (▮▮  ▶ ).


I’ve decided that I will try Mrs. W. Weeks Jr’s recipe for lobster croquettes as indeed it would make a fine luncheon or dinner entree.


I’ll let you know how it turned out.

On this day in 1886:  Friedrich Soennecken first developed the hole puncher, a type of office tool capable of punching small holes in paper.

Lunedi Lunacy

Perhaps NSFW depending on where or if you work and what country you live in.

I was surprised to see that YouTube put an “adult warning” on this but then we must remember the children! Anyway poor David – I’ve seen him on aprons, in miniature(?) on coffee tables, in bedroom niches (don’t ask!) on posters, and in the flesh, as it were. And frankly I was always aware of his short comings but it is all a matter of perspective!

On this day in 1002:  English king Æthelred II orders the killing of all Danes in England, known today as the St. Brice’s Day massacre.