Sunday, March 1, 2009

Haute couture

Every once in a while it's good to step out of one's comfort zone and try a little something different. While I am involved in the arts, it doesn't mean that every type of artistic endeavor appeals to me. Take opera, for example. While there are many forms of classical music I do enjoy, opera is something I can take or leave. I think it depends on which form of opera I am confronted with at the time. Wagner, for example, makes me want to open a vein. Mozart on the other hand, can be truly delightful. Every once in a while however, I come across something new that for some reason, makes me stand up and take notice. In this case, I got to experience a magnificent piece of work firsthand.

Mrs. Nighttime sings (mezzo-soprano) with a local 45 voice chorale group, the Gregory Kunde Chorale. Who is Gregory Kunde, you may ask? He is an internationally recognized bel canto tenor, and has sung in most, if not all, of the major opera houses in the world. He is ranked in the same league as Pavarotti, Domingo, Carreras, et. al. He actually understudied for Pavarotti in the past. While not a household name here in the U.S., Kunde has a large following in Europe.

He is also, a resident of the Rochester area. The man could live anywhere, and he chooses to live right here.

As a working musician, he travels around the world frequently, and as fate would have it, this past Saturday found him in Toronto, a mere 2 1/2 hours from Rochester. He was singing "The Damnation of Faust," by Berlioz at Roy Thomson Hall, with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Several members of the chorale decided to make a suicide run (back and forth in the same night, rather than staying overnight) and we hopped along for the ride. As it was a Saturday, the ride across the Peace Bridge from Buffalo to Ft. Erie was uneventful, and even the border guard was pleasant. We got into Toronto at 6 pm, and with the show not until 8, we stopped into the Elephant and Castle across the street from the hall for dinner (We already bought the tickets prior.).

The concert itself was magnificent, the acoustics in the hall were perfect, and we got to see Greg while he was "working." While he often does some solo signing with the chorale, it is quite another thing to see him in action, and what a magnificent voice he possesses. You can get a sample here, and here. Afterward, as we were invited guests, we went back to his dressing room to congratulate him, as well as the others with whom he was singing. Ah, but the night was not over.

Greg invited us to go out with him to Le Select Bistro, a wonderful French bistro off of Spadina Ave. I cannot even begin to describe how perfect the food was in this place. Greg's comment was "You're in France when you eat here." As he has been to France so many times, we took him at his word. He did not disappoint. While we had already eaten dinner, we decided a nice dessert and coffee would top off the evening. I chose the chocolate gateaux with passion fruit sorbet, and fresh blackberries.

Mrs. Nighttime had the creme brulee, and both were done to perfection. This was washed down with Spanish coffee with a liqueur whose name escapes me. Greg had a risotto dish that he passed around for all to try, and it was incredible. After much food and talk, it was time to leave, as it was almost 1 am. Greg was grateful that we made the trip to see him, and we thanked him for the meal, as he picked up the tab.

We made it back to Rochester at 4 am, exhausted, but satisfied with such a great evening. It's a rare treat, but I have bookmarked that bistro, and will find a way to get back there for a full dinner.


VioletSky said...

You were in a 'select' crowd! I have never eaten there, but it is well reknown for its food and patrons!

Every now and then a voice can transform almost any form of music into a slice of heaven.

Peter said...

A truly delightful experience.

I had no idea Mrs. Nighttime sings with the Gregory Kunde Chorale, a name that sure rings a bell in Europe. I had no idea he lived in Rochester either.

Greg sure knows his world when picking out a restaurant:
the dishes you enjoyed look/sound superb.

Your post triggered the idea to elaborate on food in Belgium, which is an often surprising mix of French/Dutch cuisine
(well, some claim the Dutch don't have an authentic gastronomical heritage, but they actually did import much from their former colonies in Asia)

Mr. Nighttime said...

VS - You know, I was thinking of you the whole time we were there. Maybe next time we can find a way to meet face-to-face. Yeah, it's obvious Le Select has a reputation, and it is well deserved. I was in food heaven.

Peter - I thought I might I mentioned that to you, that she sings with them? Oh well. In any case, I was under the impression that Dutch "cuisine" makes British "cuisine" seem positively worldly... ;-)

Mr. Nighttime said...

Oh, I forgot to mention, that for all the upper crusty crowd Greg hangs in, he is about as down-to-earth as it gets. I mean, this was a guy that fell into singing. He was originally going to college for chorale conducting, and was a keyboardist in a rock band before being hit by the singing bug. He also arranged horn parts for him. I got into a discussion a few months back about what makes a good rock musician, and he agreed with me that the best one have some form of musical training, Freddie Mercury as an example.

Guyana-Gyal said...

The good life. I so enjoy reading about people having fun, instead of feeling envious, it makes me happy.

I've never seen an opera [or ballet] live, though I have heard singers on CD's, tv, movies. I think I would like it Oh, I've heard someone else say the same about Wagner too, haha.

VioletSky said...

Blogger wouldn't let me back in to leave a message yesterday - anyway, it would be fun to meet up, we'll have to plan something.

Jay said...

That does sound like a wonderful evening! And the food sounds quite delightful, too.

Actually, having listened to Greg Kunde, I like his voice better than Pavarotti's. And I'm with you on opera. Wagner, ach, nein! Mozart, bring it on!