Karyl Charna Lynn
The Opera Critic

Parma, Italy

Club dei 27

For those of you still suffering withdrawal symptoms from the plethora of celebrations last year in honor of Verdi’s bicentennial, the perfect panacea is a visit to the Club dei 27, so named for the 27 operas which Verdi composed.  Located in Parma, the Italian city which adopted Verdi as their native son, the Club has only 27 members, each member named after one of Verdi’s operas. And it is only with the death of a member, that a new member can join this exclusive club. The members come from all walks of life, but the one thing they all have in common is their love for Verdi.

The Club was born in 1958 as the Gruppa Appassionati Verdiani Grotta Mafalda (Group Passionate of Verdi in the Mafalda Grotto, the name of the location of its original headquarters. Soon the name was shortened to  Gruppa Appassionati Verdiani and finally Gruppa Appassionati Verdiani-Club dei 27. Every Thursday evening the members gather in their current headquarters in the Casa della Musica (House of Music) to listen and discuss music and receive guests and friends who share the same ideals. October 10 and January 27 are special dates, the birth and death of Verdi , and the club gathers at the Casa Natale del Maestro –the house Verdi was born—in Roncole, to place 27 red roses on the anniversary of this birth, and a wreath to commemorate his death. On the same days, the Club gathers before the monument dedicated to Verdi in Parma, near the Teatro Regio, to hold a ceremony in the presence of the local and regional politicians, and the Parma musical associations.  The Club itself is filled with every type of pictures, statue, memento, book, manuscript of Verdi. The most moving event (at least for me) was the dimming of the lights before the evening meal, when all the members and guests join together, sining Va, Pensiero, (the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves from Nabucco), the quintessential music of every Verdi lover. One can’t help but feel chills run down your spine if you are a true appassionati of Verdi. To conclude the month of October of celebrations in honor of the 200th anniversary of the maestro’s birth, the Club dei 27 arranged a spectacular gala concert called Fuoco di Gioia (Fire of Joy) at the Teatro Regio di Parma in which local and regional Verdian singers were featured singing Verdi favorites.

Casa della Musica – P.le San Francisco, 1 – 43100 Parma

Tel: 33 0521.289514

www.clubdei27.com – info@clubdei27.com


Visiting Anchorage 

 Venue: The Anchorage Opera performs in the 700-seat Discovery Theatre, one of  three venues which occupy The Alaska Center for the Performing Arts (ACPA) www.myalaskacenter.com. Built by Hardy, Holzman, and Pfieffer during the Alaskan oil boom of the 1980s, and located in the heart of downtown Anchorage adjacent to Town Square Park, the $70 million complex, a fusion of an  assortment of  rectangular shapes and sizes, opened in 1989.  The design concept for the ACPA was to bring a warm, lush “outdoor environment” inside. The multi-level lobby, decorated in hues of sea green and salmon pink, boasts rows of dark green pillars with strips of light, recalling towering trees in a forest that soar to the A-shaped ceiling where the supports mimic tree branches. The carpet design Alaskan Poppies, by local artist Taylor Stonington, swirls with spring colors of reds, oranges, yellows, and greens. In 1975, the Alaskan State Legislature passed a Percent for Art in Public Places Statute requiring the purchase of art up to one percent of the capital construction costs, which resulted in a colorful collection of native art on the foyer walls in the ACPA, including Moon by Al Kaloke. The semi-circular shaped auditorium of the Discovery Theatre is characterized by long sweeping curves and circular shapes. White parapets trimmed with beige and dark wood  roll around the hall like waves onto the shore. An array of silvery, saucer-shaped acoustic discs hangs from the ceiling. Of note is the seat fabric, called Salmonberry, created by local artist Paula Dickey which adds to the overall effect with a palette of rose and forest green. With only 700-seats, the theater is cozy, yet gives the feel of a large house, making it an ideal opera venue. The company offers one production in the 2,000-seat Evangeline Atwood Concert Hall whose ceiling was inspired by the aurora borealis. 

Ticket prices: Prices range from $25 - $105

Refreshments: On the upper lobby level, sandwiches, brownies, cookies are for sale from $6-$3, along with champagne, wine, beer, water, and sodas from $9-$2.  


Overnight: The Hotel Captain Cook www.captain.cook.com offers centrally located, comfortable accommodations, overlooking Anchorage and the mountains, only a few blocks from the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.


Discovering Anchorage

Dining Tips: Dining with the Anchorage ‘in-crowd’ where reservations are a must: Simon & Seafort's Saloon & Grill, www.simonandseaforts.com offers great fish dishes and breathtaking views; Sack’s Café, www.sackscafe.com offers gourmet dishes in a quiet atmosphere;  Orso, www.orsoalaska.com, gives a taste of Italy in Anchorage; Crush Wine Bistro & Cellar www.crushak.com, is ideal for a quick bite before the opera. A great lunch place is Muse, in the Anchorage Museum www.marxcafe.com. Another possibility is the Hilton Anchorage Hotel. For breakfast try The Pantry at Hotel Captain Cook or Copper Whale Inn, www.copperwhale.com  Snow City Café www.snowcity.com, is a popular  breakfast spot, but very crowded and noisy. 


Sightseeing tips: The Anchorage Museum 

www.anchoragemuseum.org is a must. There is a special connection between the Anchorage Museum and the Anchorage Opera with opera rehearsals taking place in the atrium, a large public museum space, for visitors to watch. The museum also offers an opera restaurant package with a themed dinner  in the Muse restaurant,  matching the opera. Last season it was a Spanish-flavor for Carmen. During July, a tent is set up in front of the museum for outdoor opera performances. Alaska Native Heritage Center www.alaskanative.net  is an excellent place to learn about the indigenous population and see native art work. For a special treat, drive out to the Alyeska Resort www.alyeskaresort.com for the day. It’s around an hour from Anchorage. For breathtaking views, take a tram ride to the top of the mountain and have lunch at the Seven Glaciers Restaurant. With an extensive menu, and wine and champagne bar, it’s a gourmet’s delight. Afterwards, schedule a few Spa Activities before returning to Anchorage or rent skis for a run down the mountain.  For scenic walks and hikes, try the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Westchester Lagoon, and Captain Cook Monument and overlook.


Suggested reading: The Alaska Almanac: Facts about Alaska,  Alaska Northwest Books. Alasks’a History, Harry Ritter, Alaska Northwest Books.  Expanded View: New Wing of the Anchorage Museum, Julie Decker, Princeton Architectural Press. A beautiful coffee table book is  Anchorage Living the Big Wild Life, Clark James Mishler, Yes Alaska Press. To learn about Alyeska resort, Alaska’s Perfect Mountain: Stories from Girdwood and The Alyeska Resort, Johnson/Branden, Epicenter Press.



Musher Races in Anchorage

New Orleans Guide – Relive its opera history and rub shoulders with the visiting divos and divas


Venue (s): The company=s home is the 2,316-seat Mahalia Jackson Theatre for the Performaning Arts, located across the street from the French Quarter and adjacent to the company’s previous home, the Municipal Auditorium. Designed by William Bergman and constructed in beige aggregate stone, the venue was inaugurated on January 9, 1973, with Verdi=s Requiem, featuring Norman Treigle and Johanna Meier. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina left 14 feet of water in building, necessitating a major, and much needed renovation which cost $23 million and took three years. The theater reopened on January 17, 2009, with a gala concert. (ON March/April 2009). Rising like a phoenix in the middle of Louis Armstrong Park, the structure allows the park’s greenery to fuse with the lobby’s purple and gold décor through its sweeping glass façade, recreating the Mardi Gras color scheme. The lobby’s focal point, an enormous crystal chandelier, has multi-colored LED lighting. The fan-shaped auditorium with its single, large balcony kept the Mardi Gras theme, with a golden stage curtain and plain lavender proscenium arch. The walls are zig-zag for better acoustics, embellished only by taupe stripes with dark wood borders.  Of note is the upward slope of the front of the balcony, which mitigates the dead sound often present in the seats under the overhang. 


The company also offers Opera on Tap performances at two  New Orleans bars: Rusty Nail www.therustynail.biz, Puccini Bar www.innonbourbon.com, and on a Natchez River Boat cruise www.steamboatnatchez.com.


Ticket prices:  $265 center boxes (price includes mandatory donation), $140 side boxes, $120 – $100 orchestra, $94-$64 parquet, $126–$79 lower balcony, $40-20 upper balcony.

Refreshments: at the bars on the main and upper levels: champagne, wine, liquor, cocktails, and beer $9-$5, water, soda, snacks $4-$3.


Overnight: Relive a little of New Orleans opera history and stay at the Inn on Bourbon, 541 Bourbon Street; www.innonbourbon.com. Built on the site of the former French Opera House (1859-1919) the Inn is in the heart of the French Quarter. Historic photos of the opera house on the lobby walls and the indentation on Bourbon Street leading to the hotel’s entrance, where fancy carriages of the Creole aristocrats parked, are reminders of the site’s history.  


Opera house shop: On lowest theater level, tables are set up offering NOO hats, t-shirts, aprons, and posters. There is also a limited selection of CD’s and books.


The other historic opera site: Although the Orleans Theater burned in 1866, the Orleans Ballroom, which was connected to the theater survived. It was restored to its original grandeur and incorporated into the Bourbon Orleans Hotel, 717 Orleans Street; www.bourbon.orleans.com


Dining guide: For an unforgettable dining experience, go to Arnaud’s, 813 Bienville Street. www.arnauds.com, Begin in the French 75 Bar (one of the best in New Orleans) with the French 75 cocktail, the signature cocktail; then proceed to the dining room for dinner, the duck is especially exquisite, and end with a café Brulot, magnificently prepared and flavored at your table. Special tip: after dinner, request a tour of their Mardi Gras Museum, filled with gorgeous gowns, and learn about the place’s history.


Lunch at Ralph’s on the Park, 900 City Park Avenue, www.ralphsonthepark.com is a must when visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) or New Orleans’s famous cemeteries. Take the Canal Streetcar line or a taxi. Reserve a table overlooking the park. Begin with the Blue Bellini, the signature cocktail. Follow with one of their fish dishes. Special tip: Ralph’s also runs the concession at the NOMA, perfect for afternoon tea.


For the special occasion dinner visit Brennan’s, 417 Royal Street; www.brennansneworleans.com Reserve a courtyard table, weather permitting. Begin with a Mr. Funk of New Orleans, the signature cocktail. The turtle soup and veal dishes are outstanding, accompanied by Pouilly Fuisse, Louis Jadot. Special tip: The table d’hôte is the best deal.


For a casual lunch or afternoon cocktail in the French Quarter, stop at Bistreaux, in the Maision Dupuy Hotel, 1001 Toulouse Street, www.maisondupuy.com. Begin with a Maison Dupuy, the signature cocktail. The crawfish is superb. Special tip: it’s a great place to unwind after shopping or sightseeing in the Quarter.


For a taste of Creole dining, try Muriel’s Jackson Square, 801 Chartres Street, www.muriels.com, conveniently located near the waterfront. Special tip: stop by the square’s street vendors after dining.


For Sunday brunch, Court of Two Sisters, 613 Royal Street, www.courtoftwosisters.com is the place to go. Served buffet style, there are numerous selections. Special tip: reserve a table in the courtyard, weather permitting, or the back room, to hear the jazz band.


To hear opera arias while you dine, visit Café Giovanni, 117 Decatur Street, www.cafegiovanni.com.  The shrimp dishes are very tasty. Special tip: Try Giovanni’s unique cocktails.


The oldest restaurant in the Quarter is Antoine’s, 713 S. Louis Street, www.antoines.com. The three course luncheon special is a great deal. Special tip: After lunch, request a tour of the establishment and the historic photos.


Don’t miss: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, 726 St. Peter Street, www.preservationhall.com, for authentic New Orleans Dixieland sounds. Irvin Mayfield’s Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel, 300 Bourbon Street, www.sonesta.com  for modern jazz. Note: It’s actually a cocktail lounge. Be sure to browse Julia and Royal Street galleries, and explore the St. Charles Avenue mansions. Contact New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 2020 St. Charles Street, www.neworleanscvb.com for a French Quarter Self-Guided Walking Tour brochure and further information.


Agam sculpture by Mississippi River in New Orleans

Bust of Verdi at Club dei 27

Verdi memorabilia at Club dei 27

Verdi conducting at CLub dei 27

Etching of Verdi at Club dei 27

Program cover Fuoco di Gioia

Exterior Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

Auditorium of Discovery Theater in the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts

View of Alaska Center for the Performing Arts from Hotel Captain Cook
View of mountains from Seven Glaciers Restaurant at Alyeska Resort
Skiing at Alyeska Resort
View from the Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts 
Foyer of the Mahalia Jackson Center for the Performing Arts

Opera House auditorium in the Mahalia Jackson Center

French Quarter New Orleans

New Orleans dining scene

Rex float for Mardi Gras 2011

Rex float for Mardi gras 2011
Boat on the Mississippi River at New Orleans
Rex float for Mardi Gras 2011