This week's New Yorker has a long ode to my second-favorite spirit:
Gin is on the rise and on the loose. It has gone forth and multiplied. Forget rising sea levels; given the sudden ascendancy of gin, the polar gin caps must be melting fast. Torn between a Tommyrotter and a Cathouse Pink? Can’t tell the difference between a Spirit Hound and an Ugly Dog? No problem. There are now gins of every shade, for every social occasion, and from every time zone. The contagion is global, and I have stumbled across gins from Japan, Australia, Italy, and Colombia. Finland brings us the uncompromising Bog Gin. I have yet to taste Dragash, which emanates from a mountainous region of Kosovo, but, if it proves to be anything but wolfish, I shall be disappointed. Visitors to Thailand, or lovers of ginseng, will surely enjoy a nip of Iron Balls.
By any reckoning, the spread of gin has been a freakish phenomenon. (I have seen it described as a “Ginaissance.” Anybody heard using this word should, of course, be banned from public bars in perpetuity.) When, where, and why it began is hard to pinpoint; Federico, at the Savoy, puts the cart before the horse and contends that the founding of Fever-Tree tonic, in 2004, drove the headlong return of gin to the market. What’s inarguable is that the outbreak has occurred since the turn of the millennium. One devout Web site, theginisin.com, which lists three hundred and eight American gins, refers to Death’s Door, a fine Wisconsin brand, as “an old kid on the block,” since it harks all the way back to the mists of 2006.
The article goes on at some length on the history and future of gin, as well as where to go to make your own. Next London trip, I'll stop in to the 58 Gin Distillery and make my own for 99 quid.
I hate taking sick days, I really do. Fortunately, the Internet never takes one:
I'm now going to try to do a couple of hours of work, but really, I just want to go back to sleep.
Somehow, it's December again: winter in the northern hemisphere. Another 8 weeks of sunsets before 5pm, sunrises after 7am, and cold gray skies. At least it builds character.
For me, it also means two weeks of non-stop Händel. Rehearsals tomorrow, Thursday, next Monday, and next Wednesday; performances Tuesday, Friday, and on the 14th and 15th.
Two of those won't be Apollo performances per se. On Tuesday a few of us will visit a local retirement community and help out with their annual sing-a-long of Part 1. We go every year and apparently they keep asking us to come back. Then on Friday, some of us are volunteering for a local church's performance of Parts 1 and 2, another event they keep asking us to come back for. We must be doing something right. (Not to mention, this will be our 140th year doing Messiah, so we've had some practice.)
The New York Times Canada Letter today lead with a story about how local regulation in Montreal threatens a culinary tradition:
[Irwin Shlafman and Joe Morena] are competitors in the business of Montreal bagels, which have a distinctive flavor from being boiled in honey-infused water before being baked in a wood-burning oven.
These days, however, Mr. Shlafman and Mr. Morena are united against a common threat — environmentalists who want to abolish the pollutant-producing ovens where the bagels are made.
The battle heated up late last year when rumors began to circulate that a City Hall official was planning to ban the ovens, which emit fine particles that can aggravate respiratory ailments like asthma. Angry neighbors had complained to the city and some were boycotting the vaunted bagel shops.
Coming to the defense of the bagels were fans who treasure the carb-heavy snack as an essential part of the city’s Jewish history and social fabric.
Montreal bagels have become a global culinary emblem of the city, alongside smoked meat and poutine, and are doughy unifiers in a majority French-speaking province buffeted by identity politics.
Next time I'm in Montreal I hope to try these wood-fired bagels. If they're still available.
As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:
More work to do now.
On Sunday, Pitchfork revisited Aimee Mann's third solo album, which she recorded 20 years ago:
The best song on the album, and the one that most thoroughly embodies its wary, bruised point of view, is “Deathly.” Warmed up by whispered backing vocals from [Jon] Brion and Juliana Hatfield, it’s a preemptive rejection from someone who’s been hurt too many times to risk heartbreak again. “Don’t pick on me/When one act of kindness could be deathly,” Mann pleads, her emphatic down-strums and simple rhyme scheme inviting a cathartic sing-along. She repeats the brief but evocative title so many times, it finally morphs into a word that’s even more devastating by virtue of its finality: “definitely.” Because she chooses her maximalist moments carefully on Bachelor No. 2, the song’s stratospheric, almost overblown minute-long instrumental outro lends an epic scale to what amounts to Mann’s refusal to keep experiencing emotions.
It was “Deathly” that inspired Anderson to complete the circle of inspiration, making Mann’s music the centerpiece of his 1999 film Magnolia. It makes up the bulk of the soundtrack, alongside a score from Brion (whose history with Anderson dated back to the director’s 1996 debut Hard Eight, on which he collaborated with Mann’s husband, composer Michael Penn). Unfolding over a night punctuated by violent L.A. rain—and culminating in a biblical cloudburst of bullfrogs—Magnolia follows an intersecting cast of lonely, angry, wounded and regretful characters.
In one scene, an abuse survivor and addict named Claudia (Melora Walters) abruptly ends what looked to be a promising first date with a kind, embattled police officer (John C. Reilly) by speaking the opening salvo of “Deathly”: “Now that I’ve met you, would you object to never seeing each other again?” (“I heard that line and wrote backwards,” Anderson recalled in an introduction to the shooting script. “This ‘original’ screenplay could, for all intents and purposes, be called an adaption of Aimee Mann songs.”)
I think I'll have to put the album on after my conference call.
Chicago Classical Review attended our performance of Everest and Aleko this weekend:
There are a myriad of reasons why an operatic adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air should not work. And yet it does. Composer [Joby] Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer have crafted a compelling 70-minute opera adapted form Krakauer’s nonfiction book about the disastrous 1996 Everest expedition in which eight people died.
Scheer wisely narrows the scope to three mountaineers, alternating their increasingly desperate situation on the South Summit with communications with their concerned loved ones and the base camp. The large vocal ensemble in back acts as a kind of Greek Chorus, questioning the men, offering philosophical observations, and commenting on the climbers’ actions, and the fates of the many who have died attempting to reach the summit.
The Apollo Chorus delivered all the power, mystery and atmosphere of Talbot’s choral passages, directed by Stephen Alltop.
The Stage & Cinema blog also gave us a nice review.
Not to mention, we really enjoyed the works. And the performance. Plus, Scheer and Talbot came to the cast party afterwards.
The audience loved last night's performance of Everest and Aleko. Everest composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer attended, and I had the opportunity to meet them backstage at intermission. They both reported being overjoyed by our performance. Nice.
I discovered in researching this post that the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Everest at the Barbican on 20 June 2020. Hell yes, I'm going.
If you don't want to wait until June, you can hear us this afternoon at Harris Theater.
In about four hours, I'll be warming up for tonight's double bill of Everest and Aleko with the Chicago Opera Theater. Chicago's last remaining classical radio station, WFMT, went to our rehearsal on Monday (when I was in London, unfortunately for me):
n this staging, both works employ a large chorus made up of over 100 members, including members of Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Their function, Yankovskaya explains, is akin to a Greek Chorus: "In Everest, the chorus serves as the voice of the mountain often or the voice of the people of the past who have climbed the mountain. In Aleko, likewise, the chorus is often commenting on the surroundings and creating an atmosphere."
In the piece "The lights have gone out" from Aleko, the chorus "creates a sense of time and place," Yankovskaya shares. "The lights have all gone out in the Roma tents. The travelers are going to sleep, and the two lovers, Zemfira and the Young Gypsy, are about to come out and have their duet. But before that happens, we hear this setting created by the chorus."
WFMT posted video from the rehearsal.
You want tickets? We got tickets. PM me for a discount code.
And it's not even lunchtime yet:
- A storm has left Venice flooded under 187 cm of water, the second highest flood since records began in 1923. Four of the five largest floods in Venice history have occurred in the last 20 years; the record flood (193 cm) occurred in 1966.
- As our third impeachment inquiry in 50 years begins public hearings, Josh Marshall explains what the Democrats have to prove.
- Yoni Appelbaum wonders if the country can hold together. He's not optimistic.
- Via Bruce Schneier, the NTSB has released a report on the autonomous car accident in 2018 that killed Elaine Herzberg. A notable detail: "Police investigators later established that the driver had likely been streaming a television show on her personal smartphone."
- Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel lists his 50 favorite restaurants in the area. I have a mission.
And you should see Sir Rod Stewart's model railroad. Jaw-dropping.