Speelklok, Utrecht, The Netherlands


We watch as a terrifying bunny pops out of a cabbage and menacingly wiggles his ears. The rabbit is ancient, mangy, a child’s toy from France at the turn of the last century. We are standing in Utrecht’s “Speelklok” museum, a museum all about organs, and it is oddly fascinating. In fact, it is so intriguing that we can easily call it one of the best museums we have ever visited. Read More »

Albi, France


The small city of Albi in the Tarn region of southern France is not at the top of anyone’s France itinerary, which is a mistake. There is the imposing Southern Gothic cathedral of Saint-Cecile, the largest brick structure in the world, and its painted interior. It is one of the most magnificent churches we have seen throughout our travels with its eerie painting of the Last Judgment above its nave, naked bodies descending into hell Read More »

Madame Butterfly

According to my mother, when I was little I used sing outloud all of the time the actions that I was doing. Observing other children, I am thankful to have realized that most children do this, and my oddity was not unique. Only, perhaps, I have not fully grown out of this habit: I have been told too often to write down my thoughts because I am “narrating.” While such a comment is really telling me to shut up, I does demonstrate that I still enjoy narrating the mundane aspects of my life. This is why I think that opera may be one of the best artistic passions for me to develop.

In English novelist Terry Pratchett’s Maskerade, a character notes that

The Departure Aria, a very important and romantic song – 
This damn door sticks,
This damn door sticks
It sticks no matter what I do.
It is marked ‘pull’ and indeed I am pulling
Perhaps it should be marked ‘push’

Of course, my own opera would be something like

Today I’ll do some yoga.
Oh, yes, I’ll do some yoga.
My yoga mat is wrinkly.
Maybe I’ll just savasana.
Where is my lavender-scented warm towel?

The Frenchman does not necessarily like opera (or yoga) but he will at least accompany me to as many operas as I like for he, too, yearns to be more cultured and able to thoughtfully participate in what are currently one-sided discussions with his opera-adoring grand-mère. Sometimes, as happened during our trip to the Staatsoper in Vienna, he falls asleep during the aria. Sometimes, I do too.

The Staatsoper or “State Opera House” was built in the late 1800s as the court opera house for the end of the Habsburg Empire. Though badly damaged by bombing by the Allied troops in 1945, the opera house remains one of the most beautiful in the world. Its main staircase, lined with statutes, is particularly beautiful.

Determined that while in Vienna for “wife’s choice” anniversary month weekend we would be as cultured as possible we chose to attend a performance of Madame Butterfly at the Staatsoper. Unfortunately, we also chose the “limited view” seats with the attractive price tag of 11 euros; in reality, this cleaver marketing scheme actually meant no view. This only contributed to the aforementioned nap.

The performance to see in Vienna is of Motzart’s Don Giovanni. Given that the opera was written for and originally performed in the Estates Theater in Prague, we have chosen to attend that opera here. The seats are better (when the stage is viewable) and the tale of the womanizing Giovanni more comic and entertaining than the tragic tale of Madame Butterfly as she waits, abandoned, for her lover to return. Naturally, I shall narrate the success of that cultural adventure here.

We are going to the opera. To the opera.
To hear the ladies signing.
Will we see the stage or be in standing room only?
Oh where is the bathroom? I cannot go because they will lock me out. No, I cannot go.
Too much champagne during intermission.

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