Sunday, July 26, 2009

V is for Verbier

Welcome back Dear Readers.

Sorry to have been away for so long.

Work has been keeping me extra busy

and I have been missing you all

while many interesting events have been carrying on.

Every year around this time

I dream of heading

to Verbier.

It is there, that for around two weeks,

many of the worlds most talented classical musicians assemble

to create.

This year the Verbier Festival started on July 17

and runs until August 2, so you have a weeks worth

of concerts to attend!

Some of the artists

attending include:

Charles Dutoit
Vadim Repin
Evgeny Kissin
Thomas Quasthoff
Yuri Bashmet
Martha Argerich
Susan Graham
Emanuel Ax
Jean Yves Thibaudet
Lera Auerbach
Angela Hewitt
Joshua Bell
Kim Kashkashian...

So for any of you who are heading to Geneva or Zurich

this is a must do side trip.

Some of the concerts you can still catch:

Tomorrow night - La Nuit Des Pianistes

Tuesday night - Portrait of Lera Auerbach - Composer, Poet, Pianist

Wednesday night - Carte Blanche a Jean Yves Thibaudet

Thursday night - Quatour Ebene performs Ravel, Debussy and Faure Quartets

and Saturday you won't want to miss a rare performance of a Mahler Piano Quartet.

Apres concert fetes should be fun as well

as there are many happening clubs and restaurants.

Relais & Chateaux property Chalet d'Adrian sounds nice.

Try their

" tagliolini with truffles and roasted langoustine
or seared frogs legs with garlic and giant, stuffed
and gratineed Lumaconi and Serac tartar."

Le Restaurant Pierroz sounds great too.
Here's what Frommer's had to say about it:

"The finest food in the Valais is served at this Relais & Châteaux selection. Roland Pierroz is one of the great chefs of Switzerland; gourmets drive across national borders to sample his light cuisine moderne and regional specialties. The menu changes frequently but could include roulades of carpaccio of sea bream with tomatoes en confit; a theatrical but delicious version of fried foie gras in a beet-and-onion "cage"; red mullet soup studded with shellfish; a divine poached chicken with truffles and baby vegetables (for two); and tournedos of lamb with a mousseline of local potatoes (rattes), garlic, and crispy sauerkraut. The cheese trolley emerges with at least 35 selections, followed by desserts such as a crisp and tasty apple tart with ice cream that is celestial. The finest meal we've ever had in Switzerland was had here."

I sincerely hope to attend this Festival one year.

Hoping you'll be able to make it as well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Volume 26. New York and Miami


Senior Travel Correspondent Doug Wingate
had these postings to report from some of his recent travels.

The week after the Tony awards, I was in Manhattan again, and caught up on some of the 2009 award-winning shows I had not yet seen. Saturday afternoon, I saw one of the final performances of Ionesco's EXIT THE KING (see ), the French, "existential" (or for Eastern philosophical fans, "Vedantic") farce about the eternity of life underlying our fleetingly temporal bodies, starring Susan Sarandon -- and also Geoffrey Rush in his Tony Award-winning best actor turn. The show was delightfully madcap (supported by comic wonder Andrea Martin, and by the equally expert Lauren Ambrose, best known perhaps for her amazing turn as Claire in HBO's Alan Ball masterpiece, SIX FEET UNDER), as well as profound -- good mix in my book! Sadly, it's limited 14 week run is already done.

The next day, I saw David Hyde-Pierce (multiple Emmy and Tony award winner) in a Manahattan Theater Club revival of a depression area comedy called ACCENT ON YOUTH, about the matter of growing older (hmmmmm, a common theme here? Maybe most appropriate given the age of the average Broadway audience!)
(see ). Anyway, I think this limited run one closes on June 28, so there are maybe (depending on when one reads this) a few more chances to enjoy this comfortably charming comedy.

On Monday night, I saw NEXT TO NORMAL, new musical winner for Best Score, and also 2009 Tony Award winning Best Musical Actress Alice Ripley (see ). The musical is about the modern American dysfunctional family, including the manic-depressive mother at its heart. Doesn't sound like typical "musical" fare, and indeed is not, but it nonetheless is exciting, fast-paced, liberally sprinkled with humor (mostly of the black variety) and interesting always. For those who follow Broadway, it was directed by the acclaimed director of past hits, RENT and GREY GARDENS. I'm glad I saw it!


Saw two new shows here in Miami, at the excellent ARSHT PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
( ), overlooking Biscayne Bay, just across from SoBe over the McArthur Causeway.

One was the still-on-Broadway Argentinian "performance art" piece, FUERZA BRUTA (see ). This dynamic show may not be for all theatergoers, but it is "exciting" in a good way! Read the Times review and decide for yourself if you'd like it. I did!

The other show was part of the Arsht Center's current festival of "short plays" including the Adult-themed UNDERSHORTS, shown only at 10 PM so as to discourage bringing the kids along (see ). I think the show has actually finished its extended Miami run, and will next be seen in Ft. Lauderdale June 25-28. The shows all were fine one act comedies, some not surprisingly much more effective than others. One stand-out actor was Stephen Trovillion
(see ), an apparently sadly-underused Actors Equity, John Goodman-esque actor whose expert comic range that evening included a Jimmy Swaggart-style raunchy evangelical minister in a dominatrix tryst, a tres gay real estate broker in Sodom, and a dry-as-the-desert, jaded husband in a hilarious dinner a deux with his equally jaded wife. Look out for this guy. He's good, as in Goodman!

As always,
many thanks to Mr. Wingate
for his seasoned observations.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Singer, Spy, M. Butterfly!

Shi Pei Pu, Singer, Spy and ‘M. Butterfly,’ Dies at 70

Published: July 1, 2009

Shi Pei Pu, a Beijing opera singer and spy whose sexually convoluted love affair with a French Embassy worker created one of the strangest cases in international espionage and was the inspiration for the Broadway show “M. Butterfly,” died in Paris on Tuesday.

Associated Press

Shi Pei Pu in the mid-1960s.

His death was announced to Agence France-Presse by an aide.

Mr. Shi (pronounced Shuh), who was convicted of espionage in France in 1986 along with his lover, Bernard Boursicot, was believed to be 70. He had also been believed for years to be a woman, at least by Mr. Boursicot, who served time in prison after the affair and became a laughingstock in France.

Mr. Boursicot, who is 64 and has been living in a nursing home in France while recovering from a stroke, showed no sadness when he learned of Mr. Shi’s death in a telephone interview.

“I’m not surprised,” he said, in a tone that suggested weariness with a former lover’s theatrics. “It is a long time he has been sick. Now it’s over 40 years.”

Asked if he had any sadness at all, Mr. Boursicot said: “He did so many things against me that he had no pity for, I think it is stupid to play another game now and say I am sad. The plate is clean now. I am free.”

In the 1988 Broadway play and the 1993 film “M. Butterfly,” Bernard Boursicot was depicted as a high-ranking diplomat and Shi Pei Pu as a beautiful female opera singer who met in 1964. In fact, Mr. Boursicot was a 20-year-old high school dropout who had finagled a job as an accountant at the newly opened French Embassy in Beijing. His few sexual experiences had been with male schoolmates, and he was determined to fall in love with a woman, he wrote in his diary.

Shi Pei Pu was 26 when they met, delicate and charming. He lived as a man and taught Chinese to the diplomatic wives. He told Mr. Boursicot that he had been a singer and a librettist in the Beijing Opera. One perfect night in the Forbidden City Mr. Shi told Mr. Boursicot a story no romantic could resist: Mr. Shi said he was a woman who had been forced to go through life as a man, because her father required a son. A short time later, the men became lovers, although the sex, Mr. Boursicot would later say, was fast and furtive, always carried out in the dark.

When the affair was discovered by the Chinese authorities, Mr. Boursicot passed them French documents, first from the embassy in Beijing and later from his posting at the consulate in Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

Mr. Boursicot spent most of his life outside China and was romantically involved with men and women. On his rare visits to Shi Pei Pu, sexual contact was circumscribed. On one visit, Mr. Shi presented him with a 4-year-old boy, Shi Du Du, who Mr. Shi said was their son.

In 1982, Mr. Boursicot — then living openly with a male companion, Thierry Toulet — was able to arrange for Shi Pei Pu and Shi Du Du to live with him in Paris. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Boursicot and Shi Pei Pu were arrested. Mr. Shi first told the police he was a woman, but he admitted the truth to prison doctors, showing them how he hid his genitals.

Shi Du Du explained the mystery of where he came from in his statement to the police: he was from China’s Uighur minority, he said, and had been sold by his mother. “It was not that my mother did not love me,” he said. ”We were starving.”

Mr. Boursicot, hearing that Shi Pei Pu was a man and always had been, sliced his throat with a razor blade in prison.

In 1986, Mr. Shi and Mr. Boursicot received six-year sentences for espionage. They were pardoned a year later. Mr. Shi is survived by Shi Du Du, who lives in Paris and who, Mr. Boursicot said, has three young sons.

Although Mr. Boursicot and Mr. Shi occasionally spoke over the years, relations were strained. Mr. Boursicot said that they last spoke a few months ago and that Mr. Shi told him he still loved him.

Mr. Shi enjoyed the spotlight, performing in public as an opera singer, but disliked talking about his romance with Mr. Boursicot, particularly the sexual specifics.

“I used to fascinate both men and women,” he said in a rare interview in 1988. “What I was and what they were didn’t matter.”

(Thanks to

Joyce Wadler at

The New York Times

& to

France Soir)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More than 20, 000 Singers! - The Singing Revolution

If by any chance you are heading to Scandinavia, Russia or The Baltics right now this is a truly amazing event that you should not miss!

Daniel Reuss conducts at the Estonian Song Celebrations

The EPCC’s chief conductor Daniel Reuss conducts at the XXV Estonian Song Celebrations „To Breathe as One“, which takes place in 2-5 July at the Song Celebration Grounds in Tallinn.

This year sing together more than 20,000 amateur singers of mixed, male, female, children’s choirs and professional choirs (EPCC among them).

Daniel Reuss is the only foreign guest conductor, he conducts on July 4 Bruckner’s “Ave Maria” performed by professional choirs.

The Song Celebration tradition began in 1869 and during the following years it has become one of the most important national events of the Estonian culture.

Additional information: