Rolling on the Riviera ─ Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna in Concert

“The dynamic husband-and-wife duo of tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak give a concert of arias and duets, accompanied by string quintet, from an outdoor terrace in Èze, France, with a spectacular view of the Mediterranean.”

Two for the price of one ? A string quintet ? A château on the French Riviera ? Count me in ! If the description for the third installment of the Met Stars Live in Concert initiative wasn’t appealing already, the set list for Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna’s concert was the icing on the cake. Favorites from Puccini and Verdi seamlessly mixed with adorable folk songs from Mexico and Italy, all richly accompanied by the Vienna Morphing Quintet. Below is an abbreviated video of highlights from the concert:

Aside from being a technical feat, the vistas overlooking the pelagic Mediterranean Sea were arresting. Several times during the concert, I found my eyes floating over the floral garlanded railing to espy sleek motor yachts and nearby barrier islands as Aleksandra and Roberto charmed me with their singing and effortless chemistry. Their intuitive camaraderie led to dynamic and touching duets, which also included an overflowing dose of mirth. In what is rapidly becoming the duo’s calling card, the hilarious “love potion” duet from Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore involved a clever prop and crafty English ad libs ─ I was rollicking with laughter watching the two perform !

Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna singing “Caro Elisir” from L’Elisir d’Amore in concert / Metropolitan Opera

There were more serious moments as well with Aleksandra singing Desdemona’s “Ave Maria” followed by a melting rendition of the love duet from Otello, in which the darkening sky serendipitously played a role in one of the final lines. Singing “The Pleiades are low in the heavens”, the pair turned to face the azure sky and motioned to the stars just as they were beginning to illuminate. Chills !!!!

Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna singing the love duet from Otello in concert

The Cuisine

The concert locale, above all else, provided the best (and most straightforward) watch party theme: Rolling on the Riviera. Provence, with its uniqueness of sights and senses was the central inspiration behind our small gathering at Chris’s home. Each of us chipped in to make the get-together unforgettable. Jayne knew of a terrific French sparkling rosé wine while I was elated to try out Ina Garten’s Provençal Potato Salad, which was chocked full of Provençal ingredients: black olives, capers, haricot verts, cherry tomatoes, scallions, red onion, lots of fresh herbs, flaked tuna, hard cooked eggs, and anchovies. The freshness was equivalent to lounging on a sun-soaked beach chair with the sea mist brushing across your face. In the words of Ina Garten, “How bad can that be ?” The salad is so gorgeous that it was featured as the cover image on the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook from 1999.

The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and Jayne’s sparkling rosé

I highly recommend the wine and the niçoise-inspired potato salad for an instant summer getaway.

Anne sure knows how to arrange a cheese platter ! Roquefort, Boursin, and Brie, oh my ! And of course, my favorite prosciutto…

Even Chris, our gracious hostess, made blackberry sorbet to be accompanied with chocolate covered French cookies. Bon appétit !

The Clothes

Imagine partaking in a leisurely promenade along one of the coastal towns of the Riviera… what would you wear ? For me, the answer was obvious: beach pajamas !

Made popular in the 1930’s, beach pajamas (or pyjamas) were all the rage on the Riviera where the rich and famous would rendezvous. Women would wear flowy fabrics with grace, oftentimes to dressier occasions spanning into the evening hour. Casual and comfortable, while still oh-so chic, I knew I wanted to sew a set of these beloved beach clothes.

Seeking a two piece style, I contemplated designing my own set until I came across a FREE pattern online from Gertie’s Charm Patterns brand. With a complete sew-a-long tutorial on YouTube showing the details of making the pajamas, the pattern was just right for my needs. With this being my very first “Gertie” pattern, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but found that the pattern was accurately sized with differing cup sizes for an even better fit.

Using a soft rayon challis I bought in June from Julie’s Picks swatch club mailer, I paired it with an equally sumptuous berry-colored material from Fabric Mart’s gorgeous selection of rayon/nylon shimmer satins. Softness and style united as one.

I loved wearing my 1930’s beach pajamas to what transpired as a joyous afternoon in Provence. From the cliffs of Èze to the rolling hills of central Florida, the pleasures of the French Riviera were abundant ─ an uplifting concert, delicious food, and lively conversation… what could be finer ?

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits:

Met Stars Live in Concert: Aleksandra Kurzak and Roberto Alagna
Château de la Chèvre d’Or
Èze, France
Live broadcast date: August 16, 2020
(Date seen: August 20, 2020)

Aleksandra Kurzak ─ soprano
Roberto Alagna ─ tenor

Vienna Morphing Quintet

Met Stars Live in Concert: Jonas Kaufmann

Is there anyone who doesn’t love Jonas Kaufmann ? He’s handsome, personable, full of charisma, and one of the greatest tenors to date. When it was announced that Jonas would be headlining the Met’s new concert initiative, how could I resist the opportunity to see the spectacular tenor perform ? For the cost of $20, one could be treated to an intimate and breathtaking performance with the craveable comforts of home. It was to my delight when my dear friend, Chris, invited me over to view the event on her mega screen TV, fully equipped with augmented surround sound.

Broadcast live from the historic Polling Abbey in the tenor’s native region of Bavaria, the recital was stunning, as was the sacred setting. With songs ranging from popular Puccini favorites to more obscure operatic selections (like Ponchielli), Kaufmann dazzled with his attention to vocal detail and tempered interpretation of the music. Particularly moving was piano accompanist Helmut Deutsch’s rendition of the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut and the engaging aria “Un dì all’azzuro spazio” from Andrea Chénier. Of course, my favorite has been and will always be “Nessun dorma”, which never ceases to thrill me.

Jonas Kaufmann singing “Nessun dorma” with Helmut Deutsch accompanying on piano

If I could have changed anything about the format of the concert, I would have preferred to have heard more songs and less “filler” that was injected into the program after every couple of numbers ─ it’s not difficult to find and watch snippets of Jonas’s past Met Opera performances on YouTube ! Personally, it would have been more meaningful to me if there had been a series of short, sit down interviews with Kaufmann and Deutsch that had been previously recorded specifically for this concert, giving insight into the songs, the challenges (if any) of performing without an audience, etc. This addition would have made the pay-per-view price well worth the cost in terms of value.

The Clothes

Given the opportunity to dress up, I will take it ! And since I was going to attend a concert for the esteemed Jonas Kaufmann, why shouldn’t I look my best ? Nothing in my closets tickled my fancy and I was coincidentally distraught that a lining material I had ordered for another project was regrettably unusable for its purpose. However, I had an idea. Instead of hording the unfit fabric in a closet for years, crossing my fingers that I would eventually find a use for it at some indeterminable point down the road, I decided to make a “mock-up” dress of the untested pattern for which I originally bought the too-bright lining material.

The purple ITY knit lining material
Lekala Pattern #4078

Pressed for time, I completed the dress in a weekend. Although there were minor fitting issues with the pattern, I was pleased with the final result ! Styled in classy and chic fashion, I paired my new ruched dress with monochromatic stockings and heels and accented the look with gold jewelry. Don’t be deceived by the pictures─ neither the purple material nor the vanda orchid are nearly as blue toned as in the photos.

The Cuisine

A new dress for the event was only the start. Chris planned to serve wine and cheese for the gathering and I wanted to bring some “themed” food for the festivities. Since Kaufmann is from Bavaria and the concert was taking place in Bavaria, what better dessert to bring than my great-grandmother’s beloved Bavarian Apple Torte ?

Bavarian Apple Torte

Shingled with sliced almonds to shelter the cinnamon apples and cream cheese filling cohabiting beneath, the torte was a hit ! Another supplement of mine, a chilled bottle of Riesling wine which had been awaiting its moment of glory for many years in the refrigerator, was supple and sweet.

The sliced salami, prosciutto, and capicola were right up my alley ! I’ll never reject dry-aged salted meats !

All that was needed was a smattering of brie on a tangy sourdough rye cracker…

…and the sharing of laughter among friends. Who said classical music was stuffy ? Take me at my word: when Jonas Kaufmann is the subject of conversation and critique, there’s plenty to discuss !

Toi, Toi, Toi,

Mary Martha

Cast and Credits

Met Stars Live in Concert: Jonas Kaufmann
Polling Abbey
Polling, Bavaria
Live broadcast date: July 18, 2020
(Date seen: July 27, 2020)

Jonas Kaufmann ─ tenor
Helmut Deutsch ─ piano