Fabergé and the Russian Craft Tradition at the Walters Art Museum

After seeing Anastasia the Musical in New York City, the following Saturday we took in The Fabergé and Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland.

This was quite the coincidence considering we booked our tickets for Anastasia before learning of the exhibit. I guess you could say was destiny on our “Journey to the Past”.The Fabergé exhibition “invites visitors to consider the broader historical context from which the House of Fabergé emerged” and features 70 works that illustrate the artistry of Russian tradition crafts by Fabergé and other artists of the Romanov time. The exhibition includes two Fabergé Easter eggs that are a part of the Walters’ collection:  the Gatchina Palace Egg and the Rose Trellis Egg.

Here are some of my favourite items from the exhibit:

The Daughters of Tsar Nicholas II and Empress Alexandra, ca. 1915.
Left to right: Maria, Anastasia, Olga, and Tatiana (seated)Oval Box with Monogram of Tsar Nicholas II, early 20th century.
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)“OTMA” Portrait Diamond Necklace, ca. 1914
Olga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia nicknamed themselves “OTMA”. Rare, flat-cut diamonds, known as portrait diamonds, cover and protect the delicate watercolour miniatures that were painted from formal court photographs taken in 1914.Rose Trellis Egg, 1907
Peter Carl Fabergé and Henrik Emanuel Wigström (workmaster)
The Rose Trellis Egg was given by Nicholas II to his wife Alexandra to commemorate the birth of their only son, and heir, Alexei Nicholaevich in 1904. It originally contained a diamond necklace with a medallion and miniature, now lost, of His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Tsarevich Alexei Nicholaevich.
Roses, a symbol of love, had been associated with the nobility since Catherine the Great. Those depicted are one of Alexandra’s favourites: the Baronne Adolphe de Rothchild rose. Keeping with Russian tradition, there are 49 blossoms on the egg, an uneven number that would have been seen as lucky.Box with a Miniature of Viktor Vasnetsov’s Warrior at the Crossroads (1882), 1907-1917
Fedor Ivanovich Rückert for the House of Fabergé
Teapot, 1899-1908
Nikolai Vasilevich Alexseev
This teapot is set in the Chinoiserie style, which appropriated Chinese or Pseudo-Chinese motifs as interpreted through Western eyes. Chinoiserie was in vogue from the mid-17th century through to the end of the 19th century.Gatchina Palace Egg, 1901
Peter Carl Fabergé
The Gatchina Palace Egg was commissioned as an Easter gift to his mother, Maria Feodorovna, by the last Romanov tsar, Nicholas II. Along with the other 49 Imperial Easter Eggs, it showcases the exceptional skills of Peter Carl Fabergé’s team of gem cutters, enamelers, metalsmiths, and designers. The tiny model of the Gatchina Palace inside the egg is rendered in gold, alloyed with different metals to create a range of colours. Even lamp posts are depicted in miniature, while windows are glazed in rock crystal.

Today,  100 years after the Russian Revolutions of 1917 and the violent end of more than 300 years of Romanov rule, the House of Fabergé still exists today, and remains legendary and synonymous with Russia’s extraordinary artistic talent.

If you’re in Baltimore, I highly suggest you visit the Walters Art Museum – and if you like Russian art and/or have an interest in Russian history, specifically the Romanov dynasty, you should definitely take the time to see the Fabergé exhibit.

The Fabergé and the Russian Crafts Tradition: An Empire’s Legacy exhibition runs until Sunday, June 24, 2018.

Anastasia on Broadway

Have you heard there’s a rumour in St. Petersburg?

My boyfriend and I recently travelled to New York City from Baltimore for the weekend to check out Times Square and to see Anastasia The Musical on Broadway!Before this trip, my boyfriend and I had never been to NYC and therefore had never before seen a show on Broadway. We were really looking forward to seeing Anastasia The Musical because the animated film had been a favourite for both of us growing up.

Some people I have talked to, and comments I have read from others on the Internet, say they have mixed feelings about the show. But personally, I thought it was fabulous!The acting was well-done and the actors made the characters really come alive. The chemistry between Anya (Christy Altomare) and Dmitry (Derek Klena) left me hopeful! The chemistry between Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor) and and Vlad (John Bolton) left me swooning.

See a glimpse of Christy and Derek’s chemistry in this music video for the song “In a Crowd of Thousands” – it’s so perfect and my absolute favourite from the musical. Breaks my heart and makes it swell, all at the same time… sigh.

The set design was also unique (for me) and well-executed: screens were used for the various backdrops which allowed for more changes and variety. The screens also lent to the drama and intensity of some of the scenes – you really have to see it in person to truly understand and feel what I mean!

My favourite scene was the performance of Swan Lake – when Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are at the ballet to meet with the Dowager Empress.Christy Altomare as Anya, Derek Klena as Dmitry, John Bolton as Vlad, and the cast of Anastasia ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC.I also liked the performance of “Land of Yesterday” because the song was great, and also because the scene had some traditional Russian folk dancing. I appreciated that they added new songs (“Land of Yesterday”) and kept the familiar ones, including “Once Upon a December”.

John Bolton as Vlad, Caroline O'Connor as Countess Lily and the cast of Anastasia
John Bolton as “Vlad”, Caroline O’Connor as “Countess Lily” and the cast of Anastasia. – ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC

This particular scene gave me goosebumps and still does when I listen to the Original Broadway Cast Recording

Mary Beth Peil as “Dowager Empress” and Nicole Scimeca as “Little Anastasia” – ©2018 Anastasia Musical LLC

I think my most favourite part about stage shows are the costumes! I loved all of the costumes in Anastasia and even from a distance I could tell they were intricate and complex.

The Romanov Family – Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Romanov costume on actor Kyle Brown – Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

My favourite costume, by far, was Tsarina Alexandra’s court dress. I love how it glittered in the light – it was breathtaking!

Lauren Blackman as “Tsarina Alexandra” – Photo by Marc J. Franklin.

To date, I would say Anastasia The Musical is one of my favourite shows. It’s really between it and Guys and Dolls – but if I had to go to sentimentality and nostalgia, I’m sure you could figure out where Anastasia The Musical would rank.

If you are in New York City and looking for something to do, I highly suggest you make plans to see Anastasia The Musical!

Christy Altomare as “Anya” and the cast of Anastasia – Photo by Joan Marcus.

Jam-Packed Weekend

Now that it is officially summer, a lot of events are happening around the City of London. This past weekend in particular was super fun, but also super busy!

First, we celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks early on Friday with a group of some very dear friends. The morning was a bit worrisome because it had rained… and rained, and rained!  Luckily it ended up holding off just in time so we could go mini golfing at the Tin Cup!After we went for dinner at Beertown Public House where I had the Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a side of french fries and gravy. It was probably the best crispy chicken I’ve ever had, if I’m being honest – it was so flavourful and was crisped to perfection. The sandwich came on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, Gruyère, roasted garlic aïoli and pickled jalapeños (YUM!)

Where we were sitting was unfortunately too dark for photos, but I can tell you the food was delicious and I would highly recommend it if you’re having a hard time deciding on what to get!

After, most of us headed back to my apartment for drinks and boardgames. It was a great way to end the night! Everyone was too full for cake, so I sent everyone home with their slice. It was a very beautiful cake given to me by my boyfriend, and it was delicious too!

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On Saturday evening we headed out with our friends Lenny, Heather and Eric to check out the Appleseed Cider Festival – an event that celebrates Ontario Craft Cider producers and their cider products!I tried four different ciders, three were from KW Craft Cider in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and the other was from the County Cider Company in Waupoos, Ont. The ones from KW Craft Cider were Cherrymint, Thai Ginger, and Canadian Shield Berries. The one I tried from County Cider Co. was called Feral.The Cherrymint cider was good, you could really taste the mint on the end notes. This cider was very tart – I would consider it to be a dry cider, but I’m not sure. All-in-all it was good, but I don’t know if I would buy it.

The Thai Ginger cider was very unique, but tasted great! You could really taste the hot green Thai chili peppers, but the taste was well-balanced out by the ginger spice. I sampled a chili pepper beer in Santa Fe, and the flavour and heat of the pepper were very overwhelming. This cider would be great on a hot day, especially if you’re looking for something to sip on.

The Canadian Shield Berries cider was delicious! It tasted like… sparkly juice! (If sparkly juice were a thing and had a flavour haha). You could taste the tartness of the currants and cranberries, but also the sweetness of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I normally am cautious of ‘strawberry’ flavours, as I find they can come out too strongly for my liking. There’s nothing wrong with strawberry, it’s just not my preference!

The Feral cider was by far my most favourite. It’s a combination of County Cider Co.’s Waupoos Premium cider – an off-dry cider with tangy apple flavour – and wild raspberries and cranberries. I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, and so I was pleased when I could really taste the cranberry at the beginning and then the raspberry at the end. I think I will be calling in an order, since Feral is not sold in LCBO stores!

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On Sunday afternoon we checked out the International Food Festival in Victoria Park.We got there at a really great time, and there was tons of food to choose from. I went with a beef and lamb gyro from Sammy’s Souvlaki.I forgot to take a photo before digging in… so worth it though! Mmm.

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You can tell that summer is finally here in Ontario – there is so much to do and see during this time of year. I look forward to sharing my summer adventures with you!

If you’re from Canada – what are you doing this Canada Day long weekend, and do you have any special plans for Canada 150?

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Guys and Dolls, Stratford

Today I went to Stratford to see Guys and Dolls at the Festival Theatre! It was a beautiful day for a show and a walkabout around town.Guys and Dolls is a musical of the ’30s and ’40s, that is set in 1950s New York, where illicit gambling and fast-talking is the norm. Strapped for cash, gambler and crap entrepreneur Nathan Detroit is desperate to get his hands on some cash to secure a venue for his craps event – anybody who is anybody will be there, so the heat is on!

When Detroit runs into high-roller Sky Masterson, he makes Masterson an offer he can’t refuse, one that Detroit thinks is a ‘safe bet’ and will net him some easy cash: Can Masterson take any doll that Detroit names on a date?

Surely not if the ‘doll’ happens to be the strait-laced, level-headed Sgt. Sarah Brown of the Save-a-Soul Mission. But it turns out that it’s hearts that are at stake, and where love’s concerned there’s no telling how the dice will land.

Evan Buliung (centre) as Sky Masterson with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Guys and Dolls was vivid and energetic. The singing and dancing were on point. Director and choreographer Donna Feore is sheer talent, as is the company she worked with to make this show possible. I LOVED the opening act of the show, where everything was bustling like it was a busy city street and harbour area. Every scene of the show was exceptional!

Members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

The acting was also incredible – the company was full of talent. There is so much to say, but here is a bit about the artists who played some of my favourite characters:

I first encountered the talent of Alexis Gordon (Sarah Brown in Guys and Dolls) last fall when she played Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music.

Alexis was great in A Little Night Music where she played a similar role of a straight-laced, naïve young woman – but the character of Sarah Brown was a firecracker just waiting to be lit! It was really nice to see Alexis portray a strong female character, and one that was a more major role. Also of note is Alexis’ singing! She has an incredible voice that you have to hear to believe.

This was my first time encountering the calibre of Blythe Wilson (Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls). She made Miss Adelaide come to life with believable effervescence. I hope I am able to see more of her work!

Alexis Gordon (left) as Sarah Brown and Blythe Wilson as Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

I also enjoyed the smooth-talking and wise-cracking of both Sean Arbuckle (Nick Detroit in Guys and Dolls) and Evan Buliung (Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls). I also encountered Sean in A Little Night Music where he portrayed the more minor role of Mr. Lindquist.

The duo of Trevor Pratt (portraying Nicely-Nicely Johnson in this performance of Guys and Dolls) and Mark Uhre (Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls) were a riot! They’re really an ideal friendship and comic-relief.

My favourite aspects of the show were the signs that could change from black and white to all sorts of neon colours – and with the stage floor looking like a map of the city and the stage background made to look like scaffolding and fire escapes, it all really transported you and made you feel like you were on the mean-streets of New York City.I also loved the costumes, everything was gorgeous, period-appropriate, bright and sparkly. I especially loved Miss Adelaide’s outfits and her Hot Box Club costumes, in particular the one she wore for Bushel and a Peck – it was sparkly and gorgeous; it was exactly what I picture when I think of showgirls, very Gatsby-esque. The ensemble costumes for Take Back Your Mink were also gorgeous, and I loved that dance number!

Blythe Wilson (centre) as Miss Adelaide with members of the company in Guys and Dolls. Photography by Cylla von Tiedemann.

Aaaah, there is so much I could say about this show but I think I will leave it here. All I can really say it that if you get a chance to Guys and Dolls in Stratford, GO! It’s on until October 29.