I had never heard of Dîner en Blanc until I was invited to attend one in good ol' Burque. My coworker Courtney had planned on going but realized she wouldn't be able to make it due to a prior commitment, she asked me if I would like to attend in her place and I told her I would think about it. I looked it up and it seemed interesting enough—a party where people are required to wear all white at a mystery location—so I agreed. I was put into contact with a lovely woman named Kristi D. Lawrence, the event's PR manager She sent long, detailed messages about what was going to happen at the dinner, which confused me at first because I haven't experienced people actually planning their events in Albuquerque.
She said that guests were expected to wear all white, bring their own meals, table, chairs, utensils and décor that had to be all white, as well. She told me I could partake as media (walk around and observe) or as a guest. I typically wear all black, so just finding an appropriate outfit was a struggle; I opted for the media option. She emailed me the time and location the morning of the event.
I wondered why people would commit to bringing so much to an event like this—I've never been expected to provide my own food, tables, chairs, utensils and decorations at any event, so naturally, I googled it.
The technically illegal event began around 1986. A man named François Pasquier began hosting pop-up parties at historic and culturally important landmarks in Paris, France, telling his friends (who told their friends, and those people told their friends) to dress in all white so they could find each other easily. Eventually the event became legal with better organization and looked pretty fucking classy compared to local hooligans (or tourists!) running around said landmarks smoking, loitering or taking pictures.
Nowadays we don't have to depend on word-of-mouth but people do need to know someone to be a part of the event. To join you need a sponsor or be put on a waiting list which will make you wait a pretty long time because Dîner en Blanc events often sell out.
Those lucky enough to make the cut are told a meeting place and time, from there they are taken to the end location—which is a public space—and take over it. They set up a table for two (did I mention you have to have a date?) with all the bells and whistles: chairs, decorations, plates, glasses, utensils and most people bring their own meals and wine. The end location for this year's dinner was the BioPark's beautiful Botanical Gardens.
It took a bit over an hour to get all 1400 guests in and set up (a record for anything being done in such a timely fashion in this state). Then people stood up and waved their napkins above their heads like lassos meaning the space had been taken over and it was time to begin the meal. Everyone looked gorgeous. Outfits ranged from two-piece suits, either with a blouse or a fitted button up. Dresses were popular—everything from short and fitted to long and flowing. Lace was very popular amongst the lady-folk, and fedora and trilby hats were popular with the men-folk. There were also a surprising number of white wigs.
I began wandering the space trying out my new camera (and super-zoomy lens) on people eating, which I noticed made folks uncomfortable so I just did the socially acceptable thing and watched people eat instead. I saw most people brought their own meals, I saw everything from steaks to salads to fried chicken. In regards to beverages, most people opted for the wine on location.
A lot of folks were excited to get to the party part of the evening and drifted toward the stage where there was live music. I was pulled to the back of the venue by some unknowing force and heard people cheering in the ceremonial garden so I decided to pop back there for a minute to see what all the hubbub was about. As I passed the wall a voice became clearer, talking about marriage. I found a surprise wedding was in progress! The crowd seemed to be primarily family and friends of the happy couple-to-be, with the groom and officiate standing on the side closer to the Jardin Redondo. The bride joined them quickly and the ceremony was brief and lovely.
Soon after, sparklers were passed out to the guests on the green and the entire crowd lit huge sparklers at the same time. The enchantment that sparklers bring at any time lasted longer than expected, but that describes the entire night, to me. It was such a positive experience; families and friends gathering together civilly, sharing a meal with hundreds of strangers without anyone being rude or mean. Sure, it was a little hectic at times, but isn't that what makes things exciting? Unpredictability prompts bonding.
Many guests (including myself) left early because of rain, a magical end to the night. As I left I asked some people how their night went and everyone said they had a great time and the hosts—Cat Hanna, David Stroud, Taylor Trodden and all the group leaders—were marvelous and created a wonderful environment. Their guidance and efforts created a wonderfully relaxing and fun night.
Last Saturday night (9/3), the Galen Weston Band opened for the Gipsy Kings at El Rey Theatre. Weston, the Toronto-based jazz guitarist, is currently touring for his debut album, Plugged In. His tour with the Gipsy Kings goes through several US and Canadian cities to promote the new record, and finishes at the Beacon Theatre in New York on September 10.
Plugged in features 10 new songs written by Weston, along with covers of Keith Jarrett’s “Country” and Jimmy Van Heusen’s “Like Someone in Love.” Weston, who's received glowing reviews from Downbeat Magazine and The Midwest Record, claims guitar influences such as Carlos Santana, Eric Johnson, and Pat Metheny.
Galen and crew laid down some solid tunes Saturday night, with serious shredding from Galen and Richard Underhill's masterful saxophone solos. The Galen Weston Band has come a long way from being a local Toronto band—now that they've earned their national touring stripes, I look forward to hearing what they've got in store for the future.
Here's hoping the dudes come through our humble city again one day.
This past rainy weekend, Sunshine Theater was rocked by WATSKY, Witt Lowry, Daye Jack and Chuckwudi Hodge. If you missed out, here are a few snapshots to give you a taste of the energy that was bouncing off the walls and running through the crowd.
Also, this is a gem if you're all about that old sound.
The final week of the 60th Season of the Santa Fe Opera included two operas by two great opera composers, Samuel Barber and Giocomo Puccini. Both works have the significance of originally being commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
The fact that I had never seen either opera piqued my curiosity and interest and I truly enjoyed both operas and got wrapped up in the stories told and the spectacle of the grandest theatrical stage in the state of New Mexico.
The Gold Rush of 1849-50 is one of the great American stories where many present day westerners, including myself, have ancestors that got caught up in that frenzy.
It is a suitable subject for an opera with much potential of triumph and tragedy, heroic tales of loss and gain, life and death, loneliness and romance. All of this is in the opera, but what I missed from La Fanciulla del West was the stand-alone aria–it was an expectation that was never fulfilled.
I can understand that modernity has moved operas further away from actual songs, but with Puccini you kind of expect it. Perhaps it is my own realist mindset that prevented me from accepting the banjo sound coming from he harp; if the harp had been played nearer the sounding board it would have achieved a better banjo quality, but that is not in the score.
Indeed I was immersed by the orchestration and rich harmonies, the moving passages and cumulative build up of emotions that overflow into an overall gorgeous musical experience, but, even with all that–the melodies did not last. As for the production, my only confusion was the use of what appeared to be neon light that outlined the set of the first act, which seemed more modern than the rest of the production’s more historic setting.
The lead role of Minnie, superbly sung by Patricia Racette, captured the hearts of the audience. Minnie is like many of Puccini’s strong, larger than life characters. The story revolves around her and her passion ... and falling in love with someone who is the enemy of the people.
The Opera Orchestra was joyfully conducted by Emmanuel Villaume with great energy and enthusiasm. The direction of the action distracted me at times; most notably a “campy” series of miners with guns running through the climatic scene that culminates in the capture of Minnie’s lover Dick Johnson.
Very little can be done to cover the weaknesses of the libretto and score, but a production can help tell the story more clearly and focus the audience on the story line. However, some basic questions still arise: why is this American story presented in Italian? And no one could have predicted the unfortunate character named Dick Johnson, and by the rippling snickers in the audience just proves that everyone has a dirty mind.
Overall I am glad that I attended this opera, and would see it again, maybe just to clarify some of those things that I missed the first time.
Vanessa, by Samuel Barber, has a strong modern sound associated with Barber’s serious scores, although those most familiar with the celebrated Adagio for String, will find little of that here.
The story is about a very dysfunctional family following a huge 20-year gap and the expected arrival of a former lover, but the lover who arrives is not the one who is expected. This score won Barber a Pulitzer Prize in 1958 and the Santa Fe Opera presented it as the refined work of art that it is.
The production values of Vanessa were unified throughout, every detail fit perfectly with every other creative aspect. High praise to all involved: Scenic Designer Allen Moyer, Costume Designer James Schuette, Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind, Choreographer Seán Curran and Chorus Master Susanne Sheston.
The musical score and orchestration culminate in some of the most beautiful of music of the modern 20th Century. The grand ball is choreographed with the dancers briefly spilling over onto the stage like we are missing the party because our focus is behind the scenes–unraveling the story of Erika (Virginie Verrez), Vanessa (Erin Wall), and Anatol (Zach Borichesky). Now, many days later I feel as though I am still in the musical world of Barber’s Vanessa.
The Orchestra was meticulously conducted by Leonard Slatkin, and I very impressed and surprised by the wonderful libretto was by Gian-Carlo Menotti, a composer as well as a friend of Samuel Barber.
The Santa Fe Opera is the premiere opera house of our region and attracts audiences from around the world. Its reputation is built on quality work and I look forward to many more years of attending productions at this grand opera company.
As a composer, Daniel Davis explores melodic, linear and contrapuntal textures that incorporate elements of disparate forms including folk music, minimalism, micro-compositional techniques and tonality all wrapped up in an accessible style. His works draw from a deep well of his spiritual life and frequently depict his personal experiences and dreams. He makes his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he is a teacher of introductory courses in music at UNM and CNM. He grew up in Wenatchee, Washington, receiving his music education at the University of Washington in Seattle.