Archive for August, 2005

in which we get under way

Friday, August 26th, 2005

With no more justification than there is for anything else we do, classics without walls intends to blog for your pleasure or, more likely, for something else. Your authors here are my estimable colleague Ken Quandt, shadowy influence in the wings and author of penetrating reviews hereabouts; associate producer Renée Witon, pianist extraordinaire and possessor of a voracious musical appetite; and me, <mtheo>, producer & host of this olla podrida for the past thirteen years. Ken and Renée no doubt have their own anticipated results in mind, but I look forward, as always, to the occasional earnest plaudit and those ever-preponderant anguished brickbats.

Seattle Ring diary — day one

Tuesday, August 16th, 2005

Hey, two and a half months — that’s speedy around these parts. With any luck we’ll wrap up our coverage of the Seattle Ring just in time for the 2009 production.

Our Seattle seminar/symposium/get-together/bacchanale got under way Saturday night with a banquet at Ten Mercer, the wonderful Mercer Street institution just a few blocks from McCaw Hall. Both owner Brian Curry and chef Doug Wilson have gone many extra miles for us in the weeks preceding our event; for one thing, construction of the new private dining room upstairs was hastened, and completed (at no small effort!) just in time – so our Vorabend banquet was the first dinner ever held in this lovely room!

Chef Wilson outdid himself with a four-course menu inspired by the four Ring dramas, opening with a Bay Scallop and Golden Apple Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette – Freia’s golden apple was in the form, of course, of a gold ring.

A current Ten Mercer standby followed, the Grilled House Smoked Pork Tenderloin with Apple Horseradish demi glace and Pan Fried Spätzle – but this dish took an unusual form: on our very wide platters, the three components formed the blade, hilt, and handle of a stout sword worthy of representing Nothung. We wasted no time taking our cue to complete the picture by becoming the scabbard.

An Aromatic Duck Confit with Black Mission Fig Jam and Braised Greens, specially created by Chef Wilson, followed. More than a few quizzical looks indicated that though the dish had a wonderful rustic quality that superbly evoked the setting & feel of Siegfried, few of us had quite made the connection yet. All became clear once it was pointed out that we had the Woodbird before us – or rather, a noble stand-in, for said bird still would still be needed for Act Two next Thursday evening, and we did not wish to become responsible for a somber announcement before the curtain.

Ducklings dutifully dispatched, the lights went down for Chef Wilson’s Götterdämmerung course: Flaming Valhalla Tiramisu. These delectable fortresses – for they well depicted the “ewige Burg” – went down in flames for us, providing a piquant Ragnarökish tang for our meal’s conclusion.

Those keeping score at home may wish to note Chef Wilson’s wine choices – a fine & appropriate Sekt to whet the appetite, Pierre Sparr Brut Champagne to start, and a Crosspoint California Pinot Noir with dinner. Thirsty Wagnerians contributed an Eyrie Pinot Gris and an Erath Pinot to honor Washington’s neighbor just to the south.

Breaking bread together always provides a fitting opening for a week of immersion in the vastest drama in the repertoire. But we were greatly blessed, for our banquet was more than fitting: it was a monumental work of art in itself, worthy of the work it celebrated, in that most magical and evanescent of artistic media – convivium. Many, many thanks to Brian and Doug for making it so!