Archive for August, 2010

Tomato, mozzarella and mint salad

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , on August 31, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

This is good to take on a picnic.

1 small red onion, finely diced
300g baby plum tomatoes, halved
125g reduced fat mozzarella, torn
6-8 leaves fresh mint, chopped
freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Toss together the onion, tomatoes, mozzarella and mint, and place in a lidded container. Mix seasoning and olive oil in a jar and add to salad at the picnic.

Manchester Pride Parade 2010

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Gorgeous Beverley Callard

Gorgeous Ian McKellen

As the parade started, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Is Mad Tracey from Margate a genius?

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 27, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Tracey Emin

I heard a person call Tracey Emin a genius. If you like to know a simple fact, an American artist called Paloma Zolan who was working in Camden in the early 70s had a show with an unmade bed just like Tracey Emin’s. Just the press at that time did not think it was art then. The so-called art world is mad.

It comes down to a simple question:

What’s the difference between art, and merely taking something and presenting it as art? I’ve no idea what the answer is, if indeed, one exists …

However, I don’t think someone has to be either a genius or a charlatan, and I don’t think anyone, except perhaps a professional critic, needs to decide or pronounce on it.

So I don’t feel any need to decide whether anyone’s exhibits are “art” or not. If they don’t appeal to me it’s best I think to leave them.

When the work of the Post-Impressionists and Vorticists were exhibited in London shortly before the First World War, a number of people seemed to feel the need to express anger and outrage, as if they had been personally insulted by them.

While this is an interesting phenomenon, I suspect it says more about the person doing it than about the thing they are criticising.

Classical Music: Who Cares?

Posted in Food, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

A survey reveals that Britons are clueless about classical music. A third of participants have never listened to the genre and 4% wrongly identified a type of Italian cheese ball as a composer.

One in three people (33%) have never listened to classical music and 4% of those surveyed wrongly identified Bocconcini – small Italian cheese balls – as a composer. The Reader’s Digest survey of 1,516 people also found that most were unable to link composers to their masterpieces. Three out of four (75%) did not know that Elgar wrote Pomp and Circumstance, and 27% did not even know he was a composer. Sixty-eight percent did not know Tchaikovsky wrote the 1812 Overture.

The Welsh were more likely to own some Vivaldi or Wagner, with 72% possessing at least one classical CD compared with the British average of 59%.

Most participants (61%) said they liked classical music, with the older generation much keener than the younger generation.

Gill Hudson, editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest, said:

As our survey shows, there’s clearly an appetite for classical music. I suspect that a combination of uninspired teaching and the elitism that surrounds much of the genre has alienated many people, hence the lack of knowledge of some of the greatest classical music and composers of all time. Classical music at its best can be moving, life-enhancing and uplifting. It should be accessible to all.

(Press Association)

Rare Marilyn Monroe Pics

Posted in Culture with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Dressed down in a simple white shirt and with her hair plaited in pigtails, Marilyn Monroe looks a far cry from the iconic star synonymous with old Hollywood glamour. In the newly released image, the actress sports a sombre expression but appears relaxed as she is snapped on set of 1961 movie The Misfits – her last ever completed film.

Other shots also show a fresh-faced Marilyn caught off-guard wrapped in a towel, reading the script between takes and standing at her trailer door sipping coffee as she chats to co-star Montgomery Clift.

The images form part of a series of eight intimate portraits entitled Marilyn, taken by America photo-journalist Eve Arnold, that went on display in galleries nationwide on Saturday. Only 495 prints of the pictures will go on sale, with prices starting at £350.

Eve Arnold said: “She was going places but she hadn’t arrived. She liked my pictures and was canny enough to realise that they were a fresh approach for presenting her – a looser, more intimate look than the posed studio portraits she was used to in Hollywood. It became a bond between us … Marilyn was very important in my career. I think I was helpful in hers too.”

Proclaimed by Vanity Fair to be the top photographer in the world, Eve Arnold’s career spanned much of the 20th century.

It was in 1954, with her intelligent choice of subject matter and a unique fresh quality that Arnold was invited to join Magnum Photos, the prestigious international co-operative of photographers as their first woman member.

Eve Arnold was recently honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sony World Photography Awards this spring, just one day after her 98th birthday.

Joyce DiDonato

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Claire Black of the Scotsman meets American mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato in Milano (click the link for the full article):

Pop stars, soap stars, Big Brother contestants – it seems that anyone can now be a diva as long as they behave badly enough, wear high enough heels or can warble through, auto-tuner and amplification-assisted, of course, a clutch of crossover classics. But it wasn’t always like this.

Before being in a relationship with Gethin Jones was enough to earn you access to the “d-word”, membership of that exclusive club depended not only on acting like a goddess, but sounding like one too. True opera greats – Maria Callas, Leontyne Price, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf – were remote, grand, impossibly glamorous and certainly not just one of the gals. Soaring vocal skills and awe-inspiring technique were one part of the package, tantrums and hissy fits, or choosing seven of your own records as your Desert Island Discs (as Schwarzkopf did) made up the rest. Their voices may have been sweet but they were not. More than a little attitude has always been part of being a diva.

DiDonato is a perfect example of a new generation of opera singers whose talent and commitment to their art is unquestionable, but who also manage to shake free from tradition, whether that is by writing a blog (named cheekily in DiDonato’s case Yankee Diva) or by mixing more established repertoire with contemporary works – DiDonato won praise in the role of Sister Helen Prejean in Jake Heggie’s opera of Dead Man Walking, which she’ll perform again next year in Houston. She might be celebrated as one of the finest interpreters of Rossini, but a quick glance through her biography reveals that initially it was for Broadway or a career as a teacher that she was aiming, until at the age of 19 she discovered opera.

It all means that standing at the stage door of Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where I’m to meet DiDonato before the evening’s performance of The Barber of Seville, I’m not entirely sure what to expect. I don’t have to wait long to find out. Arriving conspicuously on time, DiDonato is alone, no chauffeur, no assistants, no-one to fetch soya lattes or carry her Blackberry. She is quietly spoken and friendly. And she’s wearing jeans.

Her dressing room doesn’t hold any diva-ish touches either. There are no bouquets of flowers, no bottles of champagne chilling in ice buckets. The only furniture is a stool where DiDonato perches and a small, hard sofa which is mine. The sole luxury is air-conditioning to keep out the sweltering heat.

DiDonato may garner ecstatic reviews for her voice, but it’s also her persona, the sense that she’s down to earth and just like the rest of us that has won her many fans. Partly this is down to her blog, updated remarkably regularly, where she shares backstage chit-chat, photographs that she’s taken and, of course, gives an unmediated glimpse into the life of an international opera singer, a life that’s a lot less glamorous than many might imagine.


Joyce DiDonato breaks a leg at Royal Opera House

Grouse with polenta and girolles

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

This is an economical way to get four good starter servings out of two grouse. (You can do the same dish with wood pigeon.) Make the polenta the night before; once set, it will last a few days in the fridge.

2 oven-ready grouse
salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g butter, softened
a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or corn oil for frying
flour for dusting
120-150g girolles
1 tbsp chopped parsley

For the polenta:

500ml milk
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 bay leaf
a pinch of nutmeg
75g quick cooking polenta
75ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
30g freshly grated parmesan

The night before, make the polenta: bring the milk to the boil in a thick-bottomed pan, then add the garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper and nutmeg.

Simmer for 5 minutes then whisk in the polenta and cook on a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add the cream and parmesan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Line a small rectangular container with clingfilm and pour in the polenta. Leave to cool then refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 240°. Rub the grouse with butter and then season them. Place the two birds in a roasting tray and roast for 12-15 minutes, keeping them nice and pink, then leave them to rest.

While the grouse are cooking, turn out the polenta and remove the clingfilm. Cut into 1cm-thick slices and dust them with flour. Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan and add a knob of butter. Fry the slices of polenta for 2-3 minutes on each side on a medium heat until golden, then remove and keep warm.

Heat another frying pan with the rest of the butter and cook the girolles on a medium heat for a few minutes, seasoning them while they are cooking and turning them with a spoon. Add the parsley and remove from the heat.

Remove the legs from the grouse with a sharp knife, then carefully remove the breasts. Slice the breasts into 4 or 5 slices. Place the slices of polenta on warmed serving plates and arrange the breasts and legs on top. Spoon over the girolles.

A Wagnerian Treat for Children: Tannhäuser

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Anthony Tommasini reports from Bayreuth:

There is a general and well-founded perception of the Bayreuth Festival as an elitist stronghold for opera, as much a shrine to Wagner as a festival of his works. And there is no ticket harder to come by. Wagner lovers wait an average of 10 years to get a coveted ticket to the Festspielhaus, which seats only about 2,000.

The new co-directors of the festival, Eva Wagner-Pasquier and Katharina Wagner, who are half-sisters (and Richard Wagner’s great-granddaughters), are determined to make it more people-friendly and open. On Tuesday afternoon, a couple of hours before Lohengrin began at the main house, the festival presented the last of 10 performances of this summer’s Wagner for Children offering: a 70-minute, irreverent and charming production of Tannhäuser, directed by Reyna Bruns. It took place in one of the rehearsal halls for an audience of roughly 200 people, mostly children, including many very young ones.

(Source: New York Times)

Crab salad with chilli, pumpkin, curry leaves and lime

Posted in Food with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Half Hour Meals

250g butternut squash
250g freshly picked white crab meat
1 red chilli, sliced in half lengthwise, seeds removed and finely chopped
8 curry leaves

For the dressing:

1 tsp freshly chopped ginger
1 tsp palm sugar
the juice of half a lime
2 tsp fish sauce

Peel the squash, discarding any seeds, and chop into small cubes. Put in a saucepan and cover with cold water, adding a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and cook until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.

Now make the dressing. Gently pound the ginger and palm sugar with a pestle and mortar to a smooth paste. Squeeze over the lime juice and stir in the fish sauce.

Put the crab, chilli and cooled pumpkin into a bowl. Using a sharp knife, finely chop the curry leaves and add to the salad. Finally, spoon over the dressing and toss together lightly with your fingers. Divide between four plates and serve at once.

Americana: Aaron Copland

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

So I’m spending the next year listening to a lot of American music and maybe finally getting to grips with Carter, the world’s oldest living composer.

But, I’m starting at the simpler end with Copland.

I’ve always thought Copland an excellent composer. I paid a fair bit back in December 1980 to hear him conduct the LSO. It was a superb evening apart from the noise sounding throughout the hall (a plumbing problem as was later discovered) during Quiet City. He conducted it again after, and Jack Brymer played the great Clarinet Concerto.

He certainly knew how to orchestrate to great effect. Even something as simple as Fanfare for the Common Man tells you that.

Bernstein was a bit like his mentor. The serious stuff, as in Preamble, Symphonic Ode, the Orchestral Variations and the three symphonies by Copland are well reflected in the works of his disciple.

There’s a load of American music I still have to explore. More Roy Harris, William Schuman and (if he ever wrote more apart from Street Music and Concerto for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra), William Russo and I’m not finished with Ives yet.

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