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Arena di Verona Opera Festival: History & Grandeur


The 96th edition of the Arena di Verona Opera Festival (June 22 - September 1, 2018) will feature important conductors, internationally famous directors, opera stars and new rising stars distinguish. Running 47 evenings of great music and under the stars in the world’s largest opera theatre in scenic and historical Italy’s Arena di Verona.

The 2018 Arena di Verona Opera Festival is inaugurating with a new production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, alongside Aida by Giuseppe Verdi, Turandot by Giacomo Puccini, Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi and Il Barbiere di Siviglia by Gioachino Rossini.

The festival includes dance performances by Roberto Bolle and Friends, and the special and the Verdi Opera Night dedicated to the famous Busseto composer, who has dominated Arena summers for over a century.

To learn more, go to:

Arena di Verona Opera Festival
June 22 - September 1, 2018

Arena di Verona
Piazza Bra, 1, 37121
Verona VR, Italy

For Celebrants of Literary Legend James Joyce, Bloomsday is a Day Like No Other

If any literary figure seems synonymous with being Irish, the legendary author James Joyce fits the appellation. And, thanks to having written the 730+ pages of his intellectually unparalleled tome, “Ulysses,” (released as one complete book in 1922) with its incredibly complicated telling of one day in the life of Leopold Bloom, that date has led to the yearly celebration known as Bloomsday. The novel parallels the life and thoughts of Bloom and a host of other characters — real and fictional such as Stephen Dedalus — with the Greek story of the Odyssey which takes place from 8 am on June 16th, 1904, through to the early hours of the following morning. 

In March 1914, Joyce had started writing “Ulysses” but put it aside to finish his play “Exiles.” On June 16th, 1915, he wrote his brother Stanislaus to say he had finished the first episode of it. After a long serialization, it was then was published as a full version in a very limited edition, and shortly after, Joyce’s friends began to mark June 16th as Bloomsday

Jamesjoyce tuohy-ohneThe first Bloomsday event celebrated in Ireland was in 1954, the 50th anniversary of the original Bloomsday, when writers Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien visited the Martello Tower at Sandycove, Davy Byrne’s pub, and 7 Eccles Street, drunkenly reading parts of “Ulysses” throughout a long day of imbibing. Today, it is celebrated by Joyceans across the globe with readings, performances, re-enactments, and many other events. In Ireland, a Bloomsday Festival runs from June 11 to the 16th.

Among those celebrations are several which take place in New York City. The day kicks off with the 5th annual immersive Bloomsday Breakfast hosted by Origin Theatre Company and Bloom’s Tavern in Midtown (208 East 58th Street).  Since the annual free event lands on a Saturday, it starts a little later at 11:30 am but will still fit in all the festivities such as readings from the book, musical interludes, and a juried costume contest. As New York’s only site-specific Bloomsday breakfast, it commemorates the Dublin summer morning chronicled in “Ulysses,” which takes place on that singular day. 

The event also features the “Origin in BloomLiterary Prize presentation, honoring an Irish or Irish-American author with a unique connection to New York. The beloved writer/activist Malachy McCourt won the inaugural prize last year — chosen by a nominating committee which includes the Irish Voice’s Cahir O’Doherty, Irish America Magazine’s Patricia Harty, and the Irish Echo’s Peter McDermott

Among the performers, writers, and musicians taking part are Elmore James; David O’Hara; Charlotte Moore; Sean Gormley; Ciarán Sheehan; Paula Nance; Terry Donnolly; Fiona Walsh; Patrick Fitzgerald and The James Joyce Reading Group, and David O’Leary of Trí -- The New Irish Tenors. the event’s music director Irish-folk-rock troubadour Alan Gogarty performs on guitar as well.

For the third year, the breakfast also features a costume competition for the “Best, or Most Creatively, Dressed Molly or Leopold Bloom.” The winner -- man or woman -- will be selected from among the guests by a blue-ribbon panel of judges led by the internationally recognized image strategist Margaret Molloy. A $1,000 Dinner and NYC fun package is offered to the grand-prize winner. Contestants are invited to come period-attired, or in a summer-festive outfit — a modern interpretation of that 1904 Dublin morning. Couples and individuals are eligible.

Later on, the 37th Bloomsday on Broadway starts at 7 pm in the Peter Norton Symphony Space (95th & Broadway), co-produced with the Irish Arts Center. Directed by Lisa Flanagan, Symphony Space's celebration of Joyce's masterpiece features a tour through the first 17 episodes hosted by beloved Bloomsday regular Mia Dillon, with musical interludes by violinist Dana Lyn, guitarist Kyle Sanna, piper Ivan Goff, vocalist Carrie Erving, and a chorus of Mollys performed by Valorie Curry, Kirsten Vangsness, and more. A cast which includes Keir Dullea, Barbara Feldon, Peter Halpin, Neil Hickey, Peter Francis James, Khris Lewin, Malachy McCourt, Terry Moran and Sam Underwood perform the readings until about 9:30 pm.

Festivities continue with an after-party in Bar Thalia where guitarist Matt StapletonDylan Foley (four-time All-Ireland fiddle champion), and Isaac Alderson (2002 All-Ireland flute, tin whistle, and pipes champion) will perform.

220px-Revolutionary Joyce Better ContrastUp in Albany at the Irish American Heritage Museum (370 Broadway, Albany, NY) is the "Ulysses Seen"exhibit based on a comic adaptation of the 1922 edition of James Joyce's epic by Robert Berry. Berry uses the visual aid of the graphic novel to foster understanding of public domain literary masterworks. He's pointed out that "Ulysses Seen" isn't meant to replace the original but rather it's meant to be a visual companion to Joyce's book. It uses the comic narrative to "cut through jungles of unfamiliar references" and to help readers "appreciate the subtlety and artistry" of Joyce's text. 

If you've wanted to read Ulysses, but have been intimidated by its size and density, this is a great new way to experience literature such as this. Original artwork in the form of bookmarks are available to buy. In addition, Bloomsday evening at the Museum begins at 6 pm and then continues on a local pub crawl, where participants receive one drink and will be regaled by extracts from the famous book and songs about Dublin. It costs $30.

Finally, the day continues into Sunday, the 17th, at a Post-Bloomsday Celebration in McNally Jackson Books at 52 Prince Street in New York’s Soho district. Starting 4 pm, Emmy-winning screenwriter, critic and novelist, Robert J. Seidman celebrates Leopold Bloom’s odyssey. Author of the novel “Moments Captured” he is also co-author, with Don Gifford, of “Ulysses Annotated” and thus has a bit to say about Joyce. 

Obviously, the best way to celebrate Joyce is to grab a copy of the book and try to wend your way through it. Once done, you can backtrack to his previous novel, "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (1916) and his even more daunting, obtuse and intellectually challenging re-definition of the novel, “Finnegans Wake” (1939). 

Born on February 2nd, 1882, at 41 Brighton Square, Rathgar, Dublin, James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was the foremost purveyor of stream-of-consciousness writing; he basically wrote in ways no one had ever written before and became undoubtably one of the 20th century’s most important authors. Though he’s been dead since January 13th, 1941, his impact still resonates.For some, reading Joyce is a life-long challenge, for other he’s worthy of a day’s drunken literary adventuring.

5 Legendary Bond Film Locations You Can Visit

Connery & Andress trying to get away from it all

Watching a James Bond film can make you want a lot of different things: fancy cars, secret agent training, the company of a beautiful woman or handsome man, or even a new wardrobe full of sharp formalwear. The films are designed as much to be eye candy as anything else. Above all else, however, many of them can make you want to tour the world and see some of the incredible cities and gorgeous getaways that Bond and the surrounding characters tend to wind up in. It’s a sprawling franchise full of incredible destinations. Fortunately for us, the idea of visiting these destinations is more attainable than most of those other things mentioned above!

Generally speaking, Bond movies make use of real places rather than making them up, which means filming spots are perfectly accessible to anyone with a dose of wanderlust and a bit of initiative. To prove the point, here’s a look at five legendary locations from the films that you can actually visit in real life.

SkyfallGlencoe 1Dunn’s River Falls – Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Fans will remember a scene in Dr. No when Sean Connery (Bond) and UrsulaAndress (Honey Ryder) ducked under a surreal waterfall in order to avoid capture, using bamboo shafts like snorkels. In the film, this happens in a fictional location. But the actual setting was the Dunn’s River Falls in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. This location is among the most popular tourist destinations associated with an exotic Bond scene.Indeed, travelers insist you allot a couple of hours to climb the Falls if you happen to be visiting the Ocho Rios area.


Glen Etive – Glencoe, Scotland

This is the setting of one of the most recent Bond films: Skyfall. It was an unusual location in the franchise in that it represented not some far reach of the film where a villain lurked or a mission was necessary, but rather a chapter of Bond’s past. Glen Etive is an area in the Scottish Highlands that was used as the backdrop for “Skyfall,” where the country house from Bond’s childhood was. This is where the film reached its climax, and where Daniel Craig’s Bond had his final showdown with Silva (Javier Bardem). It’s a gorgeous place for a hike, as well as some general sightseeing.


OnlyLiveTwiceHimejiCastle 1Himeji Castle – Hyogo, Japan

You Only Live Twice, a 1967 Bond film, saw Sean Connery making his way to Japan, where he ultimately visited a sort of traditional ninja academy run by Tiger Tanaka (Tetsuro Tanba). The academy itself doesn’t exist, but if you’ve ever been intrigued by the setting you’ll be interested to know it was created within Himeji Castle – a very real building in the Hyogo Prefecture of Japan. It’s a postcard-perfect ancient sight that has been called the finest surviving example of 17th century Japanese castle architecture, and you can’t help but absorb a sense of adventure from seeing it in person.

Karlovy Vary Spa – Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic

Daniel Craig’s first turn as Bond, in Casino Royale, involved casino venues arguably more intimately than any previous Bond film. Yet many are under the mistaken impression that the fictional “Casino Royale” was the Monte Carlo Casino. While there are some similarities, this isn’t accurate. The inspiration for the casino came from Ian Fleming’s time at the Casino Estoril in Lisbon – and the actual casino, or at least its beautiful exterior, was filmed at the Karlovy Vary Spa in the Czech Republic. It’s a renowned spa, and in fact the whole town of Karlovy Vary is known as a relaxing and attractive retreat well worth visiting.


GoldenGunThailand 1James Bond Island – Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

It may surprise you to learn that there’s actually an island in Thailand that has taken on the name of James Bond. Such is the case, however, at TapuIsland, a pristine getaway that was used as the hideout for Christopher Lee’s famous Francisco Scaramanga villain. Scaramanga and Bond (RogerMoore) famously dueled on this very beach in The Man With The Golden Gun - but you can have a far more relaxing time if you manage to visit!

Paris: Splendors of the City of Lights and Amour

ParisCity of Lights: it’s called this because Paris was one of the first cities to become fully electrified. It’s called City of Amour because, well, simply put, the French know something about amour. Any visitor leaves forever remembering the sites – and the sites in the night lights. 

The Place de Concorde is the gateway to Les Tulieries and, nestled at the very front, are huge Rodins and the Musee de l’Orangerie [home of Monet’s “Water Lilies”], which houses hundreds of works by Impressionist masters.
Lighting enhances the stunning beauty of the world’s most famous/visited museums, the Louvre, the former palace where art lovers view such objets d’art as the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, and Venus de Milo. You might also call Paris the City of Museums. In addition to l’Orangerie and the Louvre, there’s the huge post-Modern high-tech steel and concrete Centre George Pompidou, with the largest collection of modern art in Europe; the D’Orsay; the Picasso; and prized private collections at the Jacquemart-AndréMarmottan-Monet, Nissim de Camondo, and Louis Vuitton Foundation Musees to name but a few.
Passing the palatial Grand Palais and its Palais de la Découvérte science museum, and adjoining Petit Palais is a marvelous sight by night, but
leaving Paris without a visit would be a huge mistake. You mighgt even consider lunch at the reasonably-priced bistro overlooking the Palais gardens.
You will feel the majesty of Napoleon and the history of France at L’Arc de Triomphe. From there sail the well-heeled shopper’s paradise along the Champs Elysees, with a detour to the famed George V Hotel [soon to unveil its multi-billion Euro renovation]; then, pass tributes to Presidents Washington, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower, and statue of Churchill.

While only the super, super rich can afford the magnificence of the Hotel de Crillon [upward of $1,300 a night, continental or full breakfast included; where Who among the world’s Who’s Who hasn't stayed], which has just reopened after its first major/total facelift in nearly 100 years, you can freely admire the lighted facade, even make a pit stop to admire the grandeur of its 18th Century lobbies, dine at the patio restaurant, and, by day, visit the garden. 

In the center of it all is the stately Palais Opera Garnier. Purchase tour/guided tour tickets to be swept away by the sweeping 19th century architecture, which includes the grand staircase, and galleries and salons which redefine the definition of regal grandeur. It’s home to the eight-ton bronze and crystal chandelier with 340 lights. Don’t miss having a photo taken in front of the box reserved for the phantom! Nearby is the ultra-modern Opéra Bastille.    
At the pinnacle of the Latin Quarter is the stunningly lit by night and worthy of a visit by day Panthéon.   
After viewing the fountains of the Gardens du Trocadéro  with a magnificent view of the dazzling light show on the Eiffel Tower, cross the Pont d’Léna to the Left Bank, where you can marvel up close at Alexandre Gustave Eiffel’s 1889 tower of steel -- even elevator up to the top for dinner and a dazzling city view. Not far away is the Musee D’Orsay, the breathtaking home for more breathtaking Impressionist masterpieces.
Across the Pont Neuf or Pont Notre Dame on its very own lle da la Cité  in the Seine is lofty, medieval Notre Dame Cathedral, where kings and emperors were crowned, with its flying buttresses, gargoyles, towering bell towers [with 10 named bells of various sizes that can do notes from A to G], stained glass masterpieces that include the renowned Gothic-Rayonnant Rose Window, magnificent organ with 8.000 pipes, gigantic doors, and French Gothic interior -- one of the world’s most visited tourist sites. 

Even gaudy, seedy Pigalle, in Paris’ 18th arrondissement, offers standout lighting: of the famed windmill atop the Moulin Rouge, on its present site at 82 Boulevard de Clichy since 1915.  Head northeast to Montmartre and one of the city’s highest points  to the famed “stairway to heaven” stairway leading to the monumental Sacré-Coeur basilica [if you happen to be touring by car, your driver will know how to get you on the much closer upper roadway]. Day or night, it’s a great spot for taking photos.
Only a few miles outside the city, stay to experience the twilight radiance on Versailles, including the Petit Trianon, Grand Trianon, and gardens.
Paris is a walking city, and then some – with steep hills and stairways to climb; and labyrinth Metro stations.  So, wear very comfortable shoes.

In July, 2017, one Euro equaled $1.15, which bodes well, especially when eating out [an advantage over the Pound].

If you have travel plans for summer and can wait until the “Magic Airfare Days” of the dog days of August, when air fares begin segueing to lower Fall prices, you’ll save upwards of $100 booking August 21 on domestic air; booking August 22 international air, over $600.

ParisOperaGarnierGrandStaircaseRecHallCredited 2

Opera Garnier
It’s Charles Garnier’s monument to a bygone era. We will never see the likes of buildings like this one again. You enter into the rotunda and can’t help being astounded by the jawdropping beauty of the 98.5-foot-high tri-color marble vault and the famed Grand Staircase, where you’re greeted by two female allegories holding torches, that leads to the foyers, grand salon, theatre tiers, and private boxes [where one is permanently reserved for the phantom, a legend actually based on the deformed architect, who while helping Garnier secretly built “an underground lair” for himself adjacent to the lake.]
The view from the Grand Staircase, with light from outside and mirrors, is spectacular-plus. The Belle Époque galleries feature classic paintings of “dancing bacchantes and fauna, along with tapestries illustrating different refreshments as well as fishing and hunting.” The magnificent-beyond-description ceiling is by Clairin. The foyer vault, with a ceiling painted by Baudry and a copy of a bust of Garnier by the sculptor Carpeaux, features themes from the history of music. It’s covered with mosaics of shimmering colors on a gold background.
In the tradition of Italian theatres, the horseshoe-shaped seating is designed for audience to see and to be seen. The majestic ceiling, painted by Chagall, hides the steel structure supporting the eight-ton bronze and crystal chandelier. The curtain, which has been duplicated twice, was created by theatrical painters Auguste Rube (1817-1899) and Philippe Chaperon (1823-1906), following Garnier's instructions. The backstage areas are vast and flies soar up to the gods.
Once a sort of “secret place to court” and for well-heeled subscribers celebrities to mingle during intervals with Champagne and caviar, the Foyer de la Danse, adjacent to the stage which served as inspiration to painters and writers, including Degas and Balzac, is now a salon used by artists, musicians, and the corps de ballet for warm-ups.

Throughout the house, the lyre decorates the capitals of the foyers and salons, even heating grids and doorknobs. The Grand Vestibule, “watched over by the statues of Rameau, Lully, Gluck, and Handel,” leads to the exit.
For more information on the Opera Garnier, 8 rue Scribe, schedules, tour/guided tour tickets, and reservations for the very expensive Opéra Restaurant under one of the vaults, visit

The Panthéon
This magnificent and vast Sixth Century colonnaded orthodox cross-shaped edifice high up in the Latin Quarter, across from the Sorbonne, dates to 1744. Built in the neo-Classical style, it’s filled with huge, still vividly-colorful murals of French history. It was the brainchild of Louis XV, who when he became seriously ill and made a vow to build a monument for Saint Genevieve, patron/protector of Parisians against invasions and hunger, should he be cured. He chose the architect Soufflot [and, following his death, his colleague Rondelet] and paid for the tons of marble, soaring Corinthian columns, mosaics, and the columned porch inspired by Rome’s Pantheon of Agrippa, with a royal lottery.
At the time of the French Revolution, the church hadn’t been consecrated. In 1791, the Assembly decided to make it a Panthéon, “a lay temple destined to harbor the labors, struggles and tombs of France’s great men.”
For more information, on the Panthéon, Rue du Panthéon at Rue Clotilde, visit Small admission charge.

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