Saturday 21 September 2013


“Music is the movement of sound to reach the soul for the education of its virtue.” - Plato

For Music Saturday, “Orfeo ed Euridice”, an opera composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck (2 July 1714 – 15 November 1787) based on the myth of Orpheus, set to a libretto by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi. It belongs to the genre of the “azione teatrale”, meaning an opera on a mythological subject with choruses and dancing. The piece was first performed at Vienna on 5 October 1762. “Orfeo ed Euridice” is the first of Gluck's “reform” operas, in which he attempted to replace the abstruse plots and overly complex music of opera seria with a “noble simplicity” in both the music and the drama.

The opera is the most popular of Gluck's works, and one of the most influential on subsequent German opera. Variations on its plot – the underground rescue-mission in which the hero must control, or conceal, his emotions – include Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Beethoven’s Fidelio and Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

Though originally set to an Italian libretto, “Orfeo ed Euridice” owes much to the genre of French opera, particularly in its use of accompanied recitative and a general absence of vocal virtuosity. Indeed, twelve years after the 1762 premiere, Gluck re-adapted the opera to suit the tastes of a Parisian audience at the Académie Royale de Musique with a libretto by Pierre-Louis Moline. This reworking was given the title "Orphée et Eurydice", and several alterations were made in vocal casting and orchestration to suit French tastes.

This 1982 performance is with the London Philharmonic, Glyndebourne Festival de Opera, conducted by Raymond Leppard, With Janet Baker and Elisabeth Speiser in the title roles.

Friday 20 September 2013


“Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts.” - Charles Lamb
Asparagus is in season at the moment and it is delicious! This vegetarian frittata is a dish that is very popular with us and according to the season, we vary the vegetables that are included in it.
Vegetarian Frittata

50 g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
250 g asparagus tips
1 leek, sliced white part
6 medium mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup grated parmesan
1/3 cup grated tasty cheese
6 eggs
1/2 cup cream
Salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste
1 zucchini, parsley and a few button mushrooms to decorate, if desired
Blanch asparagus tips until tender. Shred the broccoli florets and blanch for a short time. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the olive oil and cook leek for a few minutes stirring all the while until soft. Add the thinly sliced mushrooms, cook for a little until tender. Add the broccoli and asparagus and cook until well coated in fat. Remove from heat and leave aside.
When cool, add the  grated cheeses to the vegetables and put in a greased flan dish.
Beat eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg in a bowl. Pour over the vegetable and cheese mixture. Sprinkle a little extra grated parmesan over the top.
If you wish to decorate with zucchini and mushrooms, slice the zucchini and mushrooms finely and sauté until tender. Arrange over the frittata.
Bake in a moderate oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden-brown. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.
Tastes very good the next day also.
This post is part of the Food Friday meme,
and also part of the Food Trip Friday meme.

Thursday 19 September 2013


“And Fall, with her yeller harvest moon and the hills growin’ brown and golden under a sinkin’ sun.” - Roy Bean

Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month according to the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second grandest festival after the Spring Festival in China. It takes its name from the fact that it is always celebrated in the middle of the autumn season. The day is also known as the Moon Festival, as at that time of the year the moon is at its roundest and brightest. In 2013, this falls on September 19.

People in mainland China enjoy one day off on the festival which is usually connected with the weekend. In Hong Kong and Macau, people also enjoy one day off. However, it is not scheduled on the festival day, but the following day and it is usually not connected with the weekend. In Taiwan, the one-day holiday falls on the festival day.

Mooncakes (月饼; yuè bĭng) are a Chinese bakery product traditionally eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival (Zhongqiujie). Mooncakes are regarded as an indispensable delicacy at this time. They are offered between friends or on family gatherings while celebrating the festival. Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, measuring about 10 cm in diameter and 4–5 cm thick. This is the Cantonese mooncake, eaten in Southern China in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macau. A rich thick filling usually made from red bean or lotus seed paste is surrounded by a thin (2–3 mm) crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs. Mooncakes are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea. Today, it is customary for businessmen and families to present them to their clients or relatives as presents, helping to fuel a demand for high-end mooncake styles.

Australia has a high proportion of Chinese-Australians who hold on to their culture and traditions. Organised by the Melbourne Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce, the Melbourne Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, now in its 23rd year, is an annual multicultural celebration for all ages and is one of the most highly anticipated events in Melbourne.

The Festival showcases Asian culture, traditions and cuisines, as well as encouraging communities from all across Melbourne to join in celebrating the Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, traditionally a time for family and friends to gather and admire the mid-autumn harvest moon. It also promotes community harmony, strengthening the understanding of Asian - Australian culture.

The event will be celebrated this weekend in many Melbourne locales. In Boxhill, with its high numbers of Chinese Australians, the event will be celebrated with many varied activities. With over 60 marquees, the event will include various international cuisines, arts and crafts, lantern decorating, as well as a full entertainment program - including the Opening Ceremony, lion dancing, live performances, games, competitions and SBS broadcasting van.

Wednesday 18 September 2013


“A ship is safe in harbour, but that's not what ships are for.” - William Shedd

Magpie Tales has selected this week a fragment of a map showing St Ninian’s isle. This is a small tied island connected by the largest active tombolo (a bar of sand or shingle joining an island to the mainland) in the UK to the south-western coast of the Mainland, Shetland, in Scotland. The tombolo, known locally as an ayre, from the Old Norse for ‘gravel bank’, is 500 metres long. Except at extremely high tides, the sand is above sea level and accessible to walkers.

Depending on the definition used St. Ninian’s is thus either an island, or a peninsula; it has an area of about 72 hectares. The nearest settlement is Bigton on South Mainland. The important Early medieval St Ninian’s Isle Treasure of metalwork, mostly in silver, was discovered under the church floor in 1958. Many seabirds, including puffin visit the island, with several species nesting there.

Magpie’s followers who take up the creative challenge will pen a suitable response. Here is my offering:

The Voyage

I am readying myself for a long voyage
On an ocean of tears wept long ago.
Dry-eyed now I fashion out of the fragments of my heart
A new, sea-faring ship with sails unfurling.

I am readying all that I shall take with me
Wrapping it in a cloth woven of old sorrows -
Would any other contain loss, despair, defeat?
Would any other wrap bitterness, pain, regret?

I am readying myself for the stormy seas ahead
By burning my remembrances, tearing my maps,
Scraping my tablet’s wax, denying all that I have learnt
Effacing dearly paid for past experience.

I am readying flesh and soul that they endure
New hardships, new sufferings, new betrayals.
I take with me the same knife that wounded me before

Resigned to let it test my scars for yet new pain.

And then what if before my voyage ends,
Even as I set my eyes on distant and welcoming new shores,
What if it should come to pass
That my feeble craft fail and sink?
That would not stop me boarding it,
I am ready for the shipwreck,
For after all I have survived a shipwreck once before...

Monday 16 September 2013


“Travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind.” - Seneca

Sydney is Australia’s largest city, and capital of the state of New South Wales. Located on Australia’s southeastern coast, Sydney has a magnificent harbour and a strategic position, making it one of the most important ports in the South Pacific. In the early 19th century, when it was still a small convict settlement and the first settlers had barely penetrated the interior, it had already established trade with the Pacific Islands, India, China, South Africa, and the Americas.

The first sight of Sydney, whether from the sea or the air, is always spectacular. Built on low hills surrounding a huge harbour with innumerable bays and inlets, the city is dominated by the bulk of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, one of the longest steel-arch bridges in the world, and the Opera House, with its glittering white shell-shaped roofs that seem to echo the sails of the many yachts in the adjacent harbour. The intricate confusion of water and buildings makes a striking impression either by day or by night.

Because of its history as a great port and its status as the site of the country’s main international air terminal, Sydney is perhaps the only city in Australia with a genuinely international atmosphere. Yet it remains a very Australian city, with a nice compromise between the Anglo-Saxon efficiency of its British heritage and the South Seas attractions of its climate and environment. The area of the City of Sydney is 26.2 square km; while the Sydney Statistical Division is 12,406 square km. The population of greater Sydney is nearly five million people.

Sunday 15 September 2013


“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” – Aristotle

For Art Sunday, “Il Bronzino”, whose original name was Agnolo di Cosimo di Mariano Tori Agnolo (also spelled  Agniolo). Il Bronzino was born November 17, 1503, Florence and died November 23, 1572, in Florence and his polished and elegant portraits are outstanding examples of the Mannerist style. These works are classic embodiments of the courtly ideal under the Medici dukes of the mid-16th century. The artist was well-known and successful during his lifetime and he influenced European court portraiture for the next century.

Particularly in his early work, Bronzino was greatly influenced by the work of his teacher, the Florentine painter Jacopo da Pontormo. Bronzino adapted his master’s eccentric, expressive style (early Mannerism) to create a brilliant, precisely linear style of his own that was also partly influenced by Michelangelo and the late works of Raphael. Bronzino served as the court painter to Cosimo I, duke of Florence, from 1539 until his death.

His portraits, such as “Eleanor of Toledo with Her Son Giovanni” (a detail of which is shown above), are preeminent examples of Mannerist portraiture: Emotionally inexpressive, reserved, and noncommittal, yet arrestingly elegant and decorative. Bronzino’s great technical proficiency and his stylised rounding of sinuous anatomical forms are also notable. He also painted sacred and allegorical works of distinction, such as “The Allegory of Luxury, or Venus, Cupid, Folly, and Time” (c. 1544–45), which reveals his love of complex symbolism, contrived poses, and clear, brilliant colours.

Mannerism (from maniera, “manner,” or “style”), is an artistic style that predominated in Italy from the end of the High Renaissance in the 1520s to the beginnings of the Baroque style around 1590. The Mannerist style originated in Florence and Rome and spread to northern Italy and, ultimately, to much of central and northern Europe. The term was first used around the end of the 18th century by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Lanzi to define 16th-century artists who were the followers of major Renaissance masters.

Mannerism originated as a reaction to the harmonious classicism and the idealised naturalism of High Renaissance art as practiced by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael in the first two decades of the 16th century. In the portrayal of the human nude, the standards of formal complexity had been set by Michelangelo, and the norm of idealised beauty by Raphael. But in the work of these artists’ Mannerist successors, an obsession with style and technique in figural composition often outweighed the importance and meaning of the subject matter. The highest value was instead placed upon the apparently effortless solution of intricate artistic problems, such as the portrayal of the nude in complex and artificial poses.

Mannerist artists evolved a style that is characterised by artificiality and artfulness, by a thoroughly self-conscious cultivation of elegance and technical facility, and by a sophisticated indulgence in the bizarre. The figures in Mannerist works frequently have graceful but queerly elongated limbs, small heads, and stylised facial features, while their poses seem difficult or contrived. The deep, linear perspectival space of High Renaissance painting is flattened and obscured so that the figures appear as a decorative arrangement of forms in front of a flat background of indeterminate dimensions.

Mannerists sought a continuous refinement of form and concept, pushing exaggeration and contrast to great limits. The results included strange and constricting spatial relationships, jarring juxtapositions of intense and unnatural colours, an emphasis on abnormalities of scale, a sometimes totally irrational mix of classical motifs and other visual references to the antique, and inventive and grotesque pictorial fantasies.