Nymphs and Noodles in Northern New Mexico
Santa Fe Opera: Rusalka (1901)
Composer: Antonin Dvorak
My first exposure to Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s (1841-1904) opera Rusalka came after listening to a recording by the late Spanish Soprano Pilar Lorengar singing the hauntingly beautiful aria “Hymn to the Moon” from Act I. I always liked Dvorak’s music, but at the time I chiefly associated him with his his symphonic works. Only recently have I discovered that theater and opera were the true loves of his life.
The story of the opera centers on a water Nymph named Rusalka. She and a Prince have fallen in love while swimming together in a lake near his castle. In order to fully grasp the essence of his love she pleads with her father to approach Jezibaba, the witch of the lake to make her mortal. Her father, knowing the fallibility of humans is at first reluctant to seek out the witch, but eventually consents.
In agreeing to transform the Nymph into human form Jezibaba imposes two conditions: first, Rusalka will lose the ability to speak, and second, if the Prince is unfaithful she will be eternally damned and he will die. Given my weakness for innocence, beauty and blind faith my spiritual self would have liked to see this unique match succeed. But I knew in advance the Prince’s philandering with a Foreign Princess (Act II) would spell their doom.
The opera pulsates with sensual romantic melodies and playful instrumental interludes with musical lines that echo phrases from the composer’s chamber works as well as his Slavonic Dances. You could close your eyes, listen and be completely enchanted; however, if you did you would lose the experience of seeing the creative, and sometimes bizarre, set designs. (I particularly enjoyed the huge banquet table that emerges from a side-wall containing numerous body parts, a pig’s head and assorted entrails that serve as ingredients for Jezibaba’s concoction of a potion that will make Rusalka mortal. There’s also a display of vertical glass cases inhabited by peculiar creatures of unknown origin engaging in incomprehensible gestures.) This is all good fun and serves to lighten the psychological load of the viewing audience caught up in the on-going drama.
As far as the lead singers are concerned, all are worthy of praise with special kudos for soprano Ailyn Perez, whose vocal sweetness and pixie-like demeanor resulted in the emergence of a quintessential Rusalka. Mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis, rewarded us with her imposing stature and deep throated tones making Jezibaba a witch of formidable intensity; At the same time, Russian conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya guided the orchestra and singers with precision and sensitivity.
This was the SFO’s first performance of Rusalka since the Company’s inception in 1957. There’s no telling when it might be performed again in Santa Fe. My advice: if you only have time (or finances) for one performance this season, make it Rusalka, – an authentic jewel in the crown of nineteenth century opera.
The Santa Fe Opera:
Rusalka by Antonin Dvorak
August 4th, 8th, 17th & 22nd (8:00 pm)
Tickets: $50 -$350
Santa Fe Box Office: (505) 986-5900
Fun Noodle Bar / Santa Fe
I’m a noodle aficionado. That being said, I vehemently dislike any noodle (or pasta for that matter) that is over-cooked, under-cooked or paste-like in texture and taste. So it was with great delight that I chanced upon Fun Noodle Bar, located at the far end of the Santa Fe strip mall that is home to Trader Joe’s here in the City Different. What first grabbed my attention was the glass window in the back of the establishment that allows customers to see directly into the kitchen and watch the dishes being prepared. Nothing is left to the imagination. (Thank Heaven!)
Let me get right to the point: The noodles here are near perfect. One of my favorite dishes is the pan-fried sliced noodles, (#22 on the menu), served with either chicken, beef or shrimp. But non-noodle dishes abound. They include a traditional Chinese bill of fare, (eg.,orange chicken, Szechuan shrimp, Mongolian beef), a dim sum menu, plus an array of delicious appetizers, amongst them scallion pancakes, seaweed salad, salt and pepper tofu, and one that I, so far, lack the courage to order, a takoyaki octopus ball. (BTW, the egg rolls are the best I’ve tasted anywhere in town.)
The setting is pleasant, with large booths on either side of the restaurant and nicely spaced tables in the middle. Depending on the time of day service is either highly efficient … or not. But the wait time is never excessive. Prices are decent, with appetizers and entrees ranging from $6 to $15.
If you’re an exacting “Noodle Nut” as I am, you’ll not be disappointed paying a visit to the Fun Noodle Bar …. And please, be sure to let me know how you like that weird looking ball of octopus!
Fun Noodle Bar
514 West Cordova Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Hours: Monday – Saturday / 11:00 am to 9:30 pm
Sunday: 11:00 am to 9:00 pm