A short weekend of opera, gallery and museum going.
by artslover on November 10, 2010
We had a drink in the bar area before our dinner reservations. C5 is located in the pinnacle of the new Daniel Libeskind designed expansion at the Royal Ontario Museum and is very contemporary looking with angular walls and windows. When you enter, there is a striking looking art glass installation by local artist Jeff Goodman, whose work looks somewhat like some of Dale Chihuly’s pieces. Another of his big art glass pieces forms a wall inside the restaurant. From the windows by our table, we could see the buildings of the University of Toronto and the CN Tower in the distance. It is a very attractive venue.The set up of C5's menu is rather unusual. We opted not to do the tasting menu and instead had our choice off the ala carte menu which is set up with a number of options to make up a five course meal many of them involve sharing platters or boards with a variety of bites. There were three of us. I split the charcuterie board as an appetizer. It was very tasty and included some unusual items like horse meat. The three of us then shared two servings of the meat sharing platter and two of the vegetable sharing platter, again, both very tasty with very interesting variety. I knew I was in trouble because I could have quit eating before my main course, a handmade linguine with mushrooms, had arrived. The pasta had excellent texture and I managed to eat some of it but a cheese course and dessert was out of the question, even for my fellow diners, two men with good appetites. Instead, we finished the last of a bottle of wine from a rather quirky wine list which covered a lot of countries and a fair range of prices yet was not a very long list. For our final meal in Toronto, we had an enjoyable time and left feeling very sated.
I renewed my membership at the Royal Ontario Museum and was able to get free tickets for the Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army for Saturday afternoon. The special exhibit has timed tickets which are an additional cost on top of entry to the museum. General adult admission is $24, with the special exhibit, the total is $31. Online purchases are a good idea as it was fairly crowded when we went on a Saturday afternoon.The Terracotta warriors exhibit was very educational as I know pretty much nothing about China’s history. While the highlights are the 10 life size terracotta figures unearthed from the army pits starting in 1974, the exhibition is so much more. It explains the history both before and after the First Emperor of China and what is known about the enormous tomb complex he had built with numerous artifacts from the complex. I came out of the exhibit knowing so much more than I used to know about Chinese history.We also visited some of the permanent exhibits in the original part of the Museum. The gems and minerals section is particularly rich. We looked until we had to leave because it was closing time. Two hours was not enough time at the ROM.The ROM recently underwent a renovation finished just this year, with its centrepiece being the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The Libeskind design saw some of the old galleries torn down and replaced with a Deconstructivist crystalline-form structure which makes its exterior a dramatic building to look at from the exterior.The museum also has a bar and restaurant on the 5th level called C5 where we went after we were made to leave the museum.
I went to the Canadian Opera Company performance of Verdi’s Aida while my dear husband (DH) was at a work related dinner. The opera is set in ancient Egypt but this performance is done is modern dress, sort of WW II era. My last minute ticket was not in an ideal location, too close to the orchestra pit, but nevertheless, I relished the performance. Aida is an Ethiopian slave girl, magnificently sung by the soprano. In this performance, she serves not in a sun-washed palace in Egypt but in what would best be described as a military bunker. It’s ruled over by a nouveau riche junta, headed up by the King of Egypt, sung by the bass, and his daughter, a mezzosoprano, who is also Aida’s mistress.But both slave and mistress, of course, are in love with the same man, the solider Radames , the tenor, who has just been charged with leading the invasion of Ethiopia, where Aida’s father , a baritone, rules.When Radames defeats the Ethiopians, he sets in motion a series of events that, of course, ends in tragedy of operatic proportions.Despite the modern dress, this was a classic opera and very enjoyable.The Four Season Performing Arts Centre, where the COC perform, is located downtown and very easy to get to by subway or taxi. Buying a last minute tickets was not a problem for a solo visitor. You can purchase online and then pick up the ticket when you attend the performance.
The Art Gallery of Ontario underwent a major redevelopment designed by the Canadian born architect Frank Gehry. It was started in 2004 and completed in 2008. The building itself is now very impressive both inside and out and with the expansion, so much more can be displayed. The collection includes more than 68,000 works spanning the 1st century to the present-day, including the world’s largest collection of Canadian art. Works by Canadian artists make up more than half of the AGO’s collection. Admission is $19.50 for adults and gets you into all the exhibitions including special temporary exhibitions.I mainly wanted to see the special Henry Moore exhibit exhibit. It brought together a number of early works by the sculptor which are mostly located in the UK and USA. The AGO's Moore sculptures are later works so this was a great opportunity to see how his earlier period informed his later work. Many of the sculptures are huge which makes looking at so many together an enveloping experience.I also looked at some of the gallery permanent collection highlights highlights such as Ruebens’ Massacre of the Innocents, probably the most significant European work in the collection, and the Group of Seven paintings. I was there on a Saturday morning and the place was almost empty. Walking around with the sun shining in and viewing the art and architecture was a blissful experience. Walking around the outside of the building is equally fascinating when, as it was, the sun reflect off the mirrored glass encapsulating the newly redesigned gallery.
The location is good if you like to shop high end retail. Holt Renfrew, Prada, Gucci and Hérmes are just down the street with lots of upscale boutiques within a few blocks. (My husband probably wished it wasn’t so easy for me to spend lots of money.) Easier on the wallet shopping at H & M and the Bay is also near by. The Royal Ontario Museum is just across the street if you want a museum to visit which offers lots of variety. Lots of good restaurants are in the area. Downtown attractions including the CN Tower are further away but can be reached in about half an hour by walking or much faster by taking the nearby subway.The hotel offers the amenities and services expected in a bigger chain which advertises itself as a luxury hotel – restaurant, lounge, room service and a small fitness centre with a lap pool. It has a business centre which must be on the second floor with the conference rooms since I didn’t see it in the lobby. The concierge desk is prominent and the staff in the lobby are quick to ask if you need assistance. I tried the restaurant for dinner and breakfast. The choices are not vast and not cheap but the food and service were good. The lounge is very expensive but in the evening was full of lively younger people who didn’t seem to be put off by the cost of drinks.Our room, a deluxe king, was very roomy with a sitting area as well as a work desk. The bathroom done in marble has both a tub and separate shower and was spacious and very clean. In room coffee or tea was complimentary as was the small safe. A cash mini bar and snack tray was also offered. The room and bed were comfortable and quiet as the windows faced an inner courtyard and we were able to leave the window cracked open during the night for fresh air. All the housekeeping staff we encountered were very friendly and did a very good job maintaining the room.The hotel is getting a bit dated in some ways. The room we had did not have a flat screen television so common in many hotels and the two elevators were very slow. Internet connection, not wi-fi, was available in the room but at a cost of $11 per day, when most places now offer internet for free.All in all my complaints are minor. I would not dissuade anyone from staying here. However, I doubt I would stay again. If I was in Toronto for pleasure, I would prefer to be further south in the downtown area where there are a number of good boutique hotels and closer to more art galleries, theatres and performing arts centres.
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