Holiday Happenings in Woodstock

Hello! Sorry for the long absence. It was a busy autumn with trips to northern Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island to shoot foliage. Then came a business trip to San Diego. Then Thanksgiving with the snow, and next blog post I’ll share some of the photos I took there of an endangered place in the Catskills.

But for now let’s do a “show and tell” of Woodstock. I drove up there yesterday to have lunch, enjoy a play, and generally walk around enjoying the decorations. Here goes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFirst, I had a fabulous lunch at Joshua’s and can highly recommend this place — the food, service, and ambience. not to mention the prices! The menu has a strong international flavor, with a number of Middle Eastern dishes.

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Here’s the front portal of the historic Dutch Reformed Church, all decked out in Christmas finery.

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The Rare Bear gift shop looks warm and inviting to potential shoppers. Also, notice the historic marker to the left. Food for thought!

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Here the emphasis is on the historic marker itself rather than on the building. A call to support your local, homegrown businesses, please.

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It may be Christmas, but Woodstock will never let you forget this is Woodstock! Still, when you look at the decorations on display in this shop window, it’s kind of fitting that the birthday of the Prince of Peace is being celebrated.

Finally, about that play I mentioned. They preferred not to have pictures taken during the performance, and I respected that. But I do encourage you to go and see it for yourself, if you can make it to Woodstock this coming weekend. It’s The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge: A Holiday Comedy by Mark Brown and performed by the Bird-on-a-Cliff Theatre Company. It’s funny, it’s not without its commentary on some foibles of modern society, a delight for everyone familiar with Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and very well acted by a professional cast. More performances this weekend December 19-21, appropriately enough in the court room of the Woodstock Town Hall. See http://birdonacliff.org.

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If you’re still looking for holiday gifts, or would like to treat yourself to something, please have a look at my Etsy shop for some irresistible specials. My Ashokan Items gallery has some photo prints of obvious local interest at a special sale price plus free shipping (USA only), and my Special Sale Items gallery has a selection of some of my best photos, already matted and framed, at ridiculously reduced prices, mostly left over from summer and fall shows because I need to clear some space around here. These are special prices for you faithful readers of my blog.

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Bardavon Theater Presents Met Opera Treats

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One year ago I blogged about the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Parsifal, shown live in HD at the UPAC in Kingston (you can read that post here). Last week I attended the Encore HD performance of the Met’s new production of Massanet’s opera Werther, this time at the UPAC’s “sister theater” across the Hudson River, the historic Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie. “Encore” performances are the same as the “live” ones except that they’re not live but may be a day or a week  later; as with the live ones, in the Encore performances you get the same intermission features, including the interviews with the cast that actually took place during the intermissions.

Ed IMG_2202 sThis was my first time ever seeing Werther, which is loosely based on a novel by Goethe, and except for the tenor arias that I have on recordings by the great Nicolai Gedda I was unfamiliar with any of the music. I can’t say I particularly liked the opera — but I did enjoy the performance immensely. Vocally and visually the cast couldn’t have been more perfect. Both onstage and off, tenor Jonas Kaufmann looks the epitome of the handsome, dashing romantic hero, and the title role was as if made for him. Surprising, really, how demanding the role is, and it’s hard to imagine a tenor today who could navigate its challenges more successfully than Kaufmann.

French mezzo soprano Sophie Koch in the role of Charlotte gave a virtuoso performance as the young woman torn between being united with her true love, on the one hand, and, on the other, dutifully fulfilling her mother’s deathbed wish that she marry Albert, to whom she is now engaged. Lisette Oropesa was delightfully sweet as Charlotte’s younger sister Sophie, and David Bižić a steady, solid, if somewhat boring Albert (I’m referring to the character, not to Bižić’s performance) who nonetheless exhibited hints of a hard side when he thought himself crossed.

Veteran singer Jonathan Summers played the Bailiff, Charlotte’s widowed father. Here’s where the beauty of the close-up camera work of the HD rendition really shines: At one point a telling expression of misgiving flashed across his face when Charlotte’s upcoming marriage to Albert was mentioned. which I doubt could have been visible to the audience in the enormous opera house itself.

In the intermission interview Kaufmann spoke of the challenge of interpreting Werther in such a way that the audience doesn’t lose sympathy with him. He certainly did his best, but I think the production was working against him here, and by Act III you wanted to tell him, “Just take some Zoloft and get over it.”

This was my first time seeing a performance in the Bardavon Theater. The Bardavon has an amazing history. It started life as the Collingwood Opera House in 1869, and

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

If you want to grab a quick and tasty bite to eat before a matinee at the Bardavon, this historic diner is just down the street.

during its heyday, which lasted into the 20th century, renowned artists such as John Philip Sousa, Edwin Booth, and Ignace Paderewski performed here. Converted in 1923 into a venue for vaudeville and silent movies, the theater eventually fell upon hard times and closed in 1975. It was actually slated for demolition, but a not-for-profit group was formed  that worked for revitalization, the theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the very next season the theater began its new life as the Bardavon.

Whatever kind of entertainment you enjoy, the Bardavon and the Kingston UPAC are guaranteed to have something for you. Why not check out their website and see for yourself?

View my fine art photographs of Historic New York, including one of Poughkeepsie’s Main Street, here.