Onegin deserves standing ovation and then some

Barb and I saw the National Ballet of Canada’s Onegin last night. I almost always prefer the National Ballet’s short pieces to its full-blown story ballets. But the very traditional Onegin ends up being one of my favourite ballets for so many reasons.

First, as Barb says, it’s just so Russian. The class struggle of Onegin’s aristocrat vs. Tatiana’s provincial family; the pageantry (the sets, sigh); the desperately unfulfilled romance; the ill-advised flirting; the glove slap (throwing down the gauntlet!); the tragic duel. It’s a Russian soap opera that would make Dr. Zhivago proud.

Second, the dance. Onegin is a classic ballet that showcases the male principal dancers as much as the ballerinas. Guillaume Cote was perfectly elegant and arrogant as Onegin in Acts I and II, with a surgically seductive smile. He was perfectly tortured and then determinedly charming in Act III, as he tries to win over Tatiana. Naoya Ebe’s Lensky excelled as Olga’s romantic, devoted, and fatally jealous suitor.

I adore Tatiana’s Act I dance with Onegin, who steps into her dreams through her mirror, takes her in his arms, and cements her love for him with a passionate pas de deux. Greta Hodgkinson’s Tatiana is equally innocent and besotted; her prince has leapt off the pages of her romance novel and into her bedroom.

And then – the compelling story. You start off rooting for Olga and Lensky in particular – they are such a well-matched and loving couple. But don’t get too invested.

It’s a tough ending. If you believe in karma, you will not be pleased. Onegin does not get his just rewards for murdering his good friend Lensky.

Sure, Onegin is thwarted in his seduction of the mature and happily married Tatiana. Tatiana finds her resolve and ultimately sends him away. She’s now his unattainable perfect princess, avenging the young and devoted country girl who was disposable to him. (Aside: Really, NBC, why that dowdy brown frock in Act III?)

But Tatiana very nearly gives in to his charms; she starts to run after him after she’s expelled him from the room. Don’t forget there were a few kisses in that bedroom. Tatiana will torture herself, dwelling on her weakness and impropriety. She will bear another lifelong scar from Onegin.

One also suspects Onegin will get over his heartbreak sooner than he should, relishing his almost-conquest of Tatiana. And then he will move on, recklessly, to his next victim, without thinking of the consequences. Wash rinse repeat.

And my final thought is for Olga. Honey, just dance with the one who brung you. Saves a lot of heartache.

Fish tacos? Creamed spinach?

Yes please!

My birthday is coming up, so I’m debating where to go for a special lunch or dinner. My first thought was fish tacos @ The Combine Eatery on the Danforth. Southern California-style, with basa fish (grilled or fried). I swear some day I’ll be healthy and try the grilled fish. Friends swear the grilled basa is awesome, but it’s hard to turn down fried when it’s right there on the menu. (In my defence, it’s lightly fried.)


But then this recipe for creamed spinach landed in my inbox this morning, and I started thinking about a traditional steak dinner (like at Ruth’s Chris) with creamed spinach on the side.

Dilemmas, dilemmas.


Beef burgundy

By popular demand (and by “popular”, I mean “Mary Jane”), here is my* beef burgundy recipe, which is divine, esp. Day Two, and is best served with whipped potatoes.

*Adapted from a diabetic cookbook of the 1990s, if I recall. My father-in-law Max made the same recipe, with his own twists.


Beef Burgundy

5-6 slices of bacon

2+ cups onions, coarsely chopped

2 lbs (1 kg) lean stewing beef

2 tbsp flour

1 tsp salt

½ tsp each of thyme, marjoram, and herbes de provence

¼ tsp each ground pepper, garlic powder

1 ½ cups red wine (hearty, like a cabernet sauvignon)

1 ½ cups beef broth

Beef bovril to taste (for beefier taste)

1 tbsp tomato paste

½ lb+ mushrooms, coarsely chopped


1. Fry bacon slices in heavy and deep sauté pan until crisp.  (Mary Jane and I favour our Le Creuset French oven)

2. Remove bacon from pan when crisp – towel off grease & crumble. Put aside.

3. Fry chopped onions in bacon grease until tender. Remove to another bowl and set aside.

4. Brown stewing beef (in 1 inch cubes). When brown, add flour, herbs, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir fry for 1 minute.

5. Return bacon to pan. Stir in wine, beef broth and tomato paste.

6. Simmer, loosely covered, for 2 hours; stir occasionally. Liquid should almost (not quite) completely reduce – should be enough to coat mushrooms and onions (next step).

7. Add mushrooms and onions and continue to simmer for 20 more minutes.

Chihuly at the ROM

Lovely, if microscopic, exhibit at the ROM. Visited on Friday with Paula. Paula had seen his installation in Denver and tells me the sculptures are more magnificent outside, in the midst of nature, gardens and water.

My mom and brother saw his exhibit in September in Seattle, just at the base of the Space Needle, and raved about it.  The Chihuly exhibit, plus their observation that everybody in Seattle has a dog – the most important take-aways for them.

I was very impressed, although I’ve never spent $30 for a 10-minute exhibit before.

And WTF — no Chihuly-licensed or Chihuly-inspired glass paperweights in the gift shop? How does that make any sense? Most obvious product tie-in ever.


Here’s why Marie Henein is my hero

First she schooled Peter Mansbridge about professional responsibility during his March interview with her. No, a female lawyer doesn’t “betray women” by taking on a male client accused of sexual assault. Nor does a female judge betray women by ruling in favour of a male defendant. Female lawyers and judges do their jobs. Full stop.

And now she’s written a brilliant piece in the Globe & Mail on what Hillary’s loss means to women.  Excerpt:

So what did Ms. Clinton’s run tell us? That even a progressive society has difficulty embracing women in positions of power. That women decision makers and power brokers continue to be viewed with inherent suspicion. You can hold office, just not the highest one. You can succeed, just not too much. I’m going to say it; she lost because she is a woman. If she was a man, she would be president-elect today. Plain and simple.

Read the whole opinion piece.  Thank you, Ms Henein.


I was speechless for most of yesterday.  The election results left me ricocheting from numb to anxious to forlorn disbelief.  Fixating on the future right-wing Supreme Court, the inevitable repeal of Obamacare, the futility of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

I shed more than one tear during Hillary’s concession speech, imagining what her victory speech would have meant to millions of women and girls.  Thinking how capable a public servant she is, how competent and steady she would be at the helm.  How furious she must be about how she was brought down.  

Hillary was as gracious as anyone could or should be in her position, considering (nasty woman, and other invectives).

Late afternoon, this blog landed in my inbox.  And I did feel a smidge better after reading it.  I don’t agree with all the sentiments expressed, but it made me remember how hopeless I felt when Reagan was elected (when I was 13!) and when W. was elected (both times).  

We will all survive this.