Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Muttrah Fish Market

The other day I accompanied my colleague, Ales, on a shopping trip to the fish market in the Muttrah harbor neighborhood of Muscat.  He loves to cook and he regularly buys fresh fish here. It's basically a large covered tiled concrete slab on which local fishermen display their catch.  The vendors lay out a plastic mat and pile up their varied stock.  Ice doesn't last long so they sprinkle water over the fish every so often to keep them fresh.

There were several varieties of tuna, plus kingfish, hammour, parrotfish, many other species than I cannot name, prawns and shrimp, what looked like eels and a few tropical fish I've only seen in aquariums, never on a menu!  Sometimes there are lobsters or small sharks for sale.

That day we ended up with a large tuna...

...which Ales proceeded to carve up in his kitchen at home, yielding 4 divine fillets. If you aren't into butchering your own fish there are helpers along the back that will do it for you.

A trip to this market should be on every tourist's list, though be warned it is a messy, smelly place, not for the faint of heart. It is, however, frequented mostly by locals, and plenty of expats take advantage of the great selection of truly fresh seafood.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

China 2013

Beijing - 2013 NCPA World Theatre Forum presided over by Chen Ping, President of the National Center for Performing Arts.

This May for the second time I was invited to participate in an opera conference organized by the National Center for Performing Arts in Beijing, China (the building is also known as The Egg!). In case you haven't seen a photo of the complex, here is one from their website:

The Forum kicked off with the opening of a lavish production of "Nabucco" starring Plácido Domingo in the title role. I was very happy I had the chance to hear him in this baritone role and it was wonderful to see him again afterwards and catch up with him, as well as with his son, Alvaro, and his assistant, Nicki Marko. I even ran into Ying Xi, a Chinese tenor, who was a Young Artist at Washington National Opera a few years ago.

The next two days were spent in long sessions of presentations, discussions, exchanges of opinions among the participants and in interviews for various Chinese radio stations. Several international colleagues were present, including director Hugo de Ana whom I was glad to see again after some years. Of course, there were also several General and Artistic Directors and composers from various Chinese Performing Arts centers. Given the entirely different reality the latter are facing compared to American and European theatres (namely that they build state of the art theatres but don't have the programming to put in them; that the audiences don't seem to be familiar with classical European music or with the concept of a season) it was an interesting round of exchanges.

We all were assigned topics pertinent to the opera and classical music business to present and lead the discussion on. It was a bit unusual being given responsibility for a topic on which we might not be expert, but the discussions were well managed and produced many interesting points and information, although not necessarily any solutions.  It's what we Germans so aptly call "Denkanstoesse" which loosely translates into "food for thought" or things that kick-off further thoughts. It is important to look beyond our own reality and maybe to find inspiration, ideas or even solutions to a problem in other places and environments.

Luckily, I managed to squeeze in a little time to go to the so-called "798 Arts District" with my Beijing-friend, Charlotte, and my colleague, Henning, from the Bavarian State Opera. Fascinating galleries and crafts shops fill an area that used to be a large factory. I was remembering a print I had seen the year before that I couldn't to get out of my head. We went looking for the gallery, managed to find it and indeed I bought the print. Yes, call me persistent...or stubborn.

All in all, from "Nabucco" to meeting with Plácido again after so many months, to the NCPA Forum sessions and meeting some new colleagues, it was an interesting and enriching, albeit quick trip.