This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for February, 2014

Dvořák’s Rusalka

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 24, 2014

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Dvořák’s lyric opera, Rusalka, was first performed in 1901. It remains one of the most popular Czech operas. (A rusalka is a water nymph or sprite who lives in a stream.) The heroine of this opera, Rusalka, is a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince and gives up her voice in return for being able to live on land as a mortal. Rusalks is the original Slavic “Little Mermaid,” which was adapted by Hans Christian Anderson. Disney gave the story a happy ending, but since this is opera, everyone dies at the end.

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The production was gorgeous and the voices were wonderful. I didn’t want to be too obvious about taking photos (we were sharing the box with a German couple), so most of these photos were taken during curtain calls. The first photo (above) shows the castle where they are preparing for the wedding feast. It was such a stunning set I had to photograph it.

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The curtain calls with the red curtain in the background were taken just before the intermission. The opera is three hours long.

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I found a video of short segments from this production, uploaded by the Prague State Opera. It’s a pity that the famous “Song to the Moon” is so difficult to hear over the orchestra, but the rest of the excerpts are quite good. It’s a pity that the dance segments were not included, because the wedding dance was  impressive.

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Prague State Opera

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 24, 2014

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted photos of Prague. This is the Prague State Opera. I’ve always wanted to watch an opera in an old European opera house–one of those Baroque chocolate boxes with gilded balconies and chandeliers, and champagne at intermission. The Prague State Opera was perfect, and very reasonably priced (most expensive tickets were around $50, much less than you’d pay at La Scala or Covent Garden). You can buy tickets on-line.

We watched Dvorak’s opera, “Rusalka.” Most of these photos were taken during the intermission. I didn’t want to be too obvious with the camera, so I didn’t bring a wide angle lens with me. The photos don’t do it justice. The State Opera is considered one of the most beautiful opera houses in Europe.

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The Prague State Opera. originally called the New German Theater, opened in 1888. From 1949 to 1989, it was called the Smetana Theater. It was originally built by the  German-speaking community in Prague, when Prague was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Opera is very popular among the Czechs. While the concerts in chapels tend to be specifically for tourists (i.e., 45 minutes of Great Baroque Hits, played by competent but not outstanding musicians), opera attracts a lot of the locals. If you’re planning to go, dress up a bit.

I didn’t get a great shot of the facade because I would have had to cross a very busy street, several lanes wide. By the time the opera was over, it was dark, so I just took this quick snapshot from the sidewalk in front. The State Opera is half a block from Wencelas Square, in the direction of the train station.

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Here’s the the view from inside our box. Ironically, the tiny wooden seats in the box seem to be less comfortable than the padded seats in the orchestra. There are a few advantages to having a box. You don’t have to check your coat because there are coat hooks on the wall. It’s easier to get out at the end of the performance. If you’re in a ground floor box, you’re close to the bathrooms.

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Ceiling details…

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The boxes on the third level (below) have statues holding lamps.

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The boxes on either side of the stage are bowed.

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Close-up of the third-level boxes

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The lobby is much smaller, with rococo ceiling mouldings.

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First Anemones Race, Shokeda

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 24, 2014

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Last Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, I ran the 10K Anemones Race (Merotz haKalaniot) in Shokeda, near the Gaza strip. This is the first year that this particular race was held. The anemones, which look like poppies but are actually related to buttercups, were in full bloom. I don’t normally get to see the winter flowers because I live in Maale Adumim, so this was a wonderful opportunity to compete in a new race and see a new (for me) part of the country. I had to get up at 5 a.m., got picked up at 6, and we drove 1.5 hours to Shokeda.

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Everyone is milling around getting numbers and picking up t-shirts. I didn’t win a trophy this time because I placed 4th (out of 6) in my category, but I did set a new personal record–66 minutes–and placed 176/198. The fact that it was so flat and I didn’t get lost (as I did in Kiryat Arba the previous week) undoubtedly contributed to the better time. The three women who placed ahead of me were very good runners, all under an hour.

Starting line:

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And they’re off…. Nearly 200 runners participated.

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The race course was entirely on dirt roads around fields. I had no idea it was so flat, even though I’d checked the elevation ahead of time. There were some slopes but not around this field.

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At the 5 km mark. The long straight road seemed to stretch on forever. I kept staring in the same direction, watching an electrical tower gradually get larger and larger.

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This must have been where the long road turned 90 degrees because I can see some of the runners ahead of me on the left side of the photo.

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Just before the race they told us that we would have about 200 meters of mud. I couldn’t figure out how there would be mud, since it hadn’t rained for nearly a week. Then I saw the sprinklers…. Fortunately, the camera slipped into my waist pouch with enough room on the strap for me to keep running without having to unfasten the leash.

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Neither Yisrael nor I placed high enough to get a trophy, so we wandered over to the fields to photograph flowers before heading home.

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I desaturated the green and blue to get this photo. Looks a bit like they’re growing after a forest fire. 🙂

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About half an hour after the 10K run ended, the 20K off-road bike race began.

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Lunch in Jaffa

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2014

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Our tour finished by the Jaffa marina. The eagle is a decoration on a tour boat. The clock sculpture below is just below the old lighthouse.

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We ate lunch at Dr. Shakshuka (shakshuka is a mixture of sauteed vegetables in tomato sauce, topped by poached eggs).  It is located on Beit Eshel street, in a rather rundown area. Eating there is an experience. Not sure I’d go back by myself, but it was fine for a group outing.

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The ceiling is decorated with dozens of old cooking pots and primus (kerosene) stoves.

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The walls are covered with magazine and newspaper clippings about the restaurant. I like the position of these two guys studying the menu, with the owner’s face staring out of the picture frames.

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I haven’t been in Israel long enough to remember when the currency was in liras. The bills, worth almost nothing now, were tucked under the plexiglas table cover.

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More Shots of Jaffa

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2014

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(Above) Alley in Old Jaffa

(Below) Doorway to nowhere. Well-preserved door mounted against a stone wall.

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Another doorway to nowhere:

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Enclosed balconies across from the marina:

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Random Shots of Jaffa

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2014

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These are a few snapshots I took when I went with my old work group to Jaffa for a half-day trip.

Children’s chairs in a furniture store:

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Seafood restaurant on Retsif Ha-aliyah Ha-shniya:

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Facade of an Ottoman period gate to a courtyard (Yefet street near the clock).

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Re-used stones in the wall of the Mahmediyya mosque (by the fountains).

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View of Tel Aviv from the Abraham Schechterman Garden:

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Cave of the Patriarchs, Hevron

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 16, 2014

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Few photos that I took inside the Cave (Tombs) of the Patriarchs. I used a pocket camera set to a fairly high ISO, so some of the photos are grainy. The interior is divided into several chambers and courtyards. This part of Hevron (H1) is controlled by the Palestinian Authority, so Jews are only allowed in certain areas, about 20% of the complex. The architecture is Ottoman.

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Hevron 10K Race

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 16, 2014

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How to get a trophy on your first race…. First, sign up for a race with hardly any participants. 🙂 The Hevron 10K is a tough run and had only about 60 competitors. I think every woman in the race won a trophy. There were only 4 or 5 and we were spread out over different age groups. There was another woman registered in my group, but she didn’t run, so I was the only winner in my category. Looks like a woman on top of a Dalek.

Here I am at the starting point, with the Tomb of the patriarchs in the background.

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And we’re off…. Of course I’m at the back of the pack. I’m not a very fast runner and it didn’t help that I took a wrong turn in Kiryat Arba–there was n0 sign after the unattended water stand at the 8th kilometer (that was also really annoying; when you’re running, you shouldn’t have to stop, fish a cup out of a plastic bag, and fill it yourself). I wasn’t in any danger. But I tried to guess which way to go and guessed wrong. When I turned around, I saw that the two women who were behind me had gone straight, instead of turning, so I followed them, losing about half a kilometer.

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Beautiful scenery! Lots of terraces and vineyards. The hills of the first two kilometers were really difficult, from the Machpela up to the industrial area of Kiryat Arba. I don’t think we have such steep hills in Maale Adumim, unless you try to run straight up the hill from a wadi.

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I have another 10 km race this Friday, the “Kalaniot” (Anemones). About twice as many people are registered, so I’ll have some real competition! At least it will be a lot flatter.

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