The Nutcracker at the Semperoper in Dresden and a look backstage

The holiday season and the Nutcracker go together like bread & butter. There are not many ballets out there that don't have this beloved classic by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on their plan each year and if you follow dancers on social media, you will have been bombarded with photos. Personally, there is no holiday season without the Nutcracker.
There are a couple of houses where we love to watch a ballet. The Semperoper in Dresden was very high on our list and we got to tick that off this past December. A few days before Christmas we travelled to Dresden to drink mulled wine on the Christmas market (Cherry flavour. In case you want to know) and watch the Nutcracker live on stage. 
We love to go backstage and be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, checking out the costumes and the make up area, admire the props and watching the dancers warm up. The press department of the Semperoper was so very kind to allow us to come backstage and take lots of photos and even interview the two dancers Chiara Scarrone (she was Marie) and Václav Lamparter (he was the Nutcracker/prince). These interviews will be a new post.

Come follow us backstage, why don't you?

Photo by Anastasia Benko
Photo by Anastasia Benko
Photo by Anastasia Benko
Photo by Anastasia Benko
Photo by Anastasia Benko
Photo by Anastasia Benko

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times: Theatre, operas and ballet are the keeper of crafts. The costumes are handmade, so are the head pieces and props. Some of them have been used for many years.
The backstage area at the Semperoper consists of long, windowless hallways with lots of doors leading to the make up room, changing areas of the dancers or offices for the administration. You will have to know your way around. The hallways are filled with costume racks right outside the rooms of the dancers. Everything works and has to work like clockwork. Dancers are required to be in the make up chair at a certain time to get their face on. Getting dozens of dancers ready is no easy task. Discipline starts here.

Photo by Anastasia Benko

The rehearsal room is always my favorite. Mirrors from wall to wall, barres and a piano. For me (as a ballet lover but never a dancer), this screams ballet. The rehearsal room has a gallery for visitors that is located above the dancers. No photos allowed!
The Nutcracker in the Semperoper is a very traditional production and so is the set.

The look into the auditorium from the stage is pretty impressive. The interior is certainly one of the most beautiful ones we got to visit.

Photo by Anastasia Benko

The dancers warmed up, so it was time for us to head into the Semperoper itself. A German beer brand uses the outside of the Semperoper in their commercials and therefore people often think this building is not an opera, but a fancy brewery. It is smack dab in the middle of Dresden. There is the Zwinger to the left and the river Elbe on the left. In front is the theatre square that is filled with people dancing when Dresden hosts the opera ball each year.
Ain't she a beauty?

Photo by Anastasia Benko

It is safe to say, this house has seen its fair share of catastrophies! The Semperoper was openend in 1841 and in 1869 a devastating fire burnt it down. But it was rebuild by architect Gottfried Semper, who gave the opera its name. In the last weeks of World War II in 1945, the Semperoper was largely destroyed by bombs, leaving only the shell standing. 40 years later in 1985 the reconstruction was completed. But then came the flood of 2002. The Elbe set large parts of Dresden under water and the Semperoper suffered heavy water damage.
Look at it now, though! Feast your eyes on the interior of this iconic venue.

Photo by Anastasia Benko

There is not only a red curtain seperating the stage from the auditorium, but also a fabric covered "wall" that opens up before the curtain raises. This curtain alone weighs 400 kilogramms.
Above the stage is a clock that works in five minute intervals. That clock comes in very handy, so you really have no excuse to get your phone out to check the time. Not that there is an excuse anyway.

Photo by Anastasia Benko

It is certainly worth looking up at the ceiling when you get a glass of bubbly (and you really should look up and get bubbly!). The Semperoper is a wonderful venue and if you can get tickets you really should. It offers a great variety in opera, ballet and concerts. Some are traditonal, some are new and unique. If you can't visit in the evening, take the tour through the house and find out more about the history of this house. It will certainly be worth your while.

Photo by Anastasia Benko

Thank you very much Semperoper for allowing us to come backstage. It was such a treat, we will talk about here and beyond for years to come. And we will be back!

Photo by Anastasia Benko

Gift ideas for opera lovers

It could be very easy, if you want to buy a present for an opera lover. You could get some tickets or perhaps (even easier) get a cd. But then again, you could do better. And we just might have some ideas for you.
We put together a gift guide for the opera lover in your life and perhaps you find that special gift or get an idea what to buy. One option, where to look for that special gift, are (online) shops of operas such as The Met or Opera in Paris. They are treasure troves of gifts and stocking stuffers for opera lovers.

Gift guide opera lover .jpg

No. 1: If there is one occasion you can dress up for, it is the opera. The opera loving woman can do that in this gorgeous floor length halter neck gown by Maria Lucia Hohan via Moda Operandi in a colour that suits just about any skin tone and hair colour (1,277 Euros).

No. 2: Sputnik are these gold embellished earings called and they are inspired by the chandeliers at the Met Opera in New York which look just like it (48$).

No. 3: We don't let the gentlemen go without! Just like the chandeliers for the ladies these cufflinks are inspired by the chandeliers at the Met Opera in New York (54$). 

No. 4: Talk about a pot of gold! This honey was harvested from the hives on top of the roof of the Palais Garnier (15 Euros).

No. 5: Some things just never go out of style or at least shouldn't. Just like this vintage opera set for ladies that includes binoculars, a fan and a small mirror. It is from Argentina and was manucfacured around 1880! Things like this have its price (700 Euros).

No. 6: From personal experience I can tell you that I have wished many times I thought to bring some binoculars along to the opera. Nokias white binoculars fit into every purse and are featherlight (200$).

Gift ideas that theatre lovers will enjoy

When you do a quick Google search on gifts for theatre lovers, you'll see quickly that masks are a thing. However, in case you don't want it to be but still are looking for a great gift for this person, we just might have you covered.
Hopefully the ideas in our gift guide are fitting for the theatre lover in your life. Shop on!


No. 1: Bringing theatre love and interior together with a pair of american theatre wall sconces. The don't come cheap, but they certainly make a statement (3,200 Euros).

No. 2: Technically, not a real theatre gift, but from personal experience I can tell you, that sitting in my seat many a times I got cold or felt an annoying draft. A nice pashmina shawl would be wonderful to have.

No. 3: Usually I'm wary of theatre merchandising. I will never use that many keys to justify keeping all those keychains I got. But this book, Hamilton Revolution, is different. Hamilton as been such a hit on Broadway and Los Angeles and now will be a big hit in London too, that it is worth looking at this book. The creator of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda explains the process in detail, the lyrics and the photography. It is a wonderful testament to an award winning musical (25$).

No. 4: A few weeks ago, we told you about Scenery Bags (read HERE). These little pouches are made out of retired theatre backdrops and a percentage of the earnings goes to charity. So you have a great unique gift and do good at the same time. Win-Win all around. (30$).

No. 5: When I was a kid, my father did lots of shadow characters with his hands and it is still one of my favorite memories. Including this shadow theatre for fable animals sure will create some wonderful memories and stories for the little ones (17 Euros).

No. 6: Talk about glamour when wearing these earrings  L'oiseau de Feu (price upon request).

No. 7: Sometimes you just need a doorway and this pretty puppet theatre for hours of fun and an outlet for creative energy (45$).

No. 8: Printed on heavyweight matte fine art paper this blue print of a theatre seat make a great gift for any wall, Available in different sizes and colours (5$).

Gift ideas for the ballet dancer and lover in your life

True: the holidays are not about presents. They are about good food, lights, songs, slowing down and coming together with friends and family. And yet, we are out there (or online) on the hunt for THAT perfect gift for our loved ones. What if the person, you want to buy a gift for, is a ballet dancer or a ballet lover?

Fret not! Spectacle has got you covered. We put together not one, but two gift guides, for the ballet dancer or the ballet lover and hope our ideas make shopping easier. Find our ideas for a man or a woman or a child below. Almost all gifts fit into stockings, too!

Gift guide for ballet, ballet dancer holiday presents

No. 1: A wonderful shade of nude for your nails, not to flashy so you can wear it day and night that is Essie's Ballet Slipper nail polish for you ($9).

No. 2: Bloch's 2018 planer helps you tutu remember your dates and even your preferred pointe shoes ($30)

No. 3: This amazing grace ballet rose spray fragrance by philosophy will have you smell like roses all day and will go perfectly with the body wash, shampoo and body lotion ($18) of the same collection.

No. 4: Seen on the feet of various fashion bloggers from New York to Paris, Miu Miu's ballet slipper have you dacing down the street (590€)

No. 5: A little ballet art for the walls, available and limited in different sizes. Ballet by Julia Rothman (starting $24).

No. 6: The classic belted leotard comes in a gorgeous magenta colour. Mary Helen Bowers with Ballet Beautiful knows exactly what a dancers needs (75$).

No. 7: These diamond kite shape drop earings by British jeweler Boodle are inspired by and in collaboration with The Royal Ballet in London. The whole collection is called "Pas de Deux" (price upon request)

No. 8: The oversized duffle backpack by Asos holds all your things and doesn't scream workout. So you can go from practise to dinner without a problem ($33). 

It is not easy finding gifts for male dancers or male ballet lovers. We hope these ideas below will make the dancer in your life happy.

gift guide male dancer, male ballet

No. 9: Francisco Estevez created "The Dancer". It is part of a gorgeous collection that features male and female dancers. Available in different sizes (starting at $27).

No. 10: Wear your love for dance on your back. This black hoodie comes in different colours and is available at Boys Dance Too ($35).

No. 11: Pack all your dance stuff in this backback and you are good to go by Boys dance too ($24).

No. 12: Finally jewellery for a male dancer or ballet lover that doesn't scream kitsch. Silver brooch by Cynthia Woong ($264).

No. 13: Finding a children's book that portrays male ballet dancers are hard to find. Start a collection with the beloved characters of a Mr. Men book. Mr. Men Ballet Show by Roger Hargreaves ($4). 

No. 14: You'll never have to worry what to wear to the ballet with this navy velvet smoking blazer by Zara ($150).

Look at the Scenery!

my name is Yvonne and I have a problem. I buy little bags and pouches like there is no tomorrow. When I travel, my carry on luggage often consists of small bags. I use them for my chargers, make up, a little note pad, women's stuff, you get the drift. You can imagine my excitement when I found the bags of Scenery on Instagram a few weeks ago. 
Scenery takes retired theatre backdrops and makes bags out of them. Naturally, every series of bags is limited and each one has a label inside telling you the show and what number bag you have out of how many the drop made.

credit: Scenery

credit: Scenery

credit: Scenery

credit: Scenery

Are you already reaching for your credit card? You will when you hear, that you will also do good with your purchase!
A portion of the proceeds of the bags is donated to TDF's Stage Doors program. The Theatre Development Fund is commited to identify and provide support, including financial assistance, to theatrical works of artistic merit and to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in all their venues.
Scenery was launched in July 2017 and the first series of bags are already sold out. We caught up with the founder of Scenery, Jennifer Khan, how the idea for scenery came about. Jennifer has been a stage manager for 17 years and is based in New York.

Spectacle: How did you come up with the idea for Scenery?
Jennifer Khan: For the last 5 years I have run a Giveback and Ethical style blog, so this type of thing has always been a part of what I'm passionate about. I knew if I ever started my own company it would have to have a social initiative.  I never thought my blogging side, and my theatre side would come together, but this project has been a marriage of two things a care deeply about. It's truly been a gift. 
I chose theatre backdrops because so many of them get thrown away and they are beautiful, handprinted, works of art. I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn't end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history. 

I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn’t end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history.
— Jennifer Khan

Spectacle: The backdrops are donated to you. Is it difficult to get them? Do you have a lot of convincing?
Jennifer Khan: Well, I thought we had more than we'd need in a year, but we went through all of it in 3 months! It's been amazing to see the reaction people are having to what we are doing. We've also been very fortunate to have some great press pieces and features (like this one, thank you guys) that have let people know about us, and drops have come to us from all over America. I feel like I fall in love with a new one every week. We have some amazing treasures.  Some I love because of the colors, some I love because of the show it came from. Each one is special to me.

Spectacle: You support the tdf - the Theatre Development Fund - with a portion of the proceeds. How did you get involved with them?
Jennifer Khan: I chose my mission, before I chose the non-profit. I knew I wanted to help make theatre more accessible for a younger audience. So with that in mind I took to the internet and just searched for a program that did just that. Finding the Stage Doors program at TDF was a dream come true! Not only do they take kids to see a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, they give them in class workshops, AND they offer extremely discounted tickets to alumni, so that they can continue to afford to see theatre after the program has ended. It's everything I was looking for and more. 

Spectacle: What is the process from picking up the backdrop to sending out the bags? You mentioned the backdrops are also cleaned. 
Jennifer Khan: Yes, the basic process is: a theatre, designer, producing house, storage company, you name it, emails us and says they have drops for us. Depending on how many drops they are sending they can either drop them at their nearest UPS and we ship them, or box them up and we schedule a truck pick up. We cover all shipping costs. Then once they arrive at our manufacturers in Florida they lay them all out, photograph them, measure them to see how many bags they can make, and then we start production. Each drop is hand cleaned twice. Once before they are sewn and once after. They are cut, we choose if it needs a lining or not, what color zipper to use. We are basically designing a new bag every week. Currently we only have our pouches, but we are planning some new styles for next year!

credit: Scenery

credit: Scenery

Take a good idea and an even better cause, add sustainability and creativity and you have wonderful products. That applies to the bags from Scenery. If you want to get your hands on the next batch of bags, head over to the website of Scenery. There is a preorder system right now. Preordering saves your place in line and when it is time for your order number you receive an email with your choice of 2 drops or an option to defer. Each bag is 30$ and please remember that a portion of the proceeds goes to a very good cause.
Follow Scenery on Instagram and on Facebook to see when the new bags are online.

The National Youth Ballet, the highs and lows of growing up and a Spotify list

Imagine you are a ballet dancer. Imagine you have danced all your life, been to ballet school as a child, perhaps went to a high school where dance was offered as a subject, you have finished your training and may have been part of a company before. Now, imagine you are part of a company that consists of just eight dancers. Here you are a soloist and a group member at the same time. You will create your own repertoire and have the opportunity to come up with your own choreography. This company is part of the Hamburg ballet, with John Neumeier, one of the most successful choreographers around, as the director. You'll tour different countries and bring dance to your audiences rather than hope the seats will be filled at the ballet. You'll perform in theatres, just as much as empty swimming pools, retirement homes or inside a prison.

What a unique opportunity, no? Sounds exciting and too good to be true?

Well, for Natsuka Abe, Sara Ezzell, Charlotte Larzelere, Freja Maria Lützhoft, Marcelo Ferreira, Artem Prokopchuk, Emiliano Torres and Ricardo Urbina Reyes that is the daily grind. These eight dancers make up the Bundesjugendballett, the National Youth Ballet of Germany. Let's take it apart:

Bundes / National
The term “national” doesn't mean the dancers are German. Quite to the contrary – there is not one German dancer in the company this time around. But some of the dancers have completed their professional training with German institutions, such as the Hamburg Ballet. The dancers in this squad hail from the USA, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark and Ukraine and are part of the company for two years. The current team started working together in September 2017, when five new dancers joined them.

Jugend /Youth
Each year the National Youth Ballet holds an audition to fill the places that have become vacant and each year a couple of hundred of dancers are eager to move to Hamburg, Germany to be part of this exceptional group of young dancers. The dancers are between 18-23 years old and have already finished their professional training. If “youth” evokes the idea of amateur dancers, you couldn't be more wrong.  You can read the biographies of the current dancers on their website, every single one boosts an impressive cv.

Ballett /Ballet
The basis of their dancing is ballet, however, these dancers give it a very creative twist. Even though they exist under the umbrella of the Hamburg Ballet, they are very much independent. Because the National Youth Ballet is small, each dancer is a soloist and a group member at the same time. The dancers are getting an in-depth look into all the areas that are necessary to get a ballet together. The ballet also performs in rather usual places to bring dance to a new audience. The company has performed in a theatre, a prison, but also visited retirement homes.

Usually the National Youth Ballet rehearses within the Ballettzentrum Hamburg, but sometimes it is good to branch out. So they were on the hunt for a space where they could work for a few days. Here they wanted to create, change, rehearse, improve and finalize their programme. They found this space in an old warehouse complex in Hamburg. Surrounded by other studios, architects, artists and designers.

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Here they rehearsed for their premiere of “Im Aufschwung IX” which was put on stage this past week in Hamburg at the Ernst Deutsch Theater. For the ninth time, the theatre offered the ballet its house to showcase the new show. Using every inch of the stage and with very little props, the dancers let their performance do the talking.

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

They took the stage together with nine musicians and the playlist consisted of classics such as Igor Strawinsky, but also Leonhard Cohen and Tracy Chapman. The music and the performance take you on a beautiful journey of what it means to grow up. Putting to music that the process of growing up is not always fun, but can be confusing, tricky and painful. But in the end friendship, love and happiness prevail.
Listen to that journey yourself. We put the song list together in a Spotify list for you to enjoy.

Learn more about the National Youth Ballet on their website, especially if you are interested in auditioning yourself. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Rubber ears and a recipe for blood - Backstage at Staatsoper Hamburg

Backstage is where the magic happens and it is a lot of fun to look behind the scenes, checking out the props and admire the craftmanship in the make up department. Instawalks are my kind of jam and I'm always happy when I see an opera inviting Instagramers to come by. A few months ago we were backstage at the first Instwalk at the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth and a few weeks ago Staatsoper Hamburg opened its doors.

Not always are journalists or bloggers invited to go. Often people who "just" enjoy the arts are invited. Do like the venues in your area on Facebook so you won't miss an announcement and you have the opportunity to be part of an Instawalk as well.

All photos below have received the app treatment.


The Hamburg State Opera is one of the oldest in Germany and was founded in 1678, it is one of the leading operas around. It has been awarded "Opera House of the year" twice in the past and everybody who is somebody has been standing on this stage. The house itself went through lots of changes and had to be rebuilt after massive damages during the second World War. Finding out interesting details about the routine backstage is what I enjoy most.
A detail like this one: Per contract it is forbidden for artists to use the elevator right before a show. Nobody wants the main voices to be stuck in the elevator!


Our walk started in the basement in between shelves of props. There is always lots to see in clear plastic containers, leaning on walls or hidden in corners.


And when you look into the small kitchen you might even leave with a recipe.
In this case "Blood" - edible and washable.
For one litre of water you'll need:
- 1 tbsp beetrood powder
- 1 tsp. guar gum
- 1 tbsp. instant coffee
This is a service announcement.


I like how the things are grouped together and also how creative prop masters need to get in order to create wonderful sets.
From the basement we went up to the hair and make up department. As it is often the case -  theatres and operas are keepers of crafts. Wigs are handmade, sometimes with the help of unusual props but often strands of hair are used to create the wigs. One hair at a time.


Let's take a closer look at the head in the front of the photo. That's what I meant when I mentioned sometimes the props are "unusual".


Yes, sometimes rubber ears will have to do.


Does this device look familiar to you? You might remember that we looked behind the scenes of the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth this past summer (catch it HERE). The make up department of Bayreuth and Hamburg both use these heaters to heat curling irons and work on the wigs. If it ain't broke - don't fix it, right? 


Here is a confession: I would have loved to be a theatre actor. I played a rock in elementary school and if you believe my mother, I was the best rock that ever graced a stage. Perhaps that is the reason I love to get on stage and enjoy the view into the audience?


Thank you Hamburg Staatsoper for having us! Look for #staatsoperhh on Instagram to find more backstage shots from my home town.


City Guide - Verona, Italy

Oh, Verona. Such a lovely small city and perfect for a weekend getaway. Three of Shakespeare's plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew. Verona has also been awarded World Heritage Site status by the UNESCO.
Filled with culture and the arts, but also with great food, a charming city center and (surprisingly) great prices!

Here are some tipps and links for you, if you plan to visit Verona. Which you totally should.


Good to know

- Verona is so small and there are signs everywhere, you won't get lost. Especially when you take the mighty Arena di Verona as the location you are familiar with. You will always find your way back.

- When you arrive at the airport, you take the shuttle bus to the main train station of Verona. A single ticket costs 6 Euros and can also be used with the regular bus. Once you arrive at the train station, there are various busses that take you to the city center. Get off the bus as soon as you see the Arena. You are now in the middle of Verona.

- Download the Verona Smart App in advance. It does contain a map, but more importantly, you will be able to log into the public wifi for free.

- Prices in Verona are great! Especially when you are used to the prices in other Italian cities like Venice. The restaurants around the Arena are really good. You can get a big pizza with prosciutto (my favorite!) for 7-10 Euros. Sometimes even less. An Aperol Spritz (my go to drink!) is between 5-6 Euros. I had the "most expensive" Aperol at Piazza Erbe for 6,50 Euros. Very resonable. Keep in mind: I once ordered a latte at St Marco Square and paid 8 Euros.
You will get a great meal for a great price.

- I was surprised to see that only 2-3 vendors have a stand on the Piazza Brá, right around the Arena and they sell cushions. Yes, there are vendors that sell cheap toys and other stuff, but they don't have a stand on the Piazza.

- Yes, if you do want to listen to the opera, you will have to get a ticket. On our second day, we thought we could sit on the Piazza and listen to the opera while we have a drink, but you will hardly hear a sound. The accustic inside is amazing. Outside, you won't hear a beep. I guess the neighbors are happy about that!


Where to stay

There are many hostels, hotels and Bed & Breakfast in and around Verona. We suggest to make your reservations well in advance, because many hotels get booked quickly during the opera festival. You will find a place to stay for every budget.

We want to recommend our Bed & Breakfast. We stayed at Bed & Breakfast Oberdan18 and we cannot praise it enough (not paid content, we are fans!). My friend Mela, pr maven and travel blogger extraordinaire, found it for us.  B&B Oberdan18 is located in a small gallery in a residential house in the Via Oberdan. As a matter of fact, it is a very big appartment with two rooms and a suite.
Everything is new here! Like totally new, premium quality and designed with a great eye for detail. The owner, Giovanni, opened this little gem in early 2017. All rooms, named after churches, are equipped with their own bathrooms with bidet, air condition, tv, safe, minibar and a small balcony to step out on.
Giovanni and his team will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable - Starting with breakfast or sharing tipps with you. This B&B is located less than five minutes from the Arena. It hardly gets better than this!  English is spoken.
Next time I'm in Verona, I will stay there again.


Bed and Breakfast Oberdan18
Via Oberdan, 18
37121 Verona (Italy)


What to do (culture and the arts)

- Arena di Verona.
Of course! That's probably the number one reason people come to Verona - to see this glorious amphitheatre. You can walk through it during the day (tickets cost 10 Euros) and/or attend the opera in the evening. The opera festival runs from June until September and about 600.000 tourists come to Verona for the opera during this time alone. It is worth it. During the festival the set pieces are kept on the Piazza and make it all the more impressive.
Read our article about attending Aida at the Arena right

Arena di Verona
From June until September each year
Piazza Bra, 1
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps


- AMO - Arena Muse Opera
This museum is a must for opera lovers. Located inside a palazzo, you start at the very top and work your way through the exhibitions, until you have reached the basement. This is an interactive museum, with videos, sounds and a digital table on which you can see old programms and newspapers. It works like a huge ipad and it makes the exhibitions really interesting. If you only go there to escape the heat, you won't regret it!
Palazzo Forti
Via Massalongo 7
Verona, Italy

On Google Maps

Tickets: 6 Euros, 3 Euros if you have a ticket to the opera or you are a Verona Card holder.


 - Juliet's Balcony
Spoiler alert: There are no secured facts, that Shakespeare has ever been to Verona, much less seen this balcony. That doesn't hurt the legend surrounding it, though. And I wonder how many schools have taken a trip to Juliet's balcony?
But what does hurt is the, well, some people would call it vandalism, that surrounds this place.
It is located just of Via Cappello, which is one of the shopping streets. Just follow the crowd of people. You walk through a short tunnel to get to a very small court yard. The tunnel is covered (and I mean covered) in writtings and when people ran out of room they got creative. Or gross, your call. People have also written their names on post its, gum, bandages and in some cases even panty liners. Yuck! There are more writings on gum in the small courtyard and the love locks that are attached to fences.
Casa di Giulietta
Via Cappello, 23
37121 Verona

On Google Maps

Tickets: The entry to the courtyard to see the balcony from below is free.
If you want to stand on the balcony and see Juliet's house, tickets are 6 Euros.


- Teatro Romano and Museo Archeologico
Crossing Ponte Pietra from the city center to the other side of the Adige River, you'll find the Teatro Romano. Situated between trees and on a hillside, it is a beautiful open space. During the Veronese Theatre summer you will be able to watch plays in an impressive setting vwith a gorgeous view.
Teatro Romano and Museo Archeologico
Rigaste Redentore, 2
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps
Tickets: 4,50 Euros. It is free for Verona Card holders.


- Teatro Nuovo
If you still don't have enough of Shakespeare, you should go and see Romeo & Giulietta. Verona is the stage and the backdrop for this play. You'll walk along through the city and follow along. And a drink will be served to you after the play in the courtyard. Giving a new meaning to "hands on" play.
Teatro Nuovo
Piazza Francesco Viviani, 10
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps
Tickets: Adults pay 20 Euros, under 26 years of age gets a ticket for 10 Euros.


Things we learnt along the way

- Wear good shoes. This is an ancient city and not every street is paved smoothly. Especially around the Arena and in Juliet's courtyard, high heels are difficult.

- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. 'nuff said! And while we are at it: drink water! You can buy bottles of water for just a few cents. No tourist prices at all.

- Download the Verona Smart app to log into the internet easily.

- When you want to go up to Castel San Pietro you can either walk up the stairs or take the cable car up the hill. Walking up in the summer heat can be a pain. Oh, do I know it! But there is a cable car if you take the street left of the stairs and walk a few meters. It takes you up there and you can enjoy the view over Verona. With much less sweat! The ride up there just costs you a few cents. WORTH. IT.

- Do walk through the streets next to the busy shopping streets and look around into the courtyards. There are small restaurants and beautiful details around every corner. Literally.


Verona is filled with museums and performing arts. But you can also do some serious retail therapy or sit in the Piazza Brá or Piazza Erbe and watch people go by!

Aida at the Arena di Verona

"I won two tickets to see opera at the Arena in Verona” my friend Mela and travel blogger, wrote, "do you want to join me in Verona? We could make a weekend out of it”. I immediately answered yes, opened a new tab and looked for a flight from Hamburg to Verona.
Opera in Verona has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I have to admit, I don't do too well with heat and Italy in July is hot. But this was a chance I couldn't pass up. So in late July, I took a flight to sunny (very sunny) and hot (very hot) Verona to join my friend in this beautiful city.
The Arena di Verona sits in Piazza Bra with many, many bars and restaurants around it. I kept saying it looks like a movie set. During the season, the sets for the various operas are kept right on the piazza. Since the Arena is just huge and the maximum attendance is 15.000 people, the sets are also massive and impressive.


The Arena di Verona Festival

The Arena di Verona Festival is a festival of opera that takes place each summer, this summer was the 95th year. The performances take place at dusk and you can get tickets right at the Arena. The first operas were performed in 1913 to celebrate Giuseppe Verdi. So it was just right to perform Aida, one of the most famous operas. We were able to choose the opera we wanted to see and we picked Aida. Actually, there are two Aida productions. One is a modern version of the classic and the other is a historical production from 1913, which is the one we attended. The historical production of Aida 1913 is traditionally the opera that closes the opera season for the summer. For Aida, the amphitheater is turned into ancient Egypt with palm trees, temples and obelisks. Even horses are coming out on stage.

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

© Ph Ennevi/Courtesy of Fondazione Arena di Verona

Backstage at the Arena di Verona

We reached out to the press office to see if it is possible to interview artists or take a look backstage. The people over at the press office have been nothing but kind and supportive. We had the chance to come backstage before the show and be able to conduct several interviews.

Here are some photos from the backstage area.

An outlook to 2018

The 96th Opera Festival 2018 program includes Carmen, Aida, Turandot, Nabucco and Il Barbiere di Siviglia and takes place between June 22nd and September 1st, 2018.
Get all the info over at the website of Arena di Verona.

Be sure to book hotels in advance, they sell out very quickly.
We had the pleasure to stay at B&B Oberdan. This charming B&B is less than five minutes away from the Arena.

Bring your own seat cushion! Especially when you have seats on the stone steps of the arena. You will have a hard time to make it through four hours of opera without one. Attending one opera in this location will be well worth it!

Three great theatre Kickstarter campaigns that you can back up.

There are a few websites that keep me away from work. Clicking on them means I'm lost in the rabbit hole. I try to tell myself it is research, but how many episodes of "Who do you think you are?" can I watch until it becomes a problem? I'll let you know when I have the answer.

Kickstarter is such a website. So many creative people on there creating the product I love to own or support. We know the arts are often the first area where funds are cut when the going gets tough. If you wanted to stage a play or a musical in the past, you got some patrons together and hoped that they would cut a cheque. But Kickstarter offers more opportunity to reach like minded people that are convinced your idea is worth supporting.

Kickstarter has a category for theatre projects and we found some projects you might want to take a closer look at.

1. Black and Blue: The Yvonne Bechet Story

Yvonne Bechet was one of the first female police officers in New Orleans. And she is black. She started her career when she was 19 and a wife and mother. Together with her colleagues, she worked for social change in her community across lines of gender and race.  Yvonne Bechet retired in 1990 and still is the highest ranking woman officer in New Orleans Police Department.
Do look up this remarkable woman as her credentials and work are very impressive.
Her story is fascinating and it fits into these times.

NOPD Talent Show Circa 1973

NOPD Talent Show Circa 1973

Black and Blue wants to be more than just a play. The artists and makers want to make sure this play is used as a platform for conversation, understanding and (most importantly) change. Each performance will have a brief introduction and also a dialogue. The makers plan to make up the audience of the general public but also with police officers to get the conversation going.

The makers need 5.000$ and 81% is already financed.
Get more details on their Kickstarter page.


2. Love Song To Lavender Menace

The musical Love Song to Lavender Menace will be on at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh between 12-21 October 2017 with a tour through Scottland after its run.
Lavender Menace is a book store that played a vital role in Scotland's LGBT liberation. It was opened by Bob Orr and Sigrid Nielsen in 1982 and offered all the LGBT publications to the community that was available for the very first time. It started out at the LGBT History Month Scotland Cultural Commission and was first read at the Traverse Theatre in LGBT History Month 2016. The run at the Royal Lyceum Theatre will be its world premiere.

What's it all about? Here is what the makers are saying: "The play is set on the evening of the shop’s 5th birthday, when sales assistants Paul and David take a look back at its origins, its importance, its celebration of queer culture, how things have changed for the better (maybe) ... and straight away, the arguments begin!"
It is written by James Ley and directed by Ros Philips.

Your funding will ensure a play ready to take on the road, it will also cover travel costs.
3500 Pounds are needed and it is still a stretch to go.
Find out more on the Kickstarter page. 


3. The Wild Party

It's the Roaring Twenties when a bunch of vaudevillians try to party their problems away during one wild night.
Between October 1-31, 2017 you can be part of this wild party! The Wild Party is based on a poem from 1928 that was so scandalous, it was banned right from the start. But you know, that the forbidden fruit is the sweetest. 
And this musical seems to be quite sweet. You will be more than just an attendee at a musical. You will be smack dab in the middle of it. You are invited to The Wild Party and will be surprised by musical numbers and so much more.

Meridith C. Grundei in Sweet & Lucky. Photo Credit: Adams VisCom

Meridith C. Grundei in Sweet & Lucky. Photo Credit: Adams VisCom

Denver's OFF CENTER thinks outside the box and brings their audiences a 360-degree experience. This isn't their first time on Kickstarter. Their previous campaign was backed too and Sweet & Lucky was met with huge success from the community. If that previous show is anything to go buy, you sure want to be part of this one, too!

Get your dancing shoes on, grab a gin and enjoy the party!
25.000$ was needed and the makers have surpassed that goal!
Get all the details about that wild party right over on their Kickstarter page.

Going where no phone has gone before. Backstage at Bayreuth with #bfinstawalk

If I said it once, I have said it 1000 times: attending the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth is on an opera lovers bucket list. And what is on the bucket list of an opera and Instagram lover? An instawalk, that takes you backstage at one of the most iconic locations around. That's what!

Book pages have been filled with information about this festival. And tabloid magazines. Each year you see politicians, actors and royalty in Bayreuth. But what you don't get to see, is a good look at what goes on backstage. Well, wait no more. I got you covered.

All the following photos have been taken with my iphone and have gone through the filter treatment.

The Bayreuther Festspiele changed the "no-photo-policy" to a "yes, please, take a photo of everything. Except for the Meistersinger costumes" policy" this past weekend. After a call to apply to take part in the #bfinstawalk on Facebook, ten Instagrammers were chosen and roamed the green hill.
If there is still a doubt how special this opportunity is, just take a look at Instagram and see what you can find when it comes to Bayreuth. That's right! Besides the mandatory selfie you won't catch a glimpse. That will change now.

Richard Wagner designed and oversaw construction of the Richard-Wagner-Festspielhaus, which only performs Wagner operas. Every year since 1876 (with some exceptions) ten of his works are being shown here.
The main building is often called barn. Quiet obvious why, no?

Up the stairs and into the auditorium with about 2000 seats. Richard Wagner wanted nothing to distract a patron from the music. There is not a lot of flourish going on and the seats...oh, those seats! It is legendary, how uncomfortable these can be.
From personal experience I can tell you: it is all true! Wooden seats, not a lot of cushioning, no arm rest. But then again: this is Bayreuth, so suck it up, buttercup.

Our tour led us also backstage! And that is where the magic happens. Looking behind the curtains and seeing all the details that director Frank Castorf and his team thought of when bringing together the set for the Ring Cycle.

We had the chance to speak to the assistant of Frank Castorf, Patric Seibert. Hearing from him what the thoughts behind the set are and how things came together, helps a lot to understand.
Since we were able to see the set in action, it made the "Götterdämmerung" that more tangible.

I always love to set foot into the make up and costume area. There is always so much to see. Besides I totally admire the craftmanship that goes into making wigs, costumes and the make up itself. Coming from someone that barely can do her own make up!

The #bfinstawalk was finished off with tickets to see the rehearsal of "Götterdämmerung". I have to admit, I thought the rehearsal would be a summary of the performance. Things would be tried out, others would be changed. An hour, two max., I was sure.
But I was wrong!
The rehearsal is also attended by 2000 patrons and it is the complete "Götterdämmerung", the whole four hours plus breaks. Tickets are given out to the staff of the Bayreuth Festspiele, who in turn pass them on to friends and relatives.

Don't miss out on the other Instagrammers to see what they noticed during the #bfinstawalk. The following list was put together by @kulturfluesterin and saved me some time! Thanks, Lena!
Also do follow the Richard Wagner Festpiele on Instagram and Facebook. They are doing a great job showing you even more backstage details.


This instawalk was worth every minute of my 12 hour train ride to and from Bayreuth! Thank you very much to Richard Wagner Festspiele for the wonderful tour and for taking me along. I will talk about this for years to come.


We are going to Bayreuth for an Instawalk! Wagner Festspiele here we come.

If there is such a thing as a bucket list of opera lovers, the Richard-Wagner-Festival in Bayreuth is on it!
Each summer since 1876, with a few exceptions, opera lovers and Wagner admirers descend upon the Green Hill to listen to one (or all) of Richard Wagners works. The history surrounding this iconic location is long, exciting and interesting, to say the least. The performances take place in a specially designed theatre, that Wagner himself oversaw. Getting tickets is not an easy task, some patrons have to wait for years to walk through those halls.

And Spectacle is one of the lucky ones! No, we don't have tickets. As a matter of fact, our deal is so much sweeter. Before the festival starts (July 25th, - August 28th, 2017), the Wagner Festspiele, have organised an Instawalk this coming Saturday, for a few lucky Instagrammers and I'm part of this. 
The official Instagram channel of Wagner Festspiele is already giving people a great insight and it just adds to the exitement of seeing it for myself.

I'm so so excited to be able to walk around and take a look backstage. That is certainly a look not even ticket holders are getting.

Follow either me or Spectacle on our Instagram to get an insight look into Bayreuth this Saturday, July 22nd, 2017.

My first and only time on stage as an actor

This is it. The first and only time I ever stood on stage as an actor. And I wasn't even the first choice!

In 1994/1995 I was a foreign exchange student in Minden, Louisiana. I was barely 16 years old andI was a junior in high school.
The drama club at Minden High School worked to put "12 angry men" on stage and in the play, there is also a "foreigner". This foreigner was played by, well, actually by another foreign exchange student from Russia. But she had to drop out and so they asked me to take the role.
The local newspaper editor came out to watch us perform and I still have this photo in my desk drawer. I had a terrific time!

I don't remember much about this play. Other than we performed twice: Once for the WHOLE school. Which means in front of my high school crush! I remember being horrified when I saw him in the auditorium and then once more for friends and family and people who bought a ticket. 

I also remember not pronouncing "bifocals" correctly! I actually still don't know on what syllable I have to put the emphasis. But this word was part of a line I had to say, and I have a feeling I may have pronounced it correctly because I was lucky.
I wonder if I ever get to say it correctly.

Gene Schiavone on the unsung heroes of ballet and the challenges to photograph Swan Lake

Sometimes you need to be in the right place at the right time and need to know the right person. For Gene Schiavone, the person he knew was his wife Ellen. The right place was his home and the right time was a fundraiser event his wife had organised.
Mrs Schiavone had been a volunteer with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) for years and she had a fundraiser at the Schiavone house, during which Gene Schiavone took photos he sent in to the press department of the ABT. Eventually, he retired from his corporate job and he would travel with the ABT Studio Company for two years and learn the trade of dance photography. After these two years, he got a shot at being the photographer for the main company. And the rest is history, as they say.

Mr Schiavone has been an acclaimed dance photographer for over 20 years and is the staff photographer for the American Ballet Theatre, his work has been published in every major newspaper and he has captured pretty much every dancer and ensemble out there.

We approached Mr Schiavone and he was gracious enough to answer some questions on who his unsung heroes of ballet are, who he wished he could capture and why Swan Lake has a special place in his heart.

Spectacle: What is important to you, when you take photos of dancers? What do you try to capture?
Gene Schiavone: There are two important elements in all my work, one is technical, the other is aesthetic. With regard to stage work, my first job is to document the performance from a historical perspective, to create an archival record. I recently photographed Misty Copeland's debut of "Giselle" and it was important for ABT to have a record of the performance. The goal was, out of 900 images, to tell the story of the ballet in a series of 15-20 photos. In "Giselle" it's the bench scene where she's plucking the daisy, the confrontation between Albrecht and Hilarion, the mad scene and Giselle's death etc. Each ballet has their own "photo points" which tells the story and you must capture. The technical aspects are very challenging due to severe lighting conditions which are usually low light and sometimes almost no light. There is always a balance between blur and grain. Fortunately, the new professional digital cameras allow you to get results that just weren't possible ten years ago.

The key to a successful photo is to bring out the emotion within the dancer.
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: Why is it important to have background knowledge of the ballet?
Gene Schiavone: I began with no knowledge of ballet. My introduction to the art was through my wife Ellen who was for many years involved with ABT as a volunteer, fundraiser and later as a Trustee. It took a long time and the rejection of hundreds of photos before I began to learn what was proper and what was not. The key is to anticipate the movement and that's done by listening to the music and watching the feet. Each movement has only one correct moment to be captured
so timing is critical. By taking a rapid series of photos, you'll most likely miss the right moment.

Spectacle: You have photographed so many dancers and ballet, is there one you haven't captured but wish you had? An event? A dancer?
Gene Schiavone: I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph some of today's most noted ballet dancers but I have always wanted to photograph Sylvie Guillem on stage. Tall ballerinas have such striking lines and she is an exceptional artist. Hopefully, there will be a possibility in the future.

Spectacle: Just like the dancers, you have to be on point when you take your photos since the moment goes by so quickly. Did you ever miss an important moment? And how do you make sure you won't?
Gene Schiavone: After many years I have finally come to the realisation that "you can't get every shot". For me, the greatest challenge is the opening of Act II in "Swan Lake"
when Odette enters from stage left, takes two steps into a grand jete. To me, it's the most important shot of the ballet and the timing is critical, she must be captured at full extension. There is almost no light and she is white against a dark background so exposure is very critical. It's taken a long time and many missed shots to perfect this. For photo enthusiasts, my camera settings are 360sec, F2.8, 16,000 ISO, -1 exp comp.

I have finally come to the realisation that “you can’t get every shot”
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: You mentioned before that Swan Lake is your favourite ballet to capture, what is so special about it?
Gene Schiavone: As in act II of "Giselle" act II in "Swan Lake" is difficult so it really tests my skill, it's very emotional, and has beautiful movement accompanied by wonderful music. I much prefer the traditional story ballets with their classic movement.

Spectacle: I'm sure you have taken thousands of photos, are there ones you treasure the most? Gene Schiavone: My archives contain over 900,000 photos from the major ballet companies both here and abroad. Since I've been an ABT Staff Photographer since 2004, much of my work has centred around them. However, I am fortunate to have worked regularly with Bolshoi Ballet, Mariinsky Theatre, Boston Ballet as well as many other dance companies such as The Radio City Rockettes. I've developed many personal relationships with dancers over the years and I suppose those photos are most important. I am a little saddened to think that most of my photos will go unseen. In a typical performance, I may shoot 1,000 images. After a second edit, there may only be 50 left which are ultimately approved for public use. That means 450 of the unchosen will sit on my hard drives and never be seen. Most of those photos are of the corps de ballet as approved photos are usually of principals and soloists. These are the true unsung heroes of a ballet. I always shoot "the girls in the back row", the dancers that do show after show with little recognition. To me, these are nameless dedicated dancers around which every ballet is built, yet they are rarely acknowledged for their dedication to the art form. In the years to come, their names may not be remembered but they will be kept alive in my photos. A photograph is a moment in time which immediately becomes the past, I see my responsibility as preserving those moments.

I am a little saddened to think that most of my photos will go unseen
— Gene Schiavone

Spectacle: Can you enjoy ballet without a camera? Do you go to the ballet when you are not working?
Gene Schiavone: I sometimes attend the ballet with my wife and often find it to be a different performance. When I photograph, I'm only looking at a small part of the stage usually centered around the principals. However when in the audience, I often see things I hadn't noticed looking through the viewfinder. I also see ballets in "clicks" that shot and that shot and that shot. I get very restless sitting there thinking I could be preserving these images.

Spectacle: Ballet is often perceived as something elitist and with social media and smartphones, it might be harder to excite a younger audience. How can ballet reach these audiences to be performers and/or patrons?
Gene Schiavone: Attracting a younger audience has always been a challenge for ballet. Every company I've worked with recognises the problem and tries to encourage that segment of the market by special events geared specifically to them along with discounted student tickets and special access.
Many are meeting the challenge through social media. Facebook, Instagram and simulcasting performances have brought ballet to a much wider audience. I actually have noticed more young people at performances in recent years.

Take a look at Gene Schiavone in action.

Thank you to Gene Schiavone for taking the time to answer our questions.
Take a look at a very small part of his portfolio of photos on stage, off stage and even on a cemetery.

Jonas Kaufmann makes his role debut as Otello and you can be very close. As close as a cinema lets you.

If you had to name an opera singer, whose name is not only known to opera lovers but also appears in the popular press, who would you pick? Jonas Kaufmann, that's who!

Jonas Kaufmann is often described with terms that are meant to be complimented but fail miserably. He once was described as dark chocolate by a German magazine. But there is more to Kaufmann than just being handsome.
After rather rough last months during which Jonas Kaufmann wasn't able to sing because of a haematoma, he is now back on stage.
He chose a big stage and a big opera for his comeback. He will perform Otello at the Royal Opera House in London, where he gave his debut in 2004.

Of course, you can shell out serious money and sit in the audience in London from June 28th to July 15th, 2017, but if that is not in the cards you can head to a cinema near you and watch Jonas Kaufmann live there!
On June 28th, various cinemas in Europa broadcast Otello live for opera lovers near and far. Find a cinema right HERE
Verdi would approve!

What is Otello all about?
Spoiler Alert!!

After being gone for quite some time, the governor and general of the Venetian fleet Otello is expected home not only by his people but also by his new wife Desdemona and not a moment too soon because Roderigo is in town and has his eyes set on Desdemona.
Iago is the bad guy in this opera and look out for him! He pretends to be a friend to Otello but he is pretty angry that Otello promoted Cassio instead of him and is willing to help Roderigo win over Desdemona.
Yes, those are the kind of friends everybody needs.
During a celebration, Cassio gets drunk and gets into an argument with Roderigo. Thanks to Iago's meddling.  Otello is mad at his soldiers and strips Cassio of his promotion.
Iago isn't done just yet. He convinces Cassio he should speak to Desdemona who could convince her husband to not punish Cassio. Unfortunately, Otello is a hot head and quite jealous. Of course, Iago is in his ear too and soon he is convinced that his wife has something going on with Cassio.
Then there is the issue with the handkerchief! Desdemona wants to wipe away Otellos seat, he is not having any of it and tossed the handkerchief to the ground. It ends up with Iago, who uses it to prove to Otello that his wife is two-timing him.
A delegation makes Cassio the new governours of Venice and that is all too much for Otello. He hurls abuse at his wife in front of the delegation. When Desdemona gets ready for bed and Otello visits her one more time. And how does Otello deal with disappointment and anger? Well, in opera he naturally strangles his wife! When Iago's plans are revealed Otello is so distraught, that he kills himself. Naturally.  

Get all further information over at The Royal Opera House.

Designed by Alice - How a ballerina puts her creativity to good use and designs gorgous ballet skirts. Amongst other things.

t's probably true, that a creative person cannot and doesn't want to focus the attention on just one area of creativity. Dancer, photographer, designer, illustrator (see what we mean?) ALICE WILLIAMSON, the über creative woman behind DESIGNED BY ALICE is a case in point.
A graduate of Elmhurst Ballet School, Alice Williamson has danced with the Northern Ballet, the Royal Opera, the Hong Kong Ballet before she joined Staatsballett Berlin in 2012. Now living in London and a freelance dancer, Alice juggles a lot of creative balls. One of them is her own line of awesome and particularly special ballet skirts. Her skirts are handmade in London and you can twirl in polka dots, harlequins pattern or in gorgeous peach!

We spoke to Alice Williamson about what is the hardest part of dancing, her creativity (and she got lots of that!) and what dancing means to her.

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

Spectacle: Why did you become a dancer?
Alice Williamson: It wasn’t conscious choice, more of an absolutely unrelenting and unquestionable need to dance. I wanted to see how far I could reach. I wanted to be part of that magic that I saw on stage. To not try would be far too devastating a thought! I was also acutely aware that I only had one shot at the ballet dream (I started my professional training really late, I was 16) and so it sat first and foremost on my list of life priorities, everything else could come later.

S: Being a dancer means to be very disciplined. Lots of practice, you need to travel a lot and you have to be conscious of what you eat. What is the hardest part of being a dancer?
AW: The discipline was something I thought I probably needed (although my general enthusiasm usually means I am incredibly hard working, so practice was never something I begrudged!) I tried to train myself to order my thoughts, become more patient: those are traits that don’t come naturally to me, but I wanted to master them! Dancing is hard, incredibly hard, and sometimes it hurts in absolutely every way imaginable, in my head, it was a temporary, incredible and privileged journey/life lesson that I had been gifted and until the input didn’t justify the reward I was happy to make those sacrifices. I’ve always treated food in a balanced way, I learnt about what food would enhance my performance, but was never restrictive with myself. It’s the fuel that makes you fly and essentially a better dancer … it’s now I’ve left the ballet –company and stopped dancing such long hours that I have to be more disciplined and conscious! Ha!

My soul needs to dance and my brain loves to create. I couldn’t live without either; they anchor and balance each out!
— Alice Williamson

S: You are much more than a dancer, how did you get started in illustration and designing fashion?
AW: I have always been just as interested ‘making’ as I am dancing, it sounds cheesy, but my soul needs to dance and my brain loves to create. I couldn’t live without either; they anchor and balance each out! I love the challenge of using my mind in all sorts of ways. I have done quite a bit of illustration, my dream is to write and illustrate a book, I hope that that may happen soon (ish!) The stage design is natural consequence of being a theatre mouse …who also has other skills.
I’d love to design for dance more: now that I am freelance, I theoretically could! It would be an exciting and interesting challenge!

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

S: Do you consider ballet a sport or an art form?
AW: An ART that can be enhanced by sporting knowledge and training.  I see it as essentially a tool of communication, with bodies, movement. It shouldn’t be quantifiable, that defeats its purpose and it’s beauty.

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

Photo by Olivier Barjolle, used with permission

All photos were taken by OLIVER BARJOLLE and used with permission. 

You can check out all of Alice's work on her website follow her on Instagram.

Last Night at the Met

People watching is always fun. At the opera especially because you can take a closer look what other people are wearing. Since 2013, Rose Callahan is the exclusive photographer behind the fashion blog of the Metropolitan Opera “Last Night at the Met”.
Here she documents and highlights the fabulous fashion of opera attendees, who strut their stuff through the grand foyer.

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

During twenty-six nights all through the season, she attends one evening of each production, she is looking for the unicorn. Not every night is a good night though. She works with a small time frame and sometimes she has a good night with lots of styles and other nights it is a scrabble to find the one worth highlighting.
What does the unicorn look like? “It seems, what I notice the most are colours, sometimes the way they do their hair or great style in general”. Once the unicorn is spotted Rose approaches the person, explains why the person caught her eye and that she shoots for the Met style blog. An assistant takes care of the paperwork.

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

The dress code at the opera is the topic of an abundance of websites and forums and Last Night at the Met doubles as an inspirational guide as to what could be worn. Rose herself loves to get dressed up, but her intentions are to show how to have fun with style and how people respect the venue by dressing up. Dressing up is in the eye of the beholder and the Met is a great place to do that since there is not a real dress code, that will be enforced. So, give that tuxedo and the ball gown an evening out, open up the safe to get your hands on your grandmother's jewels, but also be comfortable in a pair of jeans or some hot leather.

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

I think it is important to dress up. It shows respect to the venue, but also to show off the beauty of the evening. I just don’t think it has to be a certain way
— Rose Callahan
Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

With the popularity of the website and the Instagram account growing, it is no surprise that attendees are not only flattered to be asked but they also share their excitement that they finally got to meet Rose Callahan to be featured. She even has her "regulars", attendees she sees often during the season: like THIS fashionable couple.

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

Photos by Rose Callahan for Last Night at the Met

If you ever find yourself at the Met, make sure to be on the look out for Rose Callahan and maybe you find yourself on the blog to highlight what you wore Last Night at the Met.

All of the above photos and so many more can be found on
Website - Last Night at the Met
Follow on Instagram - Last Night at the Met

Also make sure to check out more work from Rose Callahan on her website and her Instagram. She has also published books on Dandy style and her project about bartenders is this editors favorite! 

Mikhail Baryshnikov on his friend Joseph Brodsky, pre-performance nerves and retirement

Yes, the name Mikhail Baryshnikov is synonymous with ballet and if you go to see Brodsky/Baryshnikov being performed by the former ballet superstar and expect dancing, you will be disappointed. But if you attend this one-man performance to see a friend pay a tribute to another, you will be in for a treat.

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Joseph Brodsky was not only a Russian poet and Nobel Prize winner, but also a close friend of Mikhail Baryshnikov, ever since the two met at a party in New York in 1974. Baryshnikov had read Brodsky's work as a young man and it had a profound impact on him ever since. As a matter of fact, Baryshnikov still travels with Brodsky's work and enjoys referring to them again and again. “It speaks to you at different times, you always discover something new about his words” explains Mr Baryshnikov during a telephone interview from New York. Joseph Brodsky passed away in 1996 from a heart attack but his voice can be heard during Brodsky/Baryshnikov, directed by Alvin Hermanis. In this show, Mikhail Baryshnikov performs in a glass gazebo and recites the poems of his late friend in Russian. But don't worry, if you don't speak any Russian: Subtitles are available. Mr Baryshnikov himself calls this "a theatre journey through the works of Joseph Brodsky". Buckle up for this journey and put on your listening ears.
Spectacle spoke to Mr Baryshnikov last week about friendship, critics and stage jitters.

Spectacle: You have performed Brodsky/Baryshnikov since 2015. How has this play evolved over time? What has changed for you?
Baryshnikov: The comfort level for me has changed, this is poetry in the theatre and it isn't the easiest task. I try to forget that the audience is even there. Usually, you react to the audience in a play, but this is not the kind of show that you perform for an audience. The director, Alvin Hermanis, set it up as a spiritual conversation between two people and one of them deceased and the other barely alive.

S: You and Brodsky met for the first time in 1974 and have been friends ever since. What characterised your friendship? What was he like?
B: He was an adult in the room, not because he was older, but because he was a genius. A man who experienced a lot: He was imprisoned and he was exiled. He was a self-educated man, who knew everything about everything. He had very high moral standards. He was demanding and kind, just an extraordinary man. We were just friends.

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

S: Joseph Brodsky passed away in 1996, why did you wait 20 years until you brought his work on stage?
B: I never thought this would be possible until I was approached by Alvin Hermanis. We met a few times and he knew Mr Brodsky and myself were close friends. So he came up with this crazy idea. I liked Alvin as a theatre and opera director, so I twisted my own arm and we started working.

S: Brodsky/Baryshnikov is performed in Russian. Would it not reach more people if it was performed in English?
B: No, that would be counterproductive. Brodsky's poems were written in Russian. And most of the audience members are Russian speaking or people interested in Russian or Slavic language and culture. Language will not be a problem. There is just not one person sitting on stage reciting poetry. There is movement, there is light. There won't be dance per se, but there is a lot of body language.

S: Joseph Brodsky has written lots of poems, how were the ones chosen for the play?
B: The selection of the poems was done by the director, he selected poems from very early in Josephs career, when he was 17-18 and started to write. Many of those poems are actually a conversation about destiny, mortality, God and love poems. It is a very personal journey for me, we were close friends for over 20 years. His poems were extraordinary and I think there is an obligation to the written word. It is not just gibberish you pick somewhere. They rhyme and you have to make music out of it.

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

Photos used with permission, photographer Janis Deinats

S: Does criticism bother you?
B: I would be lying if I said, I don't care what people think. I don't want people to come and see my performance and consider it a waste of their time. If people come and sit through two hours, I consider that a compliment.
Critics come and go, but this poetry will still be there for the next century. I'm not the first one who recite those and I hopefully won't be the last.

S: Do you ever get pre-performance nerves?
B: Always! I'm a nervous performer. It doesn't matter if I dance or perform, it is always the same butterflies in my stomach. But thankfully they go away after a few minutes.

S: You have been on stage for decades, do you see yourself retiring completely? Or is that a thought you dread?
B: Actually, that sounds more and more appealing to me, but there are always good projects that are offered to me. How can I say no?

If you can make it to Zurich, don't miss Mikhail Baryshnikov in Brodsky/Baryshnikov at Schauspielhaus Zurich between June 23rd - June 25th, 2017. The performance will be in Russian with German translations.
Get your tickets right HERE.

To catch Mikhail Baryshnikov in any performance in your area, keep an eye on the official schedule over at Baryshnikov Arts Center.

10 opera houses to check out on Instagram. Even if opera isn't your thing.

Opera is boring? Hard to understand? Just for the posh?
Naturally, we cannot agree on this. However, we are sure we can agree on one thing: The opera houses itself are just stunning. Some are filled with red velvet, heavy ornaments and the biggest chandeliers, others are modern with lots of glass and fresh architecture. But all of them worth following on Instagram.
If those walls could talk, we would hear some good stories, don't you think?
There are many more beautiful opera houses in the world, but since we have limited space we narrowed them down to the ones we like the most.

1. Teatr Wilki, Grand Theatre and National Opera in Warsaw, Poland

Teatr Wilki takes "Grand" to a new level. It is one of the biggest theatres not only in Europe but in the World! If only for the WOW-factor you should follow them.


2. Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia in Valencia, Spain

Yes, Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia looks like a helmet or even a cruise ship! But there is more than meets the eye. This amazing building located in Valencia, Spain was designed and constructed by a son of the city, Santiago Calavatra. It rises more 14 stories high, but there are also three more stories below ground, making it the tallest opera house in the world!

Así de bonito luce hoy nuestro edificio con el día tan azul que ha salido. #operavalencia #cac #ciudaddelasartesylasciencias

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia (@palaudelesarts) am


3. Guangzhou Opera House in China

Guangzhou Opera House is not very active on Instagram, we give you that. Instagram is blocked on mainland China. But this opera house was designed by the late architecture genius Zaha Hadid. So it is safe to say, this is an Instagram-worthy building. The program is very international with companies from all over the world making a stop at this granite masterpiece.


4. Den Norske Opera & Ballett in Oslo, Norway

If you have never seen the Norwegian opera house in your life, how would you imagine the Norwegian opera house would look like? A modern structure, a clean design, lots of glass and just a Scandinavian look?
You would be right on all points.
Den Norske Opera & Ballett does a great job to take you backstage and show you all the details and interesting titbits that make opera and ballet so much fun and entertaining.


5. Drottningholms Slottsteater in Stockholm, Sweden

The Drottningholm Palace Theatre is special by all accounts. One of the few 18th-century theatres left, this opera house is located on the grounds of the Drottningholm Palace where the Royal family resides. The stage machinery is still operated by hand and today it is recognised as international cultural heritage significant. Follow them for lots of details of a time long gone. This opera house will certainly transport you into an exiting past. 


6. Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona, Spain

There are opera houses and then there is Palau de la Musica Catalana in Barcelona. The rich facade spills over into the inside of the opera house. Dynamic shapes meets lots of colours. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site that not only brings opera to its audience but also jazz and Cançó.


7. Opéra National de Paris, France

Everything you ever thought you would see in an opera house, that was founded under the sun king, Louis XIV, you will get at the Opéra National de Paris. Long staircases, lots of gold and heavy velvet, yes, Louis XIV would still love this house!
Not only the house is worth to look at, also the Instagram channel. The Paris Opera found a way to make their channel a lot of fun and you should take the time to check it out every once in a while in its entirety, not only photo by photo.
Don't miss out on the other, modern opera house that Paris has to offer Paris has another - Opéra Bastille.


8. Sydney Opera in Australia

No list of beautiful opera houses without mentioning the iconic Sydney Opera. It sure is one of the most famous buildings in the World. Since this venue is not only used for operas but also for various concerts, it has a beautiful restaurant and you could even climb to the top if you dare. All of that can be seen on the very active Instagram channel.


9. Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Italy

Some things go together like peanut butter and jelly. Opera (and ballet) and La Scala is one of them. The whole account is filled with beautiful photos of dancers and singers on stage and in rehearsal. Did you know that the most critical audience sits in the "loggione", the least expensive seats? If these patrons don't like what they see, they will let you know. Just ask Roberto Alangna, who was booed off stage in 2006!


10. The Metropolitan Opera New York, USA

It is true, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. Not a singer of distincition what hasn't been on this stage! This channel shows you great photos from the past and present and even the occasional marriage proposal that takes place with the MET as a gorgeous backdrop.

Balmain designs costumes for the Paris Opera

Balmain's creative director Olivier Rousteing is one busy bee. After a highly successful collaboration with L'oreal and a sold out collection in H&M stores, Rousteing has set his eyes on the arts. The French fashion house will bring some glamour and aesthetics to the Paris Opera. Dancer and choreographer Sébastien Bertaud asked Olivier Rousteing to design costumes for the upcoming ballet "Renaissance" set to take stage in June 2017.
Rousteing and Bertaud have more in common than meets the eye: both men are the same age and both hail from the Bordeaux. On top of that both appreciate history and tradition, but also both like to walk off the beaten path. Olivier Rousteing has been a ballet lover and even took some dance classes as a young boy.

BALMAIN X OPÉRA DE PARIS #comingsoon #waitandsee

Ein Beitrag geteilt von OLIVIER R. (@olivier_rousteing) am

Sébastien Bertraud's ballet pays tribute to the legendary Ecole de Danse Française, from Versailles with Louis XIV to the Opéra Garnier. He also gave Rousteing a card blanche when it came to the designs. If the previous collaborations of Balmain and the opulent gowns seen, on pretty much every red carpet, are anything to go by, we can expect some amazing couture on stage. Costumes will be adorned with feathers, pearls, rhinestones and silver and gold embellishments. Dancers will perform in spencer coats, cardigans, and fringe skirts. 

Olivier Rousteing has dressed music megastars Beyonce, Rihanna and Justin Bieber. These experiences made him understand what costumes have to offer to be practical and shine on stage.  He took over as creative director of Balmain when he was just 25 years old and gave the fashion house a fresh direction. His talent and the friendship with various A-listers makes the fashion house of Balmain a favourite among fashion lovers worldwide. No doubt, a new area opens up for Balmain with this collaboration. It might not be the only time Rousteing wanders into the arts.

But there are other reasons why Balmain and Sébastian Bertraud are a wonderful fit. Bertraud is part of a new generation of ballet artists, who aim to entice a new fan base that will find their way to the ballet and opera more regularly. He discovered that Balmain founder Pierre Balmain designed costumes for the ballet in the Fifties. So this new collaboration is a nod to history and a big step forward into the future. It comes full circle.

This is not the first time fashion and ballet collide. The New York Ballet has joined forces with fashion big shots such as Jason Wu, Dries van Norten and also Narciso Rodriguez, while Coco Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent have designed for the Paris Opera before. 

Fashion and culture lovers alike will have to wait a little longer until the Balmain costumes will be seen on stage. If you happen to plan a fancy night out at the ballet and want to see the Balmain costumes take centre stage, make sure you plan your visit between June 13 through June 18th.

Palais Garnier, Paris
June 13th-June 18th
Duration: 1h50 with one intermission

Buy your tickets HERE