La Stupenda: an insider view

As some of you may know, for many years I worked at the Sydney Opera House as a lighting technician on Opera and Ballet.

I have lots of stories I could tell you about this spectacular building, but the one I would like to tell you is about Dame Joan and the Green Room of the Opera House.

The Green Room is the traditional lounge area of a theater where people can hang out during a show. At the Sydney Opera House, it serves the needs of a number of venues, so at any given time it’s bustling with crew, opera singers, ballet dancers, and other outrageously attired miscellaneous performers.

On one of the walls of the green room is a massive floor to ceiling photo of Dame Joan. It’s from her last performance at the Opera House and the stage is absolutely packed with people.

Everyone on stage is covered in streamers, and they spread right off the front of the stage, into the orchestra pit and up onto the conductors arms!

Dame Joan is standing at center and she has the most tremendous smile on her face.

But what really stands out is that her arms are outstretched as any Olympian would.

She is accepting her congratulations and respects – and knowing that she ran her absolute best.

She will be missed.

A remarkable life: La Stupenda

Dame Joan Sutherland recently passed away and I would like to dedicate this week’s blog to her.

Dame Joan as she was affectionately known by the locals, was a phenomenal Australian soprano.

She was known internationally for her remarkable range, power and quality of voice. And unlike many of her highly-strung peers, Dame Joan always remained down to earth despite her status as a diva.

Her nickname ‘La Stupenda’ was given to her in 1960 by the audience at La Fenice, Venice (one of the most famous opera houses in the world) after an extraordinary performance of the title role in Handel’s Alcina.

Within a year she had made her debut at La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera and the name was to stay with her throughout her thirty year career.

Here is her spectacular performance of Vissi D’Arte from Tosca to remember her by. (details on what she is singing about below)

The story: her lover has been imprisoned and sentenced to death (by the baddie wandering around in the background). Her lover will die at dawn unless she sleeps with the baddie…  and so she is singing of her lover and the ill hand that fate has dealt.

Canadian Genius: The Tooth Fairy Childrens Foundation

A smile says so much about a person – it’s contagious in all the best ways!

Often times a child with damaged teeth turns into an unsmiling adult; someone who hides their teeth at every opportunity often without realizing it.

That’s why I love what the Tooth Fairy Children’s Foundation is doing – their mission is to provide every child worldwide with a toothbrush, oral hygiene education and access to dental care.

And their latest project is really cool.

It’s called Project Toothbrush and it works through the dental offices.

How it works is that when you’re at your dentists office and they offer you that free toothbrush – if you don’t want or need it – you have the option of donating that toothbrush (or money) for a child in need.  The dentist forwards a donation of $1 for every toothbrush – which then turns into 10 toothbrushes given to a child in need.

You can find out more here –

But better still, ask your dentist if they’re registered for Project Toothbrush and let’s get those toothbrushes where they need to go.

Canadian genius: CBC Song Quest 2010

The CBC Song Quest 2010 Album has just been launched.  (CBC is the Canadian Broadcast Corporation for any Aussies out there)

The premise of this annual ‘quest’ is that 13 musicians – one from each province and territory – are selected by the CBC to create 13 new Canadian road songs.

The really cool piece of this is that we (the fans) get to choose which stretch of road they are going to write about.

I’m proud to say that Alberta chose the Cowboy Trail (Hwy 22) – and I’m thrilled to bits. This wonderful stretch of road is full of historic ranches, plenty of wildlife and big Albertan skies.

This talented group of musicians have created a wonderful collection of new Canadian road songs and you can check out the tracks here:

Which one is your favorite?

40s style: men’s hairstyles

Unlike the huge variety of women’s hairstyles in the 1940s, the typical 1940s man had three basic hairstyle choices: there was a pompadour, a slicked-down side-part or a military style crew cut.

The first two styles had a similar hair cut with the hair longer on the top, while the crew cut was a short buzzed cut with hair only slightly longer on the top.

Slicked-back hairstyles as my father wore, were flatter versions of essentially the same style, although slicked hair was considered more conservative.

And as with many things retro, the flat top version of the crew cut was to return to popularity in the 1980s as a ‘flat top’ and continues to be popular today.

This is Sinatra with a classic pompadour alongside the 80s flattop of Dolph Lundgren in Rocky IV.

Which one do you prefer?

40s style: women’s hairstyles

As many of you know, I just love 1940s style hairdos.

Victory rolls, pin curls, side parts, sweeps and waves.

Whether you go for an old timey style, or a more modern burlesque feel – there is something so classy and glamorous about this look.

This is Rita Hayworth from 1946 alongside the modern version by burlesque model Dita von Teese.

Which one do you prefer?

Music I’m loving: Little Miss Higgins

I just love the old timey style of Little Miss Higgins. (

For a retro girl like me this music just gets my feet a-tapping. She’s got talent, attitude, a good dose of the blues, and that voice! (Oh, and did I mention she’s Canadian?)

This is ‘Saturday-afternoon-out-for-a-drive-in-the-sunshine’ music and you can get a little taste of it here:

Music I’m loving: Ray LaMontagne

Ray LaMontagne is one musician I just can’t get enough of  –  (

I could listen to his raspy voice all day long; this guy is so raw and real I can’t help but feel myself soar and dive as he lays it all out.

He’s known for being a very private person who rarely gives interviews, and doesn’t believe in making music videos of himself (he says they should be left for ‘beautiful people’). This means there aren’t any ‘official’ videos of him, so any music videos you’re going to find are live.

Here’s a taste of Ray LaMontagne with one of my favorite songs – filmed live at the famous Abbey Road studios – I hope you enjoy it!

Freedom: what it means to me

Freedom is a concept that I value very highly in my life.

For some ‘freedom is just another word for nothing left to loose’, but for me it’s the freedom of ultimate choice in what I do, where I go and who I spend my time with.

Even as I revel in it, I know that there will be a time when I will choose to give that up to possibly develop a business, build partnership, raise children, build my own home.

Yet knowing that somehow makes it all the sweeter.

So tell me; What does freedom look like to you? and what (or who) do you give it up for?

The Freedom of the Highway

There’s something about getting on my bike and heading out on the open road with no destination in mind.

I like to call it the ‘Freedom of the Highway’ and there is nothing quite like it to melt away the stresses of the day.

The road lays out before me, the bike is humming along, the sun is lighting up the fields and mountains, and the smell of summer is in the air.

Particularly heading west from Calgary, there is a moment when the city falls away and suddenly the Rockies appear in all their magnificence.

Just like my first week in Canada, that moment never fails to take my breath away.