by Laurence Phillips
Old Montreal Extravaganza!
From December 9 to December 31, Old Montreal Extravaganza celebrates the holiday season with a month long of continuous indoor and outdoor activities! A few of these include Christmas choirs, carriage rides, route of nativity scene, a decorated outdoor skating rink and this year the festival will also feature the very first International Village of Christmas Traditions at Place Jacques-Cartier.
The New Year’s Eve Grand Bal on Place Jacques-Cartier closes the festival and rings in the new year with traditional folk music and spectacular fireworks. For more information, please visit: www.lesfeeriesduvieuxmontreal.info
200 Years of Verdi and Wagner
Birthdays should be celebrated. Especially the 200th, like those of the two composers Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, who were born in 1813. Vienna’s opera houses place special emphasis on this in their programs and the National Library holds a Wagner exhibition.
The Vienna State Opera serves up the Verdi operas Un Ballo in Maschera (with Roberto Alagna), Simon Boccanegra (with Plácido Domingo), La Traviata (with Rolando Villazón) and Rigoletto (with Simon Keenlyside) in 2012/13. From Wagner, look out for Parsifal (with Jonas Kaufmann), Tristan and Isolde, Siegfried and Die Walküre (all with Nina Stemme) - and that's just for starters.
To pay homage to Wagner, Marc Minkowski and Les Musiciens du Louvre perform the "Anniversary Concert 1863" at Theater an der Wien on 5 January 2013: One hundred and fifty years ago, Wagner presented excerpts of his own operas to an audience for the first time. Here, in Theater an der Wien. Verdi's Attila will be performed in July 2013.
At the Vienna Volksoper, opera and operetta as well as musicals and ballets take to the stage, with many of the performances in German. Verdi's La Traviata in the autumn of 2012 is followed by Rigoletto in the spring of 2013. Loriot's entertaining abridged version Wagner's Ring in an Evening brings the season to a close with a laugh.
To mark the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner's birth on 22 May 1813, the Austrian National Library is holding the exhibition "Loved, Ridiculed, Worshipped. Richard Wagner and the Viennese". It explores the reception of Wagner's revolutionary oeuvre in Vienna - the unfailing support, rejection, jubilation, but also the mockery with which it met (until February 10, 2013).
The Italian Giuseppe Verdi went on his first overseas journey in 1843 to Vienna, where he conducted the first performance of his opera (Nabucco) outside his native Italy in the Kärntnertortheater - an important opera house at the time. What's more, the musicians who he appreciated for their advanced playing skills were the Vienna Philharmonic, which was founded around that time. In 1875, Verdi conducted Aida and the Requiem in Vienna.
In 1857, Tannhäuser, the first opera by Richard Wagner, was performed in its entirety at a theater in the suburbs. One year later, Lohengrin was performed at the Court Opera. Empress Elisabeth was also present at a much hailed concert given in the Musikverein in 1862. Wagner rehearsed Tannhäuser (Vienna version) and Lohengrin himself in 1875. He then conducted the latter once in 1876. For more info: www.wiener-staatsoper.at
Civilization museum's $25M rebranding to focus on history
The Canadian Museum of Civilization, the country's largest museum, will be rebranded as the Canadian Museum of History to reflect a focus on the country's social and political history.
Heritage Minister James Moore said the rebranding of the museum comes in anticipation of plans to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
The museum is expected to include displays on major milestones since Confederation, including the Last Spike from construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice (Rocket) Richard's hockey jersey and items from Terry Fox's Marathon of Hope.
"Canadians deserve a national museum that tells our stories and presents our country's treasures to the world," said Moore at the museum, which is in Gatineau, Que, across the Ottawa River from Parliament Hill.
"Our children need to know more about Canada's past," said Moore.
About 50,000 square feet of the museum, about half of its permanent and temporary gallery, is expected to be renovated as part of the change.
The Museum of Civilization's First Peoples Hall, a permanent exhibit of aboriginal artifacts from across Canada, is expected to remain where it is, as will areas such as the children's gallery and IMAX theatre.
The transformation is expected to cost a one-time investment of $25 million funded through Canadian Heritage.
There is also a $3-billion budget for the movement of exhibits and artifacts from other smaller museums across Canada, Moore added.
Moore said the federal government will introduce changes to the Museums Act to change the name and mandate of the museum.
The Museum of Civilization, previously called the National Museum of Man, is the most popular museum in the National Capital Region, attracting about 1.2 million visitors annually.
Vancouver voted city with World’s best reputation
Vancouver has been named the city with the world’s best reputation. The result is from Reputation Institute’s 2012 City RepTrak™.
The yearly study ranks the world’s 100 most reputable cities by polling more than 18,000 people from the G8 countries.
Vancouver now joins its home, Canada, in the winner’s circle. Canada was named the world’s most reputable country in the 2012 Country RepTrak™ ranking released recently.
RepTrak™ destination studies dive deep into the emotional bond between stakeholders and destinations by quantifying the degree to which people Trust, Admire, Respect and have an Affinity for a city or country.
Underlining a destination’s score are three dimensions that influence the perceptions of a destination. These dimensions: Advanced Economy, Appealing Environment and Effective Administration, are what drive a destination’s reputation and stakeholder support.
In the City study, these three dimensions are further defined by 13 reputation attributes that participants in the study are asked to evaluate. These include the destinations’ perceived: beauty; safety; cultural offerings; infrastructure; business environment; schools and more.
“We live in a reputation economy. While the idea of a destination’s reputation may not be on the top of everyone’s mind when they decide where to live, work, vacation, or do business, our studies indicate that it should.
We have found that a person’s perceived reputation of a city is a key factor when deciding where to visit, or in terms of business, to invest. Our modeling demonstrates that effective management of these reputation drivers translates directly into increased tourism receipts, investment, and stakeholder support,” says Nicolas Georges Trad, Executive Partner of Reputation Institute.
Vancouver scored highest in administration and was recommended by poll participants as also the best place to live and work.
The host of the 2010 Winter Olympics focuses many resources on creating a welcoming environment and promoting its multicultural heritage.
“At Tourism Vancouver, we have a role as a brand steward for our city, helping to court and share positive and responsible media comments, ensuring that our visitor infrastructure is safe and welcoming to everyone, and by inviting the world to come and spend some time with us.
We believe that a factor in Vancouver’s stature is our reputation as a city where all nationalities gather comfortably, where over 40 first languages are spoken in the average school, where perhaps 50% of our population has English as a second language and in our having a deep-seated respect for varied religious views.
Although Vancouver was not voted the most beautiful city in the world, it did place number seven in the category behind old world and architecturally revered Venice, Florence, Rome, Paris, Vienna and Barcelona.
For more information: www.reputationinstitute.com.
Christmas markets in Italy
Christmas is a well loved tradition all over Italy and traditional Christmas markets and fairs can be found all over the peninsula in the most important cities.
Rome’s Piazza Navona Christmas Market is suddenly swamped by a bustling multi-coloured market, selling cribs, decorations and sweets. A treat for young children, it reaches its height of excitement on the night of 5th January when the “Befana” (The Good Witch) flies about the country, delivering presents to “wellbehaved” children and pieces of coal to the naughty ones. Visit: www.turismoroma.it Open from the end November 2012 to 6 January 2013.
In Venice, there will be Christmas fairs in various piazzas (campo: Campo S.Bartolomeo, Campo San Salvador, Campo San Luca, Campo Manin, Strada Nuova. Open: 20 – 24 December 2012 and 2-5 January 2013.
Florence’s Mercato Tedesco di Natale (German Christmas Market) in Piazza Santa Croce is inspired by the tradition of the German city of Heidelberg, wooden huts and stalls selling Italian and German delicacies, decorations and handicrafts. Open from end of November – 23 December 2012.
In Naples, the narrow Via S. Gregorio Armeno is famous all over the world for its handcrafted Nativity Crib figurines, from the traditional ones to the most sophisticated and buzzes at Christmas time with Neapolitans and tourists alike. Open: early Dec 2012 – 6 January 2013.
Laurence Phillips is author of How to be Very Very Lazy in Marseillan and A Lot of Languedoc, £14.99 at www.lazyfrance.com