La Traviata at the San Francisco Opera

Verdi’s La Traviata is currently playing at The San Francisco Opera. It was first performed by the San Francisco Opera during the Company’s second season in 1924. This rendition features three company debuts, Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian as Violetta Valéry, Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan as Alfredo Germont and Polish baritone Artur Ruciński as Giorgio Germont. It’s also the final performance by Maestro Nicola Luisotti. He’s been the Music Director of the San Francisco Opera for nine-seasons.  

The orchestra begins to play as the audience perks up in anticipation for the reveal. The curtain finally rises and we are introduced to Violetta (Aurelia Florian) and an extravagant gathering that looks like a painting come to life. The costumes and scenery are exquisite. Taking you back to mid-19th century Paris.

La Traviata

The show is based on the novel La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas and is told in three acts. Violetta Valéry, a beautiful Parisian, battles with the desire to pursue her love, Alfredo Germont, or continue enjoying life on her own terms. She chooses love and is happy until objections from his father arise. Alfredo’s father claims that his daughter’s engagement is at risk due to Violetta’s reputation. She reluctantly agrees to separate after his constant pleas. She was living her days freely indulging in whatever her heart desired until Alfredo, and now she is left heartbroken because of “reputation”. Eventually, the lovers are reunited but, it’s too late, Violetta is plagued with tuberculosis.

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The performances by Florian and Atalla Ayan (Alfredo Germont) are highly enjoyable. Florian gives a powerful performance during the final act when Violetta departs forever. It’s a heartbreaking good bye and she does a good job at getting the audience to feel the huge loss the characters have gone through.  

For those new to the San Francisco Opera scene, there is a small monitor above the stage with lyric translations. Have no fear, you will not be lost in translation. This particular show is tragic but it’s also funny at times. This would be a great introduction to the Opera for first timers as its one of the most popular shows to be staged. You can also arrive two hours early for dinner at the Opera Cafe and enjoy drinks and dessert in between acts.

Each presentation at the War Memorial Opera House also features an informative 25-minute Pre-Opera Talk. Beginning 55 minutes prior to curtain and free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance, each LaTraviata Pre-Opera Talk will be presented by Bay Area conductor Peter Susskind.


Tickets for La Traviata are priced from $26 to $398 and may be purchased at, the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue and by phone at (415) 864-3330. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; standing room tickets are $10 each, cash only, and limited to two tickets per person.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue.

Butterflies & Blooms at The Conservatory of Flowers

Butterflies and Blooms apines4The Conservatory of Flowers has brought back the exhibit, Butterflies & Blooms. One of the most requested exhibits since its last appearance three years ago; it’s the perfect weekend activity for you and the whole family. Enter the special exhibit gallery and experience its current transformation to a cottage garden filled with 20 species of vibrant and North American butterflies. You’ll even get a chance to get up close to monarchs surrounded by blossoms like zinnias, and daisies.

Butterflies and Blooms apines29You’ll learn about the important role Butterfly pollination plays in our environment. It’s important to the survival of many plants such as the firecracker plant, which is exclusively pollinated by them. They are not as efficient as the bee but with the slow extinction of bees, butterflies are becoming an even more important part of the process. Without the process many plants wouldn’t be able to produce fruit and/or reproduce.

Butterflies and Blooms apines10You’ll learn fun facts like how Butterflies taste with their feet using special receptors. This helps them determine if a flower is a good place to lay eggs or take a drink. You’ll also learn about the monarch and its approximate 3,000-mile migration journey, the longest migration of any insect.

A Butterfly Bungalow is located at the entrance of the gallery where you can observe the different stages of a butterfly’s life cycle. You may be Butterflies and Blooms apines12lucky enough to observe one during its final stage of transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. For $20, you can become a patrol member and release a newly emerged butterfly into the exhibit. You’ll also receive a complimentary people-sized antennae and a special Patrol badge to take home. The extra $20 donation benefits conservatory school programs.

The exhibit will run Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10am to close, until June 30, 2017. Admission is $6 for adult San Francisco residents, $2-3 for children, and $8 for non-residents. 

Conservatory of Flowers
Golden Gate Park – 100 John F. Kennedy Drive – San Francisco


Magical Nathaniel Magic Show!

IMG_7894 copyI didn’t know what to expect when I went to see Magical Nathaniel Magic Show! at El Cerrito High School. In his early 20’s, he’s already been performing for about 9 years. He became interested in magic at the tender age of 3. I already admired this performer without seeing the show, due to the fact that not many of us get to follow the dreams we had as teenagers, let alone those at age 3. A recent graduate from UC Berkeley with a degree in applied mathematics and a minor in theatre and already an award-winning magician, this had to be good.

IMG_7903The show included a lot of interaction with the audience especially, the younger members who literally jumped up and down to get chosen to go up on stage. Magical Nathaniel has a natural chemistry with kids that made them react to him as if he were their best friend. One of them got worried that Magical Nathaniel would get hurt because he was doing a “dangerous trick” that involved balancing himself on a piece of wood on top of two chairs, while blindfolded, and solving a Rubik’s cube. The interaction was a little distracting from the trick but he handled the heartwarming moment with acknowledgement and patience as he continued with the performance.

IMG_7899 copyThere were a lot of classic acts that any inspired kid’s parents could pick up from a magic store. The infamous rope trick that makes it go from one big one to three little ones, and the needle through a balloon. He did add an additional twist to each trick, making it his own. In addition to his natural charm with the little ones, his act is also enticing enough to leave the adult crowd in awe.

It’s a family show that can please the whole family. One adult comment overheard, “No, it can’t be” was amusing to hear. He had several “I bet I can guess which one you chose” illusions but, the most interesting to me was one involving a soda can. He took a crushed can on stage and returned it back to its normal state. He then opened it and gave a cup to an audience member to drink to confirm that it was cold. You can currently book him for kid parties, events, and shows.

Find out about upcoming shows on his website:

Rope Trick

Grand Finale


Cirque du Soleil’s – LUZIA – U.S. Premiere

If you’re looking for a magical night out, go no further than Cirque du Soleil’s 17th show presented under the Big Top, LUZIA. It’s its 38th original production since 1984, they have performed in more than 400 cities on six continents. The massive white-and-gold Big Top can be seen from the highway at San Francisco’s AT&T park. You’ll not only be taken to another world but you’ll be experiencing it first, the Bay Area is its U.S. premiere.


The dreamlike experience takes you through the beauty and culture of Mexico. Follow the annual migration of the monarch butterfly and enter the Mayan gateway to the afterlife. You’ll encounter a jaguar, hummingbirds and a call to Cháak, the Mayan god of rain. That call brings about a beautiful rainfall on stage in which images are projected on. The audience was in awe as the pools of water appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye. The effects summoning the meeting of the sun and moon mingled with the exceptional acrobatic skill that is expected of Cirque Du Soleil, created a transformational experience.    

IMG_7206   A team of more than 60 men and women worked on raising the massive tent space utilizing more than 100 supporting poles with seating for up to 2,600 people over the course of 8 days. The 2,000 tons of equipment is transported via 65 trailer trucks. The performances are not the only thing you’ll be admiring on your night out. The production ends in San Francisco on January 29, 2017. It’s next stop will be in San Jose, CA from February 9 to March 19, 2017.

See it while it’s in the neighborhood!

For tickets, visit  

Do you really want to miss this!?

Canyon dig it! – Los Penasquitos Canyon Reserve

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It might not be Yosemite, but Los Penasquitos Canyon Reserve in San Diego has plenty of beautiful trails to explore. One of the best ways to see this 4,000 acre suburban wilderness is on a moderate 7-mile (round-trip) mountain bike ride.

Los Pensaquitos Ana Pines 1The well-marked, dog-friendly, multi-use hardpacked trail can be taken from the reserve entrance. There aren’t many elevation changes so it’s great for a leisurely walk or for beginner mountain bikers like us.

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One of the best rewards of the trail is the waterfall cascading through the volcanic rocks about 3 miles out. Well, to be accurate it’s more of a stream than a waterfall. But we loved soaking our feet in the cold water.

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Things to remember before heading out; bring plenty of water and sunblock, it is hot out there and most of the trail is not shaded. A 20 minute drive from Hillcrest makes it a great choice for a quick getaway from it all.

Great Hike or Bike! 

*The scenery of the canyon includes:

  • a waterfall cascading through volcanic rock;
  • a streamside forest of giant California live oaks;
  • groves of majestic sycamore trees;
  • a year-round stream populated by Pacific tree frogs, crayfish and largemouth bass;
  • a freshwater marsh hosting a variety of aquatic birds including great blue herons, egrets, mallard ducks and more; mule deer, bobcat, coyote and raccoon are just a few of the mammals that can be observed throughout the Preserve.

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*Info from:


The Art of the Brick

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If you’ve ever played with Legos you’ll remember the feeling of accomplishment when your imagination came to life in your hands. In time, you outgrew the brightly colored block toys unless you’re like Nathan Sawaya. After years of creating with Legos as a hobby, he quit his corporate lawyer job to become a full-time Lego artist. This fascination of creating with Legos on a bigger scale has made him renowned around the world. At his current traveling show, The Art of the Brick, you can get up close with his work.

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It’s the largest display of Lego work featuring over 120 creations and people are raving about it. You’ll experience famous works re-imagined, original work from Sawaya’s psyche and a collaboration with photographer Dean West, in which one focus in each photo is made of Legos. Can you tell which one from afar?

“The museum exhibition is accessible because it engages the child in all of us while simultaneously illuminating sophisticated and complex concepts.” 

It’s family friendly and you can touch two pieces at the end before entering the gift shop. There are also slight variations from city to city, “Be Different,” which represents fish swimming in the same direction except for one was created exclusively for the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, WA.

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The most impressive display is the dedicated gallery to a “dinosaur fossil” that took 80,020 pieces. He doesn’t altar the basic pieces to fit or change the colors that the blocks are originally offered in.

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The work up close is clunky and hard to decipher but once you take a step back the magic happens. It’s not so much about sophistication but rather creativity. It’ll teach you to look at things different like Sawaya did. You didn’t just have to follow the instructions on the box.

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It’s a great way to educate and inspire kids and adults alike. You realize that you don’t always have to outgrow the things you enjoyed in your youth. You never know what will happen. You could end up with your own exhibition.

Has it been to your city?

Check out the schedule at:


Chihuly Garden and Glass – Seattle, Washington

Visiting Seattle, Washington on limited time? You can easily visit two locations in one day in addition to the infamous Space Needle. One of those is the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition that opened in 2012. For frequent travelers the sculptures will immediately look familiar as Dale Chihuly’s artwork is dispersed throughout the world in small to large venues. This exhibit is exclusively dedicated to his work.

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There are eight galleries to go through and each one provides its own unique awe. You’ll learn the story of his development into an artist and the process of his work and collaborations. One room contains drawings that he created so others could produce the final pieces for him after a car accident left him blinded in his left eye in 1976. In 1979, a second incident left him with a dislocated right shoulder.

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“If I had not been a sculptor or an artist, I would love to have been a film director or an architect.” ~Dale Chihuly

Chihuly Garden and Glass anapines 41The centerpiece of the exhibition is a Glasshouse that takes up a 4,500 square foot space and is 40-ft tall. You get a unique view of the Space Needle as a backdrop to the 100-foot long sculpture in a color palette of reds, oranges, yellows and amber. The colors pop in front of the frequent gloomy skies.

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The exhibit provides photographers the opportunity to find new and interesting ways to present the work and make it their own. There are opportunities to work with close-ups, reflections, light and dark backgrounds, and juxtaposing the sky with the artwork and garden flowers.

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The Glasshouse contains an expansive installation made of several individual elements making it his largest collection of suspended sculptures. After, enter my favorite and the most peaceful area, the garden. The works are contrasted with trees, plants and flowers. The centerpiece is called, The Sun, providing an explosion of yellow and orange.

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Right before exiting to the gift shop where you can also purchase original work, you’ll find a theater with short videos showing Chihuly creating, interviewing, and setting up installations and exhibitions. If you bring your headphones you can also tune in to a self-guided tour on your phone. Unfortunately, portable audio guides are not available for those that don’t. The exhibit is mesmerizing nonetheless.

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Chihuly Garden and Glass is located at 305 Harrison Street, Seattle, WA 98109. Tickets range from $14 to $22. Check their website for updates in schedule.



The Legacy of Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the RiveterOver 2,100 participants gathered at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond on the 13th of August to break the Guinness World record for most ‘Rosie the Riveters’ in one place. Women, men and children participated in the event to honor the trailblazers who stepped up to the call of duty during WWII. Original Rosie’s were in attendance including Agnes Moore, Kay Morrison, Marian Wynn, Primetta Giacopini, and Priscilla Elder. Moore, 96, worked in the Richmond Shipyards as a welder for 4 years. Giacopini, 100, made ball bearings for bomb-sight equipment. The Richmond plant had approximately 40,000 workers from different regions who built more than 8,600 B-24 Liberator bomber aircrafts.

Rosie the RiveterThe call for women to work at the plant came out of need as these jobs were only held by men prior to enlisting and being drafted into combat. The women became known as “Rosie the Riveters” due to a marketing campaign that was made to attract more workers. They became welders, machinists, electricians, carpenters, mechanics, rail yard, farm, and gas station workers. There were also several clerical positions that were created increasing the number of women in the workforce by 50%.

Rosie the RiveterIt was the first time that minority women and disabled workers were given a choice in work. Older workers were also recruited. A quote by Fanny Christina Hill hangs in the Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park that states, “Hitler was the one who got us out of the white folks’ kitchen.” The discrimination that many of these women faced adds to the strength and power of the Rosie the Riveter image when you learn the complicated layers of its history and what the different groups of women had to endure. President Roosevelt didn’t sign the Fair Employment Act of 1941 until African American leaders threatened to a protest march. Once hired, they were given entry level, low paying and the more dangerous jobs like ammunition production. They were also the first to be laid off when the war ended.

Rosie the RiveterOnce the war was over the women were then pushed back into the home so the men could take back “their” jobs. This sparked and influenced many civil rights movements. Women got a chance to show what they were capable of and after proving themselves had society turn their backs on them.

The significance of the event went beyond dressing up, it was a reminder that no matter how many times we have to prove ourselves, and how annoying that is, we will persevere! That’s what the Rosie’s did while they were changing history and probably didn’t even know it. We’ve come a long way but there’s still work to be done. Women still get paid less, promoted less and harassed in the work place. We have to channel the Rosie spirit and keep going. The spirit of the annual event and the smiles of the real Rosie’s makes this a “must do” for all women. You can also visit the museum for free throughout the year!

Rosie the Riveter WWII/ Home Front National Historical Park is free! To find out how to donate and how you too can celebrate the life of Rosie the Riveter go to:



La Cage Aux Folles presented by BAY AREA MUSICALS!

BAMLaCageThe newly formed theatre organization, BAY AREA MUSICALS! is closing its inaugural season with multiple Tony Award winning play, La Cage Aux Folles. The show written by Harvey Fierstein (book) and Jerry Herman (music and lyrics) revolves around Georges (Clay David), the owner of Saint-Tropez drag cabaret “La Cage Aux Folles”, his lover Albin (Michael RJ Campbell) who is also the clubs headliner as Zaza, and his son Jean-Michel (Jack O’Reilly) who’s recently announced his engagement to Anne Dindon (Bessie Zolno), daughter of hypocrite politician Edouard Dindon (Cameron Weston).

We see the relationship between Georges and Albin/Zaza and how sometimes it affects showtime. Zaza is being begged to go onstage as the other performers are using delay tactics to keep the audience entertained. Georges brings the tenderness level up to a ten to ensure his Albin, that his wishes will be honored and then, Zaza goes on to rounds of applause. We see many loving moments between the two throughout the show which is still taboo for some audience members. A family in front of me had an unpleasant discussion during intermission but luckily stayed to the end. The son was upset by the choice even though he could be seen chuckling many times. Even in theatre it’s rare to have a story center around a couple from the LGBT community. The other element of this story revolves around Jean-Michel and the fact that he was raised by both of them. He’s about to take a big step in his life and doesn’t want Albin (who raised him) there, why?

BAMLaCage242Jean-Michel is concerned with impressing Anne’s parents who portray themselves as a traditional, good, wholesome family. He says that Anne is not like her parents but he’s still eager for their blessings. He requests that Georges invite his biological mother to the family dinner and tell Albin why he “can’t” have him there. He also wanted the decor changed to more “appropriate” ones. When we finally meet Mr. Dindon, we find that he’s extremely disrespectful to his wife Marie (Mary Gibboney). He bosses her around and dismisses her frequently, which is not the definition of a wholesome family in my book. His platform centers around shutting down all places his followers deem sinful and not family-friendly, like a cabaret with drag queens.

BAM_La_Cage_001After much hesitation, Georges finally tells Albin the situation and of course he doesn’t take it well. The boy he raised is ashamed of him and admits to past embarrassments he never mentioned in his youth. Albin has always been there while Jean-Michel’s biological mom has never been and ends up cancelling once again at the last minute. Despite the emotional blow to Albin, he steps up to the plate to help Jean-Michel out but I’ll leave it at that. You have to go watch the show to see what love can sometimes make you do. It’s a story of how we sometimes take for granted those that love us for those that merely surround us. It’s also important to be true to ourselves and live our lives authentically as Albin/Zaza does without question.

I’d also like to mention that David was in character as soon as one entered the door. He welcomed audience members to La Cage Aux Folles and took selfies with a few. He stood out for me, as some of the other actors seem to struggle with their character accents. However, he and Campbell had great chemistry together. I could see them performing together again in a future show! The score includes such songs as “The Best of Times is Now”, “Song In the Sand”, “La Cage Aux Folles”, and “I Am What I Am.” Go watch it! You only have one weekend left. 

Show Details:
Direction and Choreography by Matthew McCoy
Musical Direction by Jon Gallo

2961 16TH STREET
San Francisco, CA 94103

Evening Performances: Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays at 8:00PM 

Matinee Performances: Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00PM
Closing: Sunday, July 31st at 2:00PM

Tickets available at the box office or online:

Whales: Giants of the Deep at San Diego Natural History Museum

The traveling exhibition Whales: Giants of the Deep at theNat: San Diego Natural History Museum until September 5th gives San Diegans and San Diego tourists an up-close view into the environment and history of these stunning creatures. The display has already mesmerized audiences across the U.S. at the American Museum of Natural History, the Field Museum, and most recently the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Being located along the coast where you can get a glimpse of gray whales during their breeding season from December through April and currently Blue whales from June until September, it seems only logical that this exhibit would be a hit here.

Photo provided by: theNAT

The interactive exhibition feeds your curiosity by providing highlights of their biology and diversity with displays of whale skeletons, multimedia displays, and rarely seen cultural artifacts. “Our fascination with and affinity for whales was one of the many reasons we decided to bring Whales: Giants of the Deep to San Diego,” said Dr. Michael Hager, president and CEO at the San Diego Natural History Museum. “The exhibition allows guests to explore these magnificent creatures with a series of informative and hands-on exhibits that allow you to take a deeper dive into our vast oceanic ecosystems. It also gives us the opportunity to highlight the whale research we’re doing here at the Museum.”

Photo provided by: theNAT

Photo provided by: theNAT

The exhibit from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa is approximately 7,000 square feet, one of the largest in the world. You will see life-size and scale models of whales common to the South Pacific areas as well as weapons and adornments made from their bones. Due to the sensitivity of some of the rare specimens visitors are prohibited from taking photographs.

Schedule in 20 minutes to catch Whales 3D across from the exhibit presented by Jean-Michel Cousteau. The film takes you from the coral reefs of the Bahamas to Kingdom of Tonga for closer encounters. You’ll learn about the different environments and species of Whales and sadly, the environmental threats humans have created in their home leaving them vulnerable to extinction. The film is shown twice daily and included with paid admission.

Photo provided by: theNAT

Exhibition Hours and Admission:

Whales and Museum will be open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily. The exhibition will be included with paid general admission (no upcharge required) and located on the Lower Level of the Museum. Pricing: Adult ($19); Senior (62+), Military with ID, and Students ($17); Youth (7-17) $14; Child (3-6) $11; children 2 and under and Museum members are free.

The Museum is located at 1788 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 in Balboa Park. For more information, call 877.946.7797 or visit Follow theNAT on Twitter and Instagram and join the discussion on Facebook.