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The NSO in Macau

In today's Washington Post: The NSO plays the first concert on its Asia tour to a youthful audience in Macau: NSO Translates Well, by Anne Midgette.

Notes from Macau:

A vignette of the concert: a family in the audience with three small boys, perhaps between four and eight, who were, during the Tchaikovsky, playing a game on a cell phone, drawing, and wriggling restlessly, all in complete silence, while an older girl next to them slept soundly. When she woke up during the applause, I realized that this “girl” may in fact have been the boys' mother. It made me wonder who had purchased the concert tickets, though I love the idea of a concert as a comfortable family activity in which one can participate without having to listen actively.

There was a brisk trade in CDs going on in the lobby at intermission, aided largely by the fact that Ivan Fischer is one of the more prolific recording artists around. The vendor had a huge number of his CDs, most of them signed, and had packaged them into a special three-disk offer: two Fischer disks plus what was presumably the only relevant NSO recording he could find, a reissue of Tchaikovsky pieces conducted by Antal Dorati with the Detroit Symphony and the NSO. This is not, needless to say, a new recording. But the price was right: three disks for 300 patacas (about $37), with a pair of iPhone earbuds thrown in for good measure. People thronged around his table before and during the concert, though virtually no one stopped (despite his energetic hawking) on the way out.

The Cirque du Soleil’s show “Zaia” did nothing to change my view of Cirque as shtick: pure entertainment, virtually content-free, slickly packaged for broad consumption while posing as something slightly better and more artistic than it actually is. But the efforts of the Venetian -- the sprawling casino complex where Cirque's theater is housed -- to import marquee entertainment don’t stop at permanent shows like Cirque. The complex also has a full-size arena; upcoming attractions include a concert by Linkin Park and a tennis match between Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. This coming weekend, it’s hosting the IIFA Awards, Bollywood’s Oscars. My own favorite thing at the Venetian was the faux-Italian food court filled with Asian eateries, including a Chinese one where a cook was making noodles by hand, pulling the dough into strings and casting them into a pot of boiling water.

But the real food souvenir of Macau is the local jerky, dried in reddish square sheets and arrayed in racks along the town’s pedestrian zones with descriptions in Chinese and English (“spicy piglet,” “wild boar”), toothsome and flavorful and tasting not unlike a Chinese-barbecue variant of fruit leather. Another signature confection is a thick almond shortbread-like cookie that is missing some of the “short.” The version presented with lunch on the flight out on Air Macau was rather like biting into a bag of plaster, and a number of NSO members judged it inedible (though journalists, of course, will eat anything).

By Anne Midgette  |  June 10, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Washington , international , random musings  
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