Newfoundland Travel: A great opera festival and tips on how to see St. John’s
By Jim Byers, The Toronto Star
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The “Opera in the Avalon” festival starts May 21 in St. John’s Newfoundland and runs to June 23. This year’s festival will feature Verdi’s La Traviata, directed by Michael Cavanagh and conducted by Judith Yan, Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, directed by Chas Rader-Shieber and conducted by Marc David and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, conducted by Judith Yan. Over 110 gifted young operatic singer and pianists, chosen by audition only, will gather for five weeks in St. John’s to study and make music with their illustrious guest artists, conductors, and faculty – culminating in the fully staged productions of both operas. To purchase tickets online, please visit operaontheavalon.com or holyhearttheatre.com, or call the box office at 709-579-4424.
If you’ve never been, St. John’s is one of the great cities of Canada. The economy has improved and there are new shops and trendy restaurants to go along with the city’s fully-deserved reputation as one of the friendliest places on the planet.
You might still see icebergs off the shore of St. John’s this time of year, so be sure to check out one of the tours. I did one last year with Iceberg Quest and loved it. Be sure to wander out to the Battery to check the colourful homes that cling to the rocky cliffs at the entrance to the city’s majestic harbour. And check out Signal Hill for amazing views of the city and the rugged coastline.
A great hotel that’s centrally located and features some cool rooms with exposed beam ceilings and brick walls is Murray Premises, but there also are chain hotels with cheaper prices such as the Delta, Sheraton, and Ramada. The food scene in town terrific, with excellent sandwiches and croissants and coffee at a trendy spot on Water St. called Rocket. Bacalao does tasty turns with traditional Newfoundland cuisine in a beautiful, old home, while Piatto makes excellent, wood-fired oven pizza and other Italian fare. The bars on George St. have excellent live music, but you also should check out The Duke of Duckworth, a favourite of Jim Cuddy from Blue Rodeo and also a spot featured on Republic of Doyle.
Culture lovers should definitely check out The Rooms, a fabulous museum on a hill overlooking the city that tells the story of Newfoundland and has plenty of local art. And don’t forget to stroll past the brightly coloured jelly-bean or jelly houses.