December 15, 2011 —
I’m often scatterbrained and frequently perplexed—but this week, I found myself even more dazed and confused than usual. The dizzying array of holiday events, parties and fundraisers has me in a tizzy and I momentarily lost my way. Naturally, I’m looking to place blame, rather than own up to a lack of focus, so I’ll chalk it up to attending the Delaware Valley Opera’s (DVO, www.delawarevalleyopera.org ) magical and enchanting production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel.” After all, those crazy kids are well known for getting into trouble and losing their way in the woods.
To begin with, I had difficulty deciding where to catch the opera, as it was being performed in a variety of locations. I decided to go with the event gallery at Bethel Woods (www.bethelwoodscenter.org ), mostly because I know how to get there. Several of the roles were double-cast, which is great for the performers, but caused a conundrum for me. I wanted to see (and hear) both, but (due to my own double booking) was forced to choose.
Kimberly Feltkamp, Brooke Schooley, Emilie Storrs, Carol Difenbach and Wayne Line vividly brought the Grimm Brothers story to life for a packed (gingerbread) house, and word on the street is that the singers I missed out on—Anna Petrie, Erin Watt and Marka Knight—were delicious as well. I discovered that many of the kids in the audience had arrived early and participated in creating gigantic gingerbread men, which were then incorporated into the set design, surrounding the witch’s enticing, edible abode.
With no clue as to why this particular opera has become a holiday staple, I visited the DVO website and read, “The idea for ‘Hansel and Gretel’ was proposed to Humperdinck by his sister, who approached him about writing music for songs that she had written for her children for Christmas, based on the popular fairy tale... since its earliest performances [the opera] has been associated with Christmas.” Hmmm. I literally learn something new almost every day!
Having perused the schedule for the DVO 2012 season, I’m excited to find that the theme is “Shakespeare Sings,” and looking forward to catching each and every “informance” that the company has waiting in the wings.
Speaking of kids, I made my way (without getting lost) to the George Ross Mackenzie Elementary School in Glen Spey, NY, to bask in the glow of the Eldred Performing Arts Club presentation of Robert Fulghum’s “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten,” which was (under the direction of Justin Glodich) funny, moving and inspirational, with music (and a bake sale!) to boot. The entire cast (I counted over 20), and two acts chock-full of anecdotal stories and songs, brought the audience to their feet and (as usual) I cried a little bit.
The students and faculty involved were (IMHO) incredible and I gathered my (dim) wits, wiped my tears and checked the map for directions to the labyrinthian Villa Roma Resort (www.villaroma.com ) in Callicoon. I believe that I coined the phrase “All roads lead to the Villa Roma” and yet... I almost always lose my way, regardless of the barrage of arrows pointing me in the right direction. The second annual Holiday Shopping Bazaar was in full swing with more than 50 vendors, scores of sponsors, promoters and supporters, and after a series of wrong turns (my fault, not theirs) I spent several hours on the convention floor, drooling over the sale of antiques, fine art, jewelry and holiday treats that helped serve as a benefit for local food pantries in Orange, Sullivan, Wayne and Pike counties.
Still dazed from the abundance of holiday spirit, I recycled my useless GPS and relied on memory (uh oh) to direct me toward the spirits created locally by the Catskill Distilling Company (www.catskilldistilling.com ), and joined Jill Padua and friends as they welcomed singer/songwriter Patrick Fitzsimmons (www.patrickfitzsim  mons.net) along with local folk singer Mike Jung, both of whom entertained the crowd as part of the (always-a-good-time) Riverfolk Concert Series (jillskitchen.com/riverfolk).
Fitzsimmons’ beautiful voice, charming demeanor and musical panache complemented Jung’s homespun style and the evening left me less confused than usual, since the message both performers spread was clear and the crowd left with an abundance of seasonal good cheer. I headed out with (amazing) grace intact, and rather than feeling lost, found my way home, guided by the full moon and reasonable assurance that I still know the way. I doubt that I’ll be slowing down until after the first of the year, so if you spy me wandering aimlessly in the woods, please, mock if you must, but point me in the right direction while I continue to blame my ditsy behavior on the holidaze!