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Archive for August, 2011

Grace Note: Eric Bowden

Tenor Eric Bowden

In just a few weeks, Tenor Eric Bowden will be joining Syracuse Opera to cover Alfredo in La Traviata before heading to Sarasota Opera‘s Young Artist Program.  I stepped out of my Upper West Side apartment last week to find the vagabond singer waiting for me in his Mustang Convertible. “Hey!” shouted Eric moving aside several fishing rods “… let me make some room for you.”

We drove down the West Side Highway with the top down, and I couldn’t help but notice the immediate feeling of elation that comes  along with riding in a convertible. “Can you imagine what its like driving in this thing from from Des Moines!?” It wasn’t difficult to picture at all. Mr. Bowden is the kind of guy who, while possessing a passion for performance, enjoys all sorts of recreational activities. Whether its fishing, beer pong ,or driving by himself across the country, nothing strikes him as boring. “Its wonderful,” says Eric when asked about the long, lonely drive from Des Moines Metro Opera.

Eric excitedly states that we are going to his favorite place to eat in all of New York, Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown. After sipping some bubble tea from a neighboring establishment, we made our in as our number was called. “This was actually the first place I brought Lindsay,” says Eric referring to his girlfriend, the beautiful and gifted lyric coloratura, Lindsay Russell. “She hated it at first!” laughed Eric. I wasn’t sure why until I realized the famous Chinese eatery came complete with dumplings and community style seating. “… but we were seated with these two couples; one from France, the other from Germany, and after a few minutes, she loved the place too!” Interested to see just what Eric loved about the place, I let him order for me “you HAVE to try the soup dumplings!”

When talking about the difficulties of being away from loved ones, especially Lindsay, he admits the distance is rough, but has nothing but wonderful, and ultimately supportive things to say about Miss Russell’s blooming career. I look across our community table and realize we weren’t as lucky with our table partners.

When the food comes, Eric enthusiastically shows me how to properly consume my soup dumplings; a task that took me an embarrassing two tries to master. “There you go!” said Eric. And when we got to discussing favorite roles, “Laurie, in Little Women!” said Eric without hesitation, all the while delicately handling his chopsticks. After singing and covering Ferrando and Count Almaviva, I was interested to hear his reasoning.  “It’s my favorite for two reasons; One,  I love the opera… it’s such a great role to sing. Two, I was originally the cover for the opera’s run with Pensacola Opera, but I got to go on at the last minute and they ended up keeping me in the role. That was just such a great and meaningful experience.”

as Laurie in Mark Adamo's brilliant musical adaptation of "Little Women"

When we finished, we walked around the neighborhood for a while “this is my favorite area in the city. It’s just so…” he trails off for a second when we spot a mini FIAT in front of a Häagen-Dazs “great.”

High Flying Tenor... onstage and off!

Mr. Bowden will be singing excerpts from La Traviata (Alfredo) as well as selections from other well known favorites in Syracuse Opera’s tour “9 Operas in 90 Minutes” September 21st through October 1st at various locations upstate. For more information, or to buy tickets, please CLICK HERE!

May December

Up In Smoke

Traditional Outhouse Interior... hmm


When describing her own childhood, its amazing how my mother can make you desperately want to live in a time gone by. I don’t mean in the traditional sense, that is, in the Stepford, Pleasantville or Mad Men way. No, my mother doesn’t glamorize the sixties and seventies as a simpler place in time. In fact, her depictions of growing up in New Mexico are often melancholic and broadly laced with grit.

I was about eleven during one of our frequent drives from Belen to Socorro when she told me. “You know, when I was your age we didn’t have an indoor bathroom.” I looked over to see my mother display a mischievous grin that let me know a story was coming.

” Really?” I realized that didn’t know much at all about how my mom and her nine older siblings grew up. It also struck me as odd that the house they grew up in wasn’t always the way I knew it.

“I was so embarrassed that we had an outhouse,” said my mother, almost proudly juxtaposing her former disdain for her childhood home. “I didn’t even want my friends to come over- so I came up with a plan.”

“What did you do Mom?” I didn’t know whether to be excited or frightened by what I was about to hear, but my mother’s stories always completely captivated me.

“My cousin Frances…” my mom started laughing when she trailed off.  “We would get in to so much trouble when she came to visit from Arizona! I feel so bad, because my mom would give us money for the collection at church, and instead there we’d go to the Hilton Pharmacy to buy ice cream.” Mom was referring to one of the many businesses in Socorro, New Mexico that used to carry the Hilton name. Long before Paris and Nicky Hilton lived in Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria, their great-grandfather Conrad Hilton was working at his father’s general store in Socorro- hence the former plethora of stores and events carrying the Hilton name in my parents’ hometown.

“So what happened ?”

“For some reason I thought if Frances and I burned the outhouse down, nobody would have to know that…”

“Mom!” I interrupted “you didn’t.”

“Oh yes we did.” She started laughing again “…and that smoke plumed for days to where every single person in town knew that it was OUR OUTHOUSE.”

“Did you get in trouble Mom?” I don’t know why this was my first question for her after sharing a story with me that I had, until then only thought you would catch Dennis The Menace conceiving in a fictionalized  script.

“Nope,” she answered proudly “they thought it was your uncle Phillip smoking in the outhouse, and boy did he get in trouble.”

“When did they find out it was you?”

“Not until just before your grandpa died mijo… and boy was PT (my family’s name for uncle Phillip) mad. ‘I knew it was YOU!”  yelled my mom imitating her older brother. I have to admit that I was more than a little impressed by both my mother’s antics as well as her ability to keep a secret for over twenty years. As we pulled in to town, the story was quickly filled with comments like “don’t you ever try anything like that” and “if I ever catch you skipping school or church”, but I was ultimately grateful that my mom shared this story with me. She continued describing things I shouldn’t do as we pulled up to my Auntie Annie’s house, the home my grandparents raised ten children in.

We walked in the front door looking for my aunt with no success. “Hello!” yelled my mom, “is anybody home?” She was answered with a flush of the toilet. Mom turned to me an simply said “oh.”




These Boots Aren’t Made For Walking

Lady Gaga at London's Heathrow Airport


London Bridge is...


There it is.

Telegrams From Downton

all photos on this post are from "Telegrams From Downton"


This morning, as I was reading depressing Wikipedia articles on feral children (this started with a random Google Search on Rome… I know), I finally realized I had an unread message from my good friend at Netflix, Catie Anne Dubruille telling me to check out a new site concerning our favorite British TV series “Downton Abbey.” Telegrams From Downton  is a delightful site which pairs some of the best Texts From Last Night with some interestingly suggestive photo stills from the hit British TV show. Below are some of my favorites.


taken from "Telegrams From Downton"

taken from "Telegrams From Downton"


taken from "Telegrams From Downton"


"Telegrams From Downton"


"Telegrams From Downton"

"Telegrams From Downton"

Diva On a Dime: Suzanne Vinnik

Suzanne Vinnik as Musetta muses- "Life can't always be this glamorous!"

With an increasingly busy schedule which includes engagements and competitions in Pittsburgh, New York, Norway and Germany, Soprano Suzanne Vinnik is finding herself living out of a suitcase more often than her own apartment. The young diva shares some of her money saving tips for looking like a star without purging your clutch.                                                                                

I feel like I am always on the go! I’ve converted several of my fellow opera singer friends to the joys of LUSH! I LOATHE paying money to check my suitcases at the airport!!! I know that I can save money by packing up my cute little Betsey Johnson duffle bag and put it in the overhead! On the road these are the products I bring to avoid costly luggage!!!! If you travel as much as I do, save your money and bring solids!!!! ☺


 Godiva Shampoo Bar- (VEGAN) it is a great two-in-one shampoo and conditioner! It is made with cocoa and shea butters, which moisturize the hair follicles and make them feel soft! It has a sexy jasmine scent that will last all day long!!! It makes the entire bathroom smell incredible after I use it! I put it in my shampoo bar tin for safe storage! When they say it’s good for at least 50 washes… they are NOT kidding!!!! For $10.95 you can’t go wrong!!!!!

LUSH's Godiva Shampoo Bar


Coal face cleanser- this is a great cleansing bar made of ground up charcoal that absorb excess sebum and acts as a mild exfoliator. After wearing stage makeup this really gets my skin feeling CLEAN! $11.95 for 3.5 oz.

LUSH's Coalface soap

Full of Grace- this bar is great on the road because it makes my skin very moisturized after washing my face! I normally would use a moisturizer but this works great when I can’t bring liquids with me! When I am home, I put this on before using a face mask! $13.95

LUSH Cosmetic's "Full of Grace"


Alkmaar Soap- (VEGAN) Normally, I love to use my favorite soap THE FLYING FOX but on the road like I said I cannot bring my liquids! I bring this amazing bar of soap that looks like cheese!!!! It has a creamy sexy jasmine and honeysuckle scent with smokey vetivert undertones! $7.95 for 3.5 oz.

LUSH Cosmetic's Alkmaar soap

Karma Bubble Bar- sometimes I’m lucky enough to have a bathtub on the road. When I know that I’ll have one I bring this bubble bar along! I just break it into four sections and crumble it up underneath the faucet (I get 3-4 uses out of each bar)! It is one of my favorite scents from Lush and it just makes me feel relaxed! $8.45

LUSH Cosmetic's Karma Bubble Bar

Tuca Tuca Massage Bar- Instead of bringing a lotion with me I can bring this little massage bar with me!!! Again, I store it in a little tin which I get for free when I buy both my massage bar and solid shampoo bar!!! I love the way this stuff smells!!! $7.95

LUSH Cosmetic's Tuca Tuca Massage Bar

Tuca Tuca Solid Perfume- I will not leave the house without perfume! It’s part of being a diva! I want people to know when I am about to make my grand entrance! $8.95

Lush Cosmetic's Tuca Tuca Solid Perfume

For more on Suzanne Vinnik, visit her website www.suzannevinnik.com and be sure to read my “Grace Note” interview by clicking HERE!

Urban Hot Spot: Copia

Exterior shot of Copia (taken from Copianyc.com)

Located at 307 East 53rd Street in Manhattan, Copia serves up a deliciously wide range of food, drink and entertainment. Why go out to dinner before hitting the club when you can enjoy your favorite foods right at your favorite hot spot?

sliders, fries, chicken and beer... who could ask for anything more?

Copia’s food menuserves up a familiar array of all your favorite standards… and the scene? Copia boasts some of the best people watching I’ve ever experienced in the city.

One of Copia's many bar areas

Besides serving up some great food, cocktails (be sure to try the club’s specialty cocktail Love Lychee), the service was impeccable. Upon discovering we were celebrating my dear friend Rachel Hall’s last evening in New York City before leaving to Shreveport Opera, the club’s owner, Junior Santiago graciously ushered us to a private VIP section and treated us to a round of Patron and cocktails- truly a gracious host.

So the next time you’re looking for a place where you can eat, drink, dance, play beer pong, or even guest bar tend… check out East 53rd St’s Copia, you’ll be glad you did.

Blogs of Note

About two months ago, I was walking down Amsterdam Avenue when I ran into up and coming soprano Emily Duncan-Brown. Emily enthusiastically described my blog to the person she was with as a “fashion/ opera blog.” I was amused at the term since my recent interviews and fashion posts all sort developed out of nowhere. Though I’d like to think myself as somewhat knowledgeable on the topic of opera and am continuously learning more about the wonderful people in fashion with each new post and event… I thought I might direct your attention to some of my favorite blogs featuring the two topics.

Fashion- Sweet Tea and Champagne!  sweetteaandchampagne.com  is a wonderful fashion blog by southern belle and Diana Warner intern Kathryn Cunningham. Read her blog for the hottest trends and enjoy her wonderfully random adventures!

Opera- It is no secret that I have been madly in love with Joyce Didonato since seeing the wonderful mezzo-soprano in Massenet’s Cendrillon in 2006. Read Yankee Diva  for a wonderfully in-depth view on life, love and opera. This diva has more full circle stories than you can believe, and leads you to trust that fairy tales really can come true.

Opera and all things Bill? William Madison is a native Texan with an affinity for anything classy. Mr. Madison has been a featured writer in the New York Times, Opera News, and is currently writing the authorized biography of legendary singing actress, Madeline Kahn. Read his blog HERE for a truly enlightened look at, well… everything!

Contributing Food and Wine Expert: Patrick Siegel

Patrick Siegel

It is no secret that I love food and wine, and it is perhaps the fault of my next guest for expanding my own palate exponentially. I asked Patrick Siegel to share in his own words, his favorite wine and food pairings and ways that you can create a substantial experience in your own kitchen- without spending an arm and a leg for a vintage bottle of Dom Perignon. You can find this lovable man at the Meatpacking District’s Gansevoort Hotel acting as rooftop manager for the popular NYC hotspot PLUNGE. 

Memorable wine and food pairings:
I have been very blessed to have had many stunning food and wine pairings in my life so far, mostly due to other people being generous enough to let me try them. Some highlights: A 1990 Chateau Latour with baby lamb chops, various vintages of Chateau d’Yquem with foie gras in various preparations, but the most recent one that stands out, was at Fux Bar + Restaurant + Kultur in Lech, Austria, a place I worked at as Sommelier  for 2 winter seasons. I had a 1996 Dom Perignon with a selection of Maki & Nigiri Sushi. The delicate sweetness in the champagne and the delicate, slightly oily texture of the fish were a heavenly combination. The acidity in this very fresh and youthful champagne was the ultimate pairing with the raw fish.

In general I must say, I think that people over think when pairing food & wine at home. My opinion: whatever you like works. If you love cabernet, and you love trout, drink cabernet with your trout! There are certainly better wines to complement your dinner, but at the end all that matters is that YOU enjoy it. So don’t let anybody tell you any different. Some things you can hardly ever go wrong with are chianti with hearty pasta dishes (think meat sauce) or Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand with light salad dishes. my favorite wine pairing in the summer is a bottle of German riesling, paired with a glass and an afternoon off on some porch outside.

When shopping for those wines, stay away from anything under $6 and over $15. in that range you will find surprising deals (especially at Trader Joes, best cheap wine selection I have encountered). If you go under $6 just remember: this wine is cheap for a reason. No need to save 2 dollars on wine and then spend an extra 10 on aspirin the next day.

Urban Palate: Diana Warner

Diana Warner (photo taken from myspace.com)

Shortly after writing about Diana Warner’s “Fight Like the Gladiator” t-shirts, I caught up with the jewelry and accessory designer at her new Gramercy boutique to see first hand just what makes Diana Warner Studio “the happiest little boutique in New York City.”

As I entered Diana Warner’s unique boutique, I was immediately greeted by both a welcoming staff and warm interior. Not surprising since Diana’s younger brother, an architect helped her design the store. “When I first moved to the city, my brother and I would walk around to look at different buildings and he’d give me lessons on the architecture.” Diana reminisced about her college days when her and her brother lived right across from each other “it’s hysterical that a lot of our work actually coincides… we are definitely on the same page mentally and aesthetically.”

Diana Warner's boutique on East 21st Street (taken from dianawarnerstudio.com)

As Diana showed me around, it became evident to me that Miss Warner really puts herself wholly into everything she does. “We still have some work to do with the place” said Diana as she showed me all of the handcrafted pieces made from reclaimed wood, a Romanian hutch from the 1930′s, and even a Mexican bar. With the boutique’s occasional cocktail evenings, you can be sure the bar is still getting plenty of use.

Diana with a client wearing bySMITH (taken from dianawarnerstudio.com)

While looking around at the wonderful assortment of clothing and jewelry in the store, its difficult not to notice the occasional Gossip Girl still photos scattered about. Diana’s jewelry is starting to become more of a frequent guest star on the hit series than Taylor Momsen. Diana’s pieces have been featured on the show since that famous Thanksgiving flashback scene during season one between Blake Lively and Penn Badgely. Other celebrities who have updated their look with the  Diana Warner touch include Kelly McRae, Rachel Ray, Natasha Bedingfield and America’s Next Top Model Whitney Thompson. In fact, Natasha Bedingfield can be seen wearing Diana’s Disco Ball Earrings in her new collaborative video with Rascal Flatts for the song “Easy.”

Blake Lively as Serena Van der Woodsen in Diana's Tere earrings (video still from the CW's Gossip Girl)


Taylor Momsen as Jenny Humphrey in Diana's Stephanie Cross Necklace (taken from fanbolt.com)

“She was actually the very first celebrity who wore my stuff” recalls Diana “when she wore one of my necklaces to a red carpet event. Initially I had no idea what she looked like since I had only heard her on the radio.” Diana laughed “she has such a powerful voice I really thought she was going to be a bigger woman!”

A delighted customer shared her enthusiasm for Diana’s celebrity clientele when the designer greeted her and welcomed the women into our conversation. Thats right, Diana is personally at her store every day (or at least it seems) meeting and greeting her varied customers. This is partially because she and her creative team work skillfully in the back of the boutique assembling the company’s jewelry to sell both in the store, and ship out to wholesale buyers all around the country.

Next, I was ushered over to a wall covered with vibrant scarves by my enthusiastic hostess “and here are the fashionABLE scarves we carry.” Diana explained that profits made from sales of the scarves directly affect and support women in Ethiopia who were formerly forced into prostitution. And thanks to people like Barrett Ward, the founder of The Mocha Club( a charitable organization that provides basic necessities to the people of Africa),  fashionable people like you can help create sustainable business for people in a country where half of it’s population is currently living in extreme poverty. The numbers in Ethiopia’s capital city alone are overwhelming; in Addis Ababa, over 150,000 women are involved in prostitution. The scarves in Diana Warner’s boutique are hand made by women in the capital city who have been given a chance at rehabilitating both their lives and pride. It was easy to see Diana’s passion for this project as she went on “… another neat thing is that each scarf comes tagged with a handwritten note saying because of you, I am able to able to send my son to school, to feel dignity in my work… it’s really a wonderful organization.” And the price? “…the great thing is they are so affordable” said Diana “the scarves are $22 $28 $32 and $38, so they also make a great gift!” And Diana’s pick? “Amethyst- the color of my soul!” You can watch the fashionABLE women’s stories online by clicking HERE.

one the many fashionABLE scarves available at Diana Warner Studio

“Then we have our tie collection!” exclaimed Diana. “The cool thing about my upcoming tie collection is they’re Italian silk, they’re made in Manhattan and bagged in fashionABLE bags made out of organic cotton from Ethiopia so they’ll also be giving back.” She went on to explain the that the boxes for the ties will say “Italian silk, made in America, affecting Africa.”

Diana's "Eric tie" in purple

"Eric" is also available in orange and goes perfect with Diana's cufflinks

In addition to the amazing fashionABLE items in her store, Diana’s Obligato Collection (necklaces and earrings between the cost of $50 and $62) provides 10 Africans with clean water for an entire year. I quickly realized that an hour with Diana Warner was just as uplifting and inspiring as a Don Miguel Ruiz book. As we meandered about, she showed me more of her amazing jewelry and pointed out the jacoboheme.com favorite bySMITH Collection pieces she carries in her store.  In the back, where her associates busily work to assemble jewelry and ship out many of the store’s items, its easy to pick out Diana’s desk. Why? The creative clutter may have given it away, but what I most liked about her work space, was the sign hanging above her desk in bright red party letters that spelled “joie de vivre.” It is this “joy of life” that is not only apparent when you walk in the store, it’s contagious.

The Obligato Necklace

Diana Warner New York is located at 42 East 21st Street New York NY, 10010. Be sure to stop by and see for yourself why this is truly the “happiest little boutique in New York City!”


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