Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ships in Shanghai on Christmas Eve 2011

Shipping is an industry that never stops. Thousands of ship crews spend their Christmas at sea every year.

On the image below you can see ship positions in the world´s busiest container harbour, Shanghai today on Christmas Eve at 4.05 A.M. (CET):

(image by Marine Traffic Com)

Altogether there were 893 ships in the Shanghai general harbour area at 4 A.M. (CET) this morning!
One of them was the huge Märchen Mærsk container ship (367 m X 42 m) on its way to Nansha.
Merry Christmas to all of you on board the Märchen and all the other ships in Shanghai!

Yangshan Deep-water Port in the Shanghai harbour zone (image by Wiki)

Friday, 23 December 2011

The Beauty of the Mariinsky Ballerinas

The other day I watched the 2007 Mariinsky Theater version of Tchaikovsky´s Swan Lake. What a wonderful performance!

The star of the evening is of course the great Ulyana Lopatkina, who together with the other stunningly beautiful Mariinsky ballerinas makes this an unforgettable performance.

The Madonna of the Mariinsky

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Ronald Reagan´s Christmas greeting 30 years ago

Almost exactly thirty years ago Ronald Reagan spoke about Christmas on US television. At that time I lived in Washington, so I can vividly remember the uplifting short speech which made all of us feel good. It is a pity that the politicians of our day seem to lack Reagan´s warmth and friendliness.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The Met´s 2008 La Bohème - a great performance

Great singing by Gheorghiu and Vargas

Today I could not resist "opening" my Christmas present to myself, the Met´s 2008 version of La Bohème, with Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas in the main roles. And what a wonderful production it is!

The director and set designer Franco Zeffirelli is true both to the music and the libretto, and does not - like many of his contemporary colleagues - feel a need to contrive some kind of a modern setting for this, one of the greatest operas ever. This production is a feast not only for the ears, but also for the eyes!

No wonder that Zeffirelli´s production has been so succesful. Before this evening in 2008 there had already been close to 350 performances since its first night in 1980.

Gheorghiu and Vargas and the other soloists were in top form on this great opera evening. An extra bonus on this disc is the possibility to look at what happens backstage during a performance.

Warmly recommended to all friends of opera!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas on Tristan da Cunha

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, the "capital" of Tristan da Cunha
(Picture by Wikipedia)

If you are one of those who want to escapte the hustle and bustle of the ever more commercialised Christmas season, there is one place that should be ideal for you:

There are no package tours for independent travellers, no hotels, no airport, no holiday
reps., no night clubs no restaurants, no jet skis nor safe sea swimming.
Visitors are limited due to lack of available shipping berths (only 12 on fishing vessels).
Nevertheless, Tristan da Cunha is one of the world's most sought after destinations for

travellers determined to find a special on, take advice, plan carefully and you can make it!

I have to say that I like the above description on the website of Tristan da Cunha, the world´s most remote inhabited island. Honesty and plain facts instead of the usual tourist business jargon!

Visiting Tristan da Cunha is somewhat easier if you arrive by a cruise ship. This Christmas passengers on board the Island Sky (23 - 27th December) and the Hanseatic (25th December) will be able to share some of Tristan da Cunha´s traditional Christmas festivities together with the island´s 262 British Citizens.

This is how Christmas this year is celebrated "far away from the maddening crowd" on Tristan da Cunha:   

The Last Post
Christmas comes early on Tristan. Serious shopping begins in August with an eye to the sailing dates of the supply vessels from Cape Town. The last pre-Christmas scheduled sailing departs in mid November, so it’s not surprising that New Year diaries and calendars, together with most Christmas mail from friends and relatives overseas, literally ‘miss the boat’ and arrive here at the end of January.

Break Up Day

In early December the focus switches to the run up to the traditional Christmas / New Year holidays which cover over three weeks. On Break Up Day morning (on Friday 17th December 2010) arrangements are made to shut down over the next three weeks. Each family stocks up with supplies from the Island Store,which closes for over three weeks at noon on break-up day, and there is limited access to the store’s freezers where they rent space for frozen food. The Internet Café remains open during the lead up to Christmas, shift men will keep the electricity generators going, and the doctor holds surgeries, but both the pub and the café will be closed. Government and factory employees are invited to The Residency for drinks and afterwards, groups adjourn to their own departments for drinks, and the celebrations conclude with a number of ‘braais’ (BBQ) parties in the evening. 

Church Services

Both St Mary’s Anglican and St Joseph’s Catholic Churches hold a carol service and on Christmas Eve a midnight mass to herald Christmas Day itself. Often people attend dressed in their party clothes before going on a round of home visits to wish family and friends a Merry Christmas. Christmas Day itself starts with a morning service at St Mary’s.

Read the entire article here


In order to give you an understanding of how remote Tristan da Cunha actually is, here are a few distances:

To St Helena - 2429 km - 1509 miles (nearest community)
To Cape Town - 2805 km - 1743 miles (nearest mainland city)
To Rio de Janeiro - 3353 km - 2083 miles
To Stanley, Falkland Islands - 3902 km - 2424 miles
To London UK - 9881 km - 6140 miles

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Gustavo Dudamel, the new international star conductor

Dudamel in 2007 conducting the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra
The new Venezuelan star conductor Gustavo Dudamel could be seen in action today on two European television channels.

The Austrian Servus broacast a 2007 concert with Dudamel conducting the wonderful Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. The programme, which consisted of traditional Latin American pieces, showed the orchestra and Dudamel at their very best. The enthusiasm and professionalism that the young musicians radiate is unbelievable.

Dudamel conducting the L.A. Philharmonic in a Gershwin programme

The other broadcast, shown on Arte, was recently recorded in Los Angeles, where Dudamel conducted a Gershwin programme with the L.A. Philharmonic. This was another marvellous concert, with the great Herbie Hancock as soloist in Rhapsody in Blue.

It appears that Dudamel has achieved an excellent working realationship with the orchestra, although it may take a while before the L.A. musicians begin to exude the same kind of enthusiasm when playing as their younger colleagues in Venezuela:

Anyway, the L.A. Philharmonic and also the Gothenburg Symphony Ochestra, are to be congratulated for signing Dudamel as music director. Dudamel is the kind of conductor that classical music and orchestras need in order to survive and thrive.