I'm A fabric-aholic. I make my own evening dresses, so Floriditas is strategically placed for a quick survey of the latest Global Fabrics has to offer.
There's a nice atmosphere at Floriditas. We used to go there quite frequently, pretty much since they started. We're trying to be careful about what we eat and it's all far too nice there.
The good thing about Floriditas is the fantastic coffee. You can guarantee it will be great. They also have quite a nice wine list, so if you meet someone there in the afternoon you can have a glass of wine, or a coffee and progress to wine.
I do have to watch my health as a singer, doing the amount of work I do, not just performance work but head of voice at the New Zealand School of Music.
It's a huge job and like most busy people I can't afford to get sick. I walk each day for 40 or 50 minutes to the Botanic Gardens.
It's harder in the winter but I walk between our house and the university anyway, 20 minutes down and up, though if it's really wet I call on my husband, Roger, for a lift.
Floriditas uses good-quality ingredients and that's really important to me. They don't do anything fancy-pantsy with them, just good, very tasty and imaginatively prepared.
Sometimes you find a place where the taste of the chef coincides with your taste. It's a good place to take guests if you don't want to spend a huge amount of money. There's nice wine and always fish and lamb which people from out of New Zealand enjoy.
Their desserts are fantastic and the cakes to die for. My favourite is the caramel and gingerbread. It reminds me of my mum. My mother used to make ginger parkin cake, very gingery with rolled oats and golden syrup. It's all too much, isn't it? I'm a great fan of ginger. Ginger and coconut are things I love.
Floriditas has the best cheese and rocket scones. Those are in their recipe book, which we promptly bought.
When you try to replicate the food it's never quite the same. I'm a very good cook but it's slightly better there than what I do, though I use the same quality ingredients. The wonderful thing about New Zealand is the use of quality ingredients.
At home I try not to do sweet things because, the trouble is, we just eat them. Now and again I'll make a cake for dessert. I try not to follow entirely in the tradition of my mother.
She made chutney and lemon curd but she also made pickled onions. My parents and my sister and I were all born in England and emigrated here when Helen and I were five and three. The pickled onions were a mission each year, peeling these little onions, with streaming eyes.
I don't make them or eat them either. I give them a wide berth. It put me off for life. I do make chutney and lemon curd, which are easy. I often take lunch to the School of Music, sandwiches with pickles.
We don't go out to dinner a lot. It's all too expensive and Roger and I are usually working in the evening. When you're away, you're on a tight budget. Singers always know where the good, reasonably priced food is.
Earlier in the year I had a research trip to New York and (opera singer) Simon O'Neill knew all the good places to eat. I'm doing my PhD.
My thesis title is Giving body to the voice: How the embodied experience of opera singers intensifies operatic experience.
You can listen to voices you wouldn't cross the road for and listen to others and think "Oh. I have to listen to that voice." A compelling voice is something I look for in myself and others.
In New York I went to the Ring Cycle and seven operas in five days, three of them Wagner, so I was slightly over it. I spent quite a lot of time with Simon O'Neill backstage at the Met and interviewing singers in the lead roles in the Ring for my research.
Requiem - the most important thing for me is it was the first chorus part I sang as a student on day one at the University of Auckland.
The choir was rehearsing and me turning the pages to find out where I was, thinking how can I deal with this. I went down and bought a recording and listened to it until I could figure out where I was.
For many years I sang the mezzo solo and then the soprano solo and now I'm back to the mezzo solo. I've sung it a lot. It's a fantastic work.
Verdi's Requiem , NZSO, Michael Fowler Centre, June 29, 7.30pm.
161 Cuba St, Wellington
Phone: (04) 381 2212
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7am- 10pm;Saturday, 7am-10pm; Sunday, 7.30am-9.30pm
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