Opera director's favourite table
Osteria Del Toro has become a bit of a hangout for me and the design teams I have worked with over the past couple of years. We've had many a show meeting or debrief at the bar here or in one of the cosy corners of the restaurant.
The atmosphere here is really relaxed and it feels very Mediterranean.
It's a great place to come with friends and colleagues but I also like to park up by myself with a good book. I'll usually take a spot in the little snug in the corner by the bar.
I like to order the bar food. Top of my list is the calamari. The bread crumbs never upstage the calamari. They are light and delicious and not battered to bits like a lot of calamari dishes.
I'll also order the manchego sheep milk cheese served with quince paste. It is a beautiful and elegant dish to be enjoyed with a glass of Spanish rioja - a hearty red wine. I'll also have to order the Mediterranean olives as a snack to start it all off.
I'm in the throes of directing the New Zealand Festival semi-staged opera Ainadamar, a tribute to the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, so I'm in a very Spanish frame of mind right now.
Ainadamar, or "fountain of tears" in Arabic, is the name of an ancient well near Granada where Lorca was allegedly killed by fascist forces at the start of the Spanish Civil War.
Lorca's story is told in flashbacks by the actress Margarita Xirgu, who was close to Lorca and the co-author of several of his plays.
Some of Lorca's own words are used in the opera which the composer has set beautifully.
Real recordings of fascist rhetoric on Spanish radio are also incorporated into the opera adding a chilling element.
I was wooed from the very first piece of music I heard of the opera by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov. Festival director Shelagh Magadza played me 30 seconds of music and I immediately said, "Yes, I'll do it".
Just in the first minute Golijov layers electronic sound samples with the orchestral score. The sound of a horse's breath and hooves on the road then evolves into a percussive machinegun sound which then turns into a Spanish flamenco rhythm.
I describe the opera as one that grabs you by the guts and doesn't let you go. I'm sure there will be a few evenings out while we work on staging this remarkable opera.
As well as Osteria del Toro, I can often be found sampling what Nikau in Civic Square has to offer.
Nikau is a favourite spot for me. It's light and airy and it's good any time of the day. For breakfast I'll usually order the tomatoes on toast with marjoram. It's a great place to sip a cocktail later in the day.
Mighty Mighty in Cuba St is a regular haunt for me, my partner and friends. If it's just a snack I'm after I'll head to Moore Wilson's bakery department or Pandoro in Allen or Woodward streets.
But there's not a lot of time for eating out right now. With musicians, singers and designers to direct, that'll have to wait till the big debrief over a glass of rioja after the show.
Ainadamar, with the NZSO, the Chapman Tripp Opera Chorus and an international cast is performed on Sunday, March 2, 7.30pm at Michael Fowler Centre.
Osteria del Toro
Address: 60 Tory St, Wellington.
Phone: 04 381 2299
Opening hours: Monday- Thursday, 11.30am-10pm; Friday, 11.30am till late; Saturday, 5pm till late; Sunday, 11.30am-9pm.
As told to Bess Manson.
The Dominion Post