An avid museum and opera fan shares her insights on the cultural scene

Marisa Modeski travels to some of the great cities of the world, both for her vacations and in her role as an assistant director of student recruitment for a Toronto university—and she makes a point of visiting museums and opera houses at home and abroad. Here are her tips for getting the most of your visit.

Why do you love museums?
I’ve hit about 200 so far, everything from national museums to little ones themed around chocolate or space or medieval artillery. There’s so much to learn and it’s fascinating; seeing history and culture and how that’s shaped the direction of how we’ve evolved today. I love learning, and being able to go and have a tactile experience is something that’s pretty enriching. It gives you an appreciation for heritage and culture.

Do you have a plan when you go?
I often do an audio tour for an hour or two. For example, I was in Rome in October of 2018 and I wanted to do a tour of the Vatican, to see Michelangelo’s great works and some of the more conventional pieces there. The tour talked about the artefacts and the paintings, and all the history, the trials and tribulations, the political impact of those works. I wouldn’t have known that otherwise; I could have walked right past them. To have an opportunity to do a deep dive like that—it’s a thrilling experience.

What do you recommend for Toronto museums?
I try to do a little bit of research to see what kind of exhibits are coming. If you can get a membership, that gives you flexibility so you can go after work or at lunch, even just for 20 minutes, and you don’t have the stress of having to absorb too much in a short period of time. The Royal Ontario Museum, Aga Khan Museum, the Bata Shoe Museum and the Ontario Science Centre are all good options in Toronto.

Why are you an opera fan?
The stories in opera are moving and dramatic, and I think the ambiance of an opera house is powerful as well. I go once or twice a year in Toronto at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts or Roy Thomson Hall, and have gone to opera performances in Venice, Monaco, Paris and London as well. My husband and I will often buy a package from the Canadian Opera Company which gives you access to six shows over the year. In some cases we will do some research and select particular ones we want to see; other times we go in not knowing the story at all. Access to great theatre is such a great privilege; these venues are so close to us you have to take advantage.

Do you enjoy dinner beforehand or a nightcap afterwards?
We’ll often go to dinner on Queen Street, like the Queen Mother Café. The atmosphere is pretty great and there’s a very eclectic menu. After the show it’s always fun to pick the nearest spot in the Theatre District and go have some champagne! Pravda Vodka Bar, Biff’s Bistro and the Reservoir Lounge are favourites.


Marisa Modeski, Toronto, Ontario, Assistant director, Student recruitment, Ryerson University