Category: Music

The Met for the masses

Saturday, September 23rd, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Music

Wasn’t there just a street fair along Seventh Avenue? Yes, I believe there was.

Seventh Ave Fair

On the way home after work, I passed Josie Robertson Plaza, still set up to accommodate the droves of people who turned out for free tickets to the Metropolitan Opera’s Open House, which took place yesterday.

Tickets for the Open House were distributed first-come first-served at the Met Box Office beginning at 10:00AM on Wednesday morning. For the first time in its 123 year history, the Met invited the public to a final dress rehearsal, offering a preview of the highly anticipated new production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Included on the program was a box lunch and a panel discussion with cast members and the show’s director, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Anthony Minghella. Attendees were offered the opportunity to head backstage for a behind the scenes look at the Met, to examine production sketches and set models, and to take individual walks across the famed stage. So cool!

Josie Robertson Plaza

It still amazes me the lengths to which New Yorkers will go to gain access to events like these. With a program lineup like that, though, it was no wonder that the crowds descended. I would have loved to be right there with them, but sadly, despite living just a few short blocks away, I couldn’t justify taking the time off. Just as well: news reports were that the first arrivals lined up for tickets the night before, camping out on the stone plaza ground for a free shot at those $375 seats. All 3,000 tickets were gone by noon.

The Met’s Open House, which garnered quite a bit of media coverage, was intended to generate interest in the new season and spur ticket sales, which suffered a dramatic drop-off during the 2001-2002 season and steadily declined to last year’s new low of 77% capacity. As part of the plan to broaden opera’s appeal to younger audiences, new General Manager Peter Gelb also reduced ticket prices for the least expensive seats –- thanks to which I have season tickets this year — and orchestrated six high-definition video simulcasts to be shown in over 100 specially-equipped movie theaters in the United States, Canada and Europe, and 500 long-dormant historic opera recordings to be broadcast on Sirius Radio.

Coming soon to a movie theater near you… six matinees will be presented live this season: beginning on December 30, Mozart’s The Magic Flute, directed by Julie Taymor and conducted by James Levine; Bellini’s I Puritani on Jan. 6; the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, with Placido Domingo in the title role, on Jan. 13; Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, with Renee Fleming, on Feb. 24; a new staging of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on March 24; and a new production of Puccini’s Il Trittico, conducted by Levine, on April 28.

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Hope and despair

Wednesday, September 20th, 2006 | All Things, Classes, Music

The public space at Broadway and Liberty, once known as Liberty Plaza Park, reopened — ahead of schedule — in June 2006. At the ribbon-cutting, it was rechristened Zuccotti Park in honor John Zuccotti, U.S. Chairman of Brookfield Properties (which owns The World Financial Center and One Liberty Plaza) and the chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York. Zuccotti is also a former first deputy mayor of New York City, and former chairman of the New York City Planning Commission. (So that’s  how you get a park named after you.)

I stepped out at 12:30PM for the second of three free lunchtime concerts in the square. Bassist-singer Esperanza Spaulding (whose name means “hope” in spanish) played a jazz set, backed by a keyboard player and drummer. The trio set up stage just in front of Mark di Suvero‘s 70-foot tall steel beam Joie de Vivre sculpture, which last year was relocated to the financial district from the Storm King Art Center in Orange County, New York, where I first saw it. I remember the ten months during which the park was closed off for construction, and how one leg of the sculpture’s tripod base emerged from over the plywood barriers set up along the perimeter – like an abstract red giant escaping easily over a too-low wall onto the sidewalks of Broadway.

Esperanza Spaulding

After work, I met up with SN for our first Russian class of the semester, which despite our entrenched pessimism, had not been canceled after all. Good  because I genuinely want to advance my language skills; bad  because I had done absolutely no review or preparation for the first class. Which turned out for me to be very bad indeed.

This being a language skills course — and one with only eight students — the oral participation requirement per student was set pretty high. I spent the entire two-hour class in a state of nausea and anxiety. You know the dream about having to take an exam for which you haven’t studied — in fact: you’ve no clue about the subject, your pencils keep breaking and you can’t even read the test papers? Yeah — sort of like the waking life version of that. At least I wasn’t naked.

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Kim & Sheu and Amy Sedaris

Tuesday, September 19th, 2006 | All Things, Books, Events, Music

At lunchtime, the Kim & Sheu Duo: Jennifer Kim (Violin) and Connie Sheu (Guitar). The Juilliard musicians this afternoon seemed somewhat less prepared for public performance than last week’s Kang & Soto: playing quietly at times, seemingly to themselves, with repeated fits and starts. It felt more like we were witnessing an open, staged practice session rather than an actual concert, which probably suited the lunchtime crowd gathered at 180 Maiden well enough. SYB brought my favorite sandwich again. And I noticed for the first time today that there is a gallery located in the lobby of the building, which will only be open through the end of September 2006. I’ll have to remember to peek inside next week.

Kim and Sheu

After the evening vegetable pick-up — more peppers, eggplant and tomatoes! — I did a quick dropoff at the apartment and then zipped back down to the W New York – Times Square for a book launch in honor of comic performer, actress, playwright, author and baker Amy Sedaris, whose upcoming book, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, is being released in October by Warner Books. In it, she offers practical entertaining tips, like deal with the inebriated. (“Better to cut them off rather than pretend it’s not happening and then allow them to stay over and wet your bed.”)

In a kooky touch, quite likely cooked up by the guest of honor, everyone at the party was required to wear a name tag, not with his or her name, but with their occupation/industry and a red or green sticker, announcing their relationship status: single or taken. In rotation, I spied (mostly red-stickered) writers, singers, real estate developers… and a rocket scientist!

Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris

Amy Sedaris

There was a crowd gathered around the bar — cosmos only — and among the guests, men circulated with trays of Sedaris’ famous cupcakes. Sedaris herself was seated at a table in the center, petite and elegant in her black silk dress and fishnets, chatting up fans (of which there were many in attendance) and signing CDs with audio highlights from her book. On mine, she wrote:

Pee on me.
– Amy Sedaris

Oh! Um, thank you. I don’t know if that inscription is better or worse than B’s, which simply pronounced: “Fag!

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