Category Archives: Around town

Orfeo ed Euridice

Tonight I once again visted the Metropolitan Opera to hear Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice.  His most famous opera, it deals with one of the oldest themes of the opera genre.  Multiple incarnations of the Greek myth go back to as early as 1600.

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My biggest regret about this opera is that I was dreadfully tired, and ended up sleeping off an on.  At 90 minutes, it’s a very short opera.  All I can say is that I enjoyed the early classical instrumentation and orchestration, and the singing was on par with the Met’s high standards.  The creative set with the maqueraded chorus set on tiers was effective.  Sadly, I slept through the climax of the opera when Orfeo looks back at Euridice, sending her back to Hades.

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Also noteworthy is that I brought the intern who’s been working with me for the week, David.  Not only has he had the misfortune to spend all day with me in the operating rooms all week, but he went to the applicant dinner I hosted on Tuesday evening, and went last minute with me to the Met so that my extra complimentary ticket didn’t go to waste.  He’s truly been my protege for the week.

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Filed under Around town, Music

A new Mulberry feature

Saturday finds me realizing this has been a week comprising mainly two things: work and opera.  In a first for me, I made two trips to Lincoln Center this week to enjoy complimentary tickets to the Metropolitan Opera.  I’ve come to the realization that if I don’t plan to live in New York City forever, I should take advantage of things the city offers, and one of those things is a world-class opera house.  And when the tickets are free–courtesy of my roommate Jordan–that much the better.

 Learning to enjoy the opera more has been a side-benefit of living in Manhattan.  Having strongly favored orchestral music in the past, playing in the pit in a few operas in college helped me to appreciate the genre a bit more, but it wasn’t until I moved here and made friends with several vocalists that the world began to open up to me.  That being said, I hope never to become that sort of freakish opera buff I overheard in Patelson’s the other week.  The kind that says things like, “Bartoli is to mezzo as Pavarotti is to tenor.  That woman is a machine, but a machine with feeling.”  Or, “The Zeffirelli production is creative, but it lacks the raw power and nuance of the staging I saw in the 70s.”

In between the opera, I’ve been working on the Labor and Delivery floor, placing epidurals for labor and doing anesthesia for cesarian sections.  This is my third call in a six-day period.  When I don’t get home before midnight from the opera, needless to say it’s been a tiring week.

The shows this week included Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Verdi’s La Traviata.  Good, solid Italian opera.  Given that I have a few remarks for each, and given that I’d like to avoid a monstrously long post, I think I’ll post retroactively on each of those.

The new feature the title of this post alludes to is the tab at the top in which I offer a short review of the various cultural experiences I take in.  A bit indulgent and supercilious, I know, but the obsessive-compulsive part of me likes to make lists.

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Filed under Around town, Music

La Traviata

Tonight I got to return to the Metropolitan Opera for the second time in a week.  Tonight’s performance was Verdi’s La Traviata.

Nothing much needs to be said other than that Anja Harteros was amazing.  Her role anchored the opera, and the major problem was that her brilliant singing nearly always outshone the leading tenor, whose name I cannot remember and will not bother to look up.

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Anja Harteros

Zeljko Lucic played a believable father who sang with decorum and impeccable interpretation, his rich voice finely balancing Harteros’ in their Act II duets.  And the final treat was the Baron, sung by John Hancock, whose chocolate baritone voice soared even during group recitatives.  This one performance was enough to inspire me to follow these three’s careers.

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The exuberant party scene in Act II, complete with stremers, confetti, costumes, Gypsies, and a matador with five bulls.

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Filed under Around town, Music

Madama Butterfly

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I got to attend this opera tonight with friends Adam, Sarah, and Wendy.  Adam and Sarah had tickets on the side of the Dress Circle (A little booth with a door and individual chairs), while my complimentary tickets were in the orchestra section.  We rotated seats during the intermissions, so we all got to enjoy the opera from different perspectives.

This was a wonderful performance by leading soprano Pat Racette.  I also especially liked the Consul Sharpless, played by an expressive Dwayne Croft, but the leading tenor was an understudy and not too memorable. The Anthony Minghella production was spare, modern, and at times exquisite.  This production opened the 2006-2007 season at the Met.  The film director created great effects with a wall of color at the back of the stage, a sloping ebony stage, brilliant costumes, and an expansive mirror hung at a 45-degree angle above the stage, cleverly allowing the opera-goer to simutaneously see the action from the front and above.

This is evidently the most-performed opera in America.  Why?  The American theme?  The music is vintage Puccini, but in my opinion the score doesn’t have nearly as many memorable arias as any Mozart opera or even some Puccini operas.

Butterfly’s son is three years old in the opera.  Often the part is played by a six-year old child, but Minghella opted to go with a bunraku puppet with three black-veiled operators.  Their skill was apparent, but the whole effect was a bit creepy and made it difficult to emotionally connect with the puppet, er, boy.

My last comment is that I was startled when I heard echoes of “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserables in the humming chorus.  Certainly more than coincidental, this musical similarity plays a similar function in both shows.  But let’s be clear: Madama Butterfly was written first.

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Butterfly’s opening scene.   This dance was reflected magically in the mirror above the stage.

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The wedding party ascending at the back of the sloping stage.

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Filed under Around town, Music

Ban Ki-moon likes my tie

My roommate Jordan recently sang the German national anthem for the German Consulate’s party at Central Park’s boathouse.  I think it may have been for  German Unity Day, October 3.

As a member of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artists Development Program (and, like Renee Fleming, Susan Graham, and Ben Heppner, a winner of the prestigious Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions), Jordan seems to get more singing engagements around town than I, with my two years’ experience in church choir during high school.

In any case, Jordan nearly left the apartment that evening wearing a brown tie with a navy suit.  Doing the only compassionate and reasonable thing, I stopped him.  He seemed to be under the impression his suit was brown, and after a confirmatory call to his girlfriend, realized I was, indeed, correct.

While Jordan searched for an appropriate tie, I realized that most of his ties were brown, so I pulled out a few of mine to show him.  There was the conservative red-and-navy striped tie, the rather loud orange tie with light blue stripes, and the demure blue tie.  He selected the last one.

The singing went well.  Jordan’s fairly comfortable with German, so while waiting for food afterward, he struck up a conversation with some German girls.  They seemed friendly, even flirtatious, perhaps not realizing Jordan’s girlfriend was waiting back at the table.  One of them told Jordan she’d written a song with the English title, “Why I like German boys.”  Jordan, thinking the conversation was taking an odd turn, smiled politely until they asked what part of Germany he was from.  “I’m not from Germany.  I’m American.”  The girls were surprised.

Only later did Jordan realize that the girl’s telling him about the song, “Why I like German boys,” was a rather robust failure of an attempt to flirt.  Not only did she not realize he has a girlfriend, the song’s title only confused him rather than clued him in to her interest.

The highlight of the evening for me (who wasn’t there) came when Ban Ki-moon himself complimented Jordan on his singing.  My tie came within inches of the Secretary-General of the United Nations!  I think Ban Ki-moon really wanted to compliment the tie too, but was too shy.

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Filed under Around town, Awkward moments

An open letter

General Manager

New York Yankees

Bronx, New York

 

Dear Sir or Madam,

I enjoyed my first outing to Yankee Stadium last night to see the home team beat the visiting Tampa Rays.  While the weather was hot and humid during the day, the temperature seemed to drop enough by early evening to be tolerable; the ambient air was not nearly as comfortable as the Metropolitan Opera’s perfectly conditioned red velvet interior, however.  In order to keep attendance up in comparison to rival city institutions, I suggest you factor this in.

I have to say, although my friend who accompanied me was surprised by my naivete when it comes to domestic beers, I also enjoyed my first Genuine Miller Draft, plastic bottle and all, a relative steal at $8.50 for 16oz.  It seemed to be a recyclable container, which comes with an added safety benefit: were I to inadvertently throw the bottle onto the field, fewer people would be hurt than by the bat that was nearly hurled into the seats close to third base.

I was also impressed by the accessibility to public transportation.  The B and the 4,5,6 line all stopped on the corner, adding to the feel of community as fans traveled to and from the stadium.

Speaking of the stadium, as this is the last season in the “House that Ruth Built”, I was a little disappointed by the renovations–apparently done in the 1970s–that effectively destroyed the structure’s character and charm.  The plastic seating, the electronic banners, the tacky refurbished ceiling made me wonder what, apart from spirits and legends, was worth seeing.  I am hopeful that the $1.3 billion of public and private money you are spending on the adjacent new stadium will provide a little more distinction.  And perhaps now is not the time to question why public funds are being used to build a stadium replete with luxury boxes and marble.

I cannot remember the last time I enjoyed a $5 hot dog so much.  How nice, too, that the spicy mustard came free.

And how surprised I was when, after displaying my ticket at the entrance, I was directed to another security guard who told me that my compact shoulder bag was not allowed inside, even though it clearly contained only books and paperwork.  I suppose I was just confused because I saw women carrying in purses the size of my bag.  Your security guard seemed almost huffy when I asked if it were true that women could carry purses in, but I couldn’t carry my shoulder bag in.  “I don’t make up the rules,” with an aggressive posture really didn’t answer my question, so I rephrased it, “No, I’m asking you.  Is it true that women can carry in purses?”  Hearing the affirmative somehow made me feel better as I carried my bag across the street to the $5 bag check at the bowling alley.  In fact, I was thankful for this opportunity as I was able to appreciate actual examples of substantial architecture.

Still, it’s puzzling that an institution that accepts public funds can so flagrantly practice gender discrimination.  Maybe someday, when the old laminated stadium has been razed, we can talk this over in one of the calf-skin upholstered luxury boxes over a nice glass of pinot noir and some bruschetta, or perhaps jalapeno cheez-whiz nachos.

Very truly, a satisfied patron and fan,

Jonathan

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Filed under Around town, Irony

Citizen activists

I’m so glad I decided to take the bus home today.

This was a departure from my usual trip by subway.  As I left the hospital, I noticed a bus that stops a mere fifty feet from my building’s front door.  Hopping on, I knew that the trip would take a little longer, but it seemed a nice change of pace to ride above ground.  That, and I avoided the awful elevators at the subway station.

I quietly read this week’s edition of The Economist at the back of the bus for the majority of the trip.  I was startled out of an article about Robert Mugabe, however, by a surprisingly stern and assertive woman’s voice.

“Sir. Sir! You shouldn’t throw your trash on the floor.”

I looked up and saw a middle-aged woman holding a copy of the New Yorker and dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and linen blouse, gesturing to a small paper carton lying at the feet of a nearby man who was sitting with his wife and child.

He mildly explained, “It wasn’t mine.  It was sitting on that seat.”

More than slightly irritated, she responded, “Well, who’s going to pick it up down there?”

I was surprised when he leaned over, picked up the paper carton, and set it back in the seat, evidently the same place he’d brushed it from just moments earlier.  And I was even more surprised when, a few stops later, he picked it up when departing the bus, presumably to throw it away in one of New York City’s many public litter baskets.

I half-wondered what this aggressive citizen would have done when confronted with the brazen olive oil double-dipper I described last year.

The best part is that I was able to surreptitiously snap a photo of her with my cell phone camera, while pretending to listen to messages.  I applaud you, Woman With A Wide Brimmed Hat Who Reads The New Yorker.

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Filed under Around town, The Economist