New York City Blog — Nov. 30 – Dec. 4.

We went to a delightful talk by Frick Curator, Xavier F. Salomon, about an almost forgotten seventeenth-century Italian painter, Guido Cagnacci. The main focus was on Cagnacci’s weird and wonderful “Repentant Magdalene”. It’s on loan from the Norton Simon museum. Travels with Cagnacci was the name of the lecture. By means of erudition, dry wit, a charming accent and video, Curator Salomon took us on a little trip around Emilia-Romagna to the birthplace of the eccentric and gifted Guido Cagnacci. Curator Salomon also gave an evocative picture of what it’s like to be in provincial Italy, away from the tourism of Venice, Rome and Bologna. After the talk, we walked four blocks north to the restaurant, Caravaggio. So appropriate, don’t you think?

On Thursday night I took my slightly schizophrenic self to a Green Party Meeting at the LGBTQ Building. There were about forty of us stuffed into an airless room. I recognized the regulars and listened to a new group who were joining the Greens under the banner Bernie Greens.The question of why Jill Stein had collected and spent seven million dollars to investigate voting fraud in three states was raised and quickly, too quickly, shelved. The same thing happened about the question of open primaries.

Friends and I went to “A Chanticleer Christmas” at  the church of St. Ignatius Loyola. It’s an exhilarating experience to sit in an enormous, cell free zone and listen to twelve men singing in their countertenor to bass voices a medley of carols, medieval and Renaissance music.
The Gospel according to Rex Stout: Black Orchid is an organization dedicated to mystery writer Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodwin, Fritz etc. I attended their annual dinner at the Arno Restaurant on West 38th Street. The restaurant itself could have stepped out of the pages of a Stout mystery.
Was his Quaker upbringing responsible for his reasoned approach to life? Some memorable quotes are: If my garbage has been tampered with I don’t know if it’s the FBI or the raccoon. My subconscious and I are not on speaking terms.
In addition to dinner, we indulge in quizzes based on the books and Wolfean lore. Stout was a foodie so, of course, his culinary obsession fits in perfectly with our modern interest in food and drink.
From Too Many Cooks: Nero Wolfe says, “I do not soil myself cheaply; I charge high fees.”

New York City Blog — Nov. 19 – Nov. 26

After a scrumptious and CHEAP meal and lovely Tom Collins at Ginger’s, a friend and I walked nine blocks south to the National Opera Center at 28th Street and Seventh Avenue. Fabrizio Melano directed “An Evening With Us,“ a series of scenes and arias. “Au fond du temple saint,” the duet from Georges Bizet’s 1863 opera, Les pêcheurs de perles was, for me, the high point of the evening. Generally known as “The Pearl Fishers’ Duet”, it’s a golden oldie. The tenor, Has Son Kim, was wonderful. The last time I heard it was at a church recital in Santa Fe. Roberto De Blasio, the Italian tenor, sang the Nadir role. He was perfect – unlike the night before when he had been Don José in Stephen Lawless’s Carmen at the Santa Fe opera. The ghastly production was set in the 1960s. De Blasio stalked around the state in Elvis regalia being very manly.

Sunday late afternoons are often spent in the Frick Collection’s Music Room. On. November 20 the Atos Trio (violin, cello, piano) played primarily nineteenth century French composers. Their opening piece was Claude Debussy’s Trio in G Major. This season the Frick concert tickets include a brief historical note about an artist working at the same time as the featured composers. We leaned from the note that Claude Debussy was a friend of Edgar Degas. In the Frick’s North Hall is a Degas painting, “Rehearsal”. It portrays ballerinas rehearsing. They are accompanied by a very sad violinist whose forlorned expression rivets me. One of my favorite masochistic daydreams is the thought of dying in the poor house i. e. the women’s room in Penn Station. The violinist’s gnarled hands, his lined face and drooping baggy face are in sharp contrast to the ballerinas’ limber, young legs.

New York City Blog — Nov. 13- Nov. 19

Hasn’t it been a rocky week? How many conversations have begin with I don’t want to talk about the election and then you talk about it ad nauseam.

A Facebook friend posted this:
Kakistocracy
PRONUNCIATION:
(kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, kah-ki-)
MEANING:
noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.
ETYMOLOGY:
From Greek kakistos (worst), superlative of kakos (bad) + -cracy (rule). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate), which also gave us poppycock, cacophony, cacology, and cacography. Earliest documented use: 1829.
From my limited Italian I recall that caca is Italian for poop.

Friends and I attended the second session of Studio 5. It  focused on The Creative Forces Behind the Nederlands Dans Theater.

 

NDT Dancers

NDT Dancers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Guggenheim. It’s one of my favorite museums. Most people take the elevator to the top floor and then walk down. I prefer to walk both ways. There isn’t a bad view in the place. The Moholy-Nagy exhibit was a beautifully mounted exhibit. The artist experimented with the innovative materials of the early twentieth century such as plastic. Alice Martin is the current show. At first I thought my lousy eyesight was kicking in. We walked closer to the blank canvases and I finally got it. It’s painting composed of grids and stripes. For me it was like a textile show. That’s one of the joys of the Guggenheim. There’s always the unexpected.

 

From the Met's Jerusalem exhibit: The Archangel Israfil

From the Met’s Jerusalem exhibit: The Archangel Israfil

From there we trotted ten blocks south to the Met. The Met has nerve. The exhibit, Valentin de Boulogne, was presented as Beyond Caravaggio. A more apt name would have been Way Behind Caravaggio. The Jerusalem exhibit was very moving. Wandering among the mounted artifacts of the many cultures that have passed through and being surrounded by the evocative photography of this ancient crossroads is moving and frightening.

 

 

To my shame, I almost skipped the Pierre Gouthière: Virtuoso Gilder at the French Court at the Frick Collection. I didn’t. It’s wonderful. If you want a full rush of what the eighteenth century French privileged classes were buying, often without paying, from superb craftsmen and artists run do not walk to the exhibition. Keep in mind that Gouthière who handled gold all his working life died in poverty.

New York City Blog — Nov. 7- Nov. 12

Monday, the day before the election, was perfect fall weather. A friend and I walked around the Central Park Reservoir to inspect the pump houses. I’m using the setting in GRAPHIC LESSONS, the soon to be completed police procedural. The three pump houses help to flow the water into the reservoir. They resemble banks or masonic temples in small midwestern towns. Ever see Marathon Man, the 1970’s thriller in which Laurence Olivier played a Nazi dentist with a thriving NYC practice and Dustin Hoffman played a Columbia grad student? A very scary scene was shot in the northern pump house.

Northern Pump House at Central Park Reservoir

Northern Pump House at Central Park Reservoir

Looking across the reservoir at two of the pump houses

Looking across the reservoir at two of the pump houses

 

 

 

 

 

 
Election Day: Isn’t democracy dangerous? Any Questions, a BBC weekly program that dissects politics, had a vigorous and thoughtful session about our election and the extreme positions of our president-elect.
A glum friend and I salved our wounds by going to Kerry James Marshall: Mastery exhibit at the Met Breuer.

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright) 2009

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright) 2009

Silence is Golden, 1986

Silence is Golden, 1986

New York City Blog Oct. 30 – Nov. 5

I love so many aspects of opera: its history, its backstage drama, the composers’ lives but I don’t appreciate sitting through performances. The solution is to attend recitals and master classes. Last week I attended two sessions of a Joyce DiDonato Master Class at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Room. The room was electric with anticipation. Promptly at 4 p.m. each day Joyce DiDonato soared into the studio. She’s about 5’ 2” and packed with energy. The four gifted, brave participants sat in the front row of the 100 seated room. Maestra DiDonato had already worked for one day with Suzannah Waddington, soprano, Sophia Fiuza Hunt, mezzo-Soprano, Raphaella Medina, mezzo-Soprano and Haô Ting, tenor. The singers were accompanied by Justina Lee and Djordje Nesic. DiDonato referred to the Weill Music Room as a safe playground for magic to happen. She is bubbly, engaging and deadly serious about music. Some of her remarks were: Technique, discipline and desire. Talk to us. Show us who you are. If something is 99% true, it’s false. It has to be 100%.

To loosen up tenor Haô Ting she had him take off his jacket and shoes and sing while doing push ups. She told the four singers to get off the hamster wheel by traveling for three months. During that time, not to sing. Instead, learn a foreign language well, eat the food, sit in cafes, imbibe the culture. When you return, after two weeks of warm ups, your voice will be better than ever.

Joyce DiDonato is a musical activist who exhorted us, her mesmerized audience, to make it an active part of our lives.You can see this dynamo in action on YouTube.

Weill Music Room

Weill Music Room

Off to the Green Party in Thompkins Square Park. Isn’t democracy dangerous?

New York City Blog — Oct. 24 – Oct. 29

Hands up everybody who’s read Charles Darwin’s The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms : With Observations on Their Habits. I thought so.
Yes, it was tedious. It was also fascinating to witness the care Darwin took with his experiments. The book was chosen for discussion by the Garden and Forest Bookclub at Central Park’s Arsenal. It was delightful to be immersed in an early evening discussion of Darwin’s background, his science, and his interest in all of nature. How relaxing not to be discussing current events.

Chromatic Space is a celebration of the eightieth anniversary of American Abstract Artists. It’s at the Shirley Fiterman Art Center in Lower Manhattan. I wanted to see the work of Clover Vail and, as usual, she didn’t disappoint.

Untitled by Clover Vail

Untitled by Clover Vail

 

 

A Tree Falls in Brooklyn

A Tree Falls in Brooklyn

A Tree Falls in Brooklyn to quote my clever friend, C. B. I hope that’s not your Mitsubishi.

 

New York City Blog – Oct. 16 – 23

Sunday evening was spent for a few hours in The Frick Collection’s Music Room. The Carducci Quartet, two violins, one viola and one cello, played a lively selection of Mendelssohn, Shostakovich and Beethoven.The Anglo-Irish quartet plays across a gamut of classical and modern. The concert began at five p.m., ended around seven and then it was on to dinner at Le Charlot, a very snazzy, local French bistro.

Part of the City Center sprawl is the Studio 5 series that is presented in a 56th Street studio. It began with Damian Woetzel and Wendy Whalen, sitting on high chairs like life guards, talking to the 200 member audience sitting around the perimeter of the large, bare space. Whalen and Woetzel met in 1986 when both were fledgling dancers at New York City Ballet. Woetzel is now the Artistic Director of the Vail Dance Festival. The evening’s program focused on Remixing A Festival From Vail to New York. The workshop is the first of four about dance. The dancing began with Robert Fairchild preforming a solo dance that Woetzel critiqued. This was followed by Unity Phelan and Cameron Dieck, young NYCB dancers, demonstrating how to interpret various dance movements. Heather Watts joined in the discussion and led Phelan through a few suggestive steps. Cameron Grant was the pianist who tripped merrily along with the dancers.

Robert Fairchild coming round the bend

Robert Fairchild coming round the bend

Unity Phalen, Heather Watts, Wendy Whalen, Damian Woetzel

Unity Phalen, Heather Watts, Wendy Whalen, Damian Woetzel

Wendy Whalen, Damian Woetzel and Cameron Grant

Wendy Whalen, Damian Woetzel and Cameron Grant

It’s an immediate, behind-the-scenes experience. I can’t wait for the next three sessions.

New York City Blog — Oct. 11 – 15

Friday night a friend and I knew why we love NYC. We attended The Music of Gerry Mulligan at Julliard. The jazz pianist, Bill Charlap, was the conductor. In addition to leading the Julliard Jazz Orchestra, Charlap played several of his favorite Mulligan pieces. As if this

Juilliard Jazz

Juilliard Jazz

weren’t enough, he also gave succinct summaries of Mulligan’s musical development. Line for Lyons was a tribute to Mulligan’s pianoless quartet that played at the west coast club, The Haig. .Everyone who’s interested in jazz knows that Mulligan played the baritone saxophone. I had not realized what a fine composer he was. Thanks to Julliard, now I do. The audience in the Peter Sharp Theatre was a mix of family (“My grandson is the drummer,” a very proud grandfather told me.), fellow students who shouted encouragement whenever their musician pal was cited by Charlan and the rest of us jazz lovers.

It’s great fun being a two hour docent at Judson Memorial Church during Open House New York. People are in awe seeing the LaFarge stained glass windows. They soak up the Judson history and nod approvingly when told that Judson welcomes all, whether you believe in a religion or not is your business as is your sexual orientation. Some know about Judson’s rich theatrical and dance history. Because we don’t have pews, many are surprised it’s an active church. It is wonderful to stand in a church you know well and have other people, in their delight, remind you of how luck you are to be a member of such a special space.

LaFarge Staingassed window at Judson Memorial Church

LaFarge’s stain glassed windows at Judson Memorial Church

New York City Blog —Oct. 1 – 10

Was it only last Saturday that I flew home on Virgin Atlantic fortified by Le Latin Fizz, champagne and South American citrus? Want to spend a lot of money? Want to die poor? Fly Virgin Atlantic Upper Class. When you arrive at the airport you’re ushered to a private section, usually an elevator ride to another floor. At Heathrow the Virgin Atlantic Club resembled a swanky scene from a James Bond movie. Enough of this bragging. Arriving at JFK was a wake up call. We returned to the homeland with a jolt. Were the supervisors who run the entry experience trained at Rikers? Round and round we went in circles until one of the employees shouted stop. Okay, I’ll stop.

The bar at the entrance to Upper Class, Virgin Air

The bar at the entrance to Upper Class, Virgin Atlantic

 

The next night was the first Frick concert. It’s a harbinger of autumn, a delicious season in NYC. The Brazilian Guitar Quartet played, among others, Albania, de Falla, Villa-Lobos.

 

Off to Granville, New York, on the N. Y. – Vermont border to spend time with lovely friends. They live part time in an 1880s house built by a great-grandfather. We travelled around the area and had fun trying new

Lulu, one of the weekend guests and a great listener

Lulu, one of the weekend guests and a great listener

restaurants such as The Good Beet in Greenwich. That’s pronounced Green Witch and it’s worth the trip alone for the brisket. North of Granville is Rathbun’s , an old favorite for delicious food (buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy) and cardiac arrest. In between eating we travelled the Vermont backroads where autumn is in full swing. Calendar perfect views were everywhere. We went to Roy Egg to say hello to an old pal, Leroy, who is obsessed with chickens and eggs.

Roy Egg's Eggs

Roy Egg’s Eggs

New York City London Blog —Through Sept.29

Highgate Cemetery: what do George Eliot, Karl Marx, Corin Redgrave, Ralph Richardson have in common? They’e all buried in Highgate Cemetery. It’s a wild, magical forest filled with topsy-turvy tombstones and prowling cats. An employee, a lone woman we heard then saw cutting off dead branches, told us that being buried at Highgate costs between ten thousand pounds and one hundred thousand pounds. People requested being buried near Karl Marx. if there’s a spot and if you can afford it, it’s yours. What supreme irony.

 

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

 

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a perfect day, 72 degrees and breezy, we walked from the Sevenoaks bus stop down a foot path to the pen meadows and finally arrived at Knole. Wikipedia quotes the National Trust’s claim that at one time it was a calendar house: 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards. Part of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando was set at Knole. I vaguely remember the book was about an English ice age and a main character who changes sex. We strolled through the deer park before heading into town and to fish & chips. For supper we acclimated ourselves for the trip home to NYC and went to Burger & Shake. I had a divine, liquid dessert called Ovaltine and made with the following ingredients: tequila, coconut, rum and caramel. Weight Watches is welcomed to the recipe.

We arrived in Cambridge to find to our horror that we could not walk along the Cam. So, ever resourceful, we were sculled down the Cam to a spot where we climbed out of the boat, not with grace but without incident, and went to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

Pelicans in Greenwich, England? We saw a street sign, humped pelican crossing. Hum…pelicans would be strange but humped pelicans? We asked an Englishman to explain the term. Amidst lots of laughs, he explained that humped pelican crossing meant a bumpy  crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians. Mr. Wikipedia gave the following explanation: pelican from pe(destrian) li(ght) con(trolled), altered to conform with the bird’s name. Like so many inscrutable things, the term was invented in the 1960s.
If you like an old fashioned night in the theatre and as a child you enjoyed Punch and Judy, The Play that Goes Wrong is for you. The man to my left at the Duchess Theatre laughed wholeheartedly, delighted at every prat fall, collapsing ceiling, doors smacking people in the face etc. The timing was flawless. Silly fun.

I had to get the Globe out of my system. The Globe is the umbrella term for the recreated theatres from Shakespeare’s time situated along the Thames’ embankment. From St. Paul’s we walked a few blocks to the Thames and crossed on the Millennium Bridge as the sun was setting. I had bought the tickets for The Two Gentlemen of Verona online in NYC. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll wait until I can go to the theatre. We sat on benches in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. For the most part I stared at mechanical devices and modern day rock equipment in a space that was supposed to be an authentic reproduction of a Shakespearean theatre. Shakespeare’s words and cadence were the least important part of the production.

Back to NYC…