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.
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:
noun: Government by the least qualified or worst persons.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Off to the Green Party in Thompkins Square Park. Isn’t democracy dangerous?