New York City – for the very first time…
Despite my various travels, for some reason I had never made it to New York before. And how I ended here is a matter of some serendipity. Having just returned from 2 1/2 weeks in Europe, I read in the New York Times about the first production of Philip Glass’ opera, Satyagraha in 25 years. Being a long-time Glass fan, I had to figure out a way to see it. Checking the calendar, it so happened that the last performance was a mere day-and-a-half before I was going to be in Florida, departing on a Caribbean cruise. My thought? Well, gee, if I’m going to be on the East Coast anyway… A flurry of e-mails with one of my oldest friends, Jerry, only shows how serendipity works; it turns out that my time line also coincides with his 50th birthday, he likes Glass music, and *poof* there just happen to be a few tickets left!
I arrived a little late on May Day, but still enough time to get in a little face time and meet-and-greet an online buddy (Hi, L!) before Jerry and I headed out for our adventure and #2 on my New York must-do list, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Jerry arranged for lunch in the Trustee’s Room, a fabulous window seat where we had a view of the Egyptian obelisk in central park. The Museum itself was considerably bigger than I had anticipated and reminded me a great deal of The British Museum in its scope of cultures. I was very happy to peruse a Courbet exhibit and much of the permanent collection are paintings I had only read about, most notable for me a pre-Raphaelite Frederic, Lord Leighton, a handful of the Orientalist period likes the works of Jean-Léon Gérôme, and yet another of Parliament series paintings by Manet which affected me so much in London. There were some giant Koons sculptures but overall, it was the magnitude of the classical offerings which was so impressive and I was surprised to see how well attended the museum. A testament to the collection and hope that art is still loved and revered (I’m often surprised by how empty California museums are!).
More pictures on the next page!
Sadly, the Guggenheim is closed on Thursdays and my viewing of that august building may have to wait for another, longer visit. A long walk back through Central Park gave me views of giant tulips, an array colorful trees in bloom, and what can only be considered a perfect spring day in New York. A quick rest and refresher, and then off to the “other” Met – the Opera! Still a bit full from lunch but not wanting to get peckish during the opera, we had a little pre-performance nosh at Pigalle, a lovely French bistro not far from my hotel. Note: One of the best platter of mussels I’ve ever had – redolent with baby fennel and spicy bite that did not overwhelm.
A quick cab ride to the opera house and the thrill had set in. I’m easily lost on the glitz and glamour as we settled into our seats for what magical ride. What a thrilling ride it was, too! Richard Croft, who had been performing the run of the show, was replaced this evening with Alan Oke in the role of Gandhi. Having only seen pictures of Croft (who apparently lost ten pounds to portray Gandhi), it was immediately evident that at least physically, the smaller and more slight Oke was better suited. Not having heard Croft, I cannot compare, but by the reception Oke received from the audience on his performance and simply from what I heard, he astounded with his fluid, melodic tenor voice which displayed sensitivity and compassion.
It was a beautiful production which effectively relied heavily on newspaper as a prop; as streamers, wadded up and thrown as rocks at the Mahatma, and often symbolically throughout the entire production, reflecting back to the era when Gandhi lived in South Africa and utilized the newspaper in his early struggles and development of human rights. Much has been written about the puppets in the production and while a tad too whimsical against the stark nobility that is implied with the simple props of shoes, coats, lanterns, and newspaper. But how can I not love the fact that a giant Ganesha appears on stage in an opera? What a grand evening it was…
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