Saturday, December 24, 2011

Curtain Up (Soon)!

In recent years, theatergoers in the main Broadway area have been obliged to line up outside the theater until the doors are opened. I just don't remember this "herding" style approach in my (many) former years of theatergoing. That said, it's certainly encouraging to see hordes of enthusiastic patrons queued up for, in my case, Hugh Jackman's one-man show and, behind us, going in the opposite direction, the continuing masses attending The Phantom of the Opera, "still crazy after all these years." Despite ever-higher admission prices (and no discounts for Mr. Jackman), theater seems not to be affected by the current recession, at least if the show is any good.

Hugh does not disappoint, having one of the most charming and magnetic personalities of a performer in any medium. And, although he can be funny, his humor is never biting or malicious. And his singing and dancing would grace any venue in which he cared to perform. Though thoroughly skilled and polished, he is able to project a lack of self-consciousness and can appear not to take himself too seriously. I guess you can tell that I enjoyed the show. And, normally, my idea of a great evening out is Wagner's Ring or any opera by Mozart! Nothing against popular entertainment, when it's this good.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

O Tannenbaum!

A classic New York City—particularly Manhattan—sight is the Christmas tree vendor, filling a good third of the sidewalk with his fragrant green wares. Here is a typical scene, right near my apartment, slightly blocking the entrance to a local Duane Reade. Many of these vendors come down from New England and Canada to do their yuletide business. An unusually warm late autumn or, if you will, early winter doesn't set the trees off as well as do snowy pavements. I remember being in Latin America one Christmas and finding their decorated evergreens (a different style, with droopy branches) somewhat incongruous in the semitropical climate.

A typical bit of Christmas New Yorkiana: When asked what I was doing for the Big Day, I told my Italian hairdresser, "Un natale ebreo" ("a Jewish Christmas"). Hip and au courant person that she is, she countered, "Oh, yeah—a movie and Chinese food!" Perfectly correct, of course. We haven't chosen the movie yet, and the food could possibly be Thai or Korean. Last year it was Thai.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

An Experiment re The Mystery Office

Sometime back, I published a very mild comment on an empty office space in a famous NYC landmark building. I was curious as to why this very desirable office space was always empty when I passed it on the way to my dentist. In September I received a notice that the commentary had to be taken down because it was found to be violating some law or other. Can't imagine what this was, except that I had used a stock photo I had found online, and perhaps that was copyrighted. There was no tag indicating such on the photo. Anyway, here is my entry again—not that it's such a literary masterpiece—with a couple of not wonderful photos I just took with my cherished new iPhone (Sprint finally offered it!).

Here I go again with one of my obsessions,  the Chrysler Building. To get to my dentist's office there, you take the express elevator to the 57th floor and then walk around the corner to take the Tower Elevator to the 69th floor. But on the 57th floor, on the way to the next elevator, you will encounter what I have come to call the Mystery Office. As the possessor of an overactive imagination, I find that this office reminds me of something out of The Twilight Zone or perhaps a program on the Sci-Fi (recently renamed—wait for it—SyFy) Channel. Except for an occasionally visible young woman who appears to be a receptionist, there's never anybody in there! Is this a conference venue? Temporarily unrented space (no surprise here, with office rentals going begging in the recession)? Over several years, at whatever time I have my dentist appointment, there has never been anything taking place in this glossy, pristine space. Do covens congregate there late at night, gazing out over Manhattan from the 57th floor? Do Mafia dons occasionally plan whack jobs? Che cosa fanno li? Whatever the case may be, using this venue has got to be pricey. No one in the dentist's office seems to know anything. Have they been warned by underworld figures to keep their lips buttoned—observing omertà? Where is Mike Hammer when we need him? Or better, C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, or Hércule Poirot? Or, since it's a 30s Art  Deco building, Philo Vance?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunny South Bank Sunday

Not a remotely foggy day in London Town. Strolling toward the Design Museum near Tower Bridge on the South Bank, tourists and Londoners alike are basking in a glorious, sunny Sunday. Visitors from various countries stop us and ask us to take their photos, and we do the same. Your blogger (foreground in picture) and her sister are posed near the bridge in a favorite photographers' spot.

The London version of Mister Softee is Mr. Whippy. Being too cutesy for words prevails on both sides of The Pond.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kicking the Can Under the Bus

The following expressions don’t bear too much analysis; however…. Have complained before about over-used or incorrectly used catch phrases and words, but there are a couple that do amuse me, although I can’t recall using them myself. They are “Kick the can down the road” and “Throw him/her under the bus.” I believe the late William Safire dealt with one or both of these in his much-missed “On Language” columns in the Sunday New York Times Magazine.

A little online research reveals:

Definition of “kick the can down the road”

To procrastinate. "Kicking the can down the road" has been a favorite metaphor politicians have used to describe someone who is postponing a decision or avoiding an issue.

Definition of “throw under the bus”

One is thrown under the bus when made the scapegoat or blamed for something that wasn't one’s responsibility in the first place. A coverup for your mistake. You get thrown under the bus when someone (usually a co-worker) reports some wrongdoing or slacking off to a superior or other influential person. Sometimes used with the suffix "Vrooooom!" to simulate the noise the bus would make as it passes by at a high rate of speed.

Lately, there has been a veritable flood of “kick the can” usage in connection with legislative debates concerning national debt. How far that can will be kicked, no one knows. As for the bus, a lot of people are getting thrown under it these days.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Silfiden, Danish for La Sylphide, continues to exert its otherworldly magic as presented on June 18 by the Royal Danish Ballet on its first visit to New York City in many years. The charm and delicacy with which the mostly very youthful company presented this August Bournonville classic certainly captivated this audience member. And everyone else.

The delicate-seeming but actually very difficult choreography—oh, those precise finishes in fifth position!—is complemented by a real sense of fairy-tale fantasy, perfectly expressed by the two leads; they really seemed not quite of this world and could not survive in it.

Quaint nineteenth-century stage touches are managed deftly: the Sylphide whooshes up the chimney at the end of the first scene, so that our hero, James, isn't even sure she's been there at all. When she reappears on the windowsill, cf. the old Taglioni lithograph, she floats to the floor. When she meets her tragic end, her little gossamer wings drop off one by one, and, finally, her corpse is borne off aloft, on wires, accompanied by her fellow airy beings.

As an avid opera as well as ballet aficionada, I was also charmed by the lovely sets and costumes, totally in keeping with echt romanticism, that were designed by Mikael Melbye in one of the most successful career changes in the world of the arts. I heard him sing Papageno at the Met a number of years ago, and he was one of the most prominent Danish lyric baritones when he retired from singing in 1999. Also a painter, he has since become an internationally successful theatrical designer. (New York City Ballet could use him.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Bloody, Bold, and Resolute"

The Royal Opera has climbed aboard the HD television bandwagon pioneered by the Metropolitan Opera's highly successful seasons of live matinee transmissions to theaters around the world. This week's live ROH offering was a stunning performance of Verdi's formerly underrated Macbeth, which has come to be appreciated in recent years. Perhaps English speakers and Shakespeare enthusiasts were put off in the past by characters addressed as "Macbetto," "Macduffo," "Banco," and "Il re Duncano." ("È morto e assassinato il re Duncano!") As someone fully conversant with the original text and fairly competent in Italian, I can admire Francesco Maria Piave's adaptation for the libretto, and I even enjoy a full chorus of witches instead of the original three. There were many imaginative touches in the staging, which was never over the top. One such was the delivery of Macbeth's letter to Lady M by one of the witches, who materialized and then vanished. Their supernatural, controlling powers were made evident.

A favorite artist, the extremely versatile and physically attractive Simon Keenlyside, is able to color the music with drama and emotion despite not having a typical Verdi voice. No one seems to have a typical Verdi voice these days, but here it didn't matter. The baritone's excellent Italian was also a help. The Ukrainian soprano Lyudmila Monastyrska sang "La Lady's" fiendish music with flair, seemingly tossing off the most difficult passages. The voice is rich and free of vibrato, and she even has the requisite trill. As an actress she was less effective, but it was a pleasure to hear the music so well sung. She did go against Verdi's original idea that Lady Macbeth should make an ugly sound; her voice is an extraordinarily beautiful one.

The dark, menacing, imaginative production and the fine conducting by Antonio Pappano made this British entry into the HD sweepstakes a success.

Friday, June 3, 2011

"An Isle of Joy"

My friend with the great apartment in a great location snapped this late-day view of park and skyscrapers yesterday. Wow! The fact that the summer solstice is near may have something to do with the wonderful light phenomenon.

Thought that it might have had something to do with this, but not the case—a separate topic:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Macy's—Art and Commerce at the Flower Show

Despite economic difficulties common to almost all enterprises great and small, Macy’s has continued to delight citizens of New York and elsewhere, especially twice a year with its July 4 fireworks display and spring flower show. This year’s show was somewhat garish, but nevertheless delightful as usual. The ground-floor location, devoted mostly to beauty products and jewelry, is enhanced by the many lush floral and foliage arrangements that reflect the aesthetic intent of most of the merchandise. I saw lots of people like me with their tiny digital cameras, but not too many actually making purchases.

Despite numerous upgrades and its longstanding fame from the film Miracle on 34th Street—and don’t forget the celebrated Christmas windows—Macy’s still isn’t a chic or even a really convenient place to shop. Still, they’ll always get me in there at least once a year to see the blooms.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alice on Brrrroadway!

Free-associating again, I was reminded of a childhood trip to New York City at Easter, long ago. The reason is that I was asked about current April weather, and what the visitor should wear. This made me think of how I nearly froze to death in my then-obligatory camel’s hair coat over what was probably a thin cotton dress. This, even though I wore the hat and gloves considered proper at the time. But the discomfort of the cold was more than offset by my very first Broadway show!

Long a fan of Alice in Wonderland—and long before I was really aware of the objects of Lewis Carroll’s satire (and his fondness for “children, except boys”)—I now realize that Mom had made a special effort for me to see this show, which I enjoyed unreservedly. Also, it starred a young dancer, Bambi Linn, who had received a lot of publicity for her talent and youthful success. A protégée of Agnes de Mille, she had already appeared in the dream ballet in Oklahoma! and as Louise in Carousel. An aspiring ballet dancer myself, I collected articles and pictures of Bambi and other dance notables, and she was one of my heroes.

The show itself used the Tenniel illustrations for its designs, which also made me happy. Although I don’t remember it all in detail, I do remember the great Eva LeGallienne, who also wrote the stage adaptation, flying in on a wire as the White Queen. I was fortunate enough to find this link, which describes the show in detail:

"Alice In Wonderland - The 1947 Broadway production starring Bambi Linn"

Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's Supermoon!

It is the very error of the moon;
She comes more nearer earth than she was wont, 

And makes men mad.

—Act V, scene ii

You can find something in Shakespeare for every occasion. Unlike the "birthers" who don't think President Obama was born in the U.S., or the doubters who don't think men have actually walked on the moon, I'm a believer that he was and they did. And also that the Bard wrote his own stuff, hardworking theater guy that he was.

I'm sorry that this photo of "supermoon" isn't mine; I cribbed it from an online Indian newspaper. My little Canon Powershot just couldn't deliver the goods this evening. I walked down to the end of East 52nd Street (where Garbo used to live, BTW) and joined a few other moongazers, a couple of whom were also trying for shots. Two families brought little children to see the phenomenon of a larger-than-usual full moon at its perigee, something that occurs only once every few years. A clear Manhattan night helped to make this view of la luna right over the landmark Pepsi-Cola sign on the East River especially memorable.

It's easier to worship the moon than it is the sun, because you can look right at the moon without damaging your eyes. And this one is certainly worth a long look.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Classic New York Moment

Owing to some ongoing dental work, I’m temporarily obliged to seek out mushy—or, as I somehow prefer to pronounce it—“mooshy” food until the implant is completed. It occurred to me that gefilte fish, which I enjoy from time to time but actually seldom eat, would be an acceptable choice, being suitably mooshy.

The selection today at my local Food Emporium was not vast: no Rokeach, Mother’s, or Manischewitz, e.g., but only Mrs. Adler’s Old Jerusalem. So, Mrs. Adler made it into my shopping cart. Shortly thereafter, I was accosted by a short, gravel-voiced woman straight out of NYC central casting, who screeched, “Where’d ya find the gefilte fish?” I informed her, and then she asked, “What kind?” I showed her, and she replied, “Oh, Mrs. Adler—I like the other kind.” She didn’t say which this was.

This incident reminded me of the wonderful moment in Woody Allen’s Bananas, where Woody brings the bakery box, correctly tied up with string, as a house gift to the Latin American dictator, played by the immortal Carlos “El Exigente” Montalban. The dictator looks inside and says, not batting an eyelash, “Oh, this is prunes; I like cherries.”

I then made the near-fatal mistake of mentioning my reason for buying gefilte fish, and our New York heroine assured me that once I tasted it I would “get to like it.” She then said that my teeth looked beautiful as they were.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

"...covering Earth in forgetful snow..." (Eliot, "The Waste Land")

You have to act quickly to enjoy snow-covered New York City, as the white stuff becomes grey and then black pretty quickly. Thank goodness for instant digital photography! The lovely grisaille-appearing view was taken by a friend from her kitchen window this morning, and the other two are my own.

For some reason, there was an "Absolutely No Photography" sign in the little neighborhood park near me, but I committed a mini-criminal act by sticking my camera through the bars on the gate and shooting anyway. I don't think anyone saw me.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lapsi Memoriae

Fortunately, most of my memory lapses concern trivia, usually movie titles. I’m ever grateful for the existence of (It also comes in handy when you absolutely can’t read the credits when the film is on TV.) Apparently sheer necessity enables me to remember credit card and bank account numbers, but not the name of the stage director husband of the actress I saw yesterday. And he directs a lot of opera, which means that I, especially, should remember his name! AARGH! This also goes for well-known musical selections. Sometimes the answers do finally float to the surface. I call this mental data retrieval.

I often have trouble remembering at least one of a list, e.g., the seventh dwarf or the ninth muse. For me, as a crossword addict, these are essential pieces of information. And, although I have hardly ever patronized any of them, I always forget one of the following three (not that it matters):

Callard and Bowser (former cookie company, now maker of Altoids)

Caswell-Massey (perfumes, soaps, toiletries)

Crabtree and Evelyn (same as above)

I mean, who cares anyway? I’d better make room in my overtaxed head for some really essential information. I guess all information is essential to me, though, relevant or not.