All posts for the month June, 2022

Our niece Molly is staying with us for much of the summer, doing an internship in Brooklyn. Here she is with Mark ready for Opera Night.

We got back to New York at the end of May to spend a month in the city and quickly jumped into whirlwind of concerts, shows, operas, and parties. The lineup included Broadway, the Metropolitan Opera, local concert venues, and two big parties in our loft. Warning: lots of pictures here!

First up was Melissa Etheridge, a lesbian rocker especially big in the ’90s. We’d seen her once before and loved her power and connection to the audience. The show was at City Winery, a pretty modest venue with maybe 200 people where you could have dinner and drinks with the show. Mark in particular was blown away, just kept talking about how much he loved the concert.

Melissa Etheridge performing

We last saw Melissa maybe 10 years ago and to be honest she aged during those years. Thank God we didn’t!

Just three days later we saw a Neil Diamond “tribute band” – a bunch of musicians covering maybe 15 of his songs. Part of the fun for us was that the show was at Joe’s Pub, part of the Public Theater that is right next to our building. No easier commute in the world! The show wasn’t exactly what I was expecting; no one was trying to look or sound like Neil Diamond. They were just performing his songs. And just like at City Winery you could enjoy dinner and drinks during the show. Very civilized.

One of maybe a dozen performers doing Neil Diamond

The various performers were a mixed bag, some pretty good, some not so great. This kid though hit it out of the park. He did one Neil Diamond song that I’ve never been that fond of but he turned it into an absolute show stopper.

And then the very next night was a Slavic music concert right in our own home. Mark’s piano teacher Gena Raps has been a professional musician since she graduated from Juilliard … a while ago. On top of that she’s the queen bee of a coterie of classical musicians who still love to perform. A group of them had performed a concert of Slavic chamber music in a small venue while we were in France, and Gena suggested they repeat the concert in our apartment. They had friends (like us) who hadn’t been able to see the first concert because of scheduling conflicts and on top of that they wouldn’t have to charge admission. It was a beautiful and amazing evening.

Carol Wincenc is an old friend of Gena’s and widely considered one of the top flutists in the world. Here she is performing with Gena on the piano and one of her students. When I learned the student was still in high school I was seriously impressed.

Van is another of Gena’s old friends. She was the lead cellist with the New York Philharmonic for years and tells fun stories of parties at Leonard Bernstein’s.

A couple days after that it was off to Broadway to see MJ The Musical, a show about Michael Jackson. This was definitely more in the category of guilty pleasure than high art. Basically a lot of dancing and fun music with a story that was … a bit of a mess. Totally fun but not the sort of thing you absolutely have to see.

Michael Jackson (not the real one – he’s dead) in yellow taking bows. The dancing was really the highlight.

Next up was the Metropolitan Opera. Our Canadian friends from Boston Marc & David were in town and Marc in particular really wanted to see Akhenaten, a Phillip Glass opera about the Egyptian pharaoh who tried to reorient ancient Egypt from polytheism to monotheism. Today arguably his family is better know – one of his wives was Nefertiti while his son was Tutankhamun, known more familiarly as King Tut. At any rate, the opera was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The music was hauntingly minimalistic, the staging included a lot of juggling and some unexpected nudity (at the Metropolitan Opera!), and the entire experience was surreal. The lead, Akhenaten, was a countertenor, the highest male voice and similar in range to a mezzo-soprano. They used to get that range by castrating young male sopranos – it was a thing; they were called castrati – but that’s not considered kosher anymore. I couldn’t believe he could sing in that falsetto with so much power, since one of the defining characteristics of opera is that the performers are never amplified. We loved it and Mark’s piano teacher – who has strong opinions on these things – loved it, but that was not a universal opinion. Definitely unusual.

The cast of Akhenaten taking bows, including the conductor in black

There was still more. The next week it was back to Broadway to see the revival of Music Man, starring Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster. Again a lot of fun but Sutton Foster in particular seemed miscast as a singer. We saw it with our friends Michael and Megan, both professional musicians who confirmed that she just wasn’t up to it. Fun though.

Trouble in River City – Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster take their bows after finishing another show of Music Man

And finally, one last blow out before we left New York for an eight-week European vacation: A return to Opera Night at 62 Cooper Square. We did this once, last year, and were eager to try it again. Basically we work with the afore-mentioned Michael and Megan who have a “stable” of opera singers that they bring together to perform. We invite friends, hire caterers, and have a fabulous party. And they didn’t disappoint. Maybe 10 singers doing various arias from famous and sometimes less well-known operas. Lots of time for mingling and socializing. It’s exhausting to host but also amazing, both to enjoy the music and the creative combination of new and old friends that show up. It’s not the sort of thing I want to do too regularly but once or twice a year it’s pretty special.

Two of our favorite performers at Opera Night

And finally, after all that, we’re done with summer in New York. Now we’re off for eight weeks in Europe: four in Slovenia and Croatia, then four in Norway and Sweden. But there are a lot more pictures from New York so here they are.

The month was entirely about music. Here we are after dinner celebrating Ajay’s birthday with Nina & Noah, his sister and brother-in-law, and friends Stuart and Hiro.

Ajay was a classmate in graduate school and we’ve been close ever since

Mark and Molly just outside our building

One of the highlights of the month was an overnight trip to visit our friends Adam and Steve at their lakeside home in the northern reaches of Westchester County. Yup, turns out God actually did create Adam and Steve.

There is a great bike path up the west side of Manhattan along the Hudson River. The park runs all the way from the southern tip to the very northern end of the island. So here I am as far north on the island as you can go. Sadly it’s really the only nice ride you can do, but it is pretty nice.

One of my favorite spots in Manhattan. Lots of those old piers that made New York wealthy from trade and shipping and all that have been converted into parks, including this perfect little spot for reading and lazing away a beautiful morning.

Here I am with Van & Alina at our Slavic music concert

Mark with our art consultant Lowell, his wife Courtney, and daughter Boe, also at the Slavic concert

One of the great pleasures of going to the opera is that you can reserve a table at a restaurant right in the opera house. You have dinner before the opera and then at intermission your dessert and wine or champagne is waiting for you. This is seriously civilized.

Mark with Judy and Gena at the Metropolitan Opera

Ours was the final performance of the season of Akhenaten and at the end Philip Glass himself came out. It was a pretty special moment.

Michael can’t put on Opera Night without including a swan…

Both my trainer and Mark’s came to Opera Night. Here I am with Gio. You can tell which one is the trainer.

Opera night performers

Our fabulous friend Dakota

Opera night

The opera performers

Our month of music included dinner with Gena at Peter & Thea’s Upper West Side apartment. Thea is a composer, a native Scot who has been knighted by the queen. Seriously. Peter was the founder and for some 30 years the music director of the Virginia Opera Company.

Me and Molly at Lafayette, our favorite French bakery and café<

One day while I was off at the gym, our friend Seth dropped by with Betsy. Paul on the left there was staying with us for a few days. They were all classmates of ours in graduate school so they had a little, mini-reunion for a bit! Oh, and since Seth was the one who first suggested we get a piano, he’s directly responsible for all the fabulous concerts we host.

As we were going to the opera to see Akhenaten, we ended up with this eerie vision of Mark’s shadow on some woman’s coat

Was I talking about music in New York? Just an ordinary street scene in Greenwich Village.