Wednesday, January 24, 2007

New York City, Grey Gardens and Die Zauberflöte

I've been feeding my obsessive-compulsive need to figure out why some people are so bent on hating others, for the sake of hating out of mutual bias and fear, so I apologize for not updating this blog with anything other than trying to 'out-bully' bullies. I will write more on that, and a further explanation concerning my Mensa Genius post, etc. However, I have been remiss in not reporting about my trip to New York City.

For those who know me personally, you know I've always wanted to see NYC. Well, I finally made it.

This year, Susan and I saved our pennies and headed for NYC over the holidays. It was spectacular for me, for many reasons.

Even the cab ride from Penn Station out to Astoria was an E-ticket ride!! I closed my eyes a few times, as our driver zipped through the streets of Manhattan over the Queensborough Bridge. There is no way I could drive through Manhattan.

I was like a proverbial kid in a candy store, once we got settled in at Susan's cousin's apartment in Astoria, Queens.

Astoria is primarily Greek, however after 9/11 many Manhattan-ites lost their jobs and needed to find cheaper rents. Now, the neighborhoods have an eclectic mix of the old world and new, and both seem to live together nicely with each other.

There are no words to describe the smells in this little neighborhood just above Ditmars--the last stop on the N Train going Uptown and to the Bronx. The spices from the Gyro Lamb and Souvlaki waft through the air, from family owned 'joints' where everybody really does know your name.

I had the best Gyro platter at the family run Greek diner right across from the apartment, on our arrival. Matter of fact, I didn't have one bad meal during our entire stay. Frankie's Pizza in Astoria: Yo! Frankie! It was the BEST; Red Circle Thai Restaurant was superb. Nichellos in Manhattan, for Northern Italian cuisine at its finest--the meals were so light, yet so delicious.

But the best, for me, was Broadway Joe's Steakhouse. Not only did I have one of the best petite Filet Mignon in my life (yes, it was like 'buttah'), but I was sitting in a restaurant that's been seen in several motion pictures. Shirley Maclaine sashayed down the front stairs, in the opening of the film version of "Sweet Charity," and several television dramas and films have shot interiors in the restaurant. The food was out of this world.

When those same double doors let me off at 42nd Street, and I walked from the Subway platform out into the open air, I felt like I was at home. I cannot describe it, but I felt a creative energy that I have never felt anywhere else. Everyone seems to have the same energy, as they briskly walk by, but I had the feeling that only those living on this island know its 'secret' and I was obliged to try and find it for myself.

I was in awe over the Christmas windows at Macys, as I have heard about them but I've never seen them in person.

Don't even get me started on Time Square. The buildings bathed in Neon were definitely a conduit for the synergy that seemed to emanate down every street.

No doubt, I took the touristy pictures at Times Square, Herald Square, 42nd Street, Broadway, but I also visited a building that has a lot of meaning for me: The Brill Building.

Knowing that most of Pop music during the late 50's through the 1960's originated within the offices of that building was exciting to me, as I lined up to take my shot of its facade. We're talking Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Phil Spector producing the Ronnettes, etc., Ellie Greenwich/Jeff Barry, Barry Mann/Cynthia Weil, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Burt Bacharach/ Hal David, Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman, etc. It's an important building for anyone interested in the history of popular music. The building housed several musical publishing companies, as well.

Architectually speaking, I was also in heaven. The Public Library was magnificent inside and out. What a truly beautiful place to study, research, etc.

Grand Central Station was another gem, and I wish we had taken the time to go on a guided tour, but just watching the people go by and snapping a few good pictures sufficed.

So much to say about the musical, Grey Gardens. For anyone that remembers the Maysales Brothers' documentary on Jackie Kennedy's eccentric aunt and first cousin, Edith 'Big Edie' Bouvier Beale and "Little Edie," her daughter, then you know that mother and daughter co-dependently existed, and let their family home in New York go to ruin.

I wanted to see this musical, out of a curiosity concerning just how they were going to take that documentary and forge a musical from it.

It was brilliant.

The first act has actress Christine Ebersole playing the role of Big Edie during their heyday in the 1940s. Second act has Christine playing the role of Little Edie and Mary Louise Wilson as the aged Big Edie.

The second act will blow you away, and both Ebersole and Wilson are a perfect team. We met Ms. Ebersole after the show and she was such a delight.

If you get to NYC anytime soon, make sure you see this musical. Ebersole should be nominated and win the Tony this year.

But I'd have to say the peace de resistance was seeing Julie Taymor's production of Die Zauberflöte at The Met/Lincoln Center.

Papageno is one of my favorite opera characters, and I had heard a version of this with Maria Callas as the Queen several years ago, but nothing prepared me for the brilliance of this staged version.

One is either a huge Taymor fan or one isn't. I wasn't sure how she was going to put her stamp on Mozart, and I wondered how the whole 'puppet' thing would work, without seeming like some sort of bad parody of Taymor's other work, but it was really spectacular.

Once you've heard someone of Callas' calibre sing the Queen of the Night F note aria , it's hard to find anyone who matches that pitch. But the diva belting it out, this time--Cornelia Goetz--came pretty close. The sets were gorgeous and fit the Masonic theme quite well.

Take a look for yourselves:

PBS is showing Die Zauberflöte tonight, January 24, so check it out. You will not be sorry. I am glad we got to see it live!

Oh, so much more to discuss about New York City! I'll save it for Part II.

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