I hadn’t really thought about it, but when we were in New York recently, I realized what an affinity I have for the city that never sleeps. My favourite magazine is the New Yorker (I have some issues that date back to the 1930s) and my favourite daily newspaper is the New York Times (I start out each day doing the crossword puzzle online, if I haven’t already done it on the previous evening). We first visited the city in 1989 and have always wanted to return.
Culture was the prime purpose of our trip. Opera has become a passion in recent years and we try to attend every HD satellite telecast of live Metropolitan Opera presentations in theatres. Broadway shows and art galleries were also a priority.
We got off to a great start on our first day, despite the rain. Walking briskly southward along Fifth Avenue, getting drenched, we arrived at our first destination, the Guggenheim Museum. A marvelous collection is housed in the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed spiral galleries. Afterward we hopped the subway to Times Square, had lunch and then headed to Lincoln Center, a setting for a dozen performance venues, including the Metropolitan Opera, where we had booked a backstage tour. For 90 minutes our group of 12 poked our noses into some of the countless rooms that comprise the world’s largest performance organization — in 2006 its operating budget was $220 million.
We learned that we could join a lineup and take a chance on getting rush seats or standing room tickets to the sold-out Le Comte Ory, an opera we had planned to watch in a movie theatre the following Saturday. After an hour’s wait, we picked up a pair of standing room tickets and dined in a nearby restaurant before returning for the opera, which was wonderful. We eventually got back to our room at midnight, a trend that would continue for the rest of our stay.
Wednesdays and Saturdays are matinee days on Broadway, and theatre lovers can take in both afternoon and evening shows. On Wednesday afternoon we saw Driving Miss Daisy, in large part because it starred James Earl Jones, whom we had seen in our previous visit when he was in Fences. Playing Miss Daisy on this run is the wonderful Vanessa Redgrave. After a lovely dinner at Sardi’s, we saw Robin Williams in Bengal Tiger in the Baghdad Zoo, a Pulitzer Prize-nominated play set during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Williams was very good, but no better than the rest of the sterling cast, which had worked together when the play opened in Los Angeles.
Thursday and Friday were our planned opera nights and we saw the incomparable Renée Fleming in Strauss’s Capriccio, and one of our favourite operas, Tosca. We have a soft spot for Puccini’s Tosca because it is set in Rome. The Castel Sant’Angelo is the setting for Act III and it has been part of our nightly walk during our recent trips to the Italian capital.
At the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), we saw a spectacular array of modern paintings, including Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Dali’s Persistence of Memory. On temporary display right now is an entire room of Picasso’s paintings and sculptures on a guitar theme.
Saturday was back to Broadway, where we took in the matinee performance of Million Dollar Quartet, a musical based on the true story of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis getting together to play at Sun Records on a magical night in 1956. Our evening show was Arcadia, a newer work by the brilliant British playwright Tom Stoppard, whose works I’ve always enjoyed. How nice to leave a theatre thinking about the ideas that have been presented.
During our hectic visit, we also managed to take a harbour cruise, where we saw the evidence of the decline of manufacturing along the shores of a now rarely used harbor. One night after the opera we went up the Empire State Building, from which we got a midnight view of the city. We visited the eerie Ground Zero, the spot where we had craned our necks to look up at the World Trade Center on our first visit. I sat out front of Madison Square Garden, watching New York Ranger fans stream in to see the last regular season game of the season. In short, we walked or stood in line until our legs felt ready to fall off, and we became intimately familiar with the very efficient subway system.
The trip provided everything we hoped for in a compact week but, as always, we were very happy to return to Creston.
Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.