A GLORIOUS DAY GUESS WHERE

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Yes, it was another trip to New York by bus last Saturday  — to see Un Ballo in Maschera (by Verdi), the last of the three opera matinees  at the Met to which I proactively subscribed last spring.  The caption of this post is not in any way sarcastic. The weather was spectacular.

Ballo in Maschera (Verdi). That's Dimitri ______ threatening to kill his wife for a presumed adultery with the king and Sondra_______ (the blameless wife) pleading in her long slip for her life. If you try very hard, you can also see me reflected in the glass, trying to photograph them for you.

 That’s Dimitri Hvorostovsky, as Count Anckarstrom, threatening to kill his wife Amelia for a presumed adultery with King Gustav III of Sweden (not seen in the poster).  Sondra Radvanovsky, as his blameless wife, is pleading in her ankle-length slip for her life. (He’s already ripped off her dress in a rage.)  If you squint, you can also see part of me unavoidably reflected in the glass, photographing this highly charged situation for your viewing pleasure. 

In contrast to the delights of the weather, I did not at all appreciate the “modernized” production we saw. What is the merit of dressing singers in an opera set in the late eighteenth century, and involving swords, prophecy and witchcraft, in mid-twentieth century dress, and against starkly minimalist abstract sets?  Why was almost every scene “enhanced” by a painted Icarus falling from the sky?  For me, such questions distracted from the richness of the beautiful singing to the point that the part of the day not involving the opera was more interesting than what was on the stage. Therefore once I show you the two glassed-in posters in front of the opera house advertising Ballo (above and below), we’re just going to enjoy being outside today. (With exceptions, of course, for bathroom and lunch and looking around at the opera audience.)

The masked ball itself. (Act III.)  What's all this with black wings sprouting everywhere?

The masked ball itself. (Act III.) See the black wings? (Only one set of wings in the poster, but many more, plus one white set, on stage.) What was that all about? Also don’t miss Icarus dangling above the singers.  In one large pictorial form or another, this inapt metaphoric reference dominated every scene. How was King Gustav’s love for the wife of his best friend without letting her know (adultery in the heart, as it were) — because of which the best friend stabbed him on entirely circumstantial evidence — in any way comparable to flying with wax wings too close to the sun?  Note too, near the bottom, my hands and iPhone, ever at work for you.

There were two free hours before curtain time.  Rather than run to the Time-Warner building on Columbus Circle for quick but high-priced new-clothes shopping, I decided to hang out in the sun instead. After so long and difficult a winter, certain parts of New York, such as Lincoln Center, can be quite lovely when the heavens (rarely) consent to smile.

Map. So -- if interested -- you can get your bearings as we stroll around.

Map of the area, to get your bearings if so inclined.

Here’s the Met itself (middle left on the map above), seen from Broadway at 11 a.m., several hours before the performance began:

Metropolitan Opera House, at the center of Lincoln Plaza.

Metropolitan Opera House, in the center of Lincoln Center.

As you walk closer, you get a better view of the fountain:

If I were still agile enough, I might have hopped up and perched myself!

If I were still agile enough, I might have hopped up myself!

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Hearst Plaza, featuring nicely designed black wrought iron chairs to sit in under the trees. This is looking north with the Met to my back, Avery Fisher Hall (soon to be renamed David Geffen Hall in return for a ten million dollar “gift” from David Geffen) to my right, and a very expensive Italian restaurant called (what else?) “Ristorante” directly in front. For $39 you can have a two-course lunch there, plus additional charges for dessert, beverages of any kind, tax and tip. I know this because I read the menu outside, not because I’ve ever crossed “Ristorante’s” threshold.

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Looking west at the New York Library for the Performing Arts, with the Met on the left, Hearst Plaza on the right, and a very blue sky above.

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Turning north again.

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The Vivian Beaumont Theatre.

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Reversing direction to look south from Hearst Plaza past the Met on the right, David Koch Theater (formerly New York Ballet Theater) on the left, and between them (across the street), Fordham School of Law.

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Preview of new opera productions to debut in the 2015-16 season. I was wearing a dress (as you can see in the reflection) because I was going out to dinner with New York friends after the opera and I have very few opportunities to wear dresses any more, so this was going to be one of them.  (In case you were wondering.)

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The American Ballet Theater (“ABT”) also has a spring season at Lincoln Center, and therefore gets its own poster behind glass.

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Skyline of costly apartments (in center of the shot). Met on the left, Avery Fisher Hall on the right.

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Looking towards Broadway with the Met at my back.

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Vanity, thy name is woman.  Unfortunately, glass doors are not really mirrors. Still it’s an interesting failure of a shot, don’t you think?

If at first you don’t succeed, try again.  I had to go to the bathroom anyway, where there are real mirrors.  The three photos below were taken in the Avery Fisher Hall ladies room, much more accessible than the Met’s (which in any event wasn’t open yet). After tending to business, I did first look around to be sure I was alone before engaging in this continued vanity project. Just as I was memorializing the shot, someone emerged from the last stall.  However, she doesn’t seem to have noticed me. I therefore left her in the picture, to preserve the verisimilitude of the occasion.

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I always look absolutely terrible in selfies. Taking one’s picture in a mirror seems to produce somewhat kinder results, perhaps because of the dim lighting. I do look rather pleased with what I see in the viewfinder, don’t I? When you’re nearly 84, it’s quite rare to find an image of yourself that doesn’t make you cringe. This one probably passes the blush test.

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Closeup. Still okay.

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Even closer. Now the wrinkles show. Smiling helps, though.

Men: please do feel free to skip the next few paragraphs, which consist entirely of fashion notes inspired by a comment to a previous post suggesting I do a piece on what I buy when I next go shopping for new clothes. I haven’t actually bought anything new yet, but as none of you has ever seen anything not new from my closet, we could start with what I had on in these pictures last Saturday.

The tote sitting on the sink in bone and black leather was from Eileen Fisher last summer. (Bought full price online and by now worth every one of the many many pennies I paid. I liked it so much I didn’t put it away when winter came, and now here it’s in season again, never having spent a single day off my shoulder.)  The watch with the red leather strap is from Alessi (Italian) but bought years ago at the MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) shop. The sunglass frames on my head and the frames of the prescription glasses to see with on my nose (which sometimes hang from the ring on the cord around my neck) were both hand-made in France but have no manufacturer name on them.  I bought them, seriatim, from an optometrist in Princeton at least five years ago.

Moving right along, the red cardigan sweater-jacket was acquired on sale and online, also from Eileen Fisher; I rarely wear it because it doesn’t look right by itself with pants or jeans and it doesn’t look right over skirts or dresses under winter coats. But the weather Saturday was too warm for a coat, and I couldn’t stay out through the evening in just a dress, so the red number got an outing. Bill is the only person who really likes it, but I guess it was all right for a wandering photographer to wear while taking pictures of herself.

The dress underneath the sweater (barely glimpsed in the photos) is black viscose jersey with long narrow sleeves; it spoke to me online at midnight four years ago from (you guessed it!) the Eileen Fisher web page. “Buy me!” it cried. (You can tell from the confessed provenance of most of my more presentable clothes that I consider this label a best friend to older women who still care how they look and are willing to spend some money to look that way.) The dress has no waistline or belt, but follows the body (not immodestly) all the way down to the hips, where it flares slightly. Too bad you can’t see the neckline, which is a loose infinity loop that looks as if it might be a scarf but isn’t; it’s part of the dress.

I will skip the source of the black tights. as I can’t remember where I got them.  The black leather loafers are Italian; their purchase took place in Boston, which I left nine years ago, from a shoe store on Boylston Street, opposite the Boston Garden. But that sort of vague and dated information is useless, so let’s forget it.  All this does go to show, however, that I keep things I like for a very long time — if that in any way justifies what I spend for them in the first place.

Okay, men.  You can come back now.  It’s chow time.  Aka lunch.

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American Table is on the ground floor of Alice Tully Hall, just across 65th Street and facing Broadway. I favor it when I’m in the neighborhood because it opens early, serves all day, and closes late. Moreover, as long as you order something, even if just coffee, you can sit and sit, without being hovered over by a waitperson wanting to clear the table.

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I also very much like the fact that the wall facing Broadway is all glass, which permits you to people watch while you’re inside.

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You can see small children (guarded by their careful parents) playing on the tower of steps outside .

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Or you can simply snoop at the passing scene without being noticed yourself.

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It’s also a very pleasant place to meet a friend for lunch or a drink.

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Here’s the menu.

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You place your order with the man at the right, and pay. Then you go sit down. A waiter will bring your order to your table.

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I had the market salad with smoked salmon. When you unroll the pink rosette sitting on the sliced radishes and greens, it becomes four long strips of salmon.

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By the time I got back to Lincoln Center, the crowds in front of the Met were beginning to gather.

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But there were still about twenty minutes till curtain time, and it was too nice to go in just yet.

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I sat and looked up at the spring sky for a while longer.

Once in my seat at the Met, I did observe that some of the younger patrons may have over-welcomed the arrival of spring. There was a noticeably reckless casting aside of garments to display as much flesh as could be considered minimally decent in such a cultured venue.

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This young person, for instance, appears to be cold. She may have overdone it.

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Oh, those very short summer sundresses! Oh, such expanse of youthful thigh! Bill loved this picture when I showed it to him Saturday night.

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By contrast, other young women, less favorably endowed, were not so eager to put aside their coverings. My mother, were she still alive, would have strongly disapproved of the horizontal stripes on so broad a backside as this. But she’s not, so I’ll leave it alone.

After King Gustav had been stabbed, had pardoned everyone, had assured Amelia’s husband (in fine voice) that she was innocent of wrongdoing, and then had collapsed stage front, quite dead, as the curtain fell — I hurried out and managed to flag down a cab to take me north and east to the Upper East Side, where the 1% live. New York is beautiful there.

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A view of Central Park from across Fifth Avenue at East 95th Street. You may not be able to quite make it out, but just above the white SUV is a charming playground for little ones where my New York grandchildren used to dig, climb and swing before they were old enough to go to school.

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Looking north on Fifth Avenue from 95th Street. This part of the city is called Carnegie Hill.

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East 95th Street, seen from Fifth Avenue.

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Flower gardens, New York City style. Here I put away my camera, walked down the street, and met my friends at Tre Otto (Three Eight), a relatively new neighborhood Italian restaurant on Madison Avenue between 97th and 98th, where the waitress explained (when asked) that it’s called “Three Eight(s)” because the owner’s grandmother was born on the 8th of August in 1908 — eighth day of the eighth month of the eighth year of the century — and many of the recipes used in the restaurant came from her.  I took the train home at 9 p.m. — after a long but delicious day.  I hope you enjoyed it, too.

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28 thoughts on “A GLORIOUS DAY GUESS WHERE

  1. Nina, this was an incredible trip to NYC with you. Wonderful photos, and write-up. You always entertain with your natural writing style. As if you’re talking to us over a leisurely lunch or coffee date. Yep, I bought Eileen Fisher back in the day. Very classy! Loved your wardrobe run down, even the selfie shots. Made me laugh, I think the same…those darn wrinkles! Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Christine. It’s much easier to go somewhere alone, especially where there’s waiting time involved, when you can take pictures and plan a blog post about your “adventure.” Re: wrinkles. What can you do…except smile?

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  2. I’ve visited New York a few times, but not enough to really get to know that city that is loved by so many. So it’s interesting to read of your experience there. I too, have reservations about the way culture is presented these days in museums and concert halls. I sympathize with your reservations regarding the opera. But I loved that first photo of the advertisement for the opera, and likewise the poster for the American Ballet Theater. And I very much enjoyed your three selfies in the ladies’ room. You have some really fine photos on this post.

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    • Oh my. That’s high praise from a professional photographer! I do confess, Shimon, that I had you, and another gentleman of a certain age (in Australia), in mind when I took the ones in the bathroom! 😉

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  3. You’re so pretty, red & black look gorgeous on you! ❤
    Sorry, this comment sounds soooo superficial (and probably makes it appear as if I didn't read the post (which did – and always do – of course!)) but I couldn't help myself 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • My goodness, Takami. No one’s e-v-e-r called me “pretty” before. It must be all in the eye of the beholder. I bet if you took my picture — I’d look spectacular. We must think about how to make that happen.

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      • Oh, that would be an honor! 😀 I’ll keep practicing, to keep my skills honed ❤

        I can't imagine how/why no one ever called you pretty before. Perhaps beautiful & classy? 😀 But I'm sure Bill must have complimented you many a time. I hope?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Bill calls me beautiful. And a few other men — although not prior husbands, haha — have called me other lovely (and memorable) things. “Classy” I only get from my dear readers on WordPress. In real life, I’m too outspoken too often to be considered “classy.”

        As for my mother, my first great love, no complimentary word about how I looked ever passed her lips other than, when asked, “You look all right.” What I used to hear from her most often was “Yes, you’re smart, but…..” Oh, well: Now I have you, Takami! 🙂

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  4. Rita Stewart

    Nina: You asked recently about blog subjects etc. I love everything you write about, i.e. your trip to the opera!
    So write whenever the Muse moves you! Your devoted fan, Rita

    Liked by 1 person

    • The mirror thing used to be the only way. (What you call “normal” is relatively new to me.) I have a photograph of my mother taken of herself in the mirror when she was twenty, in 1924! So you could say I learned it at my mother’s knee. Regarding the “normal” way — it’s not for the aging face. Focusing iPhoto on myself turns wrinkles into deep crevasses, especially at the bottom of the face. Awful! And gloomy-looking, too. As if I were judging the whole world and finding it entirely wanting. Thanks for liking the other pictures, too. I find myself in New York on a truly fine day so infrequently I couldn’t resist wandering around snapping here and there.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love reading of your trips to NYC, and especially when you share such a fabulous set of photographs. Your reflective selfies were delightful and my first reaction was… ‘nearly 84??? Never!’ You have the ‘young-at-heart’ look well and truly nailed.

    Many of your scenic shots are really quite architectural in style – your eye finds angles and perspectives which make for remarkable photos. I particularly liked the steps, and the Library for the Performing Arts, and your street scenes with new leaves and tulips.

    It made me think I might do such a photo-tour of Ephesus, which I visited in 2013, for my blog. I took dozens of shots, to preserve my recollections for the chapter where my characters visit the ancient city. It might make an interesting tour for the blog!

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    • Thank you squared, Julie, for all the good stuff in your first paragraph. Lincoln Center was all planned, designed and built at the same time, in the 1960’s I believe, so the architectural positioning of the various buildings does produce those angles and perspectives you mention. The street scenes with tulips of the Upper East Side in spring, however, are simply a combination of big money and nature on a good day. (I can take none of the credit.)

      I think a travelogue of Ephesus would be spectacular. (I did a short one of Salamanca and Northwest Spain once with photos taken in 1990; it took two posts, but I believe WP readers enjoyed the trip.) Go for it! It would be a shame for those dozens of Ephesus shots to go to waste!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Once again, I am seriously green about your visit to the MET. I was listening to the live radio broadcast of Ballo the other night. Hvorostovsky is very high on my singer list (though you can hear his breathing more than you should). I like Sondra’s voice, but I have not been too keen on her onstage. I think you should be very proud of your mirror photo, you look very charming, and nothing near 84.

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    • You have a sophisticated ear, Hilary. I didn’t hear Dimitri’s breathing, but perhaps I was too distracted by my displeasure at the sets and costumes. Sondra, whom I have not seen on stage before, was an effective actress on this occasion. I gobbled up your last sentence with great pleasure. Thank you for it.

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  7. I’m envious of your visit to the Met. My niece came over from USA and we had intended going up to London but didn’t manage to get there. You look like you were having fun in your mirror selfies. I tried taking a selfie once and it ended up looking as if my photo should have been on a ‘Wanted’ poster.

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    • Mirror photos usually turn out “better” than the ones where you turn the camera on yourself. And you can keep deleting the “wanted” poster ones until you get one you like. How far are you from London? Couldn’t you go with a friend, or your caring d-i-l? I believe in making opportunities for ourselves at our age, if they don’t fall into our laps. Why don’t you go, now that it’s spring. Then you can blog about it! Maybe even more than one post!

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      • Thank you, for your kind comments Nina, but the only time my photos would look better if I wore a veil. My D.I.L. Is so busy with her high pressure job and her new grandchild. We did go to see ‘Nabucco’ a couple of Christmases ago. My friends do not like opera or ballet though I have been to see musicals with them at different times. London is about an hour from Maidstone by train. Yesterday, my son and I went by train to Derby to eat at a restaurant where my grandson (his son) is a trainee chef. Derby is a three hour train journey from here and I am so tired today. 200 miles for a meal – mad, aren’t we?.

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      • Well, it wasn’t just an ordinary meal for which you went the 200 miles there and back. It was for pride in your grandson, and to please your son, as well as to eat. I’d say that was a day well spent, even if you do have to spend the next day recovering!

        Liked by 1 person

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