I just got back from a two-week vacation to New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and I can't wait to get back to work. So, at that most basic level, I had a great vacation.
First of all, I'd like to apologize to all the friends and family whom I didn't see in New York. I had a lot to do in the city, including research for my new novel, which took up time. (Not everything is knowable through the Internet; some things must be discovered in person.) And I had locked the Tiny Goddess and myself into some evening activities – and dinners before – that tightened my schedule considerably. Here's what I did.
I started planning this vacation many months ago. I'm a big vacation planner. The centerpiece of this trip was seeing the new production of "WOLF HALL" by the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is running on Broadway for a limited engagement. Based on novels by Hilary Mantel, this two-part dramatization of the story of Thomas Cromwell, the commoner who became counselor to Henry VIII, was a sensational hit in London, and I was determined to see it on Broadway, even after I found out that it was going to be presented as a TV miniseries on PBS. Some of the most memorable things I've seen in my entire life – the legendary Peter Brook "Marat/Sade," the nine-hour "Nicholas Nickleby," and Robert Stephens' King Lear – have been Royal Shakespeare, so this was the perfect excuse for a trip to NYC. And to make it even more fun, we recruited three other couples -- my Big Brother and his wife, the TG's co-author/BF and her husband, and my High School Buddy and his wife – to make our own jolly little theatre party.
So that was one show. Actually, two shows. "WOLF HALL" is presented in two, three-hour parts, so we chose to see it in one day: a matinee and an evening, with a dinner break between.
So what else could we see to fill out the week? How about some live HELEN MIRREN? Her play -- "THE AUDIENCE" by Peter Morgan – about Queen Elizabeth II and her prime ministers was well received in London, and it seemed like a good chance to get Ms. Mirren off my Bucket List. We're big fans of "Prime Suspect," the television series that made her a star. So we got tickets for that, right after we nailed down the "WOLF HALL" tickets.
What could be another "night out?" I try to do new things in New York, but I always come back to the same favorites: Broadway shows, the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick Collection, walking in Central Park, walking in Greenwich Village, and buying used opera CDs at Academy Records on 18th Street. I did all those things, but I was determined to throw in a few new goodies this trip.
So the TG and I went to the Metropolitan Opera. I'm ashamed to say that we hadn't actually been to the Met since the early 80s, before we had kids. (We saw Pavarotti in "UN BALLO IN MASCHERA," a Verdi favorite.) When we go to New York, we usually go for theatre or ballet, and our friends and family aren't big opera fans, plus the Met is so damned expensive! Buying tickets to things I want to see is perhaps my greatest extravagance, but these opera seats are extremely pricey.
But the TG told me to go ahead and get tickets to the Met, for this trip. It turned out that on the night we had free, the Met was playing a new production of "CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA" and "I PAGLIACCI," two of the most popular one-act operas ever written and well worth seeing. (We'd seen PAG at the LA Opera a few years ago, with the erst-while "Love Couple" – Angela Ghiorghiou and Roberto Alagna. I especially love "CAV." It's chockfull of wonderful, tuneful music. I can't tell you how many times my Pandora radio plays the "Intermezzo" from CAV. But you know it, too: it's the Main Title music from "RAGING BULL."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNqUIFQFyEM -- The "Intermezzo" from CAVELLERIA RUSTICANA – from RAGING BULL
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZUzMR6wcJc -- an excerpt from the dress rehearsal of the Met production we saw – with Marcelo Alvarez and Eva-Maria Westbroek – pretty dark, huh?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oc58cIExp_U -- the complete opera – conducted by Herbert von Karajan – from 1968 – with Fiorenza Cossotto (whom I saw as Amneris at the Baths of Caracalla)
Going to the Metropolitan Opera was an evening in heaven. I'm a confirmed/desperate opera fan. The Metropolitan Opera station is my #1 Sirius radio preset – even before Howard!! And the Met is pretty much the Mount Everest of the opera world. At least, that's how the international crowd that night seemed to behave. Everybody was walking around in a daze of happy wonder: "I'm actually here at the Met!" I must have heard eight or ten languages being spoken.
We had a lovely evening, playing Cher and Nicolas Cage in "Moonstruck" –
Come upstairs. I don't care why you come. No, that's not what I mean. Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is and I didn't know this either. But love don't make things nice, it ruins everything, it breaks your heart, it makes things a
mess. We're not here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and break our
hearts and love the wrong people and die! The storybooks are bullshit. Come upstairs with me, baby! Don't try to live your life out to somebody
else's idea of sweet happiness. Don't try to live on milk and cookies when what you want is meat! Red meat just like me! It's wolves run with wolves and nothing else! You're a wolf just like me! Come upstairs with me and get in my bed! Come on! Come on! Come on!
Loretta follows Ronny into his building.
-- and we even got a cab back to the East Side easily.
And my capsule reviews of the things we saw?
The CAV and PAG productions were just OK, but the singing was very good. I admire the director's attempt to link the two, but he left a lot of drama on the table. And chairs and darkness and turntables seemed pretty tired. There was some panache in the PAG. I wish our schedule had lined up with the BALLO with Radvanofsky, Hvorostofsky, and Beczala.
THE AUDIENCE was a boulevard play, but done very well. Helen Mirren was excellent, inhabiting the role, not showing off or pandering to the audience (until the curtain call when it's permissible.) Not just a star turn. I bet she was a great Lady Macbeth.
WOLF HALL wasn't any "Nicholas Nickleby," but I enjoyed it. I wasn't bored for any minute of the six hours. The all-day theatre safari was fun for our party of eight, but the staging, while fluid, left a lot to be desired/imagined. The acting was first-rate. Ben Miles as Cromwell was a laser. I can't wait to see the PBS version, rolling out in my Tivo.
And it was great just to be in those three theatres – Cathedrals of Art! -- where over the years I saw many brilliant productions and performances. At the Gerald R. Shoenfeld (which used to be the Plymouth), I saw "Nicholas Nickleby," Lily Tomlin in THE SEARCH FOR SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE, Brian Friel's TRANSLATIONS, Jane Lapotaire in PIAF, Tom Courtenay in OTHERWISE ENGAGED, and EQUUS. At the Winter Garden, I saw James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer in OTHELLO, Angela Lansbury in MAME, and CATS, the only show that I've actually gotten up during and gone to the bathroom. I think it was during the "Jellicle Ball." I don't think I missed a thing. And at the Met, I saw the Marc Chagall-designed MAGIC FLUTE, that Pavarotti BALLO, and Jon Vickers' legendary performance in PETER GRIMES. I remember it all.
(To be continued)
FIGHT RE-CAP (And Horn-Self-Toot) -- I was pretty on-target about the big fight.
From my previous blog: "It's hard to pick against Floyd Mayweather. He's 47-0, with 26 KOs. He's a superb technical fighter who knows how to frustrate his opponents and win. At this point in his career, he does not want to get hurt. (Before he was called "Money," he was called "Pretty Boy.") He'll fight defensively and try to do just enough to win a decision."