Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Awkward Moments in Zankel Hall

Curtain Call - Photo courtesy of Bradley via Opera Chic

Before I start this post I want to remind the readers that my review of a recital or opera is not a professional-style review like Opera Chic has done; rather it’s my impressions of the evening, from my point of view.

Next I'd like to apologize for taking so long to get this done. Husband is away, if you recall, so I have been alone with an almost-4-year-old all day. He's now asleep and this is the first 5 minutes in a row I've had to myself, so... Cut me a break! (P. this means you, lol!)

So my review starts at home – had to hit myself with a pretty stick before I left the house, and as I was running out the door I saw a tear in my blouse! Oh the horror!! It’s a double layer gauzy thing and the tear was in the top layer, near the left sleeve. Tried to pin it; tried to tape it; ended up wearing the little cardigan, which turned out fine and prevented the scoop neck from getting too scoopy, if you catch my drift. Then when I was getting out of the car, my rhinestone bling bracelet caught on my hose and made a run! Not a good start…

Fashion emergencies aside… The train ride was loooong – I caught a local. Remind me never to do that again. Arrived at Penn Station at 5:30 – the heart of rush hour. WOW there were LOTS of people coming into the Penn Station when I was trying to get out. And if you’ve ever seen film or video footage of a sidewalk with a sea of people… that’s what it was like out on the street. I clop clop clopped my way up 7th Ave from 34th to 57th and there it was, Zankel Hall.

I trolled about a bit, taking pictures, finding the stage door and just hanging. Finally went into a café across the street from the stage door. As I sat in the window with my smoked salmon sandwich, I looked up to see Nathan and Julie walking down the street and into the stage door. While it vaguely crossed my mind to pop out the door, the words "stalker freak" floated in front of my eyes and I stayed put.

Zankel is beautiful inside - all wooden, very clean and warm. And small! First thing they had a team of security guards checking bags. That was purely for show as they patted the side of my purse - what were they looking for? Guns? (Hey just reread this and realized what a bad pun it is! It wasn't intentional, I swear!) Then I had to go two flights down a narrow escalator. When I got to the bottom, the house wasn't open yet so I wandered around the lobby. I asked the usher about the backstage list. She talked to another usher who went back and talked to the backstage guy. He came back and said that the Artist is the only person who can put people on the list, and they don't have the list yet to check it to see if I'm on it. Okaaayyyy. I had my doubts but I figured I'd check anyway.

Ok, onto the show itself.

Strange. Awkward. Odd. Slightly... boring. People around me fell asleep. First, before it started, the guy behind me said to his companion, "They have a DANCER? A DANCER??? And a LIGHTING SPECIALIST?? What is this, like, some sort of multi-media presentation?" Oy vey.

Ok so the three of them walk out - Nathan, Julie and the dancer whose name escapes me. They're all dressed in black. He's got his hair slicked back and believe it or not I didn't recognize him at first. He looked like a mafioso. He also looked tired and appeared to have rings under his eyes. So they take their positions and there are words and images projected onto the wall, Julie starts playing something tres moe-dairn and the dancer does what I can only describe as break-dancing. Nathan stood there looking sort of morose while the dancer did her strange thing. Finally, finally he began to sing. His voice was the saving grace of the evening - replete with those wonderful warm chocolate tones that I just love. The poetry was ok, much of it from the single digit or tens- centuries, written by monks, with nature and religious themes, which was fine, but the music was dissonant, modern and just not to my taste. The program asked that people hold their applause to the end so there were these strange silent moments in between pieces. When the dancer wasn't dancing she sat on the floor or on a chair upstage. Sometimes she danced when there was no music. She was very graceful but the choreography was just weird - lots of arm gyrations and creeping along the floor. Nathan sang beautifully. At some points the lights glinted off his slicked-back hair, making it flash almost grey for a moment here and there, and he would suddenly, momentarily, look old. It was like getting a flash into the future. The poetry was interesting at times. I especially liked one piece about Mary nursing baby Jesus, (yes, I'm Jewish, and yes, it felt odd to type that, but those were the words) and what that was like, probably because I recently (ok, 5 months ago) stopped nursing Alex. The words must have released some maternal hormones or something because I actually got a bit weepy. Well my eyes got moist. Wouldn't want to do anything to make the mascara run, heh heh. Much of the time though it was just awkward with these dissonant, I don't want to call them melodies, but... sections of music, and then silence, and then the dancer would wiggle her arms around while Nathan watched with this sort of doleful look on his face... I'm sure I wasn't alone as I sat there with my brow furrowed wondering what the hell was going on. There was one piano section during which Nathan sat on the chair and the dancer was on the floor somewhere. Julie was fun to watch - she really gets into playing and wow can she play fast!

So for much of the time I was reminded of some of the pretentious performance art pieces people do in college... Other times my mind just wandered into the strangest of places, places I won't even begin to describe here for a variety of reasons.

As everyone left the auditorium, someone called my name - it was John, the guy who started and runs the Yahoo group. I also saw another woman from the group waving wildly at me from the balcony. Unfortunately I didn't get to meet her in person. Oh but the evening was interesting also because many people, mostly younger people, looked at me, did a double-take and then smiled almost like they knew me... perhaps they visited the Yahoo group and saw my picture with Nathan on the main page there. It was almost like being famous... ok not really but it was interesting.

So afterwards I went to the stage door and you guessed it... I wasn't on the list. There wasn't much of a list - I saw it. The guy said that they were coming out in 5 minutes anyway.

The theater is surround by lobby on three sides. The main lobby is behind, with a bar and some tables, but there is a narrower hallway on either side. The stage door was to the front of one of these narrower sections. Most of the people who were waiting were in the main part, but I stayed in the hallway part closer to the door. When Nathan and Julie came out, the other people in that area all seemed to know them, there were hugs and kisses, etc. And then me. I was closer to Julie so I waited for a break in her conversation with some guy and introduced myself, told her how much I liked her performance, and that I met Nathan in Chicago. She asked if I was from there... I told her I knew John O. Sort of misleading as to why I went out there but it was too complicated to explain ... She asked if I was a singer... I was like, "Uh... not exactly... but I'm a super with xxxx Opera." She said a lot of their students were with said opera company. Yes, I know... I worked with them... I gave her the earrings. Then she went back to the guy she was chatting with and I sidled over to where Nathan was chatting with some older, long-haired, grey-haired dude. That conversation wrapped up and I immediately inserted myself. He was totally like, "Hey!!! Hi! How are you!!" and it was obvious that he just didn't remember my name. D'oh. I didn't remind him either, heh heh. I pulled out the CD from Alex and said, "My son sent you a gift!" and explained what it was, although I left out the part where Alex first said that we should give Nathan a new pair of pants that we decorate ourselves... don't recall if I reported that before... anyway... I also gave him some more live recordings. It was all in a little bag and he said, "Is this all for me?" Yup, here, take the damn bag it's been weighing my purse down all evening. Ok I didn't say that... We also talked about the performance a little. He said, "It's not like Barber, is it?" and I said that I had a hard time getting into it at first but then I sort of got into the flow. He said they were really excited to be doing something different, and to be trying out different things. Well, it certainly was different. (I didn't say that out loud...) Then he was looking with that eye contact again and I had a mini-internal freak out and said, "Well, I better run, I have to get back to New Jersey," and I put my hand out and we shook hands. Didn't have the nerve to reach out and hug him. Sounds dumb since I have the nerve to cut into conversations and call to him down hallways (in Chicago). It was kind of dorky to shake hands but whatever... meanwhile there were a bunch of people wanting a piece of him out in the main lobby and I didn't want to "hog" him so I gave my NJ excuse and skeddalded myself outta there.

Then I made the mistake of walking back to Penn Station in those shoes... ouch my aching feet. However, I did find $2 on the street. Does that make up for the blisters? Uh... no way.

I'm writing on a laptop right now so I'll edit this later to stick pictures in.


Anonymous said...

Well I am happy to report that this made me laugh. It made me laugh a lot. Mafioso? Break dancing? I REGRET not having been there! Actually no, because it sounds like it was more of a thing for intense Gunn fans who don't really care what he's singing as long as it's him and those "chocolate tones."

They look terrible in the photos! Jeez, AWFUL!
A pic of you would be nice. I'm sure you were far more elegant than Julie. That's cool that he remembered you (honestly, you wanted him to recall your NAME as well?! Please...that's going too far).

Sounds like you had fun...well, or at least sorta. I mean, blisters? Ouch.


Susan said...

No pic of me - sorry! You'll have to use that youthful imagination of yours.

Anonymous said...


Susan said...

Ummm... I... Uh... I'm not sure how to react to that...

Amn.eris said...

I haven't laughed this hard in a while. Moe-dairn is truly my new favorite word. LOL

I am glad I didn't buy a ticket to this as much as I love Mr. Gunn.

John said...

I enjoyed reading your account. I think he would have looked fresher if he hadn't slicked his hair back. I wonder where he got that shirt. Out of curiosity I spent ten minutes googling "black shirt" "white zipper" and didn't find one. He would have looked better in a white shirt. It's not for nothing that the traditional look is the traditional look.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I just realized that he slightly resembles Christian Bale in "American Psycho." Maybe it's just the slicked hair and the creepy smile. This is not a compliment.
-Susan's wittle brother

Lindsey said...

Man, modern classical music is so touch-and-go. I had a feeling the concert would be something like this. Most recent works really are an aquired taste that even the artists have to work at achieving. I know that as a genre, I'm not a huge fan of 20th-21st century vocal rep. Sometimes artists forget that the public hasn't had weeks or months to study and fall in love with the pieces like they have. All the audience has is those three or four minutes that it takes to sing the piece, and most of the time, unless you listen to that sort of genre a lot, that's not enough time to "get" it. I'm not saying that the audience is stupid (far from it), it's just that I don't think that modern classical music is not easy to connect with. So much of it is so dissonant and odd to our ears, that listening to more than a few of those sort of pieces at a time becomes very trying. But anyways, I could go on and on and on, modern classical music (or really any form of modern art in general) is one of my "soapbox" issues (Ha! Understatement much?). Though, I definitely still envy you for getting to go! Yay for having him remember you!

Willym said...

He does have a slightly Mafioso look in that picture - either that or he was running for parliament here in Italy on the Right Wing platform.

Great review - came to it from our doyenne of Opera Blogs OC. Hope its okay if I ad a link to my blog.


Susan said...

Willym - He looked very mafioso when he walked onto the stage! Thanks for the link, I'm honored! :)