Thursday, April 16, 2015

New York welcomes Aussies in April 2015

Dear Colleagues, friends and family,
New York this April has provided the weather, cultural and medical attributes hard to find anywhere else on earth.  In just two weeks I have attended five operas, two museums, three teaching hospitals and the John Jay College for Criminal Justice.  I have ‘run into’ a very prominent Australian politician ‘in the street’ (and said hello, of course!).  I was able to welcome a young Australian friend who is doing a Master Class at Carnegie Hall this week. 
Constant criticism of the quality of opera in New York from various ‘experts’ seems out of place to me when the cast lists include some of the greatest names in the field of singing, conducting, direction, etc.  Everyone is trying to explain why opera audiences are dwindling … but the same thing is happening elsewhere and some companies have closed their doors as a result.  My feeling is that the Met’s problems are related to poor front-of-house services, food, drink, parking and rest rooms, each of which leave very much to be desired.  No matter how good the opera, if one’s memory is for expensive, poor quality food and drink with a long line for the toilet and other (in)conveniences, why not see the same opera in a cinema instead, and closer to home?  [just my tuppence worth]
Domingo was sick and yet the matinee performance of Ernani was probably better as a result (he is not a full-blooded baritone).  A later performance gave him points for trying and his fellow artists, Angela Meade and Francesco Meli were superb.  Mr Salsi, who replaced Domingo, sang Enrico in Lucia that evening as well, now a Met Guinness Book submission.  Only in New York!  Another ‘record’ this month saw our recent Sydney Faust, tenor Michael Fabiano, a Philadelphia resident as a wild card replacement for Edgardo in Lucia at 6 hours notice!  Cav and Pag new productions deserve three pages while Don Carlos was exemplary despite its length, darkness and complexity.  Aida, Merry Widow and Masked Ball to come! 
The snow drops are finished and daffodils in full bloom with tulips starting to do their thing … as are the magnolias, apples and pears.  The ubiquitous witch hazel and forsythia are in spectacular yellow panoply.  Kwanzan cherry trees are usually last to bloom and Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Cherry Blossom Festival is the final weekend of April - so ‘worship’!  In addition, a previously barren Central Park will be unrecognisable as a veritable shaded jungle by month’s end. 
Any argument about whether addiction is a disease has finally been resolved with the Rockefeller University experts.  I had said that I always avoided the issue, calling addiction a ‘condition’ rather than entering the debate about it being a ‘disease’.  I was told the proof was since there were permanent brain changes on PET scanning.  I pointed out that someone who learns to write with their non-dominant hand probably also has permanent changes, as do smokers, then finally my interlocutor agreed that she would not get her next grant unless addiction was a disease.  So even science is political in this country!  End of discussion. 
Food fad is Greek this year and we have had our ‘fill’ even without travelling to the Astoria homeland in Queens Borough.  The ‘carrot’ is that you live longer, avoiding butter and taking plenty of sea food … not to mention high calcium mineral water (like San Pellegrino).  Food review elsewhere. 
I will try to get some more pointers together as the Manhattan month meanders to a close … but no doubt, as my grandfather Harry Gordon Gracie wrote from this island in 1924, this is the ‘City of cities for me’! 
Cheers and best regards to all in autumnal Australia.  Andrew Byrne ..
Lots more in due course on my blogs … travel, opera and medical …


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