Last summer at the Independence Day party I attended out on Sands Point I met my boss’ mother, who is one of the sweetest ladies I have ever met. During the course of the evening, I mentioned that I had studied classical voice in college, and she got all excited — smacked her husband on the arm and said darling you should take JS to the opera instead of me! Then she turned to me and said we have season tickets to the Met, but I don’t always like to go, so he’ll, gesturing in her husband’s direction, take you instead of me.
When people make such generous offers I tend to take them with a little grain of salt — especially when it’s at a party with an open bar. But the other day I got an email from her husband, RM, asking if I’d be interested in joining him for Armida – and of course I said I’d love to! I love the opera for more than just the old world, classic glamour, the chandeliers that are explosions of crystal frozen in time, which retract to the huge gilded lotus that covers the ceiling when the Act is about to begin.
It’s first and foremost, the music. Just FYI, I am a music person. It’s a huge part of who I am. I studied music for 20 years of my life and for a long while thought I wanted to make a career out of it — I won’t bore you with those details, but that’s a little back-story to explain why I love the opera so very much. It’s moving, and the music is so much better live.
So. Armida. Composed by Goachin Rossini in 1817, libretto by Giovanni Schmidt. It’s the story of a sorceress who falls in love, and then coerces the poor man to fall in love with her as well. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I’ll just say that though the costumes, choreography and stage direction were reminiscent of a Disney adaptation of a Brothers’ Grimm story, this is no fairy tale ending. Renee Fleming was impressive as usual, if a bit wobbly in some of the finer turns of phrase — and Lawrence BrownLee was oh so cute, with his fluttering vibrato and his hopeful, yearning face.
But that’s not all. There was the opera, and then there was the intermission dinner at the Grand Tier Restaurant. So. F-ing. Delicious. A watercress & endive salad to start could have been my entire meal, taste-wise, but the plancha seared salmon was to die for. Literally, I would have died a very happy boy had I been struck by lightning at our window-side table (which, incidentally looked out onto Lincoln Center and the illuminated fountain). How do you eat a full meal during intermission? Why, you call ahead and place your order, and they have it waiting for you. Fabulous. Delightfully complemented with a smooth Saint-Veran 2009.
I usually feel a bit uncomfortable in such chi-chi situations, but the Met is kind of like a second home to me. This was really like discovering $20 in the pocket of that blazer you stuck in the back of the closet at the end of last summer. Or realizing that there’s a secret passageway to the kitchen. Unfortunately, the Grand Tier Restaurant is not the kind of place you can just flash away with your camera, so there are no first-hand photos of my encounter, but there are some images here.
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