As soon as we arrived to New York we got screwed. A great looking and know-it-all guy offered his limousine so elegantly and quickly that I did not get a chance to think. During the short and pleasant drive filled with conversation about his family in Egypt my feeling of being screwed grew by the minute. He dropped us off at the back door of our hotel, knocking down all signs warning against it on the way, then told me “$85 dollars, how much do you want back? “Living in Texas and dealing with nice people for the last 24 years have dulled my sense of survival which I grew up with in Moscow and I gave him a generous tip. During the first couple of hours in New York I did not meet any native English speakers, but just about everybody else. Distances were long, traffic was terrible, streets were decorated with huge garbage cans and people were in a hurry. Welcome to New York!
I attended the Chamber Music America Conference held every January to find new talent for Musical Bridges and be made aware of what is going on in the industry. The conference is, of course, my first priority while in New York, but I also try to squeeze in as much cultural activities as possible. Museums in the morning, conference artists showcase in the afternoon and Broadway shows in the evening. On the way to Metropolitan Museum of Art, I spotted a long line in front of an old building. It was cold, windy with occasional light rain and despite that, people we firmly holding their spots in the long line. Coming from the Soviet Union I was used to lines. But this line was not for groceries, nor to buy boots or football tickets, but this was a line for an art exhibit from the Netherlands. I loved it! It is good to know that there are still people in the world willing to spend hours in line to see great art. Maybe there is a hope for humanity after all.
Another impressive sized line is always located in Time Square on the corner of Broadway and 47th street and it is for discounted tickets for Broadway shows. Yes, I was in that line twice and I am proud of it! Got to see two fantastic shows; Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Avenue Q. Both smart and dark musical comedies, just the way I like it. I remember seeing my first Broadway show in ‘89, the year of my arrival to US. It was RENT, the hottest show on Broadway at the time. That was love at a first sight. Growing up on serious arts, I always looked down on any sort of “pop” endeavors. Broadway has converted me into a Broadway groupie. The two shows I got to see this time just confirmed my admiration and pure love of Broadway and made me want more. Maybe I should come to New York more often after all?
As we all know one never forgets how to ride a bicycle, have sex, or drive a car. I can add to this triptych of universal knowledge; one never forgets how to navigate in a big city. Get a little rusty maybe, but never forget. In a few hours I started to genuinely believe red lights were just a suggestion and I joined the never ending parade of New York’s international visitors. I am happy to report that the food was good at every occasion at every restaurant in Manhattan and the pastries can proudly stand up in the same row with famous French petit fours. I love the hustle and bustle of New York! It seems to be extremely accepting of everyone regardless how weird they are. It is easy to blend in, nobody is judging or as much as paying any attention to anybody else and it is liberating in a way.
The Chamber Music Conference as always was informative and inspirational. Workshops and artists showcases presented an impressive group of young and seasoned musicians with very diverse programing. Many musical offerings included unexpected instrumentations and were truly high-end classical ensembles. I am looking for Musical Bridges future programing and spotted some fabulous prospects for next season. I was charmed by a young cello and piano duo, passionate, smart with their own comedy show on YouTube. I also liked an all-women Klezmer ensemble lead by a tall and charismatic clarinet player and short cute blond on double bass. The grand finale was presented by a Russian piano duo. What a Surprise!!! Young, beautiful, dressed in Gothic / Romantic white outfits. They looked like gods and played like ones as well. Liszt Concertino for two pianos by memory! Bravo!
The Metropolitan Opera surprised me as well. L’elisir D’amore by Donizetti is a very light and virtuosic opera and it was a pure pleasure to watch it there, the mega of the world opera. Especially with Anna Netrebko as Adina and Ramón Vargas as Nemorino. The quality was outstanding just as expected, but I was very surprised that the majority of audience was Russian. I guess people who grew up next to the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow do get addicted to a great opera. The next surprise awaited me in the Guggenheim, where one of the guides offered her services in Russian. She immigrated to the US from St Petersburg, the City-Museum Under the Skies and found her new love here at the Guggenheim. She very much enjoyed enlightening me in the matters of the Guggenheim family history and was genuinely proud of what they have done for American and International art in general.
Everyone finds what is dear to his or her heart in New York. During this visit I saw one opera, two Broadway shows and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art. For some people New York is not America. To me it is Quintessential America; it is a small version of the world in its idealistic future. Yes, it is messy and it is uneven and it has a lot of problems but it is probably the only place in the world where everyone coexists together without sacrificing personal identity. Everyone finds their own New York and it belongs to them. This blog started as a traveling story to a busy city with dirty streets and a lot of traffic and some how ended up as another homage to the arts, perhaps just with a hint of Russian flavor…This is New York I love, the rest does not matter to me, this is what I am going to miss and try to come back to. During this trip I found MY New York.