Going to the Met (“People Make the City” Series)

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Vera

“I’ve been watching that collect dust for 35 years,” a mature New Yorker tells her friend as they sit staring straight-ahead from the Dress Circle of the Metropolitan Opera House. There is an odd sculpture directly above the proscenium, incongruous to the main of the decor. “It looks a bit like old-fashioned toothless saws and some fishbones; what is it supposed to be?” I ask. In Manhattan one is allowed to jump into others conversations. Toronto is a friendly city too, but we would pretend not to hear a private conversation beside us, to be polite. Here people join in strangers conversations all the time, it’s probably what I love most about this city. “I think it’s a broken violin,” she answers, “but it’s hard to tell. Whatever it is, it sure is ugly.” Yes, it is that. (I look it up later. It’s a bronze called “Untitled” by Mary Callery. I guess she didn’t know what it was either.)

“It’s an ugly theatre,” she adds, “from 1966. The one the opera used before was much nicer.” It’s true, looking around all the balconies, the gold scallop design would have been ugly in any era. The ceiling is great though. I love the Sputnik chandeliers, bursts of crystal celebrating the space age and reminiscent of Superman’s icy home planet. (Did he have an icy home planet? It’s been a while.) I mention this and she adds,”The chandeliers are from Austria.” Before the show an elderly couple I was chatting with in the foyer had told me they were from Czechoslovakia. “The Czech Republic is known for it’s glass and crystal work,” I had acknowledged. Anyway, they are definitely from somewhere. (Post note, they were a gift from the Austrian government and were recently sent to Vienna for refurbishment in 2008.) The lights lower and the low-hanging chandeliers around the periphery rise in unison, they make their way to the ceiling as to not obstruct any view. It is apparent that a few have at times risen too far; there is some damage to the gold leaf ceiling exactly where a few of the chandeliers have scratched against it. This evening they stop about three feet below. In the Met gift shop there are pieces of replaced chandeliers available for sale. Little pieces of starburst that had caught my eye before I knew what they were as they reminded me of my former-partner’s sculptures that he called orb.bits. Sparkly, unique, and collectable, people bought them mostly to hang on their Christmas trees.

Although I don’t love the music of Verdi’s Falstaff I’m happy to see this production conducted by James Levine. I had seen some of his backstory during a live broadcast of Tosca at a cinema recently in Toronto. He has come back after a major spinal injury that had seemed like the end of his illustrious career. Now he’s back and with as much passion as he ever had. With the energy apparent of a twenty year-old. It is a miraculous recovery, even if he is aided by the best hydraulic technology.

“Today’s curtain calls are about twice as long as they should be,” I suggest to nodding seat mates after we’ve all tired of clapping and most of us have stopped. I think it’s great to show appreciation, but if I were directing a curtain call I’d have the company do a respectable once-over and leave the stage with the thunder at it’s full force and before the audience has become worn-out by the effort. Instead they wait for it to trickle, as if they must be standing before us since we’re still clapping. Then we feel like we must keep clapping because they are still standing before us. “Thank you SO SO VERY much,” we seem to be clapping, as if we had not paid hundreds of dollars for our tickets.

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Standing in front of the Metropolitan Opera House at the Lincoln Centre, Manhattan, NYC.

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Gorgeous chandeliers in the lobby.

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Gorgeous chandeliers in the auditorium.

Click the link below to see more images of the chandeliers:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=metropolitan+opera+chandeliers&client=safari&hl=en&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=emuzUpikKqHIsAT41oL4Dw&ved=0CFwQ7Ak&biw=1024&bih=672#facrc=_&imgrc=lwvz7LK3axG8QM%3A%3BKaFFE8jvKuePuM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fm6.i.pbase.com%252Fg4%252F65%252F615665%252F2%252F60101906.ChandelieratMetropolitanOper.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.pbase.com%252Fimage%252F60101906%3B800%3B533

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The Largest Medieval Cathedral of Northern Europe, York Minster

This posting is out of sync with my travels. I have placed it earlier than it should have been to increase the variety of my later postings. Roslyn Chapel, near Edinburgh, has been moved from this date to August 16th.

I sit in seat PP1 in the incredible structure of York Minster waiting for a performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem to be performed by York University Choir and Symphony Orchestra. I feel very lucky to have gotten a ticket only last night. They had been sold out online when first I checked yesterday, then they weren’t later. I didn’t notice it had been two different suppliers, the box office for York Minster was sold out but York University had a few left.

I am a sucker for overly-dramatic classical works sung in languages I can’t understand. Last week I was entranced by Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and this week it’s Verdi’s Requiem. I do prefer Pergolesi, but they both have incredible pangs of desperation in their music. Music cannot be written to be any more dramatic than these. If I understood the words it would take away from my experience entirely. Performed well, the passion and anguish and fever of the music itself conveys more emotion than words could ever do. I have never been one for words anyway. Even sung in English, my mother tongue, I usually miss them. This lent well to my own singing when I was easily passionate singing in German or Italian by just learning pronunciations. I had no idea what the words meant, but I felt their meaning from the composition. A “lyric Baritone” my classical voice coach called me when I was 16 years of age. I hum as I go about my day probably everyday, but I’ve not sang since I lived in Edinburgh 1997/1998.

According to my tour guide yesterday, York Minster is one of two Cathedrals in the world to have it’s own official police force. The other is the Vatican. This is also the largest medieval Cathedral in all of Northern Europe. This is one of the most impressive Gothic buildings in the world having been built between 1220 and 1440. This long span of construction meant that the structure has captured the various stages of Gothic architecture as it changed and developed over the years. There were other churches on this site from much earlier times as well.

I am so pleased to be visiting this venue for a dramatic musical performance, I can’t tell you how much so. I stop my writing when I am joined by a lovely Cheshire woman who arrives with her load of shopping. Looks like she has enjoyed some of the nearby boutiques, none of her bags have the large advertisements of chain shops. Turns out Ann spent 12 years living in my city of Toronto and the two of us catch like a house on fire. She sung a season with this choir but, “They were too good for me. Most of them are music students at the university and I couldn’t keep-up with the progress they made. They could learn the music so quickly.” She did enjoy singing in a village choir at some point, but here she is much happier to enjoy the performance from this side.

The concert is impressive, perhaps 300 voices and a large orchestra. With the reverberation some of the music is obscured into great mountains of thunder, but that’s not far off from Verdi’s intention anyway. There is a bit when the strings fight with the timpani drums that is somewhat lost because of how the sound blends in together. The dramatic stops and starts don’t stop and start because the echoes completely fill the spaces. It was a wonderful concert though and it was the kind of night when I couldn’t help but think, “I can’t believe this is my life.” In a good way, of course.

Click below to see the thunderous part I was referring to above:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1woIv05rl1s

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I had to stand quite far away to capture most of the front of York Minster in my viewfinder.
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Excited to be attending a performance of Verdi in the York Minster!
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Inside the main area of this massive Cathedral keying in this entry as I wait until my amicable seatmate arrived to share some conversation.
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I couldn’t see the symphony but I could certainly hear them! The choir, on tiers, was fun to watch.

Earlier today I walked along parts of York’s city walls and wandered around the city.

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A little cutaway at a gate of the city’s walls.
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Clever sign, how did you know? (But what it didn’t know was that I needed it from Betty’s. Sorry sign.)

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I climbed up this gate, on Micklegate, to walk along the walls. But there are numerous entry points.

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Visitors have been walking along these walls since trains first introduced mass tourism to York in the 1830s. Locals, of course, have been walking along them throughout the ages.

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Notice the addition of railings so that visitors don’t fall to their death. Very clever.

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There are lovely views from the city walls too, and lots of nice garden areas.

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This large ferris wheel is only here temporarily. It stands very near to the train station.
The main tracks at the station stand on mass graves from a cholera outbreak. That was a while back though.

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This is when I passed this hotel and was able to correct a detail in my previous York posting.

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Lovely metalwork on this bridge I’m about to cross, it stands linking the city walls.

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Here it is closer where you can see the details of the city walls and tower-like structures on both sides.

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Looking up the Ouse river from the bridge. If people along the River Tyne are Tynesiders, I would suggest these people could be called Ousies. What do you think, people of York? Good idea?

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Interior view of Lendal Bridge.

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I just thought this was fun, a 500-year lease for one peppercorn per year!

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Most of the city walls we walk on are Victorian rebuilds. I will show in another posting a bit of original Roman remains.

There’s lots more to come about the wonderful city of York, a city stepped in rich heritage, history, and medieval architecture. My next posting will come along in 4 days. Don’t miss it, follow me today!

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