I recently spent a few days in New York combining business with pleasure. On the business side I attended a meeting at the League of American Orchestras (formerly known as the American Symphony Orchestra League) with colleagues from across the country to discuss issues related to our field. I also spent the better part of three days meeting with artist managers to get caught up on artist happenings and discuss upcoming projects for the Grant Park Music Festival. These meetings are important because direct face to face contact always makes doing business so much easier the next time one finds himself haggling about fees over the phone or email.
Over the weekend I caught the New York City Opera’s production of Samuel Barber’s rarely performed opera Vanessa. I’ve heard the opera on disc and of course know the famous arias well, but never have heard it live, so I jumped at the chance. The New York State Theater isn’t the best acoustic, but my friend and I had decent seats on the second balcony and enjoyed the performance. The real stand out vocally was mezzo soprano Katharine Goeldner as Vanessa’s young niece Erika. Very cool was the fact that the original Erika from the 1958 premiere, Rosalind Elias, was in the current cast, this time as the old Baroness. The conducting and orchestral playing left a lot to be desired, a fact I found ironic as across the plaza performs one of the great orchestras of the world under one of our most famous conductors – the Met Orchestra and James Levine.
My friends dragged me to Christie’s at Rockefeller Center in advance of a contemporary art auction to check out the sale items - sale items that go for $40-60,000,000, that is. It was a surreal experience, seeing the high rollers being themselves - so fabulous and oh so chic - while checking out the Rothkos. A few days later the Times headline reviewing the auction read, “One Million Dollars is the New 10 Grand.” I couldn’t fake being in that league in my Old Navy sweater and jeans, but hey, it was a fun diversion nonetheless.
We left there for a more pointillistic experience at MOMA to see the Georges Seurat exhibit. Known to many as the creator of one of the Art Institute of Chicago's great treasures, La Grande Jatte, this exhibition focused on the master’s more intimate drawings on hand made paper. It’s on through the beginning of January and a must see if you’re in the neighborhood.
One of the trip highlights was dinner at Miriam’s in Brooklyn with my dear friend and former Chicago of Department of Cultural Affairs colleague Peter McDowell, who is now director of programs at Opera America. I miss Peter but am thrilled for him as he now holds an important position in New York helping to promote opera for all Americans.