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Report 331: Two Days in the Rain, an Opera Adventure in New York

By Dean from Maryland, Summer 2003

Trip Description: Seeing Turandot in the pouring rain with 20 other opera loonies.

Destinations: Countries - North America; Regions/Cities - New York City

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Opera; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

Page 1 of 1: Singing in the rain!

Last weekend I took a quick trip to Ney York City to catch an opera featuring my favorite tenor, Carl Tanner. It was quite an adventure!

The train trip up left me wondering how good an idea it was to come to an outdoor opera that particular day. Riding thru northern New Jersey, the puddles on the ground were huge and the sky threatening. But I had already paid for the room and I was all in for some excitement.

I stayed at the Washington Square Hotel. I will review it later but it is in a great location and not too bad on price. The rooms are small and the staff none to friendly but I will stay there again. Lunch was at North Square, the restaurant in the hotel. Great oysters, super handmade pasta with assorted spring vegetables and a little feta all accompanied by two nice glasses of wine all for under $40.00 in NYC! Not bad. I wandered the day in the area till it was time to head off to the opera on Staten Island. I took the ferry and enjoyed the view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty through the fog. I was hoping that as it grew dark, we did not get rain! I hopped on the 76 bus and got into a conversation with the protypically New York driver (albeit with a long pony tail) and he told me about his favorite and not so favorite passengers as they got on! As we drove, I began to notice the rain. Lots of it! Not good for an outdoor opera!

We got to the park and it was just drizzling. I walked around and asked several people who all said that the show was still on. I went to a local bar for some shelter. At 7:40 some other idiots.... I mean other fellow hearty souls..... showed up and by 7:50 there were at least 25 or 30 of us waiting. I saw Carl step out and look over the crowd and the rain, and waved at him. He called me over and we spoke for a few minutes. When we were done, some folk I had been standing next to said "Do you know Carl?" Turns out it was his partner and several of their friends. They offered me use of their plastic picnic tablecloth as a seat and their tarp to keep my head dry.

8:05 and the official start time of an 8pm opera. The head of the program came out and said they were going to get in as much of the convcert as possible (it was a concert opera... no scenes but full chorus and orchestra). I checked the rain situation jsut as the music started and it had stopped raining!

As the singers stepped up to the mike, you could see the steam come out of their mouths. How they sang I don't know! But sing they did. Carl has two big pieces in the first act... "Mio Padre" and "Non Piangi Liu". His voice was rough on Mio Padre but on Non Piangi he brought the crowd to a stunned silence. One of Carl's friends who is a opera novice turned to me and asked if this was as good as it seemed to her. I have heard a lot of Turandot and this was the best singing I have ever heard on that particular aria. The Soprano, Hei Kyung Hong, was simply superb in Liu. Hearing her and Carl was unbelievable and made all the rain worthwhile. The dramitic finale of the first act has everyone singing all at once. It was pretty amazing to see 200 or so highly professional singers and musicians playing to the by now 30 to 50 of us. Act one ended and we did not know if Act 2 would happen.

The rain returned in the second act and grew steadily worse. Particualrly good were Audrey Stotler (Turandot) and Kim Josephson (Ping Pang or Pong... I forget who's who). Audrey sings is a very open and sweet style. Her Turandot is a young girl (probably about 13 to 15 sho just happens to like cutting off the heads of her suitors. She has none of the shrillness that many a singer brings to the role. So in the end, when she falls in love, it has a totally different resonance. Kim Josephson as the head Mandarin was as slimy as you could want. His singing was infectous. Never has such a lothesome and caniving figure been so loveable!

After the second act, everyone was expecting the concert to end, before Carl could sing his big piece, "Nessun Dorma". But the thrid act started and Carl, clearly surprised, came out to sing what is probably the most famous aria in the tenor rep in opera. He was trying to pump himself up, tugging on his tux shirt and rubbing his hands. And then he sang. The 55 or so of us in the audience got to hear the most stunning Nessun Dorma I have ever heard. And the mike on Carl was out or on very low so it was all natural. Now its one thing to hear it in an opera house with perfect acoustics, but here was the aria sung outdoors in a driving rain. Even Pavarotti in his 1972 performance with Sutherland didn't sound as good as Carl did that night! The concert endedd early, just as the final duet started. Carl kisses Turandot after Liu's death, melting her heart and winning the right no marry her. Carl gave Audrey a huge, comical kiss and right then it was obvious that the rain was now dropping in thru the roof on Audrey and the instruments in the orchestra. Carl sang on even as the orchestra members were starting to scramble off stage.

It was pouring and, when I went back stage to say hi to Carl, I was releived to be told I was riding home in a limo care of the Metropolitan Opera. "Remember, if anyone asks, you're my cousin" was all Carl said as I got into a limo with Audrey Stotler and Kim Josephson and his daughter. It was wonderful getting to talk opera with these two stars.

Once home, I went to a late dinner at Babbo and had some very rich and oily food. That's my compalint about Babbo, all grease. Great grease, but too much! I had a lambs tongue salad followed by octopus and a pasta with soft shell crabs. The wines were wonderful and I chatted alternatively with the bartender and another customer.

The next day I wandered the Union Square Farmer's market. There were artisan cheese makers, tons of wonderful vege stands... I was in heaven except I really coouldn't buy anything. I walked to the village and took in lunch at 'ino having several wonderful bruschetta and glasses of wine. This is my favorite hangout in all of New York. Lunbch with two excellent glasses was all of $34.00 and better than Babbo at twice that the night before.

I then walked down the Hudson River park to South Ferry and back. I was going to go uptown and take in the Frick, but a thunderstorm put an end to that idea. I went back to the hotel, changed in the lobby bathroom into dry clothes and headed off to the train. When I got to Penn station it was sunny out so I said to heck with it and went to Esca. What I love about Esca is that the menu is full of small dishes so you can order a lot of flavors and not go over the top too far. I was seated on the patio and ordered some raw fish (pink snapper with red salt), grilled octopus and an assortment of marinated fish (sardine, anchovy and spanish mackeral) followed by a whole wheat pasta with sardines. I was in heaven. I drank well, a Teroldego blend from Alto Adige and a Alto Adige white. The bill was a lot but worth it. I slept on the train back

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