Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Burgo de Osma Cathedral


I had the pleasure of singing with Umbrian Serenades for the 7th time this past summer, which was based in Soria, Spain for the first time. Located bout 2 hours north of Madrid, Soria is much cooler in the summer than Madrid, with temperatures going down in the 60's—enough so that you need a light jacket or a sweater. While there, we sang in three different towns—all with ancient 12th-century performing spaces. We also visited Burgo de Osma, both the town and the cathedral, where I snapped a few photos. The interior being quite dark (iPhones can't do everything), you won't see any of that grand interior here, but I was able to capture the cloister, as well as an 18th-century neoclassical addition. 


The neoclassical addition is where the clergy suit up before Mass, with several tall mirrors hanging above handsome wardrobes, allowing everyone to check their appearance. Since I've been working on creating my own large ebonized mirror, these caught my eye. If only I could have the glass be this beautifully old! 


The side door, which is used during the day—the great front door being closed except for high feast days. 


A view of the ceiling in the neoclassical addition, which is also where marriage and baptismal documents are signed. The room itself has a very large marble table that is about 10 feet long. Massive. 


A view of the cloister which is—if I am not mistaken—16-century. Like many amazing churches, Burgo de Osma was created over many centuries. 


Exterior view of the front of the building, just before we were leaving to return to Soria and a fabulous dinner—a good friend appearing in the foreground.

If you are a choral artist and have a hankering for an off-the-beaten-path singing vacation, I whole-heartedly recommend Umbrian Serenades: The cultural-musical experience is at a very high level. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Making It Work


I've made peace with the clash of colors that my mother's 1930's Persian presents. There is perfection, and then there is life—and they aren't the same thing at all. When you love something, you make it work. Though I will say this: I had a moment today when I wanted to clear all the soft furniture away, and bring in one of those modern black leather Mies van de Rohe chaises. Simple, elegant, part psychotherapist office, part voice studio—which amounts to the same thing. But nothing is going anywhere for now. And in two weeks, everything will move for Thanksgiving, when I will open the dining table to seat 8 or more. Sometimes you have to mix it up.


Then there is the table behind the sofa that was bought as a desk, but never really used as one. That changed recently—so, now I have a dedicated space to write. The table has two leaves which I have in storage at present, their presence not being needed even if it makes the surface a bit narrower—which I don't mind a bit. The runner on top came from a friend who told me that it came from the Paris flea market—and once graced a church altar. The pipes in the pencil holder? They belonged to my father, though I should note he never smoked. Rather, he loved wood, and collected them for their craftsmanship. The watch was his too—English c. 1900 that I wear occasionally. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

My Mother's 1930's Persian




I had it down for awhile after it came to me when my mother down-sized, then sent it to the cleaners, keeping it wrapped up for almost a year before unfurling it a few weeks ago. It was jarring the first time around. Now? I moved two other carpets into the area (which you can't see, unfortunately) and somehow more is more—my eye doesn't mind all the pattern. This makes for 4 carpets in the living room—6 if you count the two on the chair. Very English Country House Style—Victorian even—the kind of thing that transpires over a number of years, which certainly is the case here.

The carpet is Iranian, or so the cleaner (who knows a thing or two) told me—dating from the 1930's. It sat underneath my parent's dining room table for a good 30 years after being acquired by my mother at an auction in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. It's bold for the room, that's for sure, and clashes with the other colors to some extent. But I careth not. Not at the moment anyway, even if my brain is plotting a brass and glass coffee-table—if only to see the carpet even more.

Oh, Happy 4th! My fireworks are on the floor. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

A Little Lincoln Center

Reflection at a Lincon Center eatery

Hallway in the NYPL

Calder sculpture on the Plaza

Met Opera as seen from 65th Street 

A little Lincoln Center snapped over a couple of weeks in May, the lovely green of the trees appearing next to the Met Opera. I sang 11 productions there from 2003-2008. Busy. Was a lot of fun, though I am happy to have my opera chorus days behind me. 

I walk past the Met more than a few times during the week on my way to the New York Public Library, which is to the immediate right in the photo above. You can find me there at the 3rd floor Research Division, the bright screen of a laptop lighting my face.  

Books don't write themselves. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It's Spring


I can tell that it's spring if only because there is more light streaming through our north facing living room window, though—truth to tell—it's still a dark apartment. The greatest light enters the room around 3 pm. Reflected light, it bounces off the windows from a 10 story building across the courtyard. 


Lights on from the get-go in the morning; when I started thinking about the color of light years ago, I was influenced by my work in the theatre, where lighting can either make or break a set. For this room, I chose warm golden light which counters the cool blue light of New York City. This lamp shade was found at Just Shades in Manhattan and has a classic 1920's design, while the lamp itself is a converted Victorian oil lamp that I found at the lamented Chelsea Flea Market. Comprised of several huge lots, tall apartment buildings now occupy what used to be antique heaven. 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

My (tiny) Kitchen


My tiny New York kitchen has undergone a metamorphosis from its original state. The white twenty-inch stove is about 12 years old and the wrong color for the cabinets and counter that were added later. Stainless steel or black would be better since white stops the eye, right? (Funny how the difference in color doubles the price.) But replacing it wasn't a priority when weighed against plane tickets to Italy & Paris. Now that I've prepared countless dinners, the color doesn't bother me like it used too. Stockholm syndrome? This also includes the hood, which doesn't line up with the counter below. But ah! I'm not smacking my head on the cabinet when I stir the pot!

What was here before? Non-descript metal cabinets put in during the 30's that only went half-way up the wall along with a vent high on the wall on the opposite side of the stove. Smart, huh? The big change was tearing out the cabinets and wall, then installing much taller cabinets with an extractor fan over the stove. 

As written in a previous post, the butcher block counter was found on the street and cut by a colleague at the opera (I sang with New York City Opera for more than two decades), while the enamel cast iron Kohler sink  (which can fit a roasting pan for big birds) was found on Long Island and lugged back on the train.

The cabinets are Ikea and were heavily damaged about a year after being installed. You can't tell because the doors look fine. But look inside and you'll see water damage caused by a leak from the apartment above; a fine mist of spray from a turn-off valve that was only discovered after several weeks soaked them completely. Of course, Ikea discontinued this line of product, the newers model being much deeper—which doesn't work. But things have a way of coming round again. That's my hope anyway.

The counter top finish will be renewed this summer when I can open the windows overnight. Made out of beetles wings and a toxic chemical, I only have to sand the counter instead of stripping it completely if it was plastic. 

What else? 1960's salt and pepper shakers from the flea market sit on a Gothic telephone stand that I found long ago at the huge once-upon-a-time flea market in Chelsea. Originally purposed to hold a cookbook, its current use is a lot more practical. The mirror back-splash came from a closet door in the bedroom and fit perfectly. All I had to do is mastic it to the wall and order another sliver of mirror.  Both get cleaned every day. But it's worth it—the mirror makes the space feel much bigger. 

The refrigerator is hiding to the left of the sink below the counter. This space itself used to be the passage between the parlor and the dining room. When I replaced the concrete floor with wood I could see the footprint of the original pocket doors which mirrored the window in the living room. The whole things sags somewhat, but then, the building is more than a hundred years ago. Built in 1895 along with the building right next to it, both were constructed for one family and reportedly accessible to each other through our apartment. 

What you can't see is the kitchen dresser sitting along a far-right wall that has a cabinet above it full of tea-things. Hence the tea kettle on the stove boiling water which has its share of dings. Everything does not have to be perfect. Just loved.

The tea was Vanilla Rooibus for Husband and Darjeeling for me. I needed the kick. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Carole Stupell Lamp


I was with my father when he bought this lamp at the Golden Nugget Flea Market in Lambertville, New Jersey, years ago. It sat in the back of a shop that was no bigger than 10 feet square with a mish-mash of things around it. My father was attracted to the crystals—not the lamp in and of itself. And he was horrified because someone had painted them blue! He just could not stand for that in his mind. So he talked the owner out of it for a song. Having always admired it, the lamp found its way to me after my father's death three years ago—having been cleaned of its blue glaze, which, my father told me, took some doing.  

Low and behold,  Husband did some research on crystal lamps and discovered it was a Carole Stupell original—Stupell having opened a store in New York City in 1929. The lamp is being stored at the moment since it doesn't exactly fit with the apartment's current scheme. Though it probably needs a modern apartment, I have thoughts of casting off the current sofa, ottoman and chairs and placing  a long low modern couch in front of the fireplace—which is never used—with the lamp at one end—like it is here against the bookcase. Nuts perhaps, but there you have it.  

Speaking of change, I made the huge mistake of trying one of Blogger's new templates thinking it would look good. Boy, was I wrong! It took me quite a while to put things back together again. I suppose it would have worked if I would be fine with not having a photo for a "header," but it just looked awful no matter how I tried to make it work. The spacings for the "gadgets" were really bad too. Just. Not. Worth. It. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Met Man




Anna Moffo, La Traviata, Giuseppi Verdi 

Leontyne Price, Antony and Cleopatra, Samuel Barber 




Two nights in a row, I went to the Met. The first night I saw (funny that we don't say heard) Werther and then Idomeneo—which was Mozart's first opera. The first night I sat in the orchestra and then in the front row balcony on the second night. Guess where the better sound was? Upstairs near the ceiling. No surprise there. Guess which show was more dramatic? Werther. And I had to smile: for all the money spent, the dramatic high point was a simple light cue that revealed blood on the wall. Lots of it. Unseen until the stage manager did her/his thing. 

Interesting to be sitting in the house and not performing onstage as I did for five years running—a very different perspective. You see and hear things differently. God, I thought—not for the first time: "I should be a director. Why the hell is he having the tenor circle around that table during his big moment? It's distracting." 

Levine conducted the Mozart and I wasn't paying much attention to what he was doing at first—and didn't even know he was in the pit—I must confess—until I heard the record skip several times. Looking down—I saw, yeah, that's him—and realized that the orchestra was having a bit of a problem following him. However, they seemed to get their act together as the night wore on. The singers did not seem to not have much of a problem. They went. He followed.

The tenor Matthew Polezani sang like a god, and a young soprano by the name of Nadine Sierra (she's 28) made quite an impression. Gorgeous voice. 

I came home happy to having gotten out of the news cycle. 

Musicke for while let all our hearts beguile.


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Yoga Man


Now that I am racing towards 60 (time does seem to quicken as one gets older), I look back on these photos taken when I was 50-51 with admiration for what I accomplished within 7 months: I got really, really, fit. More fit that I had ever been in my entire life. What was I doing? Going to yoga class twice a week, not drinking a drop of alcohol (my, but it slows down the metabolism), and taking a nifty drug called Klonopin—a benzodiazepine originally used to treat seizures in epileptics then found to help those with tinnitus. My own onset came suddenly when I was 49 when I woke in the middle of the night to the sound of bells crashing and banging, and the roar of a jet engine. 

"Sometimes, drugs are the only game in town!" is how my doc put it when I went to see him about 6 months after my onset, suicidal with a lack of sleep. But don't you know: the drug saved my life by providing me with a window of recovery, which I began by going to class.

I've stayed fit by continuing a yoga practice, and have also taken up rowing, which I do about 5 times a week for 30 minutes at a stretch. 

I've also learned to live with tinnitus. For that, I had to change my brain, a process that I wrote about on my blog VoiceTalk.

I am proud of that guy. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tea & William Morris


With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on. 
—As quoted in William Morris & Red House (2005) by Jan Marsh, p. 65.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

At Home


The title recalls the term Victorians used for a concert at one's residence, though a performance wasn't involved here. The room is a working studio, where I teach the fine art of singing. It's also a living room. 


This Sunday evening, there was no watching of football. Rather, we streamed an episode of Poirot while having dinner, which consisted of a salad with chicken provencal—a recipe right out of the NYTimes. That and a lovely bottle of Bordeaux did nicely. 

The ebony handled serving pieces are mismatched, and were sourced from Ebay, while the Gothic candlestick (minus the crystals which my father gave me) was found bent and battered at the now defunct Antique Garage on 25th Street. They ripped the building down unfortunately—the only remaining remnant of a once thriving flea market. I hear that there is one over near the Lincoln Tunnel, but haven't ventured to it since my mind is on other things—and the frames I acquired before the garaged closed have yet to be hung. Speaking of which: I am actively working on a huge mirror for the mantel. Long time coming, I hope to have it up soon.