Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tea with Tiffany

The antique Tiffany plates found their way to table this Christmas, since that is when I tend to use them. Featuring a Persian pattern that I have not been able to find anywhere, I purchased the four that I have for 25 bucks at an antique mall in Saratoga Springs in 1997—the last year that New York City Opera was in residence there during the summer.

They're worn—and I love them.  

They made their appearance a few days ago for dinner, then one was called into service for afternoon tea, a delicious confection of almonds and chocolate from Pain d'Epics being centered for two. Rich in design as well as taste, a lovely earl grey from Palais des These was the perfect compliment. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Reading Michael S. Smith

I am reading Michael S. Smith's The Curated House: Creating Style, Beauty and Balance (Rizzoli) and wonder to myself: When did the word curated enter the lexicon of accepted terms to describe an interior? It's rather like writing about the composered symphony or authored book.

Smith's other books occupy my shelves, and his current tome was received as a Christmas present. I've sat with it twice now in a chair opposite the sofa you see, which, btw, was sourced from the street—which either makes me resourceful or stupid. I'd like to think the former. 

But back to Smith's book. 

Something about it bothers me, and it bothers me that it bothers me since I rather like his other books. 

What bothers me? The masses of furniture in many of the rooms which want an editor. Masses of furniture which are corporate in feeling.  

If he was a musician, I would tell him to savor the silence in music and go back to singing with his own voice. 

That said, I really enjoy his dark masculine environments like the Spanish Old World Meets New house on page 183-193, excepting of course, the two chairs that trumpet their backs high above the other soft furniture in the living room. Why does he break beauty in this way?

Making the viewer look at objects—they call it stealing focus in the theater—does not allow for the delight of discovery.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Green & Gold Christmas

Twenty-five bucks. That's what I spent on garland and greenery this year. I cut the garland in two, joined the pieces in symmetrical fashion, then hung the joined parts up with wire and existing screws. Eight green ornaments I had bought last year after Christmas found their place, along with gilt pinecones and green ribbon which were in storage in the basement (a precious resource in a Manhattan apartment). The whole affair must have taken me less than twenty minutes from start to end. No glam or riot of color. Just green and gold. 

Yes, those are jingle bells on the mantel. I had bought a lamp base at the flea market about five years ago, and the vendor threw them in when I remarked that I liked them. Lucky me! My father had a long set that hung behind a door during the holidays, so you might say my modest circlet is an homage to him. 

All the other ornaments I have used in past years—pink, purple and an assorted miss-mash—are having a nice rest. You know how it is: you put things away, then take them out a year or two later and discover them anew. There is no tree this year, unlike last year when I put up a tabletop affair. It was lovely, but hey—the apartment is not as big as my ambition. However, there is greenery over picture frames and the armoire, so we're covered—literally. 

Sorry I can't give you the fragrance of the pine. It's really quite wonderful: soft, bracing and energizing. 

While I was putting everything up in the early afternoon (note the time on my mother's Seth Thomas clock), I realized Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue was having Evensong at 4 pm, so jumped on a Citibike and arrived with time to spare. 

Lovely service. Good music. Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Metropolitan Museum of Art

A November day at the Met. New iPhone 6. Snap, snap, snapping away, getting used to the size, weight and feel of the thing. By this point, a day of pain in my right hand telegraphed I could no longer hold the bigger 6 like the smaller 4. No sir. This boy is a two-handed affair. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

O Magnum Mysterium — Morten Lauridsen

Don't ask me about gods and angels. I have no idea whatsoever about them. Sure, I've had my interesting experiences sitting on a cushion—I won't deny that. But I'd rather not form any kind of dogma about those experiences, and am quite happy to let them exist in the free-fall of I don't know. That seems sane since those who claim to know everything have a knack for getting humanity into trouble. 

However, I do believe in Musicke, and have been lucky to sing some incredible compositions, O Magnum Mysterium being one of them—most recently with Umbrian Serenades. While it utilizes an ancient Christmas-tide text which exults in virgin birth, I don't let myself get hung up on that. Instead, like the Buddhists who advise those who seek enlightenment to not mistake the finger that points to the moon for the moon itself, I see and experience Morten Lauridsen's music as pointing towards that which is Real if only because—at least to me anyway—it is beauty incarnate.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wither Toby Worthington?

Now that I am swimming in these waters again after taking a hiatus from blogging (I actually deleted this blog for a space of 5 months), I found myself going through previously written posts and thinking: Whither Toby Worthington?

I have the memory of Toby making an exit from commenting and posting (though he does have a visual presence on blogger), and now can't find him anywhere. Ardent researcher that I am, I did find an obit for a Toby Worthington who was born in 1970 and died on December 31, 2014. Is that him, or someone else? 

While we never met, I would hear from him in comments as well as the occasional email (my old computer crashed and burned so it not helpful regarding contact info), usually chiding me for not posting more often since we had similar interests. What a talented man! 

Life is a dance. We like to think it will go on forever, twirling and swirling, and perhaps it does on some level, though not in the same form. I think of that now and then, the idea being that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

Wherever you are Toby, you are in my thoughts. 

Photo Credit: iPhone 6 captured a Venetian mask over a handmade shade and amber finial sourced from eBay. The antique mirror is from Housing Works, while the gilt frame is circa 1860's. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Flirting with Green

December 2003. The year I painted two walls a grayish-green (you can see paint chips tucked into the smaller mirror on the mantel), and thought better of it since the room, with only one large window, felt cave-like during the day.  So I painted the walls back to their former cameo white. The room is still cameo white, which has a hint of yellow in it: though I kinda miss where I was going, the idea being a dark room, which faces north and doesn't get a lot of light, can look great even darker. 

Blue once suggested that I try a dark teal or green. Nothing would be spared. Only the ceiling with its coffered beams would remain white. Very English gentleman's library circa 1880, which would be fitting since the building was constructed in 1885-6. Now that the room has more lighting from those same coffered beams, it could be pulled off, right? That's what I tell myself anyway. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

School Bag

Strange to say, but I'd forgotten how much I loved this bag, which I recently began using again after another bag—which I had been using for my laptop—gave up the ghost. This bag is essential patterned after a school book bag, and was a Christmas present from Mr. Husband about 12 years ago. It's been to London and Italy, and was my constant companion when I was singing at New York City Opera. But after the company imploded in 2011, the bag found itself parked in the closet. Now it is going everywhere with me again. 

Leather isn't light, that much I can tell you. But somehow, the bag has ceased to be heavy. I suppose one could posit that my change in perception has much to do with the ability to enfold life's events—and that wouldn't be inaccurate. Bag as talisman, connecting past and present, it's been banged up quite a bit, which, to some people would mean that it should be replaced. But that's not going to happen. I rather like its character.

I remember when I first tried it on, and found it a bit uncomfortable. And that was because the straps were sewn on vertically and cut into the shoulder. So the shop in the West Village (Joseph Hanna) had them adjusted on an angle, which made a huge difference, one which is still in evidence in bags being sold today. 

Not forgotten is getting out of the tube in London and having two young ladies run up and ask excitedly: "What did you get your bag?" 

"In New York City!" I replied with a big grin on my face. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Not Ready for Christmas

Not, not ready for Christmas. Not by a long shot. The pumpkin on the mantel is still there (this photo was taken last week), while its mate (both making their appearance on the Thanksgiving table) was turned into stew—and boy, was that good. 

Perhaps I will throw some garland up eventually, but I'm not holding my breath, since, for the first time in a long time (that might be ever), I am thinking of other things: projects, life and everything else. 

For the curious among you, the vessel with dried hydrangeas is actually a Victorian oil lamp base that I acquired years ago. I liked the color and pattern which is perfect for fall, and which Gotham seems encased in right now.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Autumn in Central Park

Central Park during the first week of December, still in the throes of long-lasting autumn, the ground having yet to freeze. Beautiful, golden and glorious. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The State Theater

Actually, the State Theater at Lincoln Center has a very different name now (which you can find by googling), but you won't hear it from me. Having worked in the building with a long-lived opera company before it was killed by bad management (and with the help of the guy who's name is now engraved on it: find the tale here), I can't see myself calling it by its assigned letters. 

Be that as it may, I have occasion to pass by Philip Johnson's jewel box frequently, and snapped these photos with my new iPhone 6, which, I have to say, is quite the improvement over the old 4.

I remember the good things.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving, or the Resurrection of the Dead

I moved the furniture, opened the table to its three-leaves-length for a comfortable eight, made a really wonderful dinner, and found myself wanting to post these photos on this blog which was taken down in June. Good or bad idea? I really can't say, since it's not like I don't have quite a bit on my plate right now. 

Right now, all I know is that things are the way they are because they are the way they are, and I am in no way ready for the Christmas season. The pumpkins are staying put.

The table? Minton mixes with old Lenox, tulips, bubble paperweights, and a claw foot objet that my father created. He also acquired the Windsor chairs that flank the table—one of which is from my mother's family farm which he repaired with an ingenious cleat. So, you see, everyone was present in one way or another. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marriage Equality

Even though it was greatly expected, the SCOTUS decision on Friday morning—which extended marriage equality for lesbians and gays to every state in the union, came a shock to this blogger if only because, being in my middle 50's, I never thought to see the like in my lifetime. 

Word came as I was listening to WQXR, the announcer reading off the news from the AP, the word taking another 5 minutes to appear on social media, which then quickly spread via the internet. In a heart beat, Facebook was allowing everyone to overlay a rainbow patter over profile photos, the result being that everyone—gay and straight—participated in a massive chorus of jubilation. I'd never seen the like of that either. And when I read Justice Kennedy's poetic writ—I cried.

What an amazing 36 hours. I feel blessed to be alive to see the expansion of civil rights, and quite simply, watch love win. 

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. —Justice Anthony Kennedy 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sir John Soane's Private Apartment

I caught it online today, that is, a blog post at the NYTimes about the opening of private apartment of Sir John Soane in London for the first time in 160 years. Located on the second floor of the museum, Sir Soane's rooms can be viewed by appointment. You know you want to go. 

Photo Credit: Gareth Garner, New York Times Style Magazine 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Morning Light

The sun comes up over the buildings around 10 am and splashes on the back wall, reflecting light to an otherwise dark apartment with nary a view. No matter. Central Park is only steps away. 

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Wilde Weekend

I was in Philadelphia for a good 36 hours, speaking at a colloquium at the University of Pennsylvania, and then meeting a great friend for brunch the next morning—whereafter I went to the Rosenbach Museum to see an exhibition on Oscar Wilde which features documents that have been out of the pubic eye for many years. 

Of particular note is a painting of Walt Whitman which was created during the great poet's lifetime. Oscar and Walt (he wrote to him as Walt) met twice—their meeting having a lasting influence on the younger man. 

Philadelphians may not know what is tucked away on a side street near Rittenhouse Square, this being a house with an incredible collection of rare books which is accessible to the public. I saw original copies of "Alice in Wonderful," as well as Herman Melville's original draft of "The Whale," which was later retitled "Moby Dick," as well as original manuscripts by Cervantes. Extraordinary  when you think about it. 

The photo above is of a playing card which was produced after Wilde had given his lectures in Philadelphia—which were much anticipated, the first one rather dull if only because Wilde took an academic turn around the block which rather flummoxed his listeners who were expecting theatrics. Fortunately, Wilde realized his mistake and changed his presentation by unleashing the witty man we remember him to be.

Information about the museum, where two brothers lived together all their lives.

The famous photo of Wilde which was taken in New York. An original copy.

A house along the way which said "Take my Picture."

A side street which was glorious in the Spring light. And it was Spring too—the first really warm day, with everyone out in shorts and sunglasses, riding bikes and walking about town. Having walked quite a bit about town, I stopped a stones-throw away from this picture and had a very good cappuccino, before making my way back to the train station and Manhattan. A wonderful 36 hours. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Calder Man

Standing with my back to the entrance to the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, I snap this photo on my ancient iPhone 4 before settling down to a lovely afternoon of research and writing. I'm giving a presentation at a University next week and have to get all my ducks in a row. It's a pleasure to walk past Calder, the Metropolitan Opera and soon be re-named Geffen Hall. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015


I sang, sang, sang a bunch of services during Holy Week, then ended the last Easter service with a walk home across Central Park, but not before stopping in the Met Museum and snapping a photo of Spring flowers on display in huge vases in the central hall. A beautiful afternoon followed with brunch at La Boîte en Bois, which was as comforting as it was comfortable. Please tell me that Spring is finally here: I am so ready for warmth and light! 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Spring in Central Park

The croci were in bloom as I walked through Central Park on Good Friday. I'd never seen this kind before, beautiful and elegant in their coloration and form, which brought snapdragons to mind. The sun has changed too, which is now higher in the sky and more golden, reminding me that two precious weeks with Umbrian Serenades await me in Italy this summer! 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Table & Three Chairs

A corner of the living room from five years ago, if not more, which I found on an old external hard drive and don't remember snapping. The Biedermeier chair is now in storage awaiting restoration, while the partially seen orange throne chair now graces the offices of a friend at City Ballet. The balloon back chair is also in storage, having come apart at the seams, as old chairs often do. The lamp shade has a new base, while the table remains as does the flat screen TV which streams this & that from a laptop. The built-in bookcase and arches were constructed in the 1930's when the building was converted from a single family home into apartments. All very simple when you think about it. 

Yes, that's the entryway that you see on the right. Unusual for a New York apartment, it also provides a grand entrance. Not bad for a little apartment with high ceilings, good bones, and two boys who count themselves very lucky. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sinatra: An American Icon

If you are in Gotham anytime between now and September, I encourage you to see a wonderful exhibition on Frank Sinatra at the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center, where you can find me working away. I snapped this photo on the second floor, which looks out onto the main plaza, the exhibition proper being on the first floor. Despite being a rainy day, there were quite a few people in attendance. Go! 

And as you may have noticed, I have been fiddling with the color of this blog, which has gone tawny-taupe-grey something-or-other. All I know is: I am no longer afraid of the dark. The font is now "Cardo," which is a classical typeface. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Orange tulips on a Sunday afternoon

Orange tulips on a Sunday afternoon—Palm Sunday to be exact. I sang in church this morning, and will do a fair amount of singing in the coming week, culminating with two services on Easter Sunday morning. It's what professional singers do during this time of year, don't you know, all which will go toward an airline ticket to Rome. So baby, bring on a week of Passion. I'm ready! 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Awaiting Spring

There has been snowstorm after snowstorm here in Gotham, making for a very long Winter, the likes of which only seemed to ease up in the last few days with temperatures rising into the 50's. Needles to say, I feel like the tulips snapped awhile ago; stretching towards the light while reaching for a Spring that cannot come soon enough. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Winter 4

Sheep Meadow 

Sheep Meadow 

Lincoln Center Plaza

Lincoln Center Plaza

Truth to tell—I actually like "weather," yet feel myself ready for spring now that Gotham has had one snow storm after another—excepting, of course, the huge one that was hyped to death but did not happen. So great was the fear of lawyers (read politicians) that the subway stopped in preparation—an unheard of occurrence. I read afterwards that the wrong computer model was used. I did get some nice pictures however. 

Photo Credit: Daniel's Dinky iPhone 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

My Friend Anne

Amne Wiggins Brown 

Yes, the greens are no more, but the faux cranberry branches, gilded pine cones, and running reindeer still grace the mantel, along with framed photos of Anne Wiggins Brown.

We had become friends, Anne and I, after we talked for hours about her studies at Juilliard in the 1930's. She lived in Oslo, Norway, but visited Gotham several times after we met, each time coming to the apartment and making me sing for her. It did not surprise then, when a Fulbright application appeared in my mailbox. I knew right away who had sent it, but also knew I was not the person to facilitate the translation of her autobiography into English, much as I treasured our conversations about singing and many other things. 

Anne was one of two persons I knew who spoke with a beautifully rounded "ah" vowel (the other person was Kitty Carlisle Hart), the kind of which can only heard in B&W movies from the 1940's. She was as beautiful and cultured as the sound of her voice, possessing a refinement of manners that is rare today.