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. 

Friday, February 3, 2017

Christmas 2016


Yes, I have things backwards, don't I? Writing about Christmas 2016 in the first week of February 2017. But hey, the county is backwards right now, right? Jokes (ha) aside, this past Christmas was noted for it's rather cheap decorations—if only because I spent $20 bucks on garland that come from Lowe's—a newish box store not two blocks from the apartment. The stuff was right on the sidewalk—two strands of which I cut in half and then assembled with gilt pine cones, dark green ornaments,  and purple and gold ornaments that I picked up after Christmas last year and completely forgot about. Green ribbon and fake news—I mean cranberry stems—completed the look. I think it took me 20 minutes to throw it all together. There. Done. No more. 


True, I did put up a small tree on a stand in front of a bookcase on Christmas Eve, but you're not going to see that here since I can't find a photo of it. The tree was the last remaining one standing in front of a Korean Deli, and went for 20 bucks. A steal in Gotham, where 4 foot trees go for 80 smackers, it was my very own art of the deal. Cheap! 


I sang my butt off at an Episcopal church down the street, and where the music has been top-notch all Fall—Britten's Ceremony of Carols being especially wonderful. Yes, those with sharp eyes will see black candles. They came in a box—also on discount—and I just went with it, not having used black candles before, the mourning of Democrats everywhere coming to mind rather than virgin birth. So, did Christmas receive a great deal of thought? No. It happened, like the election, as one great big surprise.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Summer in Paris


Of the countless photos I snapped with my iPhone from last summer's trip to Paris, here are two that remain on my laptop. Our second trip to Paris, we again traded apartments—this time in the 14th arrondissement, right down the street from the catacombs.


I am already dreaming of escaping there this coming summer. Perhaps I won't come back! Now there's a thought: Circles recalling the end that is the beginning, and wings to give one flight. 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

On the March


The Upper West Side was ablaze with peaceful protest as thousands and thousands of Jewish congregations marched past Lincoln Center to protest the new administration—and for women and equality. It was a joyous sight, far different than what was seen from our nation's capital the day before. 

They were joining up—I believe—with the Women's March that went from the UN on the East Side, then down 2nd Avenue, across 42nd Street, and then up 5th Avenue to the Trump Building. 

My thought? 

We need a movement, not a moment. Let this be the beginning. 

Women's Rights & Gay Rights are Human Rights. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nuestra Señora de Begoña


Our Lady of Begoña sits on my mantlepiece, having been brought out for an alumni reunion for Umbrian Serenades, which will decamp to Soria, Spain this coming summer—the later a result of the earthquakes that continue to shake the eastern part of Umbria. 

I've had her since my father died a little more than three years ago, my mother sold my parent's house and parted with many things. She's the patron saint of Bilbao, where I lived for about eight months at the age of ten in 1968—my father working in the steel industry. He wrote on the back: "Bought in Bilbao, Vizcaya, Spain, in 1968 by Elmer Shigo while at AHV.

My family lived in Spain twice. The first time in Bilbao, and the second time in Valencia. Not having been back since, I plan on visiting both cities when I return to sing with Umbrian Serenades—a truly wonderful and transformational program. 

While I am not a Catholic (I believe in Musick), I like her Rococo-ish design, which gives every appearance of being a 19th century version of an earlier style. However, she is sterling silver, and needs periodic shining to keep her gleaming. Come to think of it: I am going to need periodic shining too, since—as a liberal democrat—I supported a very different agenda for the next four years.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Time Travel: Thanksgiving 2016


The furniture was moved, and the table was set for eight. I used a vintage brown linen table cloth from the 50's that I found at Housing Works, along with green linen napkins edged with velvet. The wine glasses came from one of two crates housed in storage in the basement—newly acquired, or rather I should say found—on the sidewalk, outside a clothing store that was once a restaurant. Catering stuff, someone had hauled them up from the basement and dumped them on the curb. So, now I have 50 glasses and am ready for a party at the drop of at hat.


This is the second time I have moved the furniture around for a big dinner, and also the second time I have been tempted to leave everything in its new place. But invariably, I move everything back if only because it feels better—all those "pairs" talking to one another, the symmetry involved, as well as the original seating plan which makes for better conversation. 


I started preparing on Monday. Never to soon for that, right? After watching the parade from a friend's fabulous apartment on CPW on Thursday, I came home, threw Jacque Pepin's steamed turkey in the oven with carrots nestled underneath on a bed of butter, serving them later on my great-aunt's china that was painted by hand in the 20's.


Full plate & full heart, and wonderful day with friends & family. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Boys in Spoleto


Part of a beautiful fresco in an rehearsal room and performance space at Sala 17 Settembre, Gian Carlo Menotti Teatro Nuovo, Spoleto, Italy, these artfully covered boys have entertained the eye (there are lovely ladies too) since 1917. 

Sadly, I won't be seeing them this coming summer since the wonderful program that I have sung with for the past 6 seasons—Umbrian Serenades, will be based in Soria, Spain. But hey. I'm not crying. Having lived in Spain as a kid (during the Franco years no less), I am excited about returning there and discovering a hidden part of Europe. 

Find more information at Umbrian Serenades. It is a truly transformative program.