Thursday, December 21, 2017

Winter Solstice

Union Square 

Dickens joins Paderewski and Apollo

Carnegie Hall 

La Boite en Bois 

I'll be zipping around this morning as the Winter Solstice takes place at 11:28 AM; that moment when the sun seems to stop on the horizon, its movement arrested for but a moment before it starts climbing again. Though there isn't much shopping for me today; we're being pretty conservative on that front, just like the decorations.  

This will be the first Holiday in a very long time that I won't be singing anywhere, which is rather lovely. And I don't even think I will venture out to any performances as the weekend approaches. Total break. Total calm. Total Eclipse (which is an aria by Handel—for those in the know). You will find me, however, steaming a turkey a la Jacque Pepin, making stuffing and a few other dishes—and opening an expensive bottle of Pinot Noir. I'll also be making an Italian chocolate-almond torte from Alice Medrich's book Pure Dessert, which contains no flour and is as light as it is scrumptious. 

YES to more light!

Photos: Instagram—places I've been in the last 10 days

Thursday, December 14, 2017

First Snow at Lincoln Center

The first snow of Winter feel this past Saturday, which I captured while on the way to the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center—passing the reflecting pool with its wading Brontosaurus. Juilliard is in the background towards the right, while the Vivian Beaumont Theatre is off to the left—it's new blackbox theatre fitting snuggly on the roof. There were grumbles when it was constructed, the criticism being that it would destroy the line of building—and I suppose it does, but no one seems to mind now. That it's set back somewhat helps, no? 

The performing arts library is a great one—and not just for books. I've seen all kinds of famous people there doing research, the most recent being Bette Midler, who was researching Hello Dolly. The unwritten rule which New Yorkers seem to adhere too?  One sees but doesn't interact. You let people have their space and try not to stare. 

This space is home for me after having worked in the former State Theatre for more than two decades. In that time, I've witnessed the changes to Lincoln Center up close. This particular part of the campus has a new black granite pool as well as a beautiful forest of trees (out of range on the left). Expansive and modern, without erasing its 60's feel, I get excited just walking towards the library doors. There's gold to mind inside.

Photo via Instagram

Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Are people coming back to blogging, traversing the space between this platform and Instagram after a few year's hiatus from blogger and the like? That remains to be seen, though I see several people are doing both, as you can see for yourself in the blog column on the right hand side of the page.

I travel (as much as I travel) in both worlds, which says more about my desire to make a little art (and it really is about that for me) than it does finding clients. I do have a professional webpage and blog, but let those sites speak for themselves. Hello! No need to shout. This space is for something more personal.

The difference between Instagram and this spaces is, of course, the writing aspect. And if you aren't great at putting words on a screen (I almost wrote pen to paper—ha), then, well... photos don't take as much time, do they? 

My Instagram art above—if you can call it that—involves the indiscriminate use of pattern upon pattern, books galore—which is nothing less than more pattern—and big scale—as big as one can be in a small room even if the ceilings are 11 feet. This may be the last time you see the room like this. The sofa is worn and likely going, as is the ottoman, which was distressed upon arrival—not that it matters so much. I am simply hungry for greater order, definition, and Victorian Modern—if that is possible. Like the upset election in Alabama yesterday, there is a time to break with the past without losing your values.

Photos via Instagram

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Pine Cones in Compotes

That's what happening on the mantel this holiday season. I found a big "Jeffrey" cone out on the street after the holidays last year, and went looking for a matching one in the flower district in Chelsea—a once sprawling affair that has shrunk to only include 28th street. There, I found big cones that had already been gilded for under 20 bucks (but no Jeffrey) and voila, my scheme was complete. Then I dug out the one container in storage with gilded cones and fake cranberry garland (so fitting for our political year, don't you think?) —and was good to go in 15 minutes. And this after saying I wasn't going to do anything this year. 

That's how it's been. Don't know about you, but I feel like I am hunkered down in survival mode. Can't stand the news (haven't watched news programs since the Bush years when I cancelled the cable). Sure, I keep abreast. I do read tons. We all need to stay informed, right? But it's no fun whatsoever. I really long for politics to be god-awful boring again—all about policy rather than pussy-grabbing. But we have what we have—and it's hardly puts one one in the party-holiday mood, does it? 

The greed of the one percent? It's personal. A developer wants to construct a 60-something-story tower three blocks from our apartment. Built for the mega-rich as a money laundering scheme (people don't really live in these apartments), it would block out the little light we receive, making our dim apartment much darker. That it's being fought fiercely is a good thing. But will the forces of good sense win out? That remains to be seen. One can't be complacent about these things. 

There is so much to be angry about this season. So much to resist. And that gets hard when it can seem like resistance is futile (I rather liked Star Trek Voyager). But I am not caving in just yet. No, not doing that. I am going to enjoy my bit of glam, sit on my meditation cushion and encourage myself to act instead of react. Otherwise, I would go nuts. 

Nutcracker, anyone? 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

The Count's Library

We met right in front of his house, he introducing himself to me and two friends as we stood admiring the ancient facade. We all chatting for some minutes, he inquiring as to our presence in town, and upon hearing that we were in the arts, suddenly asked: "Would you like to see the house?" Of course we did. So he opened the huge doors, and we entered into a long, quiet courtyard that abuts the city wall built by Romans—the house itself being one of the earliest in Soria. 12th-century to be exact. 

The first room we encountered was one of two libraries that flank the entry, containing the count's personal library, as well as family documents that are consulted by historians. On the table? An original copy of Spain's constitution, along with a signature book containing the names of royalty. Our generous and gracious host showed us everything, full of pride and humility, and then invited us to back into the courtyard, where we sat and talked, and libation appeared out of nowhere.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017

I start weeks ahead, this year's table assembling itself after coming across a silver green cinderella pumpkin—which I had spied years ago in a Martha Stewart magazine. As I remember, she paired them with lots of silver on a dark ground. Well, I had the brown tablecloth, so thought, why not? In short order, I had two more and was off and running. 

The room was cleaned, the furniture moved, and the table set two days ahead—if only because cooking for eleven in a smallish apartment means no last minute craziness. Heck. I once did the whole thing in one day and thought I would die. Now I create a menu/planning list which is redone several times as ingredients are sourced and prepared, the list is then tacked up by the stove Thanksgiving morning and crossed off. As it was, everything went better than planned. Of course, I always worry like my grandmother, who would make an amazing meal, then declare: "There is nothing good in the house!" 

The celebration gives me the chance to drag out all my brown and white transferware serving  pieces, including a platter I found at the Antique Garage in Chelsea years ago. (The building has been torn down now, and there really isn't a good place for a a flea market now—though there is one over by the Lincoln Tunnel, which feels crammed into a side-street.) Everything is set up on an old mid-19th-century table with huge turned legs that I found and refinished about 20 years ago. It usually sits behind the sofa, though I am thinking of parting with it, having a hankering for more space. 

Wishing you a wondering Holiday Season. 

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 yoga.

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.

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.