Ecstatic

from Tuesday, September23rd of the year2008.

This has been a fun week for live music. A few days ago, I went to the second of two consecutive Sigur Rós shows at the United Palace Theater. I’ll talk about the shows in just one second, but I want everybody to click through on this link and then we’re gonna talk about this mysterious website for one minute. All their news & press releases are announcing concerts for Annie Lenox in 2007? Anyway, it’s a beautiful space, with a strange website; check out the gallery of pictures here. So the show. I have seen them a whole bunch of times, and earlier this year, they played a show at the Hammerstein Ballroom with strings, brass, percussionists: a whole dog and pony show. This show, on the other hand, was just four people, and somehow, it felt much much bigger and tighter. There is no moral of the story aside from that it’s good to see that the music works as well on a smaller scale. I’ve already written about their new album, but I will reïterate that it is great.

Last night I went to the opening of the Metropolitan Opera’s season. It was crazy! Before I had even fastened the straps on my cummerbund, I was thrust into this interview with Susan Graham, the mezzo-soprano. She asked me a bunch of questions about my project with the Met/Lincoln Center Theater, which I was, I think, able to answer, and then she stepped to me with, “what’s your favorite Verdi opera?” I didn’t even know where to begin with her. Then, changing the subject, she moved on to which of the three opera fragments being presented that evening (La Traviata, Manon, and Capriccio) was I most excited about. I said, “Manon, because I’ve never seen it.” Now, those words literally came out of my mouth, and what’s insane is that I have not only seen it, but I have seen it four times, once, like, six months ago, at the Met! What was I thinking!? It was the weirdest moment. I had an enormous pang of sympathy for people who are running for president or whatever. The other thing was that Susan Graham was wearing this dazzling Thing on her chest; I’m sort of like Jeremy the Crow in that movie The Secret of NIMH (see illustration), and I was really just mesmerized by her sparkly. I found out after the fact that I was broadcast in “High Definition” all across the land; so, if any of you saw that, call me and reassure me that I didn’t have arugula in my teeth. I cannot believe I lied right to that lady’s face. Or was I just having a senior moment?

Other things. The train station at Columbus Circle has been under renovation for ever. However, yesterday I saw a new sign in just about the worst font. One of the things I like so much about New York is the signage for the subway, which is a great example of 1970’s design. Massimo Vignelli is so genius; he basically said, never use more than one font at a time, and if you have to, the fonts should be Bodoni or Helvetica. Read more about that shit here. So look at this ugly sign! Yikes! Somebody call an engraver!

14 Comments

  • I saw the HD broadcast, and didn’t notice any arugula in your teeth. In fact, you looked pretty adorable. As for already having seen Manon, it was the Puccini version of the story that the Met did about six months ago. The last time they did the Massenet version was in April 2006, so you may have been having a senior moment, but you weren’t lying.

  • I’ve been to that theater! I saw the Rite of Spring project there last fall, which was pretty cool, spectacularly orientalist theater aside. What a crazy space. I kinda want to go to a church service there sometime just to see what it’s like.

  • Your interview was a highlight amidst a pretty poor collection of features and interviews for the HD Broadcast. I would rather watch you lie to Susan Graham’s face than watch Martha Stewart make a cocktail in tribute to Renee Fleming.

  • Gawd – that font is ugly. And not just originally ugly, but tortured in layout ugly too. Stretched or something, from what I can tell.

  • No arugula to be seen from my HD movie theater! Even better, it’s great for 20-somethings and 30-somethings who don’t know Simon Boccanegra from Satyagraha to hear someone like you sounding smart and enthusiastic about opera. The Met should have you on the HD’s or Sirius/radio bcasts more often.

  • The interview came across well on HD! I liked your Verdi-cabinetmaker analogy. Anyway, your planned opera sounds (from what you said and what I’ve read) so exciting. Do you have a sense of when the rest of us will get to hear it?

  • Wendell is right. The interview was fine – it was clear you were a little flustered by the “what’s your favorite” questions, which isn’t a very interesting line to take with someone who has much more to say. But you were a good sport and, it’s OK, I think Susie did a good job.

  • With all respect, Helvetica? Really? Just look at the wagging tail on the capital “R”. Helvetica was a serious step down from Akzidenz-Grotesk. Gotham — the font in the Obama campaign materials, which powerfully echo WPA posters — is better in every way.

    Bondoni, on the other hand, is just fine, though this page looks better in Georgia, a great screen font.

  • I saw you on the Met HD and posted to the opera community on Livejournal(because I had forgotten your name, I was tired after four hours of opera), and they linked me here. I think it’s funny that you told Susan Graham that you had never seen Manon and you had!

    I’m looking forward to hearing about your opera too-and you were very funny on camera, if an unintentional liar 🙂

  • My favorite fun font is
    Visitation.

    http://eknp.com/php/fd.php?f=visitation

  • You looked a little flummoxed by the Verdi quiz, as anyone would be (well anyone but opera queens, who sit around in half darkened rooms, feverishly revising our precisely ranked lists of favorite Early Verdi operas, favorite Strauss-non-Hoffmansthal operas, favorite operas about arugula) but generally came off as coherent and smart. Don’t fret. Also, fairly well substantiated rumour has it Ms. Graham is a republican, so you don’t owe her anything.

  • You did fine during your interview with Susan Graham. It was rather reassuring hearing from someone my age who is as enthusiastic about music as I am. I must say that the new opera that has been commissioned by Lincoln Center Theater you are writing sounds fascinating. I realize that you did not want to divulge too much about the plot to the HD audience, though I am intrigued by the prospect of an opera centered on computer identities. I would be very interested in hearing the piece and hope I will have a chance to be in New York for the premiere.

    By the way, you were not the only one who was distracted by Susan Graham’s dazzling jewelry. After all, it is the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera!

  • I’m glad that someone else was upset by the font on that subway sign. I thought it was only me.

  • Hi,

    I saw the wonderful HD version of Dr. Atomic with Susan Graham as host, and have been obsessed with her necklace every since. Do you have any idea where she got it? It probably cost $20,000, but a girl can dream.

    Susan