Tuesday in NYC

Tuesday was a very full day in New York City.

I breakfasted early Tuesday morning with Dave Boonshoft and his wife Gina.  Dave is a Webster alum and strong supporter of the Department of Music.  We had a visit of substance at a wonderful restaurant in Chelsea.  My biscuits and gravy were to die for.

K and I spent a chunk of the afternoon visiting the Lower East Side.  We checked out the Sweatshop Workers tour at the NYC Tenement Museum (fascinating), ate dumplings at Vanessa’s Dumpling Shop on the edge of Chinatown ($4.50 including soft drink filled both of us up), looked at clothes in various shops, and splurged on eyeglass frames at Moscot Eyewear, and then then went on down to South Street Seaport to purchase tickets for a Wednesday matinee.

Dinner was with Jared Lotz and Audrey McHale, two alums of my voice studio at Webster.  We ate at Mercato on West 39th — truly one of my favorite restaurants in this beautiful city.

The Lower East Side is still somewhat a slice of old New York, by the way. I could live down there.

imageTonight’s show was Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town in a loving revival.  The winning cast, a stunning visual design, the celebration of an old-fashioned orchestra in a pit that the audience can see and enjoy, the catchy score filled with hummable tunes, the dated comedy that still works, and especially the presence of Jay Armstrong Johnson — these all combine to make for a pile of happiness and a truckload of feel-good.

K and I splurged for the Ambassador Club, which meant a private elevator, private restrooms, and a private lounge and drinks before the show and at intermission.  Now this is the way to see a show!

More scenes from the day:


The Death of Klinghoffer



The Death of Klinghoffer. David Robertson. John Adams himself. A gauntlet of police barricades, Rudy Giuliani helping protest across the street, and one loud disturbance of the peace inside the Metropolitan Opera House itself.

The was not what brought me to NYC, but I’m glad I was at Lincoln Center on Monday evening.

The Metropolitan Opera has never staged The Death of Klinghoffer, John Adams’ 1991 opera dramatizing the events on the Achille Lauro as it sailed from Egypt in the eastern Mediterranean. The opera, with Bachian choruses framing the action on the ship, certainly gives ample voice to a viewpoint that might not be popular with NYC’s notable Jewish population. Palestinian thoughts are clearly presented, given equal billing with those of Israeli citizens.

The Death of Klinghoffer is less an action opera than a rumination on faith, hope, despair, and ageless conflict. That incredible Metropolitan Opera chorus sang the crap out of the choral scenes; Donald Palumbo and his crew received full-throated approval in their curtain call.

imageAmong the principals, Michaela Martens was the stand-out as Marilyn Klinghoffer, her closing aria being the emotional climax of the opera. She sang with assured clarity and dark, rich color. Alan Opie looked and sounded the part of a man in weary, late middle age. His final thoughts as the post-death Leon Klinghoffer will linger long in the memory. His voice may be frayed at time, but this only adds age and weight to his character.

The Palestinian terrorists were a uniformly strong group of younger American singers. Aubrey Allicock, reprising a role we saw in Saint Louis in 2011, was a stand-out Mahmoud, the most three-dimensional of the Palestinian. Sean Panikkar sang with clarion tenor notes as Molqi; Ryan Speedo Green had the smaller part of Rambo.

John Adams wrote the part of Omar as a trouser role, but in this production the dancer Jesse Karovsky portrayed the character with grace in his extended dance sequences. Maya Lahyani sang Omar’s arias, her movements synchronized with his, in a role titled ‘Palestinian Woman.’ Her too-brief appearance was a key moment in the opera, and a most poignant one.

I fear that Paulo Szot’s voice is too light for the key role of the ship’s captain. In a performance filled with introspective, stylized movement and soundscape, his was the least effective portrayal.

The vast Met stage served as a barren wasteland of exile, and as the expansive deck of the Achille Lauro. Substantial projections designed by Finn Ross augmented the visual palate, often surrounding the action on three sides.

And thanks to OTSL diction coach Erie Mills, the text was clear and direct and unaffected throughout. I’m always delighted to hear mute, unaccented syllables sung just so!

A perusal of the long-standing and ongoing Middle-Eastern conflict is far beyond the scope of this review, since the genesis of the conflict is thousands of years old. Any time three different faith groups claim the same city as holy, we are going to find drama upon drama, animus layered upon hatred. Ire is bound to be raised in New York City when the Palestinian viewpoint is presented sympathetically.

In the months prior to Monday’s premiere, the Met appeared insensitive to many. The Met management certainly did not take a cue from the very successful approach to Klinghoffer that we saw in Saint Louis recently, when Timothy O’Leary and the staff at Opera Theatre of St. Louis converged public conversation and interfaith dialogue and mounted an acclaimed production of this same opera. But one is left to wonder if New York will ever be a place where something this polarizing doesn’t cause rancor and protest.

As the evening unfolded, with armed New York police officers standing in the aisles, expected protests in the opera house were minimized. About 45 minutes in, a man in the upper balcony started shouting “The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven.” He was escorted out. At the critical moment later in the opera where the title character is (graphically) murdered, a woman in the orchestra seating shouted an expletive; she too was escorted out. Aside from a smattering of boos that greeted the opening Palestinian chorus, the evening went as planned.

John Adams’ own appearance own stage at the curtain call brought frenzied cheering from the audience. So did David Robertson’s first entrance into the orchestra pit, before a note had been played or sung.

The Death of Klinghoffer is a major American opera, considered by many to be a masterpiece. Having now seen this opera in two incredibly different productions — one expansive, one intimate — I must say that I am convinced of the importance and power of this work.


For more information on the protest:




NYC Fall Break


[formatting is wonky.  please forgive.  computers not playing well with each other.]

En route to LGA on Southwest Airlines–

At 12 noon on Sunday, I am en route to New York City for some alumni and development work, and some R&R after a very hectic past ten weeks. This brief trip to the City is much-needed, and quite welcome!

Random notes from the flight:

I saw Neal Richardson arrive at my gate, with Ethan along as well. They are on the same flight.

I saw Neal Richardson arrive at my gate, with Ethan along as well. They are on the same flight.

Mary Ann Drake, a colleague from Webster, was also at the airport, en route to Florida for a few days of grading and sunshine with one of her children.

I don’t know when I’ve seen as many observant Jews at the Saint Louis airport.

One young family took 15 minutes to get through security, with two kids, toys, a double-wide stroller. I don’t envy anyone flying with young children.

The folks at Starbucks in the east terminal were rude and unhelpful. I ordered a breakfast sandwich, and when two further customers had gone through the same cashier, and I knew my sandwich was still not in the oven, and I inquired, I got a shut-down and glare. When I thanked that same person when the sandwich finally arrived, I got pursed lips and no response. A little smile goes a long way, lady. And if someone says ‘thank you,’ you respond with the common courtesy of ‘you’re welcome.’

But then no one seemed to be completely happy at the airport this morning. The security folks were unsmiling, as were the Southwest staff. The latter is unusual, as I find Southwest staff to generally be very peaceful and smiley.

There’s a nun on this flight. She’s young, unlike most of the nuns I see at airports!

Sometimes I’m grateful for free drink coupons from Southwest.

This is the first time I’ve been on a jet in several months! I missed the Interlochen trip this year because of Bonnie & Clyde, and I’ve not been on any other work trips since I came home from Portland in July.

After the alumni visits and development work is done each day, I have time to enjoy the city.  I’m pondering on several thingsL things:

going up to West Point for a tour (taking the train to and from)

catching the opening of The Death of Klinghoffer at the Metropolitan Opera. The production is quite controversial even before it opens, just because of the subject matter.
going to the Morgan Library to see the Jerusalem Bible exhibition
walking around Chinatown just for the fun of it.

catching a play or a comedy, since I so often see musicals.

On the list for certain this trip: Tuesday night at On the Town in the new Broadway production; the Guggenheim; and the New York City Tenement Museum.

My friend K is already in NYC. He’ll room with me for the next few nights. Sunday’s dinner is with former students, which makes me happy indeed. And we’ll eat Brazilian food at Via Brasil in Little Brazil in Midtown. That makes me happy too.

MONDAY MORNING now, and I’m just getting to this post.  Here’s a shot from last evening with Jordan Parente:


An unexpected bump-in

So I am leaving the New Line show on Friday night, and this man standing outside the door, smoking a cigarette, says “Great show.  Well done.”

I think to myself “He looks familiar.”  And I thank him.

Getting in the car, I think “I recognize that voice.”

And then half-way home, it hits: that was Michalis Koutsipedis!

So now we step back: Michalis and his elder sister were both undergrads at Kansas when I was working on my doctorate there.  Michalis and I had a couple of rowdy evenings of dining and imbibing at Free State Brewing.  And I had not seen him in 15 years.

I think of Michalis every Christmastide as I play the recording of Elgar’s part-song “The Snow,” in a performance that I conducted at KU in 1998.  The song calls for piano and two violins along with a women’s chorus.  I led the massed women’s voices of the various choirs that year in this lovely piece; Michalis played violin. Take a listen:

That’s some beautiful singing and some beautiful playing.

As it turns out, Michalis is now free-lancing in Kansas City, teaching and theatre-ing and gigging.  His life is very much like mine was in my 30s.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Texas.  And he and a friend had made a road trip to Saint Louis to be tourists, see a show, gamble a bit, and meet up with other old friends.

I looked up Michalis on The Facebook, and arranged for a rendezvous today.  We had a delightful 30-minute visit here at home.  I’ll surely see him again when I’m next in Lee’s Summit or he is in Saint Louis.

We didn’t get a picture.  He was driving off as I thought of it.  But here’s his profile shot from on-line (and apologies for being a creep, Michalis):


After 15 years, this is just insanely crazy happy.

Pes anserine bursitis

Well, now it’s my left knee.  Bursitis.  Specifically, pes anserine bursitis.

I am on meds for the aches, and will see a physical therapist next week.

I’m glad to know that my self-diagnosis was moderately correct.  I thought it was tendonitis.

And I know what the cause is, so that’s not a big deal.

Now to heal and get back on track!

Oh . . . seeing x-rays of my knees was quite fun!!



Jeff at home 1985

At home in 1985.  I was working college admissions then.  And reading the state Baptist newspaper.  How times have changed!  Notice the red phone in the background.  And the devotional journal on the right side of the picture on the table.  And the hair.

I still use that lamp on my desk here at home.

4.20 a.m.

For the second time in a week, I’m awake before 4.30 a.m. and not able to go back to sleep.

So I snuggle with Samson, then turn on NPR at 5 a.m.


Last evening, a night at home:

  • new computer ordered (my MacBook is nearly six years old and limping along valiantly but fitfully)
  • papers graded
  • some emails answered
  • no television, no fireplace — just a night at the desk, and a happy one.

Christine Brewer delivered her annual talk at Webster yesterday.  And she gives a public master class Wednesday evening.

And tonight is a designer discussion at New Line Theatre!


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