Saturday, November 22, 2008

Morningside Heights and Harlem Delights

From our terrace in Morningside Gardens I can see parst of Grant's Tomb, Jewish Theological Seminary, Union Theological Seminary, Corpus Chrisi Church, the Interchurch Center, Teachers College, Barnard College, Columbia University, and look across Harlem on 124th Street. Nearby, but out of sight from our apartment are Riverside Church and the Manhattan School of Music.

On Friday evening, Liz and I attended an evening of opera scenes at Manhattan School of Music (MSM). MSM does this twice a year and we have attended many times over the years. This year the theme was Opera as Politics -- the evening began with a scene from Donizetti's Maria Stuarda dramatizing the final rift between Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Suart Queen of Scots. There were several fine musical moments in the evening. I want to take note of two dramatic highlights.

I especially enjoyed an excerpt from Lehar's Die Lustige Witwe -- the end of the second act in which Hanna pretends to be engaged to Camille. I don't think I have ever scen this operetta performed in German before. The portrayal of Danilo by Chris Lucier seemed to me to be the best I have ever seen -- in part because the scene plays better, to my ears at least, in German than in English translation.

The Merry Widow was the applause machine that ended the first part; the evening ended with another applause machine -- because of its staging: the election campaign scene (Act III, Scene III) of Douglas Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe, in which William Jennings Bryan comes to Leadville during one of his presidential campaigns. MSM cast the sole Black member of the ensemble as Bryan. It was brilliant stagecraft and musically satisfying as well.

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