Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Chronicle of Minor Cultural and Culinary Adventures, episode 2 (June 1-July 18)

Now that the rhapsody of ballet season is over here in NYC, I thought I'd share some very brief thoughts on my other adventures over the past 7 weeks.

Master Class:  Last weekend I went to see the Broadway revival of Terrence McNally's Master Class starring Tyne Daly as the legendary Maria Callas.  At the same time intentionally funny and not-so-funny, the main lesson I took away from this play is that I know very little about the world of opera. Tyne Daly's performance was wonderful, as expected, although when I got home and watched the real Maria Callas via youtube, the character I had seen on stage seemed a little bit harsh and hard by comparison.  I'd say 95% of the audience was old enough to have seen Maria Callas perform in her prime and responded lovingly to this production.  I'd recommend seeing it - as long as you, like me, are the kind of person who likes when art inspires you to do some later research on your own.  I definitely want to know more.

Classic Movies:
  • As mentioned back in May, some friends and I decided to watch the film version of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep, after having read the book over the winter.  The most I can say about the film is that I had a big nap in the middle of it.  Because of censor-rules at the time made, I feel like this film lost (or, left out) a lot of what was so deliciously scandalous about the book - namely nudity, black market pornography, homosexuality and violence.  I can't imagine that it was even THAT scandalous when it was released - but maybe I'll look into it.  I do think it would be an interesting book to remake today in the style of LA Confidential...
  • Out of years of curiosity, I also went down to Film Forum to see La Dolce Vita on the big screen.  While my friend and I liked the first half and found it intriguing (and of course beautifully shot by Fellini and Martelli), the more this film wore on the more I wanted to either laugh (at it, not with it) or leave.  My friend felt much the same.  I'm all for examining the downfalls of fame and fortune, but the penultimate party scene involving possibly the most irritating character I've ever seen on film (the American girl in a babydoll shift who I think is supposed to be a dancer) was just too long and self-indulgent art for art's sake.  Wikipedia describes this scene in part: "The drunken Marcello attempts to provoke the other partygoers into an orgy. Due to their inebriated states, however, the party descends into mayhem with Marcello throwing pillow feathers around the room as he rides a young woman crawling on her hands and knees."  I think the best parts for me were really the more subtle scenes with the gorgeous Anouk Aimée.  I wish Fellini had explored her character more.

A glimpse of the future:  On June 26th, I took a little trip out to Astoria, Queens to attend the Arts Cure Center Benefit Recital 2011+ SACRA!, a community center recital to benefit Japan.  Some adorable child dancers, a samurai sword fighting demonstration, a world-travelled Michael Jackson tribute performer and some odd hip-hop/pop-and-lock/mime acts filled most of the bill.  However, the final performance of the evening was a GORGEOUS Act II white swan pas de deux by American Ballet Theatre's Jared Matthews and Yuriko Kajiya. Clearly, they've been working on this for some years now and it shows. Matthews' partnering and upper body lines continue to impress me, and Kajiya's control and delicate precision were beautiful - particularly in the little toe flutters of the swan and the angles of her head and arms. I can't wait to see a repeat performance of this at an ABT gala in the hopefully near future! (I heard the center raised over $2,000 at the event - how wonderful!)

RestaurantsWith all my time spent at the ballet (15 performances in 9 weeks), I didn't have much time for dining, but here are a couple of notes:
  • Boulud Sud:  I've now had two very good meals at this Lincoln Square newcomer, and the most exciting factor is the friendly service so severely lacking at its French cousin around the corner, Bar Boulud.  The bartenders in particular I have found amiable and ready to help, and it doesn't hurt that all the waitstaff and barstaff I've met so far are actually Mediterranean, to match the cuisine!  Try any of the small plates to start - I haven't gone wrong yet.  I'm also slightly obsessed with one of their beer offerings (despite an EXTENSIVE wine list) called ironically Old Engine Oil.  Notes of coffee make this a wonderfully delicious, and surprisingly light and refreshing, black porter.
  • Lincoln:  I stopped by Lincoln Center's newest fine dining addition out of desperation one night pre-performance when I hadn't had the chance to eat the entire day, and although they at first told me they were totally booked, luckily a spot opened up at the bar.  The special pasta with langoustine scampi I had was phenomenal, probably due to the massive quantities of butter in the sauce (oh butter, how I'd missed you).  The bread and petit fours were pretty damn excellent as well.  The space is lovely - it's in the new glass building on the north side of LC and the bartender was very pleasant.  She wasn't as at ease as she could have been, but did make some good recommendations.  An added bonus, they have prosecco cocktail specials.  On her recommendation I had the cassis and elderflower and was not disappointed.  My coffee did take an eternity to arrive, and the prices aren't for the faint of heart, but it's definitely a welcome addition to the neighborhood!
  • MughlaiIn more everyday cuisine, my book club met at one of the Upper West Side's many Indian restaurants, Mughlai, this past Sunday.  My food was pretty good and they have a pretty extensive menu (although many of the basic descriptions leave much to be desired for those of us without the deepest knowledge of Indian food).  The plates seemed somewhat small but I was definitely filled up by my portion, with nothing to take home.  On the downside, they impose an automatic 20% gratuity for parties of 6 or more and in our case we felt the service definitely suffered as a result.  The rice and naan were not the best I've had, but the main course was pretty yummy and the pieces of chicken in my dish were large.
BooksI've been too scattered this month, reading three or four books at the same time, but did manage to (mostly) finish John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius for book club.  Attempting to tell the story of Queen Gertrude pre-Hamlet tragedy seemed like an interesting subject, but I felt that Updike missed an opportunity to be truly creative in the way of Gregory Maguire and instead put forth a pretty predictable account of the inevitable adultery that comes from an arranged marriage of state.  Updike failed to offer me a truly living protagonist - Gertrude's actions are almost entirely reactive and passive, and so limited to her interactions with men that she's almost flatter than in the brief view we get from Shakespeare, who at least lets me imagine all the ways she became the plotting shrew Hamlet sees.  My overall review - a missed opportunity.

More adventures to come....anyone have any different reactions to any of the above?  Love to hear a different take.


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