My day spent in New York was, for the most part, one of those days where nothing goes wrong.
We woke up to a beautiful, warm and sunny day. I am amazed that it is late November (already) and there is no snow on the ground and the colourful leaves are still on the trees. Gitte and I were walking with our jackets open and didn't feel even a hint of cold. I picked up breakfast and we ate on the north edge of Central Park, next to the lake. It is funny, both of us remarked that in New York, the 'cat calls' from the men have a much different feel – instead of vulgarity, we sense appreciation and respect. When I was in Florence, I felt like the most beautiful woman in the world, and the same in New York.
The first challenge of the day was to find a place to warm up. The audition email had stated that a warm-up room would not be provided, so I started singing in the bathroom in the hostel (and was quickly shushed). Then I sang a little bit in Central Park, but I didn't feel like I could sing out because I didn't want to draw attention to myself. Finally, I decided to just go to the audition location and see what there was in terms of space.
The second challenge. I did not have any change for bus fare (I am not sure how I expected to pay…). I batted my eyelashes at the bus driver and he asked me where I was from. I giggled and said, 'Canada!'. He told me to ask the other people on the bus if I could pay them a few bucks to use their Metro card, and an elderly woman volunteered. Thank goodness! I arrived with an hour to spare to the audition location, the Liederkranz Foundation, which is a beautiful building just off of Museum Mile. The decorations inside were absolutely opulent! And I was happy to discover that there was a lovely room in which to warm up.
The audition ended up being delayed by an hour. I had a good chat with another singer and finally went up to sing. For some reason, the stigma of my 'First New York Audition' was making me a little nervous, but I overcame that and did some yoga outside the room. I spoke french to M. Perroux, which I hope was appreciated. He is a Swiss musicologist that writes in french, and he does alot of work on Mozart. Listening to the other singers that sang the audition, I felt my voice was not as dark and full as theirs, but I know that my voice is well-suited to Mozart and I hoped that I was unique enough to stick out in his mind. The audition went incredibly well, without any major nervous attacks and I felt I sang very well.
Now the fun could begin! I took a cab to the UN to meet Gitte, Phil and Phil's dad for lunch at the Delegate's Dining Room. The UN is a very unique place in that it is international space, and the Delegate's Dining Room was exquisite, with a view of New York and a delicious buffet. Since Phil's dad works at the UN, we got at little 'tour' of spaces that the average tour group would never see, including the interpreter's offices. What a neat experience!
By that time, it was already 4pm and I still wanted to visit the Metropolitan Museum and MoMa. Lucky for me, I knew that at least the Met was open until 9pm. I decided to visit MoMa first, just in case it closed earlier, and set out on my way without a map. Phil told me the museum was on 56th street, left me at 3rd ave and told me to walk about 6 blocks. I walked and walked for what seemed like much more than 6 blocks, although because the Avenue blocks are longer, I really only walked for about 3 blocks. I started to wonder if the museum was really coming up soon, and stopped to ask a man on the street if he knew where the MoMa was. As he invited me into a small room at street level, I realized that I was at the Artists Entrance of Carnegie Hall! What a funny coincidence! The gentleman called information and told me that MoMa was on 53rd street, a few blocks back. Ooops!
I arrived at MoMa and realized it was FREE NIGHT at the MoMa! How much fun! And what a collection! I really appreciated the curatorship of this museum and I was happy, of course, to discover some of the more famous pieces. As I was looking at some sculpture, I noticed that one of the Miro sculptures was labelled wrong so I notified a security guard. He said he would check into it. I continued to wander around the museum and forgot about this incident until the same security guard found me again, and thanked me for pointing out the problem, as it had been a printing error. He asked me if I was a member of MoMa, which I obviously wasn't, and then offered to let me in on a members-only exclusive preview of the Tim Burton exhibit which opens on Monday. So cool! He let me into the exhibit through a back entrance – I felt so special!
By this time, my feet were killing me (I had been in my audition shoes all day), so I decided to get a cab to the Met museum. But alas, it was rush hour and all of the cabs were full. I supposed I looked a little forlorn standing on the curb outside the Hilton Hotel, because a cute guy on a bicycle rickshaw pulled up and offered me a ride to the Met for $25. I balked a little at the price, but he was so charming and the idea of taking a bicycle rickshaw was so novel that I agreed. I am glad I accepted, because being in the open air in the middle of rush hour New York traffic is a very unique and terrifying experience. He also took me through Central Park, which I never would have seen at night if I hadn't been with him. He is from Turkey, and is in New York studying English – when he came to New York 4 months ago he couldn't speak English at all! In Turkey, he is studying food engineering, and he told me he wants to work at Coca-Cola. It was such a pleasant ride that I was kind of sad when we arrived at the Met.
This sadness faded quickly when I realized that there was a live piano trio playing on the balcony in the main hall of the museum. It was really a magical atmosphere, with people milling about and leaning against the railings to listen. Usually I find museum entrances quite stressful, but the music gave an incredible ambiance. I wandered around for about 2 hours, listened to the music for while, called Mom, and then headed back to the hostel to get ready for a night on the town!
Gitte and I had decided to go to Soho for a few drinks and appetizers, so we got dressed up and took the subway down to Spring Street. When we arrived in Soho, we quickly realized that it is a good neighborhood for shopping, but not necessarily for evening entertainment. We stood looking completely lost on a corner after asking a few people where a good bar is in the area, to no avail. Out of the blue, a woman appeared and asked us if we were looking for a good place to go for the evening. She proceeded to give us directions to a different neighborhood with lots of cool bars (Lower East Side), and even called her boyfriend to ask him exactly where he recommended going. She really saved us from going to an expensive sushi joint in Soho! We ended up at a restaurant called Pink Pony, and were served by a wonderful girl named Sonja who ended up buying us a bottle of champagne. I had the salmon tartare which was divine. The atmosphere was really neat too, with high ceilings and black and white pictures of French performing artists on the walls.
It took us about an hour and half to finally get home when the evening was done. To make a long story short, because of the transfer we had to make, we had to take 3 trains to go all the way down to Brooklyn in order to get back up to Harlem, where our hostel was. Having not planned for a very late night, this was a little frustrating. It was made even more confusing by loud, urgent announcements made over the subway intercom that were completely incomprehensible. Finally we arrived in Harlem, and I must say that the 7-minute walk back to our hostel was one of the first times that I have felt not quite safe in a city without a concrete reason, although nothing happened to us and we ended up at the hostel safe and sound.
I am not sure if I absolutely love New York, but I definitely had a full, wonderful day. I am now looking forward to returning to Montreal to continue my crazy weekend of singing!