I am convinced: the best way to travel is by train. It is the greenest, safest, most scenic and most relaxing mode of transportation, and in my case, the cheapest and also the longest. The train ride from Montreal to NYC is 11 hours long, but the seats are much more comfortable than the bus, it is less crowded, and the fall colors of the Hudson River region are stunningly beautiful. The Adirondack train route runs along the water almost the entire trip, so what would normally be 8 hours of traffic, highway and frustration is transformed into 11 hours of inspiration, quiet, solitude and beauty.
Then you arrive in NYC Penn Station, and it is a bit of a slap in the face of smell, crowds, suitcases and tourists – but isn’t that the joy of New York?
This trip, I stayed with a friend in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. He lives in the industrial district, which for me translated into fear when I looked at the Street View in Google Maps back in Montreal. All I saw were warehouses – but I swallowed my fear and showed up anyway. I am so glad I did, because the neighborhood is an odd but incredibly charming hipster neighborhood. Cafés, grocery stores, gyms and apartments are tucked alongside factories and industrial outlets. I have never seen anything like it.
The last two times I was in NY, I saw most of the things I needed to see – the Met, the other Met, MoMa, Times Square, Central Park, etc. This time, with my new interest in contemporary classical music, I was determined to see Bleecker Street and Greenwich Village, the hub of American experimental music for decades in the 1900’s. While I hadn’t looked up any specific addresses, it was invigorating just to walk where all of these creative genii found their inspiration. I half expected to see Yoko Ono sitting on a corner café, or John Cage sitting silently at a piano for 4’33”, but alas, I did not.
After meeting up with a soprano friend from Weimar, I found the competition venue (two blocks from the Metropolitan Opera) and headed to my rented practise space (equipped with gorgeous area rug, full-length mirror, hardwood floors, and large windows opening up onto its quintessentially Upper-West-Side street).
Upon arrival at the competition, I found out that all of the singers in the green room were either Canadian, or had strong Canadian ties. And here I was, slightly nervous about competing with ‘those New York singers’!
To summarize the audition experience, I would say it was possibly the best audition I have ever sung, and certainly the best I’ve ever sung in NYC. I remained dramatically focussed, grounded, calm; the pianist, Michael Fennelly, was incredible, a wonderful musician and a real collaborator, giving just enough support while being extremely sensitive to my singerly needs. I exited the stage with a giggle for having done so well, so when I didn’t make the finals there was no harm done. A great start to an important audition season.
Dinner, free beer, a shoreline first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, and hup! I was at the Met for Offenbach’s ‘Les contes d’Hoffman’. I was standing in my pre-purchased standing-room place when a stranger came up to me and asked if I’d like to sit down, or if I liked to stand. Thank-you, stranger! It was one of those tickets he would have had to wait all day in the basement of the Met for, which to me is almost more valuable than the Patron’s Circle. Then, at intermission, I was invited to the Patron’s Lounge by a man who I thought was a Met employee. How wrong I was! Turns out that this former Wall Street stock broker would love to take me out to dinner tomorrow night, and did I have a place to stay for the next few days? I politely declined, but left him my card in case he wanted to make a donation to my cause.
This mishap aside, the production and the evening in general was fabulous, especially the Antonia, and the Olympia was enjoyable (if not a little flat all the time).
My first time in NY: Not impressed.
My second time in NY: I’ll come back if I absolutely have to.
Third time is the charm: I heart NYC.