New York, New York: THE TEMPEST

November 10, 2012 – New York, New York
THE TEMPEST (Adès)
Thomas Adès; Simon Keenlyside, Audrey Luna, Isabel Leonard, Alek Shrader, Iestyn Davies, Alan Oke, William Burden, Toby Spence

Twelve days after the largest Atlantic hurricane on record flooded and battered this beautiful city, we are here for The Tempest – hours before the wedding of young friends.

As the wedding hotel is waterlogged and closed for repairs, the bride has found us new rooms uptown; and the replacement is the elegant old New York Palace on Madison and 51st – where Brent and I stayed on our very first trip to Manhattan and the Met in 1985.  (Memories flood, as well.  Taking down the album of that trip, I am struck by the price – $574 – of our two Thursday night Orchestra tickets for Tosca.  I consult the Met’s interactive box office ticketing chart and am amazed to find that seats D 101-103 today would be $630 – a 9% increase after 27 years, disregarding the fact that those originals really cost $1200 when corrected for inflation.  I remember it was quite a splurge.)

Our first Met pilgrimage in 1985, with a stay at the New York (then Helmsley) Palace.

With the opera at 1:00 and the wedding at 5:00, we choose a theater close to the church and wear our formal clothes.  (It is the opera, after all…)  At our side is a friend new to opera and I briefly wonder whether this 21st century marvel we are all about to experience for the first time is the right introduction to the art form.  But then the 41 year old composer Thomas Adès, in ginger beard and white T-shirt, takes up the baton to conduct and we are mesmerized.  The storm rages.  Ariel’s sounds are unearthly – does my Steinway have notes that high?   Baritone Simon Keenlyside as the wildly tattooed Prospero is astonishing.  Between acts, we learn that the composer wrote this work with Mr. Keenlyside in mind; for his part, the hero describes the opera as this “gorgeous, scintillating gem” and his pleasure in being a “conduit for the master.” A brave new world, surely, in this tested, brave and resilient city.