Between You and Me: 24 hours of adventure in New York City

Between You and Me: 24 hours of adventure in New York City

The Metropollitan Opera. Photo from Facebook

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief,

As much as I enjoy living on our beautiful Island, getting away for a quick break from the predictable routine and usual scenery is a delight. This past Saturday morning, we rode into New York City ready for adventure.

Six months earlier, we had ordered tickets for the matinee performance of the new opera at the Met, “The Hours,” a story about three women in different eras and locations, that takes place in a single day. 

Based on the Pulitzer prize-winning novel and the highly regarded subsequent film, the opera had won rave reviews at its premier the previous year and offered three fabulous singers, Renee Fleming, Joyce DiDonato and Kelli O’Hara in the leading roles. We figured it would be worth the trip just to hear all three on the same stage.

It was.

The plot uses Virginia Woolf’s novel, “Mrs. Dalloway,” as the thread that ties the three women together, although they don’t meet until the end. DiDonato as Woolf is writing the novel in a London suburb in 1923, O’Hara as Laura is reading it in 1949 in Los Angeles, and Fleming as Clarissa in Manhattan at the end of the century is reenacting the story.

The women have much in common. At various times, as the playbill notes, they are rapturous, fearful, desperate but always accepting. And the music carries and amplifies the story, as the times and places flow back and forth.

There was a light rain as we emerged from the opera house and found a place to eat supper. It was a leisurely meal as we marveled at what was coming next. At the time we had ordered tickets for “The Hours,” we noted that the evening performance was to be “Carmen,” which just happens to be my favorite opera.

Reasoning that we had much  cultural enrichment to make up for due to the losses forced on us by COVID-19, we splurged on tickets for that opera as well. So after we ate, we returned to the opera house for the evening attraction.

Two operas in one day!

Yes, we survived, although we were a bit woozy when it was all over, especially since Bizet’s “Carmen” is one of the longer operas. Stimulating but disappointing to us was the transfer of this classic 19th century opera set alongside a cigarette factory and a military base in Spain to a modern American truck depot in the industrial Midwest.

The plot was unchanged. “Don Jose, a naive soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen, abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous [bullfighter] Escamillo, after which Don Jose kills her in a jealous rage,” is a quick synopsis from Wikipedia.

But instead of the bullring, we have a rodeo, and conspicuously missing are the exotic settings in the mountains and especially the seductive dance on the table at the tavern serving as a hideout for the gypsy smugglers.

Nonetheless, the music, well-known even as background to Saturday morning TV cartoons for early rising youngsters, is so forceful and the story so dramatic that by the later acts, the longstanding appeal of this opera again captivated us, and we left happy.

Using our one free night from our loyalty credit card points, we had arranged to sleep at a nearby hotel in NYC. As you might imagine, after all that operatic action, we slept exceedingly well. We found a good spot for breakfast the next morning; actually it was more like brunch. 

Stopping only to pick up some NYC bagels, we returned refreshed and thrilled to be back. Our neighborhood looked newly washed and appealing. As much as it is enjoyable to have a break from our normal routines, interestingly it is even more satisfying to come home. And the magic of live music continues to play in our heads.


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