Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

Star-Studded Crowd Ushers In the Fall Opera Season

From left: Bartlett Sher director of Opera Romeo and Juliet, Bengt Gomer, Opera Manager Peter Gelb, Opera Soprano Nina Stemme, Ekaterina Gubanova & Rita Schutz
All photos: Lieba Nesis - click images for full size views

On Monday September 26, 2016 at 5 PM the Metropolitan Opera premiered its new production Richard Wagner's "Trisan Und Isolde." Celebrating its 50th year residing in Lincoln Center, the illustrious crowd which gathered for this opening night extravaganza included: actresses Malin Akerman, Keri Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Julianna Margulies, Dana Delany, Christine Baranski, Javier Munoz, Candice Bergen; business moguls Robert Smith, John Utendahl, Fred Iseman Michael Shvo; socialites Ann Ziff, Julie Macklowe, Mercedes Bass, Jean Shafiroff  among many others.

Jean Shafiroff in Oscar de la Renta

I eagerly await this event every year because of the phenomenal attire of the attendees and the excitement surrounding the new opera season. When Wagner first started working on "Tristan" in 1857 he thought it would be a quick moneymaker.

Fred Iseman and Socialite Mercedes Bass

After experiencing ample bad luck it finally appeared on stage in 1865 with the public both reviling and adoring it. Whatever one's opinion, it has greatly influenced poetry, literature, painting and theater. Its heavy romanticism and endless melodies climaxing with Isolde's Liebestod has retained an overarching power in the cultural sphere.

Julie Macklowe in Dolce & Alan Dershowitz

This evening the opera was broken up into three acts and featured singing phenoms Stuart Skelton and Nina Stemme who brought down the house. Entering the hall, I bumped into Alan Dershowitz who was in the standing section. When I asked him if the legal profession was that unrewarding he replied, "No I just didn't want to spend the money on a seat since I am leaving to watch the debates after the first act."

Camilla Staerk in her own design & Helena Christensen in YSL

Alan is one of those concerned jews who said he hoped Obama, as a lame duck President, would not make the "undemocratic" choice of forcing the French proposal of a two-state solution on Israel and the incoming President. Alan was also looking forward to seeing Trump's acumen at debating-a skill that Dershowitz has down to a science.

Candice Bergen

I ran to my seat to catch the first act which lasted one and a half hours. This was a challenge for an opera novice who doesn't appreciate a German opera where every other word is "isht"- I much prefer Italian. A gala should be a crowd pleaser and I wondered why Peter Gelb, general manager of the Opera, didn't pick a more user friendly "Madama Butterfly" or "La Boheme."

Bengt Gomer and wife and lead soprano Nina Stemme

Nevertheless, the music and singing were flawless and the production was highly unexpected- astonishing the jaded audience. The story follows an ancient myth popular throughout medieval Europe concerning the illicit love of a knight and the wife of his king who is given a love potion that brings them together, ultimately leading to the knight's death.

Elizabeth Peyton in Vetements, Kristian Emdal, & Elias Ronnenfel

The opera takes place in Ireland, Cornwall and Brittany with a distinct romantic flair. The dark costumes and dreary sets containing heavy coats with badges, submarines, and jails left the audience baffled, resulting in them booing the production designers. A story about medieval castles with royal protagonists should contain lush surroundings and attire. Peter Gelb's modern sets and productions are aimed at attracting a younger audience as the opera continues to struggle.

Actress Dana Delany in Tom Ford & TV personality
Carson Kressley in vintage

During intermission, I bumped into television and fashion personality Carson Kressley who loves this event, "because it has great people, and great glamour with an element of kookiness." His favorite part of the night was all the "hot soldier guys" on stage - maybe I could attain a new appreciation for this art form. I responded, "basically you come to the opera to ogle hot guys" to which he replied, "yes."

Antoine Wagner-great, great grandson of Richard Wagner
& Emily Bromfield

Carson is coming out with a new book called "Does This Book Make My Butt Look Big" and said the key to fashion is having flawless fitting attire. On my way through the lobby, I bumped into perfectly attired Antoine Wagner, Richard Wagner's great great grandson, who was seeing "Tristan" for the second time this year and loved the wormholes depicted on stage. He managed to remain neutral on the rest of the production as we hurried off to Act Two.

Actress Julianna Margulies & Keith Lieberthal

At the conclusion of the five-hour ballet the performers received numerous ovations with the crowd especially loving Nina Stemme, Evgeny Nikitin, and Stuart Skelton. I had the chance to speak to Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia who is a paradigm of elegance and asked who designed his tuxedo. As befitting of a Prince he said he has a special tailor and then showed me the Pucci lining which was obtained from material provided by Emilio Pucci, a close friend of his mother's. My mother's close friend also has a pooch - but I guess we are not royalty.

Opera great Placido Domingo wearing Caruso

Dimitri is an avid fan of the opera and loves the music of Wagner. At the guests headed to the tent for dinner, the decor of mint green streamers hanging from the ceiling was breathtaking. The crowds gathered around soprano Nina Stemme but I was more interested in the man standing next to her named Placido Domingo whose thin frame and stylish Caruso suit made him unrecognizable. He lamented that he needed to lose more weight-revealing that no matter your level of fame girth continues to be a preoccupation.

left to right Andrew Saffir, Hamilton actress Betsy Struxness, Hamilton actor Javier Munoz,
Malin Akerman, & Daniel Benedict

The crowd was dazzling, with actors, directors and socialites conversing enthusiastically with each other as photographers snapped away. I spotted the current "Hamilton", Javier Munoz, who spoke about his modest upbringing in the projects and what a dream it was to be on a Broadway stage. He said he wouldn't trade it for anything recounting his most exciting moment as meeting Beyonce and Jay Z backstage - admiring them as "wonderful" people and performers. Tonight was a smash hit with a star-studded guest list and the magic of three things: Opera, Lincoln Center and my father.




- Lieba Nesis & father

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