Review: “Pride Without Prejudice” Opera Party at the Greene Space, June 22, 2017

Cover Image: Justin Vivian Bond performing, © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

“What is an opera party?” I thought on the commute over to the Greene Space. It seemed intriguing if somewhat baffling of what to expect.

“Mistaken Identities”, the first of the Opera Party series, was a huge hit. © Alyssa Tognetti for WhereNYC

This was the third installment of the multifaceted Opera Party at the Greene Space, which tantalized the audience with an eclectic array of singing, drinking and cake – cleverly disguised as a piece of furniture.

Anthony Dean Griffey and Anthony Roth Costanzo © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

After a warm greeting when I arrived, I took my seat having little idea what was about to happen. The description of the event was vague, and all I really knew was that the event would involve opera and cake. The soirée began and our host and Metropolitan Opera star Anthony Roth Constanzo dived into a charming introduction of the event, which was in honor of Pride Month.

Anthony Roth Costanzo © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

The singing and chatting began, treating us to live performances and a banter to follow. Two guests, Justin Vivian Bond and Anthony Dean Griffey, appeared on stage with Justin Vivian beginning with a song and before explaining to the audience about the close relationship between opera and the LGBT community. Anthony Griffey followed next with a brief opera number. After each sang individually, the two artists sat down together at a vanity that had been on stage as a prop to discuss preparing for a performance. Surprising us all, the vanity they sat was actually the cake mentioned the event description, with fondant used to give the cake (a plain cake with peach and icing) a more furniture-like appearance. Very clever! The two artists happily tucked into the gâteau and shared with some in audience as they gave their final performances. Anthony Roth Constanzo and Justin Vivian Bond sang a musical duet while Anthony Griffey concluded with an extended version of the song he had treated us to earlier.

A final duet with © Matthew Septimus / The Greene Space at WQXR.

Afterwards, both guests and performers mingled, taking in the cozy, laid back atmosphere of the Greene Space. The party then spilled over from the performance space to the reception area where the cake was displayed and eventually devoured by the end of the night. Even for those who knew little about opera,  it was a wonderfully, charming event and quite enjoyable.

Don’t miss the upcoming The Beer-Changing Magic of Brewing with Hops on July 19th at the Greene Space.

Review: First Fridays at The Frick Collection, May 5, 2017

Cover image: © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

The line at the First Fridays event at The Frick Collection almost put me off; I didn’t know at first whether I’d get to go in. It was worth the wait in the end.

Live chamber music at The Frick Collection © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

Once having entered its doors, it was impossible not be enchanted by the Frick’s elegance. While patrons sketched the beautiful fountain in the indoor courtyard, the sounds of classical music added to the heavenly effect. As desperate as I was to attend one of the complementary tours, I had to stop and just appreciate the surroundings.

Free Fridays help draw in a younger crowd. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

The Frick has always seemed the most digestible of all New York City art museums, which showcases several favorites among the classic European paintings. For all my art history training in undergrad however, 19th-century British  painter J.M.W.Turner remained elusive from the course curriculum. Thanks in part to Director Mike Leigh’s 2015 film Mr. Turner, there has been a renewed interest in the artist and his depictions of stormy seas and rustic, coastal ports.

Viewing J.M.W. Turner’s paintings in the Oval Room. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

The Frick Collection’s special exhibit offered the public a rare opportunity to view some of Turner’s most striking seaport paintings. Among his paintings, however, The Port of Dieppe was the one that really stood out for the sheer amount of detail. As for the others, I could see them but didn’t know how to ‘read’ these works. Fortunately, the half hour lecture on Turner’s works really helped me to understand these unusual paintings.

Patrons enjoyed several galleries of classics. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

The paintings were indeed beautiful, and the lecture was informative; just enough for a person not familiar with art history to understand, but interesting enough for someone who only wanted to brush up on Turner’s paintings.

Complimentary tours and lectures informative and entertaining. © Lucas Chilczuk Photography / Frick

After the lecture, I did a run through of all my favorite paintings and rooms. Leaving seemed an impossibility but when I did, I did so unwillingly. The buzz in the galleries of people happily enjoying some of Europe’s most iconic classics continued until 9PM.

First Fridays are free to the public © Lucas Chilczuk Photography Frick

For more information on upcoming events and exhibits, visit The Frick Collection.

Review: Japan Society’s Escape East Meet Up and “A Third Gender” art exhibit

Cover image: The Japan Society © Sally Beane for WhereNYC

“I really want sake,” I overheard one classmate whine to another. This was in the early 2010s, in my final years of high school. Gossip Girl was all the rage, and such shows had made sake an “it” drink, along the lines of champagne. When I heard an event at the Japan Society would be serving it, I looked forward to finally trying it.

Once in the building, I didn’t know where to go. I walked into a two story building, all dedicated to one event. I did, however, manage to find the sake, twice. It was, the man pouring the drinks kindly explained, a rice wine. Sipping it, I noticed that unlike Korean rice wine, sake was clean, odorless, surprisingly spirit-like for a wine.

There were two areas serving drinks, and an art gallery. The exhibition was dedicated to the Third Gender, an exhibit on depictions of gender during Edo period Japan. The tour guide very articulately guided us through my second gander through the gallery. She explained that wakashu, who were adolescent males, were considered acceptable sexual partners for both men and women.” The first time around, I hadn’t noticed that there was an entire section designated to erotic art, which led to what I can only describe as the comedic highlight of the exhibit. There was one particular painting, with a wakashu taking the dominant sexual role, where the man in the more submissive role looks genuinely surprised at what he has agreed to, a rather relatable (and absurdly funny, at that moment) human moment of emotion.

Unidentified Artist, Pages from an unidentified Utagawa-School Erotic Book, ca. 1850s. Color woodblock print. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Royal Ontario Museum, ©ROM

The guide ended the tour on a rather moving note, noting how future Western influence set back a kind of acceptance of what can only anachronistically be described as gender fluidity. It was a gentle nudge back to our current location, our current time. We had escaped into Japan, as the event title suggested, and we had been brought back.

Don’t miss the next installment of the Japan Society’s Escape East @333 on April 21st.

Review: French Tuesdays Champs Élysées at Avenue Bar Mar. 27, 2017

Cover image: French Tuesdays © Daniel Serrette

Whoever thought that Tuesdays are meant for parties, but French Tuesdays’ Champs Élysée 2.0 was the perfect weekday bash.

Avenue Night Club –  courtesy French Tuesdays

This month’s event was at the self proclaimed “exclusive” club Avenue which, while it delivered on its claims, didn’t do so in the ways one would imagine. This was, in fact, a good thing.

The greeting was warm, the club staff cordial and the crowd eclectic in the best sense of the word; a far cry from what one would expect if browsing the Yelp reviews of the club before going. It was, in fact, my first time in a nightclub in New York City and I entered, not knowing what to expect. The venue had an opulence that was easy to appreciate, and the sparklers that announced the arrival of a bottle service someone had ordered were enthralling, and matched the ambiance of the evening, with two dancers performing intermittently throughout.

French Tuesdays recent parties include “Geisha” at Megu at Dream © Daniel Serrette

As for the bar, the gin and tonic and champagne I ordered were delicious, well worth it. The dancing began later in the night, with people coyly chatting. Once the dancing kicked off, however, the party exploded with a burst of life and kept going until the end of the night. The timidity and self consciousness evaporated from the room, as it only can once the dancing starts and everyone begins to converge en masse into a little mob of bodies.

Once the night ended, I left feeling the distinct pang that accompanies the end a good night out.

To join the fun, visit French Tuesdays.