We knew that seeing the NY Philharmonic in person was a must on our list. We walked over to Lincoln Center last week to buy tickets. Lincoln Center is on the upper west side near Columbus Circle and just a few blocks west of Central Park. It is a complex of buildings, each one devoted to one aspect of the arts. Avery Fisher Hall houses the Philharmonic. There is also the Metropolitan Opera House and the David Koch Theater for the New York City Ballet, as well as other buildings for theater and performing arts. The Julliard School is located on the grounds of Lincoln Center.
We first went to the Met box office and chatted with the attendant about which opera to see. Our opera buff friends, Jim and Carol Salbenblatt, had recommended Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte” and he readily agreed. We will see it next month. We then walked across the Lincoln Center plaza to the home of the Philharmonic to inquire there about upcoming performances and tickets. We were especially interested in the Alfred Hitchcock “The Art of the Score” evening in two days. Amazingly, there were still a few tickets left, and we got two in the orchestra section. The evening was to be narrated by Alec Baldwin, and I casually mentioned to the ticket seller that I was surprised it had not sold out. He agreed that it likely would in another day. I suggested that Alec Baldwin would be a big draw, and he told us that this was not necessarily so. Apparently, the actor lives in the neighborhood and is very active in NY events, so true New Yorkers are used to seeing him around.
On the day of the performance (at 7:30 pm) we started out about 6:30 pm by taking the crosstown bus to get to the west side. This in itself was an experience! Luckily it boards close to home and was pretty empty where we got on. However, in a few stops it was totally packed and the driver had to keep yelling, “Move to the back of the bus!” We were also in rush hour traffic which is a total stop most of the time. We were amazed by some of the elderly people who forged their way onto the bus and then persevered to find a seat or stand. It reminded us of how much many people must go through just to navigate around the city. We thought it was a challenge, and we are not even old!
We arrived at Lincoln Center with time to spare and walked about people-watching and enjoying the plaza. Like most places in New York, the fountains and landscaping are lovely and planted with people in mind with many benches and groves of trees to provide shade. We entered the music hall and felt very comfortable in our Sunday-best clothes as most people were dressed similarly without much glitz. Our seats were about two-thirds back. The hall was surprisingly austere but is reputed to have some of the best acoustics in the world. The stage was full of musicians in black tuning their instruments. A very large screen hung from above with the Vertigo eye of Kim Novak in the background.
Alec Baldwin walked onto the stage and began the narration. He did not introduce himself but started in immediately describing the importance of music to Alfred Hitchcock. He was extremely well prepared and very thoughtful in words. He spoke for about 10 minutes about Hitchcock and then gave a brief description of the first film clips of the night, To Catch a Thief. As the clips were shown, the orchestra played the music from the movie associated with each particular segment. The other four movies were Vertigo, Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and North by Northwest. The music was totally captivating and loud….perfect for these movies. Before each movie Alec Baldwin would come back on stage and talk about the upcoming movie.
The entire evening was so much fun! How often can one say that going to the symphony is……fun. It is always upliftiing, but this was unlike anything we have experienced. At the end there was a standing ovation and several curtain calls for the conductor as well as for the musicians. Alec Baldwin did not come out, so we decided that he must have gone home early. He probably did not have to take the crosstown bus and fight the traffic, however!