<< -- 2 -- Grahame Ainge WITH CALLAS IN MIND
Our first visit to New York and the Met was in October 2001. Everything had been booked the previous spring and we looked forward with increasing excitement to three operas, one of which was Norma. Maria's triumphant début at the Met had been in Norma in 1956 despite the press having prepared New Yorkers with malicious fiction regarding her character and critics being uncertain what to say afterwards. Would the Norma we were to see be a special event?
Then came the tragedy of September 11th and all seemed doubtful in its wake. We were determined to go, especially since in addition to the operas we knew there was to be an exhibition entitled Maria Callas and the Bel Canto Revival to be held in the Gallery of the Lincoln Center. Nothing other than grounded flights would stop us.
Unfortunately Norma turned out to be a disappointment and not just because we had played time and time again the 1960 Callas recording, after which every Norma is second best.
The yellow-cab ride into midtown Manhattan that first year had seemed designed to get us to change our minds and head back to the airport. We were passing through what appeared to be Ponders End in the 1950s multiplied in area fifty-fold. After passing over several rusting girder bridges we were in residential areas that looked every bit like the sets for West Side Story. Eventually we reached Central Park West and something else made familiar in movies -- manhole covers in the road with steam pouring from their circumferences. We turned a corner and there was the Met with its Chagalls glowing in the dusk of the early evening, and our hotel. We were greeted by the porter with, 'We sure are glad to see you Brits here. You are our only friends in Europe!'
Copyright © 2 December 2003
Grahame Ainge, Hertford, UK