Is there a city that means so much for so many people as the city of New York? It is a vibrant metropolis, sizzling with life, where there are at least fifty different places you can visit in a given time, each just as fascinating as the next. It is a place to both lose and find yourself, where you feel like a minute grain of sand in an infinite crowd; but every topic of your most personal interests can find its expression and outlet in the city.
And into this abundant space, once every eighteen months, sand grains in the shape of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra arrive to spend a few days, play a Gala concert at Carnegie Hall and savor the city. If it were possible track us as a moving dot on an interactive map of people in New York, one would discern a ball of sand grains scrunched up together at a New York airport, first parting into four smaller balls on buses, then as one hundred and five grains dispersing into hotel rooms, but still, the original IPO sand ball stays within one building. Then, all the grains begin to disperse throughout the city, each to their own chosen location. Does New York sense we are there? Is the city aware of how many people all over the globe love her, and keep returning to her? Of how many artists have been inspired by her to sing, film, and create? It is the exhilarating, intoxicating natural high of being embraced by the city of New York.
Most of us in the IPO have not lived in NYC, but it is our home away from home, since we return to it so often. Even for me, this is only my third season with the orchestra and it is already my second visit to the island of Manhattan in this context. It is heartwarming to remember details from previous visits – that when the buses arrive at the hotel, they park at the street entrance and not the avenue one; what the exact shade of marble is in the lobby; that there are separate elevators for floors 20-29… It is comforting and amazing to know closely such minute details in this vibrant city.
As I was walking with Nir Erez (principal trombone) and Lotem Beider (viola) back to the hotel from an exquisite Jazz concert given by the Benny Green Trio at the Birdland Jazz Club (recommended to us by Alex Nemirovsky, Percussion), I couldn’t help but be blinded by the bewildering lights of Times Square; when I beheld our imposing fifty-story hotel from a distance, it seemed monstrous and beguiling. There were scattered lights emanating from the windows. Inside every lit up hotel room, there was a person whose life is just as detailed and rich as the city itself. I was struck by the contrast of this juxtaposition; as if it was a densely orchestrated crowd scene zooming in the intimate sounds of a single instrument solo. New York is an unquenchable city, so much going on we will never know about.
Central to every IPO US tour is the gala at Carnegie Hall. It is a unique feeling, walking merely a few blocks from your New York (hotel) home to the legendary hall. Performing on the Carnegie Hall stage is the dear wish of every musician across the spectrum of genres and it’s a pleasure to know that we are there. There is moment in Mahler’s Symphony no. 2, which we performed that evening, when the chorus comes in during the finale, that sent shivers down the spine. The sheer beauty of the hall never ceases to amaze, with its golden decorations. It is best we will never become indifferent to it. It was also a meaningful concert for several members of the orchestra, as it is possibly the final time they will perform Mahler’s 2nd with the IPO at Carnegie Hall.
Being at leisure in a given city on tour is precious, and we were lucky enough to enjoy a concert-less day in New York on Friday. In the morning we found ourselves drawn to our favorite branches of our favorite stores in order to finally shop for the goods we were planning to buy for months (New York acquisitions are well loved and cherished!) For lunch I joined Linor, Dudu, Jonathan and Guy at the vegan restaurant “Peacefood” on the Upper West Side. The food was so wonderful and the vegan hamburger tasted so much like meat that we had to humorously make sure it really wasn’t.
We crossed the park to the Upper East Side and were mesmerized by the beautiful colors of autumn foliage. When I returned to the hotel in the early evening I realized I had to hurry, otherwise I wouldn’t find tickets to any of the coveted shows. And indeed I was struck by the lightning speed at which tickets sell in New York. It reminded me of a line Kristin Scott Thomas says in the movie The Horse Whisperer: “if you sit still too long in New York you’ll be renovated.”
However, as the big opera buff I am, I knew that my love of the medium would prevail and that I would find myself going to see Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera. Yuval Shapiro and I did witness the great Placido Domingo on the podium (though perhaps he was a better singer than he is a conductor…) The excitement of going to the Met, beholding the great building with Chagall’s giant painting seen through the glass of the façade, and Puccini’s luxuriously sweeping music make even a routine night at the Met an essential New York experience.