A rainy Monday didn't slow down New Yorkers

Looking east on 93rd Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue. Photo: JH.
Snow coming down, like the last of winter whimpering. We hope. Wet streets but zero accumulation. Good vibes all around.

Over at the Grand Ballroom at the Waldorf, the Metropolitan Opera Guild held its 69th annual membership luncheon which this year was a salute to Luciano Pavarotti. “Grazie, Luciano” it was called and it was such a sell-out that every inch of the ballroom as well as the entire first and second balconies were filled to capacity — their biggest luncheon ever because of Luciano, a name we heard over and over again from the dais, and always with tenderness and warmth and profound affection.

Luciano Pavarotti
I’m not an operagoer and although I love music, my operatic musical knowledge is pathetic. Nevertheless, I love this annual luncheon. The room is always full of pure devotion, affection, passion and even moments of rapture. And, it’s the Metropolitan Opera. The words alone roll out the red carpet in the mind’s eye.

The audience, 1,200 people – all ages; well-dressed, business people, social people, visitors from all over – all there for one reason: they love opera. For a lot of people opera is life itself. There is an intimate relationship between these people and the singers who are really their messengers. These messengers are accepted according to the qualities of delivery, which are soulful and heartfelt. Luciano Pavarotti, for example, thrills.

Beverly Sills told us that whenever she gives lectures, she’s asked about him. “What’s he like?” is the question.

“What you see is what you get,” is her answer, “no frills, no airs, just joy. He’s full of it. He gives it.”

Once Mr. Pavarotti came up to the dais,
the luncheon began. Susan Braddock, the President of the Metropolitan Opera Guild introduced the esteemed special guests. Each came onstage and took a bow, blew a kiss, patted their hearts for the maestro, all to thunderous applause.
The Grand Ballroom filled to capacity for the Met Opera Guild annual luncheon
Beverly Sills
There were several speakers including former Mayor Giuliani was on the dais with Mrs. Judy Giuliani. He told us about his grandfather Rodolfo, for whom he is named, who came to this country from Genoa in 1895. Rodolfo loved opera and years later he told his grandson about his visits to the Met, standing room tickets in the upper balconies, and the thrill of hearing Caruso, so great that for all his life thereafter he could never forget hearing that voice. Today the grandson, himself an opera fan, said: “When I think of Caruso, I think of Luciano, an Italian tenor who lifted opera above itself.”

Anna Moffo
spoke of working with Luciano. A letter from Sophia Loren, who is making a film in Italy, was read. Joseph Volpe, Met’s general manager spoke. Shirley Verrett recalled the first time she sang with him, she was so enthralled by his singing that she missed her cue and was scolded by the manager. Rïse Stevens, now 91 years young (and that is the operative word for her), told of her regrets of having a career that came before him so that she never had the pleasure of working with him. She said she believed he is the greatest tenor ever, that his voice was heaven-sent.

Shirley Verrett
Heaven, heavenly — these words passed through many lips this afternoon at the Waldorf, in describing the man. The man himself, enormous in presence and physically, listened to all this often with his face leaning upon one hand that could subtly wipe away a tear at times.

There were clips of him with Renata Scotto in the first national PBS televising of “La Boheme,” and in concert at Lincoln Center.

There was a concert by Juan Diego Florez, the Peruvian tenor who at thirty-one is the emerging successor to the great one, and has his nod. Physically the opposite, he is small and slight, with dark hair and eyes, a movie star handsome Latin face and manner, and a beautiful voice. He drew thunderous applause and bravos and a long long applauding from The Man.

Then when the testimonials and the concert was over, Mr. Pavarotti rose from his seat to take the podium. He talked about how much he loved the Met, how moved he was by this tribute and his eyes filled with tears, his voice shook briefly and he thanked everyone.

Rïse Stevens and friend
This account is barely adequate in reporting the richness and warmth of this wonderful afternoon in New York. It’s like entering a world enveloped by beauty that fills the air and takes you completely away from the world right outside those doors, surrounded, indeed sheltered and protected by so much talent and creative integrity and just plain love of opera.

Meanwhile they must have raised a good amount for the Guild’s work which is building membership (there are 45,000 Guild members across the country) to keep the Met alive and thriving and building a future audience.
Last night, over at the High School of Art and Design on 57th Street and Second Avenue, Publicolor held a painting party – “Stir, Splatter + Roll.” A painting party? What? Do we like painting ... painting rooms, walls, ceilings, floors, what have you? No! So a party for it? Well ...maybe ...

But what is Publicolor? It is a “creative solution” that an imaginative designer and intrepid New Yorker named Ruth Lande Shuman developed as an answer to her profound concern about the effect of the growing drop-out rate on the future of the American workforce. Really?

Last night at Publicolor's “Stir, Splatter + Roll.”
This is New York for you. Mrs. Lande Shuman created this not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1996. The mission is to catalyze change in inner-city schools and neighborhood facilities “through the power of color and collaboration.” Okay ...

They go into public spaces, like neglected schools (which are infinite these days) and not only transform the space but the people, specifically the kids who use them, as well. They do this through something they call Paint Club and COLOR Club programs which train at-risk students the marketable skill of commercial painting.

In the meantime, they transform these neglected spaces and neighborhood facilities “through the powers of vibrant color and organized collaboration.” And ...

The place was buzzing when I got there at 6:45.
Taxis, limousines, buses pulling up to left off the participants. Someone told me some of the Sopranos cast were coming and Mark DiSuvero, Adam Tihany, Bernard Tschumi, Stephen Doyle and David Rockwell were on hand.

They expected about 500 and the first floor of the school was already to go with paint cans, buffet tables, ladders, platforms and people donning the painter’s white jumpsuits. Kids everywhere, rock and roll, people everywhere, young people, older people, socialites, business people, and color everywhere.

Their current aim: to raise $500,000 to fund their programs. There was an auction, dancing, lots of painting, lots of fun. And excitement everywhere, like a great big family reunion.
Aida Turturro and Ilene Andress
Andrew Shuman and Drew Cohen
Ruth Lande Shuman and David Rockwell
Michele Oka Doner
Climbing David Rockwell's back
Jane Lahr and Susan Barry
L. to r.: Howard Blum, Beth Rudin DeWoody, and Ruth Lande Shuman; Looking around at “Stir, Splatter + Roll.”
We had to leave Publicolor to get up to decorator Susan Zises Green’s beautiful Upper East Side triplex where she was holding one of the many annual Women’s Campaign Fund dinners that were going on all over New York last night.

This is the fourth year attending these dinners for me. The Women’s Campaign Fund is a non-partisan organization that assists women candidates in national election races. The point (obviously) is to get more women elected to office.

Lynn Zises, Susan Zises Green, and Justin Green
The first dinner I went to (in 2000) was at the apartment of literary agent Fredi Friedman. There was a Republican candidate from Iowa and a Democratic candidate from Washington State. They were both very impressive and found myself thinking I’d vote for both of them. It occurred to me then (dim bulb until that moment) that we might be a lot better off if we had a lot more women in office running things. Women are often much better and more proficient in solving problems and getting things done. Right Mother?

No, but seriously ...

So they hold these dinners and raise funds. Each dinner has two candidates who are running in the election in the autumn. Ours last night were Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who running for her third term in Congress. Mrs. Jones is from Cleveland. This is her twenty-third year in public office (she’s been a judge and held local office before going to Congress). This is also the first year of her career that she is running unopposed. Mrs. Jones is on the Ways and Means Committee, a first time for a Democratic woman and for an African-American woman.

The other candidate is Mrs. Wasserman Schultz who is running for Congress in Dade County, Florida. Mrs. Schultz has previously been a State Senator.
At Susan Zises Greens for one of the Women's Campaign Fund dinner
Like the Metropolitan Opera Guild luncheon, this is one of those annual events that I look forward to. They draw an eclectic crowd, many interesting people, many with a strong sense of community and the ties that bind. They also bring out a wide variety of dynamic New York women who are out to make a better place and a better life for all of us. They lend optimism, interest-free.

There’s a good dinner after everyone has had a chance to talk and to hear the candidates This year it was provided by San Domenico NY (excellent — excellent wines), and about ten-thirty I left to go home thinking how lucky I am to be in New York; and how no matter what things look like, there are many many people out there who can and might and want to make it work for us.
Jim and Stephanie Loeffler
Alaire Townsend and Gail Hilson
Fabianne Gershon (right) and friend
Rebecca Lieberman and Lynn Zises
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Kathryn White, and Sandra Owens
Amy Knapp (right) and friend
L. to r.: Debbie Wasserman Schultz; Gigi Stone in Peter Som; Yeohlee Teng, Susan Zises Green; Peter Som, and Fern Mallis.
L. to r.: Stephen Cornlise; Phyllis Mailman, Alaire Townsend, and Marcia Stein; Myron Stein.

March 9, 2004, Volume IV, Number 37
Photograph by Jeff Hirsch/NYSD.com


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© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/NewYorkSocialDiary.com