Last night at the ballet
Alessandra Ferri as Juliet last night at the Metropolitan Opera House for the American Ballet Theatre's performance of Romeo and Juliet. 9:15 PM. Photo: JH.

Yesterday was a very hot day and a very very warm night in New York. With the city’s air conditioners filling the city’s canyons with their whirring sounds, we went over to the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the American Ballet Theatre’s Met Season and a performance of Sergei Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” starring Jose Manuel Carreno and Alessandra Ferri.

We arrived at 7:45 for an 8 o’clock curtain. The sun was going down in a blazing swath of orange sky to the west. The Josie Robertson Plaza surrounded by the Center’s theatres and auditoriums was alive with a big crowd of New Yorkers, all types, all ages, sizes and shapes, congregated for dancing to the City Rhythm Orchestra in the night’s “Midsummer Night Swing.”

The “Swing” is a wonderful metropolitan neighborhood event, big, diverse, glorious. They were dancing on the dance floor set up before the bandstand. They were dancing all around the plaza -- a couple here, couples there, amongst the onlookers and the curious; kids, youngsters, oldsters, boys and girls together. They were all having a helluva good time, heat and all. And on the outdoor open terraces above the Met, the Philharmonic and New York State Theatre, there were crowds watching the crowds below. We were all together now.

The Midsummer Night Swing is made possible by Daisy and Paul Soros, two elegant New Yorkers often seen on the NYSD pages, who are very active and very generous in philanthropic activities and the arts. It’s another one of those crowd events that make New York irresistible. No matter your mood, when you arrive on the scene, within seconds you’re ready to rock.

And it goes on almost every night, with different bands and performers right through Saturday, the 22nd of July. You do not need a partner; you can go alone because there are always enough partners to go around. Once the music starts, it’s infectious and before you know it, you’re dancing, even if its by yourself.

Meanwhile inside the Met, we took our seats for the 8 o’clock performance. If you’ve never seen it, and don’t know the Prokofiev score, you DO know its Romeo and Juliet, Suite No. 2, Op 64b, Montagues and Capulets. The opening movement is the most famous part of the ballet with the proud and aggressive dance of the knights at the Capulets Ball. You’ve heard it somewhere, maybe on TV, maybe in the movies, maybe on the radio, and it’s stayed with you, reminding you when you hear it again. It’s one of those pieces of music that you find yourself humming and even marching and dancing too (when no one’s looking, if you’re self-conscious); powerful, compelling and melodic.

During the intermissions the crowds moved out onto the Grand Tier where desserts were being served for those inclined, and onto the terrace overlooking the Josie Robertson Plaza to watch the crowds dancing to the City Rhythm Orchestra, its vocalist singing “Look Down, Look Down That Lonesome Road ...”

This is the final week of the ABT’s 2006 Met Season. The last performance is Saturday. It’s been a record breaking season for the company which has sold out the 4000-seat auditorium for every performance and taken in over a million dollars more than ever before. During one of the intermissions we were talking with Peter Lyden, the Director of Development for the company about the exciting progress of the ABT. When he arrived on the scene five years ago the company had no endowment. It now has an endowment of $23 million and is raising another $20 million a year to support the company and its programs, and amazing talent everywhere.

Sitting on the Parterre of the magnificent theatre that is the Metropolitan Opera House, considering the joyous song and dance that we’d passed through only minutes before with hundreds, maybe thousands of New Yorkers participating, considering the oppressive heat of the day coming to a close, not forgetting the deeply depressing drama of Monday’s explosion on East 62nd Street and the tragedies it produced; and considering the talent we were witnessing on the great Met stage, along with the dedicated individuals who make these great cultural and musical ventures happen, I could only think how lucky we were, maybe for only this moment, to be witness to all the wonder around us.

L. to r.: Peter Lyden, Director of Development for ABT; On the terrace of the Met Opera House during the first intermission.
Ending the night with a scene from Midsummer Night Swing.


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July 12, 2006, Volume VI, Number 112


© 2006 David Patrick Columbia & Jeffrey Hirsch/