January 25, 2009

NYC - Cultural Capital of the World?

On my way downtown on the subway the other day, I overheard one middle-aged woman remark to another "Well, aren't we lucky. We live in the cultural capital of the world". I hadn't really been listening to the context of the conversation, as you find when you live in a city of this many million people, you often have to tune out what's going on around you in order to be kind to your ears. In the midst of my day-dreaming though, I caught this snatch of the conversation on the air as I deboarded the 6 train and went on my way.

I suppose there aren't many who could argue with this statement...maybe the Parisians would like to lay claim to the title, or perhaps the Londoners...but New York can certainly put up a good fight, if not win the battle hands down. I've only been a visitor to London on a handful of occasions, and have just whizzed through Paris for work, not having the time to stop and really savour the city. So, I can't say if they would be contenders or not, but I can tell you about some of the exciting things I have done this past year here in NYC!

When I am in search of things cultural, I tend to look towards Europe for obvious reasons. "Culture" is not a word I have generally associated with America in the past, but in this new home of mine, I find myself with a myriad possibilities for something interesting, exciting and soul-nourishing to engage in on any and every night of the week. The trouble is whittling down the endless list of performances, shows, concerts, readings, films, restaurants, bars and clubs to some sort of schedule that is both manageable and affordable! Never before have I had such exposure to the great composers of our age, the orchestras of the world, famous screen and stage actors in the same room as me, meters in front of my seat on Broadway!

During 2008,I saw some wonderful performances, including Madama Butterfly at the Metrpolitan Opera, world reknowned pianists Maurizio Pollini at Carnegie Hall and Lang Lang with the New York Philharmonic. Towards the end of the year, I went to see Mahler's famous Resurrection Symphony with the Philharmonic, which was conductor Gilbert Kaplan's New York debut and therefore a very exciting event! For an aficionado of classical music and opera, New York City is heaven!

And then there's Broadway! Both on and off Broadway there are just so many theatrical treats to choose from. In June last year I saw Morgan Freeman in The Country Girl. It was bizarre to suddenly be in the same room as this man who seems as familiar to me as anyone I know. Recently, a friend and I got tickets to Arthur Miller's All My Sons, starring John Lithgow, Diane West and Katie Holmes.

And it's not all to be found in the centre of Manhattan. A short train ride out to Brooklyn one evening took me to St Ann's Warehouse, one of the most impressive playhouses I've ever been to, to see Black Watch, a really powerful piece of theatre that has been filling venues worldwide.

Coming up in the first quarter of this year, I'm planning to see Chekov's The Cherry Orchard, Beckett's Waiting for Godot and the pianist Murray Perhaia with the New York Philharmonic, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

It's no wonder the New Yorkers don't want to leave New York!!

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