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New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players Keep These Popular Masterpieces of Musical Theater Alive

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players take their bow at the end of this season’s “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com

The New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players company is one of New York City’s cultural treasures and fortunately, many outside the Big Apple will also have the opportunity to revel in the company’s artistry and talent as it finishes its stellar production of “The Mikado” and begins its annual road tour, this season featuring “The Pirates of Penzeance.”

Now in its 49th year, this extremely talented and creative company NYGASP, which is based out of the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, has been hailed as “the leading custodian of the G&S classics” and has created its own special niche in the cultural mosaic of New York City and the nation. NYGASP’s mission is “giving vitality to the living legacy of Gilbert & Sullivan,” says the company’s Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager Albert Bergeret.

Bergeret typically hosts a preview and introduction during a series, typically before a performance geared to families.

The new/ updated NYGASP production of The Mikado premiered in NYC in late 2016, features an original prologue that introduces the audience to the real life characters of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company who originated The Mikado in 1885 London. The production centers the fantastic elements of juxtaposing a Victorian world with an imagined Japanese setting allowing the opera to be a truly inclusive experience for all audiences and artists. 

The show abounds with absurdity and astounding wit, clever wordplay, memorable tunes and endearing characters, performed to perfection by clever patter man David Macaluso as Sullivan and Ko-Ko (who brings extraordinary physical comedy and a sweet voice); blustering Matthew Wages who plays Richard D’Oyly Carte and pompous Pooh-Bah; creative David Auxier as author Gilbert and town leader Pish-Tush (who also authored the new Prologue and is the director, and choreographer); charming John Charles McLaughlin as romantic hero Nanki-Poo, rising star Hannah Holmes as lovelorn and overbearing Katisha; beautiful soprano Rebecca L. Hargrove  as self-aware Yum Yum;  Sarah Hutchison as maiden sister Peep-Bo; mellifluous mezzo Elisabeth Cernadas as adventurous Pitti-Sing; and dynamic bass David Wannen in the title role. 

The brilliant ensemble is rounded out by Caitlin Borek, Camilo Estrada, Chris-Ian Sanchez, James Mills, Katie Hall, Abby Kurth, Lance Olds, Logan Pitts, Maurio Hines, Michael Galante, Michelle Seipel, Sabrina Lopez, Viet Vo and Alexandra Imbrosci-Viera.

To their artistry and talent they exude a joy of performance.

The production showcases gorgeous scenery designed by Anshuman Bhatia, clever and inventive costumes by Quinto Ott and lighting by Benjamin WeillThe Mikado is produced by NYGASP Executive Director David Wannen. Founder and Artistic Director Albert Bergeret,sharing the podium with Associate Conductor, Joseph Rubin conducting the 25-piece orchestra.

NYGASP’s brilliant re-creation of Gilbert & Sullivan’s classic, “Mikado,” was first introduced in 2016, aimed at exorcizing the production of offensive stereotypes that might offend Asians that were embedded in the 1885 original. “It is a balancing act to respect the original but take out what people considered offensive,” Bergeret says.

A specially created “prologue” and creative costuming ensure there is no confusion that “Mikado” represents Englishmen satirizing Victorian society and politics, capitalizing on British fascination with all things Japanese in the 1880s, to defuse the pointed references that might have gotten Gilbert & Sullivan (already under censorship of Lord Chamberlain) into trouble. And frankly, the depiction of The Mikado (who doesn’t even appear for the first 2 ½ hours of the three-hour show) as a cruel but ridiculous tyrant is reminiscent of how the Red Queen is depicted in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” (1865). If anything, the Mikado’s character may resonate in 2024 more than in 2015 or even 1885.

The clever Prologue. authored by the director, choreographer David Auxier-Loyala takes place on June 6, 1884 – one day after their “Princess Ida” opened, brings together D’Oyly Carte, the actual producer, with Arthur Sullivan, the composer and W.S. Gilbert, the lyricist and author (played by David Auxier), and has them talking about the Japanese exhibition that is all the stir in London. D’Oyly Carte is pushing them to come up with their next musical, and in their verbal interplay, these fanciful interjections become the fanciful names for characters – Pish-Tush, Pooh-Bah – and suggest plot points. Gilbert “dreams” the performance of “Mikado” – he becomes Pish-Tush, a Noble Lord; Sullivan becomes Ko-Ko, the Lord High Executioner, and D’Oyly Carte becomes Pooh-Bah (“the Lord High Everything Else”).

Of course British audiences of 1885 could have cared less about “political correctness.” The object of Gilbert & Sullivan’s satire was British society

Before the “Family” performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” Music Director/Conductor Albert Bergeret, who founded NYGASP 49 years ago, accompanied by David Macaluso (Ko-Ko) and Hannah Holmes (Katishaw) give a playful explanation of the show © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

We take advantage of seeing January 13 afternoon “Family performance”, which features a before-show talk introducing the plot and music presented by the esteemed Conductor and Musical Director Albert Bergeret, who founded the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players 49 years ago (and was the original Nanki-Poo), I learn that my comparison of “Mikado” for Gilbert & Sullivan to “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini is not entirely unfounded. While the music that Sullivan composed runs the gamut of British musical styles (ballad, madrigal, march), he incorporates the Japanese five-note scale and an actual Japanese folk song, Miya-sama (though for this production, new English lyrics are substituted for the Japanese) – music which Puccini also appropriates in “Madame Butterfly.” (Miya-sama was not used in this production.)

“We took out what’s incomprehensible or inappropriate,” Bergeret says, who adds that Sullivan was a brilliant, classically trained musician who was well versed in all genres of music and composers from around the world. In “Mikado” Sullivan demonstrates his virtuosity in writing in many different forms.

Just as Gilbert incorporated contemporaneous digs, so too does this Ko-Ko, a “cheap tailor” (which means he made clothes for common people) taken from the county jail where he was scheduled to be executed (for flirting), and elevated to Lord High Executioner, update his “List” of those who shan’t be missed, to be as current as yesterday’s tweet, sometimes changing it each performance, surprising even the rest of the cast.

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players production of “The Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.comIn an earlier season, David Macaluso (Ko-Ko) hosts audience members on a backstage tour of the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, homebase for the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

During our performance, Ko-Ko, brilliantly played by David Macaluso, who is not only brilliant at patter but physical comedy, inserts digs at A.I. and the “plagiarist” that got him on the list, and natural gas which somehow puts the “environmentalist” also on that long, long list as the scroll unfurls.

And The Mikado’s updated long list of who to punish and how, includes the Instagrammer “made to endure a dungeon cell without not one cellular bar” and “political pundits, who must sail for weeks on a boat full of leaks on a sea of alternative facts.” (That gets tremendous laughs.)

But Bergeret notes they do not want to do too much contemporizing. “We are proud to share this production, which upholds The Mikado’s musical score, setting, characters, storytelling, themes, and most of all its universal satire of human nature.”

So, the Mikado looks to execute Ko-Ko (the Lord High Executioner), Pooh-Bah (the “Lord High Everything” and Pitti-Sing (one of the “three little maids from school” for carrying out the Mikado’s orders to execute Somebody and unwittingly execute the Mikado’s son and heir to the throne, Nanki-Poo. The Mikado appreciates their effort (he only wishes he could have witnessed the execution) but insists they still should be executed for, well, killing the heir and looks for the entertainment value in their lingering death.

The Mikado justifies executing the three because, after all, this is an unfair world where the virtuous suffer and the undeserving succeed. This leads to the song that probably best sums up the moral of Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado,” in which the three condemned sing, “See how the Fates their gifts allot/For A is happy, B is not/Yet B is worthy, I dare say/Of more prosperity than A…If I were Fortune which I’m not/B should enjoy A’s happy lot/And A should die in misery/That is, assuming I am B.”

In the end The Mikado is less a jab at all-powerful monarchal misrule, than a comic contemplation of what human beings do when in faced with existential situation. Their focus is on human nature and the human condition. In Mikado, we see self-preservation – even by Yum-Yum who is willing to marry Nanki-Poo who loves her so much he is willing to be executed after just a month, until she realizes that as the wife of an executed man, she would be buried alive.

This production makes another change at the end, stopping the show for a return to the Gilbert & Sullivan characters trying to figure out an ending that would not rely on a magical or fantastical device like the “magic lozenge” they used in their 1877 opera “The Sorcerer” and almost breaks up their collaboration. (Gilbert finally gets to use the device in “The Mountebanks,” written with Alfred Cellier in 1892). Instead, Gilbert comes up with an argument that actually makes sense given the circumstance: Any order by the Mikado must be carried out, so having given the order, it must have been carried out (not much more absurd than “Anything the President does is legal and immune from prosecution, even if he orders Seal 6 to kill his political opponent.”).

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players perform the joyful finale of “Mikado” © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

“The Mikado, or The Town of Titipu” – the ninth of Gilbert & Sullivan’s 14 collaborations – was immensely popular when it opened on March 14 1885 in London, running for 672 performances, the second longest run for any musical theater production. By the end of 1885, some 150 companies in Europe and America were performing the operetta. It even was widely performed in Japan (apparently they took no offense).

Indeed, “The Mikado” is one of the most popular productions of musical theater of all time. Performed for the last 135 years – by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, NYGASP and others including Joseph Papp’s Shakespeare in the Park festival – there were decades when “Mikado” was being performed somewhere in the English speaking world any day of the year. Some of its word inventions have entered the lexicon, such as “the grand Poo-Bah” and “Let the punishment fit the crime.” They have also been performed in languages including Yiddish and French, though Bergeret notes that the French don’t seem to get the jokes.

G&S were very popular in their own time – all their 14 shows were popular and “Mikado” was one of most popular written out of their 14 (one, “Thespis,” was lost). Their nods to classical and digs at British society and conventions and their union of witty lyrics and lyrical music, appealed to high and low class. Both wrote with others but were never so successful as when they collaborated together. “They were very different characters – Sullivan was a lady’s man” – aspects that come through in the specially written “Prologue” to Mikado.

“The only one who doesn’t like Gilbert was Queen Victoria, Bergeret tells us. “We are not amused,” Queen Victoria once commented. The Queen knighted Sullivan as the “savior of English classical music.” (Her son, King Edward VII, knighted Gilbert.)

Gilbert & Sullivan actually invented musical theater. At the time Gilbert & Sullivan were writing, there were opera, light opera and music hall theatricals, but nothing like a musical show with story – music that had both class and pop – with real story lines, music advanced the story, Bergeret tells us. This is where musical theater started,. Watching “Mikado” you see a straight line to Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Since its founding in 1974, the company has presented over 3,000 performances of the G&S masterpieces throughout the United States, Canada, and the U.K. delighting audiences of all ages.

The company’s celebrated ensemble of G&S experts, developed by introducing new singers each year from New York’s immense pool of vocal and theatrical talent, has collaborated with such guest artists as world-renowned G&S exponent the late John Reed, O.B.E. in numerous comic baritone roles, Tony winner John Rubinstein and Frank Gorshin both as King Gama in Princess Ida, John Astin as Sir Joseph in H.M.S. Pinafore, Hal Linden and Noel Harrison as the Major General in The Pirates of Penzance, Pat Carroll as Little Buttercup in H.M.S. Pinafore, and Steve Allen as The Mikado.

The company’s repertory consists of 13 complete G&S operas (cast, orchestra and crew of 50-80 people), special versions of the most popular operas designed for children’s audiences, and a variety of charming sextet concert programs. The company has also produced a cabaret act.  I’ve Got a Little Twist, created and directed by David Auxier, won a 2010 Bistro Award, has toured the country and appeared at Lincoln Center’s 2011 Atrium series.

NYGASP Founder/Artistic Director/General Manager, Albert Bergeret is a career-long professional specialist in the works of Gilbert & Sullivan, having performed, staged, conducted and designed every opera in the repertoire since the company’s founding in 1974. He has conducted and staged all 13 of the works in the G&S canon as well as the company’s smash hit production of George Gershwin’s Of Thee I Sing.

New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players are worthy of a Tony Award.

Coming up, NYGASP will present G&S’s “The Sorcerer” and “Trial by Jury” on April 6-7.

Also, NYGASP regularly tours its shows, and this year is featuring “Pirates of Penzance”:

Feb. 28: An Evening of G&S Favorites, Lincoln Center, Fort Collins, CO

Feb. 29: The Pirates of Penzance in One Act/Evening of G&S Favorites, Lone Tree Arts Center, Lone Tree, CO

Mar. 3, 2024, The Pirates of Penzance, Popejoy Hall, Albuquerque, NM

Mar. 5: The Pirates of Penzance, Mesa Arts Center, Mesa, AZ

Mar. 7: The Pirates of Penzance, Gallo Center for the Arts, Modesto, CA

Mar. 8: The Pirates of Penzance, Clark Center for the Performing Art, Arroyo Grande, CA

Mar. 9: The Pirates of Penzance, Torrance Cultural Arts Center, Torrance, CA

Mar. 10: The Pirates of Penzance, McCallum Theatre, Palm Desert, CA

Apr. 26: The Pirates of Penzance in One Act/Evening of G&S Favorites, Harry M. Cornell Arts & Entertainment Complex, Joplin, MO

May 10: The Pirates of Penzance, Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown, NJ

More information at www.NYGASP.org, 212-772-4448.


© 2024 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Visit instagram.com/going_places_far_and_near and instagram.com/bigbackpacktraveler/ Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures 

Saratoga Springs is Firmly En Pointe as Center for Dance, Culture

Saratoga Springs, which is the summer home of the New York City Ballet and the location for the National Museum of Dance, celebrates its connection to dance with painted shoes that decorate the streetscape © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com


By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com


With just one full day to explore Saratoga Springs, I am still able to take in the high points that distinguish this town, which has been so popular a place for visitors going back to the 14th century, when its mineral springs were first discovered by Native Americans. Later, it became a major center for organized horse racing, a tradition which remains today, and draws the biggest crowds during the six-weeks of racing season. But Saratoga Springs, owing to the millionaires and elites and then the colleges including Skidmore, has also become a cultural mecca, especially for dance. The Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center is the summer home for the New York City Ballet and now the home of the National Museum of Dance. 

National Museum of Dance

During my one full day in Saratoga Springs, after thoroughly exploring its horse-racing traditions at the race track and the National Museum of Racing, I next visit the National Museum of Dance, which is located just at the entrance to the Saratoga Spa State Park in what had been the historic Washington Bathhouse (there is still an exhibit to the historic spa). This is such a surprise.

It exquisitely reflects the visual as well as the athletics and art of dance; surprised at seeing video going back to 1895 of dance. All the dance legends are represented with stunning photos, videos, costumes.

So far, 50 dance pioneers including dancers of all genres, choreographers, composers, writers and patrons have been inducted into the Dance Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Established in 1986, the National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame is the only museum of its kind in the nation and one of only a few in the world dedicated to the art of dance (which is why they claim the name, “National.”)

It is set in the former Washington Bathhouse, a 1918 Arts & Crafts style building in the Saratoga Spa State Park which provided health spa treatments (there are rooms you can visit from that time).

The Museum’s archives house a growing collection of photographs, videos, costumes, documents, biographies and artifacts that honor all forms of dance throughout history.

The museum’s galleries feature rotating exhibits and three permanent exhibits including the Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame.

Dancers in Film is an enchanting ongoing exhibition at the National Museum of Dance © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Dancers in Film, a delightful ongoing exhibition, celebrates the relationship between dancers and film, and features both well-known dance stars and our favorite actors who have had world famous dance roles on the silver screen. Highlighted in the exhibit are Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients Ann-Margret (2010), John Travolta (2014), and Chita Rivera (2015). You will love sitting and watching the fast-changing videos. I am frankly amazed to see some of the oldest ones, even from 1895 (at the very dawn of movie-making).

Sparked by an abundant discourse both age-old and current, The Dancing Athlete is an innovative exhibition that explores the inherent connections between dance and sports, and dancers and athletes, and the influence and confluence of these forms throughout history. Through costumes, photographs, video, objects, and archival materials, the exhibit examines these relationships within several themes such as cross training and physiological impact, shared movement vocabularies, and sports-inspired choreography, among others. A select group of athletes and dancers including Lynn Swann, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Edward Villella are showcased as well as several choreographic works including Gene Kelly’s stunning  “A Man’s Game”. By highlighting the athletic prowess of dancers and injecting popular sports and athletes, boys, especially, will better appreciate dance.

The New York City Ballet company presented their autographed pointe shoes in honor of Peter Martins’ induction into the Dance Hall of Fame © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Opened in 1987, the Dance Hall of Fame honors dance pioneers of all types whether they are choreographers, composers, writers, dancers, or patrons; there are more than 50 who are so far included in the Hall of Fame. Among them: Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Agnes deMille, Rudolph Nureyev, Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Busby Berkeley, Jerome Robbins, Alvin Ailey, Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, The Nicholas Brothers, Bob Fosse, Marge Champion, Tommy Tune, Edward Villella and Michael Jackson and the newest inductees, Gregory Hines and Patricia Wilde who are featured in special exhibits devoted to their careers  (see a complete list of the inductees, http://dancemuseum.org/exhibits/hof.html).

The Museum campus also includes the Lewis A. Swyer Studios, a building constructed specifically for the purpose of keeping live dance as part of the Museum’s offerings. The Swyer Studios welcome frequent master classes, lecture/demonstrations, residencies, and other programs, as well as the Museum’s very own dance school, the School of the Arts, which offers dance classes to all ages, levels, and interests. The Museum also offers a wide selection of special programs, events, and workshops throughout the year.

Twist! Jump! Play! Dance! The Alfred Z. Solomon Children’s Wing is an interactive space just for kids, with a video library, reading corner, movement and balance toys, and stage area. A Kids’ Gallery showcases rotating exhibits of children’s artwork and is where visitors can create their own masterpieces.

The museum also offers a Resource Room with thousands of books, periodicals, and print items for dance research available to the public.

A young dancer photographs one of the ballet shoes outside the National Museum of Dance, which also has its own dance school on the site of the former Washington Bathhouse at Saratoga Spa State Park © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

When I visit, I notice young girls, their hair tied back in the bun typical of dancers, looking on with adoration. This is their Cooperstown.

National Museum of Dance, 99 South Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-584-2225, dancemuseum.org,  [email protected]

There is a very good reason for the National Museum of Dance to be set at Saratoga Spa State Park: Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), a stunning amphitheater, is set in the heart of The Spa State Park and is the summer residence of the New York City Ballet as well as the Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestra. Surrounded by 2,400 acres of green hills, geysers, natural mineral springs and hiking trails, you can enjoy jazz, pop and classical concerts. (108 Avenue of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, spac.org).

I didn’t get a chance to really explore the Saratoga Spa State Park, but it has a score of attractions contained within it, in addition to the National Museum of Dance and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. It also has the Saratoga Automobile Museum, which this year is featuring as its main exhibit, “The Gavel: Cars of the Saratoga Auto Auction” which gives an insider look at the workings of the classic and collector automobile auctions that have become so popular with television viewers. Vehicles on display range from a 1931 Ford Model A Woody to a very rare 1957 Chrysler 300C standard shift, a 1957 Ford Thunderbird and a 1957 Continental Mark II. Imports represented include a 2003 Maserati Spyder convertible and a 2013 Lotus Exige Factory Cup on display.  These cars, along with hundreds of others, are on display until September 17, when they are all headed for the auction block in September at the Saratoga Auto Auction. (110 Ave of the Pines, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 , 518-587-1935, www.saratogaautomuseum.org, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 am-5 pm).

The Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course offers two beautiful golf courses; a championship 18-hole course and a challenging 9-hole course, complete with pro shop and restaurant. (Information and to reserve a tee time online visit: Saratoga Spa Golf).

Saratoga Spa State Park, distinguished by its classical architecture and listed as a National Historic Landmark, is noted for its diverse cultural, aesthetic and recreational resources. In addition to the nationally-known Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the Spa Little Theater, the National Museum of Dance, the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Gideon Putnam Resort and Roosevelt Baths and Spa, Spa Golf Courses, the park offers a pool complex including slide complex and historic Victoria Pool surrounded by arched promenades; hiking and walking trails, running courses, picnic areas; winter activities include cross-country skiing on approximately 12 miles of trails, ice skating, ice hockey, and two golf courses.

Saratoga Spa State Park, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-584-2535, saratogaspastatepark.org, https://parks.ny.gov/parks/saratogaspa.


Saratoga Springs, home to the national Museum of Dance and summer home of the New York City Ballet, celebrates its connection to dance with painted shoes that decorate the streetscape © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

My walking tours from the Inn at Saratoga take me passed and through Congress Park, where in 1792, New Hampshire Congressman John Gilman discovered a mineral spring. (I also take note of a free cutey-pie trolley that operates up Broadway, but I prefer to walk). In 1822, Dr. John Clarke purchased Congress Spring and surrounding land, drained the swamp and built a park where he offered concerts. He built his impressive Greek Revival home overlooking the park, as well as a bottling plant. In 1876, Frederick Law Olmsted, the famous landscape architect who designed New York’s Central Park, designed the gardens. The Park today harbors a visitor center (built in 1915 as a trolley station); the Casino (a gaming house for men built in 1870 by prize fighter, former Congressman and gambling entrepreneur who developed Saratoga horse racing, John Morrissey, which today houses the Saratoga Springs History Museum), Italian Gardens, Congress Park Carousel, and some wonderful sculptures, fountains and monuments.

John Morrissey’s casino in Congress Park has been turned into the Saratoga Springs Historical Museum © 2017 Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

At the visitor center you can pick up some wonderful self-guided tours, such as North Broadway, “a neighborhood of exceptional residential architecture”; West Side Neighborhood (“The City’s first prime residential location, where many of the people who owned, supported and worked in the bustling resort industry lived.:”and East Side Neighborhood, once home to Skidmore College, rich in history and spectacular architecture, including stunning examples of Greek Revival, Victorian, Gothic, Italianate, Second Empire and Queen Anne styles.

On the Friday night I am in Saratoga Springs, I have a plethora of choices: watching harness racing, polo matches, a performance of the New York City Ballet, and any number of live music venues, including Caffe Lena.

Caffè Lena, a famous folk-music venue since 1960, has just undergone a $2 million renovation but still offers an intimate space to appreciate folk, jazz, poetry and well-established performers as well as newcomers © 2017 Karen Rubin/ goingplacesfarandnear.com

I wander over to Caffè Lena, a famous folk-music venue which the New York times in 2013 called “Folk Music Heaven, was sporting a $2 million renovation, its first since opening in the 1960, and had people lined up out the door hoping to get through a wait-list for that evening’s performance. It actually offers a range of styles – folk, jazz, poetry night, open-mike night – and still retains the intimacy of a small room and small stage, so you are mere feet away from the performer. “Opened in a former woodworking shop in 1960, the café has helped launch many of America’s best loved songwriters, ranging from Bob Dylan in 1961 to Sawyer Fredericks in 2014, with an dazzling Who’s Who list in between. When founder Lena Spencer passed away in 1989, Caffè Lena was converted to a non-profit institution supported by concert revenue, private and corporate donors, grants and bequests, and an ever-evolving team of volunteers.” (Caffè Lena, 47 Phila Street, 518-583-0022, Tickets: 800-838-3006, email:  [email protected]. caffelena.org.) 

For more information or to help plan your visit, Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau, 60 Railroad Place, 855-424-6073, 518-584-1531, https://discoversaratoga.org/. 

Also, Saratoga Springs Heritage Area Visitor Center, 297 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, 518-587-3241, Email: [email protected],  www.saratogaspringsvisitorcenter.com

See also:

Historic Inn at Saratoga Captures Sense of Place, Gracious Victorian Style 

Saratoga Springs, Age-Old Mecca for Horse Racing, Gets Better with Age



© 2017 Travel Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. Visit goingplacesfarandnear.com,  www.huffingtonpost.com/author/karen-rubin , and travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/. Blogging at goingplacesnearandfar.wordpress.com and moralcompasstravel.info. Send comments or questions to [email protected]. Tweet @TravelFeatures. ‘Like’ us at facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures



Letter from Abroad: A Grand Concert at La Scala in Milan, Italy

Seeing a performance at the famed La Scala theater in Milan, Italy, is a grand experience that transports you back to the Belle Epoque. Designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, the theater opened in 1778 (photo by Leiberman-Nemett)
Seeing a performance at the famed La Scala theater in Milan, Italy, is a grand experience that transports you back to the Belle Epoque. Designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, the theater opened in 1778 (photo by Leiberman-Nemett)

By Dave E. Leiberman & Laini Nemett

Seeing a performance at the famed La Scala opera house in Milan, Italy, transports you back to the Belle Epoque.

After collecting our tickets in the box office, we began the night with a perfect Negroni and aperitivo snack in the bar of Ristorante Teatro alla Scala. With about ten minutes until curtain, we walked through the ornate grand foyer adorned with marble columns and tall narrow mirrors lining the walls. We entered the theater itself just early enough to first glimpse the orchestra through the open doors of the palci, the balcony boxes lining the horseshoe auditorium.

The demographic of the crowd skewed older than some opera houses in the United States with most of the audience in their 50s to 80s. Everyone was dressed as you would expect at La Scala: men in jackets and women in dresses.

We walked to our seats in the front right side of the Orchestra. Though we were fairly close to the stage, the sound didn’t feel as full as we imagined it could have. During intermission we were able to move up to one of the balcony boxes, where the sound was significantly richer than in the orchestra section.

First glimpse the orchestra through the open doors of the palci, the balcony boxes lining the horseshoe auditorium (photo by Leiberman-Nemett)
First glimpse the orchestra through the open doors of the palci, the balcony boxes lining the horseshoe auditorium (photo by Leiberman-Nemett)

The amazing acoustics in the gallery is only one aspect of the experience sitting in the balcony boxes of La Scala. We were lucky that the show we saw did not have a sold out house so we were the only 2 in our box and actually got to sit at the front with a great side view of the orchestra. Hundreds of burgundy jacquard-wallpapered cubes line the horseshoe of the 6 rows of boxes. It felt like an elaborate film set with each box its own scene. Sitting in a closed room with only a few others (or in our case just one companion), you are simultaneously watching hundreds of little boxed narratives in the panorama of the audience, while realizing you are within the same composition of boxes and one of these stories yourself. Hundreds of moments all within their own world, theater-goers hang out of the boxes with arms draped around the cushioned ledges, all watching and listening to their shared soundtrack.

The Teatro alla Scala was founded under the auspices of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria, to replace the Royal Ducal Theatre, which was destroyed by fire on February  26 1776, which until then was the home of opera in Milan. The cost of building the new theatre was borne by the owners of the boxes at the Ducal in exchange for possession of the land on which stood the church of Santa Maria alla Scala (hence the name) and for renewed ownership of their boxes. The theater was designed by the great neoclassical architect Giuseppe Piermarini  (1734-1808) and opened in 1778.

What is not widely known is that you can visit La Scala’s museum. The current exhibition is “Riccardo Muti: The years at La Scala” (on through October 16). The museum is open daily except on: Christmas, New Year’s and Easter Sunday and certain holidays..  It is open from 9 am to 12.30 pm (last entrance at noon) and from 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm (last entrance at 5 pm). The auditorium can be seen from the boxes excepted when rehearsals or performances are in progress. (Information: Tel +39 02 88 79 74 73).

La Scala’s program includes not only opera, but also symphony concerts, academy concerts, ballet, programming for children, and other cultural events. The programming is also not only the famous Italian composers. Though Verdi and Puccini frequent the lineup (or the season), upcoming performances at La Scala include Benjamin Britton’s Turn of the Screw (Sept 14 – Oct 17, 2016), George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (Nov 13-23, 2016), Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Sept 2 – 25, 2016) and Marriage of Figaro (Oct 26-Nov 27, 2016).

You can see the schedule and purchase your tickets in advance online. Ufficio Stampa Teatro alla Scala, Via Filodrammatici 2 – 20121 Milano, tel. +39 02 8879 2412, fax +39 02 8879 2331, www.teatroallascala.org.


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