Ricardo Tamura Triumphs in Cavalleria Rusticana at The Metropolitan Opera

Nino Pantano with Met Opera baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Met Opera tenor Ricardo Tamura Photo by Judy Pantano
Nino Pantano with Met Opera baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky & Met Opera tenor Ricardo Tamura. Photo by Judy Pantano

On the evening of Tuesday, February 23rd, the promising Brazilian tenor Ricardo Tamura added Turiddu in Pietro Mascagni’s one act masterpiece Cavalleria Rusticana to his list of Metropolitan Opera roles. Cavalleria Rusticana had its premiere in 1890 and is usually paired with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, both verismo (flesh and blood) works. The Metropolitan Opera was the first company to perform Cavalleria and Pagliacci together on December 22,1893. Cavelleria Rusticana was also performed with the Metropolitan Opera (Met) on tour at the old Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) on March 8, 1892.

The role of Turiddu has been sung by many of the great tenors and is coveted for its passionate duets and solos. It is Easter Sunday and Turiddu, a Sicilian soldier is in love with Lola but when he goes off to war, Lola marries the village carter Alfio. Turiddu then turns his passions toward Santuzza who was excommunicated from the church. Lola makes overtures to Turiddu and their love rekindles. Santuzza tells Turiddu’s mother, then confronts Turiddu, they argue and with Lola in sight beckoning, Santuzza runs off and tells Alfio. Alfio in a rage, swears vengeance after confronting Turiddu drinking with friends in Mamma Lucia’s tavern. Turiddu sings a tearful farewell to his mother and shortly thereafter, a screaming villager shrieks that Turiddu has been killed. Santuzza stares straight ahead as all the grieving villagers turn their backs to her and help his grieving mother.

The offstage serenade from Turiddu “O Lola c’hai di latti la cammisa,” was sung with ringing tone and Italianate flair by Ricardo Tamura. This aria in white heat sung offstage is a challenge to sing.

Riccardo Tamura sang with passion, flair and well placed high notes. His declamatory utterance and rich middle voice evoked memories of the Italian greats -Beniamino Gigli comes to mind, “Tu qui Santuzza?” and the ensuing gripping duet indicated Turiddu’s frustration and his determination to find a balance to his dilemma. Tamura’s singing of “Intanto amici; Viva il vino spumeggiante” was brilliant, grand and generous right up to a dazzling high note. His confrontation with Alfio was white hot and one knows despite his words he will fight for what he wants! Tamura’s full throated “Addio a la madre” was sung with pathos, desperation and resignation with a beautifully framed finale.

Santuzza was sung by Liudmyla Monastyrska whose powerful soprano is a force of nature. Her singing of “Voi lo sapete mamma” was a tour de force and a little tapering and a bit of color would have placed her on the list of great Santuzza’s. The Regina Coeli was powerfully sung but was stripped of its poignant majesty by its lack of religious spectacle. Her “Turiddu ascolta!” and their duet were among the vocal high points of the evening.

Ambroglio Maestri was a gruff no nonsense Alfio. His “Il cavallo scalpita” was sung with brio and pride. Maestri’s singing in the duet with Santuzza, “ Infami loro, ad essi non perdono, vendetta avro” was fury and volcanic angst, his baritone barometer exploding in rage.

Lola was in the youthful and attractive persona of mezzo Ginger Costa-Jackson. Her singing of “Fior di giaggiolo” had its lure and appeal. The production however gave us not a hint of sluttiness and spite.

The vivid Mamma Lucia of mezzo Jane Bunnell was rich voiced and not quite as naïve as one would think.

Andrea Coleman as the screaming woman handled “Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu!” with eardrum piercing perfection.

The fabulous Fabio Luisi, principal maestro conducted with authority, intensity and inspiration. Luisi’s hobby is making perfumes and his various fragrances also seem to be part of his extraordinary blends of harmony in his music making. The Intermezzo was truly the heavenly calm before the storm.

Chorus master Donald Palumbo led the singers gloriously, especially the Regina Coeli and “Gli aranci olezzano.” All the singers were very well received.

With the splendid Turiddu of Ricardo Tamura, it was a good night of opera. Tamura as a student, wanted to be a scientist. Singing prevailed and his career took off like a rocket! The great soprano Licia Albanese heard him sing and with the assistance of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation started his ascent.

The sets and costumes were drab beyond belief; the singing cast gave us Sicily in their passion and dedication to the story but the black costumes, dismal rows of musical chairs and peasant dancing evoked Fiddler on the Roof. Not an orange tree could be seen and Sicily at Easter time got lost in the shuffle. The singers provided all the colors of Sicily in their vivid interpretations.

The celebration party at nearby Fiorello’s restaurant hosted by Ricardo Tamura and his charming wife Dagmar had many notable supporters and friends. Among them were Stephen De Maio President of the Gerda Lissner Foundation with patrons Karl Michaelis and Michael Fornabaio, Gloria Gari from the Giulio Gari Foundation, Sachi Liebergesell President of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and opera artist’s manager Robert Lombardo, all longtime supporters of Ricardo Tamura.

As we were having dessert, the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and friends joined the revelers. Outside it was pouring rain, but inside it was pouring love. Bravo Tamura!

Oscar contender Rylance returns to Brooklyn: More than just Fishin’

Mark Rylance. Photo by Teddy Wolff
Mark Rylance. Photo by Teddy Wolff

This past Sunday night at St. Ann’s Warehouse in DUMBO, Mark Rylance’s and Louis Jenkins’s farcical, lyrical, melancholic, brilliant play “Nice Fish” had its opening night performance. Combining equal measures of Eugene Ionesco and Sherwood Anderson, “Nice Fish” is still sui generis. Alternately hilarious and doleful, the play is indisputably the yardstick by which the rest of Brooklyn’s 2016 theatrical season will be measured. Congratulations of the highest order to St. Ann’s Artistic Director Susan Feldman, Minneapolis’s Guthrie Theater, which commissioned the play in 2013 and, most of all, to the American Repertory Theater, which produced it.

It would be churlish to single out any of the five cast members for praise. Suffice it to say that Rylance, Raye Birk, Kayli Carter, Bob Davis and Jim Lichtscheidl are all uniquely, and distinctively, outstanding. As are Claire Van Kampen’s direction and music, Todd Rosenthal’s scenic design and Japhy Weidman’s lighting design.

Among the guests praising the production at the after party were actors Holly Hunter, Gabriel Byrne, ex-New York Jets great and NFL color commentator John Dockery and Diane Borger, the play’s producer (who graciously gave up her aisle seat to this reporter).

Susan Feldman, president of St. Ann's Warehouse, speaks at the after party. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
Susan Feldman, president of St. Ann’s Warehouse, speaks at the after party. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
A large crowd enjoyed the after party at St. Ann's Warehouse. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
A large crowd enjoyed the after party at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
John Dockery, Gabriel Byrne, Hannah Beth Byrne and Anne Dockery. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
John Dockery, Gabriel Byrne, Hannah Beth Byrne and Anne Dockery. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
Mark Rylance greets Holly Hunter. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
Mark Rylance greets Holly Hunter. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
Kayli Carter, Mark Rylance, Holly Hunter, Louis Jenkins and Ann Jenkins. Photo by Rob Abruzzese
Kayli Carter, Mark Rylance, Holly Hunter, Louis Jenkins and Ann Jenkins. Photo by Rob Abruzzese

After Feldman’s introductory acknowledgments, she invited Rylance to the podium. In his customarily idiosyncratic, unfailingly generous fashion, he spoke about the play’s gestation and his longstanding relationship with both St. Ann’s and the A.R.T. He also reflected on how appropriate it was that St. Ann’s is on the Brooklyn waterfront, since “Nice Fish” is set on the frozen waters of one of Minnesota’s 1,000 lakes. And he reflected on the spectral presence of Walt Whitman, both in the play and in his present surroundings. It was classic Rylance: modest, quirky, cerebral, free-associative and gracious. Let’s hope he has the chance to display these qualities to a national (and global) audience this coming Sunday at the Academy Awards…

“Nice Fish” runs through March 27 at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Mark Rylance and Bob Davis. Photo by Teddy Wolff
Mark Rylance and Bob Davis. Photo by Teddy Wolff

Recipe For the Dead

Perhaps this is unusual. I have no way of knowing. But when I’m missing a loved one who has passed, or wishing to commemorate someone who is no longer with us… Sometimes, I’ll cook a meal that they loved. Not that I necessarily ever cooked for the departed. But sharing a repast that they favored, having those aromas in the air as the food is cooking, seems a very real way of honoring a memory.

These are, of course, the same fragrances that they savored, and in the instances of family, were in the airs of yesterdays that we once shared.

When my brother died early last year, unexpectedly, just a month shy of his sixtieth birthday, I suddenly flashed on when we were kids, in the 1960s. He was seven years older than me–that soon, will change forever–but we shared certain predilections.

And one was for Chicken Delight. Chicken Delight, as Boomers will remember, was one of the very first home-delivery sensations, famous for its television ad slogan, “Don’t kick tonight. Call Chicken Delight!”

The morning I learned the news that my brother had passed in his South Carolina home, I was stunned. Later that evening, I called Chicken Holiday, the take out place whose recipes somewhat emulate the fried chicken from our childhood, right down to the heavy-paper plates (doubled, as both tray and lid), that the meals came in. I ordered four dinners, for myself, and the friends I was with. But when I got to the shop, there was only one bag on the counter. I asked the proprietress where my order was, and she said, “Oh. I thought you ordered a four-piece dinner.” …

I went to Pathmark instead, and cooked another one of my brother’s unusual favorites: hot dogs and tater tots!

The flavors of childhood, of course, can endure.

Just a couple of summers ago, I sent my brother a recipe that had eluded us, directions for my mother’s perfect tomato meat sauce. It had been a staple of our lives for a couple of decades, but for some reason, in the early 1980s, she refused to make it any longer. Nor, when I finally asked, could she fully remember the exact method of her concoction. Suddenly, a few years back, I remembered that she once told me that she had originally based the recipe on one she found in Esquire magazine in the 1950s. I figured that Esquire must have published, at some point, a collection of their best recipes. A quick check at Amazon.com showed that I was right.

And within days, I was back in the kitchen, sauteeing the chop meat, and onions, adding the tomatoes, and tomato paste, and mushrooms…

When I later made it for my Mom, it was the first time in thirty years that her home was filled with the same delicious atmosphere that we had once enjoyed.

My tributes and emulations can be far simpler. When one actor friend died a few years ago, who favored single-malt scotch, I bought a bottle, and toasted his memory.

Earlier this year, I was delighted to discover that the Hal-vah candy that my father favored, was back in supermarkets.

It is said that we cannot talk to the dead. But it is fascinating to realize that we can indeed share a meal with them.

 

James H. Burns
James H. Burns

James H. (Jim) Burns, is a writer/actor living in New York. He has written features for such magazines as GENTLEMAN’S QUARTERLY, ESQUIRE, HEAVY METAL and TWILIGHT ZONE; and Op-Eds or essays for NEWSDAY, THE VILLAGE VOICE, THE SPORTING NEWS and THE NEW YORK TIMES. He has become active in radio, and contributed to Broadway, and Off-Broadway, productions.

Opera Index Honors Dolora Zajick at Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner

Met Mezzo Honoree Delora Zajick & Met Mezzo & Opera Index President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano
Met Mezzo Honoree Delora Zajick &
Met Mezzo & Opera Index President Jane Shaulis. Photo by Judy Pantano

On Sunday, January 17th, Opera Index held its Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner at the JW Marriott Essex House in New York City. The great mezzo soprano, Dolora Zajick was the honored guest. An operatic recital of the 2015 Opera Index Award Winners was also presented. Jane Shaulis, who is a mezzo soprano with the Metropolitan Opera and the new President of Opera Index, enthusiastically hosted this lively production. In her introductory remarks, Ms. Shaulis announced the donations by Opera Index towards the scholarships for the young promising singers and the great pride she has as a performer in helping these talented awardees attain their goals. After hors d’oeuvres and libations the crowd of several hundred went into the glittering dining room for dinner and the operatic recital.

The gifted pianist Michael Fennelly accompanied the singers with dexterity and precision.

Jerry Stolt, Midge Woolsey, Nino Pantano & Stephen De Maio Photo by Judy Pantano
Jerry Stolt, Midge Woolsey, Nino Pantano
& Stephen De Maio
Photo by Judy Pantano

Susannah Biller sang “Ah! Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliette. Ms. Biller possesses a sparkling coloratura soprano and sang an eager, ardent and fearless performance with dazzling agility and fully captured Juliette’s adolescent liberation. Ms. Biller’s high note near the finale was projected into space like Cupid’s arrow. She held the final note as if embracing her Romeo.

Samantha Hankey regaled us with “Allez, laissez-moi seul” from Cendrillon by Massenet. Ms. Hankey is the caretaker of a warm and luscious mezzo and captured the French style. Her sound caresses and comforts and her vocal palette offers flowing tones and many colors.

Jonas Hacker offered “Una furtive lagrima” from Donizetti’s “L’elisir d’amore.” Mr. Hacker is the landlord of a fine tenor voice and is now harvesting and displaying his years of planting. Hacker’s voice has a strong even quality, is manly and straightforward, with a good diminuendo and an excellent cadenza at the finale.

Bottom-Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly, Susannah Biller, Delora Zajick, Will Liverman Top-Megan Marino, Samantha Hankey, Jonas Hacker & Siman Chung Photo by Judy Pantano
Bottom-Jane Shaulis, Michael Fennelly, Susannah Biller, Delora Zajick, Will Liverman
Top-Megan Marino, Samantha Hankey, Jonas Hacker & Siman Chung
Photo by Judy Pantano

Megan Marino, mezzo soprano and Will Liverman, baritone sang “Dunque io son” from Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with wit and elan. Ms. Marino, a feisty, clever Rosina flew through the cadenzas and scales with abandon. Mr. Liverman showed Figaro’s quicksilver mind with vocal fireworks. Both of their flights into the vocal stratosphere were thrilling! It was truly a fun ride and the audience had a good time!

Siman Chung sang “Di tanti palpiti” from Rossini’s Tancredi. His countertenor was never false, in full bloom and he sang this melodic air with excellent diminuendos, strong fioratura and uncommon elegance.

Lastly, Will Liverman sang Gryaznoy’s aria from the Tsar’s Bride by Rimsky-Korsakov in Russian as if he was Russian born. Liverman used this showpiece with its high notes, robust lows and dramatic utterance to showcase his extraordinary voice and splendid vocal gifts. He is from Chicago and is the premier Lissner Charitable Fund award winner which was presented by Karl Michaelis.

Karl Michaelis - Photo by Judy Patano
Karl Michaelis
Photo by Judy Patano

The award ceremony followed with each singer receiving their well-deserved awards. Matthew Epstein Artistic director, Artist manager and consultant whose 40 year career has been vital to the opera world, was the presenter to Dolora Zajick. Mr. Epstein spoke eloquently of her powerhouse performances, humanity and humor and as a legend in her own time.

Ms. Zajick graciously accepted the gift and in a humorous and joyful talk enraptured us all. She told the audience of some memorable performances especially one where the tenor’s wig caught fire in Il Trovatore and another from Rusalka where an artificial cat failed to comply and was thrown in her witches brew! Ms. Zajick has been wowing them at the Metropolitan Opera and all over the world since 1988. Brooklyn can never forget her glorious Santuzza at the Regina Opera circa 1980. Ms. Zajick is happy to have her own organization, The Institute for Young Dramatic Voices in Orem, Utah to help aspiring singers. Dolora Zajick said “I can still deliver the goods” and she sure can – brava!

Nino Pantano, Stefano Acunto, Linda Howes, Carole Acunto & Stepehen Phebus Photo by Judy Pantano
Nino Pantano, Stefano Acunto, Linda Howes,
Carole Acunto & Stepehen Phebus
Photo by Judy Pantano

We sat at the table of Stephen De Maio, President of the Gerda Lissner Foundation with Eve Queler conductor, Robert Lombardo vocal agent, Will Liverman baritone, Gloria Gari (Giulio Gari Foundation) presenter Joyce Greenberg, patron presenter, Karl Michaelis and Michael Fornabaio. It was a pleasure to meet and greet PBS’ Midge Woolsey and husband economist Jerry Stolt, Italian Vice Consul and Commendatore Stefano Acunto and wife Carole, President Sachi Liebergesell from the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation, jewelry appraiser Mark Bunda, General Counsel Brian O’Connor Esq. and wife Maura, who reminisced about their recent trip to Sicily, Duane Printz from Teatro Grattacielo, Bill Ronayne from the Mario Lanza Foundation located in Brooklyn. Also present were famed legendary sopranos Elinor Ross, Lucine Amara, Elaine Malbin (Brooklyn’s own) and mezzo soprano Rosalyn Elias. What a joy to greet Dagmar Tamura, wife of the rising Met Opera tenor Ricardo Tamura who was rehearsing for his forthcoming Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana at the Metropolitan Opera.

What fun to chat with Opera Index Treasurer Murray Rosenthal and Vice Presidents Philip Hagemann and Janet Stovin and family, Board member John David Metcalfe, sponsor Doris Keeley, poet and patron Cavaliere Edward Jackson, composer Stephen Phebus and wife Linda Howes, Ken Benson radio host, vocal agent and erudite Brooklynite. Presenters were the ever dapper tenor Cesare Santeramo and Dr. Robert Campbell and Met comprimario tenor Anthony Laciura and wife Joelle, all of whom were a vital part of the festivities.

When I was a youngster in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn and an aspiring opera singer (The boy Caruso of Brooklyn), with no one to guide my career, I would be in a room listening to Toscanini and the NBC Orchestra on the radio, my head pressed to the speakers, while everyone else was listening to rock and roll. Now, decades later, I found my “comfort zone” in supporting this great art form and encouraging others to do so by giving a “push” in the right direction for gifted young potentially great singers of the future. Bravo – Opera Index, Jane Shaulis and Joe Gasperec, the dynamic duo who made this magnificent event possible!

When we left this elegant room it was snowing outside-the first flakes of winter. To Judy and I, it was like the confectionery sugar sprinkled atop the pastries at our local Italian bakery. How sweet it was and bravi to all!

Carrying Around a Soda Can Poured with Rotgut

An Interview with Kent Russell, Author of “I am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son” Published by Alfred Knopf

“I am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son,” Kent Russell’s irresistibly engaging debut collection of essays, intertwined with personal history, is easily one of the best books of the past year. In a uniquely homespun, yet masterfully polished voice (think Mark Twain meets Joan Didion) Russell has us from the book’s title, which is actually a quotation from Daniel Boone, whose presence and notions of masculinity set a template of sorts for the essays and reflections that follow. Mixing autobiography (in particular, the Turgenev-esque healing of wounds – or at least Mexican stand-off – between father and son) with such wide-ranging topics as a stay on a remote island with a present-day Robinson Crusoe and a visit with a former hockey enforcer looking back on his bruiser’s life, Russell merges erudite insight with highly-developed powers of observation.

Born and raised in Florida, Russell now lives in Prospect Lefferts Gardens. He’s become a confirmed Brooklynite.

On a frigid and overcast January afternoon, at lunch in Fort Greene’s Cafe Paulette, I begin our conversation by asking Russell how he came to live in Brooklyn.

KR: I moved to New York to go to NYU’s Graduate School of Journalism. My sisters Lauren and Karen [Note: Karen Russell is the wildly inventive and prodigiously gifted author of Swamplandia! and Vampires in the Lemon Grove] were living in Washington Heights. Because I got a job at Yeshiva University, I stayed in Washington Heights until I decided to focus on my writing and moved to Brooklyn.

Eagle: Are you part of the Brooklyn Literary Mafia: Amis, Auster, Egan, Lethem, et al.?

KR: Truthfully, no. I mean I’m certainly aware of them and I know they live in Brooklyn, but I tend to hang mostly with fellow ex-Floridians. It’s a very small diaspora. I teach a course at Columbia so, of course, I have colleagues and acquaintances on campus. And friends in Brooklyn. But my inner radar seems to always point me in the direction of folks from my home state.

Eagle: You write about, to put it mildly, some fairly eccentric people. It would have been so easy to have ridiculed them, to have hoisted them on their own petards. But you scrupously, and generously, avoid this. How did you resist the temptation?

KR: Actually, since I’m not someone who’s usually forthcoming, I feel a sense of responsibilty when writing about others. My starting point is always to ask questions. Whenever you report something — especially when it’s something about someone else’s life, about their more intimate stuff — you become like a simpering [talk show] host insofar as you want to make the subject feel as though you’re here for them only, you’re their closest confidante in the world and, oh yeah, don’t worry about the live studio audience all around us. It’s a lot like what Janet Malcolm elucidated in the first few pages of “The Journalist and the Murderer.” I don’t have a performative persona; I like to observe and just be open to the world. One of my literary heroes in that regard is Montaigne.

Eagle: Your use of metaphors (“feet slow as Christmas.” “like raised hands eager to ask a question”), adjectives (“gnatty drizzle,” “peep yellow”) and verbs (“ragdolling,” “Pollock’ed”) is truly astounding. How do you come up with these?

KR: My sister Karen and I joke about who can come up with the best adjectives. We usually run neck and neck. One source I’ve discovered for some of this stuff is a three volume dictionary of American slang. I’m always trying to top myself.

Photo Credit: George Baier IV
Photo Credit: George Baier IV

Eagle: You may have done it with “that sounds about as feasible as squeezing it off mid-pee.”

KR: (Laughing) I don’t know how I come up with some of this stuff. When you ask me me about these one-liners and bon-mots and crazy metaphors, I guess it makes me think of sword fighters. Like, I am obviously not a sword fighter, nor have I ever been one. But I imagine that the best, most fluid, most reactive and most dangerous sword fighter is the one who isn’t worried about getting hurt. You know? The one whose head is empty, who can just “flow.” That’s the state I aspire to when I’m writing.

Eagle: Growing up, were you an avid reader. And who, and what, did you read?

KR: Everyone in our family read voraciously – and eclectically. My mom would read self-help books, followed by deep, intellectual tomes, followed by pulp thrillers. Karen read so much that she would be like Mr. Magoo, walking into things with a book in her hand. She’d be reading the cereal box at breakfast. Also, every Friday our mom would take the three of us to the local Borders and tell us to pick out three books. It didn’t have to be the canon; it could be any book, by any author. Our tastes and interests were wide-ranging and I believe this enriched our writing – and our lives.

Eagle: Finally, the cover of your book is so droll and apropos. [Note: the book’s cover is a photo of Russell wearing a sandwich board with the title hand-lettered on a sandwich board.] Whose idea was it?

KR: The brains behind the cover was Peter Mendelsund. You should Google some of his other covers; you’ll see that the dude is a legit master. I was more than a little skeptical about his idea, but he seemed very sure of it, so I went with it. I knew well enough to give an artist his freedom, and to trust in his vision. Plus, he orchestrated my first (and most likely last) photo shoot!

A Review: ‘Reporting Always: Writings from The New Yorker’

Lillian Ross reporting on the set of John Huston’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” outside Los Angeles, 1950. Credit: Silvia Reinhardt
Lillian Ross reporting on the set of John Huston’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” outside Los Angeles, 1950. Credit: Silvia Reinhardt

When I was a teenager and my father realized the true extent of my passion for the movies, he gave me a slim paperback titled simply “Picture.” The author was Lillian Ross. I’d read Arthur Knight and Manny Farber and Bosley Crowther and Stanley Kaufman, and, of course, Pauline Kael. But Ross was new to me. After reading the book, which many consider the best book ever written about the making of a motion picture, I never again missed an opportunity to read anything by Lillian Ross. (Who, not incidentally, while born in Syracuse, was raised in Brooklyn.)

Now, with the publication of “Reporting Always: Writings from The New Yorker,” with a forward by The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, we have the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the work of Ms. Ross — and to make new discoveries. For me, without doubt, the best of these discoveries is her droll and deadpan profile of the larger-than-life Brooklynite Sidney Franklin, titled “El Unico Matador.” (Not incidentally, this was Ross’s first New Yorker profile that appeared under her own byline.)

At first glance, Franklin, born Stanley Frumpkin in 1903 into an Orthodox Jewish family that had fled Imperial Russia for America in 1888, seems too outlandish to be true. The son of an NYPD cop (who was assigned to Brooklyn’s 78th Precinct), a closeted gay man (interestingly, the Eagle, which closely chronicled Franklin’s rise, was, in the 1840s, edited by another closeted male, Walt Whitman), a student of the legendary matador Rodolfo Gaona and friends with, among others, writer Barnaby Conrad, film director Budd Boetticher and James Dean (a great aficionado of bullfighting), Franklin went on to have an improbable, extraordinary life. The deeper one gets into Ross’s article, the more one realizes what a fantastic story she is telling. (In fact, in his biography of Hemingway, with whom Franklin had a fraught friendship, A.E. Hotchner writes that “Lillian Ross’s career with The New Yorker was founded on the success of her profile of the bullfighter Sidney Franklin.”)

Lillian Ross and Robin Williams, shortly after the release of “Good Morning, Vietnam” in 1987. Credit: Arthur Grace
Lillian Ross and Robin Williams, shortly after the release of “Good Morning, Vietnam” in 1987. Credit: Arthur Grace

As Ross recounts, Franklin became a matador after running away from home to Mexico. He fought bulls in Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Panama and Mexico. In “Death in the Afternoon,” Hemingway wrote of Franklin that “[He is] brave with a cold, serene and intelligent valor but instead of being awkward and ignorant he is one of the most skillful, graceful and slow manipulators of a cape fighting today.”

The reader quickly realizes that Ross is captivated by Franklin; where other reporters might have been barbed and mocking, Ross gives Franklin the benefit of the doubt. Even Franklin’s own sympathetic biographer, Bart Paul, notes that “El Torero de la Torah” (as his legion of Spanish fans dubbed him) was prone to exaggeration and tall tales. Wisely, Ross lets Franklin do most of the talking: “It’s all a matter of first things first. I was destined to taste the first, and the best, on the list of walks of life … I was destined to shine. It was a matter of noblesse oblige.”

On April 10, 1949, the Brooklyn Eagle published a story on Sidney Franklin, “Brooklyn’s own Matador de Toros.” Copyright © 2015 Newspapers.com
On April 10, 1949, the Brooklyn Eagle published a story on Sidney Franklin, “Brooklyn’s own Matador de Toros.” Copyright © 2015 Newspapers.com

Noblesse oblige is a term that Franklin uses a lot. Once, while watching a bullfight in Mexico, he was seated next to a British psychiatrist. They had a conversation, captured by Ross, straight out of Lewis Carroll, by way of Groucho Marx:

“While a dead bull was being dragged out of the ring, Franklin turned to the psychiatrist. ‘Say, Doc, did you ever get into the immortality of the crab?’ he asked. The psychiatrist admitted that he had not, and Franklin said that nobody knew the answer to that one. He then asked the psychiatrist what kind of doctor he was. Mental and physiological, the psychiatrist said. ‘I say the brain directs everything in the body,’ Franklin said. It’s all a matter of what’s in your mind.’ ‘You’re something of a psychosomaticist,’ said the psychiatrist. ‘Nah, all I say is if you control your brain, your brain controls the whole works.’ The psychiatrist asked if the theory applied to bullfighting. ‘You’ve got something there, Doc,’ said Franklin. `Bullfighting is basic. It’s a matter of life and death. People come to see you take long chances. It’s life’s biggest gambling game. Tragedy and comedy are so close together they’re part of each other. It’s all a matter of noblesse oblige.’”

Lillian Ross, Ernest Hemingway and his sons, Gregory and Patrick, in Ketchum, Idaho, 1947. Credit: Mary Hemingway
Lillian Ross, Ernest Hemingway and his sons, Gregory and Patrick, in Ketchum, Idaho, 1947. Credit: Mary Hemingway

Who but Ross could have captured that? And then, with impeccable reportorial instincts, gotten out of the way? One also realizes that, in many ways, she set the template for a certain New Yorker style. (The Franklin profile was written in 1949.)  The hallmarks of this style are bemusement, curiosity, meticulous attention to detail and, especially refreshing in our age of internet-fueled snark, generosity. It would have been so easy to mock Franklin; Ross never took that bait.

Lillian Ross and J.D. Salinger in Central Park in the late ’60s with Erik Ross, Matthew Salinger and Peggy Salinger. Courtesy of Lillian Ross
Lillian Ross and J.D. Salinger in Central Park in the late ’60s with Erik Ross, Matthew Salinger and Peggy Salinger. Courtesy of Lillian Ross

By email, I ask Remnick about the Franklin piece in particular and Ross’s reportorial prowess in general.

“The Sidney Franklin profile is one of my favorites. You don’t find many Brooklyn bullfighters these days. There must be something in the kale or the air or something. It doesn’t matter. What was so wonderful about Lillian’s piece, and all of her pieces, was her eye for a story and her ear for the way people tell them. She remains a master.”

Lillian Ross and Wallace Shawn on the streets of New York in the 1960s. Courtesy of Lillian Ross
Lillian Ross and Wallace Shawn on the streets of New York in the 1960s. Courtesy of Lillian Ross

Even when she is profiling (in “How Do You Like It Now, Gentlemen?,” written in 1950) someone with as huge a target on his back as Ernest Hemingway, Ross never takes a cheap shot. From Remnick’s Introduction: “To her astonishment and Hemingway’s, some readers thought the piece was a hatchet job, a work of aggression that besmirched the reputation of a great literary artist. Which seemed ridiculous to both writer and subject. Hemingway and Ross had become close, and he went to great lengths to reassure her of their enduring friendship: ‘All are very astonished because I don’t hold anything against you who made an effort to destroy me and nearly did, they say,’ he told her. ‘I can always tell them, how can I be destroyed by a woman when she is a friend of mine and we have never even been to bed and no money has changed hands?’ His advice to her was clear: ‘Just call them the way you see them and the hell with it.’”

Ross took Hemingway’s advice, and for the past 65 years and counting, she’s never approached her craft any other way. How fortunate we are to have this new collection (which also includes profiles of Fellini, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench) — and to have this diminutive dynamo (it’s hard to get that Franklin patois out of my head) still out there with pad and pencil. Somehow, I’m sure she doesn’t use a Tablet.

Lillian Ross, John Huston and Audie Murphy on the set of John Huston’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” outside Los Angeles, 1950. Credit: Silvia Reinhardt
Lillian Ross, John Huston and Audie Murphy on the set of John Huston’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” outside Los Angeles, 1950. Credit: Silvia Reinhardt
Image courtesy of Scribner
Image courtesy of Scribner

Prospect Heights Resident and New York City Opera Legend, Don Yule Passes Away

MEISTERSINGER. Photo credit, Beth Bergman
Meistersinger – Photo credit, Beth Bergman

Don Yule was born in Enid, Oklahoma on January, 21st, 1935 and passed away in Brooklyn, N.Y. on July 3, 2015. He was born Donnie Elton Yule to Dr. Arthur Harry Yule and Izell Warren Yule. </br>
He was a popular member of New York City Opera for more than fifty years and a talented artist. Yule was considered an essential part of the core company, participating in more than a thousand performances. He studied Music Performance at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Don Yule began his career with New York City Opera as a bass in the chorus in 1960 and later as a comprimario artist. His talent as a character actor was discernible from the start. He debuted as Gluttony in Six Characters in Search of an Author, starring Beverly Sills and the orchestra conducted by General Director Julius Rudel. Yule sang in several languages, including Italian, French and Russian. His roles also varied, from comedy to drama. He played both the drunken landlord Benoit and the thwarted lover Alcindoro, in La Boheme and the sinister jailer in Tosca. His most memorable roles were that of the emperor in Turandot and multiple parts in Candide.

While on tour with New York City Opera, Yule performed in Los Angeles; Saratoga, N.Y.; and the upper Northeast and Midwest of the U.S., as well as in countries such as Taiwan and Japan. Yule also performed in New York City Opera’s summer musicals and in Gilbert and Sullivan at the City Center of Music.(The Mikado being one of his favorite roles).

Marriage of Figaro - Photo credit, Beth Bergman
Marriage of Figaro – Photo credit, Beth Bergman

Earlier in his career, Yule performed at Town and Country Musicals in East Rochester, N.Y., where he met his first wife, Christine Chernis Brandt.

He sang with Turnau Opera in Woodstock, N.Y. and Sarasota, Fla. His roles included Colline in La Boheme and Collatinus in The Rape of Lucretia. He also performed with Central City Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Don Yule was the President of the American Guild of Musical Artists for five years. It is a labor organization that represents the men and women who create America’s operatic, choral and dance heritage.

During his second marriage, to Jaye Adams, Yule resided in Brooklyn, N.Y., with their son Seth. One of Don’s hobbies was collecting and repairing antique clocks and he found a kindred spirit in Aldo Mancusi from the Enrico Caruso Museum of America which Don visited. Don was an avid collector of music-related classical treasures. His collection included antique Victrola’s and rare operatic recordings that he loved to share with his colleagues.

Yule often donated performances with Maestro Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera in Central Park, at The Brooklyn Academy of Music with The Brooklyn Philharmonic and Brooklyn’s Regina Opera Company. Many young singers from both the United States and abroad got a grounding in the American classical tradition with these wonderful companies. Yule shared his wisdom and knowledge of musical history with grateful newcomers and assisted them in establishing themselves here. Every summer he and other veteran singers enabled novices to garner their first reviews by singing with them as part of their presentations. During his long and busy career, Yule also sang in several New York City churches and synagogues.

Nine Rivers from Jordan, Photo credit - Beth Bergman
Nine Rivers from Jordan, Photo credit – Beth Bergman

Of interest, Yule was a third cousin on his father’s side to Mickey Rooney, whose birth name was Joe Yule.

Don Yule is survived by his son, Seth, and two former wives, Jaye Adams of Palm Beach, Fla., and Christine Chernis Brandt of Asheville, N.C.

In lieu of flowers, gifts may be donated in Don Yule’s memory to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, c/o the IU Foundation, P.O Box 500, Bloomington, IN 47402.

“The Little Church Around the Corner” Presents a Memorable “Amahl and the Night Visitors”

Brittany Fowler (Mother) Carlos Tapia (Amahl) Jake Ingbar (King Melchior) Daniel Neer (King Kaspar) Alexis Cordero (The Page) & Charles Samuel Brown (King Balthazar) Photo by Marcello Pantano
Brittany Fowler (Mother), Carlos Tapia (Amahl), Jake Ingbar (King Melchior), Daniel Neer (King Kaspar), Alexis Cordero (The Page), Charles Samuel Brown (King Balthazar) Photo by Marcello Pantano

On the evening of Friday, December 18th, “The Little Church Around the Corner” founded in 1848 so named because where another local Church refused to bury an actor, his friend was told, “There is a little church around the corner that will” thus becoming a favorite of theatre folk since. The Church of the Transfiguration on East 29th Street in New York City, now a National Landmark, presented the Gian Carlo Menotti (1911-2007) classic Christmas opera of “Amahl & the Night Visitors.”

We saw this wonderful hour long presentation several times at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with our late good friend and former New York City Opera basso Don Yule as King Balthazar. We had the honor of meeting Gian Carlo Menotti, the composer who was present at that performance.

Menotti was commissioned in 1951 to write an opera for NBC TV television by its President David Sarnoff and Producer Samuel Chotzinoff. Menotti could not think of what to write but one day while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC he chanced to see the painting “The Adoration of the Magi” by Hieronymus Bosch with the three kings visiting the Christ child. He recalled his own childhood memories in Italy when he and his brother would wait until they fell asleep for the three kings to visit their home bearing gifts for Christmas. At that moment, Menotti knew what his opera would be. The first showing on Christmas Eve television in 1951 was viewed by an estimated 5 million people scored a tremendous hit and it was repeated for years afterwards. Now it is done in churches worldwide and audiences never fail to be touched by this musical tale of a mischievous crippled boy Amahl, his mother, their simplicity and poverty and their special royal visitors who have come for a place to stay on their journey and who witness a miracle when Amahl offers his crutch as a gift to the Child.

The program was in two parts. The first part was “A Ceremony of Carols” by British composer Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) sung by The Transfiguration Choir of Men and Boys, Girls Choir and Camerata. (A small chamber orchestra or choir- in this instance 42 choir members and 15 musicians.)

The procession down the aisle into the Church was impressive as the choristers walked to the main altar. There were ten carols sung, all brief and haunting. Britten had his own musical recipe and while not really melodic or atonal; his music is in another heavenly sphere, evoking his “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The chorus was a beautiful blend and in “That yonge child” Richard Jimenez boy-treble-soprano, was sweet and impressive. In “Balulalow” Mario Hall, boy-treble soprano was haunting and radiant. Kathryn Andrews was magical in her harp interlude. In “Freezing winter night” Lesley Zlabinger’s soprano soared with Joe Redd and in “Deo Gracias” one could almost hear a similarity to Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana.” “Spring Carol” offered Lauren Breen and Sole Trinidad as soloists.

All of the singers were impressive and were a heavenly blend. Multi-cultural young and older singers woven together by the genius of conductor, organist and conductor Claudia Dumschat.

After a brief intermission with one and all marveling at the beauty of this Christmas decorated church with its wooden panels, Christmas greenery and Virgin mother grotto, beloved of actors, it was time to see Amahl complete in this Church for the first time and not just excerpts as had been done in the past.

The excellent 15 piece orchestra under the skilled baton of Claudia Dumschat began with the haunting prelude.

Conductor Claudia Dumschat
Conductor Claudia Dumschat

The mother was portrayed and sung by Brittany Fowler whose luscious mezzo soprano illuminated the stage with her duets with Amahl and the cherished “All that gold!” which was sung with the passion of a Puccini heroine. Ms. Fowler’s diction was crisp and clear and her impact on the audience was vivid and visceral.

Amahl was in the adorable hands of boy treble – soprano Carlos Tapia a 6th grader at Mt. Carmel Holy Rosary School. His poignant “Don’t cry Mother dear” and “I was a shepherd” were indelible and “Look, Mother, I can dance” was joyous, his acting exemplary. Carlos Tapia gave a strong portrayal of a crippled boy whose inherent goodness and curiosity made him a symbol of indomitable virtues worthy of a miracle. He was unforgettable.

King Melchior was in the able hands of Jake Ingbar whose robust baritone made him part of the trio blend including the rich sonorous basso of Charles Samuel Brown as King Balthazar and the flexible tenor of Daniel Neer as King Kaspar whose comic singing of “This is my box” captivated all. “Have you seen a child?” is the trio blend that enters one’s soul and just won’t go away. They scored a triune triumph! The Shepherd’s Song, “Emily, Michael, Bartholomew” was sung at the side aisle of the church with the shepherds, and Amahl’s mother with the Three Kings was another highlight.

Alexis Cordero as the Page who discovers Amahl’s mother’s attempt to take a piece of gold “For my child” is 16 years old and in the 11th grade at Norman Thomas High School. He sang in a robust bass and took Amahl’s blows well for “Please don’t hurt my Mother.”

The marvelous dancers, summoned to Amahl’s house were Ambar and Charles Rosario. They danced at the side of the interior of the church as did the peasant dancers Olivia Brett, Adriana Hall and Bianca Hall. The finale with the now cured Amahl, walking normally, leaving with the wise men and Page on their journey is as delicate as a Christmas ornament and we thank all responsible for giving us this Menotti moment of magic!

Special kudos to costume designer Terri Bush whose varied creations from the majestic colorful robes of the kings to the simple peasant attire was perfection.

Choreographer Robert Hampton did a wonderful job in utilizing this space making the dancers up front and closer to the audience.

Betty Howe, Stage Manager who knows how to balance both space and place so that one can properly face the action and be part of it.

Richard Olson, Director who had the Herculean task of making the boundaries of the Church wider and using the aisles to allow the principals to move and dance freely. The simple bench at the altar where the wise men sat and Kaspar’s bird cage and a blanket were all one needed to create the world of both majesty and poverty.

This Arnold Schwartz Candlelight Memorial Concert would have surely not been possible without the special genius of Claudia Dumschat and additional thanks to the Right Reverend Andrew R. St. John, Rector who greeted the standing room only audience warmly.

The reception following for one and all was in the common room where we had a chance to eat and drink, meet and greet friends and performers one of whom, pianist Michael Pilafian, we recognized from Maestro Vincent La Selva’s New York Grand Opera. What a beautiful way for my wife Judy and I and family to celebrate the Christmas season. We look forward to next year’s performance!

Brooklyn’s Casa Duse Presents Fall Music Festival

Left - Ben Chavez, Monet Sabel, Matthew Stoke & Jenisa de Castro Right - Robert Krakovski, Michele Ivey, Austin Davidson & Mark T Evans Photo by Judy Pantano
Left – Ben Chavez, Monet Sabel, Matthew Stoke & Jenisa de Castro Right – Robert Krakovski, Michele Ivey, Austin Davidson & Mark T Evans, Photo by Judy Pantano

On the evening of Saturday, December 5th we were revitalized to be present at the Casa Duse Supper Club’s enticing new series of a “Fall Festival of Music” in conjunction with the “New Place Players” a month of extraordinary music, wine and food to welcome the holidays! The Casa Duse Supper Club is located at 16 Prospect Park West in Park Slope in a 19th century townhouse named after the legendary Italian actress Eleanora Duse. (1858-1924) It was so named because of its late former owner Duse’s godson, Michael Waldron and the spirit of Duse he embodied. The walls of this charming dwelling are filled with signed photos of Duse, Stanislavsky, Olivier, Gielgud, Barrymore, as well as soprano divas; the imperial Zinka Milanov, legendary Joan Sutherland, great tenor Luciano Pavarotti and the “king” of tenors Enrico Caruso and many other opera and theater immortals. Joan Sutherland and her husband conductor Richard Bonynge occupied the Casa Duse for years as guests of Martin Waldron during their seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. When Martin Waldron passed away in 2009,our affable host Robert Krakovski started the Casa Duse Collective parlor salon, to honor and perpetuate his mentor and keep his spirit alive.

The truly unique intimacy of an event at Casa Duse and its rich history in itself makes for a memorable night. Whether a New Place Players gourmet Shakespeare salon under the brilliant stewardship of Craig Bacon, or live music by world class artists in the living room of the historic home across from Prospect Park, the experience is magical!

Ben Chavez a talented young man from New Jersey did a show entitled “Out of NYU, Paying DUSE! A tribute to Mentors and Musical Inspiration!” Back by popular demand, this affable and talented rising star offered us a feast of standards, pop sounds and original compositions.

The first part found the gifted Ben Chavez at the piano evoking memories of Hildegarde, Liberace, Nat “King” Cole and others who charmed past generations with piano and song. Chavez offered us generous portions of Bill Joel including a wonderful “New York State of Mind.”

In his reflective banter, Chavez revealed that one of the things he learned is the tragedy of leaving life “not to have given enough of ourselves.” Indeed in some of his jazz selections his concentration almost transformed the music into an intimate Scarlatti piece.

Looking around the room, twenty or so tables, each with a red rose, young faces eager, enthusiastic and joyful, made for a perfect Saturday night.

Chavez regaled his audience with “Sometimes it takes a while” and “Just the way you are.” He then discussed some of Frank Sinatra’s influence and Ray Charles’ “A baby grand-all it takes is the power of my hands.”

Then “You all rise up with your hands-make a joyful noise, rise up” and “I was ready for someone to hold me-Love to the rescue again.” His superb backup singers were sopranos Monet Sabel and Jenisa de Castro and the tenor of Matthew Stoke. A perfect blend-each worthy of solo careers!

After a brief intermission, the second part of the program opened with one of my all-time favorite Spanish songs, “Amapola.” Chavez commented that he heard it sung by Andrea Bocelli. This love song goes way back to legendary tenors Tito Schipa, Jan Peerce and the great Alfredo Krauss. It was also a “pop” hit in the 1940’s. Chavez, whose pleasing baritone proved itself worthy of this genre, was accompanied on the piano for part two by Mark T Evans whose wonderful pianistic virtuosity evoked the colors of Debussy.

This was followed by” Fabrizio’s love song” from the musical “Light in the Piazza” a Lincoln Center hit a few years ago. Chavez, who is also a noted composer, admired this work by Adam Guettel, who is the grandson of the great Richard Rogers.

A charming duet followed titled “Something Stupid” with Michele Ivey. This was a big hit with Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy in the 1950’s. Ms. Ivey’s sumptuous soprano tapered its size for this perky novelty.

A Gershwin medley included a heartfelt “Embraceable You.” Chavez also did a bit of tap dancing to an old Fred Astaire tune with his many fans cheering. Chavez’s finale was a Sesame Street (Elmo) Christmas song that he recalled from his youth. “Think of the day, when Christmas has gone away” reassuring the children that Christmas is a moveable feast!

Another encore was “I’ll be seeing you” with a wonderful  high note and pianissimo finale. This sentimental song was Liberace’s closing theme song. Actor-singer Austin Davidson in a brief duet with Chavez, rounded out the potpourri of talent that made this evening so special!

The elegant host-producer Robert Krakovski who is the true spirit of Martin Waldron, who reigned at the Casa Duse for 50 years, had reason to smile as did the ghosts of the great artists photos on the wall, because the Casa Duse is alive and keeping the spirit as in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” past, present and future.”

Future programs are:

Friday Dec. 11th – at 6:30pm Emirhan Tunca & Andrew Sun-Cello & Piano Duo

Sat. Dec. 12th – at 6:30pm Latin & Jazz Cabaret with Horacio Martinez & Friends

Sat. Dec. 19th – 6:30pm Theresa Kloos & David Raimo “Christmas in New York”

Sun. Dec. 20th – 6:30PM Jazz Sunday with the Sam Dillon Trio

For tickets & information visit: www.16casaduse.com

“Gotta Dance” – An Interview with Tyler Angle, Principal Dancer, New York City Ballet and Enthusiastic Brooklynite

Tyler Angle, Photo credit: Paul Kolnik
Tyler Angle, Photo credit: Paul Kolnik

Since 1964, when it became the second building constructed on the new Lincoln Center campus, the New York State Theater (known since November 2008 as the David H. Koch Theater) has been home to the New York City Ballet, one of the city’s, and the world’s, great cultural treasures. As one walks into the lobby, (and now that THE NUTCRACKER has begun its annual holiday season, through January 3, 2016, there will be multitudes entering) on the right wall closest to the entrance, in alphabetical order, are black and white photographs of NYCB’s principal male dancers. The first photograph is of Jared Angle, who has been a principal since November of 2005. Next to him is a photograph of his brother Tyler Angle, who has been a principal since since October of 2009. (The hierarchy in ballet is “apprentice,” “member of the corps de ballet,” “soloist,” and, finally the highest ranking attainable, “principal dancer.”) Although they are originally from Altoona, Pennsylvania, they both now reside in Brooklyn, as does a third brother Bradley. It would seem the Angles of Altoona have colonized the borough of Brooklyn.

(Interestingly. NYCB has two other sets of siblings: Megan and Robert Fairchild and Abi and Jonathan Stafford, although Robert Fairchild is on temporary leave starring in An American in Paris on Broadway and Jonathan Stafford recently retired from his principal dancer role and is now a ballet master for the company.)

Tyler, in particular, has become a diehard Brooklynite, living in Brooklyn Heights since 2012. In truth, however, his family’s Brooklyn connections goes back much further.

The Eagle spoke by telephone recently with Angle, who will be dancing a selection of performances in this season’s production of The Nutcracker.

Eagle: What drew you to live in Brooklyn?

Maria Kowroski as the Sugarplum Fairy and Tyler Angle as her Cavalier in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo credit: Paul Kolnik
Maria Kowroski as the Sugarplum Fairy and Tyler Angle as her Cavalier in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo credit: Paul Kolnik

Angle: When I first came to New York in the Fall of 2001 to study at the School of American Ballet (Note: SAB is the official school of the New York City Ballet), in order to be close to the School, I essentially lived at Lincoln Center. By 2009, when I became a principal, I wanted to put some geographic and pyschic distance between where I worked and where I lived, and because my father’s sister, my aunt Rosie, raised her family in Brooklyn, the borough was my first choice. In fact, another sister of my father’s, my aunt Shirley, also lived in Brooklyn; her husband was an NYPD beat cop. I had been visiting Brooklyn since I was ten. There was not the slightest doubt that was where I wanted to live.

Eagle: What are some of your favorite Brooklyn restaurants, cafes, activities?

Angle: My friends and I love having lunch or dinner at Jack the Horse, on Hicks. Excellent food, super great atmosphere. We also like Frankie’s, Roman’s, lots of restaurants in Williamsburg, which is where my other brother, Bradley, lives. We also like just wandering around, especially in the Heights. I really like the smaller scale, compared to Manhattan, of Brooklyn neighborhoods. And I like the way you can just be meandering and discover a plaque telling you that “Walt Whitman lived here” or Hart Crane wrote “The Bridge” on the fourth floor of this apartment. It makes these landmarks feel accessible. Afterwards, I like to go to Atlantic Avenue to buy Lebanese or Turkish food for dinner. Since purchasing the apartment, I’ve become a bit of a homebody; I enjoy cooking for friends, staying in, decompressing from rehearsal and performance.

Eagle: Although you dance the full repertoire, from Balanchine to Wheeldon, I’m always knocked out by your performance as one of the three sailors on shore leave in Jerome Robbins’s “Fancy Free.” On your profile page on the New York City Ballet website, you describe how one of your favorite aspects of this ballet is that, when it’s clicking, “the dancer is not aware of performing and the audience is not aware of watching a performance.” Is this only applicable to “Fancy Free” or do you also feel this way about other ballets you perform?

Angle: That’s a good question. Ideally, what I always strive for is naturalism over “exhibition.” For example, I remember dancing with Wendy Whelan (it was my debut dancing with her) in the pas de deux from “Diamonds,” and experiencing that same sensation, being totally olivious of the audience. That is such a rare feeling and one that every dancer strives for. Both “Fancy Free” and Jerry’s (choreographer Jerome Robbins) “In the Night” permit that transcendence to happen. With “Fancy Free” there are many other elements at work as well. My grandfather joined the Navy when he was 17 and fought in World War II. Talking with him about his experiences informed my approach to the ballet. Also, the first time I did “Fancy Free” I was still a very young dancer working with two seasoned veterans. Now I have the great fortune to dance with my contemporaries and this heightens the sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps. The ballet is wrapped up in all these memories, so, as I said on the website, it remains very special and significant for me.

Tyler Angle as the Cavalier in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo credit: Paul Kolnik
Tyler Angle as the Cavalier in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. Photo credit: Paul Kolnik

Eagle: Six years ago, in an interview with Claudia LaRocco of The New York Times, you mentioned that, at your career’s end, you had no ambition to found your own company or to become a choreographer. Has your thinking changed? And have you thought about what you would like to do?

Angle: My thinking hasn’t changed about not wanting to run a company or to choreograph, but I also know I don’t want to reach 35 and think “What am I going to do next?” I want to be prepared for the “next.” For the past four years, during the summer, after the company’s residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, I’ve been the artistic director of the Nantucket Atheneum Dance Festival. There are lectures, dance recitals, children’s classes. We’ve attracted prominent dancers from American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, the Royal Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Miami City Ballet. We don’t have a big gala or benefit; it’s all very local and low-key – we perform in the Mary Walker Auditorium at Nantucket High School. What the Festival is all about is the concentration, discipline and diligence that ballet demands. This is the kind of career path I see for myself after my professional dancing comes to an end.

Watching Angle dance, exquisitely, the role of the Cavalier at last night’s performance of The Nutcracker, one hopes he puts off that decision until he’s eligible for AARP membership.

The Nutcracker continues its run at the David H. Koch Theatre at Lincoln Center Through Sunday, January 3rd. Tickets available at www.nycballet.com