Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bye Bye Brunnhilde

It’s Friday night in Manhattan and we are walking up 65th Street on our way to dinner at Daniel. The wind picks up and I wrap my jacket more tightly around me. It would be easy to forget that Manhattan is an island were it not for the wind. It’s no secret that New York is not the cleanest of cities, and those ocean breezes that blast their way between buildings and swirl around street corners carry with them every bit of debris that isn’t nailed down or bagged up -- a brisk reminder of why I don’t eat outside.

A favorite New York joke goes like this – a woman and her son are having lunch at a sidewalk café. The waiter brings the boy a bowl of soup and sets it down in front of him, at which point the woman says, “Hurry up and eat your soup, Dear, before it gets dirty.”

As we reach the entrance to Daniel, a limousine pulls up and stops in front of us. A gorgeous, long-stemmed beauty unfurls her legs and gets out. There is no other word for it. She is quite simply perfect in every way – perfectly dressed, perfectly made up, perfectly coiffed as she strides with perfect poise under the canopy and into the restaurant. I watch with a mixture of awe and envy as I try to smooth my mop of wind-blown hair. She was clearly what my Grandmother would have called a High-Stepper.

My Grandmother, a transplanted Brit, used to say that there were three types of New Yorkers – the Hoofers, the Hailers and the High-Steppers. Hoofers walked, except when it rained, Hailers took cabs and High-Steppers took limousines.

We make an annual pilgrimage to Daniel, my husband’s favorite Gastronomic Temple in New York. And, whether we arrive by foot or by taxi, once inside Daniel’s beautiful dining room, we are always made to feel like High-Steppers.

The service is impeccable -- gracious and attentive yet never effusive, and I am always charmed by the subtle dash of good humor and fun. The waitstaff clearly enjoy their work and will do whatever it takes to make sure you enjoy every moment of your evening. And then there’s the food…….!!!!

I am particularly fond of the black velvet cushions which are placed beside each Lady’s chair for her to rest her handbag. The shape and height of the cushion ensures that your bag or clutch lies within easy reach of your hand without having to bend down. Ladies, how often have you had to balance your clutch on your lap under your napkin only to have one or both slide off during dinner? Major kudos to whoever came up with this brilliant little idea.


The next morning we are waiting in front of the entrance to the Metropolitan Opera at Lincoln Center. The curtain is scheduled to go up on “Die Walkure” at 12 Noon. It is our last opera for the season and one we have been looking forward to for months. It’s already 11:50, and they still refuse to let us in. What’s going on?

The crowd of anxious opera goers around us grows larger. In all my years as a Met Opera subscriber, this has never happened. It’s impossible not to think the worst. I call my friend, Steve, who is having brunch at the Grand Tier Restaurant inside.

“What’s going on?” I ask. “They won’t let us in and they won’t tell us what’s happening.”

“Oh, they’re having technical problems with the stage again. I got the scoop from the Maitre D’.” It’s been my experience in life that if you want the straight scoop on things like this, you never get it from management.

An hour later we are finally in our seats in the Grand Tier, the crystal chandeliers have risen and we hear the pulsating notes of the brief prelude.

To say it was worth the wait is a HUGE understatement. The massive set which set the Met back more than 45 million dollars and has been more unreliable than the most temperamental of Divas has decided to function beautifully.

Brunnhilde and her eight Valkyrie Sisters ride again on their winged horses rescuing fallen heroes and bringing them to Valhalla.

As the final notes of Wagner’s masterpiece ring out, the audience applauds wildly as the curtain closes on our young heroine, Brunnhilde, lying on a magical rock surrounded by fire, her eyes locked in a deep, enchanted sleep.

She will lie there until the hero, Siegfried, fights his way through the ring of fire that surrounds her and rescues her with a kiss. But, alas, we and Brunnhilde will have to wait until next year for “Siegfried” the third opera in Wagner’s four-opera Ring Cycle. And so I bid a fond auf wiedersehen to Brunnhilde on her fiery rock. It will be a long, hot summer for both of us.