Saturday, January 7, 2017

Brush with Celebrity

Last night I met my wife in NYC to see La bohème at the Met.

This was a Christmas present from the Mrs. to me, one very appreciated. Way way back, before our second child was born eight years ago, we made a point to see either a play or a concert or both every year. We saw Kevin Spacey in The Iceman Cometh, Quentin Tarantino in Wait Until Dark, Kelsey Grammar in Macbeth, on and off Broadway. We saw Aida, La Traviata, Oedipus Rex, at the Metropolitan Opera House. We saw classical pieces performed three times at Avery Fisher Hall and once at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington DC. We even went to a program at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Then came house, baby 1, baby 2, health issues and job layoffs. No more high life of culture.

So the Christmas gift was a nice surprise. I had listened to Puccini’s La bohème twelve or thirteen years back and thought it so-so (I was much more a fan of his Turandot). But I was game. It was a night out, my father-in-law would be watching the little ones, and the wife and I would enjoy a show and grab a few drinks and some eats afterward.

What did I think of the performance?

Obviously, it was phenomenal. The sets struck me most – based on Franco Zeffirelli’s set design, they were authentically bohemian à la 1830s Paris, oozing the poverty and wintry cold required for the tale. The quartet of main singers, all in their early thirties I suppose, were excellent. The protagonist, Rodolfo, was played by a singer who hails from nearby Montclair, NJ. The orchestra and the conductor were sublime – melodies and motifs so emotionally driven yet so unobtrusive to the action on the stage – I never experienced such a perfect meld of music, singing, and acting.

Yeah, I had some nitpicks. Didn’t like taking a bus and a cab in all by myself. As far as the opera itself, I had trouble distinguishing who was singing in Act II, the café and Paris street scene, and thought some stuff thrown in were unnecessarily ostentatious, but I guess that’s par for the course in the Big Apple. The wife felt the second intermission was unnecessarily unnecessary. And I didn’t think one of the characters was as good as the wife did. But all these negative complaints were positively dwarfed by the rest of the opera.

Then came the Brush with Celebrity.

During the first Intermission we went out to the bar area on the Orchestra level for our free complimentary flutes of champagne. Seeing one or two hundred opera-goers of varying qualities of dress. Saw some tuxes, saw some tats. Lots of clusters of folks of all ages, groups bustling by, icy waves wafting down the main stairs when the outer doors opened. We scurried off to one side, then moved in close to the bar, off to the side, where traffic seemed light.

After chatting about five minutes, I look over my wife’s shoulder at a character who catches my eye.

In a sea of people, he’s alone, isolated just off the center of the room, a few feet from the bar, five or six feet from me. He’s doing slow three-sixties around, as if looking for someone, but I don’t get the impression he’s here with anyone.

He’s wearing a brown fedora with a tan … almost a leisure-suit like jacket. I thought he had one of those half-canes with the carved ivory handle, but my wife, in retrospect, thinks I was just projecting off the glass of alcohol he was drinking. But we both noted those rings – huge, gigantic brass rings, at least an inch in height, adorning several fingers of each hand.

Who is this man? I’m thinking. I’m also thinking I should know him. He seems familiar. And if not, my writer’s eye realizes that he would make a fascinating character in some fabulously bizarre post-modern fantasy. A man who can rock the eccentric hobo millionaire look and not give a single damn about what anyone else might be thinking is someone who interests me.

Our eyes meet again, and he’s looking right at me, right into my eyes. It’s a vacant sort of stare, open-eyed, no concern whatever, no fear, just reaching out as he slowly spins around, taking in the crowd mingling about. There are patches of ill-grown facial hair, gray and black and splotchy, framing his face. In a moment his back is now to me.

Then it hits me. I lean in to my wife and whisper, “Don’t make it obvious, just turn around slowly. I think Nicolas Cage is right behind us.”

My wife sloooooowly turns, inconspicuously, and I examine another part of the room with extreme feigned interest. Sixty seconds pass and then we look at each other. “That is one hundred percent Nicolas Cage,” she confirms.

My mind is blown. This is the closest I’ve ever been to a bona fide celebrity.

“Should I go up and talk to him?” she asks, and I know she’s willing, ready, and dying to do it. “I’ll tell him I loved him in Moonstruck and Leaving Las Vegas and I’ll ask him how he’s enjoying the opera.”

Images of her chatting with Nicolas Cage, motioning me to come over and shake his hand overwhelm me. “Nah,” I say, “don’t bother him. It looks like he doesn’t want to be bothered.”

Meanwhile an older blonde with a black dress has now swarmed up to him and their chatting amiably.

We went back to our seats to await the beginning of Act III, talking over our Nic Cage sighting. 

Which inevitably devolves into us doing our best worst Nic Cage imitations:

“So Mr. Cage,” my wife says to me, “how are you enjoying La bohème?”

“It’s great, really great – needs more explosions though,” I say in as close I can to his unique vocal styling.

I follow it up with, “Be on the lookout for ‘La bohème 2018’ starring Nicolas Cage as Rodolfo!”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My favorite from National Treasure - A toast? Yeah. To high treason. That's what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. Had we lost the war, they would have been hanged, beheaded, drawn and quartered, and-Oh! Oh, my personal favorite-and had their entrails cut out and *burned*!