Movie Appreciation: Amadeus

I guess I’m kind of revealing my own personal Internet secret here, but for over two years now, I’ve had a tumblr that I use expressly for my pop culture obsessions. It started as a home for pictures of New York and the Beatles but morphed into something more when I started caring about movies. I didn’t want to put my name on it and a 49ers game was on TV when I decided to make it, so I threw “harbaugh” in the username, and added 71 because 7/1 is my birthday.

The posts are mostly expressions of whatever’s in my head, an overflow of the moments and quotes and scenes that fill my mind. Looking at the first page of my tumblr this morning, I thought the three most recent posts were an especially good representation of three movies that have lately had an affect on me: Silver Linings Playbook (I’m pretty much always watching that movie but I went to Philadelphia yesterday and had it playing in my mind all day), Amadeus, and Some Like it Hot. And because it’s Sunday and I want nothing more than to sit on my bed with a cup of coffee and write while looking out my window across a sunny New York City, I’m just going to start writing appreciations of those three movies. First, Amadeus.

Amadeus floated to the top of my mind because it was just added to Netflix. When I wanted to watch it for the first time a couple months ago, I ended up buying it on iTunes because, to my knowledge, it wasn’t streamable or rentable. But somehow watching a movie on Netflix seems easier and more accessible than watching a movie I already own.

It quickly became one of those easy-to-watch movies for me, where you just know and love it so well that you can pick up at any place, have it on in the background while doing other stuff and not miss anything (actually, Silver Linings Playbook and Some Like it Hot are like that for me, too, which is probably why I feel the urge to write about them).

I started retracing my steps to remember how I decided to watch it in the first place. It started in January, when I re-watched The Grand Budapest Hotel in preparation for awards season. I like that movie a lot, and who doesn’t love Ralph Fiennes, but the whole beginning part, set in the 60s with Jude Law as the young author, is my favorite part. And I’d forgotten that the whole movie is basically presented as a story told by F. Murray Abraham’s character.

He doesn’t have much screen time, but there was something I liked about Abraham in the film, so I went down my usual Google/IMDb rabbit trail and found that he had won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1985 for his performance in Amadeus. At that point, the only way I knew about Amadeus was from a 30 Rock joke – when Tracy briefly lives with Liz and she gets mad at him for charging pay-per-view adult movies to her cable bill, she asks about a movie called “I’ma Do Us” and Tracy replies, “It’s a pun on Amadeus, dummy!” I knew that was a movie and I guess I assumed it was about Mozart, but truly – that was the only way Amadeus ever entered my consciousness before a couple months ago.

[SIDE NOTE: I just Googled “30 Rock Amadeus” to confirm that line, and learned there is AN ENTIRE AMADEUS SUBPLOT in the episode “Succession,” from season 2. So of course I just sat here and watched the whole episode. Fitting for a Tracy and Frank storyline, it again involves adult films, with Tracy as Mozart and Frank as Salieri as they attempt to create a pornographic video game. I’d never watched that episode with the context of Amadeus, so obviously the parody was completely lost on me until now. Just another layer of that show’s brilliance.]

Where was I? Oh, the actual movie. I watched it after learning F. Murray Abraham won an Oscar for his performance, and I loved it right away. It was totally different from what I expected, and totally unlike anything else I’d seen. I assumed it was a boring biography movie. I wasn’t expecting Mozart to be portrayed as a disruptive, punk-ish revolutionary who wore pink wigs and had a ridiculous laugh.

But that’s what I love about it. In this movie, Mozart is the Beatles, basically. No one knows what to do with him, or how to accept this totally revolutionary force. He doesn’t act like anyone else and he doesn’t make music like anyone else. He is completely original and effortlessly brilliant.(Roger Ebert named this to his “Great Movies” list, and the Jordan-to-Barkley, Kennedy-to-Nixon comparisons he makes with Mozart and Salieri really helped me understand Mozart’s creative power.)

I think this scene, from early in the film, is a perfect illustration:

 

I didn’t really think much of it in my first viewing, but I’ve been watching pieces on Netflix over the last couple days and am now head-over-heels in love with the colorful wigs. Mozart’s, of course:

mozart pink wig

But also Constanze, his wife, who – and maybe it’s just the way it looks with her outfit – wears a colorful look of her own.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 2.04.54 PM

F. Murray Abraham won the Oscar, and I wholeheartedly think he deserved it, but Tom Hulce was nominated as Mozart, and his performance is probably my favorite of the two. Well, actually, it’s probably more that Mozart is my favorite character. They’re both insane performances. Watching Amadeus is probably the first time I’d consciously realized that the film was great because the performances were great. With any other actors, it would have been different, and…less great.

At the height of my obsession with the film, I watched a feature called “The Making of Amadeus.” Typical DVD bonus stuff, like behind-the-scenes photos, interviews with Milos Forman, the actors, etc. The most interesting part is the discussion of casting, especially when Forman talks about casting the smaller roles, and how it was important for all those actors to be distinct. He said it drove him crazy when you couldn’t tell minor characters apart in a film. I totally agree. (Other best part of that feature: Forman talking about his decision to shoot in Prague, saying it was perfect because the city still looked exactly the way it did in Mozart’s time thanks to “communist inefficiency.”)

One other major thing I love about this movie is how the characters speak in totally modern, Americanized English, using contractions and phrases like “they shit marble.” Of course they didn’t actually speak like that, but who cares? It’s the best way to convey the essence of the characters and their time.

There are a million other aspects to this movie I adore, but a lot of them are subtleties in performance that are hard to put into words. It should also go without saying that the music is fantastic, too. The whole thing is big, colorful, perfectly acted, and a pure joy to watch.

Ellington at Newport, in the Catskills

Spring term of my sophomore year in college, I took a jazz history class, mostly for kicks and giggles, though I think it fulfilled some American cultures credit requirement. I became a jazz music fan because of it.

We learned about Duke Ellington and “Take the A Train,” and that song was magic to me – how Billy Strayhorn named it after the directions Ellington gave him to his Harlem apartment. It became synonymous with New York in my mind.The version we heard was from the 1956 classic recording, “Ellington at Newport.”

That record, man. I don’t even remember everything we learned about it, and I’m sure we never listened to the whole thing, but I was captivated by the story surrounding Ellington and his orchestra at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. Paul Gonsalves’ saxophone solo and how the whole performance revived the Duke’s career and how insanely great the music is.

Ever since that class, I have been on a mission to find that record in a real record store. I’m sure I could just buy one online, but for years I have thumbed through all the Duke Ellington albums any time I’m in a record store, holding my breath in hopes that “Ellington at Newport” lurks somewhere in the stacks.

So after almost five years of searching, where did I find it?

In a mountain barn in the Catskills, miles from anywhere, tucked among the coolest collection of jazz records I’ve ever seen. I went away with some friends for the weekend, and this house was legitimately the coolest place – incredible high ceilings, rooms and staircases popping out left and right, tucked away in the middle of nowhere. As I was exploring its hidden corners, I found a long shelf of records. Lots of Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis. Then Duke Ellington. Then “Ellington at Newport.”

It was glorious. Maybe this record is only elusive to me, or maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. But since I’ve been on my search, this was the first time I found it. I couldn’t keep it, obviously. But I found it, and I loved it.

In a cruel twist of fate, we couldn’t find a turntable to actually listen to the record with, but I savored the liner notes – an essay by record producer George Avakian, mostly about Paul Gonsalves’ sax solo during Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue – and photos of Duke and his orchestra from the performance. I didn’t need to listen to it, anyway. Finding it in the first place was the big deal.

For whatever strange reason, holding a physical copy of “Ellington at Newport” is more important to me than listening to the music. But in this collection, I came across the physical copies of a couple albums I’ve only ever thought about in terms of their songs.

One was “The Count Meets the Duke,” a Basie-Ellington collaboration, which had incredible liner notes playing off the royal titles in the musicians’ names. “All this business about royalty has always thrown me. Just who outranks whom and how and why has never been very clear….To get straightened out, I went straight to the only Count I’ve ever known, who immediately put the Duke in the top slot.”

And then there was one of my favorite albums of all time, “Sinatra-Basie: An Historical Musical First.” I honestly think I’ve seen this in record form before, but I must never have stopped to read the back, which I know was written as promotional copy but actually speaks some serious truth: “…when Sinatra touches a song, it never subsequently sounds quite right sung by anyone else…” Ahhh.

Obsessing over these jazz records was actually a pretty small part of a wonderful, lazy weekend. Now that I’m out of the mountains and in the city, my quest for a copy of “Ellington at Newport” continues.

Live it Like a Song

Anyone who knew me in high school could tell you I had an over-the-top obsession with the band Switchfoot. I loved them. I had a picture of them in my locker. I needed both hands to count how many of their concerts I’d been to. I watched their video podcast. This is all a little embarrassing in hindsight, but they impacted my life in a practical way more than any other band ever did, or will. Everyone has that band, right? The one that inspires you, carries you through awful days and shapes a very important slice of your worldview.

Even after my obsession cooled, I still listened to Switchfoot a lot. They released a couple new albums while I was in college, and their lead singer/songwriter/philosopher/general genius Jon Foreman worked on a side project I loved called Fiction Family.

Last night, I saw Switchfoot play Terminal 5 in NYC. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Honestly, I was a little nervous the show would be a letdown. Maybe they weren’t as energetic as they had been. Maybe their new album (Fading West, released in January) was lame. Maybe it would seem like they were trying too hard. Maybe my high school obsession would be spoiled.

It turned out to be amazing. They rocked even harder last night than I remember them rocking at any of the concerts I went to in high school. Jon Foreman connects with an audience in such a special way. Seeing him onstage last night, running through the audience, climbing to the balcony, screaming, singing, I remembered what made him so incredible to me in high school.

One of the reasons I came to love Switchfoot was for the way they maintained a strong Christian faith without being preachy. Bands that just shouted “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” seemed cheesy and out of touch. Simply singing about Jesus didn’t mean you were living like him. I grew up going to Christian schools and maintain my faith today, though I’m not as public about it as I probably should be (I know for sure this is the most I’ve ever written about it here). By the time I got to high school, I’d heard a lot of talk. I was starting to feel an urge to live out my faith and do some good in the world. Switchfoot was the first group of Christian artists I encountered who didn’t care as much about talking the talk. They knew walking the walk sent a much deeper message.

Last night, as I listened to their music with fresh ears, the songs that first drew me to the band sunk in with new meaning. I left the concert wanting to love people more deeply, give so much more of myself to others, and live with an eternal perspective. The last song they played before the encore was Where I Belong. It’s about the final breath we take in this life, and even though it’s one of my favorites from their album Vice Verses, it had never taken such weight in my mind until last night. The lyric that got me envisions someone meeting God face to face for the first time: “…I want to tell you that I tried to live it like a song.”

Am I living my life like a song? Am I even trying to? Sometimes I don’t know. I use the excuses of busyness or tiredness or confusion, when it’s really just apathy. Today is all I have for sure. How much more productive to use that time loving others than wallowing in my own questions about what I’m supposed to do with my life! Showing compassion. Living life like a song.

I am grateful to have been reminded of that last night.

And on a lighter concert note…it also reminded me how much catching up I have to do with their music. They only played a few songs that were out during my obsession phase. Most of the others were from Fading West, which I promptly downloaded and dig so far. Love Alone Is Worth the Fight is my current favorite.

Last thing. In the midst of rediscovering my love for Switchfoot, I also rediscovered Jon Foreman’s brilliance. He’s the heart of the band (at least from my perspective) and has the kind of grasp on how to live out faith and connect with people from all walks of life that I hope to have someday. You know those questions like, “If you could have dinner with three people, living or dead?” Jon Foreman’s always at my table. His music has meant so much to me, and I am so glad he’s still making it. Here’s one of his solo songs for the road.

February 9, 1964

Fifty years ago today, the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time, and music in America changed forever.

black and white beatles ed sullivan

That day seems so magical to me. Part of the reason I love it is because it happened on February 9. What ever happens on February 9? It’s the dead of winter, and in 1964, the country was still reeling from JFK’s death. Some of the sadness was lifted when that British band took the stage on American TV. In his introduction of the band, Ed Sullivan said it best: “…this city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves The Beatles.”

The Beatles were different, and that gigantic television audience knew it. I think the root of my love for the band is that they were wholly different. They didn’t come along and play better versions of the same kind of music that had been around for years. They played music no one had ever thought was possible. No one had even imagined that kind of music existing. The Beatles created it, and everything was different afterwards.

Looking at February 9, 1964 from my vantage point in 2014, what really fascinates me about the Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan show appearance is that nothing like it could happen today. No one band, person, movie or television show could capture our collective attention anymore. Sixty percent of the American TV audience watched the Beatles’ performance. Today, you wouldn’t get 60 percent of people to tune in for live coverage of an alien invasion.

I was thinking about this earlier in the week after reading a fantastic New York magazine interview with Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels. Discussing the differences between how SNL did comedy in the 70s and how it does comedy now, he noted:

At that point, you had a complete unity generationally—in music, movies, politics, and sports. It’s much more fragmented now, so half the people watching Drake’s show, maybe 60 to 70 percent, didn’t know him. Even news is fragmented now. There used to be much more cohesion—everyone saw the helicopter take the people out of Saigon. I don’t know whether people know what’s going on in Fallujah right now.

We don’t have the same cultural touchstones anymore, but I don’t necessarily bemoan that. We have a wealth of amazing media options. I’ll watch my obscure TV show, you watch yours. Everyone’s happy. But with our fragmented media world, nothing will bring us together in the same way. You have to wonder if a band like the Beatles would break through with the same force in 2014, but it’s hard to put their music in today’s context because today’s music wouldn’t be here without them.

I’m kicking myself for not taking advantage of more NYC-based Beatles events leading up to this 50th anniversary, but I am definitely going to visit the Beatles exhibit at the New York Public Library before it closes in May. The Beatles popped up all over the place on TV this past week, though, including a segment on NBC Nightly News (it doesn’t get more perfect than Brian Williams talking about the Beatles) and David Letterman’s awesome week-long tribute to the band. Letterman’s show, of course, tapes in the Ed Sullivan Theater, where the Beatles actually played on February 9, 1964. When Paul McCartney visited his show in 2009, he talked at length about the Beatles’ first Ed Sullivan appearance:

This week, Letterman had all his music guests play Beatles songs. Lenny Kravitz’s “Get Back” was pretty great:

Fifty years later, the Beatles are still a cultural force, and their first Ed Sullivan appearance is still a television milestone. February 9, 1964 was quite the day.

Weekend Goodness: The Beatles in the USA and SNL’s Wes Anderson horror movie

*Random thoughts from the weekend about the Beatles and television, because why not.

Crazy fun fact I learned this week: The first time a Tamla/Motown song was ever played on British radio, the Beatles were playing it.

This knowledge comes from a Paley Center event I went to Friday evening, a talk with Beatles scholar Mark Lewisohn, who just released the first of a comprehensive three-volume set on the band, titled “Tune In.”

Lewisohn was talking specifically about the American music that influenced the Beatles, and about the band’s 1964 visit to the United States. I had some familiarity with the topic thanks to the Beatles class I took in college, but this added so much depth to my understanding.

Rather than simply rattling off some of the Beatles’ influences, Lewisohn talked about how these American acts specifically influenced the band. It wasn’t just “they listened to Elvis, they listened to Carl Perkins.” He went into why the Beatles were drawn to certain acts, and what particular elements of the early performers’ styles they tried to emulate. One point I found particularly interesting was about the different ways Elvis and Buddy Holly influenced the group. Elvis, they worshipped because of his onstage persona. (“Elvis was absolutely God to the Beatles,” Lewisohn said. “Well, they weren’t yet the Beatles. But he was God.”) They knew right away Elvis wasn’t a very good guitar player, but they wanted to move and perform like him. Buddy Holly, on the other hand, didn’t have Elvis’ moves, but they wanted to play the guitar as well as he did.

Talking about the Beatles’ first visit to the US, he went beyond the Ed Sullivan Show and talked about major differences the Beatles noticed between the United States and Britain, particularly with regards to television. They just could not get over the in-your-face nature of US TV ads – how even the broadcasters themselves delivered commercial messages. Lewisohn said they found that hilarious. Albert Maysles, a documentarian who followed the Beatles during the 1964 trip, joined this portion of the talk, and a clip from his film was shown, of Paul explaining to a group of people the difference in TV advertisements. I didn’t write it down word-for-word, nor can I find the precise clip online, but he did a great newsman impression, something like “The situation in China is very bad, and did you know, you should be drinking…” as he holds up a bottle of something. It was charming, of course.

(Another great Paul moment – because what Paul moment isn’t great – was also from the Maysles documentary, when New York radio host Murray the K had each of the Beatles announce his station call letters, WINS, on the air. They all attached some joke to it, but Paul’s was the best: “W-I-N-S Winston Churchill.”)

Oh, and about the Motown-on-British-radio fun fact…isn’t that nuts? I can’t remember the exact date, but the Beatles’ rendition of “Please Mr. Postman” was the first Tamla/Motown tune to play on British radio.

Completely unrelated, but another wonderful moment of culture from this weekend…

Saturday Night Live‘s spot-on parody of what a Wes Anderson horror movie might look like.

Despite my nagging Royal Tenenbaums obsession, I’m not a Wes Anderson buff. I think I’m just intrigued with the way he carries so many of the same elements through each film…Bill Murray, Futura, made-up book titles…plus, his movies are so nice to look at.

This SNL trailer parody was just perfect. I mean, it captures everything Wes Anderson is known/loved/hated for (although now that I think about it, where’s Bill Murray?) and has the most wonderfully pretentious title: “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders.”

What I love about this:

  • Alec Baldwin as the Narrator – Alec Baldwin was onstage during Edward Norton’s monologue, but I didn’t connect the dots until my roommate pointed it out during the clip. Duh, Alec Baldwin was narrating a Wes Anderson movie.
  • “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard” as the music, because it’s the soundtrack to my favorite part of The Royal Tenenbaums.
  • Edward Norton’s excellent Eli Cash impression: “Hey hun, I think we’re about to get murdered.”
  • “The New York Times calls it, ‘You had me at Wes Anderson.'”

The rest of the episode was solid, but this was a gem. That is all.

I Saw Paul McCartney in Real Life Today.

File the above sentence under “words I never thought I’d write today.”

Around noon, I was doing my usual Twitter troll and noticed this tweet from Paul McCartney’s account:

WHAT?

After investigating, I decided this was legit: Not just Paul recording at some studio near Times Square. Not just a video of Paul airing in Times Square. Actual, living, breathing Paul McCartney was going to play real, live music. I looked at the clock and gauged my workload. This was doable. My co-workers, who know more than they’d like to about my Beatles fandom, encouraged me to go. As did my boss. So, my cubemate Emily and I hopped on the 1 train to Times Square (two stops from our office) and were watching Sir Beatle and Music Revolutionary Paul McCartney half an hour later.

*Disclaimer: This was not my first time seeing Paul McCartney live, but I had known about the first concert in advance. My dad took me to see him at the Rose Garden in Portland in November 2005. He opened with Magical Mystery Tour. My dad bought me an exorbitantly expensive commemorative t-shirt that I will keep forever. We left early so I could get to sleep at a reasonable hour before the state cross-country meet the next day. The concert was still awesome.

It’s a weird feeling, seeing celebrities in person – and in this case, a celebrity I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over. Like, that’s him. The nature of the concert – impromptu, brief, in the middle of a busy public space – had me thinking about the Beatles’ rooftop concert in 1969. The rooftop concert is one of my primary obsessions within my Beatles obsession (Sub-obsession? That sounds kind of pathetic.), for everything from the songs they played to the way George wore green pants and the way it turned London on its head, even if only for a few minutes. A couple songs in to today’s show, it hit me: The same person who performed in the rooftop concert is performing in front of my eyes, this very minute. He wrote “Yesterday.” He gave an interview for the definitive documentary about his band while piloting a boat. He witnessed everything from the clubs in Hamburg to the Cavern Club to the Abbey Road studios. And for this awesome, unexpected moment, he wasn’t in Hamburg or London or any number of other places: He was here!

Paul and his band played out of the back of a flatbed truck stretched across 46th St. in Times Square. When we got off the subway at 42nd, we couldn’t see a huge crowd forming or hear any noise, but as we walked toward the open public spaces nearby, we saw what was obviously the concert crowd. We were in place around 12:50, and pleasantly surprised at how close we got to be.

Here are a few snippets of the show, taken on my iPhone and clumsily uploaded to YouTube:

“Well this is something else, isn’t it? Let’s stay here all day!”

“We’re only allowed 15 minutes up here! Mr. Andy Warhol predicted I would get 15 minutes of fame. This is it.”

“Welcome to Times Square…thank you to the NYPD for looking after us…”

The set consisted of a handful of songs from his forthcoming album “New,” which will be released Tuesday. I knew the title track, but wasn’t familiar with any of the other songs. While part of me wishes he broke into a rousing “Hey Jude” chorus, I kind of love that he played exclusively new stuff. One thing I love about Paul is how he hasn’t retired to some remote island and closed off his talent. He would be totally entitled to do so, of course, but he still wants to be out there – creating new music that fans will grow to love, and indulging them in the hits he knows they already adore. Today, it felt like he was saying, “I’m Paul McCartney. I changed music forever so I can basically do whatever I want. And I have a new album that I want to promote the heck out of.”

As everyone filed out, a guy nearby us perfectly summed up how we all felt: “I’ve never been so happy to be at a concert and not know any of the words.”

Summer in the City: MLB All-Star Game and Culture for Free

Just two months ago, my humidity-hating, sweater-loving self was dreading another sticky summer in New York City. Thanks to a number of recent events, however, I’m changing my tune.

Saturday night, I went with a group of friends to the Mariah Carey/New York Philharmonic concert on the Great Lawn in Central Park. I hadn’t worked myself up with excitement over this show; while I don’t dislike Mariah Carey, I don’t know much of her music beyond “All I Want for Christmas is You,” which she is unlikely to sing in July. But, it was free, the weather cooperated, and I tagged along with some Mariah-loving friends.

It turned out to be more of a New York Philharmonic concert (Mariah only sang three or four songs), but it was wonderful. Some of the Phil’s set included classic New York songs such as “New York, New York” and the song from On the Town (which I guess is also titled “New York, New York”? Never pondered that before.), and some of the score from the recently released 42.

My favorite part, though, was former Yankees manager Joe Torre reading “Casey at the Bat,” the famous baseball poem, with the New York Philharmonic providing musical accompaniment. I had no idea this would be part of the program, and when the number was announced, I winced and thought it might be a little cheesy. On the contrary. Torre delivered the poem perfectly, and the Phil’s background music – mimicking players’ movements and crowd excitement with its sound – added an element of emotion to the story I’d never felt before with just a straight reading. (My iPhone video of the last part of the performance is too big to deal with here, and I’ve had trouble uploading it to YouTube. I’m a little surprised MLB hasn’t put the entire thing online, but this clip will have to suffice for a link. Just trust me; it was great, and indelible New York memory for me.)

Hope and me at FanFest

Hope and me at FanFest

Thanks to a friend who works for a PR firm handling lots of ASG-related events, I scored two tickets to the All-Star FanFest at the Javits Center. I forced my sister, only marginally interested in baseball, to come with me (though we did clear up the difference between a no-hitter and perfect game for her, so it was a success) and we enjoyed the experience. I would have found FanFest to be the absolute coolest thing in the world if I was a wide-eyed 12-year-old, for whom baseball was a relatively new obsession, traveling to the game with my dad who’d be willing to fork over $$ for a cool new t-shirt and autographed baseball. I may be a little too old to be blown away by the spectacle, but it really was a cool set-up, and they had some especially great displays on the history of the Mets and the Negro Leagues.

Plus, since I wasn’t going to the Home Run Derby or the game itself, I loved getting to be immersed in some part of the All-Star experience while it was in New York. I live right off the 7 line, the train that’s carried thousands of fans to and from Citi Field the past few days, so it was cool to see all this – baseball-crazed kids toting loot bags through FanFest, tourists sporting their team jersey, thousands of passengers trickling onto the 7 train for the ride out to Flushing – happening in my backyard.

Aside from ASG events, I’ve also been able to enjoy a couple of NYC music events in Central Park lately. Yesterday, the New York Philharmonic played its annual show in the park, so I made another trip up to the Great Lawn to hear the performance. Then, tonight, the Metropolitan Opera performed various selections at the park’s SummerStage, and it was lovely. Just enough of the day’s heat had subsided that it wasn’t totally miserable outside, and I loved how the show featured only three singers, each performing a number of songs, like the Met was giving a few of its young stars a chance to really show their chops. My favorite part was their final number before the encore: a three-song West Side Story medley.

Both events were absolutely free, too (as was the Mariah concert)! Amazing free music, enjoyed in the company of friends on a warm summer evening, under the shadow of skyscrapers. This summer in New York is turning out to be about as perfect as it gets.