It’s been quiet around here because I was distracted with Holidays and travels. I’m back in New York but not quite enough in the swing of things to preview anything this week. Instead, I’m reviewing the most memorable moments of the year past.
Most Memorable Concert: Philharmonic 360 at the Park Avenue Armory
I’m afraid this was the last time in my life I got the chance to hear Stockhausen’s Gruppen live, as well as the last time to have Don Giovanni belt out an aria directly into my ear, owing to what amounted to an on-stage floor seat. The NY Phil’s concept of performing in changing configurations on multiple stages for a whole evening worked out great in the dramatic cavern of the Armory (though the Don Giovanni excerpt had staging and acoustics issues). The setup, lacking the usual ways for performers to seamlessly emerge from and disappear into a backstage area, also naturally tore down barriers between artists and audience, so that during intermission you could walk up to most musicians, including musical director Alan Gilbert, to congratulate them on a successful night.
Runner-ups: ICE with Oiseaux Exotiques, Simon Bolivar Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, JACK Quartet at Abron Arts Center
Most Memorable Concert (Non-Classical): Georgette Dee at Berliner Ensemble
With her swagger, her gorgeous singing and her gorgeous dresses made of hideous curtains, Georgette Dee easily out-divaed the other major divas I’ve seen live in 2012 (Björk, Grace Jones). She segued smoothly from grand emotion to intimate confession to hilarious tales of her (alleged) youthful lovers. I couldn’t tell if that salty water on my cheeks was tears of laughter or of sadness.
(I feel Georgette has always translated badly to recordings and to video — the below clip doesn’t do her justice but it’s the only one from this concert I can find.)
Runner-ups: Björk, Grace Jones
Most Memorable Venue: Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, Greece
I actually didn’t get to witness a performance at the theatre, as the yearly Epidaurus festival had already wound down when I was there, but just sitting in the 2400 year old round was an unexpectedly striking experience. The view into rolling hills devoid of modern structures reinforces the illusion of having travelled a couple of thousand years back in time. The incredible acoustics rival or maybe surpass those of the Met, as an unamplified actor’s speaking voice can be heard from all 15,000 seats.
Runner-up: Berliner Philharmonie
Most Memorable Meal: Big in Japan in Montreal
Big in Japan serves Japanese comfort food that both feels and tastes authentic even though it’s incorporating clearly non-Japanese twists. I would describe it as a sort of Frenchified izakaya. The roast chicken rubbed with miso came with daikon salad as well as roast vegetables, the okayu (rice porridge — center front below) came with crispy pork as well as blood sausage. The surf-and-turf okonomiyaki (pancake) with pork and shrimp was the most delicious of its kind I’ve had yet. After just two meals here this has become one of the very few restaurants I fantasize about regularly.
Runner-ups: Trattoria Paparazzi in Berlin, Mizlala in Tel Aviv