New York’s Gifts to the World: Gift #5
Over the next week, many Metroblogging communities will be posting a list of 7 unique things (one per day) that their cities contribute to the world. Being such an important part of world culture, New York couldn’t pass up this opportunity!
Without further ado, below is today’s gift: Music and Theater
If you’ve only been to New York as a tourist, you may have a narrow view of music and theater here. Our town is famous for Broadway musicals and Lincoln Center extravaganzas, but most performances don’t involve $100 tickets, elaborate sets, or dancers in cat costumes.
Some of the best shows I’ve seen in New York cost next to nothing:
student productions at Julliard (chock-a-block with future movie stars), the workshop readings at Playwrights Horizons, the hole-in-the-wall nightclub where you hear an unknown jazz singer who, five years later, goes double platinum. (Oh. And when I was a kid, there was that offbeat musical about chorus dancers I saw in a grotty little place downtown called the Public Theater…) The thrill of discovering new talent is what sets New York apart from towns that only get stale Miss Saigon touring companies and arena rock bands.
We also have some of the best classical music in the world, and it’s surprisingly non-elitist. I used to go to the opera every week for just a few dollars by buying standing room tickets. (At Lincoln Center, the etiquette is that you’re supposed to remain standing until the curtain goes up, then you can scramble for any empty chair. The ushers — who themselves are probably ushering so they can see the show for free — usually turn a blind eye.) Or, on a budget of exactly zero, you can go to Rockefeller University’s free Friday noontime concerts, where world-class artists often “warm up” for their performances at Carnegie Hall.
In summer, music and theater are everywhere – from al fresco string quartets, to Shakespeare in the Park, to major outdoor concerts. And the list goes on…
The music and theater events on an average Tuesday night here could fill a year’s worth of cultural programming somewhere else. Yet despite the absurd number of competing performances, most plays, concerts, indie bands, experimental dance troupes, stand-up routines, Gershwin chanteuses, Hungarian operas and folk song cafes draw a near-capacity, appreciative crowd.
And that’s why New York has so many great performers – because we have the world’s greatest audience.