Since I share fashion shows and art openings with you, and events I go to, I thought I’d tell you about two remarkable events I attended recently. One was great fun, and absolutely adorable, and the other a more unusual evening.
On a recent trip through New York, to visit my daughters, my oldest daughter was in town to celebrate her five year old daughter’s birthday, and she had organized a luncheon at the American Girl Doll Store on Fifth Avenue. It is a haven for little girls, paradise on earth. They are among the most popular dolls now, and already were when my own daughters were small, not so long ago. Each doll has a story and a history, her own special look, with an assortment of hair and eye colors, different ethnicity, and they have elaborate wardrobes, furniture, cars, pets, kitchen appliances. A dizzying array of accessories for each doll. And the store is an overwhelming and exciting series of departments which sell the dolls, clothes, and all the stuff that goes with them. Some are even twins, and they have added some ‘babies’ to their repertoire. And amidst this extraordinary store all dedicated to these dolls is a restaurant where children and their parents shopping there can stop for lunch or have a birthday party. It’s been a while since my own kids were that small, and to be literally in a department store full of little girls clamoring for dolls, with dolls everywhere you look was amazing. The store is every little girl’s dream, and when we walked into the restaurant, there was a huge long table covered with dolls you could borrow, with little high chairs to seat them, in case you had forgotten to bring your own doll to lunch. It was an incredible scene. Dolls were being fed, talked to, dressed, undressed, there were several borrowed dolls at every table. We were mostly adults at our table, and only three children (two of them boys, who looked shell shocked to be surrounded by all the little girls and their dolls). Lunch was actually delicious, the birthday lunch was a huge success, and in a crazy way I loved it. It almost made me want to take a doll home, and as we left, my daughters and I threaded our way through three floors of ecstatic little girls picking out their new dolls and as much equipment for them as they could talk their parents into. Everyone was having fun. It was innocence at its best, and we all left smiling, and had a ball.
At the extreme other end of the spectrum, I went back to Paris the next day, and was invited to the opening of the opera by a generous friend who took me to a gala evening a few days later. It was going to be a ‘new production’ of Aida, Verdi’s opera which takes place in ancient Egypt, and aside from the music, I always loved that as part of the scene, there were elephants on stage. My friend warned me that this production might be a little ‘different’, though neither of us knew what to expect. The scenery when the curtain went up was all bronze and gold, and looked almost space age. I assumed that the differences would end there, and expected to see the usual elephants onstage before the night was over….I was a little startled to see that there were cleaning people on stage, mopping and polishing as the opera began. Had the cleaning staff forgotten to leave the stage? They were wearing normal janitorial clothes, which seemed a little odd, amidst an opera set in ancient Egypt. And stranger yet, the cast was in 18th century dress, which didn’t belong in Aida either. In short order, modern day soldiers in camouflage battle gear appeared onstage carrying machine guns, and rapidly took off their shirts. So then we had a chorus of priests, women in 18th century gowns, the janitors, the GI Joe soldiers half naked by then, and a ballerina who eventually appeared and danced around. My friend and I looked at each other in confusion, and we got more confused as the night wore on. Protesters appeared on stage carrying socialist slogans, a scene of heaps of naked seemingly dead bodies which re-enacted Auschwitz stunned everyone, and the audience booed and hissed at that. And then men dressed as the Ku Klux Klan appeared onstage, while the opera singers sang their heart out about love, betrayal, and impossible love. I was really missing the elephants by then, acutely. And for lack of anything better to do, some of the players eventually set fire to some of the scenery. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen, the voices were beautiful and the music wonderful, but nothing we were seeing made any sense. And since I was faintly jet lagged, the constant confusion on stage kept me wide awake waiting to see what would happen next. And just for good measure, naked men eventually appeared on stage. It was so crazy it was funny, and we were laughing by the time it was over, which was really too bad in the midst of the beautiful music and singing, but how could you watch a production like that with a straight face? We couldn’t, but it gave us lots to talk about at dinner afterwards. I hadn’t been to the opera in years—but that was an evening I won’t soon forget. And in a crazy way it was fun, because there was no way you could take it seriously, and we didn’t.
From the ridiculous to the sublime. And who would have thought that the sublime would be a birthday lunch in a doll store, and the ridiculous would be an evening at the opera in Paris, which was black tie and supposed to be very glamorous. But from one extreme to the other, it was fun!!! And certainly very different and out of the ordinary for me!!!