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4. October 25, 2010

Reflecting on New York

I'm exhausted. I'm sitting at the airport waiting for my bags to arrive since they didn't make the transfer to London. What a trip I've had. I managed to find some answers and photograph some interesting landmarks but I feel that I will be going back again at some point to do more. In the process of my travels I lost the only biography I had of Bidu which was in Portuguese. Thankfully, my colleague Luis had translated it into English and I still have that to reference. I'm heartbroken but I'm hopeful I can find another copy to replace what I lost.

Overall this trip was good. I learned a lot about trusting the inner voice within myself that gives you warnings and what happens when you don't. From now on I will try much harder to go with my gut feeling and hope for a smooth ride through the rest of this project and my life.



Bidu's New York City Home

I found out from the Metropolitan Opera Archives that Bidu lived in a hotel called the Mayflower during her seasons at the Met. The Mayflower was torn down in 2004 and a new condominium high-rise was built in its place. I stood outside of the high-rise at 15 Central Park west and looked out toward Central Park. This is what Bidu saw every day when she walked out of her apartment. It felt like I was closer to her at that moment than ever before. I was standing where she stood so many times for many years. I asked the door man if he knew about the block and what businesses were around when Bidu lived there. He pointed to the building next door and recommended I go there and ask since it had been there for decades. I thanked him and walked over to see what I could find out. Two young women were rushing around inside getting ready for an art gallery opening. I waited to catch someone's eye and when they finally came out and I quickly introduced myself and blurted out my inquiries. The director warmly offered her help in finding out the history of the building and eagerly invited me to the opening that night. I was delighted! I thanked her and returned that night for a wonderful event.


















The Manon Costume

There are two places to obtain research for this project in New York. One was the New York Public Library next to the Metropolitan Opera House and the other was the Metropolitan Opera archives. The Manon costume I had seen so many times in photos being displayed was nowhere to be found. Disappointed, I spoke with the guard in the lobby to ask if he knew anything about it or where I might be able to find it. We had a long chat about my project and he made a phone call. He put me on the phone with one of the head archivists who had just emailed me that day. He told me that the costume was in storage and he was unable to get it out for me. Feeling a bit defeated, I thanked him for the information and dragged myself back over to the guard. Before I left, the guard told me a few things. He told me to keep an eye on the season and when Manon played again, I may see the costume back on display. I shook the guard's hand as he wished me good luck with the rest of my project.






1964 Interview: Thoughts about Toscanini - The Man behind the Legend

Another treasure I ran across was a raw interview with Bidu in a Met broadcast talking about the conductor Arturo Toscanini. Toscanini played a key role in the career and life of Bidu Sayao, and she admitted that one of her biggest regrets was not having performed more than once with him. When she spoke about Toscanini, it was obvious how much she respected and admired his gifts saying he was a genius who will never find his equal. The intensity of his eyes and the way he connected and communicated with both the audience and the performers were something she said she would never forget.





Bidu's first encounter with Arturo Toscanini

Bidu recalls the first time she saw Toscanini in 1926 at the world premier of Puccini's Turanot at La Scala. "I will never forget that marvelous feeling when the opera stopped." Toscanini stopped the orchestra on the last note Puccini ever wrote during the composition of Turandot and there is no doubt that the audience was moved.
A few years later, Bidu went back to Milan to perform where she met Toscanini in person. He never conducted her at La Scala, only supervised, but she remembered a kind and gracious person. Bruno Zirato, Associate Manager of the New York Philharmonic and a good friend of Toscanini, was the one who arranged the meeting with them later when she came to America.




Bruno Zirato - Associate Manager of the New York Philharmonic
Arturo Toscanini
Manon Costume worn by Bidu during her Met debut in 1937
Mayflower - Lobby
A room at the Mayflower
After they Mayflower was torn down.
The new condos which where built to replace the old Mayflower.
The Mayflower
The Mayflower - Bidu's NY residence
The Metropolitan Opera - Lincoln Center
In the train on the way home in Jena.
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