Today having been the first day of same-sex marriage in New York State, I thought it would be good to celebrate with these two handsome men coming from just having gotten married in Manhattan. As in other states that have marriage equality, many of the couples had already been together for decades, nicely destroying the contention of some opposition groups that gay marriages are frivolous and intended simply to assist in the destruction of "traditional" marriage. How the happiness below could be considered to threaten anybody's marriage is completely beyond me.
Photo by Baad Lamb via Father Tony Adams
On Saturday afternoon the weekend we were in New York City, we did a walkabout in the East Village, starting at a little coffee house for iced drinks and pastry. The fast pace and awesome height of the buildings of mid-town were a couple of miles north of this delightfully quirky, informal and varied area.
First discovery: this little Spanish café inside an old garage with an old VW bus as its bar. A peek into the interior showed some live palm trees and swags of Christmas lights illuminating the interior.
Not too far away, this impressive neo-classic pile, its massive facade dominating the corner of its side street and The Bowery (the southern extension of Third Avenue). But for all its width, it is incredibly shallow -- look in the upper right corner of the shot to see just how little depth there is to this building.
Just two blocks south of our hotel we ran into the Amato Opera Theater building, a genuine East Village -- indeed New York City -- cultural landmark. Anthony and Sally Amato founded their company in 1948 and produced opera at popular prices for three years in churches and other rental venues around the area. In 1951, they took over a building on Bleeker street and made a 299 seat theater. Tony was the producer/artistic director; Sally made costumes, ran lights, manned the box office. They sometimes toured to New Haven or New London, CT.
The Bleeker Street building closed in 1959 and they ran a gypsy operation again until 1964 when they found and occupied the building, above, at 319 The Bowery at 2nd Street. The space defined "intimate." The stage was only 20 feet wide, there was a tiny orchestra pit and the audience in the 107 seat theater (sometimes augmented by a number of fire code-violating folding chairs) seemed right in the middle of the action. Singing could be variable to say the least, but core musical values were strong and decades of young singers got invaluable stage time at the onset of their careers. Two future stars who began at the Amato were Jon Frederick West, eventually a respected Wagnerian tenor, and Mignon Dunn, a strikingly beautiful mezzo soprano and fine actress who became a star at the Metropolitan Opera in Italian, French, German and Russian operas.
Sally died in 2000. To say it was a blow would be total understatement, but Tony kept on going until he finally called it quits in 2009. He made a simple statement for his public farewell; he was 88, he was tired and there were other things to do, like perhaps write a history of the company. And that was that, it was over after 61 years. The New York opera community was stunned by news of the closing, almost as if they'd lost their own homes.
So it's now two years later and the building is still for sale. Two years. A good commercial building in New York City in a prime location. Some things just can't be replaced.
I detoured down the street to shoot this wonderfully elaborate firehouse. I was caught by the row of brackets in Chinese red under the crown at the edge of the roof. And a detail like the little bird house perched on the street light on the right of the second floor.
What a little gem this building is! The cornice is too large in scale for a modest two storey building of its type. It would fit much better on a four or five storey structure. The facade below the cornice has been heavily abused over the years, but I suspect that the building was originally a livery stable. The scale and style of it remind me strongly of a row of old livery stables, now chic boutiques and residences, on Boston's Newbury Street near the corner with Massachusetts Avenue.
This building sits rather heavily on Third Avenue between sixth and seventh streets, one block north and on the same side of the street as the chic new hotel we stayed in. I never managed to find out what it was, but I've come to think of it as a Transformer building that's caught just at the moment it's breaking open to become something entirely different.
I've forgotten where I found this -- thank you, whoever! -- but I think it's an appropriate closer to a blog entry that began with the beginning of New York marriages. There is a backlash and some people who should know a great deal better have said some very unfortunate and thoroughly untrue things. I prefer to wish all those who are marrying in New York long and happy lives together.