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Falun Dafa Practitioners Honor Victims of Persecution

WASHINGTON—Numerous candlelights flickered in the darkness as hundreds of Falun Dafa practitioners held a vigil in front of the Lincoln Memorial to remember the victims of the Chinese communist regime’s persecution of the practice.
The traditional Chinese spiritual discipline of Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, was first introduced in China in 1992. Many Chinese were attracted to the practice for its physical benefits and moral philosophy rooted in the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It has been persecuted since July 1999 after it became too popular in the eyes of a former communist leader, who ordered it to be eliminated.
A woman joins Falun Gong practitioners in a candlelight vigil at Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Since then, hundreds of thousands of practitioners have been thrown into prisons, labor camps, and brainwashing centers where they are coerced through physical and psychological torture into renouncing their beliefs. A large but indefinite number of Falun Gong practitioners have also been killed for their organs to fuel China’s lucrative transplant industry, according to reports.
Falun Dafa practitioners gathered in Washington D.C. on July 20 for a series of events, including a rally, parade, and a candlelight vigil, to honor the lives lost over the past eighteen years.
Pooja Mor, a fashion model, joins Falun Gong practitioners during a candlelight vigil around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Pooja Mor, a 25-year-old Indian fashion model, joined in the day’s events in DC to show her support. Mor started practicing Falun Dafa two and a half years ago after her agent in India introduced it to her.
“Before I used to blame people for everything wrong that happened in my life. After learning Falun Dafa, I started to look within,” Mor said. “Instead of finding faults with others, I first look to see where I’m lacking.”
Falun Dafa practitioner Yang Guangyu, a native of Beijing who came to the US in 2009, said, “Falun Dafa practitioners simply want to cultivate themselves, to promote moral values, and to improve their health.” Yang was detained in late 2001 in a prison and later a forced labor camp for peacefully defending Falun Dafa in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, a popular site of protest in China.
Many tourists and visitors who passed by the candlelight vigil expressed their sympathy and shock at the human rights abuses occurring in China.
“I have trouble understanding why something like this would be persecuted in China,” said Catherine Ramos, a tourist from New Jersey.
Lynne DePalma, who was with Ramos, said, “It’s a communist country, so it’s a closed society. And a lot of things that go on, the world doesn’t know about unless people do something like this and bring it to the world’s attention.”
“It’s an atrocity, and it shouldn’t be happening,” DePalma added. “It’s immoral. It’s abusive.”
Ma Cunxia, a Falun Gong practitioner from Changchun City in northeastern China, called on the U.S. government to take a firmer stance. “I hope the government, particularly the Trump administration, can act on America’s founding values of human rights and freedom of belief and call for an end to this 18-year-long persecution.”
Eva Fu contributed to this report.
Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman joins Falun Gong practitioners at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman joins Falun Gong practitioners at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A little boy joins Falun Gong practitioners at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman joins Falun Gong practitioners at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Falun Gong practitioners hold a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman joins Falun Gong practitioners at a candlelight vigil at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on July 20, 2017, to honor the lives lost since the Chinese regime launched the persecution eighteen years ago. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Falun Gong Practitioners Demand End to Eighteen Years of Persecution

NEW YORK—On July 16, hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners from the greater New York area gathered near the Chinese Consulate in New York for a rally and candlelight vigil to mark 18 years since the Chinese regime launched a brutal persecution campaign against their spiritual community.
The rally featured Falun Gong spokespeople, practitioners who had endured severe persecution in China, members of human rights NGOs, and seven Chinese citizens who had just quit the Chinese Communist Party and its affiliated organizations.
A little girl attends a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
“We are here gathered in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York to call on the international community to help end this persecution and expose this crime against humanity that’s been going on for 18 years,” said Erping Zhang, a Falun Gong spokesperson, in an interview.
“Over the past 18 years, numerous Falun Gong practitioners have lost their homes, jobs, even their lives,” Zhang continued. “Worse still, there is the horrific crime of organ harvesting against these prisoners of conscience.” Principal researchers of forced organ harvesting in China estimate that the Chinese communist regime has killed large numbers of Falun Gong practitioners for their organs from 2000 to 2015 to fuel a lucrative transplant industry, according to a 2016 report.
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Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, was first introduced to the Chinese public in 1992 by Mr. Li Hongzhi. Inspired and uplifted by the practice’s moral principles and tranquil exercises, 70 to 100 million people in China had taken up the practice by 1999, according to state and practitioner estimates.
Among them was Li Dianqin, a native of Liaoning Province in northeastern China. Li was practically on her deathbed when she first learned of Falun Gong in 1995—she had a massive liver tumor and intestinal adhesions that caused constant, excruciating pain in her abdomen.
Li Dianqin joins other Falun Gong practitioners in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York for a rally and candlelight vigil calling for an end to the persecution on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
After practicing Falun Gong, however, Li slowly overcame not only her illness, which doctors deemed incurable, but also gained the mental strength to weather the Chinese regime’s persecution.
In March 2000, Li was detained at a brainwashing center in a Shenyang City mental hospital where she was bombarded day and night with hate propaganda against Falun Gong.
Three months later, Li was thrown into Masanjia Forced Labor Camp, a detention facility notorious for its horrific treatment of female Falun Gong practitioners. Masanjia guards were known for shocking women practitioners’ genitalia with electric batons, as well as for stripping practitioners naked and locking them up in the cells of male prisoners to be gang raped.
Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Li, now 66, came to the United States last July. At the rally in New York, however, Li and other Falun Gong practitioners continue to be targeted by the Chinese regime.
Around 50 Chinese people dressed in red shirts with pro-communist slogans and hats had gathered on the opposite side of the street from the Falun Gong rally. They shouted anti-Falun Gong slogans into loudspeakers and waved the Chinese regime’s red flags.
Collin Ding, a 17-year-old high schooler, said he attended the event to peacefully protest the continued persecution of his beliefs.
Collin Ding joins other Falun Gong practitioners for a rally and a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Ding said he was there to peacefully protest the continued persecution of his beliefs. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
“As Falun Dafa practitioners, we cultivate ourselves based on the standard of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance,” Ding said.
Ding said that Falun Gong’s principles help him to self-reflect and improve himself when faced with adversity rather than harbor resentment towards others.
“There will always be some people around you who are nice to you and some who are mean to you,” he said. “But even if people are mean to you, you should be genuine towards them.”
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Cristina Oz, 32, learned of Falun Gong in late May of this year after coming across practitioners doing the slow-moving exercises in Madison Square Park in downtown Manhattan.
“It was like finally coming home after a long journey,” Oz said. “I’d been looking for this all my life.”
Cristina Oz joins Falun Gong practitioners in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York for a rally and candlelight vigil calling for an end to the persecution on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
And coming from Romania, which was formerly under the control of a Soviet-backed dictatorship, Oz was familiar with how communist regimes trample spiritual practices. “A lot of people were killed, a lot of people were persecuted” by the former communist regime in Romania, she said.
“That’s why I relate so much to China because I feel and understand it very well,” Oz said. “Communism destroys people’s origins, people’s values.”
The Chinese people must learn the truth of the Chinese regime and see through the communist propaganda, said Falun Gong practitioner Li Dianqin.
“It requires our realization” of the Chinese regime’s repressive tendencies, Li said. And when the world’s people come to the same realization, the “Chinese regime will thoroughly disintegrate,” she added.
Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Women perform a song and dance at a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York calling for an end to the Falun Gong persecution inside China in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A Falun Gong practitioner hands out pamphlets about the practice and the Chinese regime’s persecution campaign to passersby near the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman performs a song and dance at a rally in front of Chinese Consulate in New York calling for an end to the Falun Gong persecution inside China in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A Falun Gong practitioner hands out pamphlets about the practice and the Chinese regime’s persecution campaign to a passerby near the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A woman performs a song and dance at a rally in front of Chinese Consulate in New York calling for an end to the Falun Gong persecution inside China in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and supporters hold a candlelight vigil in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York on July 16, 2017. Launched on July 20, 1999, the persecution is now entering its 18th year inside China. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Women perform a song and dance at a rally in front of the Chinese Consulate in New York calling for an end to the Falun Gong persecution inside China in New York on July 16, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

10 Must-See Places in South Korea During the 2018 Winter Olympics

As I ambled through the ancient Gyeongbokgung Palace, the scent of jasmine flowers filled the air, the sun shone through the distant mountain peaks, and pastel-colored cherry trees, filled with blossoms, lined the path. It felt as though life had truly slowed down, and I had entered the past.
No one was checking their phones for Facebook responses, no one was rushing or pushing to get a photo, and everything was very calm and peaceful. I was surrounded with smiles from people wearing the traditional hanbok dress. I felt I came as close to ancient life as possible without access to a time machine to bring me there.
After just a few days in the country, I could easily see why Pyeongchang, about 100 miles east of Seoul, was selected to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. While tourists usually stay in Seoul, the beautiful surrounding countryside with its large mountains and great resorts will encourage talk about the Olympic games for years to come.
Here are 10 of my favorite places in the northern region of South Korea.
10. Gwangmyeong Cave

Gwangmyeong means “prosperous life,” and the cave has a long history of both prosperity and tragedy. It was originally a goldmine when Korea was under Japanese colonial rule in 1912, and then, during the Korean War, it provided shelter for refugees. In 1972, it became a space to hold salted shrimp, and finally in 2011, Gwangmyeong city opened it as a theme park dedicated to Korea’s industrial heritage. To this day, there are still deposits of gold in the cave and you can go panning for it yourself, one of many activities offered inside.
Some highlights of the cave include the botanical garden, where cutting-edge technology is used to grow vegetables, used in the cave’s restaurant, without sunlight; Aqua World, where aquariums hold different species of fish from around the world; and the Golden Waterfall, a natural waterfall inside the cave is nearly 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide and pours 1.5 tons gallons of water every minute. A vintage-themed restaurant inside the cave serves over 100 kinds of wine; on weekends, visitors can enjoy free tastings.
With a depth of almost 900 feet and over 4 1/2 miles long (with one mile open to the public), the cave got the attention of director Peter Jackson and inspired the design of the dragon Smaug’s lair from the the second film in the “Hobbit” triology, “The Desolation of Smaug.” A few props from the “Lord of the Rings” movies, as well as a large dragon, are displayed around the cave. Price: $1.00–5.50 (1,000–6,000 won) Hours: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
www.gm.go.kr/cv/en/index.do
9. Suwon Hwaseong Fortress
The east gate of the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Built by King Jeongjo of the late Joseon period in the 18th century, this massive structure is a sight to see. With its walls stretching almost four miles, it was originally built to show the king’s filial piety toward his father, whose tomb he relocated behind its walls. It was carefully designed with the most sophisticated science and astronomical knowledge from both European and Asian influences at the time, which impacted its layout, construction, floodgates, and its ultimate purpose—to protect the inhabitants from enemy forces within its massive military compounds.
Unfortunately, during the Korean War in the 1950s, the fortress was partially destroyed. Years later, construction began to restore much of this mighty fortress to its original form. However, because of the massive size of the structure, construction continues to this day.
A few must-see places are the north floodgate, the beacon tower, and the east cardinal gate.
The King’s audience hall in the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
The UNESCO World Heritage site serves as a venue for a variety of events, performances, and tours every day.
Price: $.50–1.00 (50–1000 won) Hours: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
whc.unesco.org/en/list/817
8. Insadong Market in Seoul

Out of all the shopping areas I explored, this area was one of the best. There aren’t many English signs on the storefronts, but if you are looking for traditional Korean clothing, crafts, calligraphy, or simply nice Korean cuisine, this market has it all.
One of the best places we discovered was a traditional Korean teahouse on the second floor. As soon as we walked into the all-wood space, the smell of herbs and tea filled the air, and an elderly woman greeted us with a bright smile. It was as if we had walked into a family’s home, and we were served the best tea any of us had while in Korea. That day, it was raining hard outside, and we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spot. We liked it so much that we stayed for hours, drinking tea, sharing stories, and immersing ourselves in Korean culture.

Price: Free Hours: Depends on stores
7. Cherry Blossom Festival
The Gyeongpoho Lake during the Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom Festival in Gangneung. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
It’s unfortunate that the 2018 Winter Olympics will miss the cherry blossom season in April. Cherry trees bloom all around South Korea and are a highlight of the year, celebrated by cherry blossom festivals. One of the most picturesque sights is in Gangneung city, near Korea’s northeastern coast: the Gyeongpo Cherry Blossom Festival located around Gyeongpoho Lake, with misty mountains as a backdrop.
If you don’t feel like walking, there are bicycles for rent that hold anywhere from one to four riders. Hungry? Just down the road sits an American style restaurant called L Barbecue, which surprisingly served some of the best ribs and pork loin I’ve ever had.

Price: Free Time Period: End of March to Early-mid April
6. Seoul Bamdokkaebi (Yeouido) Night Market

Seoul is known for its nightlife and popular night markets. On Friday and Saturdays evenings, Koreans enjoy delicious food catered from countless food trucks, music and dancing, shops, or picnicking at Han Riverside Park. Come early enough to watch the sun set over the river.
Price: Free Hours: 6:00 p.m.–11:00 p.m.
5. Woljeongsa Temple Stay
One of the main temples at the Woljeongsa Temple Stay. Woljeongsa was built in 643 by monk Jajang after returning from the Tang Dynasty in China. Legend has it that Jajang brought back part of Buddha Shakyamuni remains and built the temple in his honor. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Woljeongsa means “beautiful moon of the heart,” a perfect name for this cultural experience that gives visitors a chance to connect with their inner self while being surrounded by nature.
Religion is very important to Koreans, and it seems to reflect on how honesty plays a role in their lives. Temples can be found everywhere, whether in the city or dotting the countryside, and as both tourists and natives attend on a regular basis. The Woljeongsa Temple is the oldest temple, originally built in 643 and later rebuilt after it was burned down by the Japanese centuries later.

Experience what it is like to be a monk: Make Buddha prayer beads, learn about Buddhist painting, do a walking meditation, and, of course, eat a vegetarian meal, all while exploring the grand history of this ancient temple.
Visitors may register for just the activity program that lasts two to three hours, for a one-day program, or, if they are feeling adventurous, for one to four nights for the full temple experience.
Price: $18.00–$250.00 (20,000–270,000 won) Hours: Depends on the program
eng.templestay.com/index2.asp?
4. Alpensia Ski Resort and Ski Museum
Overlooking the the Alpensia Ski Resort from the 160 foot tower in Pyeongchang. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
The Alpensia resort is gorgeous and has plenty to offer, whether or not you like to ski. Learn all about the history of Korea’s snow culture through artifacts, antique photos, and facts on how their ancestors created and used skis. Also take a ride to the top of a 160-foot tower, where you can see breathtaking views of the whole resort.
The Alpensia ski tower in Pyeongchang. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Just a 10-minute drive away is the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Promotion Hall, where you can experience what it is like to fly down the ski slope using a 360-degree virtual reality headset. Or take a ride in a 4D theater as you become a virtual member of a bobsled team zipping down the new Pyeongchang snow track.
Near the resort are the Odaesan National Park, the Korea Botanic Garden, and the beautiful Heungjeong Valley.
The Alpensia Ski Resort in Pyeongchang. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)
Price: Varies Hours: Morning 8:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m., Afternoon 12:30 p.m.–4:30 p.m., Evening 6:30 p.m.–10:30 p.m.
www.alpensiaresort.co.kr/EnInfoAlpInfoIntro.gdc
3. Jeong Gang Won: The Institute of Traditional Korean Cuisine

Aside from the amazing sights and wonders of the Korea, one of the most important aspects is Korean cuisine. Even if you have eaten at a Korean restaurant before, your experience simply cannot be compared to the local flavors of Korea. The restaurants we visited in Korea were all fantastic, from the rich local flavors, very tender meats, to the locally grown vegetables. But one place that stands out is Jeong Gang Won.
At the large gate at the entrance, visitors are greeted by rows and rows of barrels filled with various kinds of homemade fermented vegetables. The kimchi was the best I’ve ever had.
Be prepared to spend at least a few hours here. Better yet, stay a few nights in one of their traditional houses. All of the food is organic and grown onsite. If you have 10 or more in your group, you can take part in a traditional cooking class to learn how to make your own bibimbap.

The area surrounding the institute covers over 33,000 miles, so take a stroll in their park, see the waterfall, visit the museum, and admire their collection of exotic birds.
Price: $9.00–27.00 (10,000–30,000won) Hours: 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
www.jeonggangwon.com/index.do
2. Korean Folk Village

Located in the city of Yongin, just south of Seoul, is a huge village comprising houses from the late Jose Dynasty that have been relocated and reconstructed to show the traditional way of life: great food, master craftsmen making tools, and performances with traditional Korean music and dancing. Kids can enjoy the large area of amusement park rides, games, and crafts. Many rent hanbok clothing to don while strolling around the village, which I highly recommend; even if you are a foreigner, it just adds to the overall experience.
If you plan to visit, make sure you at least book for half a day, there is so much to see and experience that you won’t want to rush through.

Price: $10.00–16.00 (11,000–18,000won) Hours: 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m.
Website: http://www.koreanfolk.co.kr/multi/english/about/about.asp
1. Gyeongbokgung Palace

Seoul has five grand palaces, and Gyeongbokgung (meaning “greatly blessed by Heaven,”) is the largest and most stunning. It was built in the heart of Seoul in 1395 and was deemed auspicious at the time.
The King resided in the palace, which houses his throne and a reception hall. It was burned down during a Japanese invasion in the late 1500s and was reconstructed in 1867, only to be torn down when Japan took control of much of Korea in the early 1900s. Today it has been almost completely restored.

Enter at the massive Gwanghwamun Gate (meaning “Let the light of enlightenment blanket the world”) to see the changing of the guards every hour. Don’t miss the best photo opportunity of this most picturesque site: the beautiful pavilion.
Price: $1.50–2.75 (1,500-3000won) Hours: Winter: 9:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Spring: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m., Summer: 9:00 a.m.–6:30 p.m., Autumn: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.
www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/main/main.jsp
Final Thoughts
With Korea’s rich and long history, you could spend a month and still not see and do everything you would like to. But if you are planning to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, or just wanting to visit in the near future, don’t pass up the chance to experience the country’s breathtaking landscapes and the rich heritage of Korea’s well-preserved traditional culture.

The Triumph of Flora at The Frick

NEW YORK—It was a beautiful start to summer as about 800 guests attended the annual Spring Garden Party for Fellows at The Frick Collection in New York on June 7.This year’s celebration, “The Triumph of Flora” took its theme from the exhibition of Du Paquier Porcelain and its stunning floral motifs.
The atmosphere was brimming with joviality and elegance. Women donned floral dresses, perfectly complementing the historic Fifth Avenue Garden setting, which is only accessible on this single night of the year. Guests mingled shoulder-to-shoulder, enjoying drinks and seasonally inspired hors d’oeuvres, while listening to the jazz quartet, The Flail.
As the sun set on Central Park, guests gradually made their way inside to enjoy the galleries and the rarely seen second floor of the former Frick mansion, which was open during this special occasion. In the Music Room, Dr. UNOs & Dubs kept guests dancing until the end of a night to be remembered.
Kellyanna Polk with Ashton Wackym. ›(Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests meet The Frick’s board members at the Spring Garden Party in New York on June 7, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Susan Grace Galassi, senior curator for The Frick (L), chats with guests. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Sera Unlu, country marketing manager for Spotify. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Dr. Lara Devgan, a plastic surgeon, and Lucy Lang, an assistant district attorney in Manhattan. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Jazz band The Flail performs at The Frick’s Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) A rare look at the former second-floor study of Ms. Frick. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Meher Mamoor with her sister Maha. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Bibi, Frick Board Member Ayesha Bulchandani, and Frick Board Member Monika McLennan. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Xavier Salomon, the Peter Jay Sharp chief curator for The Frick. Jazz band The Flail performs at The Frick’s Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Ayesha Bulchandani, Elizabeth Kurpis, and Monika McLennan. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Julia Lukacher and Sarah Cascone. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Larry Milstein and Toby Milstein. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) The grand staircase leading to the second floor of The Frick, which is usually closed to the public. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Liza Morell and Lauren Ranney. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Joel Labissiere and Kristina Alexandra Kovalyuk. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests mingle in the Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Jazz band The Flail performs at The Frick’s Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Bindu Manne, Suz Massen, and Annika Conner. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests mingle in the Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Jazz band The Flail perform at The Frick’s Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) James Brautigam and Molly Densest. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Tim Matusch and Marie Piche share a kiss at the Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Sera Unlu, country marketing manager for Spotify, with friend Avishan Bodjnoud, who works at the United Nations. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests at the Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Jeff Bode and David English. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) The Frick’s Garden Court during the Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Frick Board Member Bradford Evans and Barbara Evans. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Henry and William Rosenberg. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Stanley, Sarah, and Anne Silverstein. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Eiko Assael and her guest. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Iris Fernandez and Hanna Giordano. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests mingle at The Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Stephanie Nass, founder and chef at Victory Club, with friend Paige Kringstein. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Jazz band The Flail performs at The Frick’s Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Katie Sands and Carolyn Floersheimer. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Tamara Choksey and JD Linderman. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Irina and Diana. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) Guests mingle in the Frick’s Fifth Avenue Garden. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times) The Frick’s Garden Court during the Spring Garden Party. (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

Soprano Nadine Sierra on Giving Opera a Fresh Face

NEW YORK—”Opera singers over the years are becoming better actors, because we can no longer hide away from [being seen on] DVDs, having things on YouTube, having things filmed. We can’t escape that; our world is now dedicated to this digital media,” American soprano Nadine Sierra said. “Because of that, people want to see more; they don’t just want to hear it. It goes over the line of singing and being heard, to being watched and understood.”
Sierra, 28, is one of many young sopranos performing at the Metropolitan Opera who have been starring in shows internationally in the past few years, and even among these, she has had standout moments.
Soprano Nadine Sierra in the lobby of Lincoln Center’s Metropolitan Opera House in New York on Feb. 28, 2017. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Early last year, she made her debut as Gilda in Verdi’s “Rigoletto” at La Scala in Milan, where the famously critical audience cried out for an encore mid-act following her duet with baritone Leo Nucci. Sierra had her national debut at 15 and made a splash on National Public Radio’s classical music series “From the Top.” In 2007, she became the youngest person ever to win the Marilyn Horne Foundation Award, and in 2009, she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
This week, she has just stepped into the role of Ilia in Mozart’s “Idomeneo,” a Greek tragedy-based opera seria production, using the same costumes and sets that were used in the original Met production in 1982. It will also be conducted by Music Director Emeritus James Levine, who conducted the original production. The opera runs through Saturday, March 25, when it will also be shown in theaters around the world as a part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.
Today, our digital culture has made opera more accessible than ever, Sierra said. She dismisses the notion that the art is meant for a select few. The first opera event that really captivated her, sparking her drive to become an opera singer herself, was a filmed event. She’d seen the Met’s “La Bohème” on VHS and knew that opera singing was what she needed to do with her life.
Opera in a Digital Age
Sierra remembers studying for her part in “Idomeneo” by watching the original Met production, in which the singers sang beautifully but stood still while doing so.
“Now we’re having to freshen it up by really committing to the characters and what they have to say,” expressing both vocally and with the whole body, she said. “And I love that.”
The singers fall into their roles so completely that they forget themselves, forget they are acting, and become the characters. “We actually do that—and it’s so refreshing,” she said.
“Idomeneo” will be filmed to play in theaters and “when it’s filmed, it’s really filmed, like a movie.” It changes the way you view an opera, Sierra said. In terms of acting, there are more subtleties, and the singers’ facial expressions are more defined, rather than using over-the-top movements that can be seen from the top rung of the opera house.
As a young child, Sierra had seen many opera productions live, but it was seeing the “La Bohème” character Mimì’s range of emotions expressed up close on VHS that ignited her obsession.
Sierra’s philosophy, filmed or not, is “staying completely true to what the character has to say at all times and making that understandable to the audience.”
One of her biggest frustrations is that people feel like they won’t understand opera. Not everyone speaks the language an opera may appear in, and that is already a perceived barrier, but when you can sing with such clarity of emotion, it translates the story. That is what she strives for.
“I’ve always felt, even when I was a child, that watching opera is so much more special when you can automatically understand what the singer is trying to convey,” she said. “To instinctively have that idea because of how they are expressing, not only in their movements, but how they are coloring certain words and phrases.”
The way in which we view opera and produce it continues to change, but the core of opera hasn’t, Sierra said. It is a timeless art form of the highest level, with beautiful music, a classic style of grandness, a connection to history, and a sense of the bizarre—”but I like that bizarreness; it’s never boring,” she said.

‘Idomeneo’
He was fond of “Don Giovanni” and “The Marriage of Figaro,” but perhaps most of all “Idomeneo.” He had wonderful memories of the time and circumstances of its composition.— Mozart's wife, Constanza, on her husband and his operas, after his death

“Idomeneo” was Mozart’s first opera, written in 1781 when the composer was 24, and it is distinctly different from his other operas in which a sense of humor prevails. Here, he creates a story of fiction that picks up where Greek myth leaves off. It is centered around Idomeneo, the king of the island of Crete, after his return from the Trojan War. It also differs from Mozart’s later works in that he personally made many changes to the story, shortening scenes to drive the work along, and changes to the text, swapping out words that tripped up the singers.
The story begins shortly after the Trojan War ends. After a storm and shipwreck, Idomeneo washes ashore, saved by Neptune, who demands that he sacrifice the first living creature he sees. To his dismay, it is his son Idamante.
Idamante has similarly just rescued the Trojan princess Ilia from the storm, and she is now captive in the home of her enemies.
“She is a character that I feel the entire audience wants to root for,” Sierra said. “Her father was killed, her people were enslaved, she’s taken away from her homeland to be among a family who she’s heard of all her life as the enemy—and she falls in love with the enemy’s son.”
Nadine Sierra as Ilia in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”(Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)
She feels this consuming guilt because of it, Sierra said, and expresses regret throughout the opera, but Ilia is completely emotionally honest.
It soon becomes a love triangle, as the Greek princess Elettra schemes to marry Idamante for power. “Ilia doesn’t want any of that; it’s about finding home again, creating [from] a horrendous situation something positive. … That’s what makes me want to root for her,” she said.
Elza van den Heever as Elettra and Nadine Sierra as Ilia in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.” (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)
Sierra began preparing for the role about a year ago with her vocal coach Kamal Khan, but when rehearsals began, she had to learn a completely different set of things on top of it. Now she was learning it from the perspective of Levine, who conducted the original Met production 35 years ago and worked with many great stars in these roles.
“And ‘Idomeneo’ is his favorite Mozart opera. So, no pressure, right?” Sierra said. Plus, she is at least a decade younger than the rest of her cast mates and felt there was a lot of history to live up to.
At the beginning, she felt it was a challenge to not lose herself and her sense of artistry in the process. She had approached Ilia as a meek character; Levine told her to do the opposite, saying, “I want you to use all of your colors, all the colors of your voice, your full sound. Don’t be afraid to let the drama out.”
Matthew Polenzani as Idomeneo and Nadine Sierra as Ilia. (Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera) Nadine Sierra as Ilia in Mozart’s “Idomeneo.”(Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera)
Sierra took in as much of the history as she could, and eventually became comfortable enough with it that she felt she had her confidence back, that she had transformed and could “reach my max dramatically.”
“My opinion of the role throughout this whole process has greatly changed,” she said. “I have so much respect for the role, and I love it so much more now.”

The Theatrical Art of Designing Space

Most of us never think about how space is designed in buildings, but a theatrical set design is, by its very nature, there for its audience to mull over.
For each play produced, a designer creates an environment—fantastic, realistic, metaphoric, or stylized—that allows the audience to be transported into the world of the play.
Of course, each play presents a unique challenge for the designer. The designer’s first concern is that whatever actions the actor needs to perform are doable. If an actor needs to open a window, the set must have a working window. But just as important are aspects that award-winning set designers demonstrate.
Establishes Time and Place
Whether a play is depicting a fantasy or a historically accurate event, the audience should be able to tell whether the action takes place in a kitchen, a restaurant, a palace, under the sea, or on a cloud. And there should be details that suggest whether we are in the 1650s or in 1935. At the same time, the set tells us about the characters that inhabit the world we are visiting. Are they rich, happy, lazy, or bored?
Christopher Oram’s Set for ‘Hughie’
Written in 1942, Eugene O’Neill’s two-character play “Hughie,” set in 1928 in the lobby of a third-rate hotel in New York, is essentially a long monologue. Erie Smith, a two-bit grafter, laments that his good luck has turned bad since the death of Hughie, the establishment’s former hotel clerk, who always lent Erie a willing ear. The play reveals the human desire for others to see us as more important than we actually are.
Christopher Oram’s set for “Hughie” reveals a once-elegant but now run-down lobby with faded carpets on a dusty floor and a tall window to show how we can aspire but fall short. (Marc Brenner)
British theater set and costume designer Christopher Oram said of designing the set: “Since my first visit [to New York], I’ve become aware that so much of this muscular yet delicately detailed classic architecture is being swept aside in favor of bland steel and glass corporate monoliths, and so when I had the opportunity to explore the style in the design for ‘Hughie,’ I leapt at the chance.
“The set itself, Hughie’s world, is the foyer of a fleabag hotel just off Broadway; it is a transitionary space, neither entirely public, but certainly not private. It represents his state of mind, and the choice he must make. The world outside the lobby has very much turned its back on him, but the stairs that lead to his room lead also to certain death. His character, like, ironically, the architecture itself, is at a crossroads. Though O’Neill gives Hughie a glimmer of hope by the conclusion of the play, I fear the beautiful architecture of New York might not be so lucky.”
Fits the Theater
Just as each play presents a challenge for the designer, so does each theater building, with its unique dimensions. For plays that have a lot of set changes, the problem is multiplied. Where can the designer store all of the items until needed? How can scenery be moved quickly so that the lag time during scene transitions is kept to a minimum?
Scott Pask’s Set for ‘Something Rotten!’
The very funny musical comedy “Something Rotten!” takes an ironic look at the larger-than-life world of theater. Set in South London in 1595, brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, struggling playwrights both, concoct a plan to outdo the most famous playwright of their time and ours, Shakespeare. They create a new kind of theater—the musical.
Scott Pask’s set for “Something Rotten!” required both outdoor and interior scenes of the house of the playwright Bottom brothers, a platform for the big number for Shakespeare’s character Bard (pictured here), and room for the Bottom’s theater company, to name just a few of the set changes. As with the trees in the background, Pask used old-fashioned, large cloth backdrops that can be quickly raised or lowered from above to accommodate transitions between scenes. This method not only fits a play set in Shakespeare’s era, but also better accommodates Broadway’s St. James Theatre, which lacks stage depth. (Joan Marcus)
“[The design] implements an economy of means. Internal scenes take place within the overall world of the play, which I call ‘Tudor ghetto’—this downtrodden collage of Tudor buildings and a theater at the center of it. … But then the shifts that go to more specific location to location are more fully realized. It’s done in a way that the St. James [Theatre, in New York] was set up for, a more vaudevillian manner in which things are flattened and the perspective and the desired depth of space is created with false perspective and through the artistry of scenic painting and sculpting. These elements are used to create great dimension in a very shallow theater,” Tony Award-winning set designer Scott Pask told industry magazine Projection, Lights and Staging News.

Creates a World
Each stage design has its own integrity in the sense that it is internally consistent and presents a complete visual world, which, of course, somehow illuminates the play.
Walt Spangler’s Set for ‘Desire Under the Elms’
Adapting a Greek tragedy to more modern times, Eugene O’Neill set his 1924 drama “Desire Under the Elms” on a New England farm. In the harsh landscape where the soil yields more rocks than bounty, a son grows up believing his father worked his mother to death. When the father remarries, and the stepmother’s misguided lust centers on the son, sin begets sin and tragedy results.
Using the startling imagery of large boulders and a whole house hoisted above the characters, Walt Spangler’s set for “Desire Under the Elms” portends the doom resulting from heavy sins. (Courtesy of Walt Spangler)
“For ‘Desire Under the Elms,’ we wanted the design to evoke the visceral oppression and toil of O’Neill’s New England landscape. While we did not want to literally illustrate the trees of the play’s title, we did want to capture a sort of menacing, hovering feel in the space by hoisting the rocks, and even the house itself, up into the air on giant hemp lines normally used for barges,” said Walt Spangler, one of Broadway’s and regional theaters’ most sought-after scenic designers.
Sets the Mood
The stage design helps set the tone or style of the play, as well as the meaning. Whereas realistic designs keep objects within a moderate color scheme and in proportion to what we see around us, tragedies might call for a formal or lofty tone, and slapstick farce a tone that is exaggerated or cartoonish.
David Rockwell’s Set for ‘She Loves Me’
Probably most familiar as its 1998 film incarnation “You’ve Got Mail,” the musical “She Loves Me” is set in 1930s Budapest, Hungary, and follows bickering co-workers Georg and Amalia, who discover that their romantic pen pals are, in fact, each other. Finding love in unexpected places adds to the charm of this old-fashioned romantic musical.
Borrowing from the art nouveau style that influenced Budapest, Hungary, at the time, David Rockwell designed the set for “She Loves Me” with saturated pastels and intricate details, creating a lavish but undeniably cheerful effect appropriate for a romantic comedy and musical. (Joan Marcus)
“[The art nouveau period] is just a magical time to anchor the show in. … In some ways, art nouveau is the architectural equivalent to music. It has a lyrical quality, and so much of the music has the beautiful kind of waltz, lyrical quality,” said David Rockwell in an interview with The Broadway Channel. The American architect and designer is the founder of the Rockwell Group, a cross-disciplinary architecture and design company.

Allows Us to See in a New Way
A visual metaphor, a central image, or a fixed feature on stage can inform an audience and resonate with various meanings throughout a play.
Tim Hatley’s Set for ‘Ghosts’
One of the first plays to document societal ills, Henrik Ibsen’s 1881 play “Ghosts” exposes the hypocrisy of 19th-century morality. Throughout her life, Mrs. Alving has portrayed her long-dead husband as a decent and loving man. This facade ultimately hurts the person she loves most, her son, Oswald, who now suffers from his father’s indecencies.
Tim Hatley’s masterful set for “Ghosts” has transparent walls that let the audience see the actions of the past, such as Oswald accosting the maid in the same way his father accosted the prior maid. These ghosts of the past haunt the present in a tangible way. (Stephanie Berger)
“I was intrigued by the layers and the unraveling of the web of what was going on with the characters,” said Tim Hatley, a Tony Award-winning designer, in an interview with Almeida Theatre.
“I immediately imagined a dark house, closed off from the world, whose walls knew the truth behind them. I became interested in the way we could see into the house. The walls in our set are both transparent and reflective.”

The Grand Gateway in Waiting: Envisioning the New-Old Penn Station

A photo of the original McKim, Mead and White Penn Station on display in the Amtrak concourse of Pennsylvania Station in New York, on Feb. 6, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
NEW YORK—Nostalgia and heartbreak for the original Pennsylvania Station has persisted since it was destroyed over half a century ago. The beauty of that beaux-arts structure will probably remain a mythos in our imaginations until it is actually resurrected. Those who remember experiencing its magnificence still sigh. Those who discover a glimpse of its iconic grandeur in photographs—like the one displayed where it once stood in the current Penn Station—gasp in shock, “That was here?!”
Its classic columns, its pink granite walls, and its soaring vaulted glass ceilings made for a grandiose gateway into the city from 1910 to 1963. Its elegance engendered a sense of dignity and appreciation for anyone walking through it—for native New Yorkers, for visitors from near or far, for rich and poor, and for everyone in between.

Not since the ancient Roman Baths of Caracalla, which had inspired the design of the general waiting room, had there been a larger room on earth. The great steel frames and arcades in the train shed were reminiscent of the Gare d’Orsay in Paris. The station was like a piece of ancient Rome and Paris in New York, distinguishing the country’s achievements.
Its grand scale would still be fit for over half a million people who come in and out of the city every day through the busiest transportation hub in the Western Hemisphere. “It’s marvelous to be in a space that is designed not only to hold that many people, but to also allow them to graciously flow through it in a way that makes sense,” Richard Cameron said, from his architectural design studio, Atelier & Co., in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The dimensions of the original Penn Station were so grand, in fact, that even Grand Central Terminal (a.k.a. Grand Central Station) could fit inside its general waiting room. Under the great train shed, thick glass floors allowed natural light to reach all the way down to the lower level of train tracks (four floors down from street level). Even a crowd-fearing, claustrophobic person could feel delighted when coming out of a train and walking though a sunlit space like that.
A section collage by Richard Cameron showing the facade of Grand Central Terminal inside the waiting room of the original Penn Station designed by McKim, Mead & White. (Courtesy of Richard Cameron)
Cameron, who is one of the main proponents for rebuilding the original Penn Station designed by Charles McKim and the firm McKim, Mead & White, explained how classical structures of that scale create the feeling of being both inside and outside at the same time. You can experience that by going into Grand Central—one of the world’s most visited tourist attractions.
It’s difficult to feel discouraged upon seeing the stars wheeling above us under a clear night sky in a remote area. “You get some sense of the created order of the universe that is just really comforting. You realize you are part of some much bigger thing, and it’s okay,” Cameron said. “That’s why the evocation of the stars in the vault of Grand Central Station, for example, is so brilliant. A vault like that is a representation of the heavens.”
More architecture designed to evoke a mini-version of experiencing a starry sky would make living in the city so much more humane—so much more livable.

But ask anybody how they feel about the current Penn Station and they will describe a combination of dread and misery in a million different ways. It’s confusing, ugly, and chaotic. The first thing most people think about is how to get out of there as quickly as possible. The Yale architectural historian Vincent J. Scully Jr. summed up the difference between the original and the current Penn Station best: “One entered the city like a god; one scuttles in now like a rat.”
Undoing a Cultural Crime
In the 1960s, the Pennsylvania Railroad was about to go bankrupt. The company decided to demolish the monumental structure to make way for renting its air space.
It took over three years (1963–1966) to demolish all of the solid granite and steel girders, and the classic statues and ornaments, over a platform installed to protect thousands of passengers who kept getting on and off the trains beneath it every day. “This was not just a matter of swinging the wrecking ball and knocking it down,” Cameron said.
Penn Station kept functioning, more or less, squished below, while Madison Square Garden, a high-rise office and sports complex, was built above it.
All the while, the nostalgia for what was lost continues. Several books have been written about it, including “Conquering Gotham” by Jill Jonnes; the photography book “The Destruction of Penn Station,” photographed by Peter Moore and edited by Barbara Moore; and a play based on the Moores’ book, “The Eternal Space” by Justin Rivers, which was recently performed off Broadway.
People picket Pennsylvania Station in New York on Aug. 2, 1962, in protest over plans to tear it down and build an office building on the site. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
Cameron calls the demolition a cultural war crime. “The idea to destroy something that valuable and that important to the culture is staggering. … It was a lot more than terrible,” he said.
Perhaps it’s force of habit, or our ability to adapt so well, that leaves us numb to realizing how much architecture really affects us. When we think of other design possibilities for Penn Station, most New Yorkers probably think of something like the recently opened Oculus at the World Trade Center—with an interior that conjures cartoon images of the ribcage of a whale and an exterior that looks like a meat cutter. We wouldn’t immediately think of a beautiful beaux-arts design because, ironically, that idea is unusual and radical today.
Yet, there are plenty of successful reconstructions of classic, baroque, beaux-arts, and other styles of beautiful buildings. In Dresden, Germany, the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) was fully rebuilt (partly funded by Americans), along with many other baroque buildings that had been completely decimated during World War II. In London, the Palace of Westminster, where the U.K.’s Houses of Parliament meet, has been rebuilt more than once.
In Moscow, the great Cathedral of Christ the Savior, blown up under Josef Stalin, was rebuilt shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain. “Russia did this in the 1990s when it was barely functioning as a country,” Cameron said, “so it should not be beyond the capabilities of New York and of Americans to rebuild McKim’s Penn Station.”
Possibility Supplants Nostalgia
The thought that we could actually have the original Penn Station back again (rebuildpennstation.com) may seem outlandish, yet it would be difficult to come up with a more humane, a more timeless solution.
Richard Cameron, co-founder of Atelier & Co., an architectural design firm, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Jan. 19, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
As the principal of Atelier & Co. and co-founder of both the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art and the Beaux-Arts Atelier, Cameron has a well-entrenched affinity for and knowledge of the timeless qualities of classical architecture. Together with his Atelier & Co. partner, Jason Grimes, he collaborates with infrastructure designer Jim Venturi of ReThinkNYC, as well as architects, engineers, artisans, and builders. The way he sees it, the original foundation, which is currently in place, is waiting patiently.
The rebuilt Penn Station would match and surpass the original. It would have all of the amenities and conveniences that we expect today, and it would be adaptable for the future.

“If you make something beautiful, people will want to be there, which means the value will go up.” Cameron is seeing it before many of us have yet to believe it. “We used to have the greatest train station in the country and we could again. There is no practical reason why that couldn’t be true,” Cameron said, with a big smile.
Richard Cameron, co-founder of Atelier & Co., an architectural design firm, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Jan. 19, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
McKim’s 353 drawings of Penn Station, housed in the New York Historical Society, can be digitized and used again. Some of the original granite that was dumped in the New Jersey Meadowlands could be recovered, and so forth. Like a phoenix, McKim’s crowning masterpiece could rise from the ashes of its predecessor, breathing new life into the city.
Spearheading the Vision
Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his plan to turn the James A. Farley Post Office Building into a train hub and to renovate Penn Station. That announcement reignited Richard Cameron’s long-kindling idea.
The National Civic Art Society (NCAS) decided to spearhead the effort to rebuild McKim’s Penn Station. It would complement Cuomo’s plans for the Farley building (also designed by McKim). The non-profit organization brought into the effort Richard Cameron of Atelier & Co. as the architectural adviser, and Jim Venturi of ReThinkNYC as the adviser of transportation infrastructure.
Justin Shubow, president of the National Civic Art Society, in New York on Feb. 10, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Cuomo’s renovation plan—to raise the ceiling of Penn Station by two feet and to add LED video screens showing puffy clouds—pales in comparison to the soaring glass vaulted ceilings of the McKim Penn station with views of the real sky. Cuomo’s renovation plan is a short-term solution, with technology that would become outdated in a decade, whereas a McKim Penn Station would last hundreds of years.
Time and Money
The president of the NCAS, Justin Shubow made a very rough estimate of two billion dollars to rebuild Penn Station to service 650,000 passengers a day. That is less than the four billion it cost to build the Oculus, which services only 50,000 passengers a day.
There are so many players involved to be able to predict how much time it would take, Shubow said. It took nine years for McKim’s Penn Station to be completed in 1910. Presumably, it would take less time to rebuild because the railway tunnels are already in place, the original foundation and salvaged granite could be reused, and computer-aided manufacturing would expedite building sections off-site.
Main Stakeholders
The following players would have to be on board: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the City Council, Port Authority, MTA, Amtrak, and Vornado Realty Trust. Vornado owns most of the property in the area, including Two Penn Plaza, the 29-story high-rise on the east side of the station.
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Shubow pointed out that their proposal, which is in the process of being formalized, would include the possibility of keeping Two Penn Plaza in place, but re-clad in classical masonry. “In an ideal world, Two Penn Plaza would come down, and Vornado would get air rights to build in the neighborhood,” he added.
To rebuild the station, Madison Square Garden would have to move and still be accessible by train. Some suggestions include moving it behind the Farley building, or onto the Hudson River, or in Sunnyside Queens as part of Jim Venturi’s infrastructure plan.
Next Steps
The National Civic Art Society is creating partnerships for public-private fundraising. It plans to produce an independent cost-benefit analysis, digitalize the original McKim, Mead & White building plans, and create a 3-D visualization of the station for a Kickstarter campaign to garner public support.
Although the practicalities of making a new McKim Penn Station a reality are numerous, that is the wonderful challenge the NCAS has taken upon itself with tenacious resolve.
Quoting the urban planner Daniel Burnham, NCAS President Justin Shubow said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”
The James A. Farley Post Office Building on Eighth Avenue, New York on Feb. 12, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times). Nineteenth-century architect Charles McKim’s enduring designs include the Washington Square Arch, the Brooklyn Museum, the Morgan Library and Museum, the University Club, the Low Memorial Library of Columbia University, and the James Farley Post Office, among many other structures.
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Michelle Ross: Rejuvenating Our Modern Society Through Traditional Arts

NEW YORK—Classical violinist and composer Michelle Ross works surrounded by paintings, as the only musician among a group of visual artists.
When she composes, she does so as a resident artist in the Eleventh Street Arts gallery, adjacent to a workspace shared by painters and sculptors who have broken from the norm by creating representational art in the traditional style.
“There’s a sense of almost an electric energy, with everyone working together and trying to lift each other up,” Ross said of the connecting Grand Central Atelier (GCA), the art school that owns the gallery and focuses on training in the classical tradition.
To her, this place “feels like an oasis.”
It was a relief to find so many contemporary artists who are looking to the past and dedicating their lives to perfecting their craft, to attaining something ideal, just as classical musicians have done by playing Bach for hundreds of years.
“We’re all modern, contemporary, living, breathing artists,” she said, but “to acknowledge that this is classical in the sense of the tradition and the amount of depth that goes into learning the craft and being able to communicate with it, … [with the camaraderie], we have this constant reminder of how and why what we do is relevant.”
These artistic traditions provide a depth crucial to humanity, she added.
“I think people now really, really crave substance, whether we know it or not,” she said. “People want something with depth. We’re really craving it as a society.”
Violinist and composer Michelle Ross at Salmagundi Art Club in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 30, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Technology has made things easy for us, but without being aware of this, we let habits take over instincts and function in a way that is unnatural and not what humans really want to be, she said. Communication becomes distilled, detached, or passive.
“I remember when I first got an iPhone, I was very conscious of all those strange moments—’oh, I’m texting, but am I really talking to this person?’—but now that consciousness has gotten smaller and smaller, and I just accept it now,” she said.
Traditional arts, on the other hand, demand something from you—emotional honesty, engagement as a listener or viewer, or dedication to your craft as an artist. Once you’ve been opened up and have encountered that depth, you’re primed to reconnect with the world and others in a way you weren’t before, she said. “[You see] a new perspective, or it’ll capture your imagination and unlock this whole world that’s out there, and it can really transform you.”
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For her personally, the initial reaction to such depth is visceral; it gets at your heart. Then there’s the intellectual exercise, the immaculate structure, proportion, and architecture of the classical form, like what is found in the work of both Bach and great Renaissance painters, she said.
In her own way, she is on a mission to use music to help people to connect.
At the gallery, Ross curates a concert program as well. Many attendees are the artists working adjacent to her in the atelier, and after each concert there’s a Q&A session with the performers that sparks conversations about line and harmonic proportions and the overlaps between these classical forms.
“The energy is totally intoxicating for everyone,” she said. “It makes me perform in a different way, and for the audience, it’s a heightened experience.”

Violinist and composer Michelle Ross at Salmagundi Art Club in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 30, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Believing in Bach
Discussing art with artists is a highlight of Ross’s residency, but she truly believes in the power of great art to communicate, to speak volumes all on its own.
“I truly believe music speaks for itself,” she said.
In 2012, Ross was awarded a grant from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts, and she asked herself: What sort of artist did she want to be? What works would get her to that level?
Her answer was Bach because “you really have to bring courage and honesty to this music,” she said. “You can’t hide anything, you’re all by yourself. It’s almost like that idea of climbing the mountain, but every time you think it’s the peak, it’s really a new plateau.”
In addition to recording an album of all the Bach solo works for violin, since 2015 she has brought this music to the people of New York. She played in bakeries and offices, on boardwalks and ferries. The one caveat with playing in public spaces was that she would not do it in a noise-polluted environment, like an underground subway station. It needed to be quiet; otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to either the music or the listeners.
Violinist and composer Michelle Ross at Salmagundi Art Club in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 30, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Her experiences proved her hypothesis correct: “You just have to get people in a room and give it to them; that’s enough. This music withstands time.”
She remembers conversations with New Yorkers who did not look at all like they had been listening while she was playing, but were actually quite moved and engaged, and shared their thoughts with her afterwards. She remembers people bursting into applause, the hugs and smiles. In addition to acquainting people on the street with Bach, she was exercising her performance muscles, as the experience was completely different from being removed from people and on a stage.
“Each time was unique and taught me something different about performing,” Ross said.
Confidence
In the last few years, Ross has worked on growing as a composer as well.
She remembers a time when, as a young teenager, music would just pour out of her, and she wrote easily. Then during her studies at Columbia, she put off composing for a while. The more time that passed, the scarier it was for Ross to come back to it. She feared she had lost her voice, until one rainy day at a music festival when she just sat down at a piano and started playing.
Maybe it was because she wasn’t a pianist, so there was no intimidating inner critic to please, no need to quell her fear for perfection. Ross recorded her improvisations and was glad for it, because even though it wasn’t until months later that she found the courage to listen, she realized then that, yes, she did have something inside her worth saying.
It’s been a journey of writing and improving since then; she continued to improvise and collaborated with other music and dance groups until she built up the confidence to take herself seriously as a composer. Next, she will be taking one of her musical ideas that keeps coming back and sitting down with pen and paper to turn it into a string quartet.
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“It’s kind of exciting, scary,” she said. But it’s also reconnecting with the roots of classical music. “In Bach’s time, anyone who played music knew how to improvise, they understood harmony. … In Mozart’s time, you were expected to be able to improvise a cadenza.”
When Mozart wrote concertos, the virtuoso passages were denoted with a rest and it was up to the musician to deliver a solo with some flourish. Later, students requested he write in some passages that sounded improvised. For the concertos he did not write cadenzas for, later composers like Brahms and Beethoven took it upon themselves to do so.
Many of her musician colleagues are, like Ross was, scared to improvise because one sets such high expectations for oneself as a performer, and those carry over to other musical endeavors. She tries to dispel those fears. “I think if you’re a player, music is in you,” she said.
Violinist and composer Michelle Ross at Salmagundi Art Club in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 30, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
She is consciously working on composing in a traditional style now and sometimes won’t even bring her violin case into the gallery just so she’ll focus on composing, Ross said. It’s an amazing space to work in, surrounded by artists and their work, which seem to say to her, “Get to work!”
“Sometimes I say that I must be the luckiest violinist in New York,” she said.
A Forest of Romanticism
Having spent a year playing mostly Bach, Ross switched lanes and programmed a concert of Romantic music this January. Robert Schumann, Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms were on the program she titled “I Bear no Grudge,” from a line of Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” (“A Poet’s Love”), which was performed by baritone John Moore and pianist Adam Golka.
“I want to give them [the audience] the most intense experience possible,” Ross said. For her January concert, the idea was to drop everyone into a 19th-century forest of Romanticism with no end in sight.
Clara Schumann ended up on the program by a twist of fate, she said; Ross and pianist Adam Golka were preparing to sight read some Schubert pieces for the program when she found these pieces by Clara—Three Romances for Violin and Piano—that she had never heard.
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Brahms’s Horn Trio and Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” are heavy pieces, and the entire program is Romantic music. But Clara’s Romances contained a delicacy and innocence, being almost ingénue-like in character. This provided a lightness that became Ross’s guide through the heavy program.
The small gallery space was tightly packed with supportive audience members, who created a buzzy atmosphere of anticipation. The discussion afterwards centered on the topic of Romanticism and how artists may find it difficult to embody that spirit (which inundated the program) in today’s world, and the mindset and creative process the musicians undertook to interpret this Romanticism.
“This 19th-century Romanticism seems so very far away from the spirit of our culture,” said Jacob Collins, founder of GCA and leader in the contemporary realism movement, kicking off the discussion.
Moore, who sang “Dichterliebe,” mentioned an earlier experience he had in Munich and Bavaria while preparing Romantic repertoires. “I would hike,” he said. “It’s the earth. Once you walk on the ground those composers and those poets had walked on, it all makes sense. The color of the sky, the mists rising, and those morning of dense fog—it’s just magical.”

Collins offered Ross her residence position after she had played several Bach concerts at the gallery, over a year ago.
“It’s a parallel understanding of art and humanity,” he said. “These traditions came up together, and so for us as painters and draftsmen and sculptors … it’s such a delight for us to hear them and talk with them.”
French horn player Laura Wiener performed Brahms’s Horn Trio in E flat major with Ross and Golka at the January concert. She had been to concerts at the gallery before and found the atmosphere and audience there incredible.
“They’re so engaged and erudite and creative,” she said. They’re inspiring, too, as the artists work for years on end to develop their skills.
“They’re not doing it for any other reason than their own artistry, and that is an incredibly inspirational idea for us,” she said. “As musicians, we work for 10,000 hours to try to be vessels for tradition, and we’ll never be perfect vessels at that, but it’s a limitless quest. Painting is that way, too.”
In the future, Ross envisions bringing in composers to work alongside the visual artists and organizing concerts where the art on the walls was created directly in conjunction with the music performed.
Violinist and composer Michelle Ross at Salmagundi Art Club in Manhattan, New York, on Jan. 30, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)
Ross’s album “Discovering Bach: Complete Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach” will be released by Albany Records on March 1.
The next Eleventh Street Arts (46-06 11th St., Long Island City) chamber music concert will be held on May 4.

Sayki Brings Classic Turkish Fashion to Modern New York

NEW YORK–To celebrate its first store in New York, SAYKI owner Hatem Sayki welcomed guests for their holiday cocktail event which was also their grand opening on Dec. 15, at 340 Madison Avenue. SAYKI is the most established Turkish ready-to-wear men’s fashion brand with over 80 stores in Turkey dating back to 1924, just as Turkey formed the Republic.
The boutique, just a block away from Grand Central Terminal, carries a wide range of products from suits, shirts, trousers, and trench coats, with an allure of modern design with a classic touch and quality fabrics at value prices that are not typical of Madison Avenue.Twin brothers Scott and Tony Tixier performed jazzy duets on a carpeted stage in the front window of the store that caught the attention of passerby’s as they scurried down the street on a cold evening on their way home from work.
SAYKI is having a holiday sale with up to 50 percent off on select merchandise until Dec 31st.

SAYKI owner Hatem Sayki (L) with his staff at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) Men’s shoes at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) SAYKI owner Hatem Sayki at the grand opening and holiday cocktail event of his first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) SAYKI owner Hatem Sayki at the grand opening and holiday cocktail event of his first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) Jazz players Scott and Tony Tixier perform at the SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) SAYKI owner Hatem Sayki (3rd from L) along with Talent in Motion magazine publisher A. Brooks, (2nd from L) and staff members of SAYKI, at the grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times) The SAYKI grand opening and holiday cocktail event at their first store in New York on Dec. 15, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

The Power and Sensitivity of Pianist Dmitri Levkovich

NEW YORK—Between cups of coffee and a stroll in the park, Dmitri Levkovich practiced Chopin on his piano. Just playing a few phrases, he induced a quiver of delight that instantly filled his cozy apartment, nestled in Upper Manhattan. You could imagine how this emerging pianist could easily transport audiences in fully packed concert halls.
When he performed recently for Europe’s premier cultural TV channel, ARTE, he was introduced as “a thundering virtuoso” by the beloved tenor Rolando Villazón, no less. “Your whole soul sings when you play the piano. We are very grateful,” Villazón, the host of the program “Stars of Tomorrow,” told Levkovich.

To engender that kind of impact with such ease, however, requires unrelenting dedication. “There is no art without sacrifice,” Levkovich said, standing by his electronic baby grand piano.
“As a pianist, you have to put so many hours into preparing for a program. … I feel responsible for my audience, so when I perform I am in touch with my feelings as much as possible. I strive to be possessed by the music—in the sense that the music takes over my body and I am one with the whole experience. That’s how I invite my audience to share the experience,” Levkovich said.
Taking some respite after performing for ARTE TV in Germany, performing at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, and winning the first prize in the NTD International Piano Competition in New York (his 19th competition win), Levkovich spoke candidly about his life, music, and the challenges he faces as a performing artist.

Given the abundance of talented pianists today compared to the number of classical music concertgoers, the competition is extraordinarily high. Levkovich can play equally well on the brighter New York Steinway or the warmer, more sensitive Hamburg Steinway. That has given him a slight advantage in winning piano competitions. Although he finds any competition to be very stressful, he almost feels obligated to participate because it gives him opportunities to perform and to become more known.
He has performed in Carnegie Hall, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, among other great halls. Yet no matter where he has performed so far, how sharp he looks in a tuxedo at the piano, or how much his biography impresses—for the time being, he can only afford an electronic piano for practicing between concerts.
Dmitri Levkovich performs with the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall, in Cleveland, Ohio, in August 2009. (Roger Mastroianni)
“Most young pianists can’t afford their own pianos,” he said. “It’s a difficult profession and it’s quite incredible—it’s quite an achievement to even be able to survive solely on performing, which I still manage to do.”
Born for Music
Listening to Levkovich play in person, even for just a few phrases of Chopin, or listening to his “Rachmaninoff 24 Preludes” CD, you get a sense that he was born to play the piano. In fact, he was exposed to Brahms in the womb; his mother is a pianist, as is his father, who is also a renowned composer. His grandmother was a coloratura soprano.
Immersed in a musical family, he started playing the piano when he was 3 years old, and went through a pivotal shift by the time he was 8.
“I threw enough tantrums until my mother just gave up and told me I don’t have to practice anymore. Suddenly, for three or four hours I existed in a different dimension where I was a free human being. Those hours of my life were just wonderful! Then I realized I missed the piano, and from my own desire I started playing the instrument. After that, I never felt I needed to be told to practice. It was my own choice,” he said.
His family migrated from Ukraine to Israel around the time the Soviet Union collapsed, then later settled in Canada. Levkovich later moved to the United States to study composition at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music with the critically acclaimed pianist Sergei Babayan for 11 years. Babayan instilled a strong sense of forbearance and reinforced Levkovich’s deep love for music.
Interpretations
Levkovich’s piano playing matches his demeanor—an amiable mix of humility and ambition. He plays every musical phrase, clearly with just the right degree of embellishment, rendered with a wonderfully calibrated mix of intense passion and lightness.
He pushes himself like an Olympic athlete, wanting to play pieces flawlessly even if he were woken up in the middle of the night and asked to perform a piece of music while half-asleep. “What you have to expect from yourself should be almost unrealistic, to get fine results,” he said.
When he prepares for a concert, he will practice the difficult parts of the repertoire twice as fast. That way, while performing, he does not feel like he’s playing at the limit of his dexterity and has more freedom to vary the tempo as he gives his interpretation.
Dmitri Levkovich at his home in Hudson Heights, New York, on Oct. 10, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
“There are so many ways to shape a phrase. You can practice it 10 different ways and come up with a multitude of options. Then on stage, it’s a matter of picking the right option in the context of what is happening before and what is happening after each moment—also depending on the sophistication of your taste,” Levkovich said.
The conditions for each piece and each concert are always unique. “You are creating this piece from the first note to the last, and you don’t know where it’s going to take you. … Chopin used to call it ‘searching fingers,'” Levkovich said.
Dmitri Levkovich. (Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)
He has received consistent compliments for sounding unique and honing his interpretations quite differently for each composer in his repertoire: Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky, among others.
What you have to expect from yourself should be almost unrealistic, to get fine results.— Dmitri Levkovich

Levkovich periodically asks himself how he wants to develop his repertoire and how much time he wants to dedicate to each composer. “I always listen to my intuition,” he said. “When I love a certain piece of music, I have to at least learn the notes and try it at first. Then I know it will take years of me playing many more pieces of that same composer for me to get to where I want to be.”
While some pianists may hide their lack of talent, ironically, by playing obscure or complicated pieces, Levkovich finds Mozart most challenging. On the surface, it may be easier to show off, so to speak, with a complicated dissonant piece for example, than it would be to play a clear classical piece.
“One of the most difficult things to accomplish on the piano is to play a simple melody organically—so that it is fulfilling enough,” he said. “That’s why Mozart is so difficult to play, because he’ll often have two lines and that is all. You’ll have enough time to [make] every note [meaningful].
“It took me a while to start feeling comfortable playing Mozart’s sonatas. His concertos were easier. You feel like you’re on a cloud of orchestral sound and very often you have just one line happening with the right hand.”
The Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Anton Rubinstein once said, “The soul of the piano is in the pedal,” but with Mozart, there isn’t much opportunity to use the pedal—to open up all the richness of harmonics and overtones in the piano. “You have to find a way to play soulfully without the pedal,” Levkovich said. “It’s like mastering a different language, in which you have to find a different way to really speak from your heart.”
Pianist Dmitri Levkovich at Fort Tryon Park in New York on Oct. 10, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
As a performer, Levkovich’s ultimate goal is to be fully present, without any worries or notions while playing something like a Mozart sonata, so that it doesn’t become predictable even if it has been played a million times before.
“I think there have been times when I knew I really got it. I cannot fool myself; I know when it’s happening and when it’s not,” he said.
“What inspires me is my love for music, which has been with me since I was a child. … There are obstacles, but what’s important in this profession is having the will and the perseverance—to dedicate as much time as needed—so that eventually the love for the music that you discovered as a kid eventually is heard in every note you play. No matter how long it takes,” Levkovich said.
“This Is New York” is a feature series that delves into the lives of inspiring individuals in New York City. See all our TINYs at epochtim.es/TINY, or follow@milenefernandezon Twitter.
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