Friday, June 7, 2013

Interval Adventures: Westsider Records

I'm not quite sure why it took a cloudburst and a spare half hour before a performance to drive me into Westsider Records, as this pleasing warren of dusty shelves is barely a stone's throw from the Met. Once there, I browsed over the CDs, regretfully passed by the LP selection (taking out Fischer-Dieskau in Reimann's Lear for the sake of handling it) and found my way to the helpfully-labeled shelf of opera books. Now I confess, Gentle Readers, that I have a weakness for opera libretti. They're so useful! So cheap! So slender, and easily squeezed onto overladen shelves! The fun of unearthing them from secondhand stacks like the one pictured is a bonus. All this to say that I climbed up on a conveniently located bar stool and, having admired representative samples of roughly a century of libretto design, triumphantly carried off several additions to my collection.

A Tristan libretto fills a lacuna in my Wagner collection, and I found the Art Nouveau design irresistible.

I purchased a Lucia di Lammermoor libretto in the same style primarily for the sake of this full page ad: Nicely done, Knabe Pianos.

My discoveries then skip several decades, to this stark (and purse-sized!) 1961 Peter Grimes.

Later in the '60s comes this: a reminder of the Met's touring company, with a long description of how the under-construction Kennedy Center was funded and dedicated on the back cover.

Apparently, the Opera Orchestra of New York used to provide commemorative libretti at each of its performances! Not a few of these have found their way to Westsider Records; most of them seem to have been underwritten by Rolex. Some of them featured a photo of Eve Queler on the cover; some, like this one, had a design inspired by the opera in question. This sleek edition of the sublimely ridiculous La Gioconda libretto was too good to pass up.

I need to do further research to find out what year saw this gala performance of Tancredi... with Marilyn Horne!

Last but not least, a libretto from a performance of the too-rare Freischütz in the NYPhil's anniversary season under Sir Colin Davis' baton.

Really, it's a good thing I'm moving soon, or who knows what else might follow me home.


  1. Love those old Met librettos, a friend once picked up a few for me at a New England tag sale/flea market. Especially envious of that National Company Lucretia one, as I saw that production at City Center as a child. Glad to know about this store, will make a note for a future NYC trip.

    1. I'm glad to know I'm in good company in my penchant for these, and very glad to have put you on to this place, then. :)


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