The Steels, Tribeca
Thu Sep 16 2010
Anna, 5; Sarah Fels Steel; George Steel; Alexander, 2
George Steel, the general manager and artistic director of the New York City Opera, and his wife, Sarah Fels Steel, were squeezed into a tiny one-bedroom apartment in the East Village when their first child was born in 2005. Seeking more space, they landed in an airy Tribeca loft where they now live with their two kids, Anna and Alexander. Among the many things they adore about their neighborhood are the local subway lines that speed George directly to work at Lincoln Center. This month, he's overseeing A Quiet Place, Leonard Bernstein's final work, which kicks off the opera's 2010-11 season.
Tell us how you expose your kids to music.
SFS They really enjoy visiting the theater and walking around backstage, seeing the wig and costume shop. Sitting in the red velvet seats is fun too.
GS They come to the opera a lot; they can even watch rehearsals. When Anna was very little, through some miracle, we turned her on to The Firebird, a ballet by Stravinsky.
SFS We showed her a DVD of the ballet and she became totally enchanted.
GS Ballet scores are great for kids because they have a story and clear signals in the music when the narrative is changing.
SFS It's not "Oh, here's the scherzo." It's "Oh, here's the guy capering around in baggy pantaloons!"
Are they playing any instruments yet?
GS Anna is part of a cool downtown group of kids who get together and take viola da gamba lessons. It's a Renaissance string instrument that looks a little like a cello, except it's small and fretted like a guitar, so you're in tune right away.
What about Alexander?
SFS He enjoys banging on the piano.
GS He bangs on the piano very beautifully.
SFS And with great sensitivity.
Of utmost importance: What will the kids be dressing up as for Halloween?
SFS I don't know where we stand right now. A dear dancer friend of ours has made extraordinary costumes for Anna and Alexander the last few years. Anna's first request this year was to be a Swan Lake swan. Then it became Lazuli, the protagonist in L'Etoile.
GS Alexander might wear his Tyrolean outfit. I went to Salzburg to see some operas and brought back these hilarious Tyrolean costumes. Anna's nutty for her dirndl. Alexander's a little more reluctant about his lederhosen.
"Nelson A. Rockefeller Park (Chambers St at Riverside Terr), right on the river, is fantastic. Just sitting and watching all the boats go by is an afternoon's pleasure."
CHILDREN'S CLOTHING STORE
"It's hard to beat Bu and the Duck (106 Franklin St between Sixth Ave and West Broadway; 212-431-9226, buandtheduck.com). It's actually dangerous to go in there, because you end up buying everything. They have the world's best baby gifts, and also stuff in Anna's size."
"La Bonbonniere (28 Eighth Ave at 12th St, 212-741-9266) has a very grand name for a total greasy spoon, but the grease is southern-cast, which is rare in New York City. They have great blueberry pancakes for the kiddies."
"Anna and Alexander have both taken classes at the Church Street School for Music and Art (74 Warren St between Greenwich St and West Broadway; 212-571-7290, churchstreetschool.org). They started at 16 months or so with a lot of tambourine, drum beating and eurythmics."
Says George, "We listen to a crazy mix-tape I made of overly produced '70s children's music, which I love. There's a track from Free To Be, You and Me, 'Sing [of Sesame Street fame] by Karen Carpenter and 'Popcorn,' a terrible Moog synthesizer tune from when that was cool. I can't tell you the rest because you'll turn me in to the authorities! [Laughs]"
"We were really struck by how much fun the kids had running around the galleries at Dia: Beacon (3 Beekman St, Beacon, NY; 845-440-0100, diaart.org). The scale is huge, and all the pieces have that kind of direct appeal that little ones get right away."
"Pearl Oyster Bar (18 Cornelia St between Bleecker and W 4th Sts; 212-691-8211, pearloysterbar.com) has top-notch clam chowder and lobster rolls, and the best hot fudge sundaes in New York City. You can't make reservations there, so you have to have a strategy. Sitting at the bar with the kids works really well."
"Anna got a smoking new bike with training wheels at Adeline Adeline (147 Reade St between Greenwich and Hudson Sts; 212-227-1150, adelineadeline.com). We also got a great adult bike with a baby seat for Alexander to ride in."