Scene Last Night: Citigroup’s Parsons, Ella, James B. Stewart

Apollo Theater Exhibit
From left, Lonnie Bunch, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Richard Parsons, chairman of the Apollo Theater Foundation; Susan Henshaw Jones, president and director of the Museum of the City of New York; Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Jonelle Procope, president and chief executive officer of the Apollo Theater Foundation. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“Even in Antarctica they know the Apollo,” said Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup, last night at the Museum of the City of New York.

Parsons, who is also chairman of the Apollo Theater Foundation, was standing near a fedora that once adorned Michael Jackson.

That hat is in “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” an exhibition of costumes, instruments and other artifacts related to the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

People don’t appreciate the contributions the Apollo has made to American culture, Parsons added at the reception: “My personal favorite is Ella, who showed up on an amateur night to dance and on the spot decided to sing instead, and went on to become the most significant vocalist -- with the exception of Frank Sinatra.”

Also on display: tap shoes worn by Sammy Davis Jr. as a child, and a flugelhorn used by Miles Davis.

The show is organized by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. The director of the Museum of the City of New York, Susan Henshaw Jones, noted her museum’s proximity to the Apollo. “While the show is here, it’s home,” she said.

James B. Stewart

“I’d heard that most of the people working for Morgan Stanley at the World Trade Center had survived, and that there was this one man who had led people out,” James B. Stewart said at a press briefing for “Heart of a Soldier,” an opera that has its world premiere on Sept. 10, 2011, at the San Francisco Opera.

When he called Morgan Stanley, the press representative declined to cooperate.

“But right before she hung up the phone, she said, ‘By the way, you might be interested in Susan Rescorla’s unlisted number in New Jersey,’” Stewart said.

The Pulitzer Prize winner, who wrote “Den of Thieves” about the downfall of Ivan Boesky and Michael Milken, joined the opera’s creative team yesterday at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park in New York.

Thomas Hampson is cast as Rick Rescorla, the head of security at the investment bank, who died as he evacuated employees on the morning of Sept. 11. The story focuses on his friendship with Daniel J. Hill, whom he met in Rhodesia and fought with in Vietnam, and on his marriage to Susan, for whom he loved to write poetry.

Composer Christopher Theofanidis includes bagpipes and electric guitar in his score. Donna Di Novelli wrote the libretto, and the director is Francesca Zambello, who is a friend of Stewart’s and came up with the idea.

As yet there are no plans to bring “Heart of a Soldier” to New York or to telecast it, said SFO general manager David Gockley.

Dancing Milken

Stewart recalled that “Den of Thieves” was made into a ballet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“I remember there was both a dancing and a singing Milken,” he said. “After that anything was possible.”

At a recent run-through of the opera, “I cried within a minute,” Stewart said.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the art and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

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