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Still in NYC 

If the plummeting Dow has taken a scary toll on Broadway, it was difficult to discern any impact at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall or the club scene over the holidays. Even the standing room seats seem to have been sold out for the three performances we attended at the Metropolitan Opera, which went on a discreet January retreat back in 2007.

At Carnegie Hall, where we took in an evening performance by Daniel Barenboim's West-Eastern Divan Orchestra a couple of seasons ago, there was better turnout -- and greater enthusiasm -- at a Sunday matinee by a less prestigious youth ensemble. Showing up a few minutes early at the Iridium Jazz Club, we were thankful to be seated, and at Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, a sizable line was on standby.

Compared to the $120 you typically pay for an undiscounted orchestra seat at a hit Broadway musical, the $30 cover charge at Dizzy's is like a clearance sale. Even at the Met, where devotees pay $295 for prime seats and down flutes of champagne at intermission, you can do well -- and hear well -- up in the fifth balcony, near the retracting chandeliers.

Here's how it sounded:

Paquito D'Rivera & Cuban Jazz: The Next Generation (**** out of 4) -- Even if it didn't look out over Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park, Dizzy's Club might justifiably be described as the finest jazz room in the universe. My daughter and I had a front row table, close enough to the mics and the bandstand to be a little terrified of the onslaught of horns, percussion and electrified guitar to come.

Our worries were groundless. Acoustics and sound engineering are as perfect as the view -- exactly what you'd expect from Jazz at Lincoln Center's club venue. Paquito is a consummate entertainer, confidently engaging listeners with his patter, deftly varying his playlist and layering on his guest artists. His alto sax still blazes, but in the years since he played JazzCharlotte, he has adopted clarinet for mellower moments.

Fittingly, D'Rivera's farewell set at Dizzy's began with Gillespie's signature "Night in Tunisia." Trumpeter Michael Rodriguez swiftly established his ability to stand toe-to-toe with D'Rivera on the bandstand -- with Manuel Valera on piano, Pedro Martinez on congas, and Ernesto Simpson on drums equally eager to show off their chops. When guitarist Luis Mario Ochoa joined the combo, we segued from bebop to salsa, Ochoa delivering an unexpectedly fervent vocal on Ernesto Lequona's "Siboney," a fitting anthem for Cuban émigrés.

The menu is reasonably priced, with a jazzy N'Awlins bent. Compliments to the band and the chef.

Thais (***1/2) -- Facing the challenge of a new generation of divas, Renee Fleming has slimmed down and fired up her most sublimely sensuous role. Massenet's musical gem is the unlikely story of a holy Cenobite Monk and a notorious courtesan who somehow seduce each other -- he with his uplifting spirituality, she with her infernal sexuality. So it all ends with Thais fleeing Alexandria and mortifying herself to sainthood at a convent with the desperate, drooling Athanael at her feet. Both of them, Fleming and baritone Thomas Hampson, milk the familiar "Meditation" theme one last time for all it's worth, which is a great deal. The new Met production is an adoration of Fleming, with outstanding costumes by fashion designer Christian Lacroix.

La Rondine (***1/4) -- Romanian beauty Angela Gheorghiu has made the title character in this lesser-known Puccini her special domain, so the Met had to have her to help celebrate Giacomo's 150th birthday. She's fine enough as Magda, but French tenor Roberto Alagna as Ruggero, the naïf who whisks the carefree libertine away from her life of Parisian luxury, decisively upstaged the soprano. No harm done since Gheorghiu happens to be Alagna's wife in real life. The new Met production isn't as flattering to Gheorghiu from a fashion standpoint, but Puccini's score glitters with unsuspected treasures, more than a couple of winsome arias and a glorious chorus near the end of Act 2.

4 Generations of Miles (***1/4) -- My full-length review will be posted at JazzTimes.com soon enough, so suffice it to say that when a quartet of alums assembles from various combos led by Miles Davis, the homage settles into a hard-swingin' pre-Bitches Brew groove. There was a spec of electronic voodoo from Mike Stern's guitar, but most of the musical fuel was acoustic from Sonny Fortune on alto sax, Buster Williams on bass, and -- 50 years after anchoring the seminal Kind of Blue -- Jimmy Cobb on drums.

The missus and I acclimated quickly to the funky vibe of the Iridium, settling on a private table perched on a slight slope instead of the long mess table closer to the stage. Didn't want to tip a stranger's chicken satay into his lap with my note-taking. The Miles concept group isn't unique for Iridium. They've already done a Coltrane-themed "Blue Train Revisited" weekend this month.

New York String Orchestra @ Carnegie Hall (***) -- With the recent éclat of the Moscow Soloists and Venezuelan Simon Bolivar, youth orchestras are stealing away some thunder from the seasoned pros. This group, led by Jaime Laredo, offers good reasons for their adults to quake -- or at least shed their complacency -- easily the equal of the more-publicized Divan Orchestra. Avoiding a pre-Christmas all-Mozart program, we received a smaller, somewhat exotic dose of Amadeus as NYSO backed the Concerto for Three Pianos. Laredo showed his adventuresome side leading John Harbison's The Most Often Used Chords, and the precocious adolescents, aided by the flattering Carnegie acoustics, blossomed in Mendelssohn's Symphony #3.

La Boheme (**1/2) -- The extravagant Franco Zeffirelli production has been a staple since 1981, and every seat was sold for the Met's 1,205th performance of this people's-choice Puccini. Loyalty and enthusiasm are somewhat shortchanged when tenor Ramón Vargas delivers the nerdiness of artiste Rodolpho minus the romantic charisma, and Maija Kovalevska is too powerful as Mimi for us to believe her fragility. Small hands? Fuhgettaboutit. Justifying the cascade of cheers were Mariusz Kwiecien as Marcello and Susanna Phillips as Musetta.

Perry looks at "Robot" Rossen Milanov, the last candidate for Symphony's musical directorship, and The Best of Omimeo.

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