Author Archive: Michael Miller

Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Christina Kobb Talks to Michael Miller about Historical Keyboard Technique

Christina Kobb, Pianist

The Norwegian pianist and scholar Christina Kobb came to wider attention in the United States when a New York Times writer picked up an article in a Scandinavian science magazine about neurological research carried out on her to analyze her movements as she played an electronic keyboard using modern and nineteenth century technique, which she has researched in her dissertation.

The Bard Music Festival and SummerScape Opera 2016: Puccini and his World, with Pietro Mascagni’s Iris

Giacomo Puccini. © Frank C. Bangs, Library of Congress.

The Bard Music Festival, every year since 1990, offers music-lovers a splendid gift in its weekends of immersion in the music of some major composer and others related to him, the intellectual and artistic life of his time, and the legacy that connects us to it all. It equally presents us with a powerful challenge—a challenge to overcome our preconceptions about this partly familiar, partly unfamiliar music, chiefly the product of famous composers. In some cases we discover that a composer’s most popular music is not in fact his best, and our estimation of him rises significantly, as in the case of Sibelius and Prokofiev, or in others, like Schubert, we can become acquainted with genres like the part song, which have fallen out of the repertory because the social context for their performance has become obsolete. Many music-lovers divide Franz Liszt’s output between serious music of high quality and shallow, flashy display pieces. Again, the Bard Festival challenged its audiences to reconsider.

Discoveries and Restorations from Universal Pictures at MoMA, beginning with King of Jazz

Carl Laemmle, Jr.

Dave Kehr, the curator of MoMA’s fascinating series of recently rediscovered and restored films from Universal Pictures, has decided to bookend the month-long event with musicals, the last genre most people would associate with the studio that produced Dracula and Frankenstein. It begins with the much-anticipated premiere of the restoration of King of Jazz (released April 19, 1930), a musical review dominated by the expansive figure of Paul Whiteman, the band leader, today best remembered as the patron of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. The audiences at the two sold-out screenings this past Friday and Saturday—at least on Saturday, when I was present—applauded with a warmth that went beyond the aesthetic or the historical. Each one of the twenty individual acts in the movie received its own applause, as if we were back in a vaudeville house of yesteryear. We even laughed at the jokes, some of which were decidedly musty.

Ian Hobson, piano: Preludes – Etudes – Variations at Merkin Concert Hall, February 22, 2016: Chopin, Debussy, Rachmaninoff

Pianist Ian Hobson

Mr. Hobson’s program, consisting of a very early work by Chopin, which he wrote as a conservatory student at age 17 and performed soon after his graduation two years later, the fifty-year-old Debussy’s peak as a writer for the piano, and Rachmaninoff’s final work written in Russia: in 1917, when he was forty-four, and his world was crumbling around him, as the Revolution continued its course and he realized that he would have to leave his native country, where he had friends, money, and property, and face an uncertain future as an exile, most likely supporting his family with concert tours in the United States, which he hated. All these works have their harmonic, coloristic, and emotional extremities, at points going as far as to reflect the Paganinian tradition of the demented, or diabolical virtuoso. Hobson responded to this with full sympathy in all, as well as prodigious energy.

Revivals Past 2015, Part I: The Roots of English Theater — Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine at TFANA

Tamburlaine on his chariot, drawn by conquered rulers. Photo Gerry Goldstein.

can think of one, perhaps two or three people, who might possibly know all the theaters in New York City. I certainly don’t, although I make it my business to know as many as I can. It really is quite an active scene, with more new plays than one can keep track of, much less attend…even works improvised in front of our eyes, but this all rests on a bedrock of revivals, which may be in the minority, although they seem to flourish everywhere. There is always the question of how good the new shows actually are and whether the the revivals are filling a yawning gap. If you talk to actors and directors, you’ll consider the issue seriously. You’ll find the entire mixture in New York Arts—good, bad, and indifferent—with a healthy component of revivals, ranging from high-profile visiting companies, for example Sophocles’ Antigone with an internationally-celebrated star to the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group’s unforgettable production of a lesser-known play by Euripides in ancient Greek. In this retrospective article, I’d like to discuss a few productions and a few companies which have brought me particular pleasure over the past year. Their productions were important enough, in their different ways, and excellent enough, to make a difference in how I view our theatrical landscape. What they all share is a deep devotion to serving the text and historical character of the works they produce, whether they are classics or long-forgotten obscurities.

Boston and Berlin at Carnegie in 2015

Carnegie Hall, 1906

The fall 2015 orchestral season at Carnegie Hall was dominated by the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s traditional three-concert visit, this time in October, and a five-concert traversal of Beethoven’s symphonies by the Berlin Philharmonic under their outgoing principle conductor/artistic director, Simon Rattle. Both had their joys and peculiarities, but only Berlin confronted us with any actual disappointments.

King Charles III – A future history play by Mike Bartlett, Music Box Theatre, New York (11/01/2015 – 1/31/2016)

Tim Pigott-Smith as King Charles III. Photo © Joan Marcus.

When Mike Bartlett conceived the idea for this play, according to an article he wrote about it in The Guardian, his thoughts centered on the figure of Prince Charles at “the moment Charles takes the throne, and how his conscience would lead him to refuse to sign a bill into law. An epic royal family drama, dealing with power and national constitution, was the content, and therefore the form had surely to be Shakespearean.” He was not approaching it with any particular ideas about monarchy, or the royal family, or the state of Britain. He was thinking, not as a political creature or a satirist, but as a playwright. From this mindset, it immediately occurred to him that the form had to be Shakespearean, down to the blank verse—and this terrified him, because he had virtually no experience with the meter, or with any verse.

Hagoromo – a Dance/Opera Premiered at BAM, November 3, 2015

Wendy Whelan as the tennis and Jack Soto as Hakuryo the Fisherman in Hagoromo. Photo Mark Stephen Kornbluth.

BAM’s New Wave Festival, from the effervescent anticipation in the lobby to the usually outstanding, rarely boring activities on its stages, must surely be one of the most upbeat environments one can find in New York. One event among those I attended stood out, because of the particular excitement of the capacity audience: the world premiere of Hagoromo, a  multi-media work combining dance, puppetry, singing, and instrumental performance—all so artfully combined that the rest of the theatrical ensemble, sets, lighting, and costume, sprang into life in a rare way. The performance made itself felt in the audience before it even began. It was a diverse crowd, a bit different from what one routinely observes at BAM, certainly better dressed than usual. It seemed that this performance exerted an equally powerful attraction on fans of dance, contemporary music, and even fashion, lured by the costumes of the designer, Dries van Noten.

A tip for our readers: How to get the most out of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review for the Arts.
What if I hate reading on computer screens, even tablets?
We get occasional inquiries from readers about whether we plan to launch a print edition of our arts journals. The answer is that we've given it some thought, and we're still thinking about it.
It is not only our older readers who object to reading them online. There are even some millennials who would rather read from paper. One of our readers got the simple idea of using the sites as sophisticated tables of contents. She prints out each article on three-hole paper and files them in a loose-leaf album. I've devoted a lot of time to finding the very best print and pdf facility there is. Just click on one of the icons at the top right of the article and print!
Click here to make your tax-deductible donation to The Arts Press, publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review. Or click on the notice in the sidebar. The Arts Press is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions for the charitable purposes of The Arts Press must be made payable to“Fractured Atlas” only and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.