New York Arts

Experiments of the Ordinary: Giorgio Morandi at the Center for Italian Modern Art

Giorgio Morandi, Natura morta, 1963

All accounts suggest that the Italian painter Giorgio Morandi (1890-1964) enjoyed a life of uninterrupted calm and isolation. Introverted by nature, Morandi spent his entire lifetime in Bologna, in the same apartment no less, and was dubbed il Monaco due to his almost monastic reclusiveness. He tended to paint at home, either in his bedroom or an adjoining studio, committing himself almost exclusively to the natura morta, or still life.

Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob Silverstein

Great musical communities are very like a ladder, the humblest freshman at conservatory, right up to the geniuses at the top. Music students have a natural capacity to worship great artists. First, there is a sense of wonder that a human being can do something so beautiful with a piece of wood or a small muscle in the throat. Then they become familiars—a lesson every week, maybe eventually a first-name basis, maybe not. Then the blessed few climb, some all the way to the top. When I was in school in Boston, the rare ones at the top included the genius Seiji Ozawa, the other genius Gunther Schuller, and the late lamented concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Joseph Silverstein.

Jeannette Sorrell, Music Director of Apollo’s Fire: The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, talks to Michael Miller

Jeannette Sorrell. Photo Roger Mastroianni.

Just yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with Jeannette Sorrell, Music Director of Apollo’s Fire, the highly acclaimed period orchestra based in Cleveland, where she founded it twenty-three years ago. Today, rather like the venerable Cleveland Orchestra, Apollo’s Fire tours extensively in North America and Europe, bringing Ms. Sorrell’s warm, expressive vision of Baroque playing to both seasoned and neophyte audiences. Tomorrow, July 2, she will lead them at Tanglewood in a program called “Bach’s Coffee House,” referring to the Café Zimmermann in Leipzig, where first Georg Phillipp Telemann and later Johann Sebastian Bach organised free public concerts. The program will include excerpts from Telemann’s incidental music to Don Quixote, Bach’s Fourth and Fifth Brandenburgs, and short pieces by Handel and Vivaldi.

Un Vaisseau fantôme inoubliable à Montréal…mais comment tuer Senta?

Le but principal de cet article et de louer jusqu’au cieux une représentation tout à fait remarquable—inoubliable, dirais-je—du premier oeuvre canonique de Wagner, mais c’est bien une mise-en-scène contemporaine—une mise-en-scène laquelle rend justice aussi bien à la problématique sociale de 1840 qu’a celle de nos jours—surtout à propos de la rôle des femmes dans la famille, le mariage, les moeurs bourgeois, et l’argent. Dans ce contexte le problème qui me frappe d’abord est celui de la mort de Senta, parce qu’il semble que les metteurs en scène de nos jours se sentent fort mal à leur aise avec sa mort telle que Wagner l’avait conçue, où elle se jette dans les flots tourbillants nordiques. S’agit-il de la vraisemblance, du goût, ou bien des frais toujours montants de l’assurance qui découragent la saute d’une soprano importante même d’une distance de deux mètres? Voyons.

Robert Gardner, Human Documents: Eight Photographers

Susan Meiselas, Dani woman covered in mud for traditional mourning, walking along new road, 1989. © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos.

This handsome, modestly (and conveniently!) -sized book was put together with a light, subtle hand, artists’ hands, and the reader will be immediately seduced by the striking photographic work which is its primary raison d’être, but Human Documents: Eight Photographers was founded on a precise argument, which Robert Gardner makes quite clear with his spare, patrician prose in the introductory essay. Eliott Weinberger introduces variations on it (as well as further points of view of his own) in his supplementary essay, “Photography and Anthropology (a Contact Sheet).” The book is intended to bear witness to the connections between photography and anthropology, and both Gardner and Weinberger discuss the historical background to this inevitable, but not always easy relationship.

Lewis Spratlan’s Opera “Life is a Dream” Premiered at the Santa Fe Opera

Lewis Spratlan, Composer

The story has been well told in the musical press by now about the delay in production of Lewis Spratlan’s great opera Life Is a Dream — commissioned in the late 1970s by an opera company that went out of business before the opera could be produced; rejected numerous times by other American and European companies; awarded the Pulitzer Prize a decade ago for a concert performance of Act II; more rejections for a full staging… Congratulations and thanks are due at last to General Director Charles Mackay and the Santa Fe Opera for taking a new look at this work, seeing its intrinsic worth and its great potential as staged music drama, believing in it, and now giving it a committed and brilliant production. This occasion is a triumph for all concerned. Here palpably, for the eyes and ears and mind, is one of the great American operas, one of the great modern operas, one of the great operas.

Achim Freyer’s Rocky Horror Ring takes over Los Angeles!

Dressing up in a monkey suit is a time-honored profession in Hollywood. Many is the young actor or layabout who has earned a few dollars by dressing up as a gorilla — or Batman or Chewbacca — and going out into the streets with pamphlets to spread the good news about some new deli or used car lot or strip show. For a while, gorilla suits were popular in the studios as well. (That’s a whole genre that’s almost entirely forgotten today.) I reflected on this, as, on the eve of Das Rheingold, I drove along Sunset Boulevard, observing the crowds of tourists in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theater, along with a group of people dressed up as comic book heroes who were available to pose with the visitors. I wondered if any of them thought about the impoverishment of the imagination that these comic book figures have brought to the movies. Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Walter Huston, and Bette Davis all created characters in their own way, even if they remained recognizable as themselves in their parts. We know what to expect from Batman and Darth Vader simply by their costume, their design, or merely the outline of their shadow on a fictitious pavement. Characterization and acting are superfluous, even though some of these characters have human vehicles, who are dutifully provided with origins, relationships, and dilemmas, by screenwriters who know that they can only sink so low.

Henry Purcell’s Fairy Queen from Glyndebourne: Semi-Opera Made Whole, at Last

The life and career of Henry Purcell (1659-1695), the colossal figure who dominates the history of English music, occurred at the chronological mid-point of the Baroque, a period whose leading and most distinguishing genre is opera. And yet, opera never took root as a native product in English cultural soil. For that it had to wait until Purcell’s distant successor, Benjamin Britten, appeared on the scene two hundred and fifty years later. Twenty years after Purcell’s death, Handel arrived with his succession of exotic opera singers: Italian divas and castrati who swooped in like birds of paradise warbling their outlandish roulades and then vanished. The taste for such entertainment lasted at the most 25 years. Meanwhile, Purcell wrote only one true opera, a tiny gem that was held to be the only crown jewel for centuries, the miniature Dido and Aeneas of 1689. (John Blow’s fine companion piece, Venus and Adonis of 1701, still has not established itself in the canon.) And it was written for a girls’ school run by a dancing master, or at least its first documented performance occurred in this context.

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