The Great French Organ Tradition With Paul Jacobs on Tuesday, September 10, 2019, at 7:30pm in Paul Hall

October 2010

New York Arts in Australia

Le Nozze di Figaro in Sydney

I usually don't like to pick favourites, but of the Mozart operas it's hard to deny Le Nozze di Figaro. As such it has become familiar without become at all tired, and has probably sublimated a rather particular image of itself in my mind's eye and ear. The story of love giving way to jealousy, and then despair, and finally forgiveness, under the roof of an aristo ripe for Revolution, is bound to develop a thin farcical crust, but it never seemed a straight comedy, let alone a farce, to me. The characters are so genuine, even the myriad of supporting roles are so strong, that it's easy to sympathise with their harrowing trials. I see the opera more as the Orpheus and Eurydice story with a happy ending which makes sense. It also lovingly portrays the noble and logical humanist belief that (to paraphrase John F. Kennedy) it is not impossible for human beings to solve problems that they themselves created. No parts for any God or gods nor even Cupid here. This production, directed by Neil Armfield perhaps wasn't exactly my idea of Figaro or quite sat on my sense of humour, but it did try some new things. Armfield does try to play it for laughs by filling the opera with over-the-top physical comedy, but he often risks hamminess. It is hard to keep up that kind of farce for over three hours and he doesn't always succeed in creating dark comedy in putting a fluff of laughter on violent, frightening or dark situations. He never ruins the comedy intrinsic to the libretto or the music, in fact at his best moments he even compliments this by adding detail to the scene with subtler acting in the background.

Architecture | Urban Design

A Grand Tour, Part 2: Venice the Menaced

Venice has a secret; it is a great city for runners. Typically the urban runner faces a conundrum. Running in parks is safe and healthy, but quickly grows boring. Running on city streets can be diverting, but the staccato disruption of crosswalks frustrates any possibility of getting into a rhythm. The runner fantasizes: what if there were a city riddled with paved passages too narrow for cars, with squares, courtyards, beautiful buildings and water? What if it were completely flat? Running, especially early in the morning, reveals a different Venice, before the tour buses disgorge. As the Venice runner veers away from the broad fondamenti and seeks out the most obscure rami, a false sense of speed is created by the narrow passages and a simple run starts to feel like a video game. With no possibility of getting hit by a car, the Venice runner is free to concentrate on the sensory landscape of the city — the handcarts which collect garbage, the delivery boats full of roof tiles or toilet paper and underneath it all like a private drum roll the sound of your own footsteps on the worn pavers, mostly gray but edged with smoothed white stone wherever there is a step. It is advisable to always carry a map, but the Venice runner’s game is to notice enough details, not the names of streets but the spatial quality of them, to remain relatively un-lost.
Food & Drink

Brasserie Jo Boston Back in Form Again. Highly Recommended!

Years ago it was pretty much unthinkable to dine after an evening concert in Symphony Hall, unless you happened to find a Hayes Bickford that was open all night. It's still not easy to find a place where you could relax and converse for a couple of hours without feeling rushed, much less being surrounded by floor sweeping, the overturning of chairs, and a glaring waiter. I do know a few places in the neighborhood that are open late, but I wouldn't recommend them. Brasserie Jo, however, is one restaurant—a five minute walk away—where I'd feel comfortable settling in after a concert. The main menu remains available until 11 pm Monday through Saturday, and a bar menu takes over until 1.30 am. It's also worth noting that lunch is served until 3 pm—a small blessing for us tardy folk and busy guests in the Colonnade Hotel.
Music

Semyon Bychkov and Kirill Gerstein with the SF Symphony in Ravel, Rachmaninoff, and Walton

This week's concerts at Davies Hall marked a welcome return to the podium of Semyon Bychkov, who has become a favorite with San Francisco audiences in recent seasons. Mr. Bychkov has entered the admirable ranks of unattached guest conductors who travel the world conducting only the music they love, and the happy results are palpable. This year, his passion is the Walton First Symphony, and our audience is all the richer for what his advocacy has found in the music.

Opera

A New Boris Godunov at the Met

René Pape in the title role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Photo Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

Modest Mussorgsky (music and libretto), Boris Godunov
Metropolitan Opera House: 10/18/2010.

Boris Godunov – René Pape
Prince Shuisky – Oleg Balashov
Pimen – Mikhail Petrenko
Grigory …

Architecture | Urban Design

A Grand Tour, Part 1: The Digital Flâneur

Like cats chasing tails, all that is urgent in contemporary discussions of the city circles around the topic of density. While this makes it easy to define the shape of the boxing ring, it doesn’t set the rules of the fight, and boy oh boy is density ever a fight. Here in Sydney urban planning discourse feels like a nightmare dreamed in a fever, a chase scene in which it is impossible not to run in circles, slowly. As someone who cares deeply about Sydney’s future, it was a sweet relief to leave Smug City for a few weeks to see how they make cities in Europe.
Art

Vincent van Gogh: Campagna Senza Tempo – Città Moderna. Complesso del Vittoriano (Rome) until February 6th, 2011

"I could have told you, Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.” So sings Don McLean in the 1970 hit written while he was working for the Berkshire School District. The tune has come to immortalize Van Gogh as a stridently independent artist who struggled with sanity and took his life “as lovers often do.” Cornelia Homburg has put together a show in Rome to demonstrate that, pace McLean, the legendary painter did in fact believe the world was meant for him, and he was not that independent in his approach to painting. He may have suffered extreme uncertainty in his private life, but Vincent had a clear vision of his professional goals and how he was going to achieve them.
New York Arts

An Interview with Yehudi Wyner

Yehudi Wyner, whose career as a composer and a performing musician goes back some sixty years, finds himself entirely focused on the present at the moment, and very positively so. For one thing Bridge Records, who have issued the most substantial body of his work on CD, have released his collected sacred music, and Mr. Wyner is very pleased to have it all together in one place. Secondly, he is anticipating the premiere of a new work, a secular cantata called Give Thanks for All Things.
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