July 2012

Opera

Rossini’s Ciro in Babilonia at Caramoor, with Ewa Podleś, Jessica Pratt, and Michael Spyres; Will Crutchfield conducting

Ciro in Babilonia Gioachino Rossini. music Francesco Aventi, libretto The concert (or "semi-staged," if you prefer) performances at Caramoor are a treasure, as one of the few venues in America where one can hear bel canto opera correctly sung in a context which attempts to recreate the text and performance of bel canto opera in a practical balance of scholarship and showmanship. Bel Canto at Caramoor is a delight for audiences and singers alike, because, as Vivica Genaux, who has sung there several times, said, "at Caramoor it's all about the music." It's not some eccentricity of a more than usually serious singer that the music comes first. I'd venture to say that the music tells us almost everything we need to know about opera, especially in Rossini, who first developed his technique by working with singers. What we discover through research into performance practice cannot literally enable us to recreate the exact sound of the original performance, much less its effect on its audience. However, the music of a particular, bygone period makes no sense at all, unless certain basics of the original performance practices are followed. What you hear at Caramoor today shows progress from the early efforts of Callas, Sutherland, and Sills and the musicians who worked with them. What Will Crutchfield has achieved gives us, as the audience, a viable grounding in the technique and style of Bel Canto. Above all, this music has to be sung with the whole voice.
Architecture | Urban Design

Developers’ Rule: A New Plan for Planning in New South Wales

A true story: one day at the New South Wales Department of Planning two planners are talking about different theories of urban planning. ‘Neoliberal planning,’ the first says, “that’s what we do.” “No kidding,” the other replies.

“No kidding” might be replaced by “yer darn tootin” after the release of the NSW Government’s A New Planning System for New South Wales – Green Paper. If the title doesn’t quite grab you, a new planning system, however boring, will have a far greater impact on people’s lives than more juicy topics like a new Museum of Contemporary Art or a new pavilion for the Venice Biennale. Planning is the most visible juncture at which architecture meets politics, and what the Government is proposing is interesting for the way that it reveals urban planning as the point where conservatism begins to conflict with itself, where a libertarian sensibility runs counter to pro-business economic rationalist conservatism. The development industry is not quite a friend of the invisible hand; it does best when certain freedoms are curtailed. This was shown most clearly in the US by the Supreme Court’s decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which expanded the Constitution’s “Takings Clause” (“nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”) to allow governments to claim eminent domain for purposes of private redevelopment.

Art

Altogether Now: the 18th Biennale of Sydney

A good biennale dances a tricky pas de deux with its theme. Too little constraint lands us in Charles Foster Kane’s warehouse, too heavy a curatorial hand stifles the unruliness which is contemporary art’s great charm. The curators of this year’s Biennale of Sydney, Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster, have taken an inquisitive approach to their theme. If all our relations sets itself up against a modernist heroism which must by now be as rickety as a leaky curtain wall, its pluralism does not mean anything and everything and isn’t it so groovy we’re all connected all the time? In their curatorial statement Zegher and McMaster place their biennale within “a renewed attention to how things connect” which is already at large in the world. Bad connections spark and sputter all over the place, while good ones, we hope, form in the shadows or underground, always in resistance to the dark force of an individualism of consumers instead of individuals. all our relations is not the same as “let’s get together and feel alright” and it is not, as some feared when the theme was first announced, a rejection of the visionary in favor of a dull but worthy collectivism. Both extremes are too easy, as is most territory in between.

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