A few minutes after the final curtain of Two Boys descended, after composer Nico Muhly received his ovation and joined the cast for their curtain calls, I think I figured out the true nature of this opera. This was the first main stage Metropolitan Opera production of the estimable Met/Lincoln Center Theater New Works program. Two Boys has been in the works for over five years, and had its world premiere at the English National Opera in 2011. The Met has given it serious encouragement and high-end attention. The opera has a libretto—based on an actual crime in 2001, in Manchester, England—by playwright Craig Lucas, a Pulitzer and Tony finalist; was directed by Tony Award-winning Bartlett Sher (South Pacific); and conducted by David Robertson, music- director designate of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a musician especially admired for his performances of contemporary music. The intricate production design by Michael Yeargan, which includes a gloomy police office with overhead fluorescent lights, and projections of computer screens and internet chat rooms (by 59 Productions), is certainly not cheap looking (as was Yeargan’s set for one of the Met’s few other premiere’s in recent decades, John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby). Care and money had clearly gone into this production.
“I certainly feel lucky to have been working during this period,” said Nathan Benn, one of the masters of Kodachrome along with his older contemporaries William Eggleston (b. 1939) and Stephen Shore (b. 1947). Benn shot for National Geographic Magazine from 1972 ti 1991, documenting people and places around the globe. He recently collected 108 of his images from the period, photographs of the Northeast, Midwest and parts of the southern United States, in a stunning coffee-table book, “Kodachrome Memory, American Pictures 1972-1990” published this year by Powerhouse Books in Brooklyn, New York.
When I interviewed Francesca Zambello in 2011 she had just been named General and Artistic Director of the Glimmerglass Festival. Under her predecessor’s tenure, each opera season had a unifying “theme.” Ms. Zambello quickly swore off such yearly festival themes as trite convention. Yet, in 2012, as reported in this journal, one clearly felt the bristling fervency of social activism in every aspect of production. That season was topped off with a provocative interview with Ruth Bader Ginsberg to a packed audience in her thrall at the Otesaga Hotel. There were probably more law professors there that day than music lovers. Her special appearance and the ethical themes woven into each opera production, made for a startling and refreshing season. Aida, Music Man, Armide and most memorably, Lost in the Stars, were narratives, each quite unique, on the ethics of outworn societal patterns in the face of political, moral or economic change.
By curious coincidence, three of the most anticipated plays in New York this season—Betrayal, Domesticated, and Macbeth—explore the subject of marriage, infidelity and betrayal, offering, as a package, new insights into these timeless themes.
If anyone needs no introduction, it is Orson Welles, although he in fact introduced himself countless times to movie and television audiences, above all in his many appearances in commercials, and even to live audiences. There is as much misinformation about him as there is about George Washington. (For one thing, Citizen Kane is not his best film, as impressive as it is.) As with any artist, we have to understand his life work as a whole, as compromised as some of it may be, before making judgments and creating hierarchies. The varied activities he pursued—in some cases with substantial success—before he made Citizen Kane are familiar enough, even outside the world of cinephiles, but not everyone has thought about how they worked together to bring him within reach of the innovations of Kane.
— “C’pauvre vieux, i m’fait d’la peine1”. — Mais pourquoi? — Son truc est bourré de SPOILERS. Il m’a gâché pour moi le bouquin de Marcel. — Mais il ne faut que lire l'avertissement au lecteur; voilà au tout début t’es bien prévenu: Avertissement au lecteur: cet article est bourré de SPOILERS.
BAM celebrated Hallowe'en with a production of Nosferatu, Grzegorz Jarzyna's own adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula, performed by his own TR Warszawa in a co-production with the Teatr Narodowy. I'm a particular admirer of Polish theater, but not of what I've seen of Pan Jarzyna's worka. When TR Warzawa's production of Shakespeare's Macbeth came to Brooklyn under the auspices of St. Ann's Warehouse, I came away with quite a negative impression, largely because I thought it arbitrary and self-indulgent. Shakespeare's words, which have been translated into Polish very ably more than once, can bring across his plays so powerfully, if we only hear them from that actors mouths, not through complex electronics and sound effects. Unlike Macbeth, Nosferatu, sporting the name Stoker's estate forced Prana-Film to adopt for F. R Murnau's classic film, presents itself as Jarzyna's own work, and for that reason, I'm not inclined to purism. The Irish playwright, critic, impresario, and theatrical manager created in Dracula a great novel with complex resonances which have inspired theater and cinema audiences for generations, and seems to go on spawning adaptations generation after generation, much as Shakespeare's plays did from the Restoration to the present day, not that the process doesn't continue today. However, we adhere more to observe the text today, however we might play with the rest of his creation. I came to BAM mainly curious about what the Polish slant on the Dracula story might be.
The so-called "major" institutions in New York have not been entirely oblivious to the music that is being written now, for example Alan Gilbert's New York Philharmonic and Lincoln Center, although they seem to be flagging somewhat in the past season or two. It was demoralizing to see the superb Tully Scope Festival, which did an admirable job of surveying and balancing the most important trends in music as it is practised today, from Les Arts Florissants to Tyondai Braxton, vanish after one season. It has fallen to smaller, younger organizations to make the music of our own time and place heard. ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), now ten years old, is perhaps the most visible of these, and it is to the credit of both Lincoln Center and the young virtuosi of ICE that they maintain a presence a various Lincoln Center series, like Mostly Mozart and White Lights. (But I still wish they'd resurrect Tully Scope—perhaps with a more attractive name!) We can only count ourselves lucky that a symbiosis exists between the larger, older organizations and upstarts like ICE, and that they make the effort to bring their work to a larger audience, but it is clear where the leadership lies.