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The amazingly talented Alexandra Zelman-Doring’s latest creation is a comic investigation of identity that brings three actresses, three musicians and three composers together for an engaging hour of music and verse. From Ms Doring — “The search that ensues when “we wake to find we have been living in a dream we chose to call “reality.” Why are we as we are? Who is the “persona” that builds up in and around us?”
The Mark Morris Dance Group was back in Boston with the East Coast premiere of a major new work, Handel’s ravishing pastoral opera Acis and Galatea, under the aegis of the Celebrity Series of Boston, one of the co-commissioners. I loved it. Or to put it more accurately, I’m in love with it, and saw three of its four performances at the Shubert Theatre. Morris has now staged several complete operas and one Handel oratorio. At least two of these are generally regarded as his masterpieces: Purcell’s one-act opera, Dido and Aeneas (1989), in which all the singers are offstage and the dancers play the main characters; and Handel’s L’Allegro,il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1988), in which the singers are also offstage, and there are no characters. But in Rameau’s delectable Platée (1997) and in Morris’s productions of Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (Handel and Haydn Society, 1996; the Metropolitan Opera, 2007), singers played the leading roles and appeared on stage along with the dancers.
My direct experience with the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film, to give it its full name, began with their latest major restoration project, the recently rediscovered footage Orson Welles shot for the cinematic interludes in his Mercury production of Too Much Johnson. Apart from being a tour de force of conservation, the project underscored one inspiring aspect of the institution. George Eastman House is a museum, but, unlike virtually all art museums, which pride themselves on avoiding acquisitions in compromised condition, it actively seeks out films in need of conservation—that being its primary function, both to fill in the documentation of the history of photography and cinema, and to make lost works of art available to the public. This activity justifies itself of course, but its importance is heightened by the fact that motion pictures in particular were not considered worthy of preservation.
Bluntly put: this event should not be missed. The first comprehensive overview of the multifaceted German artist Sigmar Polke (1941–2010), the exhibition dominates MoMA’s 2nd floor atrium and 10 subsequent rooms. Consisting of more than 250 works, it is one of the largest ever mounted at the museum. A rich catalogue accompanies the exhibition: Alibis: Sigmar Polke, 1963-2010, edited by Kathy Halbreich with Mark Godfrey, Lanka Tattersall, and Magnus Schaefer. To facilitate engagement, visitors are provided with a 32-page guide, containing all pertinent label information, leaving the walls purified for visual reception. Text, so much a part of Polke’s art, then is left aesthetically integral. The exhibition will travel to the Tate Modern in London from October 1, 2014 through February 8, 2015, and then to Cologne’s Museum Ludwig March 15 to July 5, 2015.
Steps Beyond Performance Lab Series for Emerging Choreographers. At first, the evening felt a little like an exam, as there was a sheaf of paper and a pencil on each seat, and the audience was told to mark each performance with an eye to musicality, originality, costumes and other information. Afterwards, each sheet would be given to the choreographer, presumably as a guide to fine-tuning his or her work.
This season marked the 75th Anniversary of the Celebrity Series of Boston, founded by Aaron Richmond, whose widow, Nancy Richmond Winsten, sponsors the piano events and is still a familiar attendee. I have a deep sense of nostalgia about the Celebrity Series. The very first concert I ever attended in Boston was with the Budapest String Quartet (my favorite quartet) in 1962. It was my first year of graduate school (I was a very young grad student) and I was living on a $1500 a year scholarship. I had neither time nor money for anything as frivolous as a chamber music concert. But I had to go. The Jordan Hall box office told me the performance was sold out... unless I was willing to take a cheap stage seat. So there I was, sitting a few feet away from the Budapest Quartet playing Haydn, Mozart, and Schubert. It remains one of the greatest concerts I ever heard in my life.
Since one of my aims is to try to find out why, for some people, “classical” music is so much more potent than other kinds of music, and as a connected question, why these people form only a small proportion of the population, I’ll give some examples of the pitfalls that await the unwary “classical” missionary who speaks to high school students or innocent adults. Most of what follows is drawn from real life. The speaker, Juan Torescramiento, is introducing a performance of one of Beethoven’s Rasumovsky Quartets by the Pro Classico String Quartet. Mr. Torescramiento is not Spanish, but the fake-Spanish name I have given him is more appropriate to the character of his discourse than anything printable in English. He is actually a conflation of several musical missionaries (all of white European extraction) whose effusions I was unlucky enough to have to sit through during the thirty-two years of my tenure as a high school teacher in New York City. Some were faculty members. After giving a few details of Beethoven’s birth and early life he gets to the real stuff. First we get some of the old horse-feathers… Oops! I meant to say “conventional wisdom.”