October 2014

Ireland

riverrun runs wild in Brooklyn, with performance artist Olwen Fouéré

You've doubtless read somewhere or another or heard someone say that our relationship to novels is much like our relationships to people (our relationships to their authors, living and dead, are a whole other thing). That may sound trite, but it has its degree of truth. In no case is it so true as in the case of Finnegan's Wake. In most cases James Joyce's last novel is like some celebrity academic, who jets constantly between, say, Paris and Berkeley, but never crosses our path. Others may have approached the great man at the podium after a lecture and tried to ask a private question, only to be
Ireland

Port Authority, by Conor McPherson, with Billy Carter, Peter Maloney & James Russell, by the Irish Repertory Theatre, New York

There seemed something symbolic in the front doors and lobby of the DR2 Theatre, temporary home of the Irish Repertory Theatre. As one walks in off the street, one finds a shallow vestibule followed by another shallow space occupied by the ticket office and the concession stand, liberally stocked with alcohol, as it should be in an Irish theater, after two or three steps, a small waiting room, then down a short black corridor into the auditorium. I don't think I've had quite that sense of openness and accessibility before in entering a theater. Irish theater is everywhere, and, apart from being a powerful force simply on the quality and scope of the work that's being done, it is open and accessible to all. New York continues to be in the thrall of the London stage, as always, and certainly not for the worse, but when London comes to these shores, as in last winter's visit of the Globe company, the event is highly publicized, tickets are expensive and hard to get, and the Broadway theaters claustrophobic, as New Yorkers crowd in to contemplate Shakespeare and his heirs as if it were the theatrical equivalent of the Crown Jewels. It seems like two different worlds.
Photography

Edward Steichen: In High Fashion, the Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937

This important exhibition of Edward Steichen's fashion and celebrity photography for Condé Nast, which will close soon in Toronto and continue on to Fort Lauderdale and Kansas City, emerged from an earlier, ambitious survey of his entire career, Edward Steichen: Lives in Photography, also organized by Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography and the Musée de Élysée. While researching that exhibition, the curators, William Ewing and Todd Brandow, discovered two thousand vintage prints from Steichen's years at Vogue and Vanity Fair in the Condé Nast Archive, where they were catalogued and preserved to museum standards. These had never been exhibited before and presented an opportunity not to be missed.
Film

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

When The Who named their landmark 1979 album The Kids Are Alright, it was an anthem of baby boomer self-confidence. Boomers were more than all right—they knew without being told that they would one day be in charge of everything. Great expectations formed a generational bond going back to the cradle. As applied to the insecure Gen X adults who populate Richard Linklater's widely acclaimed but elusive film Boyhood, the album would be called "Are the kids alright? How the fuck should I know? I can barely run my own life." Born between the early Sixties and early Eighties, Gen Xers shunned baby boomer values. They defined themselves by being cool with underachievement. Without knowing how it happened, some drifted like tourists inside their own lives.
Art

Judith Schaechter: Dark Matter

We are mesmerized. The polished sheen of the glass radiates colors as intensely as jewels. A myriad of forms in kaleidoscopic transformation suggest at once flowers, sea urchins, snowflakes, or bacteria. Crystalline circles like flowers or alabaster Easter eggs multiply in extravagant exuberance. Tree branches, undulating snakes (or are they veins?) spread across the profusion.
Opera

John Adams, The Death of Klinghoffer at the Metropolitan Opera

No one was trembling in their seats at the Metropolitan Opera premiere of John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer on October 20. Taking no chances, the police presence outside the hall was considerable, and if you made light of it, the box office manager was quick to frown. “It’s for your own protection, sir.” But how can this Mayfly of a contretemps be seen as anything inflammatory? Every lens you view it through is skewed. A woman was introduced at the rally outside (protesters had been squeezed into the tiny strip park that separates Lincoln Center from Broadway) as a heroine for Israel. Through a bullhorn she shouted that “Peter Gelb, a Jew, has brought danger to all of us.” It would take the thinnest of skins and hottest of heads to remotely believe such a charge.
Bard Music Festival

The Bard Music Festival at 25: Franz Schubert and his World

My leading thought goes against much of what the Bard Music Festival and my own values, for that matter, stand for. And just read Keith Francis' provocative series, The Great Composers?, the latest installment of which has just been published. I've missed only one Bard Festival since 2006, and I've heard great music by Elgar, Prokofiev, and Sibelius. And, well, Saint-Saëns was too gifted to be great, and that really didn't interest him in any case. Of the composers included in the festival, only Wagner and Stravinsky turn up on common lists of the greatest—not that those stupid lists do anything but harm. Still, during the two weekends devoted to Franz Schubert I felt I was living with the gods, and the lingering impression of those weekends swelled accordingly.
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