can think of one, perhaps two or three people, who might possibly know all the theaters in New York City. I certainly don't, although I make it my business to know as many as I can. It really is quite an active scene, with more new plays than one can keep track of, much less attend...even works improvised in front of our eyes, but this all rests on a bedrock of revivals, which may be in the minority, although they seem to flourish everywhere. There is always the question of how good the new shows actually are and whether the the revivals are filling a yawning gap. If you talk to actors and directors, you’ll consider the issue seriously. You'll find the entire mixture in New York Arts—good, bad, and indifferent—with a healthy component of revivals, ranging from high-profile visiting companies, for example Sophocles' Antigone with an internationally-celebrated star to the Barnard Columbia Ancient Drama Group's unforgettable production of a lesser-known play by Euripides in ancient Greek. In this retrospective article, I'd like to discuss a few productions and a few companies which have brought me particular pleasure over the past year. Their productions were important enough, in their different ways, and excellent enough, to make a difference in how I view our theatrical landscape. What they all share is a deep devotion to serving the text and historical character of the works they produce, whether they are classics or long-forgotten obscurities.
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I missed hearing the Royal Philharmonic last February in London. But while there, I found myself often reminded of the problems British orchestras and audiences face. Festival Hall, which once sounded like a pretty good hi-fi system, disposed of its Helmholtz "resonators" in a recent renovation and in so doing lost half its reverberation time, however artificial. It now sounds like NBC's late unlamented Studio 8H.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra started the new year well with two programs under the direction of guest conductor François-Xavier Roth, who hails now from Cologne and is very active in Europe, much sought after. Conducting without baton, vigorous and engaged, Roth holds the players’ attention and gets what he wants. Orchestra and audience alike feel caught up in an unusually tense and purposeful address to the music at hand.
Hats off to playwright Emily Schwend who, aided by an excellent cast, manages to make an eighty-five minute script about nothing in particular hold our interest—almost all the time. In a small Texas town, Amber, (Vanessa Vache) struggles to keep her family fed and provide a few nice moments like a birthday party for her eight-year old daughter. Amber works two jobs that don't make ends meet and has an on-going sparring war with her mother, Laura, hilariously played by Melissa Hurst.
What does the music of Charles Ives sound like with an Australian orchestra and a British conductor? Different, one is tempted to to say, but not really. We’ve become used to our Ives done New York style, with Broadway snap and brass. No one gets that wrong. But Ives was a New Englander, and the disruptive elements in his music have perhaps been overstressed. He always explained that bits of band marches and Americana in the Second Symphony were present to remind him of his youth, not shock Horatio parker, his music teacher. And the famous razzy “non-chord” at the end was meant to evoke dance bands sending everyone home with a screech--not annoy the professor!
The fall 2015 orchestral season at Carnegie Hall was dominated by the Boston Symphony Orchestra's traditional three-concert visit, this time in October, and a five-concert traversal of Beethoven's symphonies by the Berlin Philharmonic under their outgoing principle conductor/artistic director, Simon Rattle. Both had their joys and peculiarities, but only Berlin confronted us with any actual disappointments.