Articles by Michael Miller

Contemporary Music

John Luther Adams’ “Ten Thousand Birds” Performed by Alarm Will Sound under Alan Pierson at PS 21

Elena Siyanko, Executive Director of PS21, in her introductory comments preceding Alarm Will Sound's performance of John Luther Adams' Ten Thousand Birds, said that this event has been in the works for a year. Its purpose, conceived months before there was any hint in people's minds that the performance would occur under the restrictions imposed by the pandemic which continues without an end in sight, at least in the United States. The particular features of the new performance structure and the determination and resourcefulness of Ms. Siyanko and her staff have made PS21 a pioneer in offering live performances under safe conditions. The performance of Ten Thousand Birds was intended to showcase the new PS21 and its new semi-open performance space to the public. The beautiful grounds surrounding it are in integral part of its design and function in a way quite different from Tanglewood and SPAC, where lawns simply provide expanded seating for those who prefer to be out in the open.
New York Arts

Public Concerts Resume at PS21 in Chatham, New York—Second Concert: Beethoven by the Calidore String Quartet

PS21 was founded by the late Judy Grunberg in 1999 with the mission of presenting advanced and diverse performances of music, dance, and theater, as well as some film screenings. Under her leadership as President of the Board, local residents and some from further away enjoyed lively summer programs performed in an ingenious plastic stage-cum-shelter in the middle of a field. Before her passing in 2019, she initiated the construction of an equally ingenious and certainly more elegant permanent structure which could be used from autumn through spring. A 300-seat theater open on three sides functions as the summer venue. Its stage house can be converted into a black box theater seating 99, providing a more intimate space for performances that need it. It was designed by a local architect, Evan Stoller, son of the legendary architectural photographer, Ezra Stoller.
New York Arts

Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, a 90th Birthday Tribute to Stephen Sondheim (’50) at Williams College – a Review

In considering how to approach this review of Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, directed by Omar Sangare, Professor of Theatre, I came to the conclusion that it was imperative to concentrate not only on the title of the production, which seems neutral enough at first glance, but how it was described in the official announcement. As a co-production of the Williams Theatre Department and “Sondheim@90@Williams,” to honor the 90th birthday of Stephen Sondheim as an illustrious member of Williams Class of 1950[1. for which the Williams Music Department also organized a day-and-a-half symposium about the composer and his work], Our Time was presented “in celebration” of this birthday. That final phrase might lead us to expect a revue of Mr. Sondheim’s most-loved tunes with a new, student-generated book encasing them, but Our Time was nothing of the sort.
Theater

Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, a 90th Birthday Tribute to Stephen Sondheim (’50) at Williams College – a Review

In considering how to approach this review of Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, directed by Omar Sangare, Professor of Theatre, I came to the conclusion that it was imperative to concentrate not only on the title of the production, which seems neutral enough at first glance, but how it was described in the official announcement. As a co-production of the Williams Theatre Department and “Sondheim@90@Williams,” to honor the 90th birthday of Stephen Sondheim as an illustrious member of Williams Class of 1950[1. for which the Williams Music Department also organized a day-and-a-half symposium about the composer and his work], Our Time was presented “in celebration” of this birthday. That final phrase might lead us to expect a revue of Mr. Sondheim’s most-loved tunes with a new, student-generated book encasing them, but Our Time was nothing of the sort.
New York Arts

Happy Birthday, Stephen Sondheim! …from his alma mater, Williams College

Stephen Sondheim turns 90 today. His alma mater, Williams College, chose to honor her renowned alumnus with a musical production entitled Our Time, a Collage of Records from Williams, which brings life at the college between 1946-1950 (when Sondheim was a student there) back to life. This compilation of stories, devised Ilya Khodosh, '08, and Omar Sangare, has been chosen by current students; who, by research, selected stories to share from the stage. At the end of the show, there is also a story delivered by a video message by Stephen Sondheim, himself. Only two of the five scheduled performances took place before the spread of the Corona virus necessitated the cancellation of further performances. Happily, they were recorded on video, and Williams can now honor its son and audiences can enjoy this musical reminiscence.
Opera

Le Nozze Di Figaro at the Met

In Sir Richard Eyre's complex production, which premiered on opening night, September 2014, Rob Howell's rotating set looms oppressively over the Almavivas and their household, as it reaches up towards the catwalks like a cross between a spire of La Sagrada Família and a decaying oil tank. I don't say this in disparagement. The set is highly effective. Rotating as it does, it can present small rooms, like the one intended for Susanna and Figaro, larger rooms, like the Countess' bedroom, and very large spaces like the great hall, dividing the expanse of the Met's stage into a central and flanking areas, as well as some space above, when called for. We can also see from one space into another, allowing us to get glimpses of the goings-on in other parts of the building—daily life in a noblman's country residence. Its ornament suggests the Moorish, with hints more implied than defined of the Gothic and Baroque, and leans more to Lorenzo da Ponte's original indication, "il castello del Conte Almaviva"[1. sometimes replaced, as the libretto is reprinted, by Beaumarchais' "le château d'Aguas Frescas à trois lieues de Séville," accordingly translated.]  than "an elegant Spanish villa." And the set tells its story...a story of decay.
Theater

The Fellowship for Performing Arts presents Paradise Lost, by Tom Dulack inspired by John Milton, now extended through March 1, 2020

It is both a sign of my respect and admiration for Mr. McLean's work and a bracing perspective that I should be singing the Fellowship's praises from a production I found problematic. Paradise Lost, described as "a fast-paced, witty and accessible modern retelling of John Milton’s classic story of humanity’s fall from grace written by Tom Dulack." One should also note the ambiguous phrase "inspired by John Milton." All the excellences of a Fellowship production were in full evidence—an impressive set, balancing cost-effective, but handsome material elements with gorgeous projections, and a superb cast who brought each turn, each phrase of the script into full life under Michael Parva's expert direction.
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