Bard Summerscape 2014

Classical Music, Opera, Theatre, Photography, Art, Books, Travel, Food & Drink – the Best of the Arts in the Berkshires

Pianist Stephen Porter

Stephen Porter to play late works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy at the House of the Redeemer in Manhattan, Thursday May 1, at 7.30 pm—a presentation of New York Arts (1)

Apr 4, 2014 • Commentary, Music, Upcoming

I am extremely proud to present, as our single concert of this season, a piano recital by Stephen Porter, a musician of supreme intelligence, sensitivity, and learning. His pianism is equally developed on the fortepiano as on the modern piano, and we are fortunate that his curious ear for historical instruments has drawn him to the unique qualities of the House of the Redeemer’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand in the intimate acoustics of its Library.

A Singer's Notes by Keith Kibler»

A SInger’s Notes 84: Time yaps at the heels of comedy. Tragedy marches inexorably on. (Comments Off)

John Hadden (King Lear) and Ava Roy (Cordelia) at Hubbard Hall.

Time yaps at the heels of comedy. Tragedy marches inexorably on. In comedy the present turns immediately to the past, this is why the pace must be fast. Private Lives tries to talk about serious things rapidly. It does not stop and consider. The past is a repetition of the future, not the other way around. This is why the characters circle endlessly. You might call it the rhythm of life, or in a darker comedy, the dance of death. There is plenty of life left in Private Lives. Its relentless wit continues to charm. The couple who fight best seem to love best. Only fine actors can repeat themselves.  Shakespeare and Company’s production of Noel Coward’s play had the requisite energy. David Joseph, in particular, seemed inexhaustible, time yapping at his heels. Dana Harrison also commanded the speed and flavor of imperious time, sometimes by trying to slow it ever so slightly.

Architecture - Urban Design»

Six Degrees, Six Degrees: Sydney Architecture in 2012 (Comments Off)

Darling Harbour with Philip Cox's Exhibition Centre to the right of the freeway. Photo © 2011 Alan Miller.

The other day I installed new brake rotors on my mountain bike [1]. They are beautiful; every scrap of stainless steel not required to withstand structural stress and the build up of heat has been removed. A laciness which could be mistaken for decoration is no more or no less than the result of form following function. As a chain is a chain and a tire inexorably a tire, so the rotors would cease to be themselves were they square or triangular, made of concrete or glass.

Architecture is not like this.

Art»

Berkshire Artist Joanna Gabler, “Emigrés – Where is Home?” at Gallery Ehva, Provincetown: October 25-November 5, 2013 – Opening Friday, October 25, 6-8 pm (Comments Off)

Joanna Gabler, Roots 2, 2013. Archival pigment print.

Joanna Gabler,  “Emigrés – Where is Home?” at Gallery Ehva, Provincetown: October 25-November 5, 2013 – Opening Friday, October 25, 6-8 pm.
74 Shank Painter Road
Provincetown, MA 02657
(508) 487-0011

On view in the Gallery Ehva in Proveincetown is “Nature Transfigured,” an exhibition of works by Joanna Gabler, painter and photographer. The art in this exhibition is the fruit of  Joanna’s passion for photography and her quest for uncovering the mysteries of nature. Sensitive to color and form, she goes out into Nature, seeking her own personal vision. She considers her art to be inspired by and co-created with Nature. By using photography and developing it further through digital media as a creative tool Gabler’s goal is to add a new dimensions and possibilities to physical reality, which exist there in potential, remaining invisible until the artist’s inner eye discovers them. Gabler calls her images “transcapes,” because they are landscapes transfigured by her artistic vision.

At the Bayreuth Festival»

Richard Wagner, Parsifal, directed by Stefan Herheim and conducted by Daniele Gatti, Bayreuther Festspiele (2010 Performance Reviewed) (Comments Off)

Parsifal (Christopher Ventris) and Amfortas (Detlef Roth) before the Bundestag in Act III. Photo Enrico Nawrath.

Ritual is everywhere in Wagner’s operas and music dramas. He even has his way of transforming crucial events in his stories into quasi-rituals through symbolism. Ritual is even more pervasive in his final work, his Bühnenweihfestspiel, Parsifal, which is in itself a ritual. The highly ritualized routines of the Grail knights connect their lives and the events of the drama with the continuum of the Grail’s history, back to the Last Supper. Their actions are highly deliberate, replete with the significance of faith and tradition. This creates a quasi-monastic environment in which life unfolds slowly, largely ceremonially, on the structure of a time-honored schedule, in which history and precedent are always present. The narrative unfolds with notable simplicity in terms of what occurs on stage, while beneath it, the backstory related in monologues seethes with incident, conflict, and misfortune. In addition to this dramatic foreground purified of trivialities, there is the pure transparency of Wagner’s score, consisting of simple thematic material set with surpassing clarity, delicacy, and harmonic subtlety. In this way Parsifal lives up to what we have been conditioned to expect from the late work of a great artist, and this is what we see and hear on the stage, if Wagner’s stage directions are observed.

Books»

The Gore Vidal memorial at the Schoenfeld Theatre, New York, as I saw it… (Comments Off)

Elizabeth Ashley, Chris Ebersole (left) and Candice Bergen, Angelica Houston (right) read famous Gore Vidal one-liners at a noon-time tribute to the writer at the Schoenfeld Theatre today. Vidal died July 31 in Los Angeles at 86.

Most writers fall in love with their words. They greet changes to the text, particularly of a published work, with the blank astonishment of a mother confronted with criticism of her first-born child. This cannot be said of Gore Vidal, who died in Los Angeles at 86 on July 31st. I remember sitting in early rehearsals of the 2000 Broadway production of The Best Man and Vidal asking Jeffrey Richards, the lead producer, “Should I update the international references? Make them more contemporary?” He expected changes in his play and embraced them, but, in fact, there were very few in this production. Prickly references to China were as relevant in 2000 as they were when the play was set in the early ‘60s.

Commentary»

Stephen Porter to play late works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin and Debussy at the House of the Redeemer in Manhattan, Thursday May 1, at 7.30 pm—a presentation of New York Arts (1)

Pianist Stephen Porter

I am extremely proud to present, as our single concert of this season, a piano recital by Stephen Porter, a musician of supreme intelligence, sensitivity, and learning. His pianism is equally developed on the fortepiano as on the modern piano, and we are fortunate that his curious ear for historical instruments has drawn him to the unique qualities of the House of the Redeemer’s Grotrian-Steinweg grand in the intimate acoustics of its Library.

Dance»

Mark Morris’s Staging of Britten’s Curlew River and Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas at Tanglewood (Comments Off)

TMC Fellows perform Curlew River at Tanglewood 7.31.13 (Hilary Scott)6

Tanglewood produced many of the summer’s memorable outings, but with pieces which somehow seem easier for a big Symphony to bring across to a big audience in the summer and in the country; music, like every other living thing in New England, can be highly seasonal and very much of its own place and niche. Many of the programs drew from the theater — ballet music and concert opera especially, or from the church — and extremely fine and satisfying performances of Debussy’s Danses: sacré et profane, l’Après-midi d’un faune, Jeux, Charles Dutoit’s of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloë and Poulenc’s Stabat Mater, and one of Britten’s church parables Curlew River, to leave out many others, seem stick with me for a long time.

Film»

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, with Philip Seymour Hoffman (Comments Off)

Philip Seymour Hoffman in Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master

Apocalypse then.

As an act of recollection, The Master captures the Fifties with perfect pitch, all the more remarkable because the film’s creator wasn’t there. Two stories collide from opposite directions. One is the story of an invisible man, a World War II veteran who never recovers from combat. The other is a charlatan savant skimming the gullible and rising to become a cult leader, the Master of the title. One life has slipped through the cracks, as adrift as Okies in the Dust Bowl but desolately lonely. The other life is a round-the-clock power play to grab the golden ring.

Food & Drink»

With summer gone…Lagrein, Madiran, Garnacha, Cabernet…Chinon! (Comments Off)

September Tomatoes, Caretaker Farm, Williamstown, MA. Photo © 2005 Michael Miller.

With summer fading into the past, one compensation for earlier nightfalls and chillier water temperatures that limit swims to only intensely sunny midday outings is the pumped-up output happily spilling out of the vegetable garden. The squash vines have wound out into improbable places, and, if one pokes around under those umbrella-like leaves, there are plenty of butternut and spaghetti squashes playing hide and seek. Every day tomatoes are dropping off their stems. And suddenly there are lots of reasons for searching out some ripe, dense, maybe even rustic red wines to accompany all there is to eat.

Music»

Glimmerglass 2013: A Retrospective (Comments Off)

Victoria Munro (center) with the children's chorus in The Glimmerglass Festival's 2013 production of David Lang's the little match girl passion. Photo: Karli Cadel/The Glimmerglass Festival.

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.  AidaMusic 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.

Opera»

The Long and the Short of it: Tanglewood’s 2013 Festival of Contemporary Music (Comments Off)

George Benjamin conducting his Opera, Written on Skin, with the TMC Orchestra in Seiji Ozawa Hall. Photo Hilary Scott.

This year’s Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood had a distinguished guest director-curator, the French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who is as admired for his performances of Elliott Carter as for his refined and powerful Debussy and Bach. He had something to convey to his audience, too. He wanted us to know the work of two living European composers important to him: the 53-year-old Italian Marco Stroppa and the 77-year-old German Helmut Lachenmann, figures little known in this country, although Stroppa was a student at MIT in the 1980s and in 2008 Lachenmann was a visiting professor of music at Harvard.

Photography»

Paris aime la photographie III (Comments Off)

Eva Besnyö, Borgerstraat,1960 gelatin-silver print, 22,8 x 19,8 cm. Collection Iara Brusse, Amsterdam. © Eva Besnyö / Maria Austria Instituut Amsterdam

When walking into Paris’s first retrospective exhibition of the photographs of Eva Besnyö at the Jeu de Paume, I was met with three mysterious images, visually linked by their askew perspectives. One is a self-portrait of Besnyö, who was born in Budapest in 1910 and broke free of Hungary’s provincial constraints to become a Berlin-based photographer at the young age of 20. The image of the woman in the portrait looks, in a word, contemporary. Unconventionally beautiful, Besnyö looks intensely into her medium format camera, hair tousled as her neck cranes above the view finder to which she is acutely focused, projecting an image of herself as an intense, slightly bohemian artist at work. Besnyö orchestrated this image of 1931 so that the viewer looks up to her from down below, and thus elevated before us is a powerful figure who directs our gaze and controls her own image long before similar strategies were conceived by feminist artists of the 1960s. It is from this point that the viewer commences into an exhibition of 120 prints by a photographer who has been given too little attention.

Places»

Seven Ways to Improve the Tour de France (Comments Off)

Cycling fans watch the opening time trial of Paris-Nice in Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, 3 March 2012. Photo © 2012 Alan Miller.

I wouldn’t go so far as the three-time world-champion Óscar Friere, who reckons that the Tour de France is “the most boring race of the year” — has he ever watched the Tour of Qatar? — but this year’s race did make me wonder how many more like it the old institution can take. Institutionalization is the Tour’s great burden, or at least its double-edged sword. For the casual fan it is the ‘race of record,’ cycling itself. Those who follow the sport more closely understand that while the Tour is undeniably the most competitive, and therefore the most prestigious, among the three Grand Tours of Italy, France and Spain, it often not the most interesting.

Podcasts»

An Interview with Wu Han and David Finckel: Life after the Emerson Quartet and an Upcoming Concert at South Mountain Concerts (Comments Off)

David Finckel and Wu Han. Photo 2013 Lisa Mazzucco.

Along with the retirement of the Tokyo String Quartet, the departure of David Finckel from the Emerson Quartet has been one of the most discussed events in the world of chamber music over the past eighteen months or so. As people who have heard their concerts know, both David Finckel and the Emerson Quartet, now with the British cellist, Paul Watkins, in place, are as rich as ever in their contributions to our well-being as humans. Wu Han and David Finckel spoke with me just today about their new post-Emerson life, which allows David to travel and play more regularly with Wu Han as a duo and as a trio with Emerson violinist Philip Setzer, who will join them at the venerable South Mountain Concerts on Sunday, September 29, 2013. They will play Beethoven Op. 1, No. 2, Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 in E Minor, Op. 67, and Dvořák’s Trio in E Minor, Op. 90, the “Dumky.”

I hope you enjoy our conversation about their past, present, and future as much as I did.

Recordings»

Sviatoslav Richter (1915 – 1997) on Disc: Hunting the Snark (2)

Sviatoslav Richter in Old Age with Ankh

Angelic demon.

Two musical instruments rise above all others in their humanity — the violin, because it comes closest to imitating the singing voice, and the piano, because it comes closest to conveying human nature. As human nature is vast, so is pianism. You can sequester yourself from territory that is too hot, cold, angry, lustful, domineering, or terrifying. Some pianists base their whole career on safely walling off the troubling aspects of human perversity (Alfred Brendel comes to mind, with his ability to make even Liszt wipe off his shoes at the door), while only one has been courageous enough to venture without a care into heaven and hell.

Richard Wagner»

Un Vaisseau fantôme inoubliable à Montréal…mais comment tuer Senta? (Comments Off)

Senta et le Hollandais à L'Opéra de Montreál. Photo Gary Beechey.

Le but principal de cet article et de louer jusqu’au cieux une représentation tout à fait remarquable—inoubliable, dirais-je—du premier oeuvre canonique de Wagner, mais c’est bien une mise-en-scène contemporaine—une mise-en-scène laquelle rend justice aussi bien à la problématique sociale de 1840 qu’a celle de nos jours—surtout à propos de la rôle des femmes dans la famille, le mariage, les moeurs bourgeois, et l’argent. Dans ce contexte le problème qui me frappe d’abord est celui de la mort de Senta, parce qu’il semble que les metteurs en scène de nos jours se sentent fort mal à leur aise avec sa mort telle que Wagner l’avait conçue, où elle se jette dans les flots tourbillants nordiques. S’agit-il de la vraisemblance, du goût, ou bien des frais toujours montants de l’assurance qui découragent la saute d’une soprano importante même d’une distance de deux mètres? Voyons.

Theatre»

A Smashing Private Lives at Shakespeare and Company (Comments Off)

Dana Harrison (Amanda) and David Joseph (Elyot) in Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Photo Kevin Sprague.

After my all-too-common last minute arrival, I had no opportunity to read Tony Simotes’ wise note in the program until the intermission. When I did, I struck a chord with thoughts that had been coming to me about Noël Coward since feeling his very large presence in Sir Donald and Marc Sinden’s wonderful series of documentaries about the theaters of London’s West End: his plays, as ephemeral as they claim to be, keep coming back, and have turned into classics under our noses, so to speak. Beneath the electric language and constantly amusing repartee, which in themselves have proven surprisingly durable, the basic themes that concern us all—attraction, love, loyalty, fidelity, convention and life, youth and maturity, and (although not in Private Lives) aging. Truth is, Coward, with his insistence that his gifts consisted of no more than “a talent to amuse,” was his own worst detractor.