Classical Music, Opera, Theatre, Photography, Art, Books, Travel, Food & Drink – the View from Western New England

Archive for June, 2009

Emerson String Quartet at Tanglewood, Friday, June 26, 8 p.m. Ozawa Hall

Next week the Tanglewood grounds will be teeming with people, who will have come to usher in summer season, dress up a little, enjoy fireworks, and to hear some more than promising Tchaikovsky, a composer Levine understands well…and it’s a sin to miss a performance by Yefim Bronfman. The pre-season weekend will also have had its crowd, fans of Garrison Keillor’s meticulously branded lapsarian humor and self-consciously down-to-earth American music. In this first weekend the traditional Prairie Home Companion is bookended with chamber music,

Juilliard String Quartet play Haydn Op. 20 at Tanglewood

If this review is extremely brief, it is not intended as disrespect for either the composer or the illustrious Juilliard String Quartet. I was expecting a feast of some of my very favorite music, but it turned out to be a total disappointment. In their earlier life the Juiliard used to play with astringent timbres and an analytical style, which arose from their pioneering work with the quartets of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern, Béla Bartôk and other modern composers.

On the Elgin Marbles, a Poem

Helen was not abducted, raped, by that effeminate Trojan princeling, Paris, but by a coarse Englishman, the cunning diplomat Elgin, who ran up debts, as his kind do, and sold the treasure to his Nation, greedy shopkeepers that they are, imperialists, who, once they had the girl, clothed her in an ideal beauty she never […]

Turner and Italy, National Galleries of Scotland

A major Turner exhibition. It focuses on the artist’s “love affair” with Italy. Assembled is a large collection of sketches, watercolours, engravings, paintings, as well as some books from Turner’s library. The show comes to Edinburgh after a run in Ferrara Arte and will soon pass to the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

The Royals We Love to Hate

One easily understands the international acclaim BEMF has garnered. After four years of following these performers as they eagerly mount these ancient dramas, I am always astonished at their musical excellence and enterprise—something unprecedented in the world of early music.

Carousel, by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Barrington Stage Company

Julie Boyd appears to have perfect pitch when it comes to revivals of Broadway successes of the earlier twentieth century. Last summer, Private Lives couldn’t have been funnier or more engaging. It was very much Broadway Coward more than West End Coward, but one is as true to his cosmopolitan spirit as the other. Now she has opened the BSC season with a winning production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Carousel (1946). The musical held its audience for many years through the 1950’s in several important revivals, and it was made into the obligatory overblown and lumbering Hollywood film. It’s considered something of a classic, not only because of its addictive tunes and Downeast atmosphere, but because its dark—but, let’s face it, candy-coated—elements, mainly Billy Bigelow’s incorrigible crookedness and violent temper, it has gained a reputation as a musical that was a cut above the rest, a “serious” musical, which inspired Nicholas Hytner’s pretentious revival in the mid-1990’s. This American classic fares much better in Julie Boy’s hands. She responds to it intuitively, without showing the slightest temptation to make something of it that it is not, and bringing to to life with solid theatrical values: excellent acting, singing, and dancing. Joshua Bergasse is the choreographer—bravo! Robert Mark Morgan’s set was very pleasing as well, glowing with muted warm and cold hues that responded richly to the changing lighting, designed by Scott Pinkney.

Duett – inspired by Heiner Müller’s “Quartett” and Søren Kierkegaard’s “Either/Or” – Concocted by Amy Stebbins – At the Loeb Ex (A.R.T.), Cambridge

Amy Stebbins explicitly recommended a stiff drink as preparation for her hour-long entertainment, Duett, which is derived from Heiner Müller’s Quartett, which in itself is derived from Choderlos de Laclos’ epistolary novel, Les Liaisons Dangereux. Unfortunately there was no time for this, as I rushed straight from a brilliant performance of early cello works by Beethoven, and all I managed was a light dinner and a couple of glasses of wine. This was not enough wipe out any culture shock I may have experienced after Beethoven’s rumbustious high spirits and supremely intelligent wit, but that certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying Duett. Perhaps a certain amount of culture shock is in order, perhaps even necessary, for our encounter with Laclos’s, Müller’s, and Stebbins’ very badly behaved aristocrats, the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont.

It’s All in the Presentation: A New Look at Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer’s saying that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will” has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others. —Albert Einstein, The World as I See It (1940)