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Month: October 2009

Two Unrelated Plays by David Mamet, Atlantic Theater Company NYC

Atlantic Theater Company’s double bill of two Mamet shorts, School and Keep Your Pantheon, is overkill in the extreme. They are so insubstantial and unnecessary that I assumed they were old projects excavated to give fans a taste of the writer’s juvenilia, slight but hinting at the promise to come. But both plays are new, and the endeavor smacks of lazy writing and producing.

About Ilya Khodosh

Ilya Khodosh is a writer and performer in NYC. He has a B.A. from Williams College.

Beauty and the Beast: South Berkshire Concerts present Schoenberg, Debussy, Ravel, and Poulenc The Proteus Ensemble, Hai-Ting Chinn, Mezzo-Soprano

Ms Chinn made each song something to behold. Her colorations, from the dark-hued and husky to the flutelike, conveyed the ever-changing capriciousness and coy equivocation of this work. Her striking stage presence, her breathtaking mastery of the frequently caustic vocalizations, and her interpretive insight into vivid Symbolist prosody placed her visionary reading at the top of a half-century of performances.

Seth Lachterman

About Seth Lachterman

Seth Lachterman lives in Hillsdale, New York, which abuts the Berkshires in Massachusetts. While dividing his past academic career between music (composition and musicology) and mathematics, he has, over past three decades written original and critical works on the Arts. His essays have appeared in The Thomas Hardy Association Journal, English Literature in Transition, and poetry in The Raritan Quarterly. As a charter member and past president of the Berkshire Bach Society, he provided scholarly program notes for the Society’s concerts for over two decades. His Bach essays and reviews have been referenced in Wikipedia and have appeared in concerts at Ozawa Hall and the College of St. George, Windsor Castle.  Simultaneously, he has been a principal at Encore Systems, LLC, a software and technology consulting company. A president emeritus of Walking The Dog Theatre of Hudson, New York, he has invented a new technology for insuring privacy in text messaging and for social networking. In 2012, he founded UThisMe, LLC. to launch this new technology. Seth writes regularly for Berkshire Review of The Arts. When not listening to music, Seth Lachterman reads philosophy with a current interest in Heidegger.

Royall Tyler’s The Contrast at The Metropolitan Playhouse, New York: the very earliest of American plays lives on!

Now in its eighteenth season, New York’s Metropolitan Playhouse continues its mission to reexamine America’s theatrical heritage. Past productions have ranged from key nineteenth-century works such as John Augustus Stone’s 1829 “Indian” drama Metamora, Anna Cora Mowatt’s 1845 comedy Fashion, and Dion Boucicault’s depiction of slavery in The Octoroon (1859), to seldom seen twentieth-century plays including Langdon Mitchell’s dissection of modern marriage in The New York Idea (1906), Susan Glaspell’s free-speech drama Inheritors (1922), and Arthur Arent’s “Living Newspaper” Power (1937). Now, in their most recent production, the Metropolitan goes back to the beginning, staging Royall Tyler’s comedy The Contrast, the first play by an American to receive a professional production in the United States.

About Heidi Holder

Heidi Holder is trained in dramatic literature and theater history, and currently teaches at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She has published essays on British, American, Irish, and Canadian drama; her performance reviews have appeared in Theatre Journal. When not teaching or attending productions she is engaged in a study of Victorian working-class theater–plays highly unlikely ever to be staged again.

Rossini’s Tancredi at Opera Boston

Among the many things I admire about Opera Boston is the consistency of their priorities. A great deal of care and expense goes into casting vocally and dramatically excellent singers appropriate for their roles. Music Director Gil Rose maintains a strong orchestra, and he is an impressive musician and conductor in his own right. Budgetary restrictions are more apparent in sets and costumes—this in turn touches the stage direction as a whole. In last year’s season, for example, the first act of Der Freischütz was perfectly viable, while the Wolf’s Glen scene was pretty much a shambles, a seemingly a desperate attempt to make the most of inadequate resources with precious gimmicks. Opera Boston’s production last spring of Shostakovich’s The Nose was more successful: brilliant stage and costume design and brilliant direction were noticeably, but acceptably compromised by budget limitations. As impressive as the intelligent programming and musical results are, a hint of well-intentioned “making do” remains in the physical production, and that was painfully apparent in Opera Boston’s recent production of Rossini’s youthful opera seria, Tancredi.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos Opens the BSO Beethoven Symphony Cycle

What is sadly no longer James Levine’s traversal of Beethoven’s symphonies began with nothing but joy for the Symphony Hall audience, at least in my impression. Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos has been manfully representing the Beethoven symphonies at Tanglewood and at Symphony Hall since 2000, while Ozawa and Levine pursued other interests, and his powerful, rock-solid interpretations of Beethoven surely must be among the achievements which have endeared him to the orchestra and its audiences. His approach is typical of his generation: large in scale and focused on the heroic, Promethean side of the composer, but entirely cleansed of unnecessary expressive mannerisms. His performances have the purity and grandeur of Klemperer without his austerity. He also is meticulous about detail without drawing attention to it.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Classics Declassified: Leon Botstein’s Tour of the Beethoven Symphonies with the ASO at Peter Norton Symphony Space, New York

For some reason that escapes me 2009 has become a “Beethoven year,” or at least a “Beethoven symphony year.” James Levine,* Leon Botstein, and Gerard Schwarz, to name only the conductors who immediately come to mind, have seen fit to begin Beethoven symphony cycles this year. 1809, however, was almost a fallow year for the composer. On the positive side of the ledger, he was able to parlay a job offer in Kassel into a secure contract from his chief patrons in Vienna. On the other, he was trapped in the city during the French siege and two-month occupation, cut off from his friends. The previous year he had finished both the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the Choral Fantasy (and much else) and seen those works performed at a long concert held for his benefit on December 22, just five days after his thirty-eighth birthday. In 1809 he worked on only a few, but important works: the fifth piano concerto, the string quartet Op. 74, and the great “Farewell” sonata for piano. It is especially interesting that he composed quite a few cadenzas for all his piano concerti, from the very earliest, the second, Op. 19, which he had begun twenty years earlier, as well as the violin concerto. Was he looking back at his concerti as a finished body of work, codifying the group with cadenzas in his latest style? Was he looking forward to a busy concert schedule? In any case there’s not much to commemorate Beethoven-wise in 2009, other than his misguided proposal of marriage to his physician’s daughter, then nineteen, who was the last woman in Vienna to see Beethoven as anything other than a cranky, quite unhealthy fellow twenty years older than herself.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique at Carnegie Hall

A weekend’s concert-going, in which this splendid performance of Haydn’s choral masterpiece was followed by one of Leon Botstein’s “Classics Declassified” concerts on Beethoven’s First Symphony, created a mini-festival devoted to the fecund influence of Gottfried, the Baron van Swieten, with Johann Peter Salomon, Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven in enthusiastic, if occasionally fractious attendance at both, reminding us at how closely linked London anf Vienna, the two great musical centers of the 1790’s, actually were.

About Michael Miller

Michael Miller, Editor and Publisher of New York Arts and The Berkshire Review, an International Journal for the Arts, was trained as a classicist and art historian at Harvard and Oxford, worked in the art world for many years as a curator and dealer, and contributed reviews and articles to Bostonia, Master Drawings, Drawing, Threshold, and North American Opera Journal, as well as numerous articles for scholarly and popular periodicals. He has taught courses in classics, the English language, and art history at Oberlin, Rutgers, New York University, the New School, and Williams. Currently, when he is not at work on The Berkshire Review and New York Arts, he writes fiction, pursues photography, and publishes scholarly work. In 2011 he contributed an introductory essay to Leonard Freed: The Italians / exh. cat. Io Amo L’Italia, exhibition at Le Stelline, Milan, and wrote the revised the section on American opera houses in The Grove Dictionary of American Music. He is currently at work on a libretto for a new opera by Lewis Spratlan, Midi, an adaptation of Euripides’ Medea set in the French West Indies, ca. 1930.

A Singer’s Notes, 5: The Roar of the Greasepaint

About two decades ago, big music schools decided that music theatre wasn’t all that bad. Somebody told them it was very difficult for a twenty-four year old artist to fill a hall singing a recital. Young singers need to look good and move well on stage. Eastman resurrected a long-lost Gershwin show. This spring Curtis brought back an alumnus to sing Wozzeck who had just made a name for himself on Broadway as Judd in Oklahoma. It pleased the powers that be in these king and queen-making institutions to erase or at least blur the distinction between what high-fallutin’ singing was and how people sang on Broadway. Some wonderful things have come from this. We now have stars of the musical theatre like Audra McDonald who sing with subtlety and beauty—no honking, no belting. If only we had shows good enough for them.

Keith Kibler

About Keith Kibler

Twice a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, Keith Kibler’s doctorate was earned at Yale University and the Eastman School of Music. He is one of the region’s most sought after teachers with students accepted at the New England Conservatory, the Juilliard School, Peabody and Hartt Conservatories, the Tanglewood Institute, and the Aspen Music School. Keith Kibler is an adjunct teacher of singing at Williams College.

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