Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Slave Play: Can Love Overcome the Legacy of Slavery? SPOILERS; Little Women

Dustin and Gary in Slave Play, photo @ Matthew Murphy
There are only five days left to see Jeremy O. Harris's remarkable Slave Play. If you are anywhere in the NY metropolitan vicinity and have a free evening, drop all your plans. You might not "like" this play. It might make you mad, uncomfortable, confused, sometimes all at the same time. But you will not forget Slave Play. This is a once-in-a-lifetime theatrical experience. Note: I originally had tickets to see this in October, but an ankle injury left me housebound for much of that month. I'm so grateful I got to see this before it closed.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Megxit: Unhappy Operatic Princesses

Meghan, Harry and Baby Archie
This week a bombshell was dropped upon the British Royal Family: Harry and Meghan announced on their Instagram account that they intended to "step back as senior members of the Royal Family and work to become financially independent." The also announced they'd be splitting their time between North America and England. Even the NYTimes has been covering this story with a breathless intensity. Because, really, why cover Australia going up in smoke and a possible war between the U.S. and Iran if there's juicy royal dish? Tidbits: Harry and Meghan apparently did not inform Queen Elizabeth of their plans. The latest NYTimes article: "Harry, Meghan and Britain: When Did the Fairy Tale Go Sour?" 

My only thought: could Meghan have been watching some opera? Because opera is filled with women who marry into royalty, realize that it isn't all that and a bag of chips and are so unhappy there's an entire opera about it. Let's examine some unhappy royal princesses and how their situation might or might not have parallels with Meghan:

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Met's New Wozzeck: Waltzing Into Misery; The Sound Inside Spoilers

William Kentridge's Wozzeck, photo @ Ken Howard
The actual Vienna might be celebrating the holidays with its traditional series of Christmas/New Years concerts that are filled with merry waltzes, but in rainy New York the Metropolitan Opera there's a very different, iconic Viennese work on display. Alban Berg's Wozzeck is the work perhaps the most closely associated with the Second Viennese school. It made for grim holiday fare but was a gripping night of opera.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker and Other Nutcrackering ... EXPENSIVE!

Dorrance Dance's Nutcracker, photo @ Christopher Duggan
NYC has another Nutcracker! Dorrance Dance just premiered their tap-dance Nutcracker at the Joyce Theater on Tuesday. I reviewed it for bachtrack here. It's overall a rollicking good time, although I am not that crazy about Duke Ellington's arrangement of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. A blurb:
Last night at the Joyce TheaterMichelle Dorrance was the latest choreographer to throw her hat into the Nutcracker ring. There have been countless balletic versions, hip hop Nutcrackers, burlesque Nutcrackers, so many different Nutcrackers that it begs the question: does the world really need another Nutcracker? Turns out the answer is yes, if it's as clever and well-done as Michelle Dorrance's version.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Best (and Worst) of 2019


2019 was a slower year than usual in the second half because of a horrible ankle injury that left me housebound for much of the time. There are so many tickets I had to give up because the body simply would not cooperate. Nevertheless, I did see some very great performances here are some of the best and (worst) of some of the things I saw in 2019:

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Queen of Spades Revival is Aces

Lise Davidsen and Yusif Eyvasov, photo @ Ken Howard

One dilemma Met operagoers love to fret about is how new productions inevitably sell well, but revivals quickly become tired and poorly attended. This season new productions of Porgy and Bess and Akhnaten were sold out but revivals of Manon and Orfeo ed Euridice played to half-empty houses.

The answer seems to be: inspired casting. This afternoon's performance of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades was pretty sold out despite the production being nearly 25 years old. The cast ranged from good to great. The production by Elijah Mohinsky is nothing fancy but tells the story well and effectively creates a doom-and-gloom mood. There was nothing tired about this revival.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Jessye Remembered (An Excuse to Play Lots of Jessye Videos)

Jessye Norman Memorial
Sunday, November 24th was a sleepy, rainy afternoon. But the Met auditorium was packed to the brim for a sold-out memorial dedicated to the late, great soprano Jessye Norman. The memorial mixed personal reminisces with musical performances. It struck the right notes between a somber reverence for Ms. Norman and a joyful celebration of her life.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

An Evita That Will Sort of Make You Cry?

Solea Pfeiffer as Eva Peron, photo @Sara Krulwich
For the second time in a week I've seen an operatic work about a highly polarizing historical figure. Last Friday I saw Philip Glass's Akhnaten and tonight I saw New York City Center's production of Evita. I've never actually seen Evita live before.

I can't believe I'm using Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice as examples of skillful dramaturges but Evita was everything that Akhnaten wasn't. Tim Rice was not afraid to paint his own picture of Eva Perón which mixed fact with fiction. Webber's music portrays the different facets of Perón-- her naked ambition in "Goodnight and Thank You" and her shiny charisma in the anthem "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." So I know that Philip Glass is a much superior composer to ALW, but Evita was engaging in all the ways Akhnaten wasn't.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Akhnaten - Sing Like an Egyptian

Anthony Roth Costanzo as Akhnaten, photo @ Karen Almond
The Met company premiere of Philip Glass's Akhnaten is generally considered to the one of the Events of the Season (the other was Porgy and Bess). Performances are sold out, the opening night got rave reviews, and so despite lingering pain from an ankle injury, I trudged to Lincoln Center.  I had very high expectations.

Akhnaten (1984) is the last opera of Philip Glass's "Portrait" trilogy. The others are Satyagraha (about Mahatma Gandhi) and Einstein on the Beach (about, well, Einstein). Akhnaten in the14th century B.C.E. upended the ancient Egyptian religious system for a monotheistic religion that focused on the sun-god "Aten." For the libretto of Akhnaten Glass drew upon primary sources from the Amarna period. He even insisted on presenting most of the opera in ancient Egyptian with no surtitles.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Sesame Street at 50 Years: A for the Arts, B is for Ballet, O is for Opera ...


Sesame Street turned 50 this week. The beloved children's television program has made kids laugh and learn for half a century. In addition to teaching kids the alphabet, phonics, basic math and some Spanish Sesame Street has never made any bones about pushing a larger social message of inclusiveness and cultural education. The show takes place on a large urban street and the characters reflect the diversity of NYC. The furry monsters co-existed despite having their own personalities, quirks, and (this is important) different fur color. Sesame Street did not dumb down its material for children -- its skits taught children not just the ABC's but how to settle conflict, how to express affection for each other, and how to deal with difficult issues like death. They even had an episode that addressed 9/11.

But you already knew all that. What I didn't realize was the wonderful arts tributes Sesame Street included over the years. I went on YT and found a goldmine.

Slave Play: Can Love Overcome the Legacy of Slavery? SPOILERS; Little Women

Dustin and Gary in Slave Play, photo @ Matthew Murphy There are only five days left to see Jeremy O. Harris's remarkable Slave Play...