Archive for September, 2013

Fearless Predictions

September 22, 2013




Theater, Music

With today’s autumn equinox already drowning in a tsunami of must-see, must-hear, must-taste sensations, it’s time to get out your calendar and your credit card and get down to business.

Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA) opens its newtfana house in Brooklyn the Polonsky Shakespeare Centerwith a Very Big Gun: A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Julie Taymor, with an original score by Eliot Goldenthal. It’s been 29 years since Taymor and Goldenthal created a 60-minute taymorversion of the play for TFANA at the Public Theater ; now they have time, space, and a budget for a full-length version with a cast of 36. It will be fascinating to see what Taymor makes of Shakespeare’s forest and addled lovers! Tickets are likely to go quickly, so speed is of the essence. Dream’s previews begin on October 19 for a November 2 through January 12 run.  Tina Benko and David Harewood star as Titania and Oberon. And don’t forget to check out the rest of TFANA’s inaugural season:

r-JOYCE-DIDONATO-large570One of last season’s greatest pleasures were master classes by world-class singers: Joyce Di Donato (at Juilliard) and Thomas Hampson (at the hampsonManhattan School of Music). Working with graduate students who had previously learned how to produce their best sounds, both singers dispensed with the details of vocal technique to concentrate on interpretation of text: Di Donato (opera) Di Donato Hampson (lieder) Hampson

They zeroed in not only on the meaning of the words, but of the story being told and of the character doing the telling.  For those of you who know only the bright lights and bling of our television talent shows, these classes are a revelation. Having a good well-trained voice is only the beginning; knowing what to do with it is as complicated (and as rewarding) as advanced Dungeons and Dragons. There are so many choices…

To give you a heads-up on this season’s riches, a few hints: MSMNY has expanded its vocal master classes to include some personal faves: Lauren Flanigan, Martin Katz (one of the world’s best coaches), Stephanie Blythe, and the Met’s Dwayne Croft (the best Sharpless in living memory).  Hampson will return and, as has been his practice, enable his class to be streamed live.  See for schedules. A precious bonus: master classes at both institutions are free. 

And while we’re singing the praises of singing, here’s one juliabullock_hiresvery long-lead tip: Juilliard’s luminous Julia Bullock (currently in Perm starring in Purcell’s Indian Queen) will return to New York in 2014 to present a recital in Merkin Hall on March 11, and to light a fire in Massenet’s Cendrillon at Juilliard in April. I know it’s early. But get your tickets any way you can. Trust me on this one…..

Cogito: John Branch

September 15, 2013

JB photo-painting by RC 2



Fearless Predictions

Fetch Clay, Make Man (through Oct. 13, New York Theatre Workshop), It’s 1965 in the United States. Vietnam, Civil Rights, Black Power, the Nation of Islam—all that was in the air as Muhammad Ali, whom some sportswriters still insisted on calling Cassius Clay, prepared to fight Sonny Liston in a heavyweight-championship rematch. As playwright Will Power tells the story, Stepin Fetchit (real fetch13f-2-webname Lincoln Perry) known for his black-caricature film roles, was one of Ali’s guests. The tale is improbable but in some sense true. I haven’t checked the details, but Ali did in fact get to know Fetchit. Based-on-fact stories are common these days in fiction, film, and theater; they’re often problematic. I’ll leave that to be addressed by others. Having seen a preview, I can say the design, direction, and performances add up to a work of power and precision.
NYTW: Web site

Mr. Bengt’s Wife (Sept. 13–29, August Strindberg Repertory Theatre. The only strindbergknown quantity here, for me, is Strindberg. This company launched itself in May 2012, but I learned of it only recently. And I’ve read or seen only a few of Strindberg’s works, of which Mr. Bengt’s Wife is not one. He was the most restless of playwrights, “perpetually dissatisfied,” as Robert Brustein wrote, experimenting with Naturalism, Expressionism, and a good deal more—including comedy, as Strindberg Rep showed in its debut production, Playing With Fire. Yet he may be also the most neglected of the Modernist masters. This company intends to produce his lesser-known plays (which is almost all of them) as well as the familiar. Bravo for that.
Strindberg Rep: Web site

emmysPrimetime Emmy Awards (Sept. 22 at 8 pm ET, CBS): One big question, which for me is the big question, is whether a company that never produced TV before the 2012–13 season—namely Netflix—will be among the winners. Indulge me in a quirk for a minute. All seven of the nominees for lead actress in a drama series—to use that category as an example—clearly did excellent work; will it make sense to discard six of them and recognize only one as “outstanding” (that’s the official Emmy language, not “best”)? Not for me. But most people like seeing awards as a game that can have only one winner, and when they disagree with the outcome they like disputing it. The industry cares who wins, and the viewers care, so I too am going to care how well Netflix does. It has a total of 13 chances.
Nominations: list

PinkMartini_StormLarge_photocredit-James_Chiang_1Storm Large and Pink Martini (Sept. 22, Beacon Theatre. Many people who become pop celebrities don’t find it difficult to try out new lines of work. Heiresses land on TV, comics take up film acting, actors tackle singing. You might suspect that Storm Large, with her made-up-sounding name and a reality-TV show in her background, lacks credibility. You’d be wrong. She began by singing rock music, she has sung with the genre-crossing group Pink Martini since 2011, and last spring her native talent took her to Carnegie Hall, where she sang Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Writer Elissa Schappell, who worked with her once, told me she’s a “force of nature.” By the way, her name is real.

You can stream part of the spring concert, or buy tickets for the upcoming evening: stream

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