Posts Tagged ‘history’

Apollo’s Girl

February 19, 2019

Music

Another Opening…
suor angelicaAfter coping with a two-year cloud of construction, shuttered bus stops and a quirky online calendar, the Manhattan School of Music celebrated its centennial by opening the doors of Neidorff-Karpati Hall. With new lighting, décor and – best of all – a new entrance direct from Claremont Avenue, MSM’s Opera Theater mounted a double bill: the rarely seen I Due Timidi (by Nino Rota) and Puccini’s Suor Angelica. The Rota was originally conceived as a radio performance (yes, Italy’s national media still actually broadcasts classical music) in 1950. The composer is best remembered for his movie scores for Fellini and others; his librettist (Suso Cecchi D’Amico) known for her script for The Bicycle Thief and work on almost a hundred other films. With a story of thwarted love, it followed the guidelines for many Italian operas and had a limited afterlife on European stages.

Suor Angelica, on the other hand. though first presented in New York in 1918 as part of Puccini’s trilogy, has remained beloved to this day. Running under an hour and delivering intense emotion from the first few measures, it demands the art and craft of a powerful singer/actress who is onstage almost continuously. In MSM’s version, directed by Donna Vaughn (MSM’s Artistic Director of Opera and a national treasure), Sasha Gutierrez delivered the voice, the movement and the wrenching tragedy to pin you to your seat.

NB: With its revamped main stage, other production spaces and streaming master classes, MSM provides Upper Manhattan with a welcome magnet for live music. Even better: it is so far adhering to four performances and double casting of its staged offerings – a boon to its artists who flourish in the light. https://www.msmnyc.edu/msm-performances/

A Joyful Noise: Heads Up
musical instrumentsAfter years of neglect by the millions seeking blockbuster exhibitions, the Met Museum fixed its gaze on the André Mertens galleries for musical instruments and showered its glories with a makeover. The walk-through at the press opening was shared by three curators glowing with delight at what they had wrought. What a transformation! This was no silent history; they had managed to translate the contexts and sounds into visual arrangements that reached out to impart joy. The first vitrine gave it away: it was titled Fanfare, with brasses, conchs, pre-Colombian pottery, and mention of the Golden Ratio of the conch prized by later makers of brass instruments seeking to imitate the notes of its scales. History and politics were everywhere marked by treasures meant to be blown, bowed, plucked, beaten. The range? From carved ivory elephants (“Patience: If we wait, the British will leave.”) to a Stuart Davis 1939 mural for WNYC’s Studio B.

Now you will be doubly rewarded. In March and April there will be three concerts adding to the mix; two in Grace Rainey Rogers auditorium, and the third ( on April 6) by Juilliard 415 moving through multiple galleries like historical performance pied pipers. Follow that theorbo!
April 6, 2016;  6 – 8 PM. Free with museum admission.

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Apollo’s Girl

January 2, 2019

Art/Music/Film
apollo and lyre

ISAW right now! (through January 6)

isaw 4The perfect respite from holiday excess sits on a quiet side street in a gloriously restored mansion. Wrapping yourself in the glow of New York’s gilded age, you will
find cases of dazzling silver with an amazing backstory – sure to trigger envy and awe that connect millennia and cultures. It is isaw 1French treasure and Roman luxury. The treasure was (literally) uncovered in 1830 by a farmer plowing his field in northern France, but the metallic gleam that caught his eye had been buried much, much earlier
in a brick-lined pit by Romans on the site of their temple dedicated to Mercury Canetonenis.

The farmer, a practical man, thought to sell his find for the its weight in silver, but had the wit to show it to a local expert first. Such news travels fast, triggering a bidding war between
the Louvre and the Bibliothèque Nationale. The Bibliothèque won, the farmer was
compensated, so (after recent conservation by the Getty Museum) we can now enjoy
the privilege of seeing for ourselves what the Romans could create in precious metal. There are gems, jewelry and miniature dioramas of gods and mortals telling their stories of everyday life, eternal epics, and the life of the imagination in the ancient world. 

Many of the objects are offerings by the wealthy seeking favor and naming rights(sound familiar?)
isaw 3from Mercury, the messenger of the gods as well as the patron deity of commerce and the arts. The hand work of the master metalsmiths is breathtaking; their dedication and skill can still be marveled at. And, in an echo of their painstaking artistry, one of the two large statues of Mercury on view was found in fragments then, like an infinitely complex jigsaw puzzle, put back together piece by piece by the Getty conservators on their mission to recapture the past.

One of the great pleasures of ISAW (the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World)is that you can spend quality time with the displays, absorbing their mysteries and splendors only inches away. (Bring a magnifying glass for the ultimate experience.)

P.S.: From March 6 – June 2, 2019, Hymn to Apollo: The Ancient World and the Ballets Russes will be on the walls and in the vitrines. Not to be missed! ISAW: 15 East 84 Street. Information and hours: isaw.nyu.edu isaw 5

 

Apollo’s Girl

May 14, 2017

Film

Exiles: Away From Home…

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe
(Opens May 12 in NYC at Lincoln Plaza;
June 16 in LA at Laemmle Royal)

For a rich and deeply satisfying look back at Germany between the wars (this time through the eyes of one of its most celebrated exiles), see Maria Schrader’s Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe. This is a big, beautifully made film, powerful and affective. The screenplay (by Schrader and Jan Schomburg) gives all of Zweig’s complexities their due; his refusal to condemn Germany, his ambivalence about his fame, his need for both solitude and for friends and family in exile. Schrader has chosen a cool, objective approach to her subject, which frames the white heat of politics and culture threatening to burst into flame in every sequence, and hooks you from Scene One.

The cast is an Olympian match for the material: Josef Hader (as Zweig); Barbara Sukowa and Aenne Schwarz (as Zweig’s first and second wives, both of whom accompanied him abroad en famille), and a host of others (playing the many artists and politicians who were integral to Zweig’s circle) create an entirely believable moment when the world was turned upside down and changed forever. Schrader, famous for her role in Aimėe & Jaguar, applies all her acting smarts to her cast’s talents and draws a gorgeous film from DP Wolfgang Thaler and editor Hanzjőrg Weißrich.

Because the technical, aesthetic and dramatic elements are always in perfect balance, and the tensions between Zweig’s inner life and his public persona heighten the intensity of the portrait, it’s as close to total immersion as you can get without actually having been there. Surely you will be inspired to move on to Zweig’s novels and essays, which made him the most successful writer of his time and have continued to remain the basis of dozens of films right up to Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel of 2014. (P.S.: Pay attention to the way the end of Zweig is shot. Fascinating choices!) Deservedly Austria’s nominee for Best Foreign Film.

ELIÁN
(Opens May 12 in NYC at Cinema Village;
June 2 at O Cinema Miami Beach)

Full of turbulence and moving at warp speed, Elián will keep you breathless and on the edge of your seat right up to the end of the narrative: Elián Gonzalez was only a little boy when he was found alone, clinging to an inner tube, in the ocean between Havana and Miami. The boat on which he had traveled with his mother, her boyfriend and dozens of Cuban refugees had sunk, and his mother had drowned. Overnight, the beautiful child became a sensation—television crews and reporters swarmed the house where he lived with the Miami aunts, great-uncles and cousins who had claimed him. The media circus exploded into a cause célèbre for Miami’s Cuban exiles, always at the boiling point, and for the many public officials who joined the efforts (pro and con) to grant American citizenship to Elián and to prevent his return to Cuba, where his father (who had learned he was gone only after the boy and his mother had fled under cover of darkness) had immediately sought to reclaim his son.

Photo by Shaun Best REUTERS

Eventually, members of Congress and Janet Reno (then Attorney General) determined Elián should live in Cuba with his father. The fire and brimstone that accompanied every twist in the story were shocking in their ferocity. There were daily confrontations on the streets of Miami and Havana; instead of cooling with the passing of time, the violence escalated, with demonstrators, police, Federal agencies, religious institutions and—always—hordes of media pouring accelerant on the flames. The ugliness lasted six months, until Elian’s father flew to Andrews Air Force Base to join his son after Federal agents stormed the home in Miami where Elian, hiding in a closet, was literally snatched from the arms of the fisherman who had originally found him. The entire affair could not be forgotten; its after-effects impacted the presidential election of 2000, and US foreign policy for over a decade.

Benefitting from a wealth of footage (which spares us none of the competing opinions and shameful frenzy of the many participants), Elián is still remarkably even-handed. Not only in exposing the disturbing zealotry of the exiles in Miami (which caused the INS the Border Patrol to stage the armed rescue raid that terrified the little boy), but in Cuba as well. Through no fault of his own, Elián had became a pawn in the United States as a symbol of “democracy”, and then again in Cuba where, after his return, he was “adopted” by Castro as a symbol of Cuban ideals.

Despite the heat of its subject, this film is told and made by experts who really know their stuff: Ross McDonnell and Tim Golden have, between them, filmed and written prize-winning material that is both intensely emotional and impeccably researched. As I discovered while digging through the internet, Golden published a piece in 1994 (it haunts me still) read article here about how the US destroyed the then-state-of-the-art Cuban health care system, several others about Elián Gonzalez, and a series on the abuses of Guantanamo.

There is no question that Elián will roil your heart and your mind as you are horrified by the brutality of the forces pulling at the traumatized six-year-old. The film also spends quality time with the grownup Elian, who seems to have weathered the storms of politics, just as he once weathered the shipwreck that left him without a mother and at the mercy of forces far beyond his control. Whatever your feelings about the issues, you will be shaken by this chapter of very recent history whose ending still remains to be written. Don’t miss it.



Apollo’s Girl

January 22, 2015

Film/Dance

apollo and lyre

 

 

 

Miss Hill: Worth Waiting For…

Who doesn’t need good news in 2015? Especially when it’s about a film that has everything going for it: https://apollosgirl.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/apollos-girl-43/. Its run begins on Friday, January 23 at the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13 Street, NYC (212) 255-2243. Bonus: the filmmaker will be there at 7pm on Friday and Saturday, and at 4:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. Even bigger bonus: the film has been extended another week (through February 5); don’t miss it!

posterMiss Hill: Making Dance Matter was a labor of love for Greg Vander Veer, whose own life and career have, like Miss Hill’s, taken some unexpected turns. With a passion for documentaries, this Vermont native’s fate was sealed by four years at Hendrix College in Little Rock, Arkansas. “This school was in the Princeton Review as a best buy – being the best college for the least amount of money. It was wonderful; very small, and they didn’t have a film department. So I studied history and joined their interdisciplinary program, where I went to Australia to study film. I didn’t have to learn a language (that kind of narrowed it down) and discovered the country’s amazing documentary industry. I liked the people, did well and wanted to live there. But as an American I wasn’t going to get any funding. So I came back and moved to New York.”

For a few years I was a pedicab driver until I was ready to start making films. I wrote to Al Maysles because I loved his movies. His generosity of spirit—he’s so giving! And I was lucky enough to become an intern and eventually to work for him.” But working with dance was accidental. Vander hill 6Veer’s first film (Keep Dancing, with Donald Saddler and Marge Champion) was launched at a party where someone told him about the legendary pair. Of course, one thing led to another as he became immersed in the dance world. And Miss Hill first came to life when Vander Veer met a board member of the Martha Hill Dance Fund at a bar. (This, people, is how things often happen.)

I didn’t know Martha Hill; I wasn’t that familiar with modern dance. But it was important for me to make a film that told a bigger story. I wanted to explore people’s emotions and options so that a general audience could understand them. Hill’s decision to give up dancing herself to enable other dancers must have been very hard–and the audience can feel it. And what happened with Balanchine is so typical of human nature; the competition, and he had all this stuff on his side.”

As with every film, the hardest part of making Miss Hill hill4was raising the money for it. Vander Veer credits the Martha Hill Dance Fund, with its enormous list of executive producers. All were volunteers, inspired by the sense of community Hill built in her lifetime. “A community that really changed the dance world,” he adds.

A third meeting (on CraigsList, when he was still working on Keep Dancing) is what gave Vander Veer the team he needed to turn ideas into movies. Editor Elisa Del Prato answered his ad and convinced him to work with her. “She’s really got a gift for rhythmic cutting…we sit in tandem, working together. She doesn’t like to do things in the normal way—arguing, fighting, disagreeing. We’re just there the whole time, editing the film. We complement each other. The music of the editing and the structure of the story are really independent of one another, but in perfect balance. Elisa doesn’t care about story that much—she didn’t research Martha Hill; I did. I’m there for the story. It’s a good balance, although it kept shifting throughout the process. As director, I had the final decision, but she was persuasive!”

With two films finished, the team is wrapping up a third, far from the subject of dance: shot on location in Ethiopia by Peter Buntaine, it entwines ecology with ancient history, mystery, and the natural world. It’s got science, and the impact of everyone in the forests—atheists, priests, flora, fauna—the conflicts of those who struggle to protect and those who destroy https://churchforest.wordpress.com/ It will include music recorded in the field and an original score. We suspect it will push the envelope a bit. And Vander Veer admits there is also a new project on the horizon, which he will announce in a few weeks. Stay tuned…


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