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Week of  May 12-18, 2001

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun


READING DROPOUTS: An alarming number of Americans is choosing not to read, says a new study. "We pride ourselves on being a largely literate First World country while at the same time we rush to build a visually powerful environment in which reading is not required. The results are inevitable. Aliteracy is all around. Washington Post 05/14/01

WHEN ART MATTERED: "The volcano-like eruption of modernism seems distant, now that the Revolution has become a TV show, as the Renaissance. Its doctrines are exhausted, its once nerve-wracking fragments ensconced in museums, and the whole thing made sleepily irrelevant by the rise of mass media. But it was the Biggest Bang in the last 500 years of our cultural history, and if you lean over its crater you can still hear and feel it, the molten craziness and hurtling euphoria of that uncanny moment when for the last time High Art still mattered enough to hate." Salon 05/16/01


AIN'T NO EGO HIGH ENOUGH... Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris and Paul Taylor are on any dance company's "A" list of choreographers, so American Ballet Theatre scored a coup when all three appeared on the same program recently. But there was "huge trouble when Tharp was shifted from the coveted final place in the programme to the less prestigious opening slot. ABT's director Kevin McKenzie gave the closing position to Morris, an act of courage given that Tharp is not on speaking terms with Morris. Tharp threw a tantrum and swore she'd never work with ABT again." The Guardian (UK) 05/1/01

DANCING ON EMPTY: The Bolshoi Ballet is in London and the news isn't good. People are staying away in droves - only 30 percent of the house has been full. This despite popular classic pieces on the program. What gives? The Telegraph (UK) 05/15/01

AILEY'S VOLUNTEER ARCHITECT: The Alvin Ailey Company is building a $47 million new home; it will be the largest building devoted to dance in the US. Now controversy over the choice of architect - the son-in-law of the Ailey board chairperson. The New York Times 05/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THIRTY, THE HARD WAY: Ballet is a tough sell in American cities, and Milwaukee is no exception. It has a ballet company which "has had a dozen executive directors, most of whom did not leave voluntarily. At least six of its eight artistic directors have been fired, sometimes amid nasty public feuding." Even so, it's about to turn thirty, and looks healthy. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 05/16/01

HATED EXCEPT BY AUDIENCES: Robert North is the controversial head of the Scottish Ballet. In the two years he's had the job, "he has continually been accused of bringing the national company's artistic output to the brink of humiliating ruin." One problem though: "while the Scottish critics loathe him, North's ballets have been largely popular with audiences. Sunday Times (UK) 05/13/01


CANNES WINNER: An Italian movie The Son's Room, a "stirring account of a happy family shattered by the death of a teenage son," won the Cannes Film Festival top prize Sunday evening. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 05/20/01

A DRY WELL? Is this a particularly bad year for movies? "The early months of any year are usually lean, but this was extraordinary. Itís probably a good thing Hollywood was preoccupied by the looming (now averted) writerís strike; otherwise they might have had to face the fact that the industry seems in the grip of a creative crisis." MSNBC (Newsweek) 05/18/01

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: It is increasingly difficult for independent filmmakers to find screens to show their work. The big studios monopolize the multiplexes, and Roger Ebert says that indies are losing the will to fight on: "I've been emceeing this panel for 10 years or so, and never sensed such sadness on the part of directors who have made good films and now find it difficult to get them to North American audiences." National Post (Canada) 05/18/01

NEW GOLDEN AGE FOR FILM? "It used to be said that imported films didn't play many cities; today they don't play many states. And yet there is hope. If you look at the movies themselves and not simply at the box office, American films are in an emerging golden age. It is possible to see inventive and even important new work every week of the year - if you live in a city with good cinemas, or have a cable system that offers Bravo, Sundance or the Independent Film Channel." The Guardian (UK) 05/15/01



BARENBOIM STANDS FIRM: Most Israeli ensembles do not perform the music of Richard Wagner, due to the composer's well-known anti-Semitism and the potential for violent protest when performances do occur. So Daniel Barenboim has been drawing considerable fire since announcing that he would conduct a Wagner opera in Jerusalem this summer. So far, Barenboim has not been swayed. BBC 05/17/01

IMPACT OF JAZZ (THE SERIES, THAT IS): Ken Burns' Jazz documentary series has had a big impact on interest in jazz. "The traditional jazz market has seen at least $1 million more in sales since the series began. Jazz sales in the United States last autumn were roughly a little over two per cent of sales. Since the series, we've seen the sales go up to just over four per cent. While that might not seem like much of an increase, for the jazz world, it's huge." The Telegraph (UK) 05/17/01

YOU'VE GOTTA HANG ON TO THOSE THINGS! What is it with Strad-playing cellists and New York City cabs? Two years after Yo-Yo Ma had to use a taxi receipt to track down his forgotten instrument, Lynn Harrell left his $4 million Stradivarius cello in the trunk of his cab this week. One sleepless night later, he got it back. Andante (UPI) 05/16/01

THE MOZART EFFECT INDUSTRY: "That classical music somehow relaxes our brains, reorganising and clarifying thought processes and thereby promoting a firmer intellect, is a supposition that has acquired the veneer of accepted wisdom over the past decade." Is it true? Who really knows, but there's a whole industry grown up around promoting the idea. Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

LEARNING FROM THE KIROV: The Kirov's restoration to artistic excellence in the past decade has been remarkable. Its upcoming London residency "shimmers like a private yacht in a bog-standard British pond of funding grumbles and grudged enthusiasm." And companies in the West could learn a thing or two from the Kirov about running an artistic enterprise. The Telegraph (UK) 05/16/01

MOZARTSTER? NAH. BRAHMSTER? UH-UH. BACHSTER? HMMM...With all the legal and technical maneuvering for digital distribution of pop music, what's happening with the classics? "The Electronic Media Forum began a feasibility study that would allow the 1,800 orchestras in the United States to distribute their music online." Wired 05/16/01

PAUSING FOR SUCCESS: The Chamber Orchestra of Europe is an unusual ensemble. Founded 20 years ago, its players get together only for half of each year. "Today, the COE draws its players from 15 countries, is the resident chamber orchestra of the Philharmonie in Berlin, and plays regularly in Graz, Cologne, Paris and Vienna." The Times (UK) 05/15/01

HOW TO SINK YOUR OWN CAREER: The orchestral world is full of conductors who work wonders with small, regional orchestras, yet never quite make the transition to the major leagues. The reasons can be many: orchestras that are loathe to take a chance on an unknown, musicians who take a dim view of a young hotshot come to "save" them, etc. But, says one of America's premiere critics, the conductor's biggest roadblock can often be his own ego. The New York Times 05/13/01 (one time registration required for access)

SYMPHONY SPACE: For the longest time, it seemed that composers had simply decided not to write full-length symphonies any more. Orchestras commissioned short, program-opening works rather than major pieces that might put audiences off. But in the last few years, the traditional symphonic form seems to be making a comeback. Peter Maxwell Davies is the latest prominent composer to premiere a new symphony, and reaction seems to be positive. The Sunday Times of London 05/13/01


 SHAKESPEARE'S PICTURE: A painting that purports to be a portrait of William Shakespeare has surfaced. "The painting appears to be authentic. Radiocarbon dating reveals it to be 340 years old, give or take 50 years. It shows a ruddy-haired, hazel-eyed young man sporting a short beard, sideburns, a hint of a mustache, and a bilateral receding hairline of fluffy sprouts." National Review 05/15/01

JASON MILLER, 62: Actor and playwright Jason Miller has died of a heart attack. In 1973, Miller was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. The same year he won both a Pulitzer and a Tony for his play That Championship Season. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/15/01

NARAYAN DEAD AT 94: "R. K. Narayan, the literary chronicler of small-town life in South India and one of the first Indians writing in English to achieve international acclaim, died yesterday in Madras, India. He was 94." The New York Times 05/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MARCEAU SPEAKS: Marcel Marceaux has been named a United Nations ambassador for the aged. "I make the visible invisible and the invisible visible. People think that when we are silent, you have nothing to say. But you can make people laugh and cry through the tragedy and the comedy of life." New York Times Magazine 05/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PERRY COMO DIES: "Perry Como, the crooning baritone barber famous for his relaxed vocals, cardigan sweaters and television Christmas specials, died yesterday after a lengthy illness. He was 87." Akron Beacon Journal (AP) 05/13/01



 iPUBLISH = iHIGHWAY ROBBERY? The Writers' Guild is warning its members to stay away from iPublish, the digital imprint of TimeWarner Books. The Guild claims that iPublish's standard contract forces authors to give up too many rights. Wired 05/18/01

VOLCANIC VERSE: Tomaz Salamun is one of Eastern Europe's most celebrated poets, yet he views himself as a "monster." His bleak, sometimes violent poems reflect the harsh landscape of the war-torn region he hails from, and he seems to consider his art as much a weapon as a mode of expression. "Poetry makes a human being more human, but it can also dehumanize, like a big passion, a horrible obsession driven by laws that are beyond the human." San Jose Mercury News (AP) 05/18/01

MISERABLES II - GAVROCHE STRIKES BACK: "Descendants of Victor Hugo, outraged by a contemporary sequel to his 1862 novel "Les Miserables," urged France and the European Parliament on Tuesday to condemn the commercial misuse of literary classics... 'Does anyone think someone could commission a Tenth Beethoven Symphony?' they asked in an open letter." Chicago Tribune 05/17/01

BAD FOR BOOKS: It's been a miserable few years for the Canadian book industry. "The situation, in which the industry has been hit by much heavier than usual returns - as staggeringly high as 60% in some cases - has undergone a bewildering sense of disorientation, and has experienced an agonizing feeling of betrayal, and can only get better." Publishers Weekly 05/14/01

RULES OF LIFE: How truthful should biographies attempt to be? "It is striking that while biography itself goes in and out of fashion with critics and publishers (not long ago, it was being asserted in publishing circles that the bottom had dropped out of the biography market: popular history was all the rage), the debate over the rules or ethics of writing life stories never dies away." New Statesman 05/14/01

WORDS OF THE AGES: Do writers get better with age? "The older an author gets, the easier it is for them to leave behind the preoccupations of their youth, to invent freely and explore with ambition. Thus the long-distance author shape-shifts in mid-career." The Guardian (UK) 05/16/01

LIFE OF THE PARTY: Academics have generally distrusted writers of biographies. "Although biographers do pretty much the same thing as academics - they go to libraries, find stuff out, and then publish books about it - the two camps have always kept themselves stiffly to themselves, held apart by a barely disguised tangle of envy, suspicion and defensive superiority." Those attitudes may be thawing. New Statesman 05/14/01


IT'S GETTING UGLY OUT THERE: Unless you're Mel Brooks, it's a bad time to be opening a new musical on Broadway. In addition to the much-expected early closing of Seussical!, several other high-profile shows are shutting down quickly, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which lasted less than a month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/01

WHAT DREAMS MAY DIE: Seussical was the most anticipated show of the current Broadway season. But the reviews were bad, business never got going full steam, and now the show is closing May 20. 05/16/01

  • LOSING BIG: The show lost $11 million, making it one of Broadway's all-time biggest losers. The New York Times 05/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)


THE HOT NEW... Christie's New York sale of contemporary art breaks record for contemporary sales. The New York Times 05/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MUSEUM IN THE CENTER: A new national museum for Scotland is being planned as the centerpiece of an ambitious new £1 billion urban redevelopment program in Edinburgh. The Scotsman 05/17/01

HOW TO ABUSE A GENEROUS OFFER: Joe Brown owns the best collection of Australian art still in private hands. He wants to give the $60 million collection to the Australian government. "The 400 paintings date from the moment of white settlement to the present" and the collection includes 50 sculptures and 3500 art books. So why has the government not jumped at the opportunity? The Age (Melbourne) 05/17/01

CONTEMPORARY BATTLES: There's a battle going on over the future of Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art. "It has all the hubristic elements of great drama - ambition, vanity, greed, bitterness, upthemselves-osity etc - plus a characteristic specific to Sydney. In this case, it's the catastrophic tendency of this city to tangle public heritage, private gain, personal vendettas and political ambition into a knot, which I fear will lead to us having no MCA at all." Sydney Morning Herald 05/17/01

RUN LOLA RUN: The Canadian art magazine Lola has, in only four years, risen from a no-budget 'zine to one of the influential voices in Canadian culture. It is simultaneously slick and substantive, and caters largely to a young demographic, but without resorting to the sulky tone of so many other similar publications. In fact, more than anything else, Lola seems, well, happy. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/17/01

O'KEEFFE PROJECT CANCELED: A long-anticipated movie biography of Georgia O'Keeffe, which "was to have starred Linda Fiorentino as O'Keeffe and Ben Kingsley as Alfred Stieglitz, has been canceled, after Fiorentino didn't show up for shooting and producers were unable to find a replacement. Producers are suing the actress. The Art Newspaper 05/17/01

THE GREAT POWERFUL OZ: The Sotheby's/Christie's indictments have blown away the facade of the privileged world of art auctioneering. "Their customers, many of them, are so rich and careful of their reputations that trust is presumed to be at the core of their activities. This has always been fantasy, of course. But all illusions have been blown apart by the strong-armed methods of the judicial system in the United States." Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

DOING VERMEER: There's something of a mini Vermeer industry going on - a major exhibition, new books..."To read about Johannes Vermeer and to look at his pictures is sometimes to think you have entered a fairy-tale domain. Thereís an Arabian Nights flavor about a painter who leaves so few traces of himself (we have no knowledge of his working methods, or who if anyone he studied with, or if he had any pupils); dies fairly young (at forty-three, in 1675); and is represented by a remarkably small body of pictures, each of which is somehow a precious link in the story." New York Review of Books 05/31/01

THE MET'S NEW BLOCKBUSTER: The Jackie Kennedy show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is breaking records. And racking up sales. "The Kennedy show's catalog, $50 in hardcover and $35 in paperback, has been selling at the rate of 600 a day and has gone into a second printing. A CD of Mrs. Kennedy's favorite music, including that of "Camelot," has sold 2,000 copies." The New York Times 05/15/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RAISING MONEY THROUGH ART: Should charities be able to sell off their artwork in order to raise money? In England, a court will rule this week on whether a charity can sell its prized collection of "150 paintings, including works by Hogarth and Gainsborough." The Independent (UK) 05/13/01

TAKING ON THE TURNER: The Turner Prize has become one of the most controversial arts awards in the world, thanks to the last several winners, which included a dead and bisected calf, a mattress soaked in bodily fluids, and other such traditionally off-putting material. One London newspaper is on a crusade to find out how the winners are chosen, when nominations are supposed to come from the general public. London Evening Standard 05/11/01

PLUS: International Museum of Cartoon Art attempts to sell original first drawings of Mickey Mouse, done in 1928 ~ Michelangelo drawing found last year in England is expected to sell for £8 million at auction ~  Brazil's religious art is being stolen at an alarming rate ~ Jeff Koons' sculpture of Michael Jackson and his pet monkey Bubbles was sold at auction in New York for a record $5.6 million.


BROKE BERLIN: Berlin has major cultural ambitions, expensive cultural ambitions. But paying for them is quite another thing. Fact is, Berlin doesn't have the cash. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/18/01

NO TAKEBACKS ALLOWED: In 1997 the mayor and city council of San Antonio decided to take back a grant to a controversial arts group. Now a federal judge has ruled against the city and says the grant cannot be revoked. "Once a governing body chooses to fund art, the Constitution requires that it be funded in a viewpoint-neutral manner, that is, without discriminating among recipients on the basis of their ideology." The New York Times 05/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A LID FOR LINCOLN CENTER? New York's Lincoln Center is planning a ten-year $1.5 million makeover. So what's in the works? Rumors are flying that a dome to cover the central plaza is being considered, among other ideas. The New York Times 05/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ALL IN THE PLANNING: "Today, everybody needs to establish a business plan: universities, schools, theatres, orchestras, opera and dance companies. Since businesses run everything, it was felt that it would generally make for smoother sailing if everything were run like a business." So what happens to the art? Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/14/01


IF RICHARD SIMMONS CAN MAKE MONEY... A new exercise video might not get you to Lincoln Center, but it's a good workout. The New York City Ballet Workout is "a new fitness tape that combines classic ballet steps and toning moves in a well-conceived but difficult routine. The 58-minute routine is led by the off-camera voice of Peter Martins, the NYCB's ballet master-in-chief, who carefully guides four dancers through the total-body routine." Los Angeles Daily News 05/14/01

WIN A LITTLE MORE, LIVE A LITTLE LONGER: "Oscar winners live nearly four years longer than either actors who were never nominated or those who were nominated and did not win. 'Once you get the Oscar, it gives you an inner sense of peace and accomplishment that can last for your entire life, and that alters the way your body copes with stress on a day-to-day basis'." Nando Times (AP) 05/14/01

EWWWW: Quick, name the hottest ticket in New York. Right, The Producers. Easy one. But the second most popular show in town is just starting to generate the buzz that Mel Brooks gets when he blows his nose. And speaking of bodily excretions, the name of the show is "Urinetown," and it's about corporate greed, vanishing natural resources, and, well, you know... Chicago Tribune 05/17/01