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Week of  May 18-25, 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



WHAT AILS YOU: "Anyone now catching up on medical literature from the past few years can't help being struck by the vast amount of attention devoted to intriguing cases from long ago. Investigations by modern doctors have suggested that Catherine the Great suffered from syphilis, that Kant suffered from Alzheimer's, and that Brahms suffered from sleep apnea; that Van Gogh and Saint Teresa of Avila were afflicted with temporal-lobe epilepsy; that Chopin was felled by emphysema or cystic fibrosis; and that Mozart was done in by streptococcus, not by Salieri. The Atlantic 05/01

IDEAS IN PICTURES: Philosophers have traditionally dwelled in the universe of words. But a new book proposes that "philosophical themes can also be represented as artistic images, not just in texts, as has traditionally been the case. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/22/01

LEARNING TO BE CREATIVE: What's wrong with today's artists? No discipline. We've come to believe that the discipline of rote learning and structure is anathema to creativity. But creativity without background and knowledge and skill flops around incoherently. How about a return to traditional rigors? Mozart wouldn't have been Mozart without it. Sunday Times (UK) 05/20/01


PERSONA NON GRATA: Betty Oliphant, the Canadian dance legend who helped to found the National Ballet School and the National Ballet of Canada, has been virtually banned from both of the institutions she brought to prominence. "Oliphant is the vivid personification of the Dylan Thomas poem advising us not to go gentle into that good night. Time has not withered her formidable mind. Neither has it softened her acid tongue." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/23/01

A FAREWELL TO THE HUB: The Boston Ballet wrapped up its season this week, and the final curtain call was unusually poignant, as it marked the conclusion of a season filled with turmoil and bad feelings. Several of the troupe's dancers were not offered contracts for next season, and the artistic director is leaving the company after sixteen years. Boston Herald 05/22/01

THEY ONLY REMEMBER HER BROTHER: "History is full of unlucky artists less famous than they should be. Bronislava Nijinska, the greatest female ballet choreographer of the 20th century, had many obstacles to overcome... New Statesman 05/21/01

JEROME ROBBINS, MEANY? A new 600-page biography of choreographer Jerome Robbins says he was difficult to work with and frequently screamed at dancers. So... what about the work and what it means? The New Yorker 05/21/01

TALE OF TWO CITIES: The Fort Worth Dallas Ballet has been struggling as a two-city company. "The company's survival is also the story of Dallas's inability to keep its own ballet company despite several tries. The downfall of the Dallas Ballet in 1988 followed a painful fund-raising campaign that had dancers in tutus panhandling passersby. Another company, Ballet Dallas, emerged from the ashes only to fold several years later, leaving Dallas with no ballet at all." The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)


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. Los Angeles Times 05/20/01

RAINING BOMBS? As film critics converge on Hawaii for the $5 million party to open the $135 million movie Pearl Harbor, word from the advance screenings isn't good. And some wonder about the appropriateness of the lavish event. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/21/01

THE TROUBLE WITH KIDS' MOVIES: What's with these lousy new kids' movies? "These loud extravaganzas pummel children for attention, stunning them into a sugar-rush buzz that keeps them from realizing they're getting less for their movie buck than they deserve. Like heart. Like soul. Like a good story." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05/20/01

WHO'LL SAY IT'S BAD? Movies are arguably the most influential artform of our age. Yet, complains Roger Ebert, “there is essentially no film criticism on national American television, except for our show, the critics on the morning programmes and on CNN. These are about the only places on American television where you might hear that a movie is bad. The other national shows essentially focus on chat, gossip, premiere sound bites, who’s in rehab, who’s getting divorced.” The Times (UK) 05/25/01

YOU WANT ME TO FLY WHAT CLASS? In the current Hollywood negotiations, the actors' unions want more money. The producers, apparently trying to avoid a strike, say they're not asking for any major rollbacks. However, they would like to pay less for bit actors, and make performers fly business class instead of first class. O5/25/01

BLACK & WHITE TV: "Although African-Americans have been a presence on television since its birth, their presence hasn't always been a positive or representative one. Why? The answer varies depending upon whom you ask and what statistics you look at. Mostly, though, the question leads to the conclusion that TV is still considered a business that takes place in a vacuum rather than a cultural force with significant social side effects." Salon 05/22/01

YANKEE STAY HOME: Producers who find Canada to be a cheap and attractive alternative to making their films in the U.S. are about to run smack into the Screen Actors' Guild. SAG says that, as part of the negotiations to avoid a summer strike, it intends to curb the growth of so-called "runaway productions." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/23/01



NO RECORD OF IT: The Scottish National Opera has lost its recording contract, including for a planned recording of Inés, by Scottish composer James MacMillan, commissioned by Scottish Opera in 1996. The opera has become one of the troubled company’s proudest achievements. The Scotsman 05/25/01

ATTACK ON THE NAPSTER CLONES: "Major record companies filed a lawsuit against file-sharing Web service Aimster on Thursday, asserting the company is helping customers infringe upon the copyrights of millions of sound recordings worldwide. It said the company was providing the same abilities to its customers as Napster." San Francisco Chronicle 05/24/01

PIANO OLYMPICS: The Van Cliburn Piano Competition begins Friday, and the 30 contestants, looking a little dazed, were introduced to a barrage of press. This is "the most public of music competitions, a civic and media extravaganza." Dallas Morning News 05/24/01

CROUCHING TIGER, STOLEN MUSIC? "A Chinese mainland-based composer is planning legal action for breach of copyright after his works were allegedly used without authorization in the Oscar-winning film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, press reports said yesterday. Ning Yong... said he had already contacted a legal firm in Guangzhou to sue Tan Dun, who won the best original score Oscar for his music in the film." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) (AFP) 05/22/01

  • NO THEFT HERE: Composer Tan Dun says he did not steal any of the music he used for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as alleged by Chinese composer Ning Yong. Tan "said that the professor is confusing the film's original soundtrack with additional music chosen by director Ang Lee for the movie." BBC 05/24/01

WOMEN'S PHIL ON THE BRINK: The San Francisco-based Women's Philharmonic has cancelled its entire 2001-02 concert season, citing a lack of funds. The 20-year-old organization is a powerful advocate for women in the too often male-dominated orchestral world, and that side of the Philharmonic will continue to operate. San Francisco Chronicle 05/22/01

SUE 'EM, THEN BUY 'EM: Eight months after Vivendi Universal successfully sued over copyright violation, the French multimedia giant has bought the digital music site for $372 million. BBC 05/21/01

HARRASSING THE SINGERS: Members of the Scottish National Opera chorus say they are being "verbally and mentally bullied" by the company. Scottish Opera has suffered from a series of controversies in the past year. "These are performers, these are not car mechanics. They are finely tuned instruments and if you overheat an instrument or freeze an instrument it goes out of tune. Performers are no different." The Scotsman 05/21/01

NEW MINNESOTA MAESTRO: The Minnesota Orchestra has named Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, 48, as the orchestra's 10th music director. Hopes are high for Vänskä, reportedly well-liked by the orchestra's players, to revitalize the orchestra's artistic fortunes, which have waned in recent years. St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/24/01

  • NEW WINNIPEG MAESTRO: The Winnipeg Symphony has chosen Russian-born conductor Andrey Boreyko, 44, as its new music director, succeeding Bramwell Tovey. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/19/01



MR OPERA: Buck for buck, Alberto Vilar is "the biggest benefactor in musical history. In four years, he has given $225 million to opera, ballet and orchestras - and there is more to come, much more, the planned gifts dropping into our conversation like paragliders into a disaster zone. His high visibility has raised concerns among guardians of operatic purity, who fear that this bumptious outsider may be exerting a malign influence on their art." The Telegraph (UK) 05/23/01

SIR PETER PLAYWRIGHT: Playwright Peter Shaffer is knighted by the Queen. "A unique figure among modern dramatists, for three decades he produced a series of successful plays which tackled huge themes, making him the playwright who makes mainstream audiences think about the big ideas of their times." The Times (UK) 05/21/01


THE E-FUTURE: Is there an audience for e-books? "Subscription, pay-per-view, ad-supported - online publishing will only succeed when there are many business models, and publishers and users can choose the appropriate model for their needs." Publishers Weekly 05/21/01

MAYBE HE'LL MOVE THE SCROLL TO BALTIMORE: Jack Kerouac's original manuscript for On the Road was sold at auction for $2.43 million yesterday, more than $1 million over the expected sale price. The manuscript is written on one continuous roll of paper. Oh, and the winning bidder? That would be Jim Irsay, best known as the owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. MSNBC 05/23/01

BLOWIN' IN THE WIND: A federal appeals court has cleared the way for publication of The Wind Done Gone, a novel that parodies, and borrows liberally from, Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. The ruling reverses a lower court decision blocking publication. Nando Times (AP) 05/26/01

WRITING ON THE WALL? The legendary Writer's Voice program at New York's West Side YMCA, "an unusually fertile training ground for writers," has announced it was canceling its summer programs. But a recent troubled history of management and rumor has many wondering if the program will ever resume. They worry that a "20-year-old community institution whose students and professors have included the likes of Pulitzer winner Michael Cunningham, Walter Mosley, and Sue Miller" will be lost forever. Village Voice 05/22/01

THE NEXT CHAPTER: Troubled Canadian book superstore Chapters is downsizing to try to solve its money woes. But "why should Chapters have its wings clipped? Just because it expanded far too rapidly? Just because it targeted and drove independent bookstores out of business? Just because it strong-armed and bullied publishers? Just because it returned books by the truckload? Just because it delayed payment of its bills until publishers and authors alike teetered on the edge of bankruptcy? Just because its doomed course - iceberg? what iceberg? - might well have dragged a sizable chunk of Canadian publishing down to the bottom with it?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/21/01

UNRELIABLE SOURCES: Critics seem to be wrong just about as often as they're right. From the archives of publisher Alfred A. Knopf, the reviews of readers considering what books to publish, show serious lapses in judgment. The Observer (UK) 05/20/01

EVEN IF YOU PAY... There are lots of problems with the magazine Foreword's announcement it will review books for authors at a cost of $295. "It's obvious that ForeWord won't get much business from the publishers it claims it means to serve. See, ForeWord reviews will be worthless unless they seem objective, and so they're going to have to be negative on occasion. Do you think publishers are going to pay for bad reviews? Big publishers don't need to, and small publisher don't have the money to waste." Mobylives 05/21/01


TAKING STOCK OF BROADWAY: One way of taking stock of the state of Broadway is to look at the quality of plays and the health of the box office - both of which seem to be doing fine right now. Another way is to make note of the theatres - those that came into service this season, and those which disappeared forever. 05/24/01

REINVENTING SHAKESPEARE: The Royal Shakespeare Company has the prestige, but "the current structure of the RSC, where actors must commit to a lengthy contract in order to perform with the company, is a deterrent to many actors and directors." So the RSC is restructuring, allowing "shorter contracts, bold programming of plays and better pay and conditions for actors." BBC 05/25/01

NEW A.R.T. DIRECTOR: Robert Brustein is stepping down as director of American Repertory Theatre next summer. And after looking at 70 candidates, the company has chosen Robert Woodruff, a director known for his avant-garde work to replace Brustein, who is 70. The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BEST OF (OFF) BROADWAY: Thirty-four New York theatre folk pick their favorites of the off-Broadway theatre season. Village Voice 05/22/01

CHICAGO VICTORY: Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre has won this year's Regional Theatre Tony award. "For theaters outside New York, this award, which is given in advance of most of the Tonys in other categories, is singularly important." The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PRODUCERS WINS: The Producers wins a record 11 Drama Desk awards in New York. The New York Times 05/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A FEW GOOD SCORES: For some years now, the Tony category for best musical score has been something of an embarrasment "ever since Broadway was occupied by British invaders and Disney investors." But this year there are finally some scores that have meat on their bones. The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PICTURING SHAKESPEARE: "A retired Canadian engineer, telling a tale of ancient family ties, mistaken judgments and surprise revelations, has roiled the world of Shakespeare scholarship by saying he possesses a striking portrait painted in 1603 showing Shakespeare as a coy man of 39, with a full head of hair and a Mona Lisa smile." The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)


WHO ME COMPETE? Newly released memos between Christie's and Sotheby's reveal a cozy relationship. "The arrangements — beyond the already admitted collusion of fixing the commission fees paid by sellers — paint a picture of competitors operating not so much as cutthroat rivals but almost as cozy partners, happy to consult each other on matters big and small to the detriment of their customers." The New York Times 05/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ARE YOU A STUCKIST? "Stuckists want to put painting back on its pedestal, they want to see brush strokes on canvas and recognisable objects. Down, they say, with all the detached, 'clever' stuff that these days passes as art." The Age (Melbourne) 05/25/01

OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Why did women artists married to famous artists take so long to develop careers? "Did Lee Krasner have no choice but to wait for alcohol to kill Jackson Pollock? Did Elaine de Kooning need to separate from Willem, Helen Frankenthaler to divorce Robert Motherwell before their talents could really develop?" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/25/01

WHAT ABOUT LATIN AMERICAN? Though Latino musicians seem to be gaining popularity in the US, art by Latin American artists hasn't caught on. Why? 05/24/01

ART AS INVESTMENT: A new business index tracks the value of art from 1875 to the present. "Starting from a baseline value of 100, the market peaked in 1990 at 2,476 before dropping 20 percent over the next four years. By last year, art prices had fully recovered, reaching a level of 2,566, although the Impressionist works still lag behind their top performance, according to the index." Globe & Mail (AP) 05/23/01

ART IN IRAN: Iran's artists seem to be coming out to play again. "While there has been liberalisation in the past five years, it has taken the form of a general loosening of control rather than a principled move away from strictness. Discretion is the hallmark of the newest Iranian art — or at least of its presentation. Timing may well be all." The Times (UK) 05/23/01

PETITIONING ABOUT LEONARDO: More than 30 art scholars are protesting the Ufizzi's plans to work on a Leonardo painting. "Several petitioners said their main concern was the vulnerability of the Leonardo painting (1481-82), which in its unfinished state is too fragile to undergo the rigors of a restoration, or consolidation and stabilization in the language of art restorers." The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TERRA LAWSUIT SETTLED: A lawsuit filed last year over the future of the Terra Museum in suburban Chicago has reportedly been settled. The terms of the settlement require that the Terra stay in Illinois - a potential move was the reason for the suit - but would allow the museum's collection to be merged with another area institution. Chicago Tribune 05/23/01

MONUMENT ON THE MALL: Despite loud and persistent criticism, the US Congress has voted to erect a monument to World War II on the National Mall in Washington DC. "The turf war is over one of the most visible and hallowed pieces of territory in America: 7.4 acres of the Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument." The New York Times 05/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

RUSSIAN HARD LINE: "According to German sources, a recent international conference on looted art held in Moscow failed to make any progress and, in the view of some, demonstrated a Russian reluctance to return art works (taken in World War II) to Germany, Hungary, Poland, and other countries." Radio Free Europe 05/21/01

  • LOOT OR COMPENSATION? The Russians are reluctant to return art they took from Germany in World War II. Now a new Russian policy: "Beginning immediately, the European cultural treasures taken to Russia as war spoils by army brigades in the postwar period will no longer be regarded as 'looted art'. Instead, they will be termed 'compensation' for losses suffered. Those in power now plan to garner the greatest possible benefit from the art looted in that era." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/21/01

OUTSIDER ART COMES IN: The $22 million Museum of American Folk Art opening this December is "the first major art museum in New York since the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1966. Its centerpiece is the Contemporary Center, devoted to the exhibition and research of contemporary self-taught artists. Business 2.0 05/21/01

IN JOURNALISM THEY CALL IT PLAGIARISM: Net photographer Michael Mandiberg is challenging notions of originality with his latest work. His new show "features his scanned reproductions of photographs taken by the respected artist Sherrie Levine. The catch: Levine's originals, shot in the late 1970s, are head-on photos of black-and-white documentary photographs of Depression-era Alabama sharecroppers, which were shot in 1936 by the legendary Walker Evans." Wired 05/21/01

STAR POWER: Clients are rushing to sign up the biggies in architecture - the brand names - because they think doing so will help them get donors and publicity and, maybe, more exciting buildings. 'Signature buildings' is another term you hear, as if architects signed their work like painters." Boston Globe 05/20/01



REFORMS FOR ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE: "Italy’s new Prime Minister, will appoint a Culture Minister... who will preside over a ministry that has just emerged from a four-year process of reform.... The shake-up goes right to the top with the creation of a new position of secretary general." The Art Newspaper 05/24/01

REDRAWING THE ARTS MAP: Margaret Seares is leaving as the chairperson of the Australia Arts Council. She leaves four years in which the arts funding map has been redrawn and the council and its clients have begun to think more strategically about their operations. Sydney Morning Herald 05/23/01

CONTEMPO LEAD: Vienna is about to open a new £100 million contemporary arts center - the world's largest. It's "the biggest investment in culture that Austria has made in more than a century. When the Museums Quartier centre for contemporary arts opens next month it will cover 60,000 square yards and turn Vienna, whose best-known cultural offspring include Gustav Klimt and Mozart, into a world centre for modern art." The Telegraph (UK) 05/20/01

REDEMPTION THROUGH THE ARTS: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has long been a collection of abandoned industrial buildings. But two years ago the city started an arts district to encourage the arts and revitalization of the city's downtown. "The district comprises more than 60 blocks. Artists can waive the sales tax on art they sell there. Those who live and work in the district are also eligible for a state income-tax exclusion on any money their art generates. The city has lured two longstanding cultural institutions from Providence." Boston Globe 05/20/01


PHONE RAGE: Readers of the Cleveland Plain Dealer are fed up with cell phones and pagers chirping in their concert halls and theatres. Readers wrote to the paper after a story on the subject to suggest solutions: "One reader pointed out that most states - but not Ohio - have laws prohibiting concealed weapons, so why not pass laws banning concealed cell phones? 'If someone is caught with one and it goes off during a concert, ban 'em for the rest of the season'." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/21/01