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PEOPLE - March 2002

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Thursday March 28

UNCLE MILTIE PASSES ON: "Milton Berle, the brash comedian who emerged from vaudeville, nightclubs, radio and films to become the first star of television, igniting a national craze for the new medium in the late 1940's, died yesterday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 93." The New York Times 03/28/02

LATIN LEGACY: It is one of the great literary paradoxes of the last century that the nations of Latin America could have been plagued by so many vicious dictators and repressive regimes, and yet still produced so many successful and widely-read novelists. Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the most prolific and well-known, and, like so many of his contemporaries, he has spent his career treading the line between writing and politics. (Llosa even ran for president in his native Peru.) But to him, the spirit of Latin American writing is a special quality that has never been duplicated. The New York Times 03/28/02

Wednesday March 27

DOROTHY DELAY, 84: Behind every great musician, there is at least one great teacher, and Dorothy DeLay was that teacher to an astonishing number of the world's top violinists for the past several decades. From Itzhak Perlman to Gil Shaham to Nigel Kennedy, DeLay was a legend among her students, and she became the closest thing the music world has to a matriarch, overseeing the progress of a studio of young musicians which can only be described as the finest in the world. Dorothy DeLay died this week, after a battle with cancer. The New York Times 03/27/02

Tuesday March 26

EVERYBODY HATES ME: Author Salman Rushdie said in a German interview that he thinks the British press is out to discredit him. "These ambush writers are probably angry that I wasn't killed. They are holding a grudge against me for surviving the fatwa and that I'm now leading a better life." BBC 03/26/02

DOROTHY DELAY, 84: Dorothy Delay was the world's foremost violin teacher. A list of her students reads like a Who's Who of the modern violin world. "DeLay began her teaching career at Juilliard in 1948, earning a reputation as the world's foremost violin teacher — and a woman with the clout to boost young careers by picking up the phone and dialing an international network of managers and influential musicians." Andante (AP) 03/25/02

Sunday March 24

AN UNUSUALLY DOWN-TO-EARTH DIVA: "Eileen Farrell, who excelled as both an opera and pop soprano in a string of successful recordings and performances including five seasons at the Met, died Saturday. She was 82... Although her career at opera's top level was relatively brief, she was considered one of the leading dramatic sopranos of her time." Andante (AP) 03/24/02

COURTING CONTROVERSY: Michael Frayn's Copenhagen, a play about a meeting between two nuclear scientists, one Danish, one German, in 1941, has been under fire by numerous critics since its debut. Some say that the play doesn't condemn Nazi policy strongly enough, others claim historical innacuracy. Frayn himself is circumspect: "With hindsight I think I accept some of these criticisms. [But] I'm not so sure about a greater stress on the evil of the Nazi regime. I thought that this was too well understood to need pointing out. It is, after all, the given of the play." The Guardian (UK) 03/23/02

BOOING FROM THE WINGS: Valery Gergiev is one of those omnipresent conductors who seems always to be in demand and on top of the charts. But the usual backstage grumblings that plague many conductors have hit a fever pitch with Gergiev. Musicians hate him for his indecisive baton, critics complain that he knows too small a slice of the repertory, and administrators despise his chronic lateness and frequent cancellations. So why is he still so famous? The truth may be that competence often has little to do with conducting success, but it is equally true that musical insiders are often disdainful of artists who are popular with the public. The New York Times 03/24/02

SLAVA'S WORLD: Few musicians are as universally beloved as cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, and for good reason. The Russian emigré who has crafted one of the last century's greatest performing and conducting careers is a bridge between the musical stars of yesterday and today. He has the profound presence of Pablo Casals, but the easy humor and approachability of Yo-Yo Ma, and th combination makes him a favorite with musicians and audiences alike. The New York Times 03/23/02

THE CRIME OF ACCESSIBILITY: "Philip Glass, who in his hungry years drove a cab in New York, likes to tell the story of the elderly passenger who looked at his taxi licence and informed him that he had the same name as a famous opera composer. That would never happen to Carlisle Floyd, a retired music professor who has had many more performances of his operas than Glass, without a 10th of the renown... Floyd's cardinal sin, in some eyes, is to write music that pleases many and challenges no one. His realistic operas are full of hummable tunes, many of them fashioned after the folk songs he heard while following his father, a Methodist preacher, through the U.S. South during the thirties." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/23/02

Thursday March 21

BARENBOIM'S PEACE CALL: Conductor Daniel Barenboim, who last month wanted to perform a peace concert in a Palestinian town, and last year surprised his audience in Israel by performing Wagner, has published a call for Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to resign. "Sharon promised his voters peace and security, but delivered the opposite, and Arafat must go, he said, because many Palestinians were upset about a lack of democracy and widespread corruption in their own leadership ranks."  Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/21/02

Wednesday March 20

POSTHUMOUS HONOR FOR DUMAS: "The ashes of the author behind The Three Musketeers, Alexandre Dumas, are to be transferred to the Pantheon in Paris. Dumas' remains are currently in his home village of Villers-Cotterets but are to be moved to France's most famous mausoleum... Those interred within are some of the country's top luminaries including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie and Emile Zola." BBC 03/20/02

Tuesday March 19

OUT OF THE FAMILY: Laughlin Phillips has stepped down as chairman of Washington DC's Phillips Collection. He's held the position since 1972, and is the last of the Phillips family to have direct control over the museum. "Phillips made sweeping changes to the institution. Like many similar art museums across the country, the Phillips went from being the expression of a founder's vision to being a major public amenity with a broader, if less personal, mandate and character." Washington Post 03/19/02

TIMID AIRLINE BANS RUSHDIE: Air Canada has banned author Salman Rushdie from its planes because of the extra security he travels with. "The company said in an internal e-mail the checks would cause too much disruption and inconvenience to other passengers and Mr Rushdie should not be allowed to book flights with the airline." BBC 03/19/02

Monday March 18

WRITER OF SLIGHT: Thomas Kinkade sells schlocky landscape paintings, "sold in thousands of mall-based franchise galleries nationwide," and earning "$130 million in sales last year." "According to Media Arts Group, the publicly traded company that sells Kinkade reproductions and other manifestations of 'the Thomas Kinkade lifestyle brand,' including furniture and other examples of what the company's chairman memorably called 'art-based products,' his work hangs in one out of every 20 American homes." Now Kinkade's "written" a novel, a "shamelessly money-grubbing little bait-and-switch" aesthetically in line with the rest of the Kinkade empire. Salon 03/17/02

  • PAINTER OF LIFESTYLE: Kinkade has his name on a housing development north of San Francisco that promises the idyllic kind of life depicted in his paintings.  "What is surprising, though, is just how far short of the mark it falls. I arrived at Kinkade's Village expecting to be appalled by a horror show of treacly Cotswold kitsch; I was even more horrified by its absence." Salon 03/17/02 

MAN OF THE THEATRE: Actor-director-writer Carmelo Bene has died at the age of 64. He was "the enfant terrible of Italian stage and screen" and "shared the distinction with Dario Fo of being a theatrical artist who also became a literary phenomenon. Afflicted with almost every illness in the medical books, and obliged to have four by-pass operations in the late 1980s (repeated in 2000), he reappeared in public in 1994 as the sole guest of Italian commercial TV's most popular late-night talk show. He held his own for two hours against the onslaught of a sceptical but bemused audience. " The Guardian (UK) 03/18/02

Sunday March 17

A LAVISH CAREER: At 79, director Franco Zeffirelli "is the same age as Verdi at the premiere of Falstaff, his comic farewell to the stage. The two have been in touch a great deal of late." For decades, Zeffirelli's lavish productions have been a Metropolitan Opera staple. Usually a hit with audiences, the productions haven't been kindly treated by critics for some time. A revival of Zeffirelli's Falstaff, which was his Met debut in 1964, is an opportunity to reflect on what initially attracted the opera world to him. The New York Times 03/17/02

Friday March 15

108 YEARS OF MUSIC (OR WAS IT 109?): Leo Ornstein was one of the most innovative American composers of the 1920s - if you'd asked most music critics of the time, they probably would have pegged him as America's brightest music prospect. But by the 1930s he had disappeared from the music scene. Doesn't mean he died though. In fact, he didn't die until a few weeks ago, at the age of 108 or 109 (the year is in dispute). The Economist) 03/14/02

IN LETTERS: Dr. Edoardo Crisafulli, cultural attaché of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes to deplore an Observer article about a campaign by a group of British arts luminaries to lobby Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi to keep Mario Fortunato, the Italian cultural envoy to London: "There is no such thing as a witch-hunt against left-wing intellectuals at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as the general tenor of Ms Bedell's [Observer] article seems to suggest - Mr Silvio Berlusconi is a democratically elected head of government, not a dictator. It is simply false to claim that Mr Mario Fortunato will not be reconfirmed because of his sexual orientation or political ideas." 03/15/02

  • THE STORY: BUT HE THROWS A GOOD PARTY... London "arts celebrities" have mounted a campaign to pressure Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi not to remove Mario Fortunato, the Italian cultural envoy to London. "A letter to Mr Berlusconi, published last week in Italian and British newspapers, praised Dr Fortunato's tenure as a roaring commercial and artistic success which turned the Belgravia institute into one of London's hippest cultural spots." The Guardian (UK) 02/25/02

Thursday March 14

RIOPELLE DIES: "Jean-Paul Riopelle, a great but impulsive artist who even when famous would burn his paintings to heat his apartment, died on Wednesday at his home on the Ile-aux-Grues in the St. Lawrence River. He was 78." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 03/14/02

Wednesday March 13

SUE THE ONES YOU LOVE: The new chairman of the Orange County Performing Arts Center is suing one of the center's biggest benefactors. Henry Samueli has raised more than $10 million for the center, but he's the subject of a stock fraud lawsuit brought in part by OC's Thomas Thierney. "Some fear that the legal fight will dampen donations and force arts leaders to take sides." Los Angeles Times 03/12/02

Tuesday March 12

HAMISH HENDERSON, 82: Scottish poet Hamish Hendson has died at the age of 82. "Henderson was, first and last, a poet, and poetry was for them both language rising into song, responsible to moment, people, place and joy. Not for Henderson Auden's conceit that poetry never made anything happen; he believed that 'poetry becomes people' and changes nations, that poetry elevates and gives expression to the deepest and best being of mankind, that poetry is a measure that extends far beyond the written word, that poetry is pleasure and a call to arms." The Guardian (UK) 03/11/02

ACCIDENTAL TOURIST: Monologuist Spalding Gray is supposed to be on tour now reprising his Swimming to Cambodia piece. But he's been having trouble concentrating after a nasty car accident in Ireland. "It took an hour for the stupid ambulance to arrive. I ended up in one of those horrible Irish country hospitals and they wanted to leave me there in traction for six weeks." Chicago Tribune 03/12/02

QUILTING TO THE MUSIC: What do musicians do in the intermissions at the opera? At Chicago Lyric Opera, they make quilts. "The old-fashioned communal handiwork has been warmly embraced by the 31 women in the 75-member orchestra. Twenty-two of them have painstakingly pieced together 24 individual squares and nearly everyone else has sidled up to the frame to do a little needlework." Chicago Tribune 03/12/02

Sunday March 10

THE LITERARY DIRECTOR: Director Mary Zimmerman, a "41-year-old Chicago stage director, winner of a MacArthur 'genius' fellowship and a full professor of performance studies at Northwestern, has an unusual calling. She is a specialist in literary spectacle. Few working theater directors so completely integrate a life of scholarship and showmanship." The New York Times 03/09/02

Friday March 8

ROY SITS IN PRISON: Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy is is jail in India. "In a judgment furiously derided by her fellow writers, the two-judge bench said it had no alternative but to jail the 40-year-old novelist because she had shown 'no remorse or repentance'. Justice RP Sethi said her crime deserved a longer sentence but he was treating her magnanimously because she was a woman. The court fined her 2,000 rupees (£30) and warned her she would be jailed for a further three months if she failed to pay up. Last night Ms Roy, who is in New Delhi's sprawling Tihar prison, was debating whether to pay the fine or defy the court's two elderly judges by remaining behind bars." The Guardian (UK) 03/07/02

GOODWIN HITS BACK: Speaking at a Saint Paul college, embattled historian Doris Kearns Goodwin insisted that her reputation will survive the current plagiarism charges being leveled against her. While admitting that she had made grave mistakes in allowing unattributed passages to make their way into her books, she declared, "I know absolutely that I have dealt fairly and honestly with all my subjects." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/08/02

Thursday March 7

HUGHBRIS - CRITIC UNDER GLASS: Australian artist Danius Kesminas compacted the rental car Time Magazine art critic Robert Hughes was driving last year when Hughes had a car accident, sealed it in glass, and added objects meant to comment on Hughes' life. "Mr. Kesminas was able to create Hughbris by tracing the wreckage of Mr. Hughes's car to a dealer who was about to melt it down. He persuaded the dealer to swap it for three cases of beer and worked for several months to convert the scrap metal into a comment on the event." The New York Times 03/07/02

GIAN CARLO AT HOME: Is Gian Carlo Menotti the world's favorite living opera composer? Maybe - probably that's true in America. In Europe he's probably better-known as founder of the Spoleto Festival. In Britain he's not as well known - even though he's lived there for 30 years. "His 40-room mansion, nestling in a vast estate that rolls away over the horizon, is classic 18th-century, designed by William Adam and his sons, Robert and John." The Telegraph (UK) 03/07/02

Wednesday March 6

LEBRECHT LEAVES TELEGRAPH: The London Telegraph's contrarian arts columnist Norman Lebrecht is quitting the paper to jump to the Evening Standard where he's charged with making over that paper's cultural coverage. Lebrecht has written many doom and gloom stories about the state of arts business in his nine years at the Telegraph. But he says no one should think him pessimistic about art: "I have never felt more excited about the artistic future - at least for those arts that can open their eyes and master change while time remains." The Telegraph (UK) 03/06/02

BOOKER WINNER JAILED: "The Booker prize-winning author, Arundhati Roy, has been sentenced to a symbolic one-day prison term and fined 2,000 rupees ($42) after being found guilty of contempt of court. India's Supreme Court made the ruling in connection with remarks she made about a legal decision to allow work on the controversial Narmada Dam project." BBC 03/06/02

Tuesday March 5

GOODWIN WITHDRAWS FROM PULITZER JUDGING: Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, a member of the board for the Pulitzer Prizes, has withdrawn from participation in the selection of this year's awards. "Goodwin has been dogged by controversy since she acknowledged that she used a large number of unspecified quotes and other passages from various books, without attribution, in her Kennedy book." Boston Globe 03/05/02

  • LET'S LAY OFF GOODWIN: "In context, Goodwin's work is massive (1,094 pages in my edition). It is also almost entirely based on original sources never before disclosed - including a vast treasure of family documents and correspondence to which she alone gained access. That point also applies, it is clear from text and footnotes alike, to her presentation on Kathleen Kennedy's complex life and tragic death. That doesn't diminish the seriousness of what actually happened, but it puts it in perspective and should have put it to rest." Boston Globe 03/04/02

SLATKIN STAYING AT NATIONAL: Leonard Slatkin has renewed his contract as music director of the National Symphony for three more years. By then he will have led the orchestra for 10 years. "Slatkin's present contract was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2002-2003 season." Washington Post 03/05/02

Monday March 4

HOMAGE A SLAVA: Mstislav Rostropovich has led an extraordinary life. He is a cellist who has not only performed some of the most important music written for the instrument in the 20th century but has also been directly involved in its creation. However, it is as a political dissident - and now almost a modern icon - on a par with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov that Rostropovich has made the most impact on the wider public consciousness." The Guardian (UK) 03/02/02

GOING AFTER DORIS: As stories in the press mount up about plagiarizing historians, some anonymous tipsters seem to have a particular in for Doris Kearns Goodwin. "It's hard not to believe there isn't something sexist about the relentless lambasting Goodwin's getting," writes MobyLives' Dennis Johnson of the anonymous e-mails he's been getting about Goodwin. MobyLives 03/04/02

Friday March 1

ROCKWELL OUT AT NYT: "John Rockwell, editor of The New York Times' Sunday Arts & Leisure section for the past four years, steps down from the influential post today. He will move into the newly created position of senior cultural correspondent, writing cultural news stories and criticism... Under Rockwell's guidance, it has developed into perhaps the country's most prominent source of performing arts commentary, with coverage of everything from movies to the performing arts, from the mainstream to the fringe." Andante 03/01/02