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PEOPLE - December 2001

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Monday December 31

POET IAN HAMILTON, 61: "Highly regarded British poet and biographer Ian Hamilton, whose unauthorized life of J.D. Salinger was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, has died at the age of 61." Nando Times (AP) 12/30/01

EDWARD DOWNES, 90: Edward Downes, famous to millions of opera lovers as the host of weekly Texaco Opera Quiz heard during intermissions of Saturday broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, has died at the age of 90. Nando Times (AP) 12/30/01

Sunday December 30

IN APPRECIATION: Theatre critic Urjo Kareda has died at the age of 57. He was a critic at the Globe & Mail and the Toronto Star, and exerted an enormous influence on Canadian theatre. Toronto Star 12/30/01

Friday December 28

CLEMENT TIME: Financial Times dance critic Clement Crisp is one of the most respected critics in the UK. Crisp "commands English like a maestro controlling a vast orchestra of thousands upon thousands of instruments, some splendidly abstruse. Readers scurry to their dictionaries. Ballet, which of all the performing arts offers the highest challenge to any attempt to express it in words, has produced a tiny handful of star writers able to match the brilliance of the achievements they saw on stage with their own verbal artistry." 12/01

UNDERSTANDING RICHTER: Soviet pianist Sviatoslav Richter was not a man easily defined. A brilliant technician and musical master, he nonetheless refused to accept that any of his skills made him worthy of the praise he received, both at home and abroad. "He wanted the focus to be entirely on the music, and not on himself; a tremendous musical personality, he detested the cult of personality." Boston Globe 12/28/01

BORING ME SILLY: More and more musicians are keeping online journals. But why are they so banal? "The common denominator of these notebooks is their superficiality. They have none of the serenity of Janet Baker's late journal, nor the energy of the young Kenneth Branagh's. They serve, ostensibly, as a token of the artist's urge to communicate. But since the artist has, in most cases, nothing to say, they reduce art to mundanity and deflate our eagerness to hear it." The Telegraph (UK) 12/26/01

DEFEATING THE ARAB MYTH: Novelist Hanan al-Shaykh is a remarkable writer, but she sometimes wishes that people would stop assuming she's a remarkable woman as well, simply because she chose to leave her home in the Arab world to make a life in the West. In her newest book, she is determined to cut off at the knees some of the stereotypes that Westerners are forever laying at the feet of Arab immigrants. Nando Times (CSM News Service) 12/27/01

Thursday December 27

KAREDA PASSES: Legendary Canadian theatre manager and critic Urjo Kareda has died in Toronto at the age of 57. "Mr. Kareda was a former theatre critic at The Toronto Star and literary manager of the Stratford Festival as well as artistic director of the Tarragon Theatre for the past 20 years." Toronto Star 12/27/01

DIETRICH AT 100: "Marlene Dietrich's 100th birthday is being celebrated in Berlin, the home city of the late Hollywood star." Among many events celebrating Germany's dark diva, "the Berlin Film Museum is staging a special exhibition and showing never-before-seen private films of the late star." BBC 12/27/01

WARHOL TO GET 15 MORE: "The first major retrospective of Andy Warhol's art in more than a decade will make its only North American stop in Los Angeles next year." Although reproductions of the American icon's work are commonplace, the exhibition will be the first major display of Warhol's work since a New York viewing in 1989. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (AP) 12/27/01

Wednesday December 26

SIR NIGEL HAWTHORNE, 72: The actor died at home. "Sir Nigel achieved world-wide fame as the bumbling yet suave civil servant Sir Humphrey in the TV hit Yes Minister, but was a classical actor with a wide repertoire ranging from Shakespearean leads to raw comedy. It was once said that he spent the first 20 years of his distinguished career being ignored and the rest of it being discovered." The Guardian (UK) 12/26/01

THE SINGING ICON: Julie Andrews is 66 and facing a career without her famous singing voice. "Ms. Andrews is a rare version of an icon. There is no great enigma that trails her, none of the dark shadings of Judy Garland, or the smokiness of Frank Sinatra, or Madonna's air of entitlement. This doesn't mean she will come over to your house for lunch, but if she did, you would talk easily with her, and she would listen closely." The New York Times 12/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE SCULPTING ICON: Sculptor Louise Bourgeois turned 90 Christmas Day. "She has witnessed most of the art movements of the last century and influenced her share. She is still innovating. She puts demands on her viewers to go with her into a discomfiting zone of trauma and endurance." The New York Times 12/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday December 23

CARAVAGGIO'S DEATH CERTIFICATE: There has been much speculation in art historial circles over how exactly the great painter Caravaggio died. Now "an Italian researcher claims to have found the death certificate of Caravaggio and cleared up the mystery of how the genius of Baroque art met his end." BBC 12/22/01

Friday December 21

DOESN'T PLAY NICE WITH OTHERS: Despite the PR, there's very little "classical" about violinist Vanessa-Mae. "It seems she prefers to use her instrument to engage in mock fights with the others on stage - guitar, bass, keyboards and drums - just like a child attacking its playmates with a wooden sword in the sandbox. In the sandbox, there is always one child who must have its way; otherwise it starts to scream. Here, that child is the sometimes almost unbearable Vanessa-Mae." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/21/01

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A Canadian actor picked to be in the movie Matrix II who overstayed her visa in Australia was detained in jail while her case was processed. She didn't enjoy the experience: "It was just terrible. I was in jail with prostitutes and people that had been fruit pickers." She's been banned from the country for the next six months and will likely have to give up her role in the movie. National Post 12/20/01

Thursday December 20

THE BBC PHIL'S NEW MAN: Gianandrea Noseda, a "37-year-old Italian who cut his teeth as a conductor with Valery Gergiev in St Petersburg, has just been appointed principal conductor of the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic, succeeding Yan Pascal Tortelier." He likes fast cars - and collecting orchestras. BBC 12/20/01

Wednesday December 19

THE SINGING COP: "If Verdi were to write a new opera, it might run like this: A young man loves to sing, but at first he doesn't succeed. Then he joins the police, where he sings the national anthem. Thanks to his great voice and the mayor's patronage, - he cuts a CD and gets to study with Placido Domingo. But Verdi can put his pen down - it's true." The Christian Science Monitor 12/19/01

Tuesday December 18

WAYNE'S WORLD: When Wayne Baerwaldt takes the reins at Toronto's Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, it could mark a watershed moment for new and innovative art in Canada, according to observers. Baerwaldt, who curated Canada's entry at the Venice Biennale, and has, as curator of a high-profile Winnipeg gallery, earned a reputation as a tireless promoter of Canadian art and artists, will take over at the Power Plant in March 2002. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 12/18/01

DYING REQUEST: The words of a terminally ill poet are flying off shelves at Barnes & Noble, and their author has signed a multi-book publishing deal to write more. Six months ago, no one had ever heard of Mattie Stepanek, and never would have, but for the sympathies of a publisher who agreed to his (apparent) deathbed request to have his work publshed. Stepanek is still fighting for survival, and still cranking out the verse. Oh, and he's eleven years old. Minneapolis Star Tribune (courtesy Washington Post) 12/18/01

MÖDL DIES: "Renowned German mezzo-soprano Martha Mödl has died at the age of 89, the National Theater in Mannheim announced on Monday. Mödl, one of the most respected Wagner singers of her time, died Sunday after a long illness in a Stuttgart hospital." Andante (courtesy Agence France-Presse) 12/17/01

REMEMBERING SEBALD: When novelist W.G. Sebald was killed last week in a horrifying auto crash, the literary world lost one of its most intriguing stars. From one of his editors at Random House: "His project was the most heroic I know - he looked unflinchingly at things all of us find easy not to look at, and dragged them into the light.'' Boston Globe 12/18/01

Sunday December 16

PATRIOTIC FOG: "Because of the events of September 11, John Adams finds himself accused of being an 'anti-American' composer, a label with uncomfortable echoes of the McCarthy era of the 1950s." In the New York Times, musicologist Richard Taruskin charged Adams with "romanticising terrorists" in his 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer - and, by implication, with romanticising the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Centre, too. Taruskin's article provides some flavour of the atmosphere in the US today. "If terrorism is to be defeated," he wrote, "world public opinion has to be turned decisively against it." That means "no longer romanticising terrorists as Robin Hoods and no longer idealising their deeds as rough poetic justice". The creators of The Death of Klinghoffer - Adams, librettist Alice Goodman and director Peter Sellers - have done just that, he argued. The opera was "anti-American, anti-semitic and anti-bourgeois. Why should we want to hear this music now?" The Guardian (UK) 12/15/01

REJECTING CANADA? Actor Jim Carrey announced last week he was taking out American citizenship. Will Canadians take the news as another sign their country is in decline? Probably. But "in fact, Carrey's citizenship move should not be read as a criticism of Canada. It is simply natural for people to choose to settle in the country in which they have had the greatest financial and popular success. It is natural for movie stars to choose to settle in the country that dominates movie production. There simply aren't enough movies made in Canada, and they aren't seen by enough people, to generate the fortune that a big star can make in Hollywood." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/16/01

Wednesday December 12

SIR JIMMY: Flutist James Galway is to be knighted this week by Queen Elizabeth. "After his knighthood for services to music was announced, in June, in the Queen's birthday honours list, he said he was unsure whether to call himself Sir James or Sir Jimmy. The Queen is also presenting a CBE to academic Simon Schama, whose television series A History of Britain has been an enormous success for the BBC." BBC 12/12/01

Tuesday December 11

MASUR GETS TRANSPLANT: New York Philharmonic music director Kurt Masur is recovering from a kidney transplant operation. "The 74-year-old conductor suffered no complications during the operation, which was done Nov. 29 in Liepzig." Andante (AP) 12/10/01

NAIPAUL GETS HIS NOBEL, IF NOT IMMORTALITY: The Nobel Prizes, announced weeks ago, were handed out this week, and author V.S. Naipaul, one of the year's most controversial recipients, picked up his literature Nobel. But unlike some of the Nobels, which tend to make lifelong heroes of their recipients, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been largely a hit-or-miss thing in the century that it has been awarded. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/11/01

Sunday December 9

CUTTING UP FOR JACK THE RIPPER: American novelist Patricia Cornwell has gone on an elaborate (and expensive) campaign to prove that Victorian painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper. "Even in the context of the crackpot conspiracy theories, elaborate frauds and career-destroying obsessions that London's most grisly whodunnit has spawned, Cornwell's investigation is extreme. Not only did she have one canvas cut up in the vain hope of finding a clue to link Sickert to the murder and mutilation of five prostitutes, she spent £2m buying up 31 more of his paintings, some of his letters and even his writing desk." The Guardian (UK) 12/07/01

Wednesday December 5

BET THE NY PHIL THINKS THIS IS HILARIOUS: In what may be the strangest development to come out of the current world tensions, renowned French conductor/composer Pierre Boulez was detained by Swiss authorities, and informed that he was on their list of potential terrorists. Apparently, back in his impetuous youth in the 1960s, Boulez publicly declared that opera houses should be blown up. BBC 12/04/01

GETTING PAST THE WHOLE UGLY SUICIDE THING: "Ted Hughes was perhaps the greatest British poet of his generation but it was his tragedy to be chiefly known, particularly in North America, as the dastardly husband whose infidelities drove the fragile Sylvia Plath — feminist icon — to gas herself at the age of 30." But a controversial new biography of the poet claims that such tragedies are no reason to ignore one of the geniuses of 20th-century writing. Toronto Star 12/05/01

DEPRIEST GETS HIS KIDNEY: "After waiting six months for a transplant, Oregon Symphony conductor James DePreist has undergone surgery to receive a kidney from an anonymous donor... He suffers from kidney disease, which is incurable, but DePreist has said a new kidney 'lasts indefinitely.'" Andante (AP) 12/05/01

WALT'S CENTENARY: "Hollywood is celebrating the life and career of one of entertainment's most influential figures. Walt Disney, who would have been 100 years old on Wednesday, played a pivotal role in developing family entertainment - most significantly as a pioneering animator. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation which stages the Oscars, is presenting a special tribute at its Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills." BBC 12/05/01

  • HATING DISNEY: What could be more American than the love of that creator of Snow White, that father of The Mouse, that delighter of children worldwise, Walter E. Disney? Um, despising him, actually. Washington Post 12/05/01

Tuesday December 4

MY AFTERNOON WITH TOLKIEN: JRR Tolkien spent years writing his Lord of the Rings. But he signed away rights to making a movie of it 30 years ago not because he thought anyone would ever actually make a movie. No, "the deal meant, at least, that film company lawyers would save him from the distraction of guarding his copyrights from people making Hobbit T-shirts or plastic Gandalf toys, and let him get on with his work." The Telegraph (UK) 12/04/01
  • Previously: TOLKIEN FAMILY DISPUTE: A dispute over the soon-to-be-released Lord of the Rings movie has split members of the Tolkien family. "J. R. R. Tolkien signed away the film rights to The Lord of the Rings for just £10,000 in 1968, five years before his death at the age of 81." New Zealand Herald 12/03/01

Monday December 3

HOSTILE WITNESSES: The trial of Sotheby's chairman Al Taubman is the stuff Hollywood dreams are made of. (In fact, HBO is already planning a movie about the trial.) Character assassination, barely veiled threats, and repeated assertions that Taubman is a brainless idiot who "couldn't read a balance sheet if his last million depended on it" are par for the course in a trial that was supposed to be about price-fixing in America's auction houses. Chicago Tribune 12/03/01

  • NOTHING NEW HERE: The Taubman trial is just the latest in a long line of Love-Money-Betrayal in New York stories stretching back to America's Gilded Age. Chicago Tribune 12/03/01

HSU DIES: "Fei-Ping Hsu, a Chinese-born American concert pianist who built an acclaimed career after spending part of the 1960s banished to a rural rice farm, was killed in a car accident in northeastern China. He was 51." Nando Times (AP) 12/03/01

THE MUSICAL PSYCHIC: Psychic Rosemary Isabel Brown has died at the age of 85. "She claimed to have been in touch with Beethoven, Liszt, Chopin and some 20 other composers who had employed her as their contact on earth to receive their latest compositions. How was it that a woman apparently of little musical ability had one day sat at a piano and had begun to play Chopin with ease, and Chopin music that no one had heard before?" The Economist 11/30/01

Sunday December 2

REMEMBERING GEORGE: George Harrison's demise removes the impressionable enthusiast whose inquisitive nature guided the Beatles beyond the frontiers which had hitherto constrained the attitudes and behaviour of four-piece beat groups from the industrial cities of the north. He may not have written the songs for which they will be remembered, but without his gift for discovery the group might have taken quite a different course and possibly a much less interesting and productive one. The Guardian (UK) 12/01/01

  • A NEW GEORGE: "A last album of George Harrison’s music was being finished in secrecy in the months before his death. He played tracks from the CD to his family and friends in his private room at a Los Angeles hospital last Sunday, four days before he died." Sunday Times (UK) 12/02/01
  • WHAT GEORGE MEANS TO ME: "He has passed, but he has left us with a few tools to make our own passing easier. His music tells us to savor what matters, what we offer each other and ourselves." Norfolk Virginian-Pilot 12/01/0

THE NEXT DISNEY? John Lasseter, the animation wiz behind Toy Story is being called the Walt Disney of the 21st Century. "He gives the impression of being a sane man who has, until recently, been considered crazy. 'In order to work in animation, part of you has to be a child that's never grown up." The Telegraph (UK) 12/01/01

CRITIC'S CRITIC: By the end of his life (he died at age 85 last week) former Washington Post music critic Paul Hume had stopped listening to music, said his wife. It didn't interest him anymore. But "the defining characteristic of Hume's tenure was an intense love for everything about music and the making of it. That may seem like an awfully obvious thing for a music critic, but it can't be taken for granted." Baltimore Sun 12/02/01