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May 23, 2007

Art in the American Outback: the Southeast

John Stoehr

The underbelly of an opera house
A writer finds there's more to this venue than music. "The Wortham Theater Center in Houston has a few quirks . . . The three-hour opera ("Aida"), featuring sets and costumes by British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes, was riveting. But it can be a little seat-numbing. So midway through the first act, I removed the thick wallet from my back pocket, placed it on the floor of the center's Brown Theater and settled in for the rest of the performance. At intermission, I reached down to retrieve the wallet and accidentally pushed it through an air vent in the floor. While it was a stupid thing to do, it helped to discover I'm not alone."
(Thanks to Clifford Pugh who wrote this for the Houston Chronicle)

Avant-garde opera is popular in Augusta, Ga.?
Innovative productions of familiar operas are fueling an uptick in attendance, said Les Reagan, artistic director of the Augusta Opera, before a performance of "La Boheme." "The National Endowment for the Arts most recent survey of public participation said that opera audiences grew by 46.6 percent between 1982 and 2002. That's 20 years of growth, and Les credits innovators in the field. Theater and opera companies aren't modernizing the productions, like producers did when they based the hit Broadway musical 'Rent' on the centuries-old storyline and music. They're simply presenting them in new ways or making them more accessible for modern audiences."
(Thanks to Stacey Hudson of the Augusta Metro Spirit)

The case for negative thinking
A psychologist debunks the so-called law of attraction recently embraced by the likes of Oprah Winfrey. "According to this made-up law, your thoughts attract whatever they focus on - literally. Focus on Britney Spears' thong, feel what it would be like to have it tied around your face, prepare to receive it - and it will soon be smothering you! . . . Indeed, one could reasonably argue that it was George Bush's blind optimism and reliance on his 'gut' that allowed him to invade Iraq without listening to those who anticipated failure. The refusal to consider the negative has mired us more deeply than ever in the negative."
(Thanks to Cliff Bostock, columnist for Creative Loafing Atlanta)

What audiences really think
The Birmingham News conducted a poll of regular attendees to the Alabama Symphony Orchestra to see how its new maestro, Justin Brown, fared by the end of his debut season. "Superlatives being relative, it's safe to say that a mutual admiration society has sprung up between Brown and our panelists, all of whom are regular concertgoers and none of whom have a stake in the ASO as staff or board members."
(Thanks to Michael Huebner of the Birmingham News)

Posted by John Stoehr at May 23, 2007 1:01 AM

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