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Monday, June 30, 2003

Remembering Kate Hepburn Katherine Hepburn was "admired not only by audiences but by her peers as well as critics. Her four best actress Oscars are an academy record for a performer, as are her 12 best actress nominations. And when the Manchester Guardian polled critics around the world a few years back to name the best ever on screen, she not only handily won the actress category but got more votes than the male acting winner as well." Los Angeles Times 07/01/03

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Chabrier The Hedonist "Emmanuel Chabrier wanted to write operas so lewd, people would start to 'make babies in the stalls'." Where other composers wrote music full of the joy of God, or the joy of great knowledge, Chabrier wrote about the pure, unadulterated fun of being human. "His party piece was to sing the front page of that day's newspaper, dramatising the events depicted - a street accident, the fall of the Bourse - with appropriate extra-musical effects." But beyond all the bluster and hedonist revelry was a serious artist whose works attracted the admiration of composers as distinguished as Debussy and Ravel. The Guardian (UK) 06/28/03

The Film World Loses One Of Its Finest The actress Katherine Hepburn has died. Her career spanned more than half a century, and encompassed a breathtaking diversity of work. She won her first Oscar in 1933 for Morning Glory, and her last, for On Golden Pond, 48 years later. Her work with Spencer Tracy is the stuff of cinema legend, and she was completely at home in roles from Cleopatra to Violet Vennable. Hepburn was 96. Washington Post 06/29/03

Impressionism You Can Really Get Into J. Seward Johnson Jr. can make a bronze sculpture so lifelike and convincing that you'll want to talk to it. But his latest assignment is far more daunting than any park-bench mannequin. Johnson is recreating the works of the great Impressionist painters, in bronze, in real-life scale, and in three dimensions. "Visitors [to Johnson's exhibit in Washington] will be able to walk into Vincent van Gogh's 'The Bedroom' in Arles, France. They will be invited to touch the objects, to the expected horror of conservative museum folks. They will even be able to lie down on the bed, though they won't be able to get under the covers." CNN (AP) 06/29/03

Joseph Chaiken, 67 Joseph Chaiken, the much-esteemed actor and director who was involved in dozens of regional theatre productions in Atlanta and Los Angeles, along with his work in New York's off-Broadway scene, has died. "The esteemed actor and director, who founded New York's avant-garde Open Theater in 1963 and won five Obie Awards, died Sunday at his Greenwich Village home of congenital heart failure. He was 67 and had suffered from aphasia since experiencing a massive stroke in 1984." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/25/03

Saturday, June 28, 2003

Old Style Historian Kenneth Clark would have been 100 this year. "Clark was the incarnation of a deeply outmoded type: the white upper-class worthy. He is best remembered for his 1969 television series, Civilisation, about the history of Western European culture, an inscrutable, perfectly turned-out English gentleman lecturing on high culture and its values to the masses. By the mid-1970s, his brand of art history was already being criticised for being too elitist, an old-fashioned upper-class amateur connoisseurship that was being superseded by ways of looking at art that emphasised society and politics. By the 1980s, when he died, his series had come to seem the epitome of what some now call heritage TV." The Telegraph (UK) 06/28/03

David White Goes West For 28 years David White has been executive director of Dance Theater Workshop in New York and "one of the movers and shakers" in the dance world. There's not much he's set out to accomplish along the way to producing 1000 or so artists that he has been unable to do. Now, at age 55, he's leaving New York for St. Paul, Minnesota... The New York Times 06/29/03

Thursday, June 26, 2003

John Adams, Star John Adams is the classical music's star composer. "While working within classical conventions, Adams has done more than anyone to smudge the lines between rock, jazz and classical. His music used to be called crossover or minimalist - intended more as insult than as technical analysis. Now such epithets are outmoded, thanks in part to his own willingness to write music with direct appeal, not generally a habit among avant-garde composers in the late 1970s when he started. Tunes then were on a par with antimacassars or lace doilies: redundant and declasse, you simply didn't. Adams reminded us: you could and did. Critics who sucked in their cheeks at the blatant melodies of his best-known work, the 1987 opera Nixon in China, now sheepishly concede that it is a modern masterpiece." London Evening Standard 06/26/03

The Musical Bounty Hunter Let's say you're an old jazzer who just happened to notice that a record you released in 1961 was just reissued on CD, and you haven't seen a dime, or even heard from the record company. Or maybe you're the artist behind that great '80s dance track that never catapulted you to stardom, but which keeps showing up on those compilations they sell on TV. Who do you call? Meet Jon Hichborn, the Royalty Hunter. "In an industry that treats discarded talent like spoiled milk, Hichborn is an anomaly. He works to get artists royalties they are owed. He doesn't care if you're a one-hit wonder or dead bluesman. Just as long as you feel you've been cheated." Boston Globe 06/26/03

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Domingo Gets Oxford Honor Placido Domingo has been awarded an honorary music degree from Oxford University. Oxford chancellor Chris Patten said to Domingo, in Latin: "You are the darling of audiences, a champion of music, the Orpheus of the age." BBC 06/25/03

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Leon Uris, 78 "Uris died Saturday of natural causes at his home on New York's Shelter Island, photographer Jill Uris said from her home in Aspen, Colo. Energetic and unafraid, the author was as much an adventurer as a writer, traveling tirelessly and sometimes risking his life. In researching `Exodus,' he logged thousands of miles and ended up reporting on the 1956 conflict in the Middle East." The New York Times 06/24/03

Monday, June 23, 2003

Baryshnikov: Still Dancing After All These Years "At 55, Mikhail Baryshnikov plies his trade with wonder, grace and more than a touch of genius. He is not so much fighting the effect of time as he is miraculously making time his ally: The man looks almost as beautiful now as he did a generation ago, and his charisma grows with the passing decades. No one holds the stage with as much ease and command." San Francisco Chronicle 06/23/03

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Dana Gioia, Poet Politician Dana Gioia turned down the Bush administration when they first asked him to be chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The second time he said yes. "It sounds terribly Jimmy Stewart, but I guess I'm a terribly Jimmy Stewart kind of guy. I felt a certain duty to put aside my own artistic career for however many years and try to rebuild this agency." Newark Star-Ledger 06/22/03

On Being John Adams John Adams is the most-performed living composer. "A sophisticated media handler, he has the tongue of a liberal intellectual and the laid-back aura of a hippie-turned-family man. He neither starves in a garret - orchestras are falling over themselves to play his scores - nor inhabits an ivory tower. Adams has kept in touch with what audiences like to hear. His music is the most beautiful, witty and technically assured of anyone writing for orchestra and opera house today. Listen to Nixon in China (1987), his first work to reach a wide audience, and the chances are you will respond to its subtly distilled rhythm and verve." Financial Times 06/20/03

Yo-Yo Ma: How To Be Everything To Everyone Yo-Yo Ma is the most popular classical musician in the world, at least according to sales figures. But unlike most of the other musicians at the top of that particular list, Ma is neither a gimmicky tenor nor a barely-clothed, barely-classical string quartet. In fact, Yo-Yo Ma may have the answer to the long-pondered question of whether classical music can truly appeal to a mass audience in today's pop-culture-obsessed world. "A musician needs to know one tradition deeply, to know one room in the mansion of music. And then he needs to have the skill to be able to work with musicians from other traditions - it's a question of transferability... Working in different musical worlds opens up new areas of expression." Boston Globe 06/22/03

UK Poet Laureate Tries Some Royal Rap British poet laureate Andrew Motion wanted to do something special for the 21st birthday of Prince William. Remembering that the prince had spent some time learning the art of DJing, Motion decided to present the lad with a "rap poem," ostensibly written with hip-hop sensibilities standing in for more traditional poetic style. The result is, well... embarrassing, according to most Brits who've read it. Amateur reviews posted to the BBC web site range from "excruciating" and "so terribly wrong," to "The greatest argument for the abolition of the monarchy yet." BBC 06/22/03

Mr. Movie Grosses "When Arthur D. Murphy, the dean of box office reporting, died Monday, he left a legacy that has exploded far beyond anything he anticipated or wanted. He was the first to analyze and research studio box office grosses when he worked as a writer for the entertainment trade newspaper Variety. Based on extensive calculation, Murphy created economic indicators and began writing the monthly Variety Box Office Index as a measure of film performance. But not unlike Dr. Frankenstein's creation, Murphy's meticulous analysis of hard numbers has mutated into a wild-horse-race story." Los Angeles Times 06/21/03

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Sontag Wins German Peace Prize Author Susan Sontag has been named the recipient of a "Peace Prize" by the German publishing industry. "In a world of falsified images and mutilated truth, she has stood up for the dignity of free thinking," according to the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. The award comes in response to negative publicity Sontag received in the U.S. for an article she wrote in The New Yorker shortly after September 11, 2001, in which she accused the U.S. government of manipulating the public in order to wage unjust wars. London Free Press (AP) 06/18/03

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Celebrating Frederick Olmstead A century after his death, Frederick Olmstead's legacy continues to enrich America. The father of American landscape architecture made an impact on cities across America. "He democratized the whole idea of open space. To me, I don't think the United States would have turned out like it did without Olmsted."
Hartford Courant 06/17/03

Monday, June 16, 2003

The Making Of Helen Keller "Fifty years ago, even twenty, nearly every ten-year-old knew who Helen Keller was. 'The Story of My Life,' her youthful autobiography, was on the reading lists of most schools, and its author was popularly understood to be a heroine of uncommon grace and courage, a sort of worldly saint. Much of that worshipfulness has receded. No one nowadays, without intending satire, would place her alongside Caesar and Napoleon; and, in an era of earnest disabilities legislation, who would think to charge a stone-blind, stone-deaf woman with faking her experience? Yet as a child she was accused of plagiarism, and in maturity of ?verbalism??substituting parroted words for firsthand perception. All this came about because she was at once liberated by language and in bondage to it, in a way few other human beings can fathom." The New Yorker 06/16/03

Hume Cronyn, 91 Veteran actor Hume Cronyn has died of prostate cancer. "He was known for his versatility as an actor, playing a wide variety of characters on stage. Mr. Cronyn, a compact, restless man who was once an amateur boxer and remained a featherweight 127 pounds all his life, was at home in everything from Shakespeare and Chekhov to Edward Albee and Beckett. The New York Times 06/16/03

Sunday, June 15, 2003

An Architectural Clash of the Titans Jacques Herzog and Rem Koolhaas see themselves as the twin giants of the architectural industry, says Deyan Sudjic, and like any other rival titans, they cannot seem to resist the temptation to one-up each other. "Between them, they have transformed architectural debate... [but] the relationship between them is becoming more like that between Godzilla and King Kong. They can't help but go swarming all over the skyline, trying to take pokes at each other. And in the end, they are interested in entirely different things." Herzog's magnificent new Prada store in Tokyo is the latest salvo in the friendly battle: it "comes hard on the heels of Koolhaas's much- publicised New York flagship for Prada, and effortlessly eclipses it." The Observer (UK) 06/15/03

Goodbye, Atticus Actor Gregory Peck, best remembered as Atticus Finch in the celebrated film adaptation of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird, has died of natural causes at his California home. "Possessed of a soul-stirring voice called 'one of the world's great musical instruments' by violinist Isaac Stern, and a face chiseled from the same bedrock as Abe Lincoln's, Mr. Peck towered over the American cultural landscape for six decades. He consistently played men who saw wrong and did right." Peck was 87. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/13/03

  • The Thinking Man's Hero A few days before Gregory Peck's death, his characterization of Atticus Finch was recognized by the American Film Institute as having created the "greatest hero" in the history of American film. That such a title, however subjective it may be, could be bestowed on a protagonist who threw no punches, rode no galloping horses, and in fact, lost his court fight to save an innocent man, is yet one more indication of Peck's skill as an actor. In an industry that glorifies violence, and celebrates the culture of shoot-first-ask-questions-later, Peck managed to make a hero of a vulnerable pacifist. It was a role that suited him well. Chicago Tribune 06/15/03

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Salam Pax: Blogger, Columnist, Enigma Peter Maass knows the secret identity of Iraqi blogger Salam Pax, whose writings from his home in Baghdad have captivated thousands of readers and led to a regular column in London's Guardian newspaper. Pax was apparently Maass's translator while the New York Times journalist was reporting from Iraq, although Maass didn't make the connection until he returned home. "Maass is still in touch with Pax via e-mail, and lately he has been forwarding inquiries from book publishers and magazine editors to his former employee. He has no doubt whatsoever that Pax is the real thing - just a middle-class Iraqi blogger without a specific agenda, not the tool of any political party or intelligence agency." Chicago Tribune 06/12/03

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Pinter: "The US Is Really Beyond Reason Now" Playwright Harold Pinter condemned the United States at a gathering In London Tuesday night. "In conversation on stage with Michael Billington, the Guardian's theatre critic, Pinter said the US government was the most dangerous power that had ever existed. The American detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where al-Qaida and Taliban suspects were being held, was a concentration camp. The US population had to accept responsibility for allowing an unelected president to take power and the British were exhausted from protesting and being ignored by Tony Blair, a 'deluded idiot' Pinter hoped would resign." The Guardian (UK) 06/11/03

Michael Graves Ill Architect Michael Graves is "suffering from paralysis of the lower body as a result of 'a disease with the symptoms of meningitis. Graves contracted the disease of the nervous system in February. Washington Post 06/11/03

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Genius Or Buffoon Con Man? Two of the hottest opera tickets this summer are Peter Sellars productions. Sellars is a high concept guy. "Much of Sellars's talk tends to abstract generalisations. 'I am more interested in the periphery than the centre. Places with no centre, like Los Angeles, are both more chaotic and more democratic' is typical. When I asked him about what happened in Adelaide, all he said was, 'People flip out about the fires in Australia, but the Aborigine tradition is that you have to burn off the land to regenerate'." Sydney Morning Herald 06/11/03

The Inner (Outer?) Saatchi Uber-collector Charles Saatchi is famously reticent about giving interviews. But Andrew Renton takes him out shopping and for a chat. "I've been buying and selling art for 30 years. It's what I do. There was a time when I was accused of creating a Xanadu, and of hoarding. I can't win. I don't mind selling work - even by artists I like. It's more important to make sure I have the best works." London Evening Standard 06/10/03

Monday, June 9, 2003

World Through The End Of A Bow Yo-Yo Ma has had remarkable success attracting audiences to hear his latest musical explorations. So does he ever think about slowing down? "There have been times at the end of the year when I can't even remember where I've been. I'm trying to spend more time with my family and only to go to places there's a good reason for going and do only things I really care about." The Telegraph (UK) 06/10/03

Sunday, June 8, 2003

The Yentob Effect Alan Yentob is a rarity - a famous TV exec. "He chalks up his 35th year at the BBC this year. He has risen relentlessly. He has made celebrated films for Omnibus, created Arena, run Music and Arts, BBC2 and BBC1. Then in 1997, when he stopped controlling BBC1, it was as if the Corporation didn't know what to do with him. They gave him a job called director of programmes in production, which had you genuinely scratching your head. Now his title is director of drama, entertainment and CBBC, which, in his translation, 'is essentially the creative director of the BBC'." The Telegraph (UK) 06/08/03

Gehry - Man Of Many Projects "At the age of 74, architect Frank Gehry shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. At any given moment, there are perhaps 30 projects at various stages of development being worked on by the 103 people in the Gehry office. Two major events dominate the life of the white-haired genius who started life as Frank Goldberg in Toronto in 1929 and moved to Los Angeles 18 years later." Toronto Star 06/08/03

Jane Alexander: On Saving The NEA Jane Alexander is back performing on a Washington stage again. "It's possible, though, that her four-year run as NEA chairman, during the political tumult dubbed the Culture Wars, will prove to be her most memorable local performance. It had everything: hostile congressmen vowing to take the NEA apart, life-or-death budget battles year after year, angry artists urging defiance. 'Jane kept it alive and reinstated a sense of credibility for the agency.' Alexander is proud of its survival. A weakened agency can be strengthened again, she reasoned at the time. But 'if it had gone under, it's doubtful it would have been revived within 20 years. Certainly not in this climate.' Could she have done anything more, or differently? Arts supporters doubt it. The consensus is that Alexander salvaged what could have been salvaged." Washington Post 06/08/03

The Buddy System Seventy-five-year-old Buddy Zamoiski officially steps down as chairman of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, after 15 years at that organization's helm. Zamoiski has a spectacular talent for talking money out of people for his various causes. "Except for Joseph Meyerhoff (who built the symphony a fancy new hall), Zamoiski probably is more responsible for the orchestra's relative financial stability than anyone in its 86-year-history." Baltimore Sun 06/08/03

Saturday, June 7, 2003

Margaret Atwood, Chanteuse As part of a fundraiser for the literary magazine Brick, Margaret Atwood (known for her pen) is planning to sing (something she's not known for). Until late this week, it remained unclear just what Atwood would be singing and with whom (if anyone) when she appears at The Berkeley Church in east-end T.O. There had been talk of her interpreting Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, accompanied by fellow novelist André Alexis on banjo. Alas, this won't come to pass. There also was a rumour that she'd be fronting a band featuring yet another novelist (and media maven) Evan Solomon on electric guitar. But this was denied as well. Now it seems Atwood will be singing a cappella, doing two original works." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/07/03

Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Barenboim Still Beethoven-Crazy After All These Years "Like a comet that returns every 15 years or so, Daniel Barenboim is playing all 32 Beethoven piano sonatas again." These days, the omnipresent Barenboim is better known as conductor than pianist, and most of his recent successes have been in the realm of Wagner opera, a far cry from the delicate complexity of Beethoven. David Patrick Stearns is intrigued by Barenboim's continuing obsession with the sonatas, and also by the performer's seemingly endless ability to rethink works he has played hundreds of times before. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/03/03

Monday, June 2, 2003

Faith And Yann Martel Booker Prize winner Yann Martel has become famous, and "now has a life which includes arguing his way through forums such as the Hong Kong Literary Festival, because of his novel about a 450 pound tiger in a lifeboat with an Indian teenager, Pi Patel. Pi embraces Hinduism, Christianity and Islam and debunks agnosticism and an excessive reliance on reason, which the novel describes as 'fool's gold for the bright'." Financial Times 05/30/03

Sunday, June 1, 2003

Gideon Toeplitz: The Exit Interview Gideon Toeplitz departed as managing director of the struggling Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra this weekend, and he is not terribly optimistic about the future of the PSO or the industry in general. "I'm concerned that the industry is looking for executives who are primarily fund-raisers and marketers. I'm concerned about that because the passion for music and the knowledge of music is, at best, secondary, or may not be there at all." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 05/31/03

History-Making Ballerina Dies "Janet Collins, prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera House in the early 1950's and one of a very few black women to become prominent in American classical ballet, died on Wednesday in Fort Worth. She was 86." Critic John Martin once wrote of her, "She is not self-absorbed, but is dancing completely and wholesouledly for an audience. On the other hand, there is no air of showing off about it, no coyness or coquetry, but only an apparent desire to establish and maintain a communicative contact." The New York Times 05/31/03

Fogel's (Too) Grand Retirement Party Henry Fogel has been the president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nearly two decades, so one might expect the orchestra to put together a good-sized celebration on the occasion of his departure. But John van Rhein thinks that the tribute was a bit much, especially given the CSO's current fiscal state: "Fogel, lest we forget, is the orchestra's president, not its music director. I don't recall Georg Solti being crowned with half as many laurel wreaths when he stepped down in 1991. At last report, Fogel was leaving his successor a $4-$5 million deficit, accumulated under his watch. Good thing the champagne was in plastic glasses." Chicago Tribune 05/31/03

Salam Pax Gets A Print Gig The blogger known as Salam Pax, who writes a wildly popular weblog from his home in a suburb of Baghdad, has been given a biweekly column by The Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper. "Salam Pax became a cyber celebrity after his pointed and often humorous accounts of everyday life in Baghdad began circulating on the Internet. His diary mocked both Saddam Hussein's repressive regime -- he called the Iraqi leaders 'freaks' -- and the U.S. claims of 'liberating' Iraq." Wired 05/30/03

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