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Sunday, November 30, 2003

Kushner, Front And Center Playwright Tony Kushner is 47 and "heading into the most seismically charged week of his career: his latest work, the semi-autobiographical musical "Caroline, or Change," opens at the Public Theater today; the first half of Mike Nichols's six-hour, star-filled, $60 million adaptation of Mr. Kushner's epic "Angels in America" has its premiere on HBO next Sunday. "Angels" will be broadcast and rebroadcast to more than 30 million homes, and the number of people who see it the very first night should easily outnumber those who have seen the play in the several hundred North American stage productions since it opened on Broadway 10 years ago." The New York Times 11/30/03

Roy Disney Out At Disney Roy E. Disney has resigned from Disney's board of directors, "reportedly calling on chairman Michael Eisner to resign also. Disney's resignation may be a pre-emptive move to avoid being forced off the board of The Walt Disney Co. The board's governance and nominating committee has decided not to recommend Disney for another term because he is over the mandated retirement age of 72. The Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) (AP) 11/30/03

Saturday, November 29, 2003

Message To Ben Heppner: Stay Out Of Toronto! Two years ago tenor Ben Heppner had to walk offstage in the middle of a recital in Toronto because of vocal problems. He got medical attention and stopped singing. Earlier this year he resumed singing and the problems seemed gone. Then this recital in Toronto: As the concert went on, "traces of fragility in the upper third of his voice became more obvious and oppressive. He began the second half with a frank acknowledgment of his problem. He would sing on, he said, for as long as we and he could manage. But it was never the forceful high notes that went awry. It was the sustained medium-volume singing in that upper third of the voice. The sound would waver and shred, and all the sophistication and subtlety of this fine artist would count for nothing. In the end, he sang five of the nine programmed songs, with varying degrees of distress." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/29/03

Remembering Hugh Kenner Hugh Kenner, who died last week at the age of 80, was one of America's finest critical writers, writes Benjamin Ivry. "His 25 books are charmingly written, intellectually alive excursions. They have a scientist's eye for elegance, clarity and specificity." The New York Times 11/29/03

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Zephaniah: Why I Don't Want Royal Honor Poet Benjamin Zephaniah doesn't want the Royal honor for which he has been put forward. "This OBE thing is supposed to be for my services to literature, but there are a whole lot of writers who are better than me, and they're not involved in the things that I'm involved in. All they do is write; I spend most of my time doing other things. If they want to give me one of these empire things, why can't they give me one for my work in animal rights? Why can't they give me one for my struggle against racism? What about giving me one for all the letters I write to innocent people in prisons who have been framed? I may just consider accepting some kind of award for my services on behalf of the millions of people who have stood up against the war in Iraq. It's such hard work - much harder than writing poems." The Guardian (UK) 11/27/03

Heppner's Return "The last time he sang at Roy Thomson Hall turned out to be the worst night of Ben Heppner's astonishing career. As they stumbled out of the hall into the cold night air in January, 2002, his hometown fans murmured that he might be finished. And for several agonizing months Heppner — one of the world's greatest dramatic opera tenors — wondered whether they might be right. But Heppner is full of confidence and enthusiasm as he prepares for his Thomson Hall return tomorrow night, his first since that traumatic occasion." Toronto Star 11/26/03

Israel's Conductor "The association of the Israel Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta is going into its fifth decade and the symbiosis between the two is closer than ever. Mehta's English is peppered with Hebrew and Yiddish; the food at orchestra outings is peppered with the fiendishly hot chiles that Mehta is famously fond of." The IPO, which has a reputation of being one of the most argumentative collections of musicians anywhere on Earth, genuinely loves this man who, more than any other conductor alive, has crafted his own identity within the national identity of Israel. Jerusalem Post 11/26/03

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Assessing Edo When Edo deWaart took up the reins of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1993, he was exhausted, drained by the various stresses of leading orchestras in the dual pressure cookers of Europe and America. This week is deWaart's last in Australia, and as he prepares to take over as music director in Hong Kong, he refers to Sydney as his "spiritual holiday." During his tenure, the SSO significantly improved its musicians' wages and working conditions, and critics say that the orchestra is a decidedly better ensemble than it was when he arrived. Sydney Morning Herald 11/26/03

Monday, November 24, 2003

Comedy Terrorist Sentenced To The Penalty Box The self-styles "comedy terrorist" Aaron Barschak, has been sentenced to four weeks in jail for throwing red paint over Turner-nominated artist Jake Chapman. The Independent (UK) 11/25/03

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Twyla Tharp - Beyond Dance "In the last 35 years, Twyla Tharp has created 126 dances, choreographed 5 movies (including Milos Forman's "Hair" and "Amadeus"), won two Emmys for her television special "Baryshnikov by Tharp," written an autobiography, worked on four Broadway shows and, this year, won a Tony for "Movin' Out," a narrative ballet set to Billy Joel's music. Now she has completed her second book, "The Creative Habit." And she wants to be very clear that it is not about dance. The New York Times 11/23/03

A Congressman's Dream Congressman John Lewis (D-Georgia) began talking to his colleagues in 1986 about the need for a national museum of African-American culture. Most of the time, his exhortations were met with condescending smiles, stony silence, or even outright hostility from such famous Congressional bigots as Jesse Helms. But Lewis persevered, and last week, his dream was finally realized, as both houses of Congress approved the creation of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Washington Post 11/22/03

Tupac, Dead or Alive? It's been 7 years since hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas, but legions of fans and hip-hop scholars still refuse to believe that he ever actually died. After all, since the shooting, "seven posthumous albums have been released - more than when he was alive... His funeral, if there was one, didn't make the news. We never saw a casket. There was no public memorial." All the doubt has only solidified Shakur's place as one of American music's most influential figures. "If LL Cool J is hip-hop's balladeer and Public Enemy its enduring conscience, Shakur maintains his status as a supreme urban griot whose gritty, observant rhymes illuminate the plight of disenfranchised black males." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/22/03

J.M. Coetzee & the Fictional Lecture Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee does not like giving lectures. In fact, for the most part, he declines all such invitations. But when he was asked to present the prestigious Robert B. Silvers lecture in New York, he relented, and agreed to participate in order to honor Silver, the founder of the New York Review of Books. Still, a conventional lecture would simply have been too much to expect from Coetzee, and the South African author did not disappoint, eschewing observations on craft and style in favor of the creation of a new work of fiction to read to his audience. The New York Times 11/22/03

Joyce's Real Muse? James Joyce's troubled but brilliant daughter, Lucia, has always been seen as something of a peripheral figure in her father's life, and Joyce scholars have traditionally assigned more literary importance to Joyce's wife. But a new biography of Lucia suggests that she, not her mother, was Joyce's primary muse. The book is important not only because of its controversial thesis, but because it exists at all. In recent years, Joyce's grandson, who oversees the author's literary estate, has become increasingly aggressive in protecting his grandfather's legacy, to the point of forbidding scholars from quoting from Joyce's letters. The New York Times 11/22/03

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Donald Gordon, Philanthropist From Out Of Nowhere Last week, as if out of nowhere, Donald Gordon gave 20 million to be shared equally between the Royal Opera House and the Wales Millennium Centre. But why? "In the UK, Gordon is not known as a philanthropist. He has given money to Sadler's Wells, Shakespeare's Globe and the British Museum, but, he says, these donations were a matter of 'a few thousand' and he can't remember what they were for. So why this unexpected and extraordinary gesture? 'For the past few years, my major diversion has been the performing arts. Now I am hoping to make the transition from what they call tycoon to opera appreciator'." The Guardian (UK) 11/21/03

Digging Up Petrarch "A team of 14 researchers exhumed the bones of the 14th century Italian poet Francesco Petrarch on Monday, in the attempt to uncover new aspects about his physical appearance and health." The researchers plan to spend several months examining the nearly-intact skeleton, and hope to eventually use computer technology to create an approximation of what the poet's face might have looked like. Creepy? Sure. But Petrarch is used to it: this is the fourth time his remains have been dug up by scientists. Discovery News 11/19/03

Another Journalist Felled By The P-Word When longtime Denver Post music writer G. Brown resigned his position last week after being accused of plagiarism in a review, he chalked the copied portions of the review up to sloppiness and the pressures of the daily deadline. But now, it appears that an even larger chunk of the review that cost Brown his job may have been pilfered from a New York Daily News story, and the whole incident has caused the Post to rewrite its internal ethics policy, to the dismay of some staffers. Westword (Denver) 11/20/03

Kesey's Prankster Legacy The '60s may be long gone, but don't tell that to the Ken Kesey-inspired Merry Pranksters, who continue to traverse Northern California in a psychedelic bus, spreading beat wisdom and leftist radicalism wheresoever they find it lacking. Sure, the Pranksters may be a bit more, um, self-promotional than they once were, but Kesey, who died two years ago, still exerts a clear and powerful influence over the writers and poets who hung on his every word in life. San Francisco Chronicle 11/20/03

Controversial Collector McMichael Dies "Some people just can't take yes for an answer. Robert McMichael was one of them. The photographer/salesman-turned-art collector founded one of Ontario's most popular cultural attractions, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg... But Mr. McMichael never could accept the consequences of his own generosity or the success of the gallery he created. Rather than celebrate the independence of the institution, he fought its evolution at every step." McMichael died Tuesday, aged 82. Toronto Star 11/20/03

  • A Legacy of Passion and Folly "[Canada's] affection for the McMichael Canadian Collection, I suspect, will survive long after the founder's follies have been forgotten. The latter were, unfortunately, many and famous. For much of the last 25 years of his life, you could never be quite sure what he would do next." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/20/03

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Last Of The Surrealists Dies Gordon Onslow Ford, the last of the 1930s Paris Surrealists, has died in California, where he had live the past 50 years. He was born in 1912, and joined the group that included Andre Breton, Max Ernst and Yves Tanguy in 1938 and worked with them until 1944." BBC 11/19/03

Michael Kamen, 55 "Grammy-winning and Oscar-nominated composer Michael Kamen has died at his London home at the age of 55. He collapsed after an apparent heart attack, according to his Los Angeles-based agent Jeff Sanderson." Kamen was classically trained, but known chiefly for his crossover work, including a much-ballyhooed joint concert of the San Francisco Symphony and the rock band Metallica. He also collaborated on Pink Floyd's classic 1979 album, The Wall. Ananova 11/19/03

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Hall Of Fame Jim Hall, writes Terry Teachout, is our greatest living jazz guitarist. But he's not exactly a household name. "To be sure, Mr. Hall, who turns 73 next month, is nobody's idea of a natural celebrity. Bald, bespectacled and soft-spoken to a fault, he looks less hip than shyly professorial. His intensely intimate music gets under your skin rather than grabbing you by the lapels. Given sufficient time, though, such artists have a way of evening the odds. Today, the National Endowment for the Arts names Mr. Hall an NEA Jazz Master, an honor accompanied by a check for $25,000." OpinionJournal 11/19/03

Monday, November 17, 2003

Rediscovering Sartre "When Jean-Paul Sartre died in 1980, some 50,000 people turned out for the funeral of France's most famous modern philosopher. Six years later his lifelong companion, Simone de Beauvoir, joined him here in Montparnasse. The stream of people coming to pay tribute has never really dried up. Growing interest in Sartre is by no means an exclusively French phenomenon. Strangely enough, his philosophical writings may now be receiving more scrutiny in the United States than in his native country." Chronicle of Higher Education 11/17/03

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Marber On Top Star playwright Patrick Marber can "currently do no wrong. Ten years since he was a stand-up comic, then Steve Coogan's sidekick, Marber now has three hit plays to his name, Hollywood beating at his door and After Miss Julie, his update of Strindberg's classic, about to open at the Donmar. Plus another play 'on the go'. Most people who know Marber would still expect him to find something to moan about. He's the kind of bloke, for instance, likely to offer a masterclass in misery about turning 40 next year. But no, he says, he feels 'quite comfortable' about it." The Observer (UK) 11/16/03

Armless, Legless Artist Denied Visa To Visit US Everin Quintero, a renowned Colombian artist born without arms or legs who studied in the US and has traveled there every year since her student days seven years ago, has been denied a visa for this year's trip... Washington Post 11/14/03

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Netrebko - Top Of The Opera World "Having once scrubbed floors at the Maryinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, the home of the celebrated Kirov Opera, Anna Netrebko (pronounced nuh-TREB-koh), 32, is now the company's biggest young star. Her luminous lyric soprano voice, impeccable technique and heartfelt acting have won raves from San Francisco to Vienna. Since the recent release of her debut solo recording of opera arias, she has been featured in classical music publications and fashionably photographed for glamour magazines." The New York Times 11/16/03

Friday, November 14, 2003

Hughes Extortionists Jailed "Two men who tried to extort $30,000 from expatriate art critic Robert Hughes in return for favourable evidence at his dangerous-driving trial have been jailed for two years." The Australian 11/14/03

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Nat'l Medals of Arts Handed Out The National Medals of Arts, the U.S. government's highest honor for artists, is leaning heavily towards the music industry this year, with conductor Leonard Slatkin, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, country star George Strait, and bluesman Buddy Guy being selected to receive the award. Among other NMA recipients are director Ron Howard, and PBS's live music showcase, Austin City Limits. Washington Post 11/13/03

Zorba The Anti-Semite? Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis, best known for writing the film score for Zorba the Greek, is being taken to task by politicians and activists in Greece and Israel after saying at a public ceremony that Jews "are the root of evil." BBC 11/13/03

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Mario Merz, 78 Merz was a leading member of the Italian Arte Povera movement. "Merz and his colleagues, who included his wife Marisa, used ordinary, 'poor' materials, both natural and manufactured, to create the most poetic, extraordinary effects. Their work gained international prominence in the late 1960s The Guardian (UK) 11/13/03

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Art Carney, 85 Actor Art Carney, forever famous as The Honeymooers' Ed Norton, has died at the age of 85. "I love Ed Norton and what he did for my career. But the truth is that we couldn't have been more different. Norton was the total extrovert, there was no way you could put down his infectious good humor. Me? I'm a loner and a worrier." The New York Times 11/12/03

The Irony Of Success "Space for a writer is sometimes the most precious of commodities. It's possible, in fact, that if a certain government official in Tanzania hadn't been so pig-headed, Moyez Vassanji would be practising electrical engineering in that country instead of having to deal with the emotional effects of winning this year's Giller Prize." Toronto Star 11/11/03

Sunday, November 9, 2003

A Portrait Of DH Lawrence As a painter, DH Lawrence was a pretty good writer. "Many of Lawrence's paintings are hilarious - awful and a bit weird. His attempts to draw the human body make you think of Jim Shaw's collection of paintings bought in American thrift stores, or the bad bodies that populate John Currin's deliberately kitsch daubs." The Guardian (UK) 11/10/03

Down From The Gods - Rattle In Berlin "The Berlin Philharmonic has enjoyed a unique succession of chief conductors who were more like gods than people - celestial, aloof beings who knew the secrets to transcendent music-making and could convey them (as did Herbert von Karajan) with eyes closed. Simon Rattle on his best days conducts like a god, but isn't known to act like one. Philadelphia Inquirer 11/09/03

Toni Morrison On Tour Toni Morrison has published her eighth book. "Morrison's intellect can be intimidating; it takes over her persona sometimes. This is the woman who, when Oprah Winfrey commented on her show that she had to read Morrison's books more than once to totally understand them, replied, 'It's called reading'." Philadelphia Inquirer 11/09/03

Thursday, November 6, 2003

In Praise Of A Different Kind Of Poet Laureate Louise Glück isn't exactly a recluse. But not far from it. Just don't expect her to be the kind of US Poet Laureate who evangelizes for her art. "Ms. Glück is an inspired choice because she excels in doing the kind of thing that only lyric poetry can do, which is among the most intimate, nonpublic things words can do: mimic the peculiar music of thought itself. Her appointment sheds interesting light on a private art's public existence." The New York Times 11/06/03

Ibargüen Named Chairman Of PBS Alberto Ibargüen, publisher of The Miami Herald, has been named chairman of the board at PBS, the governing body for the nation's public broadcasting stations. As chairman, Ibargüen said, his challenge will be to draw on the PBS heritage while preparing for a rapidly changing future. 'The issue is not so much PBS' going out of business tomorrow, but, in a world of tightening budgets, finding ways to keep PBS as sharp as it needs to be.'" Miami Herald 11/06/03

Legacy Of A Shock Artist Sarah Kane was not your average playwright. Her works, which appeared on various London stages in the 1990s, featured rape, torture, and a man gnawing on infant corpses. She was despised by the theatrical establishment, but defended by some of theater's luminaries. She killed herself at age 28. Assessing a legacy like that is the type of exercise for which few in the theater world have the stomach, but one Montreal director is determiend to try. National Post 11/06/03

Carnegie Hall's 'Nice Guy' Stands Firm Running New York's most high-profile concert hall is no picnic. So Robert Harth is an unlikely figure as Carnegie Hall's latest top man: he is, by all accounts, soft-spoken and generous with his time, "the type New York power brokers eat for breakfast." In fact, when the ill-fated merger of Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic was announced this fall, many observers predicted that Harth would eventually be shunted aside by the Phil's dynamic Zarin Mehta. Instead, Harth is now being celebrated for standing firm against the Phil's desire to take over the primary programming responsibility for the hall, and for his commitment to broadening the scope of Carnegie Hall's musical offerings. The New York Times 11/06/03

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Orrin Hatch - Senator, Musician, Composer US Senator Orrin Hatch is a "musician and a songwriter and a producer—a member of ASCAP—and whose works have been recorded by Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, Brooks and Dunn... One time I was kidding and I said that I even wrote a song during a boring committee meeting and I got an irate letter from one of my Utah constituents saying, 'How dare you use your government time to write your lousy music,' and I thought I'd better not make that claim any more'." NewMusicBox 11/03

Getting A Grip On Coetzee J. M. Coetzee, this year's Nobel laureate for literature has "successfully turned a temperament into a style. His novels cannot be pinned down to a history, be it apartheid South Africa or Bush's increasingly authoritarian America. Yet it's hard to believe that the Nobel committee, in coming to its judgment, wasn't moved by the way Coetzee's most astute writing speaks to this moment." Slate 11/05/03

And A Finn Shall Lead Them Finland is justifiably proud of its musical tradition, and sometimes, it seems as if the Finns have taken over the conducting profession completely. Esa-Pekka Salonen, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is one of the country's most successful native sons, and lately, he has been captivating America as well. Following the glittering opening night of the Phil's new Disney Hall, Salonen's already-considerable profile has been raised, and many are saying that the conductor appears to have graciously evolved from his early years in LA, when he favored obscure composers and difficult modernist works, into a truly well-rounded leader who skillfully balances the demands of his audience, his musicians, and his own soul. Helsingen Sanomat (Helsinki) 11/04/03

Denby: Movies Suck, But There's Hope New Yorker film critic David Denby began a talk at Yale University this week by flatly declaring that "movies suck." Specifically, according to Denby, the Matrix trilogy sucks, most other film critics suck, and so does the exasperating tendency of the big Hollywood studios to churn out embarrassing pap masquerading as cinema. But Denby isn't all doom and gloom, saying that just because there are fewer profound stories being filmed than in the medium's "golden age," that doesn't indicate that Hollywood is dying out. Yale Daily News 11/04/03

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Alfred Barr's Reach Across American Art Alfred Barr was the founder of the Museum of Modern Art. "Even now, thirty-six years after he retired and more than twenty years after he died at seventy-nine (he)remains a figure of fascination and contention. No one had a more profound effect on the direction of American museums over the last three quarters of a century, and no museum director or curator, or anyone else for that matter, except perhaps the artists themselves, did more to shape the national perception and discussion of art in the twentieth century." New York Review of Books 11/04/03

Monday, November 3, 2003

Teenage Classical Superstar What is it about 16-year-old Hayley Westrena? Her 13-song medley of ballads sold more than 290,000 copies in Britain in seven weeks, installing 'Pure' at the top of Britain's classical music charts. (The album will be released in the United States on April 9.) Now, with Ms. Westenra signed up for a $4.5 million five-album contract, Decca may well be tingling with the feeling that salvation is nigh." The New York Times 11/04/03

Rowling Earned £75 million From Latest Harry "Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling was the highest female earner in Britain during the year to September - earning eight times more than Queen Elizabeth. A survey in the Sunday Times newspaper reported that Rowling earned £125 million ($A302 million), including £75 million from her latest instalment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. However, the newspaper's annual survey of Britain's 500 highest earners found Rowling was only the fifth-highest earner overall." Sydney Morning Herald 11/03/03

Saturday, November 1, 2003

Stories Of Gabriel García Márquez Published in 1967, Gabriel García Márquez's 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' became "one of those extremely rare books that affected people's ideas about the contemporary novel and also their sense of reality. This became true not only for his readers but also for the many more who eventually received such information, diluted and dispersed into popular culture, without being aware of its source. (A recent newspaper poll in Spain found 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' ranked just after the Bible and 'Don Quixote' in universal historical importance - surely the voters can't all have read it?) Indeed, it is hard to conceive what our sense of the novel, or even of Latin America itself, would be like now had the writings of Gabriel García Márquez never existed." New York Times Magazine 11/02/03

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