Plain English: March 2009 Archives
Cheek by Jowl's Andromaque is a co-production with the Théâtre des Bouffes du Nord, and I managed to catch up with it while on tour at Oxford Playhouse. Director Declan Donnellan and his designer/partner Nick Ormerod have devised the most spare production imaginable - a bare stage with only a few chairs, and costumes that amount to Ruritanian uniforms for the men and sexy 1930s/40s French dresses for the women. Such movement as there is, is provided by the cast of nine actors processing around the stage and moving the chairs. Gloriously, the play is delivered in French, with English surtitles keeping the audience informed about what the actors are declaiming.
Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d'Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810),le Chevalier d'Éon, was a career diplomat, in addition to being a part-time soldier and an amateur spy. But it was only the last of these that attracted the difficult-to-categorise Canadian art/performance producer Robert Lepage. For d'Éon, says the programme for the performance called "Eonnagata" (at Sadler's Wells recently), "was probably the first spy to use cross-dressing in the pursuit of his duties." I doubt this, but can't cite from memory a Homeric or classical counter-example. The same note says that he incurred the wrath of "Louis XVI, who forced him to wear a dress all the time." In the end d'Éon appears to have been so used to his frocks, that no one really knew his sex.
At the Royal Opera House (with one more performance, tonight [March 7] and a BBC Radio 3 broadcast on May 30) is one of the musically finest productions of Wagner's Die Fliegenede Hollander I can remember. Bryn Terfel looks more like a Monty Python lumberjack than a sailor, let alone the Wandering Jew, but his singing of the role of the Flying Dutchman is so nuanced and dramatic that it's an astonishing bonus that the same is true of Anja Kempe's Senta. There have been a certain number of critical complaints that the costumes, the wavy curtains during the overture, and the large curving set all ignore Wagner's (over)explicit stage directions. However, I feel that Tim Albery's contemporary dress production with splendid, simple sets by Michael Levine,is simply straightforward, with the confidence, unusual as it is welcome, to let the story tell itself. And its single departure from simplicity, when the spinning song takes place in a factory full of sewing machines, is such a good visual joke that it made me love the production even more. Mind you, it was so different from last month's concert performance at the Barbican that it really could almost be another work entirely - but isn't that a good thing? Doesn't it mean that the staging actually adds something significant?
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There's a lot of noise going on in London about the National Gallery's major show "Picasso: Challenging the Past." Some critics are cross because the London show, unlike its Paris avatar, does not display the Picasso pictures alongside the Old Masters they are "challenging," while others regret the absence of Picasso's contemporaries (viz., Matisse) being available for enlightening comparison. For myself, I enjoyed walking through the main rooms of the NG's permanent collection, on the way to the excellent Picasso prints show in Room 1, and looking for connections with that I had just seen in the Sainsbury wing. My only reservation is the Sainsbury wing galleries themselves, which feel mean, pinched and crowded. We know from the Velázquez show last year how much better temporary shows can look at the NG, when hung alongside the permanent collection.
A little noise is being made, too, about the new "Van Dyck & Britain" show at Tate Britain. In the Evening Standard Brian Sewell even grumbles about its title. Why, he asks, call it Britain - which "did not exist." As he says, Scotland was then another country, and Van Dyck was attached to the English court of Charles I. And he thinks it does Van Dyck no favours to mount a show with only the work he did in England, as it "shows how bad a painter he could be and swamps the few masterpieces with paintings that are curate's eggs, flawed in drawing and construction, more than faintly ridiculous in conception, and by workshop hacks as much as by himself." Whew
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Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
rock culture approximately
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
No genre is the new genre
David Jays on theatre and dance
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
John Rockwell on the arts
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Martha Bayles on Film...
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds
Jerome Weeks on Books
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world
Public Art, Public Space
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog