main: January 2009 Archives
Having waited a lifetime for Korngold's Dead City to come around, I need never see it again.
No discredit to the Covent Garden production - a rehire from Salzburg, Vienna and San Francisco - nor to the London cast. Stephen Gould and Nadia Michael gave their all in the central roles and Ingo Metzmacher conducted with delicacy and conviction.
Seeing the work on stage, however, rather than hearing it on record and radio, I was forcibly struck by its irredeemable flaws - a libretto of plodding banality and a plot that arouses neither sympathy nor empathy with any of the characters.
The story: man loses wife, locks himself in a room, fantasises about a dancer, tries to throttle her, leaves the room. There is not enough there for an opera, and the leaden lines that were cobbled together by the composer and his father are either lumpen or artificial, putting the whole show at several removes from reality. There is no depth, no philosophy, no meaning. Were it not for the composer's Jewishness, the Nazis would never have banned it.
Korngold's music is demonstrably derivative - Puccini, Strauss, Mahler and a straight lift from Lehar that I'd never spotted before - and the return of its one great aria at the close is a cynical bid to simulate feeling for a cut-out who never becomes a character.
I'm glad to have seen Dead City and I urge everyone to catch it while you can because it is, as I have argued elsewhere, a birth moment for modern opera. But I'm not expecting it to hang around in repertoire for very long. The piece has too many flaws. It did its job. It's over.
I last saw him at a vernissage of my friend Zsuzsi Roboz, where a portrait of the sleeping Lady Mortimer hung fetchingly in the nude. John, in his wheelchair, smiled possessively.
He was always out and about in London, never missed a good opening or a glass of bubbly. In court, as a combative barrister, he broke many a lance for freedom of expression. Later on, he was never short of a cause to champion on the op-ed pages, an injustice to decry. I clashed with him once or twice. He was never less than cordial in disagreement.
His criminal-lawyer hero Rumpole was married to She Who Must Be Obeyed.
A gentleman, and a lawyer. They don't make them like that any more.
In Alan Gilbert's first season, just announced, the orchestra will pay a reparatory visit to North Vietnam, a gesture infinitely more meaningful and productive than Lorin Maazel's attention-grabbing swoop last year on North Korea.
Why so? Because, while the US has dues to pay in both places, Vietnam these days is a fairly open society where people can read what they like on the internet and choose which concerts to attend. Some 17,000 Vietnamese bought into the BBC's download Beethoven cycle. Those who go to hear the NY Phil will do so out of free will, not as puppets of a regime where nothing moves an eyelid without the Dear Leader's say-so.
In Pyongyang, the audience was made up of party hacks and hordes of foreign journalists who descended on a starved, enslaved society like proverbial locusts. The concert, an empty showcase for one of the cruellest governments on earth, achieved precisely nothing.
In Hanoi, most of the audience will be survivors of the Vietnam War or its human legacy, the progeny of relationships, loving or coerced, between US soldiers and local people. There is much pain and memory still to be catharted in Vietnam and this event promises to be a new stage in the healing process. It augurs well for Alan Gilbert's leadership.
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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
innovations and impediments in not-for-profit 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
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
Joe Horowitz on music
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