Vladimir Horowitz plays his own arrangement of Franz Liszt’s transcription for solo piano of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre. This recording was made in 1942:
Archives for October 2017
I’ve always found music to be one of the most potent means of attitude adjustment known to man, and now science has proved it. Ha! All of which inspires me to pass along this list of things to which I listen whenever I feel the urgent need to upgrade my mood….
Read the whole thing here
Emanuel Feuermann plays Antonín Dvořák’s Rondo, Op. 94, and David Popper’s “Spinning Wheel,” accompanied by Theodore Saidenberg. This short, shot in 1939, is believed to be the only surviving sound film of Feuermann playing cello. He died in 1942 at the age of thirty-nine:
(This is the latest in a series of arts-related videos that appear in this space each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday)
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David Henry Hwang’s “M. Butterfly” was one of the great water-cooler plays of the ’80s, a show that everyone in New York felt obliged to see so that they could talk about it at the office the next day. The more-or-less true story of Rene Gallimard, a French diplomat who had a protracted affair with a Chinese singer-turned-spy who passed himself off as a woman, “M. Butterfly” ran on Broadway for 777 performances, but hasn’t been revived there since it closed in 1990. Now it’s back, courtesy of Clive Owen and Julie Taymor, and I wish I could say that it’s as good as John Dexter’s original production. Alas, Ms. Taymor’s revival isn’t remotely worthy of Mr. Hwang’s subtle meditation on male desire and the inability of Westerners to understand the Asian mind…
For all her formidable gifts, Ms. Taymor has always struck me as the kind of director who sees the text of a play as little more than a pretext for creating gorgeous stage pictures. The better the play, the less convincing the production—her 2013 Theater for a New Audience version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” might just as well have been a silent movie—and “M. Butterfly,” which is at bottom a not-so-simple story told to the audience by a desperate, confused man, doesn’t profit from her over-elaborate approach….
Mr. Owen, a classically trained actor with a reasonable amount of stage experience who was pretty good in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2015 revival of Harold Pinter’s “Old Times,” is mostly flat and uninteresting as Gallimard. You never doubt his involvement or sincerity, but his performance feels like that of a movie star who doesn’t know how to project his personality past the footlights…
Jin Ha, by contrast, is astonishing as Song Liling, speaking his lines in a haughty bass-flute voice and carrying himself so convincingly that you have no trouble seeing how Gallimard could have persuaded himself that he was in love with a woman….
“The Portuguese Kid,” John Patrick Shanley’s latest play, is the funniest new comedy I’ve reviewed since…well, maybe ever. An extravagantly romantic comedy of horrifically bad ethnic manners, it’s a cross between “Private Lives” and Mr. Shanley’s own “Moonstruck” in which two incorrectly matched couples spend an hour and 40 minutes trying to sort themselves out. Jason Alexander and Aimee Carrero are in one corner, Sherie Rene Scott and Pico Alexander in the other, with Mary Testa egging them all on in the role of a gorgon-like mother. I don’t know when I last saw another stage comedy that was funny right from the top—it usually takes at least a couple of minutes to get the cards dealt—or one whose last scene was so unmanipulatively touching….
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To read my review of M. Butterfly, go here
To read my review of The Portuguese Kid, go here.
Clive Owen, Julie Taymor, and David Henry Hwang talk about M. Butterfly:
A scene from The Portuguese Kid:
The second episode of Three on the Aisle, the new podcast in which Peter Marks, Elisabeth Vincentelli, and I talk about theater in America, is now available on line for listening or downloading.
In this month’s episode, Peter, Elisabeth, and I interview Holly Twyford, one of the top actors in Washington, D.C., about the complexities and challenges of being a full-time regional-theater stage actor. Next comes a discussion of the vertiginously high cost of Broadway theater tickets, and what can be done about it. We wrap up the episode by chatting about some shows we’ve seen and liked in recent weeks. All three of us had great fun taping this episode, and I think you can hear how much we enjoyed ourselves.
To listen, download the second episode, or subscribe to Three on the Aisle, go here.
In case you missed the first episode, you’ll find it here.
“We consider classical music to be the epitome and quintessence of our culture, because it is that culture’s clearest, most significant gesture and expression. In this music we possess the heritage of classical antiquity and Christianity, a spirit of serenely cheerful and brave piety, a superbly chivalric morality. For in the final analysis every important cultural gesture comes down to a morality, a model for human behavior concentrated into a gesture.”
Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game (trans. R. Winton)
Here’s my list of recommended Broadway, off-Broadway, and out-of-town shows, updated weekly. In all cases, I gave these shows favorable reviews (if sometimes qualifiedly so) in The Wall Street Journal when they opened. For more information, click on the title.
• Dear Evan Hansen (musical, PG-13, all shows sold out last week, reviewed here)
• Hamilton (musical, PG-13, Broadway transfer of off-Broadway production, all shows sold out last week, reviewed here)