Tag Archives: Metropolitan Opera

The Death of Klinghoffer- I saw and decided.

The Metropolitan Opera’s tag line for The Death of Klinghoffer is “See it. Then decide.” It is seldom that an opera provokes as much controversy as this one has over its brief lifetime. The opera had its New York premier at BAM in 1991, just a few years after the terrorist attack that it depicts. I am too young to have any memory of the hijacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985, so my viewpoint is necessarily different from those opera goers a generation above me. When I read about the protests on opening night and the contrasting New York Times review, I determined that I simply had to see this for myself.

The opera is in English, which always throws me off a bit as I’m used to reading subtitles and hearing the music without being distracted by individual words within it. The music is very similar to the other piece by John Adams that I’ve seen- Nixon in China. It can be harsh but is not unpleasantly dissonant (unlike Hugo David Weisgall’s Esther, which is actually painful). This trailer will give you a good sense of it, although I think the music loses a lot by being recorded this way; in person it’s much more immediate.

Modern classical music is not for everyone, and purely as a piece of music I don’t know that I would recommend this particular piece. The choral numbers are very powerful but do not move the plot forward and start to feel tiresome as the opera drags into its third hour. The strongest moments in the opera are two of the arias, one in which Klinghoffer confronts the terrorists, and the final aria sung by his wife after she learns of his death. These two characters are, in my opinion, the only really three dimensional characters in the piece. They feel like complete human beings and the audience cannot help but empathize with them. It was astonishing to me that people felt the opera was anti-semitic, when really the only characters who resonate are these two victims. The final aria focuses not on Klinghoffer’s death as a political event, but rather on the loss of a husband, partner and lifelong companion. It is rare that loss at the end of a lifetime together is acknowledged in art. We hear a great deal about the loss of young love, but an older character singing about loss at the end of their life is less common. I felt that this piece was so powerful it could stand entirely on its own.

I had an unusual opportunity a few weeks after seeing the opera to talk about the controversy with none other than one of Klinghoffer’s daughters.  Lisa and her sister have been vocal opponents of the opera since its original production at BAM. Lisa happened to be at a social function I was attending and when I mentioned I had seen the opera she told me about her experience with the BAM production. Apparently there was a scene, which has since been removed, portraying a Jewish family as bourgeois and only interested in their own comfort. This scene really skewed the opera’s message in favor of the Palestinian cause and led to Lisa’s feeling that it was anti-semitic and offensive. I told her about my experience with the Met production and she was very touched to hear that the characters of her parents came through so strongly. It was clear that the production she saw had been deeply upsetting for her and for her family. She told me she wished that she could attend the Met production but just felt too scarred by the experience. The idea of her mother’s aria standing alone as a stunning love song was very emotional for Lisa. At the end of the evening she gave me a big hug and told me she was so happy I had enjoyed the opera and that she’d loved hearing about it from my perspective.

It was wonderful to be able to talk to Lisa in person because so much of the dialogue about this opera has been vitriolic. So much of public debate is based on mistrust of the other side and I wish that this opera had been used as more of a conversation starter, and less of a way of dividing groups. Art should provoke conversation and argument. Art should have a message but I don’t believe it should be one of hate, and I don’t think that that is the case with The Death of Klinghoffer. The opera’s run at the Met is finished now but I hope that the next time something controversial comes to the stage the debate will be between two sides that are more respectful of each other’s opinions and more open to having their opinion changed.

Trapeze Artists, Hobbits and much more!

I’ve already mentioned that you can judge the new Met for yourself this weekend, and be part of history at the 10 year anniversary party of NonsenseNYC; and of course you can peek behind closed doors at all sorts of venues during Open House New York. In addition to all that madness there are many more events to consider.

This weekend you have two opportunities to see The Lord of the Rings as you’ve never seen it before:

Howard Shore’s Original Academy Award®-winning score performed live to the epic motion picture by the 21st Century Orchestra, The Collegiate Chorale and Brooklyn Youth Chorus conducted by Ludwig Wicki.

Can you imagine that incredible score performed live while the movie is screened on an enormous screen? If not buy your tickets now and experience it in person.

Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

Lord of the Rings at Radio City Music Hall

For those of you who read my review of The Golden Pasties and have been lusting for burlesque ever since, the show to go to this weekend is Killer Queen Burlesque at Joe’s Pub.

Burlesque stars Anita Cookie and Clams Casino and emcee Neil O’Fortune, the minds behind The Costello Show: A Burlesque Tribute to the Other Elvis, KISS THIS: Burlesque Rock City and more, return to the Joe’s Pub stage with Killer Queen Burlesque!  A burlesque tribute to the music of Queen, Killer Queen Burlesque made it’s debut in early 2008 and has been their most-requested show ever since.  Now it returns with an all new, all-star cast: a night of funny, campy, sexy performances combining striptease with live music and comedy, all unified by Queen’s unstoppable lineup of beloved hits.

I’ve already mentioned the crazy vertical 3-ring circus happening at The Trapeze School of New York this weekend; here’s a trailer to give you a taste:

At the Brooklyn Skillshare this weekend you can learn such useful skills as butter making and how to infuse your own vodka. There is also a free lunch involved; I can only imagine the water-cooler talk potential (so, what did you do this weekend? I learned to make butter!).

The Mile High Dance Party is back for a second week at Pianos; I had a blast last week and I would highly recommend swinging by after other goings on Saturday night. Check out their awesome flyer for this week:

mile high

Get into the Halloween spirit early this October with a trip to Greenwood Cemetery, for extra spookiness check out Angels and Accordions– a very ummm… unique site specific work you have to see to believe.

Finally, quick heads up for next week, in celebration of the release of Where the Wild Things Are, there are a range of events happening in the city; it’s billed as Wild Things Week and it’s going to be (ahem) wild!

That’s all for the moment; have a great weekend and be sure to follow The Big Red Apple on Twitter for the latest news!

Tosca- It’s a whole new Met

G and I saw the Metropolitan Opera‘s new production of Tosca a couple of weeks ago. I had read a few of the articles about the boo-ing on opening night so I was prepared for all sorts of atrocities. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the sets are dull and a bit dreary in comparison to the glitz of the old production (by Franco Zeffirelli), but in some sense their very drabness refocuses the audience on the music. Certainly opera has historically been about pomp and pageantry but it’s a brave new world and if we’re looking at opera in a new way that may not be such a bad thing.

Franco Zeffirelli Production of Tosca

Franco Zeffirelli's Production of Tosca

Richard Peduzzi's Production of Tosca

Richard Peduzzi's Production of Tosca

I had a long conversation with some older women during intermission about the pros and cons of various new productions presented in recent years. While one of them vehemently hated the new sets for Tosca she assured me that she was not against the updating of opera in principle. In fact she thought the production of Madama Butterfly performed last year was one of the most beautiful she had ever seen.

In trying to modernize the Metropolitan Opera Peter Gelb is paying less attention to its older audience in an attempt to bring in a younger one. What attracts young people? As a young person myself I feel ill-equipped to answer for my demographic. G and I loved the new production but both agreed that we would have loved the old one as well. What we found powerful and exciting was the experience of having the singers’ actual voices, un-amplified, surrounding us even from the cheap seats. It will never cease to amaze me that a human being can create such a sound. I tend to feel that seeing opera in HD is less magical because of the lack of contact with those sound waves but if you’re interested in experimenting with opera before taking the leap watch the new production of Tosca on the big screen this weekend at BAM. Let me know what you think.

Labor Day etc.

Tomorrow is Labor Day in The Big Apple and since you won’t be laboring you should check out some of the awesome events that will be taking place in this fine town!

On Eastern Parkway The West Indian Day Parade will be one great big party! The parade will be followed by dance and musical performances at The Brooklyn Museum!

West Indian Day Parade 2008 (in front of the Brooklyn Museum)

West Indian Day Parade 2008 (in front of the Brooklyn Museum)

If you feel up to some cooking whip up something local and bring it to The Bell House for their ‘Lunchin’ Local on Labor Day Potluck.’ Your dish gives you free access to the festivities, which include “4-square, hopscotch, hula hoops and more!”

As the day draws to a close head uptown to Lincoln Center Plaza for the last free opera of the season! The Metropolitan Opera’s outstanding performance of Madama Butterfly will be broadcast in HD; get there early to snag a seat and enjoy the show!

Also, in case you missed my last post, let me reiterate…

On Monday skip the amateur BBQs and get BBQ done right at Marfa in the E. Village:

From 5pm onwards, East Village rib joint Marfa is hosting the West Texas All You Can Eat Labor Day Barbecue on their roof deck. For $15, fill your plate with BBQ ribs, pork, beef, salmon and all the fixins. And for an extra $2, you can add some wild boar or shrimp to that plate. Drinks include $5 Margaritas, $3 PBR and shots of the house-infused tequila.

If you’re a fan of Manolos and Cosmo’s get your tickets now to the “lecture” of the season: Sex and the City and Best Friends Forever: Candace Bushnell and Jennifer Weiner, at Kaufmann Concert Hall this Tuesday!

On Wednesday join me at Comix to pay tribute to John Hughes in the best possible way- by watching the Raspberry Brothers make fun of The Breakfast Club! Tickets are only $5 if you buy them online in advance using the promo code RASP. It’s going to be hilarious and rumors say that a sing-a-long will also be part of the evening… Here’s the trailer to whet your appetite:


Enjoy the start of a new season and stay tuned for additions! Also don’t forget- for the latest updates follow The Big Red Apple on twitter!

July 31-August 2 (+ Ongoing) Events!

Watching To Catch a Thief under the Brooklyn Bridge was amazing; it was one of those evenings that make you fall in love with NYC all over again; I’ll post some pictures of the magic later today. First let me tell you (a bit belatedly this week, sorry about that!) about the great events happening this weekend!

If you missed seeing Cary Grant last night you have another chance to tonight- Notorious is showing at the Rubin Museum as part of their Cabaret Cinema series. This is another great Hitchcock film, complete with secrets, treachery and lust; Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains (both of Casablanca fame) play alongside Grant. Here’s the original 1946 trailer:

For something a bit more explicit you can join fans of Andy Warhol for a screening of his rather unusual film The Nude Restaurant at the Anthology Film Archives:

Wondrous Warhol vixen Viva dishes up a monologue of hysterically epic proportions while co-star Taylor Mead and other nearly naked actors comically mill about the set in this rarely screened feature from The Factory gang. Warhol and crew supposedly rented a restaurant called The Mad Hatter and filmed this barebones, bare-skinned comedy in just one day. While the title aptly reflects the film’s content, it was also a smart marketing move on the part of Warhol and his assistant, Paul Morrissey, to exploit the then-current controversy surrounding “skin flicks” and the emergence of pornography in Times Square grindhouse theaters. Many favorite superstars – Billy Name, Alan Midgette, Louis Waldron, Ingrid Superstar, and someone named Electro Banana – appear in g-strings and much less….

If it proves to be a nice night stay out and enjoy it with opera in East River Park; this lovely strip of green has much the same feel as Brooklyn Bridge Park and tonight’s performance, with two singers from the Metropolitan Opera (Joyce El-Khoury and Keith Miller), is sure to be enchanting.

If you’d rather spend the evening in a less… hmm… green outdoor space, head down to Ludlow and Broome where Shakespeare in the Parking Lot is performing Measure for Measure- starting this weekend and continuing through August 15th.

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot

On Saturday you can continue the celebration of all things Warhol at the Prospect Park Bandshell, where his even weirder film Silent Film Portraits will be accompanied by a live soundtrack, provided by Dean & Britta:

Dean & Britta, who are beloved as one of the sexiest duo’s in rock, in addition to being alumni of the groundbreaking alt-rock band Luna, perform original scores to Warhol’s rarely seen short silent film portraits, which captured Factory superstars, celebrities, and anonymous teenagers in mesmerizing four-minute shots. Commissioned by the Andy Warhol Museum, the project is like an archeological dig unearthing NYC’s 1960s art scene, complete with an unforgettable soundtrack. Brooklyn’s Crystal Stilts, whom Pitchfork describes as “moody-sounding f*ckers who make fabulous stripped-down garage-pop,” will set the tone for the night.

Move from Warhol’s 60s milieu to the 70s punk scene with a visit to a hot new exhibit at the MOMA-Looking at Music: Side 2. I was there last week and I thought the setup was very effective; there are listening stations where you can hear the music being discussed, as well as music videos and various ephemera. Here’s a pic of a mother and daughter rocking out together:

Mom and daughter at Looking at Music: Side 2

Mom and daughter at Looking at Music: Side 2

For a different sort of punk you can learn to Punk Rope this Saturday at 10am  on the Driggs side of the track at McCarren Park!

Punk Rope in action!

Punk Rope in action!

If you like your comedy outdoors head back to East River Park for NYC Laughs– the only outdoor comedy series!

On Sunday get one last dose of black and white cinema this weekend with a screening of Pygmalion at Symphony Space! I saw the live version with Claire Danes in 2007 but she can’t hold a candle to Wendy Hiller.

Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard in Pygmalion

Wendy Hiller and Leslie Howard in Pygmalion

Finally, I’m pleased to announce that Restaurant Week has been extended- make your reservations fast!

Have an excellent weekend and stay tuned for additions! Don’t forget you can get the latest updates by following TheBigRedApple on Twitter!