Tag Archives: opera

Culture High & Low

If you’re feeling a bit blue, stuck in NYC while your friends are rocking out at SXSW, you should be reminded of some of the amazing cultural events happening in our fine city- both High and Low.

This past weekend G and I attended, among other diversions (he met my mother for the first time this weekend! It went well!) Franco Zeffirelli’s legendary production of La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera. More than perhaps any other opera La Bohème has captured the imagination of generations of artists. Its compelling story was the basis for the musical Rent. Baz Luhrmann’s version also spent time on Broadway. Recently there was even a production without music.  As G said after the performance, the characters are much more familiar than most characters in opera; these are people you can imagine knowing. Anna Netrebko was an incredible Mimi; both her acting and her singing were intensely evocative. I cried (of course) when she died but I also felt that the story had a message for the audience, much more so than the melodramatic plots of Aida or Tosca. If you haven’t seen this classic I highly recommend finding a way to do so.

Anna Netrebko

Anna Netrebko

I will be seeing a much less classic opera next week- The Nose is a surrealist opera based on a short story by Gogol.

Artist William Kentridge defies genres with Shostakovich’s adaptation of Gogol’s story. “The opera is about the terrors of hierarchy,” Kentridge says. “There’s a mixture of anarchy and the absurd that interests me. I love in this opera the sense that anything is possible.” The new production is conducted by definitive Shostakovich interpreter Valery Gergiev. Acclaimed baritone Paulo Szot, who won a Tony Award® for South Pacific, makes his Met debut as the man who wakes up to discover that his nose has disappeared.

You can get a taste of Kentridge’s work at the MOMA, which is currently hosting a retrospective.

Best known for animated films based on charcoal drawings, he also works in prints, books, collage, sculpture, and the performing arts. This exhibition explores five primary themes in Kentridge’s art from the 1980s to the present, and underscores the inter relatedness of his mediums and disciplines, particularly through a selection of works from the Museum’s collection. Included are works related to the artist’s staging and design of Dmitri Shostakovich’s The Nose.

I haven’t visited the Kentridge exhibit yet but G and I did take a look at Marina Abramović: The Artist Is Present, which just opened to the public on Sunday. The exhibit documents her various performance pieces, both through video and photographs of the original performances, and through recreations by actors. The most interesting, and disturbing, of the latter was a pair of naked actors- one female, one male- standing within a narrow archway; you had to pass between them to get into the next room. It was impossible not to touch the naked pair and this was hugely unnerving but, simply because it was unnerving, forced you as the viewer to think further about the piece. I am thrilled that the MOMA has chosen to showcase such challenging work. The exhibit is a triumph for the curator, Klaus Biesenbach, who has succeeded in creating a retrospective of performance art, something never done in the MOMA, and possibly never done as successfully in any other major museum.

You can see some less established artists in the Jonathan LeVine Gallery’s Five Year Anniversary Exhibition.

Since 2005, Jonathan LeVine Gallery has been an important venue for Street Art (ephemeral work placed in public urban environments) and Pop Surrealism (work influenced by illustration, comic book art, and pop culture imagery). As such, the pieces in this exhibition—comprised of paintings, drawings, and sculptures—will be primarily figurative with a strong sense of narration.

I am quite a fan of this image (Ray Caesar, Arabesque):

Ray Caesar, Arabesque

Ray Caesar, Arabesque

On the lower end of the culture spectrum, this Thursday you can attend a retrospective of a rather different sort- a burlesque tribute to Dolly Parton! I expect The Queen of Country Music would be thrilled!

P.S. Best way to spend St. Patty’s Day- Benefit Concert for City Reliquary at the Knitting Factory!

Please follow myself and Miss Scorpio on twitter for the latest and be sure to sign up for the G&S listserve so you can benefit from the editing that eats up so much of my time… Enjoy!

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!

August 12-17 Get it while it’s HOT!

Can you believe it’s already the middle of August? If you haven’t been to your fair share of awesome summer events it’s time to get out of your apartment and get ’em while it’s HOT!

Tomorrow I will be on a plane on my way to Banff, but you will have to make the difficult choice between 2 great film screenings, an absurd musical event and a free opera performance!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will be playing on the ball fields of McCarren Park. This is a very hipster film so this screening in the heart of Hipsterville is a prime opportunity to view it in its… hmm… natural habitat?

The other movie screening worth considering is The Sex and the City Movie showing on Pier 54. If you’re just as in love with your new Prada sandals as you are with your new summer fling this is the event for you! Here’s the trailer (in case you’ve finally gotten the theme out of your head and need a refresher):

If you want some live melodrama (instead of onscreen) head up to Central Park where the New York Grand Opera will be performing a semi-staged production of Madama Butterfly in the Naumburg Bandshell (@ 72nd St.).

If you want to see a story whose ending is yet to be determined witness history in the making at the first Music Video Film Festival and Band Battle at Public Assembly!

Music video film festival and band battle

On Thursday head to Brooklyn Bridge Park for another fabulous film screening, in this case Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Don’t forget to bring a picnic and get there early for a good spot!

Also on Thursday there will be a truly epic concert out at Coney IslandBlondie, Pat Benatar and The Donnas are playing the Seaside Summer Concert Series. Why see the imitators when you can see the originals, right?

This weekend some very (ahem) unique performers will be back in town- Puppetry of the Penis is live at the Bleecker Theater! This video doesn’t show you much but if it doesn’t terrify you this may just be the best show you’ll see all summer!

If that’s not your style, never fear, the monster of theater festivals is opening on Friday- the New York International Fringe Festival! Running through August 30th…

The New York International Fringe Festival (FringeNYC) is the largest multi-arts festival in North America, with more than 200 companies from all over the world performing for 16 days in more than 20 venues – that’s a total of more than 1300 performances! FringeNYC generates an atmosphere of extreme excitement, and our energy is contagious!

There will be something for EVERYONE.

Friday night the free lecture at the Columbia Astronomy Center is ‘Teaching Old Stars New Tricks;’ as always the star gazing at the observatory post-lecture is also free and open to the public!

This weekend at Galapagos Suspended Cirque is presenting their newest creation- Urbanopolis! This talented troupe of aerial performers will tell a fanciful tale of a young man’s urban journey; their performance will stretch over the walls and ceilings and bring the audience into the world they’ve created.


On Saturday if you haven’t made it out to P.S.1 for the Warm Up this summer then this week is the week to go! DJ Pierre, Phuture 303, House of Stank, and Growing will be heating up the courtyard; if you need to cool down check out Leandro Erlich’s Swimming Pool (j/k).

Leandro Erlich: Swimming Pool

Leandro Erlich: Swimming Pool

Last summer the Public Theater gave us bacchanalia in the form of naked hippies, this summer they’re taking it back to its roots with The Bacchae! Don’t wait until the end of the run to try to get tickets at the Delacorte; I tried to get tickets for the Twelfth Night at the end of the run and was too late at 6:30am!

Monday is your last chance to see a movie in Bryant Park this summer; Spielberg’s masterpiece Close Encounters of the Third Kind will screen at dusk. Here’s the trailer:

Next Tuesday for the singles among you there’s a free rooftop party at Tonic East in the village. The group running the event- Single and the City, aim to bring together the best of the best to help you find who you’re looking for- check it out, you never know, right?

I hope you all have a great week, follow me on Twitter to get the latest updates!

A Few Good Concerts

I’ve been meaning to give you proper reviews of several concerts I attended in the last month. I was at Phoenix‘s sold out concert at Terminal 5 June 19th; it was spectacular. At one point the singer, Thomas Mars, jumped into the crowd; people surged forward contracting to the point that half the room, which had seemed packed, was almost empty. The security guards hauled him out unharmed but I can’t say it was a particularly successful move. This video is pretty poor quality but it does give you a concept of the high energy level in the room, plus it shows off some of the crazier lighting effects:

They’ll be back at the end of August- perhaps a good way to end the summer?

On a very different note, I very much enjoyed the New York City Opera’s recital-style performance of La Navarraise in the World Financial Center Winter Garden. It was interesting to see this somewhat awkward space full of people silently listening to opera. The acoustics weren’t great and the palm trees tended to block your view but I liked the informality of it and the illusion that everyone had sort of stumbled into the performance.

A bit more recently G and I saw Black Taxi at Pianos. We were already pretty crazy about them beforehand but seeing them live definitely cemented our regard. Pianos is a tiny venue so we were also able to meet them afterwards, which was very exciting. Here are a few of Deneka Peniston’s stunning photos of the show:

J. Holms on Drums

J. Holms on Drums

Vocals by Ezra

Vocals by Ezra

Ezra amongst the crowd

Ezra amongst the crowd

You have another chance to see them tonight, at Le Poisson Rouge! Check my last post for info on the spread of events this weekend and stay tuned for additions!