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.
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):
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!