albadger: (Hank with Welcome Basket)
I may not have read much last year, but I saw a ton of shows, here broken down into 5 of the 6 categories that all performing arts fit into. Category 6 is still awaiting its comeback. It will come back. It WILL.Read more... )
albadger: (Badger exercising)
Ground Zero. Only three things today, but they were important:

  1. National Gallery of Art. I spent many hours here when I lived in the DC area 40 years ago. They have my three favorite paintings in the world, which I will share here without comment
    1215484022_large-image_rubens001lgForest of FontainebleauIsabella Brant

  2. We Are Proud to Present... Okay, this one wasn't quite as important, but I did want to touch some slightly more edgy theater while I was here. Fascinating playing space, but the play, meh; most of the way a good ride, alternating between dead-on parody of actor's workshop game-playing and an exploration of an under-reported atrocity in Namibia under German rule... and then goes off the rails at the end and turns into a clumsy reenactment of good ol' USA racial atrocity, which doesn't seem to have anything at all to do with what went before. Worse than that, the ending had nothing for the splendid Dawn Ursula, herself reason to sit through the show (at least until she disappears). This baby's not getting produced much, but I'd go see anything with Ms. Ursula in it.

  3. ...and then, Ground Zero! Verdi's il Corsaro, the last of the 26 original Verdi operas that I'd never attended a performance of. This one's not getting produced much either, in spite of some magnificent music, because

    1. if you have the resources to do it, you have the resources to do il Trovatore, which more people will come to, and

    2. there are two leading ladies; Gulnara (Tamara Wilson today) is by far the meatier part, but the big final trio is all about Medora (here sung by Nicole Cabell), who drank poison only seconds before learning that her boyfriend wasn't dead after all. Cat fight a-brewin'!

    Tenor Michael Fabiano was great, as were both Wilson and Cabell, but I got the distinct impression that the two ladies weren't speaking to each other. Drama!

Flying out to Tampa tomorrow, with all DC goals accomplished (except impulse-buy goals I thought up while I was here so they don't count). I may have finished the Verdi 26, you're thinking, but what about the Verdi 28? I'm way ahead of you -- that's why I'm flying to Tampa. Enjoy.
albadger: (Bill Oddie -- Mister May)
I seem to be leaving the hotel room later every day! Thursday at 9, Friday at 10, and it's 10:52 today and I'm still typing away.
    If Thursday was about boxes more interesting than their contents, Friday was about the unloved, the underused and the unappreciated. To wit.
  • the Heurich House, just off Dupont Circle. I picked this from one of those "5 things in DC you must see" and it was an amazing treat. I'd made a reservation ("some tours sell out!" bellows the website), but I ended up being the ONLY person there for the 11:30 tour. Adorable guide Rachel gave me a private showing, peeking in corners normally not shown off (she said), going into way more detail on the history than she'd be able to with a group. I felt a little guilty but not much. The house also pleases because it's on a weird lot (thanks to DC's stupid diagonal State Streets), and the architect cut all the rooms into weird and delightful shapes. If I was Uncle Moneybags, I'd much rather have this place than, say, the Breakers.

  • Freer and Sackler Galleries -- the Freer is half amazing Aisan art treasures, and half hackwork from G.M. Whistler, remembered today for a handful of accidentally great paintings, but mostly a lickspittle for the snooty elite. The good stuff -- the Asian stuff -- continues in the Sackler, a very new (to me! it's only 32 years old) building just south of the red brick castle. Most of which is blocked off for new exhibits. Oh well. But it's right next to

  • the National Museum of African Art, rather cooler, but again largely getting ready for the next show. But free postcards! FREE!

  • Oh, but on to my main Smithsonian destination of the day, the Hirschhorn. Current exhibit is "Damage Control: Art and Destruction since 1950." Mostly movies of people setting fire to things, blowing things up, dropping things from high buildings, etc. etc. It sounds stupid... and it is stupid... but an odd thing happened -- as the imagery piled up, and I was exposed to one act after another of 50-year-old vandalism... it started to make sense. So I bought a magnet.

  • Theater for Friday was Mother Courage at the Arena Stage, the main draw being Kathleen Turner in the title role. This was strange. It's nearly the end of the run, and it felt like she didn't have all her lines down; and she was surrounded by some truly great actors including Jack Willis and Rick Foucheux, who were on their game and seemed to keep her in line. But, still, she has a presence... not quite Killing of Sister George, but great to see

Today, walking around the west end of the mall, memorials, monuments, and then off to the Kennedy Center for Moby Dick: the Opera!, which, sadly, does not include the exclamation point in its official title.
albadger: (Viking and Satyr)

Here I am in DC, first full day of the Little Trip, and the day was all about buildings more interesting than what's in them.

First, the Library of Congress, the Thomas Jefferson Building, a whacked-out Beaux-Arts fever dream -- sure, it's filled with a priceless book collection, but those murals! The statues! The fountain! I lived in DC for 3 years and I can't believe I never visited this place. So I got a magnet and a baseball cap.

LOC fountain

Next was a place I never visited when I lived there, because it didn't exist yet -- the National Museum of the American Indian. I don't mean to diss the exhibits, which really are cool (esp. the Meso-American ceramics), but the building is eye-boggling inside and out -- kind of reminded me of the Guggenheim, but it has its own feel. I got another magnet.

Theater for tonight was Richard III at the Folger Shakespeare Theater. I'd been to that theater 24 years ago, but they've (temporarily) gutted the space to make an arena staging. Great cast, great costumes, but I had trouble paying attention for 2 reasons:

  1. The clever set had no less than 9 trap doors in it, 5 of them underlit plexiglass -- this made for interesting coups de theatre but also tended to "give" when the heavier actors walked on them, and I feared I would be witness to a non-Shakespearean tragedy.

  2. The role of Ratcliff was played by Andrew Criss. I meant no offense to the less attractive actor playing Richard, but I wasn't really focusing on the lead role most of the time.

Tomorrow I have a reservation for a special tour of the house of a famous beer baron. I seem to have forgotten where I wrote down the rest of the information about this, though. Any assistance would be welcome.

albadger: (B. J. Lang presents)
Catching up on the week:

Wednesday -- drive to the South Bay with [ profile] scottasf, first stop at the Rosicrucian Museum, a little corner of weird magic in the middle of San Jose sprawl. Sadly too rainy to explore the grounds, but the museum was as spiffy as I'd remembered from the 1980's. This was Scott's first trip but I think not his last, as he seemed taken both with the Egyptian exhibits and the Rosicrucian philosophy.

Then on to our evening event, the Threepenny Opera, in a superb rendition, the cast great from top to bottom, bristling with energy and sincerity. I think it got extended, so if you're in the area, go.

Friday night was with [ profile] bigjohnsf and [ profile] progbear seeing Marga Gomez performing her new solo show, Lovebirds at the Marsh in SF. Only 75 minutes or so, not a huge number of characters (7, including one named Marga Gomez, wink wink) -- but there was something about the piece, and her warmth and joy, that made it feel epic in scope even as it sped by.

I could never be a professional critic. I like stuff too much.

This morning I took in the Metropolitan Opera's telecast of Prince Igor, only a few miles away from my house at the Century Hayward. It's not a real substitute for being in the opera house, but it's still great, given that I won't be getting to NYC to see this one live. Eric Owens looks better with the beard, and why was he so goldarn nervous? He didn't need to be, everything went off without a hitch.

Next time: I'll tell you which movies to vote for on your Oscar ballot! I waited until after the deadline, you see, so I wouldn't unduly influence the outcome.
albadger: (B. J. Lang presents)
I may not have read much last year, but I saw a ton of shows, which break down into 5 categories (category 6 was sadly retired a few years back).
  1. "Straight" theater, non-Shakespeare:
    Bookkeepers, No Man's Land, Our Practical Heaven, Sherlock Holmes - the Final Adventure, Sometimes Cloudy - Sometimes Clear, the Haunting, the King Stag, the Spanish Tragedy, the Tenth Muse, the Woman in Black, Waiting for Godot.
  2. Shakespeare:
    Troilus and Cressida, Cymbeline, King Lear (twice), Macbeth, the Taming of the Shrew, the Tempest, the Winter's Tale.
  3. Opera:
    • LOTS of Verdi: i Lombardi, i Due Foscari, Giovanna d'Arco (twice), Alzira, i Masnadieri, la Battaglia di Legnano, la Traviata, Falstaff.
    • Lots of Wagner too: die Feen, das Liebesverbot, Rienzi, the Flying Dutchman, die Meistersinger.
    • also l'Incorinazione di Poppea (twice), Admeto, Cosi Fan Tutte, Maria Stuarda, le Troyens, Faust, Mefistofele, the Tales of Hoffman, Andrea Chenier, Ariadne auf Naxos, the Turn of the Screw, the Gospel of Mary Magdalen, Dolores Claiborne.

  4. Musicals:
    110 in the Shade; Kinky Boots; the Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder; the Landing; 1776.
  5. Rap, Hip-Hop or Folk Act:

    • Golden Girls Live! Guys in dresses acting out Golden Girls episodes
    • Kinsey Sicks 20th Anniversary at the Castro Theater
    • Trolley Dances -- site-specific dance performances in San Francisco
    • Pet Shop Boys in concert
    • Magic acts at the "Magic Garage," a cool performance space that a magic aficionado made in, yes, his garage in Cupertino
    • Driven Bananas, a one-woman show, part of SF Fringe

Best & Worsts?

  1. Hard to pick a favorite non-Shakes non-singing performance - international stars Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart in Godot or Bay Area star Julian Lopez-Morillas in Spanish Tragedy? Tiebreaker goes to Julian, because like me he won 2 days on Jeopardy! No worst, loved all of it.
  2. OSF's Lear was amazing, but, hey, I saw Tempest at the Reconstructed Globe in London, so that wins. On the other extreme, SF Shake's Macbeth was a campy howler, not to be missed for the wrong reasons.
  3. I loved getting to travel & see opera productions in other countries, & in particular to check off my to-do list the last Wagner operas I'd never seen, and all but one of the early Verdi works; but the single best production was right at home, SF Opera's Mefistofele, a brief respite in the company's slide... because they also supplied the worst opera I saw; not the 2 still-born "world premieres" but a listless and ramshackle Tales of Hoffman. Turns out Hoffman isn't as idiot-proof as I'd thought.
  4. Worst musical I saw is easy, the Landing, Kander's first post-Ebb work, not hateful bad but weak and sickly, so I feel sorry for it. The rest were all great, but Gentleman's Guide is the one I'm telling people to go see, superb work but it might not get the press it deserves.
  5. Everything in Category 5 was wonderful and great and they're all the Best and nobody is the worst, because I don't go to enough rap, hip hop or folk acts.
Next - exciting recaps of the places I went and the times I had my car's oil changed! I can't wait! Can you? Yes. You can.
albadger: (Badger on Diablo)

I got a bit thrown by the unconscionable, uncivilized lack of free WiFi in our Filled-with-French-hipsters hotel in NYC, so I got off track posting to ze blog extrodinaire. Over a week, and I post only 1 commercial with a hot bearded guy. Slipping.

Two jobs right now: first, the future, which is Germany for a week -- I'll be in Hamburg seeing operas. Also seeing an opera in a town that apparently doesn't exist, which should be interesting. Second, the past, and some deck-clearing, reporting on the exciting things that happened that didn't get blogged when they should have. Here goes!

Read more... )
albadger: (Real Badger)

Water Heater Saga (I'm not abusing the word "saga" any worse than iPhone game manufacturers and paranormal teen romance novels do) is now complete -- I returned the expensive Takagi tankless unit for nearly a full refund (a small restocking fee). Takagi -- high-tech water heaters and erotic bear artwork. The man can do anything! I've got that right, don't I? Takagi?

Monday night was the first rehearsal for the short play I'm going to be in next month. A three-hander, I'm a good-natured drunken beatnik/hippie poet. Charming young performers in the other 2 roles, it should be good. I'm a little worried about the director, though... he's noticed that the thing is set in 1974, and he's my age, so he thinks that, instead of drunk, we should be high. Which ruins a lot of the playwright's imagery, but heck, I'm not directing this. Also, we need to figure out how to climb up and down a boulder, and they won't let us bring a boulder onto the stage I suspect.

Driving up to San Rafael for the rehearsal, I listened to Act 1 of the new opera Two Boys from the Metropolitan Opera live feed. I don't at all wonder why all new operas suck, but I do wonder why they all suck in exactly the same way. Just as with Dolores Claiborne, the SF Opera premiere earlier this month, the orchestral and choral work was just fine -- Two Boys has some great choruses symbolizing the chaos and freedom of the internet, which would be great in a concert -- but the vocal lines are shapeless, slow and completely undramatic. The singers are mostly American or British, but sound like Pink Lady struggling through a foreign text, sounding it out phonetically, no concept of the meaning. Every sung note is simultaneously random and prissy.

And this has been the standard for new opera composition for sixty years now.

Yes, there have been classics written since World War II -- Rake's Progress and Nixon in China spring to mind -- but it's mostly a wasteland of drab, dead lumps. Doesn't have to be.

Actually I have a suggestion. A big problem is that people who can write tunes don't know how to orchestrate anymore, and people who can write for an orchestra can't come up with tunes. Fine, the orchestration is the hard work. Try this: keep the instrumental lines of, say, Dolores Claiborne, throw out the vocals entirely, and then hire a real songwriter like, oh, Cyndi Lauper to come in and write new music for the singers to go over the top. It couldn't possibly fit worse than the current vocal lines do, and you might actually get a real aria, or some real drama, out of it.

Of course, nobody listens to me, which I know because if they did, they would have put on Mercadante's il Bravo set in the lawless Old West. Which would rock.


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