Sunday, January 31, 2010

Damien Hirst at Gagosian

Last night I went with a friend to the Damien Hirst opening at Gagosian. I had never been to such a high-end art opening before!

The crowd was very gorgeous and gorgeously dressed and beautiful and famous. Everyone looked right through me, standing there in my LL Bean down coat!

Celebrities in addition to the artist included James Franco, Mick Jagger, and John McEnroe.

It was so crowded it was hard to see the work, but I was particularly dazzled by this wall-sized gold display of diamonds.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Simon Boccanegra

Last night I saw Simon Boccanegra at the Met with Meridita.

I had been very intimidated by this opera, as the synopsis was so complicated I was nervous I wouldn't be able to follow the plot. Plus, the story involves a lot of political intrigue, and I was scared this would not engage me.

I couldn't have been more wrong. It was very easy to follow, and very interesting dramatically. But what was most amazing for me was that the way the music combined with the libretto to create a tremendously intense drama. I had the same feeling with Der Rosenkavalier, like the story alone wouldn't have been enough for me, nor the music, but you combine them and something marvelous happens.

We were very fortunate to see Placido Domingo in the lead role. Although he is a tenor and the role is a baritone, he wanted to do it, and it was the first time in his professional career that he sang in that range. He was fantastic! The house went crazy for him at the end, the applause was stupendous, and it was thrilling to be in that audience.

The entire cast was superb. The soprano was sung by Adrianne Pieczonka, whose voice was strong and clear throughout, although her acting was kind of not there. Marcello Giordani played the lover, and although he seemed to fub a note or two, he belted out some beautiful, beautiful arias. He is the performer who played Pinkerton in the Mme. Butterfly we saw in HD at Lincoln Center, and he was also the Calaf in Turandot who brought the house down with his Nessum Dorma.

Viola Frey

After Slash I checked out another exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design, Bigger, Better, More: The Art of Viola Frey.

The artist's huge, over-sized human figures were interesting, but basically they didn't do it for me. I enjoyed the texture of her surfaces, and some of the sloppy cartoonish quality of the images, but I didn't care for her palette and generally didn't feel moved or engaged in any of the pieces.

The copy for the exhibition states: "This exhibition features the artist's colossal clay figures, sculptures, ceramic plates as well as a selection of her paintings and works on paper. Best known for her gigantic figures of domineering men and over-wrought women, Frey's work not only reveals her early involvement in painting via the dynamic color glazes on the surfaces of these sculptures, but perceptive observations of gender and power issues in mid-twentieth century America"

Slash: Paper Under the Knife

I saw the most amazing exhibition at The Museum of Arts and Design -- Slash: Paper Under the Knife. It is a group show of over 40 artists whose works all involve cut paper. The pieces were all so incredible; they all showed so much mastery of technique, and were all so intricate and wonderfully implemented.

I liked almost all the pieces. Maybe two or three didn't quite do it for me, but for the most part I was blown away.

Pictured here is a cut out by Rob Ryan that includes lovely, romantic words. So many of the pieces were emotionally evocative. All of them worked on several levels, and there was such a range of texture and scale, delicacy and muscularity. I cannot recommend this exhibition enough.

Wake Up, Sir!

Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames is so fucking entertaining and clever!

I have not been able to concentrate on reading anything for a while. I guess because I've was stressed and busy with the dissertation. This book was just what the doctor ordered. The narrator is witty and neurotic, and in constant dialogue with his imaginary valet, Jeeves. His prose his clever at every sentence, and there were many laugh out loud moments and scenes. His humor, like all good humor, gets its punch from insightful observations, and in general I found myself loving the mind of this writer.

Monday, January 25, 2010


I watched Amadeus last night on Watch Instantly. I had seen this marvelous movie about Salieri's malignant jealousy of Mozart many years ago. I may even had seen it twice before.

Salieri's obsessive religiosity and love of music combines with his resentment of Mozart's flamboyant, manic, and childish personality in such a way that his envy and hatred become an art in and of themselves.

This time around, in addition to my interest in the dramatic relationship between the two protagonists, I was also interested in the treatment of opera and the period in classical music. I loved the opera scenes, and was proud of myself for recognizing bits here and there of Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. After I watched the movie I wikipediad Mozart and Salieri and understand the poetic license taken with the movie and that it was not historically accurate.

I enjoyed this movie immensely and feel that I learned a bit about music at the same time.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Caballe Beyond Music

Wow! This woman has an incredibly beautiful voice. Almost freakishly beautiful. It's just otherworldly.

Caballe Beyond Music is a documentary about the operatic soprano Montserrat Caballe who was born in Spain to a very poor family. The documentary chronicles her career and includes much footage of her singing exquisite arias.

I was very moved by her singing, as well as by her person. Although some people made comments about her being a bit diva-ish, it was pretty clear that she is a warm, happy, loving woman. (On the other hand, she deposited her children with her parents for them to raise so she and her husband could pursue their careers; not the *most* loving things to do. But whatev.)

This is the best opera documentary I've seen yet. I really loved it. Now to amazon to buy some Caballe CDs!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Come Back, Little Sheba

Come Back, Little Sheba is a 1952 melodrama about a sad dysfunctional older couple who take in a young female boarder.

The husband (played by Burt Lancaster) quietly becomes painfully infatuated with her, while the wife becomes fixated on the girl's love life. She makes both the husband and the wife aware of their sexual and romantic frustrations and dissatisfactions.

The husband is a recovered alcoholic, and the pain of seeing the young girl with another man drives him to drink. The wife, who was always nervous and annoying, becomes even more so, and there is a terrible explosion where the husband gets mean and violent. After going through detox he comes home and repents.

It's weird; I'm not sure if you're supposed to feel happy for them at the end, or feel like anything has been resolved. In a way, it seems that they are ready to turn over a new leaf, putting the past behind them, and aware of how much each means. But on the other hand, they don't belong together and they are just going to grow old in much the same way as they had already been living... I was sort of confused I guess.

The movie is dated and I found the acting stilted. As I always say with older movies, it might make a good remake...

Charlotte Gainsbourg at The Bell House

Last night I saw Charlotte Gainsbourg perform at The Bell House in Gowanus.

She was amazing, very sultry and hip. She whisper/sang all her songs, and the music was varied, from super slow pieces to more upbeat, complex songs. She covered Bob Dylan's She Breaks Just Like a Woman, which I really liked.

Unfortunately, the acoustics at The Bell House were sub-par. The band sounded good, but the vocals got garbled and lost. It was a shame, because I was very interested in her lyrics. When someone whispers to you in an intimate and sexy way you want to know what they are saying!

(The opening band was Dinosaur Feathers, and they didn't do much for me)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Pirates of Penzance

Last night Meridita took me to see The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players' production of The Pirates of Penzance at City Center.

It was wonderful! Completely joyous and exuberant. Witty and smart, but silly and irreverent. The singing was wonderful (although I thought the soprano had trouble with a couple of the high notes).

The audience was amazing too, thoroughly there with the players, ready to laugh, practically singing along.

I had actually seen this play before, in 1980 at the Delacorte Theater with Linda Ronstadt. But I don't remember a thing about it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

South Pacific

Today I got up early and waited on line for $20 tickets to South Pacific at Lincoln Center.

Our seats were excellent! We were about ten rows from the front and slightly to the side.

The show was very entertaining and absorbing. The cast was energetic, the music catchy and intelligent. Altogether, a very pleasant evening.

I did have some issues with it. None of the performances were really mind-blowing or anything. And I think because I've been going to so much opera, the singing felt kind of like whatever to me. Nothing special, no amazing feat.

Also, I thought that it didn't handle the racism very well. It's an explicit part of the story and it just seemed like the main character thought it over and decided not to be racist anymore. Like it's that easy.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gabriel Orozco at MOMA

Ducking out of the meshugas that was the Tim Burton exhibition, I found myself wandering around the Gabriel Orozco retrospective at MOMA.

I had never heard of this apparently very significant and influential sculptor. But I immediately fell in love.

Not with his shoe box or his yogurt container tops.

But with his spit and ink drawings on graph paper.

His pen and ink pieces.

And, most incredibly, his biomorphic and strange and beautiful ceramic pieces.

I loved his materials, his textures, his eye.

Unfortunately I had a lot of trouble finding images of the work that I saw. I love this bicycle piece, but there was so much more that really resonated with me.

I might go back, because when I looked online for Orozco images, I found things from this show that I don't recall seeing. In particular a giant mobile skeleton of a whale or something. Don't know how I missed it -- oh one thing that might have contributed to my confusion was that a big group of middle school children flooded the exhibition, and so I was kind of itching to vamoose, in spite of how much I was enjoying the work.

Tim Burton at MOMA

I had been dying to see the Tim Burton exhibition at MOMA and finally went this afternoon.

It was a huge show, with tons of drawings and sculptures. It really sucked you into his aesthetic and particular imagination.

The problem was, it was so fucking crowded. I skipped a lot of stuff because I felt cranky and couldn't deal with the crowds. I didn't feel like I missed that much, though, because, even though I find his work wonderful and the output of his imagination is breath-taking, I still also find it a bit redundant. There wasn't that much reason to see every single drawing he ever made. Also, I think this is a case where seeing the work live in person isn't that necessary. You really can get a sense of it from other media. I would be just as happy to look through a book of his work. Which is not to say that I don't think he deserves a retrospective at the MOMA. He is an important artist and I'm glad to see him recognized.

But the crowds! Jeesh!

Patti Smith Dream of Life

My mother recorded the PBS POV documentary Patti Smith Dream of Life for me (brilliantly filmed by Stephen Sebring), and we watched it together last night and this morning at her house.

It was incredibly beautiful, and gave this wonderful, disjointed, impressionistic composite of Patti Smith as a consummate artist. I really enjoyed it. I'm very tired right now, and don't feel like writing, so I'm just going to copy and paste what PBS says about the work:

"Shot over 11 years by acclaimed fashion photographer Steven Sebring, Patti Smith: Dream of Life is a remarkable plunge into the life, art, memories and philosophical reflections of the legendary rocker, poet and artist. Sometimes dubbed the "godmother of punk" — a designation justified by clips of her early rage-fueled performances — Smith was much more than that when she broke through with her 1975 debut album, Horses. A poet and visual artist as well as a rocker, she befriended and collaborated with some of the brightest lights of the American counterculture, an often testosterone-driven scene to which she brought a swagger and fierceness all her own.

Through performance footage, interviews, poems, paintings, photographs and Smith's voice-over reminiscences, Dream of Life reveals a complicated, charismatic personality wrestling with the paradoxes of being an artist in America and of being a woman in a male-dominated music scene.

Smith also wrestles with the tragedies — the deaths of her husband and brother — that brought her back to New York and to performing. Layering Smith's words over innovative camera techniques, the film explores how one woman discovered herself through music, how she survived tragedy, how she raised two children and how she endeavors in a quest for peace, for herself and for the world.

In telling Smith's story, Sebring plumbs the history of several important cultural movements. Smith's collaborations and close friendships with poets William Burroughs, Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and musicians Bob Dylan and Michael Stipe reveal the links that make her a bridge between the Beats, the punk movement and musicians of today. The colorful moments in Dream of Life are plenty: Smith as an angelic street urchin, reciting "A Prayer for New York" in footage from 1975; a jam session with her 1970s collaborator, playwright Sam Shepard; Smith reading an Allen Ginsberg poem at Ginsberg's funeral; and Smith hanging out on the beach with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Mimic is a piece of crap.

It's a movie about mutant strains of some bug that was invented to kill cockroaches which were carrying a disease. It was just such B-flick derivative unscary predictable crap.

Del Toro, who I love, directed it. Which is why I rented it. But jeez. It was bad.

Mira Sorvino played the brave entomologist heroine.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Meridith McNeal at Figureworks

My first art exhibit for 2010 was wonderful!

The other night I went to the opening of Meridith McNeal's solo show at Figureworks in Williamsburg. Her pen and ink and watercolor works are so beautiful. The gallery was pretty crowded, but it wasn't so much so that I didn't get a chance to each one, and each was more special and more perfectly implemented than the next. She manages to capture something very special in every image.

Der Rosenkavalier

OMG, yesterday I saw the live HD screening of Der Rosenkavalier at BAM and it was fucking awesome.

I was blown away.

I was pretty wary of it after watching the DVD with Te Kanawa a couple of weeks ago. There were parts of it I liked okay, but basically I thought it was "tough" and I was worried about sitting through four hours and forty five minutes of it again. Yes, I said FOUR HOURS AND FORTY FIVE MINUTES.

That's a lot.

But it didn't matter. This Met Opera production with Renee Fleming and Susan Graham pretty much flew by. I was completely engrossed the whole time and deeply, deeply moved by Renee Fleming's portrayal of the Marchaline. She had a lovely and subtle emotional range that just brought tears to my eyes practically every time she opened her mouth. She also had the best words of the opera, all the dramatic depth came from her character. After the opera I had my ladies poker group and I ended up quoting her a few times. She says at one point that you live oblivious to time and then suddenly it's everywhere and all you think about. She is hands down my favorite character in opera so far.

Kristinn Sigmundsson played Baron Ochs with a wonderful maniacal intensity.

I can't remember the soprano who played Sophie, but her performance was the least compelling.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Devil's Backbone

I'm not sure how I felt about The Devil's Backbone, directed by Guillermo del Toro, who also directed Pan's Labyrinth (I mistakenly thought he did The Orphanage as well).

It's a very interesting story about an orphanage that is haunted by a dead child during the Spanish Civil War. But the ghost story isn't the main plot. It's related to the bigger story about the adults in the orphanage and their politics. The drama between these characters was actually rather unusual, but right now I'm tired and don't feel like writing about it.

There was some very intense violence that was one of the most awful scenes I'd ever seen.

Basically this felt like a combination of horror and melodrama, and I'm not sure how it worked. I was scared at some points, but not terribly scared; I was drawn into the story, but it also felt somehow like a cliche. I just don't know...