Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Central Park Five

I just watched the Ken Burns documentary, The Central Park Five which tells the story of the five young teenagers who were accused and convicted of the brutal attack of the Central Park jogger in 1989. Years later, the real rapist confessed and his DNA was matched with the crime.

If you are familiar with the case, as I was, this documentary doesn't provide much new information. What it does do, however, is tell an important story of a very grave miscarriage of justice, and it offers a glimpse into the young men who needlessly endured much suffering as a result of unbridled racism and aggressive and blind prosecutorial arrogance. I found myself very moved.

Unfortunately the prosecutors and detectives involved in the case refused to participate in the documentary. I am very curious about their perspective and how they would defend their actions.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

La Perichole

Last night I saw a New York City Opera performance of Jacques Offenbach's La Perichole at City Center.

While I found the music to be really fun and delightful, I was put off by the production, which included many drawn out gags and pratfalls, long stretches of unsung dialogue that did not move the plot forward, and an unpleasant visual mishmash of costumes and sets. I first found the colors and sets charming, but after a while it became kind of annoying to look at (ongepatschket, as my people say).

All of this took away from what I found to be a wonderful musical performance. I loved Marie Lenormand as Perichole as well as the trio of sopranos.

I had previously seen Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman in rehearsal at the Met, and adored the music. So I think I'm an Offenbach fan. Not a fan of the NYCO artistic director, however.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


I gobbled up Cha-Ching! by Ali Liebegott in a couple of days. This is a wonderful novel set in San Francisco and NYC in the 90s, following Theo, a big-hearted neurotic who is so wonderfully easy to relate to, as she tries to start her life over during the last few months before turning 30.

Theo possesses a sensitivity to those around her, and an acute, sometimes painful, consciousness of self. Her reflections on and interactions with the people around her are alternately and simultaneously hilarious and poignant.

Liebegott does a great job depicting that stage of waywardness in life, when you don't have direction and are floating around, worrying and coping. As I said, Theo is very relatable. Even though I am in very different circumstances than the character, I identified strongly with her internal state. A scene that resonated in particular was when she had a meltdown in the dentist's office. I recently went to the dentist without a Xanax, and ended up trembling and crying in the chair!

Cha-Ching! is a fast, engaging, entertaining read. I was disappointed when it ended, as I felt a sense of loss. I already miss the companionship I felt with Theo.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ginger and Rosa

I was a little disappointed in Ginger and Rosa. I had read this review in the Times and was very much looking forward to it. Also, I thought Elle Fanning was amazing in Phoebe in Wonderland, and was excited to see her in something else.

The movie is about two teenagers in 1962 who have been friends since the day were born in the shadow of Hiroshima in 1945. Their friendship is supposed to be deep and special, but I didn't really get a sense of their bond. It seemed to be sort of superficially drawn. Rosa's father left her mother when she was a little girl, and Ginger (Elle Fanning) has artistic and narcissistic parents. The drama centers on an intense betrayal, that I can't give away. This aspect of the film I thought was well done. I was uncomfortable and horrified, and my heart went out to Ginger.

What irked me was the editing. I enjoyed watching the actors; I enjoyed the early 60s London setting; I was interested in watching characters unfold. But scenes ended so abruptly, leaving me feel stranded. This was done to quite frustrating effect in the final scene.

I thought Elle Fanning did a great job and has a wonderful emotional range (I was surprised to learn that she was only 13 when this was filmed). Her quiet, thoughtful acting was painful at times, and when she finally breaks down I felt tremendous compassion for her character.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Die Walkure

I saw Die Walkure at the Met this afternoon. And guess what? I loved it. The music was romantic and stirring and exciting. The plot involved a lot of pride and defiance and over-the-top emotions. The production featured moving planks with projections on them that I found to be very effective. They created an austere and dark atmosphere. The most beautiful was the wintery forest.

I had been intimidated by the prospect of this five hour German opera, but I found it incredibly enjoyable. And in spite of the grim emotional content, I felt uplifted by the experience.

The performer singing Siegmund was replaced by an understudy. Martina Serafin had her Met debut as Sieglinde, and did a beautiful job. Brunhilde was sung by Deborah Voigt. Stephanie Blythe was a stupendous Fricka, and Mark Delavan sang Wotan.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company

Last night I saw the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company perform at the Joyce. I have always loved this company, since I first saw them at the SUNY Purchase Performing Arts Center in the early 90s. I have also seen them perform at Celebrate Brooklyn! and at the Metropolitan Museum performance space.

Last night's dances were beautiful, eclectic, and dynamic. One of the dances, Continuous Replay, featured naked performers, and was performed in a jarring, rhythmic manner that was fascinating but uncomfortable. The music for all three dances was beautiful, and the choreography complex.

(The image pictured here is from another performance).

Writing about an earlier performance this year, The New York Times stated:

"Moment by moment the Jones/Zane choreography knows how to grab your attention. Pronounced contrasts of dynamics, space, direction and scale proliferate. Attention seeking, indeed, is very close to the heart of the Jones/Zane endeavor; the choreography is intensely audience-focused and frequently on the cusp of knowing cuteness, even at its most serious. Although viewers may find that the mind wanders, the eye doesn’t.

“Continuous Replay,” occurring on both programs and featuring different guest artists on Friday and Saturday, is a thorough primer in Jones/Zane style: sharp versus flowing, large versus small, straight versus angled. Though the dancers advance through space in straight lines by means of metric footwork, the main emphasis is on the upper body. Turns of the head to the audience have special emphasis, and in the most memorable gesture, dancers turn their faces to the front to deliver a double hiss (almost a “hee-hee” sound) through gritted teeth."

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Human Stain

There's a lot that I appreciated in Philip Roth's The Human Stain. Moments of wonderfully competent and masterful writing, and the critique of cultural self-righteousness. And, the story was fairly interesting. I also could appreciate the academic setting and that aspect of the plot.

However, I wasn't particularly grabbed or moved by the novel. I felt like I was just kind of reading it to read it (I was reading it on plane rides). It just didn't captivate me, in spite of it's considerable strengths. Also, I thought two characters, Delphine Roux and Les Farley, were badly drawn. More like caricatures or writing exercises, very two dimensional.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Gorillaz Demon Days Live at the Manchester Opera House

The other night at my friend's house in London I watched a DVD of the band Gorillaz' concert, Demon Days Live at the Manchester Opera House.

It was incredible! The music was kind of trip-hoppy and featured many special guests. The band played in silhouette and graphics were projected on a screen above them. The music was incredibly dynamic and exciting. It must have been incredible, over the top live.