Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 40 Part Motet

I was a bit underwhelmed by Janet Cardiff's sound installation, "The Forty Part Motet" on view at The Cloisters. The NY Times quoted viewers as saying the experience transported them and was so extraordinary. I just felt like I was listening to a choral concert played though many speakers. It was very nice. Nothing wrong with it at all. But it wasn't a particularly amazing experience.

Here's the description from the Times:

"Inside the ancient chapel was the first presentation of contemporary art ever at the Cloisters: “The Forty Part Motet,” an 11-minute immersion in a tapestry of voice, each thread as vivid as the whole fabric. A sacred composition of Renaissance England is rendered by the multimedia artist Janet Cardiff through 40 speakers — one for each voice in the Salisbury Cathedral Choir, which performed the piece in 2000. What started as one microphone per singer is now a choir of black high-fidelity speakers arrayed in an oval, eight groupings of soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass."

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Last night I saw Complexions at The Joyce. This exciting company performed three complex dances, all with so much intricate and quirky movement. The dances had numbers of performers on stage at one time, and often it was hard to take it all in.

The first, "Moon Over Jupiter" was set to Rachmaninov, and I found the music a little difficult. The dancing was intriguing and engaging, however. The second, "Recur", was set to all different music, and it was somber and moody. Also complex. My favorite part was the section pictured here, where two dancers in wide legged pants performed a duet with another dancer moving in silhouette behind them. The final piece featured the vibrant wonderful music of Stevie Wonder. The music itself was so exciting that it kind of over-powered the lively dancing. It was a fun up-beat, crowd-pleasing way to end the night.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Balthus at the Met

Today I went up to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Balthus exhibit, Cats and Girls: Paintings and Provocations.

This somber, intriguing collection of work captures girls in moments free of selfconsciousness. Reading, or sleeping, or looking in the mirror or out the window, these figures are quietly alone (except for the cats). There are a few paintings where the underpants of prepubescent girls can be seen, and because of this there is a warning at the beginning of the exhibition stating that some viewers might find the content disturbing. I didn't think these were exceptionally prurient but an uncomfortable eroticism does surround the images. And I think this discomfort adds to the richness of Balthus' work.

I enjoyed all the paintings, but the two that I remember most are, one of a reclining nude with a knife on the ground, and another, I think called "Patience" where a girl is standing over a table laid out with playing cards while a cat plays with a toy underneath. The girl is wearing pale green, and there is a softness to the palette that stood out for me.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I just watched Goodfellas and thought it was okay. I wasn't as crazy about as many people are. I enjoyed the way it was directed -- the shots, the music, the narration. But I didn't get drawn into any of the characters.

Mainly I enjoyed seeing ways in which David Chase borrowed from Goodfellas for The Sopranos. Although a TV show, The Sopranos has much more depth and complexity, and so many plot lines (spanning years, of course), that there are a lot of points of entry. Compared to the show, Goodfellas felt linear and basic. Still, a fine flick.

Sunday, November 24, 2013


I don't usually do horror flicks (with a few exceptions) but was curious to see the remake of the 1976 classic, Carrie. I had heard negative things about it but still wanted to see it.

I was surprised by how into it I got. It stuck very closely, I think pretty much scene by scene, to the original. They updated a few things, like adding cell phones into the harassment of Carrie. The story, the revenge of the disturbed, picked on kid, still has power. And the crazy, abusive, religious fanatic mother, played by brilliantly by Julianne Moore, was creepy as hell.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Der Rosenkavalier

Last night we saw Der Rosenkavalier at the Met! I won the tickets through the drawing.

We had seen this in HD at BAM a few years ago and loved it. Seeing it live was a real treat, but our seats were so far back it was hard to see. This was unfortunate because in the filmed version I really appreciated the acting. Live, without seeing their faces, it was hard to get as much of a sense of it.

My favorite part of this Strauss opera is the character of the Marschallin, sung last night by Martina Serafin. I just love the depth and nuance of her mind, and her gracious actions. Serafin sang the role beautifully.

The buffoon Ochs was sung by Peter Rose and he was great. The most lovely singing was by last night's stand-in Erin Morley, playing Sophie. Her voice was just incredible.

The weakest link was Alice Coote as Octavian. She sang beautifully, particularly in the duets. But she just didn't communicate much.

Der Rosenkavalier is in three acts and the narrative is somewhat odd. It is part a deep love story, and part a farce. These elements didn't totally sync. At least not for me and not last night.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Sopranos

I just finished binge watching The Sopranos, which I started a few weeks ago. 6 and 1/2 seasons.

What a fantastic series. Well developed plots and characters, fantastic acting, lots of different themes. Sometimes the violence was too intense for me, but everything was incredibly well executed.

There were many deaths which devastated me as I became invested in a lot of the characters. The final scene knocked the wind out of me and I cried. I won't say more. No spoilers here.

Favorite characters: Tony, Carmella, Adriana, Christopher, Corrado. Least favorite: Melfi, Meadow, AJ.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Humming Towards the Sublime

I don't usually post about CDs, but I've been listening to Mark Ettinger's Humming Towards the Sublime and just had to write something about this wonderful album.

The ten bluesy songs are all suffused with a lovely sweetness of spirit, from the more uptempo ones to the softer more gentler songs. They all communicate the importance of taking joy in life and finding beauty in small moments.

The playful "I Don't Need Alcohol" is rich with fun lyrics expanding on a single metaphor. The dreamy "Mother" looks nostalgically at the past and wistfully at the future.

Throughout the lyrics merge idioms of both religious and romantic love, exploring earthly, meaningful, secularity. Can't stop listening to it.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Yesterday I was delighted by Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty: A Gothic Romance. Bourne relies on Tchaikovsky's original music -- which was glorious -- to retell the Sleeping Beauty story. The costumes and sets were beautiful, haunting. The dancing lovely. Particularly charming was the puppet baby Aurora. All in all an exciting and unique ballet.