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Home > Author Archives: John Yohalem

Author Archives: John Yohalem

Three sisters who are not sisters

Three sisters who are not sisters

Three sisters who are not sisters Dell’ Arte Opera Ensemble calls this summer’s final offering “Scenes from the Tower,” although the only actual tower on view appears in Act I of another of its presentations, Princess Maleine. The “Scenes from the Tower” evening is devoted to three operas composed by women, and the metaphorical tower is women’s sequestration from the opera stage. The “Scenes” include a complete performance of Cendrillon, an opera by the great ... Read More »

Hamstrung by Maeterlinck

Hamstrung by Maeterlinck

Hamstrung by Maeterlinck “If you abstain from tennis and read Maeterlinck in a small country village, you are of necessity intellectual,” Saki pointed out back in 1904. He did not think highly of either diversion. Maeterlinck, the Belgian symbolist poet-playwright (Pelléas et Mélisande, Ariane et Barbe-Bleu, L’Oiseau Bleu, Monna Vanna—each of which became an opera), was even more bewildering than usual when he wrote his first play, La Princesse Maleine, yet poor Lili Boulanger attempted an ... Read More »

The Isle is full of noises

The Isle is full of noises

The Isle is full of noises Dell’ Arte Opera Ensemble tends to choose a “theme” for each year’s offerings. This summer the theme is women composers, which is timely, and the more to be applauded as likely to turn up unusual works. The company will present a world premiere, Whitney George’s Princess Maleine, on Thursday, and an afternoon of #art songs by the Boulanger sisters on Sunday. Meanwhile such once-famous but now little-known “singer-songwriters” as ... Read More »

Winterstorms that go bump in the night

Winterstorms that go bump in the night

Winterstorms that go bump in the night In one of Saki’s stories (“The Game Bag”), a pair of his pompous suburban aristocrats explode over a social gaffe. After some time the louder and burlier one stomps off in a huff. “It was as though,” says the author, “one had come straight out from a Wagner opera into a rather tame thunderstorm.” This trope came to me Sunday evening when a hefty thunderclap shook Tanglewood’s Koussevitzky ... Read More »

Crimes of a ragged century

Crimes of a ragged century

Crimes of a ragged century Quite by chance—en route to Tanglewood—I stumbled upon the Mac-Haydn Theatre, which has held the fort for fifty years in Chatham, New York. Besides a seven-musical mainstage (ten days each run), the company gives three Children’s Theatre shows a summer. This week (through next Sunday), by chance, they are giving Ragtime, a musical about turn-of-the-century race relations, unwelcome immigrants, labor revolts against brute force and the collapse of the traditional ... Read More »

She’s a stranger here herself

She’s a stranger here herself

She’s a stranger here herself Bellini’s fourth opera, La Straniera, was a hit in 1829, all over Italy and then throughout Europe. Bellini&8217;s highly original style of plangent, flowing melody was the newest thing in romantic atmosphere. Would he have been able to write a merry comic jaunt like L’Elisir d’amore or L’Italiana in Algeri? I doubt it. Nobody asked him to. They wanted mysterious Byronic epics and he was glad to oblige. The 27-year-old ... Read More »

When off-off was on to something

When off-off was on to something

When off-off was on to something Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive. A sort of bliss. No one was sure where the musical form was going to go. Off-Off Broadway, they experimented in all directions. Heavier rock, lighter rock, no rock at all, no music at all, no lyrics at all, rock opera, ballad opera, folk opera. One experimenter was Al Carmines, minister of the Judson Memorial Baptist Church, a congregation at ... Read More »

Nixon in Jersey: The Renixoning

Nixon in Jersey: The Renixoning

Nixon in Jersey: The Renixoning The annual Princeton Festival in June climaxes with a fully staged grand opera at the McCarter Theater on campus. This year’s offering (last Sunday, to be repeated next Sunday) was John Adams’s most popular opera, Nixon in China, given a first-rate production and performed by an excellent youthful cast. This complex and multilayered work was given its due largely thanks to the scenic and projection design of Jonathan Dahm Robertson, full ... Read More »

Mistress class

Mistress class

Mistress class Maria Callas was unique; today, she is more legend than reality.  Charles Ludlam was unique; today, he is a legend sadly close to forgotten. Charles’s face, framed in Camille’s sausage curls, Traviata-gowned, chest hair peeping over his low décolletage, appeared just once on the front page of the New York Times—heading his obit in 1987. The epidemic was at its early peak and Charles symbolized, as well as anyone, the assault upon the ... Read More »

Band in Boston

Band in Boston

Band in Boston The Elector of Hannover, as is well known, kept a hippogriff, a creature long thought fabulous or at least extinct. In fact, he was in every way fabulous. The Elector hoped to fly to London on its back and descend to the throne should the moribund Queen Anne ever actually die. Alas, when she was finally found to be dead, in 1714, the animal had vanished and King George went to England ... Read More »

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