Monday, July 27, 2015

THE WRECKERS: Dame Ethel M. Smyth's Opera at BARD: Review by Polly Guerin

Fisher Center on Bard's Hudson Valley Campus
With a tumultuous orchestral score, vibrant musicality and high drama staging, THE WRECKERS, the long neglected opera by Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, arrived at Bard Annual SummerScape festival recently and garnered a sold out performance for the first fully-staged production of Smyth's masterpiece in America.. There is still time to see this rare and riveting opera;  three more performances remain: July 29 and August 2 at 2 pm and July 31 at 7:30 pm, taking place on Bard's Hudson Valley campus in the striking Frank Gehry-designed Fisher Center's Sosnoff Theater.
      Leon Botstein the esteemed music director, who incidentally is the president of Bard College, leads the
American Symphony Orchestra with a rich orchestral score that swells to heights of high drama with the grandiosity of Wagner and a hint of Bizet's Carmen, and at every nuance the music emulates the ensuing tragic tale.
THE WRECKERS Production
So why does The Wreckers matter today? Director Thaddeus Strassberger, who stages the work,  lends clarity to the subject. "The themes of mass hysteria and populist justice should find powerful echoes in today's world events." In fact the opera address issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
    With Bard's reputation for reviving important operas it is no wonder that opera lovers and the curious cultural mavens went up to Annandale-on-Hudson to see this work by a Victorian-born Englishwoman, who at her time was was recognized as "the greatest female composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries."    
 Mark, Neal Cooper and Thirza,  Katharine Goeldner
It's a great folkloric story.that provided Smyth with the inspiration for her third and finest opera. Composed to a libretto by her friend and Henry Brewster, The Wreckers (1902-1904) gives a glimpse into the lives of people in a Cornish village who use religion to justify plundering ships after bringing them to rocky shores by extinguishing the beacons. Pitted against the community is the preacher husband, baritone, Pastor Pascoe, portrayed by Louis Otey. His young wife Thirza, Katharine Goeldner demonstrates her mezzo-soprano coloratura virtuosity while her lover Mark, performed by English tenor Neal Cooper, provides robust interpretation in his role as the young fisherman. The  romantic controversy.includes Sky Ingram with her compelling, energetic presence and versatile soprano. Mark and Thirza conspire to save the ships by kindling secret beacons to guide the ships. The tragic fate of the lovers is sealed with a village tribunal and in a colossal operatic finale they are condemned to death in a sea-filled cave.Though the story is fictitious the existence of wreckers on the British Coast was a historical fact, in small, desperately poor villages.  Smyth's opera presents issues with profound resonance for audiences today.
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth
     By the way, Ethel Mary Smyth was not content to write parlor music, and set out to conquer the male-dominated worlds of the opera houses and concert halls as well. She became famous in cultural cognoscenti circles and when John Singer Sargent sketched a likeness of her Smyth herself explained: "I feel I must fight for (my music), because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea." Her published output encompassed six operas, a concert mass, a double concerto, a choral symphony, songs with piano, organ pieces and chamber music. She counted Tchaikovsky and Debussy as her many admirers.
     Smyth became a prominent member of the "Votes for Women:" movement, her involvement including a stint in prison and her composition "The March of the Women" which was adopted as the suffragettes' anthem. Accolades and recognition were her due and in 1922 she was she was made a Dame of the British Empire..
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! The Summerscape Coach: $40 round trip transportation from Manhattan to Bard is available for the August 2nd performance.      
For more information visit fishercenter.bard.edu/transportation for details. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

DEATH OF THE PERSIAN PRINCE: Review by Polly Guerin

The story that inspired the play DEATH OF THE PERSIAN PRINCE is a riveting revelation about sexual reassignment surgery which is legal in Iran. However, homosexuality is forbidden in most cases for males, punishable by death. Yet, hundreds of gay Iranian men choose to change their gender through sexual reassignment surgery.. If they don't, it's legal to execute them.
     A world premier production in the 16th Annual Midtown International Theater Festival, Death of The Persian Prince is written and directed by Dewey Moss and most of his works involve LGBT elements. In the program notes he comments, "We've come far in the U.S. in regards to people's rights--which is celebrated---but my work on Death of the Persian Prince reminds me that as a world society we have so much further to go. It is my hope that this play will serve to educate, open minds, and continue the idea of a better society for all.
    A limited engagement at the Davenport Theater's Black Box Theater, located at 354 West 45th street,  will be presented Saturday July 25th at 5:30 pm and Sunday July 26th at 1pm. (Tickets $20 through the following link: http:www.midtownfestival.org). Then the play moves onto to the South Asian International Performing Arts Festival August 4th at 9pm and August 8th at 4pm at Access Theater Black Box, 380 Broadway, New York (Tickets at SAIPA.org)
   
The cast of three sterling actors have a synergy that keeps us riveted to our seats. In a present day, evening setting Samantha, played by the attractively engaging Iranian-American actress Pooya Mohseni---she interacts with James portrayed by George Faya, a not-so-docile, veteran of the Iraq war. The scene opens with a highly charged romantic encounter in Samantha's New York apartment, when late in the night James temporarily leaves, suddenly there is a knock at the door and the drama runs into high gear. Enters a stranger, played by the fiercely driven Gopal Divan, who has arrived unexpectedly from her homeland. Shattering confessions and unimaginable terror, the story of James, Samantha and the stranger takes an unexpected turning, leading to a stunning ending.
    The Death of The Persian Prince dramatizes the real-life story of thousands of gay Iranian who have changed genders to avoid execution by the Iranian government. It is a haunting tale about the power of the human spirit. The play runs 55 minutes and is presented without intermission
Ta ta Darlings: I highly recommend Death of The Persian Prince not only for its entertainment value but for the story that it reveals and informs us about  how "being cured" is not the solution but ultimately leads more often than not to suicide.  Fan mail welcome: pollytalknyc@gmail.com..

   
T



Monday, July 20, 2015

JOHN SINGER SARGENT Revisited: Review By Polly Guerin

 
Madame X
Aficionados of the art world may know the celebrated American painter John Singer Sargent for his famous painting of the iconic Madame X (Madame Pierre Gautreau) with her scandalous alabaster shoulders, one strap of her sensuous black gown slipping over her shoulder.. Quelle scandal, such was the uproar in Paris that Sargent fled to London where he repainted the strap. No doubt you have seen Dr. Pozzi in his baronial red robe, but few of you have had the opportunity to see Sargent's portraits and sketches that he produced at whim, simply because he indulged his urge to make lasting images of patrons, friends and family.
   Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends brings together about 90 portraits of artists, writers, actors and musicians, and unlike commissioned works, many of them were his close friends or people he encountered in his travels, people whom he admired like William Butler Yeats for whom he created a sketch for a book of poetry.
William Butler Yeats
   The recently opened exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also brings together a candid look at Robert Lewis Stevenson, Henry James and the great Shakespearean actress Ellen Terry. The exhibition explores the friendships between Sargent and those who posed for him as well as the significance of these relationships to his life and art. He often posed those sitters informally, in the act of painting, singing, or performing.
 
Ethel Smyth composer THE WRECKERS
Then, too, there is the sketch of  Dame Ethel Mary Smyth, who is widely recognized as "the greatest female composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries.  In her autobiography Smyth describes posing for Sargent while seated at a piano and singing. The resulting portrait, created in a hour and a half, contrasts boldly drawn lines with smudging passages. Smyth was a committed champion of women's rights and played a prominent role in the suffrage movement.She gave up composing only when deafness overcame her in later life.When she was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1922. Smyth herself explained: "I feel I must fight for (my music), because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea."
     Ethel Smyth's masterpiece, the opera, The Wreckers, based on historical events in Britain's Cornish coast in the 19th century , is a three-act saga of pirates, sex and betrayal with libretto by her close friend Henry Barrister. It is currently being performed at BARD in the Sosnoff Theater July 24 and 31, July 26, 29 and August 2. Contact box office at 845:758.7900. The American Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leon Botstein, music director, directed by Thaddeus Strassberger. 
   Sargent was not essentially a bravura portraitist of high society, the individuals seen through Sargent's eyes represent a range of leading figures in the creative arts of the time. The exhibition brings together paintings that have seldom or never been shown together. In this exhibit we see Sargent in a new light, a bon vivant depicting everyone he selected for the mere pleasure or shall I say, unexpected results. One subject, W. Graham Robertson posed with his poode, who bit Sargent during the sittings. The case of the  Pailleron children is yet another topic of consternation.. Daughter Marie-Louise glares with defiance; perhaps because it took 86 sittings as she clashed with Sargent over her hair and dress. My dears, see for yourself; there are more casual portraits of other artists at work include Claude Monet on the banks of a river.
  Ta Ta darlings!!! The Sargent show is on until October 4th, plenty of time to cool off at the Met, Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street: metmuseum.org.  Fan mail always welcome, send your comments to pollytalknyc@gmail.com.  Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and click on the link to Blogs in the left-hand column.
 
 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

ALICE: 150 Years of Wonderland at the Morgan: Review by Polly Guerin

Alice Growing Tall
With 150 years behind the legend, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland continues to engage the imagination of children and young-at-heart adults worldwide. One wonders what is the draw to the enduring appeal of Lewis Carroll's classic tale? Perhaps it resonates with our desire to escape 'Down the Rabbit Hole' to a magical world of make believe and enchantment. A place where we can join Alice at the Mad Hatter's Tea and while away an afternoon and escape from a plugged in world of computers and fast track communication.
Whatever the reason the Morgan Library & Museum, new exhibit ALICE 150 Years of Wonderland, brings to light the unforgettable history of Wonderland. For the first time in three decades, the original manuscript has travelled from the British Library in London to New York, where it is joined by original drawings and letters, rare editions, vintage photographs, and fascinating objects--many never seen before. The book was published in 1865 with iconic illustrations of Sir John Tenniel. Photography of the images presented here are by Steven Crossot., 2014.
   The Enchanting Tale of Wonderland was first told on "one golden afternoon" by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) to please and entertain Alice Liddell, the child for whom he invented the Alice stories. Author Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Magdalen College.
Mad Hatter Tea Party
University of Oxford examines how this relationship stirred Carroll's imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland. A book signing follows his talk on Saturday, August 8 at 2 pm and the museum is open until 6pm, plenty of time to revisit Wonderland.
    ALICE EVENTS The Morgan has gone all out with Alice events including the film 'Alice In Wonderland' (1951, 75 minutes). It takes you to a golden afternoon, when young Alice follows the White Rabbit into a nearby rabbit hole. She tumbles into the burrow--and enters the topsy-turvey world of Wonderland! Memorable songs and whimsical escapades highlight Alice's journey, leading to a mad encounter with the Queen of Hearts and her army of playing cards. The short film "Betty in Blunderland.(Dave Feischer, 1934) precedes the screening, July 19, 1 PM. Then, too, there is Wonderland at the Morgan Shop such as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Pop-up. Illustrated by Robert Sabuda, this book brings to life about two dozen of the charming character pop-ups.
Painting Red Roses 
     After visiting Wonderland it's time to pop into the Morgan Cafe for afternoon tea where A CERTAIN SLANT OF LIGHT  by American artist, Spencer Finch has created a site-specific installation of colored glass inspired by the Morgan's collection of medieval Books of Hours. By applying films of color on the atrium windows and hanging additional panes of reflective glass in the center, he has transformed the cafe court into an awesome visual spectacle of light and the reflection of colors that cast their rainbow hues on the cafe tables and chairs, allowing visitors to dine in the color of their choice and continue the afternoon's magical experience.
  By the way, of all people, Joyce Carol Oates, the acclaimed author and Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton University will discuss her new book, The Last Landscape: A Memoir and her special relationship; with Alice books on September 6, 6:30 PM.
  Ta Ta Darlings!!! I going "Down the Rabbit Hole" for inspiration where I hope to have tea with the Mad Hatter. Fan mail always welcome at pollytalknyc.gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and in the left hand column click on the link to the Blog that resonates with your interest on remarkable women, visionary men, hidden treasures and poetry.
    

Monday, June 22, 2015

DISCOVERING THE IMPRESSIONISTS: Paul Durand-Ruel, Review By Polly Guerin

Renoir's Dance in the Country
Where would artists who created a style known as Impressionism be without recognition, without exhibitions and most importantly support of an art gallery or art dealer?  It may be surprising to you to know that for one thing, if it wasn't for Paul Durand-Ruel, the great Parisian art dealer, leading artists of the French modern school-- Claude Monet, Pierre-August Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley and Mary Stevenson Cassatt, and many others---may have been less well know, and perhaps their names even buried in the annals of artistic history.
   Although at that time these artists were ridiculed for their metier with lush brushwork, a ground-breaking exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Discovering the Impressionists: Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting opening June 24, 2015, reunites for the first time key paintings that were shown in the earliest exhibitions devoted to their work. The exhibit features more than ninety paintings and sculptures part of the dealer's stock and tells the story of an enterprising art dealer who believed and sustained the careers of many artists such as Monet, Renoir and Pissarro, and helped them to achieve great renown.
   Encounter with the Impressionists: Durand-Ruel could have remained quite content with his well-established stable of artists but his reputation for selling works of quality and inventiveness led him to an eventful encounter with Impressionism in London in 1871 when he was introduced to Monet and Pissarro. After acquiring and exhibiting their works, with Durand-Ruel's keen sense of their marketability, he soon started buying Impressionist works on a unprecedented scale. The Philadelphia Museum's exhibit revisits the boldness of this moment, displaying several of these early purchases, including Monet's views of London and Alfred Sisley's The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne.
   
Sisley's The Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne
As if stepping into the footsteps of history the exhibition also reenacts the dramatic moment when in 1872 Durand-Ruel purchased more than twenty-six paintings by Edouard Manet, that marked a turning point for the artist. It was a visionary gamble for Durand-Ruel at a time when there was no established market for Manet. Reunited with Manet's studio are such major works as Moonlight on Boulogne Harbor.

  Durand-Ruel was a master of marketing and established a novel concept of solo exhibitions that many other rival galleries would adapt. Most notably Monet benefited not so much monetarily but through the exhibitions of 1883 and 1892 the public began to recognize Monet's unique talent. The exhibition demonstrates Durand-Ruel's pivotal role in the formation of collections in the United States, where he opened new markets for the impressionists. Not to be missed; nearly all of the exceptional works that will be on view were once part of the gallery stock of the enterprising Durand-Ruel. In addition, part of his much admired personal collection, housed in the family's apartment in Paris, will be reassembled with portraits fry Renoir, a Rodin marble, and a recreated salon door composed of still life and floral panels painted by Monet.
Cassatt's The Child's Bath

  Who was Paul Durand -Ruel? It is interesting to note that Durand-Ruel's first career choice had been to become a missionary and indeed although he did not pursue this career path his was a missionary of sorts who promoted many of the celebrated Impressionist painters. As destiny would direct in 1865 Durand-Ruel inherited his parent's art gallery. He was a bright, young twenty-four year old entrepreneur and by 1870 this young visionary discovered the equally young artists who would become known as the Impressionists. 
   Durand-Ruel was a risk taker and began to promote these "staving artists" works by offering them monthly stipends; hosting single-artists exhibitions; and establishing branches in London, Brussels and new York Between 1871 and 1922, Paul Durand-Ruel purchased an astounding 12,000 paintings by the Impressionists., making Impressionism a household name worldwide. In later years, Claude Monet summed up Durand-Ruel's role in discovering and promoting the Impressionists, "Without Durand, we would have died of hunger, all us Impressionists.".
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! Take a day trip and visit Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA. For exhibition information visit www.philamuseum.org. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and click in the left-hand column onto the Blog that resonates with your sensibilities and interest in fashion, visionarymen, womenderterminedtosucceed.etc.
   
   
 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

THE THIRD MAN RESTORATION AT FILM FORUM: Review by Polly Guerin

Orson Welles as Harry Lime
Nothing gives a mystery more credence than a black and white film and the restoration of Carol Reed's Film Noir masterpiece, THE THIRD MAN, at the Film Forum is a brilliant new 4K restoration and its first major restoration ever. The film is as relevant today as it was in 1949.  At the Film Forum from June 26-July 9.
   So why is The Third Man worth revisiting? As one reviewer said, "No matter how many times I saw it over the years its magic never faded, I keep discovering dark new delights," For instance, THE THIRD MAN remains the only movie on both the American Film Institute and British Film Institute top 100 lists of, respectively, the greatest American and British films of all times (the Brits named it their Number One), as well as being named the Greatest Foreign Film of all Time...by the Japanese.
The dark, murky sewers in post war Vienna
    It's a dark and murky mystery that draws the viewer into the intrigue in rubble-strewn postwar Vienna, where Holly Martins, an American writer of pulp fictions, portrayed by Joseph Cotten, arrives to meet up with his boyhood friend aptly named, Harry Lime, to join in a business venture with the sleek deceiver played by Orson Welles, only to find him dead---or is he? The film portrayal of Martins as a naive individual makes him the perfect foil to pursue the levels of deception and discover his friend's corruption.
  It's triumph of atmosphere---with its Vienna locations; its dark shadows and low murky streets and never before seen, dripping underground sewers overflowing with rivers of waste.. But the drama's most engaging feature is the iconoclastic music that pulls the mystery along with its unforgettable zither theme created by Anton Karas.
Scarred by war and haunted by black marketeers, Vienna is the ideal setting for the drama mystery. Adding to the story line the city is governed by the occupying forces of four different countries: Great Britain, the United States, Russia and France.
   Bereted Trevor Howard as Major Calloway, who contributes his most brilliant British military impersonation, is an engaging personality who is both a mean-spirited interrogator who morphs into the role of  compassionate benefactor.
Joseph Cotton as Holly Martins at  Riesenrad Ferris Wheel
  I would be remiss if I said more about the film...you really need to see this riveting portrayal by Orson Welles and the type cast characters who make THE THIRD MAN an all time classic. It's a rare collaboration of the legendary producers Alexander Korda and David O. Selznick and Carol Reed's second collaboration with the novelist/screenwriter Graham Greene. A Rialto Pictures Release.
At the FILM FORUM, 209 West Houston Street, New York. 10014. Box Office:212.727.8110. Or
www.filmforum.org.
Ta ta darlings!!! I still cannot get over those dripping sewer scenes in THE THIRD MAN. Fan mail welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and in the left-hand column click on the Blog that resonates with your interest.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Day Trip to GROUNDS FOR SCULPTURE'S New Exhibitions: Review By Polly Guerin


Artist Jae Ko and detail from "Force of Nature" 
Why go to New Jersey to immerse yourself in Art? That question deserves a positive answer because Seward Johnson's Grounds for Sculpture (GFS) sprawls across 42 magnificently landscaped acres in the heart of central New Jersey. It's a magical place, a perfect day trip, where art and nature provide the parkland setting for a constantly evolving collection of contemporary outdoor sculptures, classical studies as well as the new and monumental work of emerging artist's like Jae Ko, Karl Stirner, Jonas Stirner, Lauren Clay, and Robert Lobe.
  You are greeted at the GFS entrance gate where several people in a lifelike sculpture wave a "Welcome"  banner "Thought You'd Never Get Here!" and one of the revelers seemingly is blowing a bugle to alert your arrival. Then too, other familiar lifelike figures dot the landscape, a stationery postman, a worker cleaning art gallery windows, a man reading the newspaper, a couple embracing and three young men propped up against a wall play dice, all seem magically engaged in every day activities, but the sighting of live peacocks strutting leisurely throughout the grounds adds  pure enchantment to the setting.
   JAE KO. But, the real drama is in the East Gallery on the first floor of the Domestic Arts Building where you can view selections from Washington, DC-based artist Jae Ko. Her colossal commissioned installation, Force of Nature, incorporates 20,000 pounds of recycled Kraft paper. She drew her inspiration from topographic and geologic forms to create a monumental , layered paper relief sculpture that spans over 80 linear feet transforming the East Gallery into the viewer's own interpretation.  As for me, I thought that the work looked like a progression of gigantic waves from a sea of my own imagination. Then, too, other viewers may see differently. As one person commented, "It looks like icebergs!"  That is what is so wonderful about art...the viewer's point of view can be given on several degrees of interpretation. The colossal installation using huge rolls of paper, transforms this common medium normally reserved for shipping and packing into a work of fluid abstraction and monumental beauty.
Karl Stirner, Untitled 1957
  KARL and JONAS STIRNER This father and son's powerful steel sculptures command your attention in the Museum Building. Throughout the new installations, here and elsewhere, Chief curator and Artistic Director, Tom Moran's lively and informative discussion provided clarity and comprehension to appreciate these unique works of art.  Of Karl Stirner's, Decades in Steel exhibition Moran said, "Karl Stirner stands alone in the creation of formidable body of work that is unreplicated by anyone else." Jonas Stirner follows that creative tradition of welding and manipulating found steel into powerful yet whimsical and thought- provoking sculptures.
   LAUREN CLAY's artistic intent sets the stage for Drishti, a Sanskrit word from yoga. She works primarily in paper and her new body of work consists of large paper sculptures along with mural-sized prints of her vibrantly colored hand-matched paper. Drishti, refers to the direction of one's gaze during  meditation. The walls are mounted with yards of digitally printed, hand-dyed and hand-marbled wallpaper, which reaches in history to early American decoration..
Lauren Clay's Drishti Wallpaper Creation
 I would be remiss if I did not mention ROBERT LOBE'S richly textured aluminum reliefs made by hammering sheets of aluminum over natural tree and forest forms in a technique adopted from the tradition of repousee. The exhibition features a selection of masterful collaborative works that incorporate the noted paintings of New York-based painter Kathleen Gilje.
Grounds for Sculpture located at 18 Fairgrounds Road, Hamilton, New Jersey 08819. For additional information for time frame of the exhibits, hours and membership and calendar of events visit.:. www.groundsforsculpture.org. Or call 609-586-0616. Dining options await he visitor. I especially liked the restaurant with seating outdoors overlooking a pond right off the Visitor's Center. The Park is open year-round.
   Ta Ta Darlings!!! There's so much more to enjoy at GFS...not to be missed;  the life-size Monumentals, Gold Bless America, The Times Square Kiss, French Impressionistic Dancers and the classic, Beyond the Frame vignettes. Fan mail always welcome at pollytalknyc@gmail.com. Visit Polly's Blogs at www.pollytalk.com and click in the left hand column, the Blog that resonates with your interest on hidden treasures in New York, womendeterminedtosucceed, visonarymen and poetryfromtheheart.