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Favorite Things

FAVORITE THINGS: Making a Story Sing

- By Harley Erdman

Daniel Kamalic as Newton Arvin and Paul LaRosa as Ned Stofford from the June 2015 workshop of The Scarlet Professor.


“My shame has escaped from that dark room.
What can I do but retreat once again
into the darkness corner of my heart,
into the coldest and remotest part
of the Dismal Chamber?”

So sings Newton Arvin in his opening aria in The Scarlet Professor. Publically outed as gay in small town New England in 1960, his secret life exposed, his face plastered across national newspapers—facing this disgrace and humiliation, he voluntarily commits himself to Northampton State Hospital to retreat from...

Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Broken Sounds/Telephone Bach

- By Michael Markham

This series is a good opportunity to wonder why so many of my most moving experiences listening to music have been moments involving imperfect, marred, or broken sounds. In classical music, in particular, a heavy emphasis is placed on ideal acoustic conditions when “listening correctly.” High fidelity recordings, as Colin Symes demonstrated in his 2004 book, Setting the Record Straight: A Material History of Recording, have been sold on a faulty ontology: the possibility of perfect mimesis of perfect sounds born within a perfect sonic space. The goal of such recordings has been to replicate the experience of “the best seat in the house.” Beyond the implications for recordings themselves, that turn of phrase also assumes that there is such a thing as the...

Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Gerald Arpino's Light Rain

- By Nicole Duffy Robertson

(Walter McBride/WM Photos) Dancers: Valerie Robin and Fabrice Calmels

What does it mean when a ballet continues to ignite controversy decades after it was first performed? Unlike Nijinsky’s Rite of Spring, which caused riots at its premiere in 1913, but was revived seventy-five years later to standing ovations, Gerald Arpino’s ballet Light Rain (1981) continues to elicit a clear critical split: audiences tend to love it, critics less so (or more interestingly, feel guilty about liking it).1 Light Rain straddles the divide between high vs. popular art, in no small part because of its unabashed celebration of a...

Favorite Things

Favorite Things

- By Tanya Jayani Fernando

In On Beauty and Being Just, Elaine Scarry says that when we find something beautiful we have the urge to share it. I sent a link to a beautiful performance to Massachusetts Review editor Jim Hicks, and he thought of “Favorite Things,” a blog series where artists, scholars, and friends of the performing arts share a piece and allow others to encounter it, perhaps for the first time, perhaps again.  

Through beauty’s encounter, Scarry argues, we begin to imagine life otherwise—as just. She offers us Homer, Dante, Leonardo, Matisse: art for the ages. A century earlier in What Is Art?, though beauty is not the category Tolstoy uses, he is adamant that a work attains the pinnacle of art only when it soars through the ages in its...

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