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Favorite Things

Teodor Currentzis’s Verdi: Ecclesiastic or Sublimative?

- By Alexei Parin

Photo: Teodor Currentzis. Courtesy of Anton Zavjyalov and MusicAeterna.

Some works in the history of music have received directly opposing assessments. Throughout his life, Giuseppe Verdi wrote operas. And then, suddenly, at the same time as Aida, he composed his Messa da Requiem. At first, in 1868, he created only one part—the last section (Libera Me). This was to be his contribution to a collective composition, a ­­Requiem in memory of Rossini. It was never performed, however. And when in 1873 Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I Promessi Sposi (a novel that Verdi read when he was only sixteen!) died, the next day the composer decided to create a grand memorial—a requiem—to “our Saint.”...


Favorite Things

At a Distance: Sadness in Bartók's Final Quartet

- By Edward Dusinberre

(Cover image courtesy of Decca Music Group, Limited)

My music is open on the stand, yet at the beginning of Bela Bartók's sixth string quartet I can only listen. A string quartet is usually a collaborative effort, but for nearly a full minute our violist Geri plays the tune alone: Mesto—sad. At first I feel as if I am eavesdropping on a private sorrow, then, as the melody climbs higher, the viola becomes more declamatory, as if conscious of an audience. Like the listeners in the hall, I cannot evade the sad mood.

The initial outpouring dissipates and the melody fades away. Together we break the silence by playing the same loud notes and rhythm—vigorous bow strokes that banish the melancholy. No more sadness then. After another pause, we exchange...


Favorite Things

Don’t Call African-American Theatre Black Theatre: It’s Like Calling a Dog a Cat

- By Dominic Taylor

(Wadsworth Jarrell, Heritage (1973), The Cleveland Museum of Art. With kind permission of the artist.)
 

I’ve been trying to find a way to frame an idea, and I believe my somewhat pithy title above basically catches it.

When social upheavals occur, people do many things to find solace, including looking to pets for comfort. What is true of pets will also help us understand certain recent cultural phenomena. In short, what I have in mind is not just an assessment involving nomenclature or semantics; I’m thinking about what a work of art or entertainment fundamentally is. Dogs and cats are both contemporary domestic animals, yet anyone who has had either can attest to the fact that they are very different life forms.

With the election of the...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Classicism and Romanticism

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Joseph Gordon in George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations (photo: Erin Baiano)

In 1970, George Balanchine added three new sections to his well-known one-act ballet showpiece Theme and Variations (1947). This spring New York City Ballet has been presenting Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 as part of its Balanchine offerings. In its first iteration, Theme and Variations was an extended pas de deux with the interventions of a full corps de ballet—women first, men joining in toward the end—a sort of compressed nineteenth-century classical ballet presented for its own qualities of relative abstraction but still performed in regalia against a royal background as if it were an historical divertissement. Like...


Favorite Things

What Is a Classic?

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Ballets-USA program cover in 1958 (from the collection of Mark Franko)
 

In its continuing celebration of the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins this past winter season, New York City Ballet has revived one more Robbins work, a piece dating back to 1958—New York Export: Opus Jazz.[1] An ensemble work for sixteen dancers with a jazz-inspired score by Robert Prince and sets by Ben Shahn, New York Export: Opus Jazz was first shown on a tour of Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A. in Europe and later had its New York City premiere in an all-Robbins Broadway season.[2]

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