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Performance

Bartók’s Retreat

- By Edward Dusinberre

Excerpt from Distant Melodies: Music in Search of Home. Forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, 233 pp., November 2022. With kind permission from the University of Chicago Press.

Through the gleam of brass the lettering was hard to read: “Bartók’s Retreat.” Out of habit I hung a “Do Not Disturb” cushion over the doorknob. I was staying in the same room at the Albemarle Inn located in Asheville, North Carolina, where Bartók lived between December 1943 and April 1944, sent there by his doctors to convalesce from a condition tentatively diagnosed as tuberculosis. The ailing composer recuperated at the salubrious inn, three miles away from a bustling downtown that during the Second World War accommodated a convalescent centre for Navy officers, a command base for the US Air Force and a processing centre for refugees. Bartók regained...


Performance

The Balanchine Enigma: Repertory, Variation, and the Plotless Ballet

- By Mark Franko

Slowly surfacing from the social and emotional depths of the COVID nightmare to perceive a tenuous normalcy around me, I experience New York City Ballet performances as a welcome afterlife—in which a repertory continuously redefines itself in relation to its own potentials and boundaries. Immediately after the pandemic, the bursts of individual energy of dancers drew attention to themselves, whereas now they are once again working through repertory rather than focusing attention on their individual exhilaration.[1]

The repertory itself takes center stage as a constantly varying puzzle. For example, Divertimiento no. 15 (1956), Vienna Waltzes (1977), and Mozartiana (1981)—all seen this season or last—suggest there is a festive, Central European plotless ballet...


Performance

My Student

- By Len Berkman

I think I should have retired at least ten years ago. My older sister Lucy announced her plans to retire, effective immediately, on the second anniversary of her husband’s death from dementia. She said it gave her the boost she desperately needed after her shock and grief refused to lift. As a successful serial novelist, Lucy had based her heroic-but-deeply-vulnerable detective on her husband’s distinctively kind, thoughtful, but often self-defeating attributes. She needed the back-from-retirement boost to enable herself to return to her laptop so as, in a manner of speaking, to keep her husband alive through his self-evident literary guise. In short, she retired to emerge from retirement. I knew that if I...


Performance

A Beef Stew for Shakespeare: Food for the Journey to Cordelia Lear

- By Len Berkman

When your mind throws an idea at you, how often do you pause to track its source? How often do you know its source immediately? No matter which or how often, I invariably find the pondering process provocative.

Invited by the Mass Review’s editors to trace the origin of my short-story, Cordelia Lear, that appears in this journal’s current print issue, I can’t resist a quick contrast of the decades of Cordelia Lear’s formative quirks with the virtually instant ‘birth’ of a full-length play that—with apology for the following pompous metaphor—flew into existence like Athena from the head of Zeus during my wife Joyce’s and my overnight stay in the early...


Performance

Cordelia Lear, A Fable

- By Len Berkman

I think I’m waking up. One moment I was having a hard time accepting my father’s gifts to my husband and me, and the next my dad was screaming that he wanted never to set eyes on me again. It’s the kind of switchback that happens to you in a dream, when the higher you climb a mountain with the most gradual of winding roads upward, you reach a point where your road forgets what it’s doing, and as you carefully make your next turn you’re in mid-air. You’re ten again.  You’re not married in the least. Your road doesn’t even wave goodbye.

My dear friend Edgar knows what to do with dreams like that. He doesn’t rush away from even the wispiest cloud he sees as his only support. He lies down as though the wisp were his natural pillow. He tells himself he’s out of his mind to lie down on a wisp, but he laughs. “...


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