Saturday, July 25, 2020

Bayreuth 2020


Bayreuth 2020 has been canceled due to COVID-19, but music will continue over the Internet.  Below is the complete schedule of the alternate Bayreuth Festival 2020.

There will be a live event featuring conductor Christian Thielemann with members of the Festival Orchestral alongside Camilla Nylund and Klaus Florian Vogt.
Performance Date: July 25, 2020

Simon Steen-Andersen will present “The Loop of the Nibelung,” an audiovisual exploration of the Bayreuth Festival Hall featuring music by Wagner with singers and members of the Festival Orchestra. The concert will be streamed on the official website and BR-Klassik Concert page.
Performance / Streaming Date: July 28, 2020

The company will present three different productions of the Ring from 2013, 1988, and 1976. Audiences will get to check out the Castorf version from 2013 on BR-Klassik.
Streaming Date: July 25-28, 2020

Patrice Chéreau and Pierre Boulez’s iconic 1976 “Ring” will be shown on ARD-alpha and BR-Klassikon.
Streaming Date: August 7, 2020

Finally, Kupfer’s 1988 version of the “Cycle” will be presented via 3sat media library, br-klassik.de, and the official Bayreuth Festival website.
Streaming Date: July 25, 2020

In addition to presenting the three Rings, the company will also present a 1958 production of “Lohengrin” by André Cluytens on BR-Klassik.
Streaming Date: July 29, 2020

Herbert von Karajan’s 1952 “Tristan und Isolde” will be broadcast on BR-Klassik.
Streaming Date: July 30, 2020

Additionally, BR-Klassik and the Bayreuth Festival will present videos such as “Opera crash course Wagner, “Classic Shorts,” “The Ring Profiles,” and “Wagner ABCs.”

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Washington Red Tails?

With the COVID-19 pandemic raging around the country, and all sorts of sports having to take a back seat to health and safe hygiene requirements, the 2020-2021 NFL season is now faced with a new chapter in this unusual summer. The current civil rights movement has forced the owners of the the Washington Redskins team to reconsider their name, and the possible offense it causes Native Americans. Today it was announced that the team will change their name; a name that the team has had for the past 87 years. The early twentieth century saw a host of professional and non-professional teams adopt names that played on the popular image of the Native American. Now, the early years of the twenty-first century is catching up with this racist practice, and teams are beginning to see the wisdom of getting rid of the offending names. These decisions have often not been very popular ones, especially among conservatives. And let's face it, the game of football is arguably, more than any other sport, connected to age-old conservative politics, and many times it veers into jingoistic shows of patriotism and militarism. Just listen to George Carlin's classic monologue about the differences between football and baseball and you'll get the idea.

A few years ago, John's University decided to change the name of their team, the Redmen, despite the fact that the university claimed that the name originated, not in Native American culture, but in the fact that the athletes wore red. This explanation did not really hold water, for the mascot of the team was a cigar store statue of a Native American whom the students nicknamed "Chief BlackJack." Since 1994 the team has been known as "The Red Storm."

If you are a Cleveland Indians fan you know about Chief Wahoo. The mascot, a blood-red face of a Native American with the widest grin you ever saw, was eliminated in 2018. The question is, during these revolutionary times, will the team continue to be called the "Indians?"

So, now that the name "storm"  has already been taken, what will the new Washington football team be called? Many are hinting at the name "The Washington Red Tails," as a homage to the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of African American U.S. Air Force servicemen who served honorably in World War II.  You might remember that there was a film made with Cuba Gooding, Jr. about these American heroes. The film presented the story of a group of men who were largely forgotten during the Jim Crow period of American history. The name "Red Tails" would appease those who believe that the name Redskins is offensive, it would be in keeping with the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and it would satisfy those who see the relationship between the sport and the military.

The only thing I see that might be a drawback to their name change is the actual name itself. For instance, take the New York Jets. Their name implies speed and modernity. Whether or not their "flight plan' has been that successful in the recent past seasons is another story. However, what images do you get when you consider that the Red Tails were P-51 Mustangs propeller planes? Can these relics of aviation offer any hope of speed and power in today's NFL, or is merely the romanticizing of their World War II endeavors enough to drive the new team forward?

With the NFL season only a few weeks away, the team better decide, and quick.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Ciao, Ennio

Ennio Morricone, the composer of 400 film scores among them The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Mission and the remake of The Thing died on July 6. One of the great composers for the movies, what would the Spaghetti Westerns of director Sergio Leone be without the iconoclastic musical scores that Mr. Morricone created. He turned the American West into a landscape where duels turned into operatic arias. It was never about the gunshots, but instead about the long moments leading to the gunshots that both Leone and Morricone relished.

So close was their partnership (only equaled perhaps by Eisenstein and Prokofiev in Alexander Nevsky) that Leone created sequences just to feature the inventive music of Mr. Morricone. Just think of that marvelous sequence in Once Upon a Time in the West when mail-order bride Claudia Cardinale arrives by train to meet her future husband and his family, who have all been already gunned down by bad guy Henry Fonda. The sequence is pure Morricone: wordless, lyrical. It makes time stand still.

 
 
But he could turn from the baroque excesses of some of his western scores to the minimalism of John Carpenter's The Thing, where two beating chords, like an alien heartbeat is the driving music motif in the film:

 
 
But perhaps, arguably the most memorable Morricone composition is his score for The Mission, Roland Joffé's 1986 film about the Jesuits and their efforts to convert the Guarani people of South America. I remember quite well Oscar night when Morricone was nominated for this brilliant score. He did not win. Clint Eastwood's Charlie Parker biopic, Bird, with music by Lennie Niehaus beat him. I was disappointed, I'm sure Mr Morricone was, even more so.

The last time that American audiences were treated to a Morricone score was in Quentin Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight. This award winning score was the first time that Mr. Morricone had composed music for a western since 1981.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

No San Fermín

Today would have been the first day of Spain's annual celebration of men (and women) with balls big enough to run in front of a pack of wild animals with razor sharp horns. The running of the bulls, as most people know it in America, or the feast of San Fermín, is a celebration that runs from July 7-14 in the town of Pamplona, in the Basque country. The "encierro," which is the actual running through the streets of the old town, happens every morning of the feast. In the evening, those same bulls will be the featured stars of the bull fights that will take place every day of the feast. There is a raucous atmosphere at these "corridas" with much singing, eating and drinking throughout the event. At the end of the seven days the people of Pamplona sing the "Pobre de mi," the "Woe is Me" song that signals the end of the feast.

This year they have the right to sing this song from the start of the feast because the whole thing is cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, a handful of people of Pamplona gathered yesterday in front City Hall to put on their red bandannas around their necks, just as if the feast had been starting. There was, however, no "chupinazo," the yearly launching of a rocket from the balcony of the mayor's office that signals the start of the feast.  Below is a report about these events:

Friday, July 03, 2020

Hamilton on Disney+

Is this the right time to show Hamilton on the new streaming service, Disney+? Months ago, maybe even weeks ago it would have been the perfect addition to a Fourth of July weekend. But after the George Floyd murder and the countless demonstrations that the country has endured, is a musical about a founding father whose views on slavery were, at best, troublesome the politically correct entertainment that Disney was hoping for?

On the one hand, it is glorious that the show was captured live on the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre before the original cast disbanded. Generations to come will have a chance to debate this hip-hop recreation of Alexander Hamilton's life as they watch a pristine 4K capture, showing up close the performances of the show's composer lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, but of the many actors who started out as virtual unknown and became stars during the initial run of the play: Leslie Odom, Jr. as Aaron Burr, Anthony Ramos as John Laurens, Daveed Diggs as the Marquis de Lafayette, and Phillipa Soo who plays Eliza Schuyler.

After a statue of George Washington was pulled down in Portland, Oregon by angry protesters, having the first president of the United States dramatized and fictionalized in the musical will not please everybody. Of course, the role is played by Christopher Jackson, an actor who considers himself African-American. Although I'm sure he is proud of his work, and his association with Miranda (they go way back to Miranda's first show In the Heights), I wonder what his feelings are about playing a slave owner in this new normal society?

The racial terrain of the United States is more troubled than ever. Trump will be at the Mount Rushmore monument for a Fourth of July fireworks show this weekend. Will the monument be the cause of controversy as the president of the United States stands under the visage of those former presidents whose statues have come down recently?

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

New Woody Allen movie at San Sebastian Film Fest

Rifkin's Festival is Woody Allen's new film, and it will premiere at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Since Spain has been able to flatten the COVID-19 curve and lower it, the festival is set to go in September. According to Yahoo News, the film was "shot last summer in and around the northern seaside resort itself, the story centers on an American couple who come to its international film festival and are swept up by the fantasy of cinema and the charm and beauty of Spain." The movie stars Austrian actor Christoph Waltz, and American Gina Gershon.

Woody Allen was greeted with protests last year when he was shooting the film. As Yahoo News reports "The screening will be a significant moment for Allen who's seen his career stalled as a result of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, which revived decades-old allegations he sexually abused his adopted seven-year-old daughter in the early 1990s."

He has denied all claims which were first leveled by his then-partner Mia Farrow. Mr. Allen was cleared of the charges following a series of
investigations.

Yahoo News goes on to report that "the sexual harassment firestorm has fueled a growing backlash against him and last year his most recent romantic comedy A Rainy Day in New York ended up being released in various European and Latin American countries rather than in the US."

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Ian Holm: Dead at 88

Sir Ian Holm, one of the great British actors of stage and screen, died yesterday at the age of 88. That memorable, even disgusting picture above is from one of Sir Ian's greatest successes: Ridley Scott's magnificent sci-fi shocker Alien, in which he plays the mischievous, scheming android Ash, who ends up in pieces towards the end of the film. But he also had the ability to play less showy roles and still leave a memorable mark on the screen. I'm thinking about his incredible performance as Sam Mussabini, the track coach who trains Ben Cross, in 1981's Chariots of Fire. It was a subtle, beautiful performance that won him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actor.

In 1985 he graced the screen with what is perhaps his most complex character in Mike Newell's neo-noir Dance With a Stranger. Sir Ian nearly stole the picture as a humiliated gentleman caller, emasculated by Miranda Richardson's Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England.

Sir Ian's recent performances included Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, as well as David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch, and Martha Fiennes's Chromophobia, in which he had a comic sex scene with Penélope Cruz.

In today's obituary Peter Bradshaw wrote in The Guardian that "there was always a cool, rational, weighted intelligence in Ian Holm. On screen, he was never exactly a heart-on-sleeve performer; he did not need or even appear to want the audience’s sympathies. Holm could be a mandarin and almost priestly presence, but always with a pressure cooker of emotion inside. He brought a commanding strength and a stillness to his work, a less-is-more economy that gave him what few theatrical knights have had since Olivier: equal success on stage and screen. He was a character actor with star quality."