Opera in NYC: Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera

Opera in NYC: Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera

Love, idealism, and ruse in a thrilling drama by Giacomo Puccini

Opening on a New Year Eve

Puccini Tosca Metropolitan Opera NYC 2018
Tosca, original poster by Adolfo Hohenstein, 1899

A new production of Puccini’s Tosca by Sir David McVicar at the Met Opera offers a grand theatrical experience for the opera fans. The performances are opening on the New Year Eve and will continue in January and April, May of 2018. This production will be played by two extraordinary casts each making a forceful presence on stage. Two opera divas, Sonya Yoncheva and Anna Netrebko are sharing the title role with Vittorio Grigolo and Marcelo Alvarez alternating as Cavaradossi, with two magnificent Scarpias, Michael Volle, and Željko Lučić, and Emmanuel Villaume conducting after James Levine was suspended following sexual harassment allegations. Sir Bryn Terfel, who was originally scheduled to sing Scarpia, had to withdraw because of “enforced rest due to vocal fatigue” according to BBC. The set and costume design for this production is done by John Macfarlane, who as a painter is adding to the depth of the characters through the rich design of the decorations and the period costumes. McVicar’s production which a review by AP describes as “similar to Zeffirelli’s” is replacing a spare modern staging of Tosca by Luc Bondy which was not warmly received by the Met opera buffs.

The now world-famous story of the passionate lovers and a heartless police chief is based on an 1887 French play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou, a renown French playwright in his time. Sardou had written this play for Sarah Bernhardt. That production was wildly successful touring around Europe with more than 3000 performances. Puccini, attending two of the performances, saw it promising to set as an opera. Following a lengthy negotiation with Sardou, he eventually got the rights and started his work on the score in 1895. The libretto was commissioned to Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa who had not only significantly cut back on the text of the rather lengthy play with multiple characters and dialogs, but also to transform the characters motives into a scenario suitable for an Italian opera.

Puccini Tosca Metropolitan Opera NYC 2018
Tosca,Act 1, New production by David McVicar with set design by John Macfarlane / Photo: Metropolitan Opera Technical Department

The setting for the opera is Rome in 1800 at the time of Napoleon Wars that led to French domination over Italy. The historical church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act 1, Palazzo Farnese in Act 2, and Castel Sant’Angelo  in Act 3 can still be visited today. With all these real places in mind, Puccini wanted to reconstruct the divine sounds that could be heard there. For that reason, the score includes a part for the church bells which are close in pitch to the bell of the St. Peter’s Basilica. While this adds to the time and efforts in the production of the opera, it doesn’t produce much effect on the audience.

The premiere was given in 1900 in Teatro Costanzi in Rome. That year Italy had experienced some unrest, so the premiere was even delayed by a day to avoid unwanted disturbances. It was performed to full houses for 30 performances in the first year and is now a beloved entry in the repertoire of every opera house around the world.

Puccini Tosca Metropolitan Opera NYC 2018
Sonya Yoncheva in the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca” / Photo: Ann Ray/Metropolitan Opera

The role of Tosca is considered to be a career defying opportunity. One of the most famous interpreters of a temperamental lover was Maria Callas who was singing it as her last onstage operatic role in 1965. For Luciano Pavarotti , the role of Cavaradossi which he had performed since 1970, was also his last onstage performance at the Met in 2004.

The first recording of Tosca was done in 1918. Among the highly prized recent recordings is Royal Opera House version with Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Ruggero Raymond and Antonio Pappano conducting which was released in 2000.

Stunning design, masterful “verismo” style of music and passionate acting will undoubtedly create a memorable operatic experience for the spectators!

 

Venue: Met Opera, Lincoln Center, NY

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Dates and Discounted Tickets with the code TICKETS3:

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Tuesday January 9, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

Monday, January 15, 2018

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Monday, April 30, 2018

Friday, May 4, 2018

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Saturday, May 12, 2018 

 

Art in NYC: Modigliani Unmasked Exhibition at the Jewish Museum

Art in NYC: Modigliani Unmasked Exhibition at the Jewish Museum

Early works by Amedeo Modigliani on view from September 15, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Jeanne Hébuterne with Yellow Sweater, 1918-19 / Image provided by Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation / Art Resource NY

The drawings, paintings, and sculptures by Amedeo Modigliani are easily recognized for their characteristic elongated features and warm color palette. The Jewish Museum presents the works from Dr. Paul Alexandre collection who was the artist’s close friend and first patron. The show covers Modigliani’s first years in Paris from 1906 when he arrived on the scene till primarily 1912. While many of the works look very familiar, others are exhibited in New York for the first time refreshing the visitors understanding of the artist oeuvre and getting deeper into the roots of his creative style.

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Kneeling Caryatid, 1911-12, Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London / Image provided by Richard Nathanson, photo: Prudence Cuming Ass.

Amedeo Modigliani was born in a Sephardic Jewish family in Livorno, Italy in 1884. His father’s side came from Italian businessmen clan, while his mother’s side origins were from Marseille, France bringing a cultivated, intellectual ancestry which traced its lineage to Spinoza. The family’s fortunes collapsed at the time of Modigliani’s birth, but the family was able to maintain a flare of decent means because of his mother’s enthusiasm and resourcefulness. Modigliani had experienced multiple health crises in his childhood and youth leading eventually to tuberculosis that claimed his life at an early age of 35.

When Modigliani arrived in Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, it was an artistic hub and the center of creative expression counting in its ranks founders of every modernist artistic movement. The unprecedented vibrancy of creative scene was calling for finding new styles away from the classical determinism towards the freedom of abstract art. Modigliani, however, embraced figurative style likely because he had already experimented with Macchiaioli, en plain air painting technique which pre-dates impressionism, back in Florence, Italy when he was attending art school there. He didn’t fall in love with it and continued to work in his studio.

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Seated Female Nude, possibly Anna Akhmatova, 1911; Paul Alexandre Family, courtesy of Richard Nathanson, London / photo: Prudence Cuming Ass.

In Paris he was getting his inspiration from African, Egyptian and Southeast Asian art that he intensively studied at the museums rich in exotic artifacts. The current show traces the influence of these ancient cultures on Modigliani’s works and emphasizes the successful mix of forms and poses found in his portraits.

A fascination with the nonwestern representation of the faces and figures taken by the artist at the time when he met Russian poet Anna Akhmatova had resulted in numerous sketches of her as a goddess. The drawings on view have accentuated angular forms reminding of the paintings from the Ancient Egypt. Another gallery in the show is dedicated to the exploration of the caryatids and other devotional figures from the ancient world. Yet in another gallery, there is a collection of limestone sculpture heads reminiscent of the African masks. The build-up of influences and elements leads to the familiar oil paintings of nudes and portraits.

Modigliani’s short life was almost too full of all sorts of excesses. Too many lovers, too much alcohol and drugs, too many rushed ideas, too noisy parties. The latest biography by Meryle Secrest “Modigliani: A Life” tells a sympathetic story of this talented artist “putting his art at the center” in the words of the New Yorker review of the book.

One peculiar aspect of Modigliani’s oeuvre is that it attracts the imitators making Modigliani “the most faked artist in the world” according to Secrest. The seemingly easy to replicate compositions commanding sky-high prices combined with a poorly documented portfolio of works have led to the notorious number of forgeries. The fakes even found its way into acclaimed museum collections. An exhibition in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2017 had to close early according to Artnet  because of the high number of fakes on view.

Modigliani Unmasked will surely get one think about many of the artist’s intentions and make his art even more enjoyable for the viewers!

 

Jewish Museum Modigliani nudes portraits sculptures
Amedeo Modigliani, Head of a Woman, 1910/1911, limestone, Chester Dale Collection

Dates: September 15, 2017 – February 4, 2018

Venue: Jewish Museum, 1109 5th Avenue, NY          

 

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Beyond NY: Brodsky/Baryshnikov Play at Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, MA

Beyond NY: Brodsky/Baryshnikov Play at Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, MA

Cherry Orchard festival presents Brodsky/Baryshnikov at Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston on January 17-21, 2018 

Brodsky/Baryshnikov Cutler Majestic Theater Boston MA Cherry Orchard Festival
M. Baryshnikov, photo credit Pavel Antonov / Image courtesy of Baryshnikov Productions

90 min one-man show Brodsky/Baryshnikov, directed by Alvis Hermanis, is a delicate theatrical staging of complex poetry by Josef Brodsky  performed by Mikhail Baryshnikov, a celebrated dancer and actor, and a close friend of J. Brodsky. The show is presented by the Cherry Orchard Festival with the performances at Cutler Majestic Theater in Boston, MA on January 17-21, 2018 and in Chicago, IL on February 2-4, 2018.

Josef Brodsky, 1987 Nobel Prize winner in Literature, was a Russian and American poet and essayist. Born in 1940 in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) Russia, he started writing poetry early in his teens. His writings were gaining popularity in literary circles and caught the attention and support from a Grand Dame of the Silver Age of Poetry, Anna Akhmatova. However, Brodsky’s poetry and life style were denounced by the authorities as anti-Soviet , and in 1963 he was sent to a hard labor camp in the Far North. He was eventually expelled from Russia in 1972 and settled in the USA.

While Brodsky was forcefully thrown out of Russia for becoming a cause célèbre in demonstrating a demonic nature of the soviet regime, Baryshnikov had defected to the West when he was on tour in Canada with Mariinsky ballet in 1974. They met in New York City at a party organized by Mstislav Rostropovich, an acclaimed Soviet and Russian cellist and conductor who also left Russia in the early seventies.

Brodsky/Baryshnikov Cutler Majestic Theater Boston MA Cherry Orchard Festival
M.Baryshniov, photo credit Janis Deinats / Image courtesy of Cherry Orchard Festival

 

The Paris Review notes Baryshnikov’s description of his first meeting with Brodsky pointing to a minute details like it was just yesterday. In Baryshnikov words “He gave me a cigarette, my hands were trembling … For me, he was a legend.” Their friendship lasted for more than two decades until Brodsky’s death in 1996.

Brodsky was more than just a friend, but a teacher and a mentor for Baryshnikov. In the FT  “Poetry and Motion” article Baryshnikov refers to Brodsky as “his university”.

The first performance of Brodsky/Baryshnikov play took place in 2015 in Riga, Latvia, a birth city for both Baryshnikov and Hermanis. It was then taken on an international tour to Tel-Aviv, New York, London, reviewed here in the spring of 2017, and in 2018 to Boston and Chicago.

Brodsky/Baryshnikov Cutler Majestic Theater Boston MA Cherry Orchard Festival
M. Baryshnikov and A. Hermanis, photo credit Janis Deinats / Image courtesy of Baryshnikov Productions

Although it is a one-man show, the audience gets to hear both voices. The Times of London says that there is “an eerie sense of an artistic collaboration that transcends mortality”. The depth of the verses, the grace of movements, the spare stage set bring back a sense of the passing time. And even when Hermanis describes the show as an anti-ballet, one still sees elegant moves in Baryshnikov’s ways of reading Brodsky’s verses and acting them on stage. The reading is done is Russian, so non-Russian speakers have to rely on a translation which surely misses the elegance and the poetic rhythm. Never the less its a theater to it’s highest degree that will surely be enjoyed by the theater lovers.

Boston, MA Show Dates and Tickets a discount code TICKETS3

Wednesday, January 17, 2018 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Friday, January 19, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 201

 

 


Venue:
Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 

 

Art in NYC: Leonardo to Matisse Drawings at the Met Museum

Art in NYC: Leonardo to Matisse Drawings at the Met Museum

Master Drawings from the Robert Lehman Collection

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Albrecht Dürer,
Self-portrait, Study of a Hand and a Pillow (recto),1493 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

Intimate and insightful survey of European drawings from the Renaissance to Early Modernism is on view at the Met Museum on October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018. The works are selected from the collection of Robert Lehman who spent six decades on building his fast art assemblage with 700 sheets of drawings complementing his father’s collection of paintings.  Leonardo to Matisse show comprises of 4 sections dedicated to Italian Renaissance, Dutch and German drawings from 15th to 17th centuries, the 18th and 19th century works from Italy and France, and ending with Impressionists and Early Modernists.

The exhibition is organized in the chronological progression mirroring the establishment of the medium as a fully developed form of creative expression. It begins with the pieces by Italian Renaissance masters covering the time when the medium of drawing was starting to claim its rights. From sketches and quick studies of compositions and gestures, it had progressed to the finished works prized by patrons and collectors. Giorgio Vasari, a painter, and art-historian who defined our appreciation of the drawing and its foundational place in art was among the first collectors. One of the pieces from his collection by Antonio Pollaiuolo is on view now at the Met. Vasari’s book “Live of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects” first time published in 1550 is still a great source for art-historians and history buffs. Vasari dedicated his book to Grand Duke Cosimo I De’Medici. Medici’s patronage of the arts helped to speed up the Renaissance.

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Rembrandt, The Last Supper, after Leonardo da Vinci, 1634–35 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

An extremely detailed sketch of a bear by Leonardo is an example of the artist’s keen technique and close observation of the world around him. Leonardo kept copious notebooks full of sketches and momentous studies as well as in-depth engineering designs and scientific research. The New Yorker preview of the recently published biography “Leonardo Da Vinci” by W. Isaacson notes a point made by Isaacson about Leonardo’s tendency to rush and abandon his projects. The medium of drawing with its fast pace seems to be an ideal one for someone endlessly on the creative move.

The next section in the exhibition is dedicated to the Northern Europeans from 15th through 17th centuries. From delicate portraits to scenes from everyday life, the works on view are by Jan van Eyck and his circle, Rogier van der Weyden and his workshop with an allegorical scene used as a prep for sculptural work, and a fascinating study by Rembrandt of Leonardo’s Last Supper done in red chalk. German masters are represented by amazing pieces including a self-portrait and highly textured sketches of household items, in this case, pillows by Albrecht Durer.

Moving to 18th and 19th century Italian and French works, the show presents fine examples of new highs in using pen, ink, wash and other material to convey the story and emotions. Works by Tiepolo, Giambattista, Goya, Corot, Watteau and Fragonard introduce new techniques and highly refined skills.

Leonardo to Matisse Met Museum master drawings Robert Lehman collection
Antoine Watteau, Seated Woman, 1716–17 / Image courtesy of the Met Museum

The last section is dedicated to the Impressionists and Modernists ranging from Degas to Seurat to Matisse. The drawings on view give a window into artists’ minds letting us see how they developed the subjects of the future paintings. All alone the drawings are taking a deserved place as a form of art with all its power and thought-provoking allure.

The exhibition will delight every art lover!

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Venue: The Met Museum on Fifth Avenue       

Time: October 4, 2017 – January 7, 2018