Saturday, March 06, 2010


An arts-oriented day yesterday with my father, who was visiting from Philadelphia - we went to walk through Tino's Guggenheim show as visitors, then had a tasty dinner at O'Neal's (I had French onion soup and a delicious seafood salad [mussels, shrimp, squid, lobster over mixed greens with parsley and a lemon vinaigrette], my dad had Manhattan clam chowder and steak au poivre with scalloped potatoes and spinach, then we gluttonously shared a traditional ice-cream sundae - vanilla ice-cream, hot fudge sauce and whipped cream, with cookie-crunch topping) before going to see the rather excellent Shostakovich opera The Nose at the Met.

It is a minor opera, I think - the music is locally appealing (beautifully well-performed, and it's an attractive idiom) but it doesn't add up to anything much - certainly not a patch on the Gogol short story. But the Kentridge production is absolutely lovely! I do not think I have ever seen such a delightfully well-integrated visual spectacle on the operatic stage (well, I do remember a long-ago transparent illuminated cube in a City Opera production of Handel's Rinnaldo that I liked very much!) - quite beautiful.

I flew back from Cayman on Wednesday evening with an extravagantly purchased supply of light reading, having found over the years that travel passes very quickly if I have suitable books with me and not if not - first, Sara Gruen's Riding Lessons (purchase spurred by my feeling the loss of Dick Francis!), then Penny Vincenzi's trashy but highly readable An Absolute Scandal (her books are all the same as each other, and not exactly what I like - also I am sure that I have read at least one other novel about Lloyd's Names, but cannot now remember title or author - but you need good long books for plane flights, and hers are highly engrossing!), and finally (this one I finished when I got home) Thomas Perry's Silence.

In other news:

Sam Lipyste offers the aptest answer I've ever seen to the question about a typical day in one's writing life.

The Cinderella solution!

Mr. Cube says "Leave it to private enterprise"... (FT site registration required).

Theatrical things I'm looking forward to: A Behanding in Spokane (if you are a CU affiliate and haven't been checking out the Arts Initiative offerings, you should - I am always a skeptic about these institutionally sanctioned arts programs, but the discounts are really substantial and if you have flexibility on scheduling, they seem to have seats at pretty much all the big stuff you might want to see - the tickets for The Nose were only $25 apiece, and it was a sold-out show, with all the cheap seats gone very quickly and early on); and Jay Scheib's Samuel R. Delany extravaganza Bellona, Destroyer of Cities (I loved the previous piece in the trilogy, Untitled Mars (a few thoughts here)).


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    I was interested to read your thought about The Nose; I had the opposite reaction, that Kentridge's production worked actively against the music and made it very hard to hear intelligently -- hence the impression that it is a "minor opera" (which might be true, but is hard to gauge based on this production IMO). My impression was that Kentridge's plan was to distract us from the music and make the opera accessible by, as it were, bypassing its thorny Shostakovich-ness. It also felt very much like a Western objectification of "Russian-ness," with its kitchen-sink approach to representing Russian/Soviet culture (the Mandelstam quotes especially struck me as out of place) and its Cyrillic misspellings. Made me feel rather as if I was being told an elaborate joke that I wasn't quite in on.