Tuesday, August 30, 2011

London's Comedy Theatre

London’s Comedy Theatre, which opened in 1881—five days after the opening of the famed Savoy Theatre.

The exterior architecture is entirely unremarkable if not undistinguished.

The auditorium is below street level—one proceeds down two steep flights of stairs to reach the stalls. The balcony is at street level. Theatergoers learn that the auditorium is underground only upon entering the theater—no mention of this fact is to be found on the theater’s website.

Although the building has been remodeled at least three times, the auditorium remains as it was in 1881. The auditorium is of no historic or artistic interest. In fact, it may be the least distinguished auditorium among all London theaters.

Like most London theaters, ventilation at the Comedy Theatre is very poor. My brother and I had attended performances at the Comedy Theatre three times prior to this month’s “Betrayal”—we had seen “Journey’s End”, “The Old Masters” and “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?” at the Comedy Theatre—and we had always noticed how poor (and noisy) was the ventilation.

In fact, during the first act of “The Old Masters” performance we had attended, the ventilation had stopped working entirely. Members of the audience began audibly to complain. The buzz from the crowd became so loud that my brother and I feared that Edward Fox and Peter Bowles would stop the performance.

At the intermission, my brother and I asked an usher to inform the house manager of the ventilation woes—but we did so only after observing that no other theater patrons had bothered to stop and have a word with any of the ushers as the patrons made their ways to the crush bars at intermission.

The usher we addressed summoned a well-dressed woman sporting a rhinestone in her pierced nose, and we told the well-dressed woman with a rhinestone in her nose that the ventilation had stopped working, as surely she must already know. She told us that no one had informed her of any ventilation problem—but she checked, and was able to confirm that indeed the ventilation had ceased working. Whatever measures were required to address the situation were taken, because the ventilation was operating by the time the second act was ready to begin. We—and the rest of the patrons—were able to breathe during the second half of “The Old Masters”.

Directly across the street from the Comedy Theatre is a profoundly inexpensive restaurant my brother and I discovered in 2002. It may be London’s least expensive restaurant in which the food is entirely edible. My brother and I used to eat at the restaurant almost every time we attended West End or Covent Garden performances.

Four years ago, my brother and I introduced my parents and Josh to the restaurant one evening—and they found it completely unobjectionable. In fact, they rather liked the place: homey atmosphere; simple, basic food, well-cooked; tables tightly packed together, almost forcing patrons to talk to persons at adjoining tables throughout the meal.

We returned to the restaurant this year, eating dinner there immediately before seeing “Betrayal” across the street.

Everyone was happy to go back. The food was as good and as inexpensive as ever.

London's National Theatre

Denys Lasdun’s National Theatre, a Brutalist concrete structure on the South Bank of The Thames. The National Theatre opened in 1976.

Monday, August 29, 2011

London Theater Performances

We saw five theater performances while we were in London.

The day we arrived, August 4, we caught a 3:00 p.m. matinee performance of Simon Gray’s “Butley” and a 7:30 p.m. evening performance of Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal”.

“Butley”, at the Duchess Theatre, was directed by Lindsay Posner and featured Dominic West in the title role.

Gray’s first hit, “Butley” presents—in real time—the collapsing world of a British academic on a single unfortunate afternoon, an afternoon in which the academic loses first his wife, then his boyfriend—and, most lasting of all, his career. The play is a biting and witty tale of a caustic (and not particularly sympathetic) intellectual with a willful streak of self-destruction.

“Butley” is a good play, and has been revived with some frequency since its 1971 premiere. Gray was a literate playwright, writing 20th-Century versions of drawing-room comedies peopled by intelligent persons who have interesting—if not profound—things to say. I had never previously seen a production of “Butley”, although I had studied the text, which “reads” very well.

The current West End production is not good.

West was miscast. He lacked the range necessary to bring Butley to life, although he certainly caught the character’s nastiness and seediness. Of charm there was none—and if Butley does not have a modicum of charm, the play is pointless—and of intellectual depth there was not the slightest suggestion. West’s was a proletarian portrayal of an academic, borrowed from the insufferable proletarian soap operas that thrive on British television.

Without an incandescent actor in the title part, “Butley” does not work. The play becomes little more than a series of recitations of nasty barbs orbiting around a vacant center.

Alan Bates was the original Butley. Many persons believe that Butley was Bates’s greatest role.

My father saw the original production of “Butley” when it transferred from London to New York in 1972. He recalls the production as “thrilling”—and, ever after, he never missed an opportunity to catch Bates onstage. Alas, according to my father, Bates was never able to recapture the magic of Butley in any other role.

Harold Pinter directed the original production of “Butley”. Indeed, Pinter directed ten plays by Gray, including a 2004 production of “The Old Masters”, a play about Joseph Duveen and Bernard Berenson, which my brother and I caught at the Comedy Theatre in London that year.

The 2004 “The Old Masters” was the last Gray play that Pinter directed. Both men were to die from cancer in 2008.

My brother and I saw Pinter outside the stage door of the Comedy Theatre the night we attended “The Old Masters”.

We were reminded of that fact this year, because it was at the Comedy Theatre that we saw Pinter’s “Betrayal” a couple of hours after attending the matinee “Butley”. (My brother and I had also attended a performance at the Comedy Theatre in 2005, when we had seen a staging of “Whose Life Is It, Anyway?”, a Peter Hall production starring Kim Cattrall and Janet Suzman.)

Many knowledgeable persons believe that “Betrayal” is Pinter’s finest—and only enduring—play. Presented in reverse chronology, “Betrayal” depicts the nine-year affair of a married woman—who has taken up with her husband’s best friend.

I dislike “Betrayal”. Although some skill has been exercised in creating the tale, “Betrayal” is a very nihilistic play about three self-centered and ungenerous and nihilistic persons, none of whom possesses a single admirable quality. “Betrayal” is based upon episodes and personages from Pinter’s life, and the persons portrayed onstage are as vapid and unpleasant as Pinter himself.

The current London production does the work no favors. It was a weak and tepid “Betrayal” we encountered at the Comedy Theatre.

The chief fault with the production was Kristin Scott Thomas, who brought nothing to the central role. Thomas had no range, no magnetism, no projection, no profile. Watching Thomas in a stage role was like watching a television actress undertake, for the first time, a complex, multi-faceted role from the classics—and come entirely to grief. “Betrayal” requires an accomplished actress in the central role for the play to register, and Thomas was nothing more than a pipsqueak. Hers was an embarrassing performance.

The director of “Betrayal” was Ian Rickson.

On our second day in London, August 5, we attended an evening performance of Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” at the Haymarket Theatre (“Theatre Royal Haymarket”, owned by the crown). Four years ago, we had seen “The Last Confession” at Theatre Royal Haymarket. The director of “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” was Trevor Nunn.

The Stoppard play was the worst thing we saw in London. The production was simply a mess from start to finish, miscast, misdirected, unable to settle upon a tone, unable to acquire a rhythm, unable to develop momentum. The production was aimless, lacking concentration and propulsion. If one did not already know the text, one would assume that Stoppard’s play was a vast failure, a confused exercise in mere cleverness. Nunn’s “Rosencrantz” was the most listless staging of a Stoppard play I have ever witnessed. It was a trial for us to sit through all three acts.

The following day, August 6, we attended two theater performances: we caught a matinee performance of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” at the Garrick Theatre; and we caught an evening performance of Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at The National Theatre.

“Pygmalion” is a very good play, and we enjoyed the performance very much, even though we were cognizant—throughout the afternoon—that we were not witnessing an exceptional production.

Rupert Everett portrayed Higgins. He was not particularly good, but he was not as bad as I had feared. His Higgins was a very odd man, odder even than the script suggests, but I suspect a focus upon Higgins’s oddness was the only way for Everett to get through the part.

The Eliza was a young television actress. She was attractive, and carried some innate appeal, but she was not a natural stage actress, and was convincing neither as guttersnipe nor as lady. She probably had been cast because she is a known quantity to BBC viewers.

The primary pleasures in the production came from the fine stage design and costume design as well as the fine supporting cast, which was genuinely top-notch. Every subsidiary part had been expertly cast, and the supporting crew was immeasurably better than the Higgins and Eliza. Diana Rigg played Mrs. Higgins, and she was delightful. We wished her part had been larger.

The director of “Pygmalion” was Philip Prowse.

“Pygmalion” received its first performance in Vienna, in German translation, at what is now the Burgtheater. The first English-language production was in New York. London was the third city to see Shaw’s play (Shaw himself directed the first London production).

Shaw’s most-performed play in the English-speaking world, “Pygmalion” is the only Shaw play that has entered the repertory in non-English-speaking countries. France, Germany and Russia, all countries with rich theatrical histories and cultures, have witnessed countless productions of “Pygmalion” in the last hundred years.

The evening performance of “The Cherry Orchard” was the London production we had most wanted to see—and, and as a result, we had deliberately made “The Cherry Orchard” our final theater performance.

“The Cherry Orchard” was presented at the Olivier Theatre, National Theatre’s venue with the thrust stage. The production was directed by Howard Davies. The staging had received great acclaim, and had sold out all performances, and we were very keen to see it. In fact, we had purchased our tickets the very hour August performances had gone on sale via The National Theatre website—and, had we waited a few hours, we would not have been able to obtain tickets.

The production was fascinating, but much over-praised.

A new translation had been commissioned, and the translation was very poor. The translation was packed with preposterous contemporary references and phrases, and instantly became jarring. People in Russia in 1904 did not converse like Londoners in 2011, and it was a grave error for the translator to have couched Chekhov’s tale in the kind of contemporary dialogue one might hear at a London coffee shop. The excellent Michael Frayn translation should have been used instead (The National has used the Frayn translation in the past).

The cast was good, but the cast members were unable to evoke anything remotely Russian in their performances. This was a very, very British staging—with more than a whiff of British provincial theater permeating the production—and the acting styles onstage were more apt for a dreary domestic drama examining Britain’s lower classes, such as John Osborne’s “The Entertainer”, than a Chekhov play.

Zoe Wanamaker’s Madame Ranevskaya was portrayed, above all, as an irritating figure. In the last fifteen years, it has become a widespread practice in British theater for main characters in classic dramas to be portrayed as deliberately irritating. This practice, I believe, is intended to add “complexity” to characterizations of roles over-familiar to audiences—but the practice is, at bottom, a boneheaded idea as well as an idea bereft of genuine thought. An actress or director that must transform Madame Ranevskaya into an irritant in order to lend the portrayal a degree of “depth” has not thought long enough and hard enough about the role or the play.

Given how gruesome was the translation, and given how un-Russian was the staging, “The Cherry Orchard” was, largely, engrossing. However, the script was played as pure domestic drama, with little exploration of other important issues raised in the text. Such a constricted, small-scale interpretation of “The Cherry Orchard” reduces the power and range of Chekhov’s greatest play.

Oddly, Joshua and I had seen a truer vision of Chekhov’s final play two years ago, when we had attended a performance of “The Cherry Orchard” in Baltimore. That production had been presented by tiny Everyman Theater, the smaller of Baltimore’s two professional repertory theater companies.

Everyman Theater did not have a cast as talented as that onstage in London, nor was it able to employ a fraction of the design budget available to The National Theater. Nonetheless, the Baltimore “Cherry Orchard” had been twenty times more affecting than the current London staging—and the Baltimore production had enjoyed a vastly superior Madame Ranevskaya in Deborah Hazlett, who had given a truly remarkable performance (Josh wrote about Hazlett and that “Cherry Orchard” in April 2009). Hazlett had been a glowing Madame Ranevskaya; in comparison, Wanamaker was a mere bundle of nerves, having wandered in off the set of “East Enders”.

We last had attended a performance at The National Theatre in 2008, when we had endured a matinee performance of Michael Frayn’s “Afterlife”, an unsuccessful play about Max Reinhardt.

The National Theatre continues to deteriorate.

The interiors sport more grime with each return visit, the carpets and furnishings become still more tatty, and the unattractive warren-like public spaces evince a grim, prison-like atmosphere. The building is an eyesore, inside and out, one of the great architectural disasters of the 1970s. Constructed from the very cheapest materials, the building looks as if it had been intended for a very brief lifespan.

The building is now thirty-five years old. It is time for the structure to be replaced.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hindemith And Stravinsky In Santa Fe

Paul Hindemith and Igor Stravinsky in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1961.

Santa Fe Opera mounted Hindemith’s “News Of The Day” and Stravinsky’s “Persephone” that summer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Temple Dancer

Uliana Lopatkina as Nikiya, The Temple Dancer, in “La Bayadere”.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Mariinsky Ballet In London

While we were in London, we caught two performances of the Mariinsky Ballet at The Royal Opera House.

On Monday night, August 8, we attended a performance of “Swan Lake”. On Saturday night, August 13, we attended a performance of “La Bayadere”.

My parents and Josh and I last saw the Mariinsky in February of last year, when we had traveled to Washington for a very long weekend—a weekend in which we had caught the Mariinsky Ballet at the very end of a Washington run of performances and the Bolshoi Ballet at the very beginning of a Washington run of performances. That weekend, we had seen the Mariinsky dance “The Sleeping Beauty”.

The Mariinsky “Sleeping Beauty” presented in Washington last year was a Soviet-era production first staged by Konstantin Sergeyev in 1952. The production was peculiar: it failed to follow the scenario; it cut Tchaikovsky’s score to shreds; and the production design was abundantly unattractive. The Sergeyev “Sleeping Beauty” has—incomprehensibly—remained in the Mariinsky repertory ever since it was first mounted fifty-nine years ago (with a short-term exception to be noted below).

The Mariinksy “Swan Lake” we saw in London last week also was a Soviet-era production, dating from 1950—and it, too, had been first staged by Sergeyev. The Sergeyev “Swan Lake” has been in the Mariinsky repertory for sixty-one years.

To Westerners, it seems odd that the Mariinsky continues to present productions unveiled under Stalin. However, the Sergeyev productions, never acclaimed in the West, are unaccountably popular within Russia. Over time, Russian audiences became accustomed to the corrupt Sergeyev versions of various 19th-Century works—with the result that the Sergeyev productions now retain a tenacious hold on Russian affections. Mariinsky administrators that have attempted to replace the Soviet-era productions have been thwarted time and again. A few years ago, the Sergeyev “Sleeping Beauty” was at last retired with great fanfare, and a new production installed. The new production, appreciated in the West but disliked by Russian dancegoers, was quickly shelved, and the Sergeyev production swiftly reinstated, an inconceivable development in the eyes of those in the West.

Like the Mariinsky “Sleeping Beauty”, the Mariinsky “Swan Lake” also used a corrupt score and a corrupt scenario (as well as suffered from exceedingly unattractive designs)—and, much like the Mariinsky “Sleeping Beauty”, the Mariinsky “Swan Lake” has never been respected in the West.

The Mariinsky “Swan Lake” is the infamous “happy ending” Swan Lake, in which Von Rothbart is stripped of his wings and killed while Odette and Siegfried are allowed to live on. The production displays a pronounced fondness for jesters, prancing courtiers and other extraneous nonsense—yet the Mariinsky “Swan Lake” is nowhere near as bad (or as garish) as the Mariinsky “Sleeping Beauty”. If one can ignore the jesters and happy ending (as well as the mangled version of Tchaikovsky’s score), the Mariinsky “Swan Lake” was highly enjoyable, even magnificent.

It was magnificent because of the dancing.

The corps de ballet of the Mariinsky is of an amazing standard, a standard no other company can hope to match. It is the amazing flexibility of the backs of Mariinsky dancers that always first captures my attention. The ballerinas stretch and bend their backs with a suppleness and uniformity and subtlety of expression that are unknown to dancers in the West—and such qualities lend the ensemble work a magical power.

The arms and necks and upper-body carriage of Mariinsky dancers are astonishing; refinement and uniformity are always on display. Watching the Mariinsky corps de ballet execute its steps is, for me, always the highlight of a Mariinsky performance—and the corps was indeed wondrous in Acts II and IV of “Swan Lake”.

The Odette/Odile was Ekaterina Kondaurova and the Siegfried was American David Hallberg, making a guest appearance with the Mariinsky.

Casting for the August 8 “Swan Lake” had been changed twice after we had purchased our tickets from The Royal Opera House website. We were in no way disappointed, even though we had been promised first Diana Vishneva and then Uliana Lopatkina, the Mariinsky’s two most-renowned ballerinas (the performance had become sold out while Vishneva’s name still appeared on the casting list). Days before the Mariinsky dancers landed in London, Kondaurova was announced as the Odette/Odile for the performance of August 8.

Kondaurova was an excellent Odette/Odile. Better in the lakeside acts than in Act III, where her Odile struck me as brittle and unnatural (and perhaps a bit forced), Kondaurova is a major ballerina. Kondaurova should be better-known in the West—she is a dancer of astonishing technique yet capable of expressing drama and emotion as well as evoking heartbreak. Kondaurova is a far finer dancer than any principal I have encountered over the last dozen years at American Ballet Theatre or at The Royal Ballet or at The Paris Opera Ballet. The depth of Russian ballet talent is limitless.

Hallberg did not give a memorable performance. His characterization of Siegfried struck me as faceless, lacking in princely profile, lacking in personality and lacking in charm. Kondaurova totally overwhelmed Hallberg whenever both dancers were onstage at the same time. Their partnership was a steak-and-mutton pairing.

In fairness, I must note that Hallberg had the unpleasant assignment of trying to lend some semblance of life to Act I, by far the weakest act of the Mariinsky production.

The Mariinsky orchestra had been imported from Saint Petersburg for the duration of the three-week London engagement. The orchestra was off-form in “Swan Lake”—and the tempi were far too slow, as is generally the case in Mariinsky performances.

Acts I and II were performed without an intermission, yet there was an intermission between Acts III and IV. In my view, “Swan Lake” must be performed either with three intermissions or with one intermission: there must be an intermission after each act; or there must be a single intermission after Act II, with each palace act seamlessly followed by a lakeside act. Offering “Swan Lake” with two intermissions makes no sense whatsoever—and this is especially so since Act IV is the shortest of the four acts, lasting only twenty minutes.

Despite the shortcomings, we loved every minute of the Mariinsky “Swan Lake”. It was a privilege to see such a great ballet company in one of the 19th Century’s seminal works of Classicism.

The performance of “La Bayadere” we attended five nights later involved an even older Soviet-era production, a “Bayadere” production dating from 1941 (the year Hitler invaded Russia).

My parents and Josh and I had attended a performance of “La Bayadere” in November, when we had seen the Boston Ballet production, a production largely derived from Rudolf Nureyev’s Paris Opera Ballet staging (but with different stage designs).

When I wrote about Boston Ballet’s “La Bayadere”, I wrote at some length about the two different versions of “La Bayadere” most frequently encountered in the West: Natalia Makarova’s 1980 production for New York-based American Ballet Theatre; and Nureyev’s 1992 production for Paris.

At the time, I also mentioned the 2001 Mariinsky production, a production reconstructed from the 1900 Marius Petipa staging. The Mariinsky “La Bayadere” of 1900 was the final production of Petipa’s 1877 original that the choreographer supervised during his lifetime. The 2001 Mariinsky reconstruction had been based upon dance notation from the 1900 production as well as Ludwig Minkus’s original score and orchestrations, unearthed in 2000 in the Mariinsky library.

The 2001 Mariinsky reconstruction of the 1900 Petipa production had proved to be a sensation in the West (it was first shown in New York and London in 2003, and caused critics to revise wholesale their opinions of the ballet)—and I had always assumed that the Mariinsky had permanently abandoned the corrupt 1941 production once it had mounted the 2001 reconstruction of Petipa’s final staging.

I had been wrong. The Mariinsky reverted to the corrupt 1941 production of “La Bayadere” in 2004 (“except for special occasions”, according to the Mariinsky program booklet), and has danced the corrupt 1941 version ever since. The pristine “Bayadere” unveiled in 2001 did not prove to be popular in Russia, where audiences had become so accustomed to the corrupt 1941 version that they had demanded its return.

We had eagerly looked forward to the 2001 Mariinsky reconstruction—and we were disappointed that the old Soviet version was being offered in its place. We discovered what we had gotten ourselves into long before leaving for London—but long after we had already purchased our tickets. We would never have purchased tickets—very expensive tickets—for “La Bayadere” had we known that the 1941 Soviet-era production was the production scheduled for London.

The 1941 production uses a specious score, much not from Minkus’s pen (and with completely different orchestrations, all created by a variety of anonymous hands), and it omits all of Act IV and portions of Acts I through III. The 1941 production ends—as did the Boston Ballet production—with “The Kingdom Of The Shades” scene, robbing the ballet of any sensible dramatic conclusion (but providing a ridiculous if not ludicrous happy ending, first introduced in 1924 under pressure from the Lenin regime, which favored “happy endings” in entertainments for “the masses”).

I cannot understand the Mariinsky’s perpetuation of corrupt Soviet-era stagings. Ballets warranting revival should be presented after thorough research of the most pristine source materials, and with original scores emanating from the pit. (The Mariinsky’s Soviet-era productions are also in dire need of re-costuming.) Ballet stagings in Russia should no longer be based upon the type of production Stalin found pleasing.

The dancing provided the only pleasure to be derived from the current Mariinsky “La Bayadere”—and the dancing was undeniably glorious.

The corps was in stunning form all night—and not solely in “The Kingdom Of The Shades” scene, which came across with stupendous impact (32 ballerinas were used, as in Nureyev’s Paris production, unlike the 24 ballerinas used in the Boston production and Makarova’s ABT production). Even in the brief formal dances of Acts I and II, the Mariinsky corps was incomparable.

Two of the three principal dancers were excellent—and, unlike “Swan Lake”, with its two changes of casting, there had been only one change of casting for “La Bayadere” after we had purchased our tickets.

We had ordered tickets for what purportedly was to be a Vishneva performance. Two days after our order had been placed, the performance was listed as “sold out”—and, two days after that, Vishneva’s name was removed from the cast listing.

We heard countless complaints from patrons of The Royal Opera House about the casting shenanigans connected to the Mariinsky’s visit to London. As soon as performances with the Mariinsky’s biggest stars became sold out, those very same stars were shifted to performances for which sales had been weakest. No one knows whether the perpetrator of this nasty scheme was the Mariinsky itself, The Royal Opera House or Victor Hochhauser, the impresario presenting the London engagement.

Happily, we were able to experience Lopatkina if not Vishneva, because Lopatkina danced Nikiya at the August 13 “La Bayadere” performance—and she was magnificent.

Lopatkina is a spectacular ballerina—one cannot take one’s eyes from her while she is onstage—and the kind of dancer one rarely encounters in the West: blazing technique, glamorous stage presence, deep musicality, surefire dramatic instinct, vivid yet natural projection, charisma to burn. With the slightest tilt of the head, Lopatkina could evoke the kind of stage tension normally associated with Hamlet’s soliloquy or Otello’s “Credo”. I would go see Lopatkina nightly if she danced in Minneapolis. She is one of the greatest dancers I have ever seen.

The Solor was Daniel Korsuntsev. Korsuntsev was quite good in what is, all in all, a rather thankless role. Korsuntsev possessed some stage presence and exhibited the virtuosity dancegoers have come to expect from Russian male dancers. However, Korsuntsev did not strike me as a particularly thoughtful or subtle or polished artist.

Anastasia Kolegova danced Gamzatti—and she was a cipher on the stage alongside Lopatkina and Korsuntsev. Kolegova basically got lost amid the onstage proceedings—but it did not matter, because Lopatkina was so riveting.

Before the performances, I had worried about my brother attending two evening-length ballet performances within five days. My brother, like practically everyone, enjoys “Swan Lake”, but I was uncertain whether he would be able to tolerate “La Bayadere”.

My brother made it through both evenings without stress—and it was two long evenings we endured: the performance of “Swan Lake” lasted three hours and ten minutes; and the performance of “La Bayadere” lasted three hours and fifteen minutes.

My brother enjoyed “Swan Lake” immensely (other than its gruesome first act). He thought “La Bayadere” was rather silly—which of course it is—but he enjoyed watching Lopatkina and the corps. He did not regret the time spent in The Royal Opera House.

London press reviews of the Mariinsky’s three-week visit to The Royal Opera House were shockingly provincial. Other than Clement Crisp writing for The Financial Times, we did not encounter a single critical notice, in any of the London newspapers, covering any of the six programs the Mariinsky toured to London, that exhibited even the slightest sophistication. The reviews were public exhibitions of extravagant ignorance, both about the Mariinsky and about the art form itself.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

“A Mere Gathering Of The Unsuccessful”

“When will we get done with the fool idea that the way to make a party grow is to scare away everybody who has an extra dollar in his pocket? God forbid that the Democratic Party should become a mere gathering of the unsuccessful!”

John W. Davis, Democratic Party Presidential Nominee, describing how “demagogic populism” from his own party cost him the 1924 U.S. Presidential Election.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Couple Of Super-Turkeys

Thanksgiving has come early this year.

Anyone asking why the Atlanta Symphony has such serious attendance problems as well as such a huge debt load need only look at the photograph below for answers.

And, no, the photograph is not an outtake from the film, "Mississippi Burning", although anyone might be forgiven for making such an assumption.

The image has not been altered in any way—although one may certainly question the sanity of whichever Atlanta Symphony orchestral administrators approved the release of such a dismaying albeit hilarious photograph.

Are there two bigger turkeys, anywhere, than Robert Spano and Donald Runnicles?

And need one ask why the much-heralded project of a new concert hall for the Atlanta Symphony was (very, very quietly) shelved?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

London During The Blitz?

No. London last night.

Happily, we were miles and miles from the rioting and looting.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

London Perceived

Departure: tomorrow. Return: the 14th.