the traveler's resource guide to festivals & films
a site
part of Insider Media llc.

Connect with us:

Film and the Arts

The MET Orchestra Performs Debussy, Ravel & More

The MET Orchestra, photo 2019 Richard Termine
The superb season of orchestral music at Carnegie Hall soon drawing to a close was enhanced by the marvelous appearance on the evening of Monday, June 3rd of the extraordinary musicians of the MET Orchestra under the dazzling direction of Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in a stunning concert devoted to modernist French music.
The program began exhilaratingly with a mesmeric account of the Claude Debussy masterwork, La mer, first with a sparkling version of the opening movement, followed by a second movement notable for its lightness, and concluding with the most thrilling version of the finale that I have heard in the concert hall, in which Nézet-Séguin pushed the dynamics to a near limit.
The celebrated mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard then took the stage—looking impossibly gorgeous in a lacy white gown—for the Carnegie Hall premiere of the complete version of Henri Dutilleux’s final work, the song-cycleLe temps l’horloge,set to poems by Jean Tardieu, Robert Desnos, and Charles Baudelaire. The orchestrations were impressive and Leonard’s singing was luminous.
For the second half of the program, the singer returned to the stage for a lovely rendition of the beautiful Maurice Ravel song-cycle from 1903, Shéhérazade, set to poems by Tristan Klingsor. Leonard received an enthusiastic ovation.
The evening ended magnificently with a sterling performance of Ravel’s glorious Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2, which has become something of a signature work for Nézet-Séguin. This again elicited enormous, deserved applause. These fabulous musicians return to this venue for a final concert of the season on the evening of Friday, July 14th, along with the fantastic mezzo-soprano, Elīna Garanča.

The Gothic Romance of "Jane Eyre" on Stage with The American Ballet Theatre

Isabella Boylston and Thomas Forster in Jane Eyre. Photo: Gene Schiavone.
A thus-far strong season at American Ballet Theatre continued memorably on the evening of Wednesday, June 5th, of the fluidly staged, dramatically effective Jane Eyre, a 2016 adaptation of the eponymous Charlotte Brontë novel, which received its company premiere the night before, in a co-production with the Joffrey Ballet.
Originally presented by Northern Ballet in the U.K., the work is inventively choreographed, although in conformity to classical norms, by Cathy Marston. The score, here conducted by Charles Barker, largely consists of music by Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn, and Frank Schubert, arranged by Philip Feeney, who composed some excellent original music. The production is visually striking, impressively exploiting the possibilities for effects of depth in the staging, with costumes and set design by Patrick Kinmonth, who collaborated on the scenario, and lighting by Brad Fields.
The evening I attended featured a fine cast with the talented Isabella Boylston in the title role, ably partnered by a dashing Thomas Forster as Rochester, although one could have imagined a more dramatically weighty pairing with, for example, David Hallberg and Natalia Osipova. The secondary cast included: Skylar Brandt, replacing Breanne Granlund, as the young Jane; Duncan Lyle as St. John Rivers; Blaine Hoven as the Headmaster; Cassandra Trenary as Mrs. Fairfax; Hee Seo as Blanche Ingram; and Stephanie Williams as Bertha Mason, Rochester’s mad wife. The admirable corps de ballet was characteristically superb.
This production is an interesting addition to the company’s repertoire and it will be worth revisiting in future seasons.

Off-Broadway Review—Susan Sarandon in Jesse Eisenberg’s “Happy Talk”

Happy Talk
Written by Jesse Eisenberg; directed by Scott Elliott
Performances through June 16, 2019

Susan Sarandon, Marin Ireland and Tedra Millan in Happy Talk (photo: Monique Carboni)
Susan Sarandon’s first New York stage appearance in a decade (when she was on Broadway in Ionesco’s Exit the King) is the obvious reason to see Happy Talk. In Jesse Eisenberg’s slight comic drama, Sarandon plays Lorraine, a narcissistic actress—is that redundant?—who tries to ignore life’s awfulness from intruding on her well-being in her own home: her (unseen) elderly mother is in a sick bed and her husband Bill, suffering from M.S., often sits in a state of near-catatonia in the living room.
Helping out is Ljuba, an illegal Serbian immigrant who takes care of everyone, even Lorraine, who needs to be needy while acting if she’s doing the caretaking. When Ljuba says she’s been saving money for years to pay for a green-card marriage, which would make her legal and let her bring her teenage daughter over from Serbia, what little plot there is kicks in as Lorraine decides to play matchmaker for Ljuba with Ronny, an actor in her local JCC troupe rehearsing a production of South Pacific (the play’s title comes from one of that show’s songs). No matter that Ronny is gay and unavailable: Lorraine thinks he’s perfect for the part, and various mishaps accrue.
The women’s codependent relationship, initially shown as amusingly off-kilter, becomes malevolent as Lorraine lords it over Ljuba until, by the end, the younger woman is spent, both financially and emotionally. But Eisenberg never makes this relationship plausible; instead, Lorraine’s shenanigans are a playwright’s contrivance, a lazy shortcut instead of allowing things to grow organically from the characters themselves. 
Eisenberg’s extremely messy script does have two juicy roles: one obvious, the other not. Sarandon unsurprisingly delves into Lorraine with glee, viscerally playing up her theatricality and sunny exterior hiding inner turmoil. That Ljuba is no match for Lorraine is the combined fault of writer and actress: Eisenberg smothers her with clichéd writing and the usually dependable Marin Ireland plays her with a curious sing-song voice and risible Balkan accent that sound like Gilda Radner’s SNL characters Roseanne Roseannadanna and Lisa Loopner. 
The other good role is Jenny, Lorraine and Bill’s estranged adult daughter, who arrives late one night and—thanks to a terrific Tedra Millan—foulmouthedly steals the show. But in Eisenberg’s shaky hands, Jenny’s appearance merely underlines what we already know: Lorraine is nastily (even dangerously) self-centered. Millan gives Jenny a dimension that overshadows everyone else, save for Lorraine, and when she exits, interest in the rest of Happy Talk drops precipitously, despite director Scott Elliott’s usual savvy effort.
Our last image is of Lorraine sitting alone, smirk on her face: Sarandon slyly looks at the audience and waves, an acknowledgement of complicity not in the script. Would that Elliott had more such intrusions up his sleeve to give more depth to a desperately creaky vehicle.
Happy Talk
The New Group, Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, New York, NY

Twyla Tharp Trio of Performances with the American Ballet Theatre

Christine Shevchenko in Deuce Coupe. Photo: Gene Schiavone
A strong season of American Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center continued impressively on the evening of Thursday, May 30th, with the Tharp Trio, three compelling dance-works by the innovative choreographer, Twyla Tharp, who has had a long association with the company.
Her classical antecedents can be detected in the first piece, the lovely The Brahms-Haydn Variations—originally titled Variations on a Theme by Haydn, after the orchestral work by Johannes Brahms to which it is set—which was given its world premiere by Ballet Theater in the year 2000. The stylistic influence of a choreographer like George Balanchine here provides a contrast with the more contemporary inflections of Tharp’s most celebrated productions. The excellent primary cast included Misty Copeland, Joo Won Ahn, Skylar Brandt, Arron Scott (replacing an injured Herman Cornejo), Stephanie Williams, Blaine Hoven, Zhong-Jing Fang, Calvin Royal III, Sarah Lane, and Gary Pogossian, with strong support from the admirable corps de ballet.
There is an explicit link with the historical ballet vocabulary in the second work on the program—the company premiere of Deuce Coupe from 1973, a piece with many beautiful elements set to music, sometimes glorious, by the Beach Boys—in that, throughout, the marvelous ballerina Christine Shevchenko performs steps from the classical ballet dictionary. However, along this one can simultaneously observe the populist choreography that has brought Tharp her greatest fame, with for example three Broadway shows set to music by Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, and Frank Sinatra. The penultimate sequence, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” was an example of one section that was especially powerful. The massive cast is too large to enumerate so I will only cite some of the more noteworthy dancers, including Stella Abrera, Royal, Isabella Boylston, Copeland, Catherine Hurlin and James Whiteside.
The most representative work on the program was the last, the mesmerizing In the Upper Room from 1986—set to wonderful music by Philip Glass—a not unworthy successor to the Jerome Robbins master work, Glass Pieces of 1983. Again, the ballet featured a huge cast from which I will only mention some of the most memorable: Devon Teuscher, Brandt, Duncan Lyle, Hoven (again replacing Cornejo), Cassandra Trenary, Scott, Boylston, and Thomas Forster. The conclusion elicited an enthusiastic ovation with which the choreographer thrillingly appeared on the stage.

Newsletter Sign Up

Upcoming Events

No Calendar Events Found or Calendar not set to Public.