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Arts on PBS

March 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Terry Teachout, the Wall Street Journal’s drama critic, also writes a bi-weekly arts column in the Saturday paper. In yesterday’s column, he discussed the years-long decline in arts programming at PBS. To illustrate the decline, he reviews the 2009 programming on Great Performances, PBS’s “flagship performing-arts telecast.”

  • The San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker.”
  • A pair of Christmas concerts by Andrea Bocelli and Sting.
  • The Vienna Philharmonic’s annual New Year’s Day concert.
  • Two Broadway musicals, “In the Heights” and “Passing Strange.”
  • Three Metropolitan Opera performances, two of operas by Puccini and one of Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor.”
  • A feature-film version of Puccini’s “La Bohème.”
  • A concert by Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
  • A documentary about Herbert von Karajan.

  • Teachout observes that this “lineup of shows is both inadequate and unserious, especially when compared to the high-octane arts programming that PBS was airing a quarter-century ago.”

    I agree with his criticism, to which I would add that when Great Performances isn’t on, we have to watch endless replays of rock groups from the 1960s in a compendium of highlights fromThe Ed Sullivan Show, or Celtic Woman, with that fiddler bizarrely dancing all over the place amongst the singers. At least we no longer see Roy Orbison over and over in black and white. (Please understand, I love seeing the Rolling Stones singing Satisfaction; the fiddler is stunningly beautiful; and who doesn’t love Roy Orbison? But must I see them several nights a week?)

    Teachout has a wise suggestion for improvement.

    What should PBS be doing instead? For openers, it should air fine-arts programs that encompass the full range of the performing arts. That means not just “The Nutcracker” but ballet and modern-dance masterpieces of all kinds. It means not just ultrafamiliar operas but solo recitals and chamber music. It means not just Broadway musicals but performances of classic and contemporary plays. And these performances should take place not just in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco but in cities throughout America.

    If I were put in charge of arts programming on PBS and had unlimited funds at my disposal, I’d start by ordering up a monthly series called “Art Across America,” whose raison d’être would be to introduce TV viewers to the full range of fine-arts performances in their own land. None of the episodes would originate in New York, and all would feature works by American artists. Instead of showing a Broadway musical, I’d fly out to Seattle and tape an Intiman Theatre performance of Kate Whoriskey’s staging of “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer-winning 2007 play about life in a Congo brothel. Instead of showing Andrea Bocelli, I’d telecast David Robertson and the St. Louis Symphony performing Samuel Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard.” Instead of showing yet another “Nutcracker,” I’d put Carolina Ballet on the air dancing Robert Weiss’s “Messiah.”

    Would I watch all these shows if I had the opportunity? I don’t know. I already noted last April, the day Ruined was awarded a Pulitzer (Teachout appears to err in calling it a 2007 play), that we had a chance to see it in Chicago the previous November, but instead chose to hear Lang Lang in concert. Perhaps that’s forgivable.

    As for Celtic Woman, they’re coming to Seattle in May. Three nights at the Paramount. We better get our tickets.

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    Categories: Arts, Television

    Subway Yearbook

    September 23, 2009 Leave a comment

    In June I had a couple of posts (here and here) about the inspired work of Improv Everywhere. They hadn’t posted any new missions since then, until yesterday. The latest mission may lack the conceptual brilliance of the surprise wedding reception or the JFK welcome, but it more than compensates with its heartwarming results. You can watch the video above. (Go ahead. Stop reading and click the play button.) But then, after watching it, read more about the mission at Improv Everywhere’s website. The still photos of the mission are a good complement to the video. But best of all is the subway yearbook shot. I could say more, but just see for yourself.

    There are many wonderful reasons to live in New York. (And, yes, some reasons not to.) But one reason to live there is to have the opportunity to participate, wittingly or not, in Improv Everywhere’s missions.

    Categories: Arts, Culture, Transportation, Video

    Tour de France: Colmar

    July 17, 2009 Leave a comment

    isenheim

    I don’t have much to say about today’s Tour de France stage. From Vittel, it went through the Vosges mountains on a rainy day, ending in the Alsatian city of Colmar. The leaders didn’t try to catch the breakaway, from which the German-Australian rider Heinrich Haussler broke away to win. His emotional response served as a reminder of how important these stage victories are to the riders, even if they add little to the competition for the overall prize.

    But I can’t let the Tour pass through Colmar without paying tribute to the reason everyone must visit Colmar at least once in their lives: the Isenheim Altarpiece, Matthias Grünewald’s great rendering of the crucifixion. I mentioned it in May in a post on Alsatian pinot blanc. I saw it in February 1983, and I hope to see it again soon, this time with Gail when we go to France in the fall. What you see above is only a part of it, though the principal part, and photos cannot begin to capture its power.

    Maybe Haussler checked it out after his win today.

    Categories: Arts, Religion, Sports, Travel

    Border Fence

    March 29, 2009 Leave a comment

    borderfence

    The photo accompanied a NYT story three days ago on Secretary of State Clinton’s arrival in Mexico City, during which she acknowledged that “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.” She also announced a new initiative to deploy 450 more law enforcement officers at the border.

    But I include the photo simply for its own sake, since it is so stunning. The caption describes it as “a recently completed section of the fence the United States is building along the Mexican border crosses desert sands between Yuma, Ariz., and Calexico, Calif.” I was tipped off to it in a blog post by David Gibson at the Commonweal blog. Gibson notes that “at first I thought it might be a new installation by the artist Richard Serra.” I thought instead of Christo. For example, here is a shot of Valley Curtain in Colorado, 1970-1972.

    christo

    Categories: Arts, Politics, Today's News

    Food Art

    March 8, 2009 1 comment

    foodart1

    We got back an hour ago from taking Joel to the airport for his return flight to Boston. He’s been here for the week on his mid-semester break. His normal pattern has been to take the overnight JetBlue flight back to Boston, but when we made the reservations, I asked if he wanted to try the Alaska daytime non-stop and he said sure. The only problem is that it leaves at 8:50 AM, hours before he usually awakens, and worse yet, Daylight Saving Time started this morning, making the departure even an hour earlier than that, in effect. We all got up around 6:00 AM (5:00 AM as far as our bodies knew). We’re home now, and Joel should be sitting on the plane at the gate.

    Anyway, one sees a lot of weird art on people’s blogs, so I decided this morning, while we were waiting for Joel to get ready, that I could do it too. I used found objects left over from last night. For a farewell dinner, we went to the Westlake branch of the superb Seattle pizzeria Tutta Bella. This has become something of a pattern, since it’s not far from Jessica’s condo, making it a convenient meeting spot, and since Jessica will eat the food there. To start, we had a large Salerno salad (insalata di Salerno, described on the menu as “Small fresh mozzarella, crunchy shaved fennel, cherry tomato halves, cucumbers, basil, romaine, dijon-balsamic vinaigrette & fresh cracked pepper.: The fennel made all the difference. Excellent salad. And we also had a small Caesar salad (insalata di Cesare), since that’s what Jessica prefers. It’s description: Romaine, house made focaccia croutons, shaved parmigiano reggiano, classic caesar dressing. Then we shared 3 pizzas, the house Tutta Bella Pizza (Pomodoro San Marzano, Isernio’s Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, roasted onions, roasted mushrooms, Grana Padano); the Ciro (Pomodoro San Marzano, prosciutto di Parma, fresh mozzarella, roasted mushrooms, slivered garlic, fresh basil, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil); and the Regina Margherita (Pomodoro San Marzano, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, Grana Padano). They were all excellent. These were accompanied by a bottle of Planeta la Segreta Rosso (50% Nero d’Avola with an explosion of fresh fruit balanced by a zesty spiciness), and followed by small orders of chocolate and raspberry gelato. A few slices came home in a box.

    Later last night, I decided to squeeze 6 grapefruits to make juice for Gail, Joel, and me to share. Joel ate two slices of the leftover pizza overnight and the final two before we left for the airport this morning. The result was that we now had a pizza box and 12 grapefruit halves that I had to bring out to the yard waste bin. What better way to bring out the grapefruit than in the pizza box? I piled them in. And that’s when inspiration struck. I tried a couple of arrangements before arriving at the one pictured above. The installation won’t last long. It is destined to find its way into the bin before the end of the day. But the photo above will preserve it indefinitely, as well as preserving memories of our night out.

    If you aren’t excited by my art, perhaps you’ll prefer the art captured in the photo below (HT: Andrew Sullivan.) I wouldn’t blame you for preferring it. It is the work of the Norwegian artist Rune Guneriussen, more of whose work can be seen by clicking the links here. I still have a ways to go in developing my compositional skills.

    guneriussen

    Categories: Arts, Family, Food, Restaurants

    The Art Institute of Chicago

    November 20, 2008 Leave a comment

    This is the fourth post in my account of our recent visit to Chicago. In it, I describe our visit to the Art Institute of Chicago last Sunday afternoon.

    Georges Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago

    Georges Seurat, Art Institute of Chicago

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    Categories: Arts, Travel

    Second Day in Chicago

    November 18, 2008 Leave a comment

    A Day in Chicago
    Saturday, November 15, 2008

    In which I describe what we did three days ago, or at least what we did for the morning and afternoon. I’ll save the evening concert for a separate post.

    The Berghoff, Adams Street, Chicago

    The Berghoff, Adams Street, Chicago

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    Categories: Arts, Food, Travel