April is the two hundredth anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth. Under the direction of Leon Botstein, Bard mounted a modest tribute to the lasting influence of Wagner on twentieth-century music. I prefer the lineage of Berlioz, Verdi, and Puccini (and Tchaikovsky, Bartok, and Prokofiev), yet over the last hundred years those lines appear to have withered, while Wagner’s influence marched on through Strauss, Glass, and others. That influence depends on the device (some might say gimmick) of elongating dramatic intensity by withholding a note to resolve a chord. At times this technique may become ponderous and pretentious, yet it may also function as an effective foil to create magnificent and memorable crescendo.
Calder Greenwood was only nine when he gave his parents a cardboard model he made of their house here in Millbrook. His parents still have it, and Greenwood still makes things out of cardboard in his spare time. Now, however, his works are life-size, and lately they have been cropping up in vacant lots and public spaces around Los Angeles.
It all began last May, when Greenwood and a friend (known only as Wild Life) fashioned a family of sunbathers from papier mâché and installed the figures in a pit that has been empty since 2007, when an office building on the site was demolished. The group—consisting of a father sitting beneath an umbrella, a mother reading and a child playing with a sand bucket—is amazingly lifelike.
A few weeks later, a life-size buck, a doe and their fawn appeared on a weed-infested hillside. Soon afterward commuters crossing a bridge over the Los Angeles River one morning noticed a surfer making his way down the dry waterway. Next a stump turned into a tree overnight; most recently a giraffe appeared in another vacant lot.a giraffe in an empty lot is one of the most recent creations by Calder Greenwood and his partner, Wild Life
Friday begins a two-week indulgence in the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), the subject of this year’s Bard Music Festival. Weekend One is called Paris and the Culture of Cosmopolitanism, a cultural -ism that Leon Botstein calls “the central part of the fabric of life and culture” of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century France.
Opening night—when Dr. Botstein, co-artistic director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra (and, incidentally, president of Bard College), will give an introductory talk—is devoted to chamber music and voice. The highlights are “Danse macabre,” “Wedding Cake Waltz,” and the fantasy “Africa” (Op. 89).
Saturday and Sunday of Weekend One are filled with lectures, performances and concerts. Christopher H. Gibbs will lead a Saturday-morning panel on the life of the composer with Leon Botstein, Yves Gérard and Jann Pasler. Pasler is a scholar who edited and wrote chapters in the 400-page book Camille Saint-Saëns and His World, published in conjunction with the festival.
Here we repeat highlights from the program notes ably composed by Hugh Macdonald:
—It was the 1870s, the springtime of the belle époque
—a libretto that defies common sense
—The secret of Chabier’s music is its disarming sophistication. … he did not attend the Paris Conservatoire. He was trained as a lawyer, and he worked as a civil servant in the Ministry of the Interior.
—[He had] his own collection of great impressionist paintings.
Thirty-four members of the New Art Dealers Alliance (known as NADA) took small spaces in the Basilica in Hudson last weekend, each showing one piece by an artist from the dealer’s stable of new and mostly young artists. Mot of the dealers were also new and young.
The art was mostly sculptural, since the walls of the Basilica did not lend themselves to hanging paintings. Paintings were not in evidence. Although there were several objects that could be hung on a wall, most wanted space. Larger, more colorful sculpture was shown outdoors, but rain dampened our enthusiasm for their close inspection.
This July, Bard SummerScape will bring the sophistication and wit of French opéra-comique to the shores of the Hudson with the first stage revival of the 1887 version of Emmanuel Chabrier’s Le Roi malgré lui or The King in Spite of Himself since the beginning of the twentieth century. Unlike traditional grand opera in which the dramatic action is entirely sung, in French opéra-comique, musical scenes are woven together with spoken dialogue, similar to classic American musical comedies. For most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the opéras-comiques were the popular entertainment of the day, tackling contemporary social and political issues with humor, satire, and the requisite love story.
The Gilded Moon Gallery in Millerton displays the work of Robert Patrick Coombs in their Millerton gallery in a former banking hall. I first encountered Coombs at the Gilded Moon in a group show that included Ken Musselman and Tony Hennenberg. Coombs’ style is recognizable and charming. His ability as an artist deserves attention.
This weekend will present the final performances of TriArts’s rendition of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Based on Larry L. King’s 1974 Playboy magazine article about the closing of the Lone Star State’s Chicken Ranch, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a gritty satire about media muckracking and political hypocrisy.
The night belongs to Miss Mona (Adinah Alexander), Jewel (Meggan Utech), and the girls (Katt Weston, Rose Bisogno, Gena Loe, Samantha Weinstein, Livie Casto, Amber Cameron, Becky Sawicki, and Sarah Pearl Loman). Every one of the residents of Miss Mona’s Chicken Ranch brothel plays her part with gusto and heart.