Cincinnati is rightly admired for its rich cultural life—art museums, theaters, summer opera as well as the annual May Festival, devoted to choral music. It also has one of the country’s leading symphony orchestras and in one of the biggest gets in the classical music world appointed Louis Langrée as its new music director.
One of the most anticipated new operas of 2014 has premiered at Madrid’s Teatro Real: Brokeback Mountain, with a libretto by Annie Proulx, based on her short story, and a score by American composer Charles Wuorinen. Brokeback Mountainis, of course, widely known because of the acclaimed 2005 film by Ang Lee that starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, as Wyoming sheep-herders, who fall in love in a landscape and a time inhospitable to their passion.
The exhibition, “The Armory Show at 100: Modern Art and Revolution,” at the New York Historical Society, is a don’t-miss, by any standard. The original show was organized in 1913 by the Association of American Painters and Sculptors and represented the first large-scale exhibition of modern art in the United States. So large scale, in fact, that the 1,300 paintings, works on paper, sculpture, and decorative arts had to be displayed in an unconventional space: New York City’s 69th Regiment Armory (located on Lexington Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets). The exhibition introduced the American public to European modernity and a clutch of stylistic “-isms,” including Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism. It shocked and provoked. It also marked a turning point in the country’s cultural life.
There may be no greater reason for cultural travel now than the extraordinary new pavilion designed by Renzo Piano for the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. The building plays a compliment in design and spirit to architect Louis Kahn's celebrated original structure, a modernist masterpiece of travertine and concrete, renowned for its deployment of natural light. Yet, the Piano Pavilion is its own distinct achievement. It sits on the lawn across from the Kahn and, like it, follows a tripartite plan, distinguished by an arrangement of bleached Douglas fir beams, transparent end walls, and galleries with a roof of fritted glass through which light imparts a singular luminous quality to exhibition spaces. For the next several weeks, much of the Kimbell's permanent collection—a veritable treasury of masterworks—is showcased in the Piano building.
Beverly Hills opened the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts last month and has now inaugurated the venue, a former historic post office, restored, repurposed, and expanded, in grand style with performances by the Martha Graham Dance Company. It is no exaggeration to state that Martha Graham is and remains an icon of modern dance. And the company she launched in 1926 remains contemporary both because of Graham’s original aesthetic, idiom, and technique and also because it commissions work from today’s leading choreographers. But there’s a special link with Los Angeles, dance, and Graham. It was there in California that Martha Graham—so wholly identified with New York—studied with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn, the influential and essential pioneers of modern dance.
Fifteen years ago, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was already busy with a full and demanding career as a recitalist, a soloist with orchestras, and chamber music, launched the Silk Road Project, a music collective inspired by the cross-cultural exchange along the ancient Silk Road route. As befits an ensemble that performs music diverse in style and from varied musical traditions, the group includes Western classical instruments—violin, cello, double bass—but also features instruments from throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East, South Asia, and China: Galician bagpipe; a kamancheh, a Persian fiddle; tabla or Indian drums; and the pipa, an ancient Chinese plucked string instrument, among others. The aim was to foster contemporary music, incorporating varied and established traditions, and that they have.
Ten years ago, New York City Center came up with an inspired idea: invite dance companies—ballet, modern, contemporary—and popular and national troupes from throughout the United States and around the globe; present sampler programs (four works by four companies each night); and offer all tickets at a rock-bottom price: $15. Ideal for the hard-core dance fan or the curious first-timer. The Fall for Dance Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary now through October 5 with performances by 24 international companies, Royal Ballet, Martha Graham Dance Company, Bodytraffic, among them, and three commissions from up-and coming choreographers: Annabelle López Ochoa, Justin Peck, and Liam Scarlet.
The dance cavalcade continues at City Center with the New York premiere of British choreographer-iconoclast Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty, set in turn-of-the 19th century and advancing to the modern day, with a gamekeeper instead of prince to woo Princess Aurora (October 23-November 3).
The New York City Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music present the highly anticipated American premiere of the opera Anna Nicole now through September 28. The work about the one-time Playboy Playmate, femme fatale, and reality television personality Anna Nicole Smith is by English composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas and was first produced at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2011. American soprano Sarah Joy Miller takes on the title character and speaks with T+L about the opportunity and the challenge.
Probably few regions in the United States have influenced American artists as significantly as the Hudson River Valley. The painters of the so-called Hudson River School, Albert Bierstadt, Frederic Church, Thomas Cole, and Asher Durand, among others, created a grand vision of 19th-century landscape, comparable yet distinct from the Romantic movements in England and continental Europe.
Travel informed their vision, of course, and the artistic response extended beyond the Hudson to New England, the American West, and to Italy, including idealized antiquity. The Hudson River School: Nature and the American Vision at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York brings together 45 paintings that put on display the full range of the artists’ inspiration. There may be to no better place to consider their work than in Cooperstown, New York, an icon of American history—the American novelist James Fenimore Cooper made his home there as does today the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum—that is also a showcase for the innovative opera and musical theater of the Glimmerglass Festival.
The waning days of the summer bring the final weeks of music and arts festivals, from the large and celebrated, the Salzburg Festival in Austria, Tanglewood in the Berkshires, to the less well-known.
One surprise and a secret to most, but not for long, is the Staunton Music Festival in Virginia. Staunton has acquired a near mythic status in farm-to-fork food circles (see the “Up On The Ridge”by Matt Lee and Ted Lee in Travel + Leisure, July 2012) and for nine days in August, the Staunton Music Festival brings together some of the most talented musicians, established professionals and emerging young artists, from throughout the United States and Europe to this quiet spot in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.