During the 2010-11 season, cultural exchange between the United States and Cuba has demonstrated marked achievements. Last fall, musicians from Jazz at Lincoln Center and the dancers of American Ballet Theatre performed in front of packed Cuban audiences and offered master classes to gifted, young Cuban performers (the New York Philharmonic is planning a visit). On our shores, the electrifying musicians and dancers Los Muñequitos de Matanzas are winding up a month-long, 16-city American tour that began in Seattle in early April and concludes in New York City (May 5-7) and Purchase, New York (May 8).
Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, has long shared a bond with the City of Light (statesmen, inventor, composer, and proud Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin served as ambassador to France). The period of especially fervent artistic creativity that characterized Paris between 1910 to 1920 is the inspiration for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, taking place through this weekend, April 29-May 1, and which offers 30 commissioned, new works of music, drama, art, and flash mob dancing!
Beginning in 2007 with the Berlin in Lights festival, Carnegie Hall has featured the music and culture of global destinations through wide-ranging, multi-disciplinary programming in its three concerts halls and at institutions throughout New York City. But right now, perhaps no other festival may be as important as JapanNYC (March-April), which celebrates the diversity of Japanese culture in more than 40 performances and events and pays special tribute to Japan and its people in the aftermath of this month’s earthquake and tsunami.
When American Ballet Theatre’s new production of The Nutcracker premieres at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on December 22, audiences will encounter a vision of the holiday classic like no other. The staging—with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, spectacular sets and costumes by Richard Hudson (well-known for The Lion King and his designs for opera and dance), and Jennifer Tipton’s evocative lighting—follows the ballet’s traditional outline, based on the story by E.T. A. Hoffmann, The Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince. But it also bursts with fresh dramatic theatricality. Ratmansky creates ballets that are emotionally rich, kinetically responsive to music (and what music: a Tchaikovsky masterwork), full of wit and imagination.
John Singer Sargent may have been the most cosmopolitan American artist of the nineteenth century (born in Florence, Italy, trained in France, travels in North Africa, commissions in the United States). One of his most famous paintings, Madame X (1883-84), caused a scandal when first exhibited in Paris because of the daring sensuality of his depiction of Amélie Gautreau. Today, the portrait hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Half a block from the Met on a quiet Upper East Side street, the Adelson Galleries has organized the revelatory exhibition “Sargent and Impressionism,” on view until December 18.
Let's face it, we've had a long, hot summer. Still, you find yourself thinking "but where has the summer gone?" To stretch out the remaining weeks and re-charge psychic batteries, head to a performance outdoors. There's still time and there's lots to see and hear—music, theater, dance—at festivals across the country. Here are my top picks:
Tanglewood Music Festival (Massachusett)
Located in the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts, Tanglewood (through Sept. 5), the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, offers a mini-jazz festival (Sept. 1-5), a performance by Crosby, Stills & Nash (Sept. 1), and conductor David Zinman leading the BSO in Gustav Holst's sweeping The Planets (Aug. 27), among a range of orchestral and chamber music concerts.
One of the biggest names in dance, Mikhail Baryshnikov, is the force behind one of the best-kept secrets in New York City…but not for long. The Baryshnikov Arts Center located on West 37th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, recently opened the Jerome Robbins Theater. The 238-seat, intimate performance for dance, music, and theater (it's also the home of the avant-guard theater company The Wooster Group) is state-of-the-art, ravishing to look at, and, most important, has crystal-clear acoustics and perfect sightlines. Now through May 26, the BAC inaugurates the theater with a remarkable mini-festival, May Nights that will show off the space to advantage.
Festival highlights include:
On Wednesday, April 14, the same day that First Lady Michelle Obama arrived for a two-day visit to Mexico City, drug violence erupted in Acapulco, one of Mexico’s most famous resort cities, 190 miles southwest of the Mexican capital on the Pacific coast. The shootings and murders (six people were killed; five wounded) were startling because they occurred during the day, on the main boulevard of the tourist zone, and three bystanders were victims. However, no tourists were among the casualties and the violence seems to have resulted from a power struggle within a drug cartel operating in Guerrero, the state in which Acapulco is located.
When, in 1989, American William Christie arrived at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) with his France-based vocal and instrumental ensemble Les Arts Florissants a new world opened up for audiences interested in opera, music, dance, theater, and something called "historical performance practice."
Christie and his troupe presented a work that was known—if it was known much at all—from music history books: Atys. It's a French Baroque opera by Jean-Baptiste Lully, who in his career served Louis XIV. Seeing that production it was hard to imagine anything more intensely dramatic, musically vivid, revelatory in its beauty, or vivid in performance. Oh, and did I say, erotic? (Atys is a young man who professes indifference to love, but there’s a nymph who stirs his passions...)
Three museums in European capitals—London, Madrid, Berlin—opened spectacular new galleries this fall/winter. The collections are unrivaled—some of them on view for the first time—and their exhibition design provides visitors with novel perspectives and insights that beg a lingering afternoon.