A Balanchine Tribute

(Balanchine arranging Suzanne Farrell’s headpiece for Diamonds, 1966) The New York City Ballet has given us quite a wonderful gift as part of Lincoln Center’s series of streamed events to keep the homebound happy in the absence of live performances. What I used happily to call “the company” has delved into its archive of televised performances of ballets choreographed by the company’s founder, George Balanchine. Unearthed and available on YouTube are: a complete performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream fromRead more

Identical Cousins

If the Sissi movies are a little too involved and Middle European for your tastes, there are other entertainments that are appropriate to these troubled times. (Indeed, if times were troubled when I wrote the Sissi piece, they’re even more troubled now.) One such entertainment is a frothy trifle from the annals of 1960s television, The Patty Duke Show. The show, all 106 episodes of which are currently available on YouTube (at least at the time of this writing), sprangRead more

Mental Health Awareness

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. One might wonder why such a thing is necessary, and whether there’s much point in donning a green ribbon to show solidarity with the cause. Although I don’t advocate the wearing of ribbons of any color (unless you’re a pig and won first prize at the county fair), this cause is an important one. The simple fact is that far too many people in our society aren’t sufficiently aware of mental health conditions andRead more

No More Mr. Nice Guy

If there is one teacher responsible for my vocation as a writer, that teacher would be the one I had for fifth-grade English, Mrs. Baehr. The amount of things I learned from her in just one year is positively dazzling. She taught me where to put a comma, she drilled the difference between lie and lay into me, encouraged my creative writing talents, taught me the rudiments of public speaking, and, as the faculty member responsible for the Drama Club,Read more

“And with bitter herbs you shall eat it…”

I’m going to take advantage of the extraordinary circumstances this Passover to do something I’ve wanted to do for years: use belgian endive for maror. The sequence of the Passover Seder enjoins us to eat maror (bitter herbs) twice, once dipped in charoset (a paste of apples, nuts and cinnamon), and once sandwiched between two pieces of matzah. (The presence or absence of charoset on the ‘Hillel Sandwich’ is a most interesting topic I’ll reserve for another time.) There areRead more

Sissi

Looking for a movie for these troubled times? A movie that makes you feel good and that completely takes you out of the disturbing realities of contemporary life? Look no further than the trilogy of ‘Sissi’ movies made by Ernst Marischka in Vienna between 1955 and 1957, all starring a teenage Romy Schneider as Sissi, i.e. Her Imperial and Royal Majesty, Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, or Sisi for short. For some reason, the movies add aRead more

Beverly Sills: A Listening Guide through the Prime Years (II)

In a previous post, I led the reader through a series of recordings of Beverly Sills, taken from the prime years of her career, 1966 through 1970.  Those selections focused mostly on Mozart and Handel, with small side trips into Rossini and Gounod.  This, the second part of the article, takes the reader/listener from Meyerbeer to Richard Strauss to Donizetti (a complete performance of Lucia di Lammermoor), then back to Handel before winding up with something of a surprise.  Read more

Beverly Sills: A Listening Guide through the Prime Years (I)

From my previous posts about soprano Beverly Sills, the reader has probably inferred that her all-too-brief prime can be pinpointed between September 27, 1966 (the night of her sensational Cleopatra in Handel’s Giulio Cesare) to October 15, 1970 (the night of her first appearance as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.) During those four years, she gave performances that were about as good as any to be heard during the period, one during which Sutherland, Caballé and Scotto were at theirRead more

Baseball on the Radio

Having joined the majority of Dodgers fans in Los Angeles – the ones who have issues with the Dodgers channel – I have found myself in need of an alternate means of following baseball this summer. Turns out you’re not lost without television: there’s actually quite a simple and pleasant way to enjoy a Dodgers game at home. Listen to it on the radio. I’ve listened to Charlie Steiner and Rick Monday plenty of times since I began following baseball,Read more

Ten Little Somethings

Most likely the best known of Agatha Christie’s mystery novels is­­—ah, but there’s the rub: what is it called? For an especially well known novel, the one that ends with the mystery of ten dead bodies and no apparent murderer has gone through three different titles. The play based on the novel has also gone through this retitling process, not always in link-step with the book. These days, in English-speaking countries, the title of the novel in question is AndRead more