If It’s Baroque, Don’t Fix It

Tonight I’m going to see Händel‘s 1743 opera Semele, which I adore, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in a production created by La Monnaie in Brussels and the KT Wong Foundation.  It’s being performed by the Canadian Opera Company in a reprisal of their performances in the 2011/2012 season, with Canadian soprano Jane Archibald resuming the title role.

Looks pretty crazy, right?  The key to this unusual production is the KT Wong Foundation, devoted to fostering dialogue in the arts and education between China and the West, which approached Chinese artist Zhang Huan with the idea of directing an opera.  His inspiration was a 450 year old Chinese temple he bought and wound up using as the centerpiece of the production (watch it being assembled at BAM here).


Three Heads Six Arms by Zhang Huan in Florence, 2013

KT Wong has several videos about the project on Youtube and it’s certainly an interesting one!  Besides performances at Brussels and Toronto, the show was also taken to Beijing (where it was censored, natch)

Now, as a first-time opera director, Chinese person unfamiliar with Western opera, and a fancy-shmancy artist, Zhang is not beholden to opera’s sacred cows and has taken a pretty radical approach.  Besides the weirdo stage elements, he’s omitted some of Handel’s music (a capital offense in my book) and inserted several anachronistic Chinese elements.  So some weird hybrid of baroque opera and modern performance piece which I’m admittedly having a hard time preparing myself for…  I’ve seen reviews run the gamut from negative to glowingly positive, so we’ll see which what side I’ll land on…

In any other situation calling this concurrent production of Semele at the Seattle Opera the more traditional one might seem strange, but heck, this is just old school in comparison!  Opera News seemed to like this one a lot more, at least…

It’s great to see Semele performed by a smaller, regional companies, and if Zhang Huan’s production spurs renewed interest in this very deserving opera, than that’s a good thing!


The stage maquette for Semele by Zhang Huan at La Monnaie

And for no other reason than because I like their Digital Archive, here is a set maquette from La Monnaie!

Catch that CAB: Comic Arts Brooklyn

When I proposed additional programming for Illustration Week 2014, it would have been a disservice to include Comic Arts Brooklyn; it’s such a jam-packed, high quality event, it needs its own post to do it justice!

Comic Arts Brooklyn bannerComic Arts Brooklyn is a comic-lover’s dream weekend, organized by Desert Island comic shop in Williamsburg.  There have been some earlier iterations of this fest, so they’ve really perfected their comic-con-creating craft.  That being said, it’s organized differently this year, with the artist’s alley style convention on Saturday only (at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church), and the high-profile panels and talks, with luminaries like Jaffee, Chast, Spiegelman, Burns, Tamaki and Pettibon, on Sunday only (at the Wythe Hotel).  Free tickets for those talks are available on their site, but they are, of course, all sold out…  😦

Comic Arts Brooklyn is maintaining a lovely little Tumblr showcasing the books, zines, posters, and more that exhibitors will have for sale on Saturday.  They’ve also started to collaborate with a wider range of Brooklyn institutions this year, with concurrent exhibits of original art at Desert Island (collages by Canadian cartoonist Julie Doucet), Scott Eder Gallery (Al Jaffee‘s MAD fold-ins), and Cotton Candy Machine art boutique (cheekily edited vintage animation cels by Brooklyn’s own Wizard Skull).

My only complaint is there’s too much to do!  Gotta start somewhere though, so see you Saturday!

Brooklyn Invasion

Pardon my absence, school is kicking into high gear, but when I learned about this I figured I needed to post about it!  Tonight at 6, at Columbia University’s Butler Library, is the last event in the year’s graphic novels series of programs, with three preeminent indie cartoonists from Brooklyn:

Comics Event at Columbia University, Nov. 13, 2013Maybe see you there?  Maybe if I get enough work done today  😛


New Opera New York

This article in the New York Times on the joint Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater opera / musical theater commissioning program gives a peek into the future of new opera at the Met, in terms of existing contemporary opera on their way to the Met stage as well as the newest participants in that commissioning program.

It pairs nicely with 3 new Opera News articles on contemporary composers, 2 of whom, Nico Muhly and Ricky Ian Gordon, have created works for the Met under this program.  Muhly’s Two Boys, which premiered in London, will have it’s New York premiere on Monday, Oct. 21st.

Exciting stuff, always love hearing about new opera, and now seems to be a good time for it, with more companies getting in on the commissioning business…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZCoJV9DfEU&w=350&h=300]

For some more wacky new opera, you can also head over to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see War Sum Up a combination manga, noh, & electronic operatic meditation on war by Latvian composer Santa Ratniece and classical glam pop band The Irrepressibles.  Two performances only, Nov. 1st & 2nd.

B(r)ook(lyn) Fest

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNqlSDhsFbo&w=350&h=300]

This Sunday is the Brooklyn Book Festival, and with all the great events going on, I always find it useful to narrow my options down somehow…  So for your convenience, here are all the comics-related events I could find (plus one surprise opera-themed event!).

(Un)fortunately, looking at comic events doesn’t limit it too much this year!  I went last year, and I think the 2 comics events I went to were the only ones, so this is a much expanded roster of events, on a wide range of themes; nice to see the diversity of the medium on display…

If Sunday isn’t enough for you, David Prudhomme, who’s launching a new book at the Festival, will also be the guest of honor on Monday’s NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium.

Comics events after the cut, and here’s a map of participating venues to help you plan; happy booking! Continue reading

Eisner in Brooklyn (and in your Library)

Eisner's A Contract with God at Scott Eder Gallery

We’re about half-way through a 2 month exhibit in Brooklyn’s Scott Eder Gallery of original art from Will Eisner‘s seminal 1978 tenement comic, A Contract with God, which helped set off the graphic novel movement.  It’s the first time this art, including original pages as well as preparatory sketches & drawings, is on view (and for sale, if you got that kind of money), so definitely worth a visit.

Also, I mentioned the Will Eisner Award for Libraries, awarded at the annual American Library Association conference (which I was at), and this year’s winners are listed here; lucky you if you happen to be served by the Auburn GA, Middlebury IN, or East Meadow NY library systems…  Here’s the full list of comics they all got.

Opera in the Garden

In the midst of finals, I missed the first of only two performances by Gotham Chamber Opera of a rarity in a unique & appropriate site-specific setting…

Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1941

Cherry Blossoms at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1941; Image from Brooklyn Public Library

La Hija de Rappaccini by the now late Mexican composer Daniel Catán was based on a play by Mexican Nobelist Octavio Paz in turn based on a story by American slut-shamer Nathaniel Hawthorne.  A scientist keeps his daughter locked in a garden where she’s exposed to his poisonous plants and acquires their deadly touch herself.

Gotham Chamber Opera‘s production is set outdoors, at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden; very cute no?  There’s just one more performance next Monday, so here’s a review from Parterre.

Also, the first image comes from the cool new collaborative photo collection sharing site, Brooklyn Visual Heritage, which brings together archival image collections from the Brooklyn Library, Museum, and Historical Society.  Hours of fun, and plenty of lovely pics too!