To Know to Know to Love Her So

A saint is one to be for two when three and you make five and two and cover.  Source

Four Saints in Three Acts premiere performance with sets by Florine Stettheimer

Four Saints in Three Acts premiere performance with sets by Florine Stettheimer

The other night I had a chance to speak to Gertrude Stein at a party at Pablo Picasso’s home (I’ll explain…), and I regret not asking her about her collaboration with American composer Virgil Thomson, for whom she wrote two opera librettos in the last two decades of her life.  They were classic Stein, meaning they didn’t make any logical “sense”, but as the introduction to the 1947 CBS radio broadcast of their first collaboration, Four Saints in Three Acts, says…

Gertrude Stein’s words made no sense to anyone. …  Afterwards however, people went away with an embarrassed feeling that the thing made more sense than they thought.  They began to see that the authors wanted them to understand not illogical words, but a fine symbolism of the gaiety and strength of spiritual and consecrated lives.  Source

Four Saints in Three Acts premiered in Connecticut in 1934 and went on to Broadway later that same year.  The thought that a modernist, non-linear opera ran on Broadway is confounding enough, but to add to that, the opera was also performed by an all-black cast.

At any rate, you can judge the opera for yourself thanks to a digitized 1947 CBS Radio broadcast, conducted by Thomson a year after Stein’s death.  Reading the libretto may not make sense, but hearing it sung, it certainly has a good rhythm to it…

Set design for 27 at Opera Theater of Saint Louis by Allen Moyer

Set design for 27 at Opera Theater of Saint Louis by Allen Moyer

From writer of librettos, to the subject of a libretto herself, Gertrude Stein‘s 27 Rue de Fleurs Paris apartment, the site of her celebrated salon, is the setting and namesake of the forthcoming opera 27, by Ricky Ian Gordon, another American composer, to be given its premiere by the Opera Theater of Saint Louis this summer.  Here’s an article in Opera News in anticipation of this premiere.

And most importantly!

If you want to meet Gertrude Stein in person, then don’t miss the last few performances of A Serious Banquet, a Cubist dinner party featuring such luminaries as Stein, Picasso, Braque, and Rousseau among others, hosted by This is Not a Theater Company.  The Rave reviews are in, the company is legendary, and dinner is included!  What’s not to love!

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Graduation in February

Two of my favorite webcomics are now set in college graduation ceremonies as principal characters have to navigate their loved ones’ rite of passage, and awkward family reunions.  For no other reason than my love of coincidences, let’s talk about them!

TJ and Amal – Graduation

TJ and Amal, Copyright E.K. Weaver

In the case of The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal, the whole story, structured around a cross-country road trip,  has  been leading to this point, when Amal sees his parents for the first time since he came out and called off his planned marriage.

Over in Octopus Pie, the ceremony marks the graduation of Hanna’s boyfriend, Marek, and has snuck up on readers a bit more…

Octopus Pie – Graduation

Octopus Pie, copyright Meredith Gran

How will Amal’s family reunion go?  Does the end of his cross-country journey signify the end of the comic, and his unexpected relationship with his travel mate, TJ?  And what does Marek’s graduation signify for the rest of the admittedly kind of stagnated Octopus Pie crew?

Brokeback at your own Risk

Brokeback Mountain at Teatro Real by Wuorinen

Photo by Javier del Real

Hi folks!  Sorry for my prolonged absence, have been on the job hunt…  But I just got  some exciting news I had to share…

Don’t know if you’ve been following Brokeback Mountain‘s journey from short story by Annie Proulx to Oscar-winning movie by Ang Lee to the new opera by Charles Wuorinen, but just such an opera premiered at Madrid’s Teatro Real in late January.

While Teatro Real has a streaming service on their site, you have to pay for it (an interesting model, for sure).  However, tomorrow at 2pm Eastern Time, the opera will be live-streamed from Madrid on Medici TV online.

Wuorinen and the opera have gotten mixed reviews (short on lyrical moments for a kind of love story, but with interesting orchestration), but who knows when your next chance to heat it will be!  Not to mention: hot gay cowboy makeouts, wooo!

Here’s a preview for tomorrow, hope you can make it!

Three’s Company

Sondheim's Company 1970 Playbill

Premiere 1970 Company Playbill

The PBS Arts Fall Festival‘s next musical theater offering is tomorrow at 9 pm, and its Stephen Sondheim‘s 1970 musical on bachelorhood Company as performed by the New York Philharmonic in 2011.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_u6L7ZRDG8&w=350&h=300]

The latest news about Company is that Sondheim’s working on a revised version (possibly for the Roundabout Theater Company) that would make the central bachelor, Bobby, a gay man juggling three boyfriends instead of three girlfriends.  Much as I like the man-on-man action, it strikes me as a case of too-much-playing-to-your-audience, and besides, they’d be taking 4 great roles away from women to men…  But I guess it’ll be an interesting experiment if nothing else…

The NY Phil will be presenting another Sondheim musical this season, Sweeney Todd in March 2014, with the curious opera/movie star pairing of Bryn Terfel and Emma Thompson.  Get your tickets here.

This Used to be a Fun Home

Fun Home musical poster

Fun Home musical poster

I’d read about this years ago and hadn’t heard about it again until today, but Alison Bechdel‘s graphic novel memoir Fun Home has been adapted into a musical by composer Jeanine Tesori and is now up at the Public Theater.  Don’t know how I missed the premiere a full year ago, but better late than never…  Here’s the latest New York Times review.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home, Copyright Alison Bechdel

Obviously Bechdel is (or maybe was, before Fun Home) best known for her long-running strip Dykes to Watch Out For, and Tesori is known for musicals like Violet and Caroline, or Change, though also for the Shrek musical and for scoring several Disney animated sequels and prequels…  Here’s a clip of the production of Violet at Endstation Theatre in Virginia:

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

In other Tesori news, the score of Caroline, or Change is now available to stream on Spotify!  Good preparation maybe…

Comic Making Potpourri

I’m a sucker for advice from webcartoonists, and promoting your product isn’t something you hear much about, but John Allison of Scary go Round / Bad Machinery fame recently weighed in on the matter briefly;

The best way to get your work popular is to do good work, do a lot of it, and win people over with the force of your lovely personality. If your comics are no good, it doesn’t matter what you do. (source)

That’s sort of the main takeaway from all creative types, including, if you’ll allow this very tenuous segue,  Sarah See Andersen, an illustration student posting hilarious autobio Doodle Time comics on Tumblr on the side…

Even more tenuously related, I also enjoyed this Comics Journal interview with cartoonist Simon Hanselmann where he had some interesting things to say about the local Melbourne comics & zine scene and breaking onto the international stage, especially with this bit about Tumblr, his primary platform.

With the internet everything is linked up now. Tumblr is just a big zine faire that never shuts down. (source)

From Life Zone, by Simon Hanselmann

From Life Zone, Copyright Simon Hanselmann

Enjoying his Tumblr, which is a sorta scarily life-like depiction of quarter-life crisis suburban anomie…  With a talking owl…

Also gotta shout out to Allison’s current Bad Machinery storyline, which is hurting my head with all the time travel and butterfly-stepping involved…  Waiting to see how all the time tampering turns out for our kid detectives…  Also Lottie’s reaction to microfilm machines is basically how I felt when I first used one over the summer:

John Allison's Bad Machinery webcomic, The Case of the Forked Road

Copyright John Allison

A Champion’s Opera

Boxer Emile Griffith

Opera companies’ announcements of their next season is like early Christmas for me, and the end of summer provides a mini-offering of season announcements from the summer opera festivals.

The Opera Theater of Saint Louis is one such summer opera festival, and a pretty adventurous one at that; their recently announced 2014 season includes a newly commissioned opera, part of a series initiated by this season’s world premiere…

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature&v=Oe-KTfFqqwc&w=350&h=300]

Champion, an “opera in jazz” by Terence Blanchard was based on the true story of Caribbean-American boxer Emile Griffith, a champion welter- and middleweight infamous for beating a 1962 opponent to death.  Griffith’s sexuality had been called into question by his opponent, and he was later severely beaten outside a gay club in 1992, ultimately admitting in a 2005 interview that he’d had relations with both men and women.  Gotta love this poignant quote from Ron Ross’ 2006 biography: Continue reading