May 2011 Archives

May 31, 2011 5:32 AM | | Comments (0)
I met Artemy Troitsky, who now seems to be Artyom Troitsky, several times in the glasnost-perestroika period of the late '80s and early '90s. He'd written two books on Russian rock that were translated into English and published by Omnibus, and got me interested enough that I wrote a column for the Voice about Russian rock, and him. He also half talked me into doing a taped dialogue book with him and attending a rock festival he was organizing in Kazakhistan, but these, fortunately, remained in the half talking stage. Troitsky was such a talker that half was plenty. Like another rock expert I knew from Eastern Europe, the academic Peter Wicke, he seemed very impressed by American food. Wicke was especially impressed because he barely ate while he had a study grant here. He didn't have much money, he told me while wolfing down everything we put on the table, and if the choice was buying books or buying food, well, that was no choice. Troitsky was more an aesthete. Once I bought him a sfogliatella at DeRobertis and he told me it was the most delicious thing he'd ever eaten in his life.

This is all very heartwarming, I hope, but what's going on now with Troitsky isn't. He did well after "Communism" fell, as you might expect, but he was only a hustler, not a thug, so smart as he was he certainly didn't get rich. Though he had his idealistic side--a concert for Chernobyl victims brought him early prominence--he was always apolitical; his sympathies were with Russia's chronically sardonic bohemian avant-garde. As he wrote early on and I quoted in the Voice: "We will never be the driving force in any political movement simply because we deeply and sincerely dislike politics." Troitsky became the first editor of the Russian version of Playboy, and after that ended settled into minor fame as Russia's most prominent music journalist. I lost track of him a decade ago.

Until a few days ago, when I found out from two stories in Britain's Independent, one news and one commentary, that he was being sued for a million rubles--about 30 grand, I think--for calling a rock star a poodle. It's odd that this is how both sides are spinning the suit, because the insulting part wasn't really the dog comparison, even though that's the claim of Vadim Samoylov of the goth band Agata Kristi (couldn't leave that out). What Troitsky said was that Samoylov was the poodle of a specific individual, Medvedev apparatchik Vladislav Surkov. Poodle? Slander! Lackey's lackey? Who could possible complain of being associated with such an august personage?

This is only one of four lawsuits recently brought against Troitsky. And before we bewail the crackdown on independent arts journalism--a real enough problem in itself, apparently, as well as a tack Troitsky is taking and more power to him--it's worth noting that Art is apolitical no longer. The news story says he had "recently become an outspoken campaigner on issues such as plans to build a motorway through a forest in the Moscow region." There's a different kind of quote about politics, too: "I am no politician but I have watched how political opposition in Russia has been neutered. There is so much frustration at the grassroots. I will not be made to shut up, I won't give in to pressure." Ain't freedom from totalitarian oppression grand?
May 25, 2011 8:45 PM | | Comments (1)

This week's links to NAJP members' work:

Martin Bernheimer reviews "Gilbert & Sullivan, The Ballet!" (Financial Times)
Martin Bernheimer on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (The Dallas Morning News)
Laura Bleiberg on Lula Washington Dance Theatre (Los Angeles Times)
Robert Christgau on the Kate McGarrigle tribute at Town Hall (MSN Music)
Laura Collins-Hughes on a share-selling CSA for art (The Boston Globe)
Laura Collins-Hughes on Boston musicians vs. the Rockettes (The Boston Globe)
Michael Feingold reviews "Gilbert & Sullivan, The Ballet!" (The Village Voice)
Michael Feingold reviews "A Minister's Wife" at Lincoln Center (The Village Voice)
Christopher Hawthorne on Exposition Park as a mirror of L.A. (Los Angeles Times)
John Horn on "Hangover" franchise director Todd Phillips (Los Angeles Times)
John Horn on Schwarzenegger pausing his movie career (Los Angeles Times)
Ann Hornaday on female directors competing at Cannes (The Washington Post)
Ann Hornaday on "Meek's Cutoff" director Kelly Reichardt (The Washington Post)
Michael Kimmelman on the Musée d'Orsay's Manet failure (The New York Times)
Dennis Lim interviews Lars von Trier about his Nazi remarks (The New York Times)
Glenn Lovell reviews "Pirates of Caribbean 4" (CinemaDope.com)
Glenn Lovell reviews Takashi Miike's "13 Assassins" (CinemaDope.com)
Anne Midgette on living as a musician while paying the bills (The Washington Post)
Ann Powers on Haley Reinhart's "American Idol" journey (Los Angeles Times)
Marcia B. Siegel reviews Boston Ballet's "Balanchine/Robbins" (The Boston Phoenix)

May 24, 2011 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)

This week's links to NAJP members' work:

Martin Bernheimer on the Toledo Symphony at Carnegie Hall (Financial Times)
Martin Bernheimer reviews "Ariadne auf Naxos" at the Met (Financial Times)
Robert Campbell on the trouble with Boston's Greenway (The Boston Globe)
Robert Christgau on Raphael Saadiq, Blaze Foley, the Beasties et al (Expert Witness)
Laura Collins-Hughes on Edward Hall and the all-male Propeller (The Boston Globe)
Laura Collins-Hughes on Jay Scheib's "Dhalgren" adaptation (The Boston Globe)
Steve Dollar on the Criterion re-release of "Something Wild" (GreenCine Daily)
Steve Dollar on "one-man gonzo orchestra" Sxip Shirey (The Wall Street Journal)
Michael Feingold reviews "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide" (The Village Voice)
Michael Feingold reviews "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark" (The Village Voice)
Sasha Frere-Jones on Stevie Nicks (The New Yorker)
Matthew Gurewitsch interviews the violinist Mari Kimura (The New York Times)
Ann Hornaday on Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" at Cannes (The Washington Post)
Ann Hornaday on the "Unlawful Killing" ballyhoo at Cannes (The Washington Post)
Julia M. Klein reviews "Innocent Spouse" (Obit Magazine)
Glenn Lovell on "Everything Must Go" (CinemaDope.com)
Anne Midgette on Plàcido Domingo in "Iphigenie en Tauride" (The Washington Post)
Anne Midgette on Gustav Mahler, 100 years on (The Washington Post)
Renee Montagne interviews Dick Van Dyke (NPR)
Renee Montagne interviews Will Ferrell (NPR)
Paul Parish on dance as an instrument in the class struggle (Bay Area Reporter)
Ann Powers on irresponsible listening (NPR)
Lesley Valdes reviews the Philadelphia Orchestra with Gil Shaham (WRTI-FM)

May 16, 2011 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)
StageKiss1.jpg
I can't wait for the battle that will break out on Broadway when the Desirees of this world realize that there's another delicious role in the works. There is nothing wrong with the aging actress that a really great role can't fix, and Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" is just the cure for that long dry agony of waiting between Juliet and Lady Macbeth, as Ruhl's leading lady puts it.

We first meet her as she is struggling to keep it together, in a priceless audition setpiece that has the audience screaming with laughter and wide open to all that follows. (The production's enjoying its world premiere at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, where the summer fireworks have obviously begun.) "Stage Kiss" is a sly and loving ode to the life of the stage, distilled to comic absurdity, but ever so deftly, retaining a seductively sober whiff of the real thing. 

The plot in brief: She gets the romantic lead in a bad '30s chestnut, only to discover that her old flame in the play is also her old flame in real life. The romp that follows is an exquisite send-up of the actor's dutiful struggle to make the imaginary seem really-really real, resulting in the classic absurdities that Ruhl explores with gusto. In effect, she is doubling down -- creating a play about a play for characters fighting demons who play characters fighting demons ... 

Anyway, it's a funhouse, but a funhouse with a warm heart. There's a delicious thread of farce in the backstage and rehearsal scenes, and yet the show is lyrical at its core. "Stage Kiss" has the kind of balance between a two-character romance and a superb ensemble of stock supporting characters that one finds in the best Astaire-Rogers movies. The stage director's a cheerful nebbish with closet acting pretensions; the male understudy's a preener, the daughter spits knives. One and all, you gotta love 'em. 

My guess is that the show will tighten somewhat on its inevitable path to Broadway, but the Goodman has done very well by Ruhl in "Stage Kiss," which has been nearly two years in development.

A pitch-perfect trio of veteran actors in the lead roles -- Jenny Bacon as She, Mark L. Montgomery as He, Ross Lehman as the Director -- has captured the humor, both broad and delicate. The show's creative team -- director Jessica Thebus, designer Todd Rosenthal and fight choreographer Nick Sandys -- have made a stylish, high-energy showcase for this delightful new work. If you have a chance to see it, by all means go.

Photo by Liz Lauren: He (Mark L. Montgomery) and She (Jenny Bacon) in Sarah Ruhl's "Stage Kiss" at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. 
May 10, 2011 8:21 AM | | Comments (0)
May 9, 2011 12:00 AM | | Comments (0)

This is a shallow post. (Well, shallower than usual from me.) I was going to post on Richard Serra and Kasimir Malevich, but my train of thought was interrupted by a weekend. And I want to talk about that, because I can't get to the greatest sculptor (I'd even go greatest artist) of the last 40 years or so and the Russian Suprematist who influenced him before I process this weekend out loud.

On Friday, Laurie (Fendrich, my wife; she's a painter, too) and I went to the theater. The tickets were her birthday present, and the play was "King Lear" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (a.k.a. BAM). Derek Jacobi acted the lead role. Now, partly for cheapskate reasons (theater is expensive and I want to make sure I get my money's worth), I like my plays dramatic (as opposed to musicals), tragic instead of comic, and overlong and overstuffed. "Lear" is perfect for me. Some knowledgeable people say it's Shakespeare's greatest play. Personally, I prefer "Macbeth," Laurie "Hamlet" and our daughter "Othello," but who are we amateurs to say?

May 2, 2011 8:41 PM | | Comments (1)
May 2, 2011 5:53 PM | | Comments (0)

In a crowd of people slowly ambling out of the Tower Theater in Upper Darby, Pa., after Neil Young's solo show Sunday, a young man ahead of me turned to his friend and said, "My wife just texted....she says they killed bin Laden. The U.S. military." Many of us nearby reached reflexively for phones, wanting some sort of "official" confirmation right then, with the colossal guitar-chord fantasias of "Cortez the Killer" (!) and "Cinnamon Girl" still ringing in our ears.

It was an interesting juxtaposition. First there was electric jubilation at the news that the long international hunt for the terrorist mastermind had ended. But right behind it was a kind of awed respect for the military's discipline and obsessive attention to detail that was necessary to sustain the mission through years of errant leads and fruitless chases down blind alleys. In a way, those in Young's audience might have been a bit more attuned to this aspect: We'd just encountered, at hair-raisingly close range, some fruits of the guitarist's obsessive career-long quest for absolute (though crucially not "pure") guitar tone.

May 2, 2011 10:10 AM | | Comments (0)


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