Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in performance at Lincoln Center
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This film is part of Lincoln Center at the Movies series which is beautifully filmed and includes three wonderful modern works from different choreographers with the current Ailey company and Alvin Ailey’s own signature Revelations. Here’s the chance to see Wayne McGregor's Chroma, Ronald K. Brown's Grace, Robert Battle's Takademe, and Revelations. If you want to avoid the endless funding credits and other flim flam at the top of the video you can start it 3 minutes in. I happen to like the interviews with the dancers and choreographers and think they add depth to the enjoyment of the dances but, if you just want the dance, you can speed through the talky bits. And, please, never, never miss an opportunity to see Revelations, it’s simply one of the greatest works of modern dance ever made anywhere, by anyone. Oh, and it’s such fun.
Met Opera Stream – Week 33 – Politics in Opera
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Whoever is programming the Met’s Nightly Opera Stream – a different opera every night, 7.30 EST and then available for the following 24hours - is doing a brilliant job. They are grouping their archive into theme weeks. Last week we had comedic operas, the week before was all-Donizetti, the week before that was all-Wagner. Don’t worry, your favourite will come up sooner or later. This week – politics. These operas were recorded at different times, with different casts, never less than stellar, but clearly the technical quality varies according to when the operas were recorded. I don’t find this a disadvantage as the older productions can give us the opportunity to hear great singers of the past – Leontyne Price, Shirley Verrett, Renata Scotto, etc – in productions which may have been filmed before we were born, as well as the current Met output displaying its stable of current stars with its extraordinary technical expertise. This week’s swathe covers everything from Agrippina to Nixon in China, via Handel, Verdi, John Adams, Mussorgsky, Philip Glass, and John Corigliano, which is enough politics for anyone.
Jim Caruso’s Pyjama Cast Party
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Each Monday evening at 8 EST and subsequently on his YouTube page is Jim Caruso’s irrepressible Open Mic. This is a very classy Open Mic, as it usually includes any number of Broadway stars and cabaret greats. This week, Monday Oct 26th, for instance, he’s got Broadway leading lady Laura Osnes, West End performer and fragrance connoisseur Stephan Matthews, cabaret and jazz pianist/singer/songwriter Billy Stritch, singer Monica Mancini and designer/cabaret singer/bon vivant Isaac Mizrahi.
Dark Side of the Moon – new play
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Here’s an original play by Torben Betts for those of you who are fascinated by space and astronauts. It’s the true story of three American astronauts, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert, and what happened as they fought a desperate battle to survive when they were stranded 205,000 miles from Earth in a crippled spacecraft. As they passed around the dark side of the moon they lost all communications with Earth and had to confront the almost insuperable odds of survival. Based, in part, on actual transcripts, this new online play marks 50 years since the launch of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission of 1970, and stars Tom Chambers, Christopher Harper and Michael Salami.
The East Village – Home of Punks and Poets – New York Times
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My beloved goddaughter, when informed that I was going to London’s East End to do some research for a book but that I’d never been there before, scoffed at me, “Of course you haven’t, you’re a posh-o.” That needed no translation because she was right, I’m a West End girl through and through. It also turns out to be true in New York, my other home. Over there, I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan whereas, if this latest virtual tour with the NY Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman and his friend Luc Sante is to be believed, the action is all in the East Village, otherwise known as the Lower East Side, at the opposite end of Manhattan Island. So I guess I’m a posh-o there too. It’s colourful, I’ll give it that. There is real symmetry between London’s and New York’s East End. This is where the immigrants came first, the Germans, Ukranians, Poles, and most of all, the Jewish settlers fleeing persecution at the turn of the last century. Sound familiar? There’s a lot of history here, the story of a city finding itself, and then moving elsewhere to make room for others. The Lower East Side is often avoided by tourists to New York as being a neighbourhood where people live, rather than a neighbourhood to visit. Here’s why it’s both.
Painting Powerful Women – National Gallery
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The National Gallery has reopened with its two blockbuster exhibitions of Titian and Artemisia Gentileschi, both stunning in their breadth and significance. Alongside, the Gallery has gone all out to give additional guidance and information about them. For those who can’t get to see them live, they have provided all kinds of surrounding support, such as this quick look at five of Artemisia’s paintings of powerful women. She herself was a powerhouse of an artist, the most important female artist of the Renaissance, and she specialised in putting women at the centre, rather than at the periphery, of her work. She was tough, brilliant, and uncompromising. I wish I’d known her.
Sarah Vaughan in concert – (the greatest singer in the world)
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One of my favourite activities when I’m somewhere I’ve got to be, without a book to read, for example when having a boring medical test or when my hands have to be busy but my brain doesn’t, is to make up my ever-changing list of choices for Desert Island Discs. This is a safe activity because nobody is ever likely to invite me onto Desert Island Discs, I’m not nearly distinguished enough, but it’s been one of my favourite radio programmes for decades and I never miss it, even if it’s just to jeer at the plebian musical tastes of those who are distinguished enough to be invited. For Americans, or merely the uninitiated, you need to know that Desert Island Discs is a BBC radio interview programme in which the interviewees, who may be scientists or writers or even the occasional actor, (if he’s won an Oscar or a Tony), talk about their lives, interspersed with the eight musical selections that have meant the most to them. Accordingly, some have wonderfully eclectic lists, others might have an entire programme of golden oldies or elderly rock ‘n’ roll, still others have chamber music times eight, most have a nice mixture of pops, classics, jazz, and perhaps one comedy album. One famous opera singer, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, chose eight recordings of herself, singing. But if they were ever to invite me, I know exactly what I’d choose, although my list tends to change year by year. One selection that never changes is Sarah Vaughan. I think she’s the greatest singer of her kind who ever lived. The effortless beauty of her voice stops me in my tracks whenever I hear her. Here’s a special from 1985, recorded in Barcelona, which proves my point. Her dazzling band on this occasion is Frank Collete on piano, Bob Maize on double bass, and Harold Jones on drums. The recording, be warned, has all kinds of mic and other problems, but whatever we have to eat by way of forgiving the technical quality, melts into nothing when she gets to My Funny Valentine, which is, quite simply, sublime.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.