Bring Them Home
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Everybody in the arts and elsewhere wants to do something to help and support the hostages held by Hamas. Artists everywhere are trying to make a contribution. Last week I shared a tribute to the hostages sung by two Israeli opera singers. Here is the same song in another version, recorded just this week on the other side of the world, as moving and heartfelt.
Bring Him Home from Les Miserables proved the perfect vehicle for members of the Broadway community to come together in support of the hostages who were kidnapped on October 7, 2023.
Together, through music, beautifully sung and arranged, they pray for their safe release. Some of these performers are stars, others are in the chorus, still others are understudies or work backstage. All are currently in Broadway musicals.
Frida Kahlo – Life and Art
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I have never really understood the enduring fascination the artist Frida Kahlo exercises over the imagination of so many artlovers but the fact is that she does.
Is it that she was a woman who held her own in a world almost entirely dominated by men, most particularly her own husband, Mexican painting superstar Diego Rivera? Or is it her own willingness to tell, and indeed paint, every detail of her often painful life? Or is it her enigmatic beauty which seemed accessible but was decidedly mysterious?
Who was Frida Kahlo? Everyone knows her, but who was the woman behind the bright colors, the big brows, and the floral crowns? Take a journey through her life, discover her art, and uncover the truth behind her often turbulent life.
Utilizing cutting-edge technology, Kahlo's artwork springs to life in stunning detail, making her creative genius shine brighter than ever before. As historians uncover private letters from the artist, the hidden symbolism of her art is revealed, shedding light on the intricacies of her turbulent life.
This cinematic exploration paints a vivid and comprehensive portrait of the real Frida Kahlo and her enduring legacy.
Othello – National Theatre
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This new and radical production by Clint Dyer has been warmly welcomed by audiences and critics at the National Theatre despite or maybe because of its somewhat unusual perspective. This Othello is at least as much about misogyny as about racism, and the women – Desdemona, of course, but also Emelia, Iago’s wife – are its victims as much or more than Othello himself.
It was just a matter of time before Giles Terera took on the title role. Shakespeare’s soldier knows exactly what to do on the battlefield but is hesitant and nervous in the rest of his life, so when he falls in love with Desdemona he is literally destroyed by his own feelings. As in all his performances Terera mines every line for nuance and although his onstage relationship with Rosy McEwan’s Desdemona lacks essential chemistry, he makes up for it with his obvious admiration for her.
I am less taken with Paul Hilton’s Iago which, in this performance, is more of a panto villain than the evil lynchpin of a complex set of psychological outcomes.
Watch out for the director’s unexpected reading of the end of the play. It works, but is like no Othello you’ve seen before. Which is a very good reason for watching it.
I think most regular readers already have a subscription to National Theatre At Home but for those of you who want only to watch Othello, you can rent it for £7.99 for three days.
Pirate Jenny – Lotte Lenya
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The recent Cabaret Convention in New York had a whole evening devoted to the songs of Kurt Weill, the German refugee who, on his arrival in New York in 1933, having been forced to leave his beloved Berlin, chose to become the most American of composers without ever losing his European sensibility.
Between 1926-1933 Weill had become a leading cultural figure in Weimar Germany. In 1926 he had married Lotte Lenya, a big star in Germany. He was riding high in the cultural life of his country and the huge success of The Threepenny Opera assured him fame and fortune.
And then came the Nazis. Weill was Jewish, he had to leave. Lenya was not Jewish and the upheaval of moving from country to country and the uncertainty of their peripatetic life put such strain on their marriage that they divorced in 1933, the year Weill finally settled in New York. But they couldn’t stay apart, they remarried in 1937.
His American musicals – Lost in the Stars, Knickerbocker Holiday, Lady in the Dark, Street Scene and more – are wonderful, of course, but his masterpiece was and remains Der Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), written with Bertolt Brecht in 1928 and premiered in Berlin. Lenya originated the role of Jenny in the first production and there is unanimous agreement among theatre people that, althugh she wasn’t the greatest singer, nobody ever sung Kurt Weill like Lotte Lenya.
Here she is, 40 years later, from an 1968 American TV special, with her, and his, greatest song. It’s out of context, sung in English in a translation by Mark Blitzstein, and in black and white, but I wouldn’t exchange this version for any other singer who ever sung it. Such vicious menace, such delightful vengeance. Marvellous. See if you agree.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.