Scheherazade – Alonzo King and Lines Ballet
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This rather beautiful modern ballet is from the choreographer Alonzo King. His Scheherazade is a re-envisioning of the ancient collection of Persian, Sanskrit, and Arabic stories of 1,001 Nights.
The dancers of LINES Ballet, Alonzo King’s company, present a vision of the intimate transformative potential these stories possess. No music credit but vaguely based on Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov and others, less identifiable.
Oedipus Rex/Lilacs-Opera Philadelphia
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This is a free stream of Opera Philadelphia’s concert performance of Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex and George Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning Lilacs. The conductor is Corrado Rovaris. Oedipus is sung by tenor William Burden whose repertoire has often included works by contemporary composers.
The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote about this performance, "Tenor William Burden delivered a peak performance, finding pathos amid Stravinsky’s dramatic aloofness, but also delivering the kind of demanding rhetoric that remind you Oedipus was indeed a king." Jocaste is sung by American mezzo Rehanna Thelwell, best known for her Wagnerian appearances.
Lilacs for voice and orchestra (or Lilacs) by George T. Walker Jr. (1922–2018) won the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Music. The work, scored for soprano soloist and orchestra, was the unanimous choice of the Pulitzer prize jury. Walker was the first African-American composer to be awarded the prize. The soprano soloist here is Tiffany Townsend.
Walker set the 1865 poem, "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd", by poet Walt Whitman. Whitman wrote the poem as an elegy to President Abraham Lincoln after his death on 15 April 1865.
Until Feb 20.
The Red Boy – National Gallery
Much attention is currently being focused on the return of Thomas Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, completed in 1770, to the National Gallery from its century on Californian museum walls. Last week, Gainsborough’s 'The Blue Boy' returned in triumph to Trafalgar Square, exactly one hundred years, to the day, since it was last seen in England.
'The Blue Boy' represents the best of 18th century British art and is Gainsborough’s eloquent response to the legacy of Sir Anthony van Dyck (1599–1641) and grand manner portraiture – therefore the display, 'Gainsborough’s Blue Boy', will not only reunite a British icon with the British public, but also with grand manner paintings in the National Gallery Collection and beyond. Owned for the past century by Huntington Art Museum in San Marino, California, this is the only time it has ever been loaned out and the Huntington is making it clear that it will be the last, so British art lovers will be thronging to see it.
But, despite the many myths that surround it, not least that it’s a cornerstone of gay iconography, I prefer The Red Boy, Sir Thomas Lawrence’s delightful and myth-free portrait of 1825.
This painting was made when Lawrence, one of the first trustees of the National Gallery, was at the height of his powers as painter and portraitist, a year after the Gallery opened to the public in 1824. Such is its status and popularity that in 1967 ‘The Red Boy’ was the first painting ever to be included on a British postage stamp.
This past December, to my delight, the National Gallery finally acquired, with help from generous American donors, 'The Red Boy', formally titled Portrait of Charles William Lambton, from its private owners, and is now beautifully hung in the Gallery.
In the interim, it has been out for cleaning and restoration by the National Gallery Conservation Dept and I found these two splendid behind the scenes videos of the process.
Do watch these full screen as the difference between Before and After is startling and bears real attention.
Conserving the painting
Sutra – Sadlers Wells
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The celebrated Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, in collaboration with Turner Prize-winning artist Antony Gormley, presents a dance work inspired by the skill, strength and spirituality of Buddhist Shaolin monks.
Polish composer Szymon Brzóska has created the original score for piano, percussion and strings which is played live. The 17 monks performing in Sutra are from the original Shaolin Temple, situated near Dengfeng City in the Henan Province of China. In 1983 the State Council defined the Shaolin Temple as the key national Buddhist Temple.
By visiting the Shaolin Temple, and working with the Shaolin Monks over several months, Sidi Larbi follows a lifelong interest of exploring the philosophy and faith behind the Shaolin tradition, its relationship with KungFu, and its position within a contemporary context.
You need patience to stay with this one but the rewards are definitely there. I found it mesmerising and impossible to turn off.
Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom – Irish Rep
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In this transporting solo performance by Aedín Moloney (no, I don’t know how it’s pronounced) for New York’s Irish Rep, we are in Ireland in the early hours of June 17th, 1904. Molly Bloom’s husband–the wandering philandering Leopold “Poldy” Bloom–has just come home & fallen asleep in their Dublin row house. Molly – a daughter, a mother, a lover and a long-suffering wife – patrols the pathways of her wild and leaping consciousness. She is lustful. Scared. Exuberant. Heartbreakingly lonely. Vivaciously reckless. And profoundly funny.
With an empty nest, an unfulfilling affair and a marriage long past its prime, Molly must find a way back to the rock-bed of love that she and Bloom once shared. Her unsentimental stream of consciousness is a song of songs that reaches backwards and forwards across the centuries. Written one hundred years ago, James Joyce’s words seem carved not just for today, but tomorrow too. Time ticks within time, dreams are upended, and life is thrown off balance. Molly seeks to reanimate love and ends up discovering herself. Dublin becomes Gibraltar, age becomes youth and a small room in Dublin becomes the world.
The 2019 Irish Rep World Premiere production of Yes! Reflections of Molly Bloom was awarded the Outer Critics Circle Award and nominated for the Off Broadway Alliance Award for Solo Performance. The reimagined digital production premiered Irish Rep’s Summer Online Season in June of 2020.
Dido’s Lament – Purcell – Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
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This is a favourite short video. ‘When I am Laid’ from Dido and Aeneas. Purcell’s transcendent Lament, here sung beautifully by Helen Charlston, against a post-Modern background imagined by director Zen Grisdale.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.