Lizards, fancy feathered hats and trickery – National Gallery
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This requires a bit of patience as the National Gallery doesn’t make it easy to navigate but it is worth it. It’s an exhibition of paintings selected by Dr Gabriele Finaldi, the Director of the Gallery.
From Giotto to Monet and Caravaggio to Turner, experience an unusual mix of artists and styles gathered virtually here online.
Listen in as the Director gives us his personal take on 20 works in the collection; enjoy the anecdote and insight surrounding reptilian still-life props, Rococo fads and fashions and things that are not quite what they seem.
On the first screen of Rembrandt’s Belshazzar’s Feast, you’ll see, top right, a menu of all the artists in the exhibition. Click on any one to get directly to that artist’s work.
Bottom right is a question mark. Click on that for instructions to examine each work. Next to that is a frame allowing you to see each work full screen. Click within each painting for more information. Click the small arrow in the information screen for the commentary from Director Finaldi.
There, I told you it requires patience.
The Tempest – Shakespeare’s Globe Player
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Shakespeare’s Globe has released several new online videos from their archives, all of which are worth seeing.
One of them is the 2018 Hamlet with the Globe’s Artistic Director Michelle Terry in the title role. This is not as surprising as it sounds. Every actor worth his or her chops longs to take on one of the big ones – Hamlet, Macbeth, or Lear – and, sooner or later, if they’ve got the clout, they do. James Bond, otherwise known as Daniel Craig, is playing Macbeth right now on Broadway.
Much gender-bending is going on in the theatre and one of my most memorable Twelfth Nights starred Mark Rylance as an unforgettable Viola. That production is still available on the Globe website too. As for great actors testing themselves on the shoals of King Lear, think Anthony Hopkins, Jim Broadbent, even Al Pacino.
Among the newly released presentations is an excellent The Tempest with Olivier-winner Roger Allam as Prospero and Olivier-winner Jessie Buckley as Miranda.
Conventional wisdom says that this was Shakespeare’s last play and that his breaking of his staff at the end was Shakespeare’s farewell to the theatre. Possibly, but what is sure is that, after 30-odd previous plays examining nearly all human (and supernatural) emotions, this one is Shakespeare’s late exploration of subjugation, forgiveness and, yes, freedom.
You can subscribe to the Globe Player website for an annual 59.99. If you’re a Shakespeare addict, this option’s for you. If you just want to watch them one at a time, you can rent a single show for 9.95.
Roses - Dakh Daughters Band
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Roses is a touching and all too real Ukrainian musical documentary, featuring the seven actress/singers of the Dakh Daughters Band, shot on stage, in dressing rooms and on the road, while they were living through the pivotal moment of Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Revolution.
This political cabaret draws its magic from combining the joie de vivre of a creative community with the horror of the devastating war under bright stage lights. Roses paints a picture of artists under extreme conditions of pain and loss.
The film shows revolution through the eyes of the artists - through female eyes - which gives it a particular perspective: humane rather than epic, celebrating life rather than heroic deeds. It captures the 2014 inception of what is going on in Ukraine today - incredible unity of the Ukrainian people standing against the Russian assault on Ukraine, Europe, the free world.
Watch Roses not for its music, (redolent of Weimar cabaret but far less comprehensible and a lot louder), but for the insight into Ukrainian resistance to evil then and now.
Gustavo Dudamel Conquers the Opera de Paris
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This charming, light-hearted concert is a celebration of Gustavo Dudamel’s appointment as Music Director of the Opera de Paris. It features an anthology of opera excerpts, inviting us to rediscover great arias, duets, ensembles, and musical interludes from a rich and eclectic repertoire in a truly exceptional performance.
From Georges Bizet’s Carmen to John Adams’ Doctor Atomic, from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin to Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, from Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier to Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff, from Manuel De Falla’s La Vida Breve to Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, Gustavo Dudamel conducts the Orchestra, Chorus, and guest performers.
This concert has quite a roster of international star singers. They include Clementine Margaine, Matthew Polenzani, Ekaterina Gubanova, Marie-Andrée Bouchard-Lesieur, Gerald Finley, Jacquelyn Wagner, Sabine Devieilhe, Tobias Westman. Directed by François-René Martin.
Wheels of a Dream - Ragtime
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As many of you know, I often write about musicals and when I'm asked for my favourite, a question I hate because there are so many, I don't reach for Rodgers and Hart or Rodgers and Hammerstein or Stephen Sondheim or Lin-Manuel Miranda, the image that pops up is that of Ahren’s and Flaherty’s magnificent Ragtime. Almost nothing since has come up to the standard of that splendid adaptation of E.L. Doctorow’s novel which had the massive ambition of telling the story of the divisions in American society at the beginning of the last century and succeeding brilliantly.
Much of my love for that show had to do with its extraordinary first cast. Without slighting the late, great Marin Mazzie who played Mother in the original (no other name, just Mother), the two standout performances came from Audra Macdonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell who were, and are still, reigning titans of the American musical theatre. Here’s how they sounded then, in 1996, at the show’s premiere, in Ragtime’s most lyrical song. They sound just as good today.
Ruth Leon is a writer and critic specialising in music and theatre.