Posted inPlaylist

A “Ulysses” Playlist

James Joyce’s 1922 novel Ulysses has hummed with sound for one hundred years. “Mrkgnao!” goes Leopold Bloom’s cat while he makes breakfast; “Pprrpffrrppffff” goes his posterior after dinner later. We hear the chattering of the telegraph in the “Aeolus’” episode, the clattering of cutlery and clinking of glasses as Bloom eats and drinks his way […]

Posted inEssay

Metaphysical Relief

In September, the legendary German filmmaker, author, actor, opera director, and skateboarding-opinion-haver Werner Herzog turns 80. Herzog’s use of music in his films is noticeably more eclectic and more surprising than that of most of his director colleagues, according to our contributor Thomas von Steinaecker, who is currently finishing a documentary on the artist.  A […]

Posted inReview

Song of the Goats

Watching a Yorgos Lanthimos film invariably leads to esoteric questions. Via “Dogtooth”: Why are you calling an armchair a “sea”? From “The Lobster”: If you had to be irreversibly changed into an animal, which one would you pick? And, thanks to Lanthimos’s new short, “Bleat,” co-commissioned by the Greek National Opera and cultural nonprofit NEON: […]

Posted inHistory

Talking to Ghosts

About seven years ago, HBO almost made my dream television show. It was called “Virtuoso,” and was produced by Elton John and written and directed by Alan Ball. From all accounts—and I followed them closely—it was to be something of a soap opera about the founding of a conservatory obviously based on the real-life Vienna […]

Posted inEssay

Adaptation in America

Becoming an opera librettist was, for me, a natural extension of years spent working as a playwright in downtown New York theater and experimental music-theater. That fertile stomping ground provided an immersion into the dramaturgy of space and sound, the architectonics of tension, duration, and alternate modes of language and narrative. Writing for theater, I […]

Posted inInterview

Elements of Recurrence

For decades, writer Edmund White has been a definitive voice in gay literature, especially in the United States. He’s written over 30 books, mostly on themes of same-sex desire; they are also are riddled with references to his own passions for art and music. Of particular interest are the frank discussions about psycho-sexual tensions with […]

Posted inInterview

Sacred Time

If you’re going to the Metropolitan Opera, Wayne Koestenbaum, author of the iconic exploration of opera queendom, The Queen’s Throat, is the best guide one could hope for. After dinner at Rosa Mexicano across from Lincoln Center, we sauntered across Columbus Avenue to a performance of Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov.” For both of us, it was […]

Posted inPlaylist

A “Divine Comedy” Playlist

One of the more morbid traditions of classical music is its focus on death anniversaries: 1991 was a big year for Mozart (particularly in the business of Requiems). The cancellation of so many #Beethoven250 concerts in 2020 was half–but only half–jokingly bright-sided by the fact that all of the programs could be resurrected for 2027.  […]

Posted inReview

Communist Dissonance

At the beginning of the Chinese Communist Party propaganda movie-musical “The Wings of Songs,” a tune is playing, and there are attractive people frolicking. But, unlike “The Sound of Music,” the frolicking and the music never match. We have just been introduced to three boyish members of a band, the film’s protagonists, who are performing […]

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