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August 2008

Nous Sommes Stupides


According to Dan Wakin in today's Times, the Met, in its infinite wisdom, has decided to cut ties with singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who has been writing an opera, Prima Donna, under commission from them for the past two years. The reason? Wainwright wrote the libretto in French. Now, I realize it might sound pretentious for a New Yorker to write an opera in a foreign language, but Wainwright is: A. From Montreal; and B. Writing about an aging French soprano. It is a perfectly legitimate choice.

For his part, Met Director Peter Gelb says that all the commissionees are native English speakers and were expected to write in English.

“Presenting a new opera that is not in English at the Met, when it could be in English, is an immediate impediment to its potential success with audiences.”  

Right, which is why no one ever goes to see Carmen. Or Faust. Or Pelleas. Mr. Gelb would do well not to underestimate his audience's appetite for foreign-language opera. I mean, isn't that what MetTitles are for? Oh well, at least they're still moving ahead with Nico's joint about Internet stalking.

Footnote: Wakin credits dishy opera blogger La Cieca with the scoop, which is kind of like Barack Obama asking Jim J. Bullock to be his Press Secretary. Crazy times.

My Kind of Tourist Trap

DSC03639 Sometimes in this town, you need to brave the tourist hordes to get to the really good stuff. Case in point: last night's early set at the Village Vanguard, the legendary basement space on 7th Ave South, whose tiny trapezoidal stage has hosted many of the greatest names in jazz for the past 70-plus years. The place was packed, but my friend Josh and I were able to squeeze into a tiny table between two out-of-town families, not far from the stage. An elderly woman brought us drinks; it was dark, dingy and damned-near perfect.

This week, the Vanguard is hosting piano master Kenny Barron and his far-flung quartet, including Bay Area tenor Dayna Stephens, Japanese bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa, and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela. There's nothing revolutionary or edgy about what Barron does: he just takes great standards (as well as one original, "Um Beijo") and plays the hell out of them. And, he does it all from his head: the only paper I saw on his piano was a list of some thirty possible numbers, of which the group played five in a set lasting just over an hour.

I learned today that the show was broadcast on the website of local jazz station WBGO, part of a regular series with NPR; you can listen to the entire set here. But, do yourself a favor and go check out the Vanguard in person sometime: it's worth the money and the tight quarters. (More pics after the jump.)

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Parting Blast

Parting BlastI made it back from Saratoga just in time to catch Yo La Tengo at McCarren Pool, where they're headlining the last-ever JellyNYC Pool Party. The crowd is absolutely massive - they must have decided to do away with capacity restrictions for once - and ready to rock to some loud New Jersey noise. As if on cue, Ira Kaplan sings "Pass the Hatchet, I think I'm Goodkind,"even as they're dismantling the nearby Slip 'n Slide for the last time:

"Can't see for miles
Can't see the pavement for the street
Well it's slide slide slide
Down the water slide
Slide slide slide
Down the water slide"

A bittersweet end to a great run...(More pics after the jump.)

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Saratoga Nightcap

After an hour of fruitless wandering around downtown Saratoga in search of something other than tepid coverbands, I stop in the Circus Cafe on my way home and am blown away by Albany-based bluesman George Boone, who sounds like the second coming of B.B. King (right down to his King-signed Epiphone.) Boone is the real deal: the roadhouse maverick King was before he became a icon, jumping up on the bar and screaming his vocals in a caterwaul. Just goes to show you never know what you'll find outside the bright city lights; hope to see him downriver sometime. Saratoga Nightcap