"The Love Suicides at Sonezaki" at the White Light Festival

by Steven Pisano

Sonezaki_Shinju-hatsu_toku042.final_copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto-Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation(© Hiroshi Sugimoto/Courtesy of Odawara Art Foundation)

2019 marks the 10th anniversary season of Lincoln Center's White Light Festival, offering works from around the world in music, theater, and dance that explore art’s power to "reveal the many dimensions of our interior lives." The festival opened this past weekend and continues through November 24.

The initial presentation, The Love Suicides at Sonezaki, is a Bunraku play written by the esteemed Japanese dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1725). A soy sauce company sales clerk named Tokubei and a prostitute named Ohatsu are in love, but many forces conspire to keep them apart. So, they decide that if they cannot be together in this world, they will commit suicide and be together in the next life. The show was such a big hit when it was first presented in 1703, that numerous young couples were known to commit suicide in the nearby forest, which caused the Tokugawa shogunate 20 years later to prohibit any further performances--a ban that lasted until 1955 (232 years later!).

This U.S. premiere was created by artistic director Hiroshi Sugimoto, one of the world's most celebrated photographers and architects, as well as a theater producer. The music was written by Seiji Tsurusawa, who is known as a Living National Treasure.

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Category Is: Sonic Synesthesia at Baby’s Alright

by Kat Pongrace
IMG_4915In what seems to be the vanguard color of Gen-Z, a woman with electric green hair bounded onstage at Baby’s All Right last week (October 30) to open Category is: Sonic Synesthesia. The event was my first encounter with Pink Boot, an independent media outlet dedicated to celebrating women and femmes of color, and the line up for Sonic Synesthesia in no way came up short.

Brooklyn R&B songstress Alex Mali warmed up the crowd with songs from her recent EP Sweet + Sour, including her new track “Fighting Words.” Her intimate performance eschewed Baby's normally bejeweled backdrop in favor of a projection of the moon and clouds emblazoned with her name and her silhouette. For an opening act, she seemed to be highly anticipated, and from what I heard had been the primary attraction for many in the crowd attending. 

Following Mali, Los Angeles-based Mila J brought her signature girl group appeal with a side of some serious Scorpio energy. Mila, a former dancer and girl group singer (including an appearance in Prince's "Diamonds and Pearls"), exhibited a number of well-choreographed routines that avoided feeling overproduced. After recording a pair of EPs with Motown and recording with such artists as Jodeci and Timbaland, Mila is currently working on her debut studio album.

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Lez Zeppelin at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Steven Pisano

20190913-DSC08329(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Consider, if you will, the following partial description of an object in an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which ended this past weekend:

Archtop with F-holes and Venetian cutaway; laminated maple body and neck, rosewood fingerboard; 23½ in. scale; natural finish with white & black double binding, set neck with mother-of-pearl split parallelogram inlays and white binding to fingerboard; mother-of-pearl Gibson headstock logo with crown inlay; two PAF humbucking pickups,...

Sounds pretty fancy, doesn't it? Maybe a rare piece of furniture from a Renaissance craftsman, or a priceless treasure from a European estate?

Hell no! This is how the catalog begins the description of the Gibson ES-350T (ca. 1958) that Chuck Berry strutted on stage with in the late 1950s and early 1960s, playing hits like "Johnny B. Goode."

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"The Love for Three Oranges" at Opera Philadelphia

by Steven Pisano

20190918-DSC03872(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

Opera Philadelphia's recent production of Sergei Prokofiev's "The Love for Three Oranges" was a frothy, fun concoction, less an opera than a zany musical comedy. Its source story had its origins in the commedia dell'arte, which Prokofiev, writing in the early 1920s, spiced up with a fair dose of absurdist surrealism.

In a nutshell, there is a handsome young Prince who mopes around in bed, his malaise brought on by reading too much serious poetry. The doctors in the court of the King of Clubs, the Prince's father, prescribe that he can only be cured by laughter. But though many in the kingdom try, none can make this sourpuss chuckle, until one day the witch Fata Morgana, who is involved sideways in a plot to kill the Prince, is knocked over and shows her underwear, which of course makes the Prince break out into an uproarious peal of laughter which finally breaks his grumpy mood. Pissed off at being laughed at, though, Fata Morgana curses the Prince to fall in love with three oranges.

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New York Philharmonic Plays ‘Close Encounters & Psycho’

by Nick Stubblefield

Close encounters jpeg

The New York Philharmonic delighted enthusiastic crowds at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall two weeks ago with the return of its popular “Art of the Score” series, in which classic films are presented with live orchestral accompaniment. This year's "Art of the Score" featured John Williams’ music for Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Bernard Herrmann’s score for Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The scores are starkly different — Close Encounters is grandiose, Psycho intimate and cerebral - but each has firmly cemented its place in American popular culture.  

Close Encounters calls for a large orchestra, including a massive battery of percussion that includes tuned metal, tam-tam, anvil, and tuned logs. It also features choral music (performed here by Musica Sacra), which heightened the film’s drama by juxtaposing tone clusters and heavy vibrato with calm and airy long tones. Musica Sacra's dynamic performance underlined the human qualities that have made this film resonate with audiences for decades. 

The Philharmonic’s percussionists injected the performance with adrenaline. Sections of murmuring, dissonant strings were punctured by thunderous percussion hits and slams. Among all of the rich and layered performances, principal tubist Alan Baer may have had the greatest weight on his shoulders: namely, the famous five-note "doorbell" motif that the alien spaceships emit as communication. Fortunately, Baer rose to the occasion with sparkling tone and joyful exuberance. Each note rung out through the hall, showcasing the surprisingly decent acoustics of Geffen Hall.

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