My leading thought goes against much of what the Bard Music Festival and my own values, for that matter, stand for. And just read Keith Francis’ provocative series, The Great Composers?, the latest installment of which has just been published. I’ve missed only one Bard Festival since 2006, and I’ve heard great music by Elgar, Prokofiev, and Sibelius. And, well, Saint-Saëns was too gifted to be great, and that really didn’t interest him in any case. Of the composers included in the festival, only Wagner and Stravinsky turn up on common lists of the greatest—not that those stupid lists do anything but harm. Still, during the two weekends devoted to Franz Schubert I felt I was living with the gods, and the lingering impression of those weekends swelled accordingly.
The much-maligned poetry of Edgar Allan Poe still bristles with excitement when one hears it. High and mighty Emerson called it a bunch of “jingles.” The musical reference is appropriate. A poem like “Annabelle Lee” is basically a sound event. The sonic Poe I have in my imagination was revered by the French, Baudelaire in particular, as much as he was reviled by the Americans. He belongs somewhere in between. I’m thinking of the compulsive themes of live burial, standing cliffs edge and wanting to jump, or life and death blurred-blended. All of these things figure prominently in Debussy’s great opera Pelléas et Mélisande.
You can’t really blame the Berkshire Theatre Group for billing Eric Hill’s splendid entertainment, POE, as a Hallowe’en show. As the holiday approaches, Poe’s chilling stories and poems are rolled out in all the many forms they have assumed since their assimilation into two great cultural phenomena, American Literature and American Pop Culture, over the decades since their publication. In fact, however, POE, which most immediately revolves around the bizarre circumstances of the author’s demise, more directly concerns a far scarier day in the American calendar—Election Day
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is an obsessive work which makes wildly different demands on its actors. Renata Eastlick as Maggie starts us off which what amounts to a twenty-five to thirty-minute monologue. She did this superbly. It was just overbearing enough. Listening to her was the excellent Loren Dunn who played her husband Brick, and he has scarcely ten lines in the play. Often he is reduced to single syllables.