Season’s Greetings from the Berkshire Review for the Arts.
The ethnographic films of Robert Gardner and anthropology in general resonate quite powerfully with me, although I’ve hardly ever had a chance to become broadly or deeply acquainted with either. My first encounter with Gardner’s Dead Birds, his best-known work, made a deep impression on me, not only because of the film itself, which was reason enough, but because of the odd circumstances in which I first discovered it.
A jumbo jet full of PASSENGERS waits to pass through customs, passports in hand. They are in between, not yet present in any country. At the end of the corridor an automated dispenser of hand sanitizer welcomes them to the United States and to Los Angeles, such as it is. A few passengers exchange anxious glances with the impassive and, for some, unfamiliar machine.
The line does not move.
Eventually a DIMINUTIVE WOMAN approaches the machine, hand extended. The dispenser BUZZES and a tennis ball-sized dollop of hand sanitizer appears in her hand. She returns to her place in line, staring at the impassive white bolus in her palm, more anxious than before.
The line begins to move.
In the summer of 1717, after the highly successful performance of his Water Music for the King of England, Handel left busy London and went to take up residence at rural Cannons, a few miles from the English capital. The composer, temporarily unable to have his operas produced, was answering the invitation of one of his patrons: James Brydges, the Earl of Carnarvon, who would in 1719 be elevated to the title by which he is best known: the Duke of Chandos.
Just as the last major events of the spring season approached, including the final performances of Otto Schenk’s production of Wagner’s Ring des Nibelungen at the Met, I realized that if I did not travel to Italy for an important family visit—no, it was not a junket to cover the grand opening of Angels and Demons—I would not be able to do it for months. I felt much better when I found that two extraordinary people were available to take my place: Rebecca Kim, a brilliant recent Ph.D. from Columbia, who wrote her dissertation on John Cage, had just completed one of the Met’s Ring Cycles and was willing to take my seat for a second traversal, and Roza Tulyaganova, who has delighted audiences with her Fiordiligi in Così and her Countess in Figaro, and is equally well-prepared to analyze performances through her work as a candidate for a doctorate in musical arts at Stony Brook.
The past week has provided one of the most rewarding experiences of my adult life for a variety of reasons. My first trip to the Northern Berkshires centered specifically in North Adams and Williamstown, Massachusetts and began on Canada’s West Coast—on Vancouver Island, where I live . My purpose was to attend an opening of Artists without Borders at the Brill Gallery, located in the historic Eclipse Mill in North Adams.
The Queen Mary 2 is a floating retirement home, but if you need a break from your frenzied life ashore the Isle of Manhattan, retiring for a week isn’t such a bad idea. The QM2 is no ordinary cruise ship. Cunard, the same company that built the Titanic, constantly makes the distinction that the QM2 is a voyager, a cruise ship is something else entirely. She is not only the greenest, most technologically savvy ship on the sea, she is also the sexiest ship ever built.
My current exhibition at Papyri Books in North Adams is the fruit of a totally unexpected, but absolutely wonderful trip I was lucky to take last June to Odessa, the legendary city-port on the shore of the Black Sea. I was invited by a friend who was there on a contract to spend a week in Odessa together with his family.