John Hadden (King Lear) and Ava Roy (Cordelia) at Hubbard Hall.

A Singer’s Notes 84: Time yaps at the heels of comedy. Tragedy marches inexorably on.

Time yaps at the heels of comedy. Tragedy marches inexorably on. In comedy the present turns immediately to the past, this is why the pace must be fast. Private Lives tries to talk about serious things rapidly. It does not stop and consider. The past is a repetition of the future, not the other way around. This is why the characters circle endlessly. You might call it the rhythm of life, or in a darker comedy, the dance of death. There is plenty of life left in Private Lives. Its relentless wit continues to charm. The couple who fight best seem to love best. Only fine actors can repeat themselves.  Shakespeare and Company’s production of Noel Coward’s play had the requisite energy. David Joseph, in particular, seemed inexhaustible, time yapping at his heels. Dana Harrison also commanded the speed and flavor of imperious time, sometimes by trying to slow it ever so slightly.

Dana Harrison (Amanda) and David Joseph (Elyot) in Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Photo Kevin Sprague.

A Smashing Private Lives at Shakespeare and Company

After my all-too-common last minute arrival, I had no opportunity to read Tony Simotes’ wise note in the program until the intermission. When I did, I struck a chord with thoughts that had been coming to me about Noël Coward since feeling his very large presence in Sir Donald and Marc Sinden’s wonderful series of documentaries about the theaters of London’s West End: his plays, as ephemeral as they claim to be, keep coming back, and have turned into classics under our noses, so to speak. Beneath the electric language and constantly amusing repartee, which in themselves have proven surprisingly durable, the basic themes that concern us all—attraction, love, loyalty, fidelity, convention and life, youth and maturity, and (although not in Private Lives) aging. Truth is, Coward, with his insistence that his gifts consisted of no more than “a talent to amuse,” was his own worst detractor.

Bard SummerScape 2011 Explores the Life and Times of Jean Sibelius with a Seven-Week Arts Festival in New York’s Hudson Valley, July 7 – August 21, 2011

Scandinavia’s rich cultural heritage, and the question of artistic conservatism in the modernist age, will be explored at the eighth annual Bard SummerScape festival, which once again features a sumptuous tapestry of music, opera, theater, dance, film, and cabaret, keyed to the theme of the 22nd annual Bard Music Festival. Presented in the striking Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts and other venues on Bard College’s bucolic Hudson River campus, the seven-week festival opens on July 7 with the first of four performances by Finland’s Tero Saarinen Company, and closes on August 21 with a party in Bard’s beloved Spiegeltent, which returns for the full seven weeks. This year’s Bard Music Festival explores Sibelius and His World, and some of the great Finnish symphonist’s most fascinating contemporaries provide other SummerScape highlights, including New York’s first fully-staged production of Richard Strauss’s 1940 opera Die Liebe der Danae; Noël Coward’s chamber opera, Bitter Sweet (1929); Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama The Wild Duck (1884); and a film festival, “Before and After Bergman: The Best of Nordic Film.”

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