A Singer’s Notes 82: Ondine and King Lear

Much credit must be given to Theatre Company of Hubbard Hall’s John Hadden for putting up an “Ondine” that was not an exercise in nostalgia. There was also an excellent kind of sharp energy in the Ondine of Autumn Hausthor. This was not a passive immortal, but a quirky, even annoying, young creature. Her performance flavored the whole production. I also was invested in the performance of Gino Costabile, who did all of his roles, especially The Old One, convincingly. Maizy Scarpa was a model of versatility as Hans, all again with a kind of sharp insouciance that kept the play from sentimentalizing.  Best of all, as so often, was Doug Ryan as the King. Ryan has a true comic gift in which we see the tears behind the laughter, the pathos in the one-liners. He did a superb job of portraying the King’s sad bewilderment and also his kindness. Mr. Ryan’s performance, brief as it is, is well worth the trip to Cambridge, NY.

Joanna Gabler’s Transcapes at the Milne Public Library, Williamstown, until early December

Joanna Gabler will be exhibiting her most recent works in the David and Joyce Milne Public Library in Williamstown during the month of November.

Joanna Gabler is a painter, photographer and digital artist who has lived and worked in Williamstown over the past 9 years and exhibits online as well as locally, in New York, and in Warsaw, including her most recent exhibition of Orchid Mandalas in Warsaw University Botanical Garden this past September.

As an avid walker and photographer she became totally immersed in the beauty and splendor of the Nature in Berkshires and spends many happy hours walking in the woods and taking pictures. The result comes as a several thousands of photographs in her archive and a new way of working on her art, which she developed.

She describes it as painting with photography and calls her images “transcapes,” or transfigured landscapes.

Live in HD? Donizetti’s Anna Bolena from the Met in Pixels

The audience poured out of the auditorium, through the lobby, and out into the parking lots with such a happy general purring that it seemed villainous to criticize the brave new entertainment Peter Gelb has brought the world. For almost five years now we have been able to watch High Definition video projections of performances at the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters and auditoriums like the one at the Clark Art Institute, which I had just vacated. HD Live, as it’s called, has become a hit in most places, I hear—certainly in Great Barrington and Williamstown, where I’ve seen them, mingling with a dense, enthusiastic, mostly mature crowd. It’s often harder to get a ticket to one of these projections than it is to get a seat at Met itself.

What could be more commendable than creating a show that provides so much enjoyment? It brings opera to a vast global audience at reasonable prices, and at various times in the past half-century many have feared opera was in danger of dying out altogether, either from the expense of production and operation or the sheer irrelevance of its elitist origins. The Met opera broadcasts, which began in the early 1930s, changed many lives and, in synergy with the Metropolitan Opera Guild and Opera News, helped raise significant sums of money for the Met during the Great Depression, when the house desperately needed funds and people needed cheap entertainment. Are the times not similar today? The broadcasts only created more opera-lovers, and what possible harm could they do? (Actually I know of one example, but I’ll leave that for another time.) Wouldn’t the HD transmissions, with their spectacular images and vivid sound bring even more good into the world?

A Tourist at the Opera, A Visitor’s Impression of the Northern Berkshires

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.

Drawn to Drama: Italian Works on Paper, 1500-1800 at the Clark

As the supply of old master drawings on the market dwindles, so do exhibitions of them, but if the exhibitions are fewer, their quality remains almost as strong as ever. The Uffizi continued its distinguished tradition at the Morgan Library this past winter, and now the Clark offers a fascinating and very beautiful layered exhibition consisting of sheets from different periods in the formation of its own collection interleaved with one of the most original and appealing of present-day private collections, the Italian drawings of Robert Loper, whose gifts include, in addition to expertise in the nooks and byways of Italian art of the sixteenth through the eighteenth century, fine taste, and a keen sense of fun.

Dialogue One International Theatre Festival

The pleasant, but potentially mind-numbing routine of holiday entertainment was relieved most satisfyingly this past weekend by Dialogue One, a new international theater festival of solo performances at Williams College. Its founder, Omar Sangare, Assistant Professor of Theater at the College is to be thanked warmly for this serious and extremely stimulating festival, which will be an annual event. It consists of an evening of performances by four of Professor Sangare’s students, Mme. Tussaud, LIVE, which took place on Thursday evening and was repeated on Friday and a day of performances by professional actors from New York, Chicago, and Germany. The festival concluded with a ceremony at which three prizes were awarded by a jury consisting of Williams faculty and students as well as outsiders, one for a student performance, another for a domestic performer, and the third for an international performer. The solo performances were without exception serious, even intensely so, and they provided some extremely welcome intellectual ballast for the season. We had an opportunity to appreciate the impressive talent which exists among the Williams students, both as actors and writers, and to see some of the best and brightest among the young professional actors, who are working in this extremely challenging genre. These were joined by a distinguished mature actor from Poland, Herbert Kaluza, who has been working in Germany in recent years. His linguistic abilities had ample scope in the quadrilingual version of Isaac Babel’s “The Story of my Dovecote.” Americans get regrettably little exposure to theater in other languages, and this solo performance brought together the distinguished traditions of Poland and Germany in a concentrated and accessible form. And what a powerful contrast to the American approaches we’d seen earlier in the day!

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