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Favorite Things

At a Distance: Sadness in Bartók's Final Quartet

- By Edward Dusinberre

(Cover image courtesy of Decca Music Group, Limited)

My music is open on the stand, yet at the beginning of Bela Bartók's sixth string quartet I can only listen. A string quartet is usually a collaborative effort, but for nearly a full minute our violist Geri plays the tune alone: Mesto—sad. At first I feel as if I am eavesdropping on a private sorrow, then, as the melody climbs higher, the viola becomes more declamatory, as if conscious of an audience. Like the listeners in the hall, I cannot evade the sad mood.

The initial outpouring dissipates and the melody fades away. Together we break the silence by playing the same loud notes and rhythm—vigorous bow strokes that banish the melancholy. No more sadness then. After another pause, we exchange...


Favorite Things

Don’t Call African-American Theatre Black Theatre: It’s Like Calling a Dog a Cat

- By Dominic Taylor

(Wadsworth Jarrell, Heritage (1973), The Cleveland Museum of Art. With kind permission of the artist.)
 

I’ve been trying to find a way to frame an idea, and I believe my somewhat pithy title above basically catches it.

When social upheavals occur, people do many things to find solace, including looking to pets for comfort. What is true of pets will also help us understand certain recent cultural phenomena. In short, what I have in mind is not just an assessment involving nomenclature or semantics; I’m thinking about what a work of art or entertainment fundamentally is. Dogs and cats are both contemporary domestic animals, yet anyone who has had either can attest to the fact that they are very different life forms.

With the election of the...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Classicism and Romanticism

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Joseph Gordon in George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations (photo: Erin Baiano)

In 1970, George Balanchine added three new sections to his well-known one-act ballet showpiece Theme and Variations (1947). This spring New York City Ballet has been presenting Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 as part of its Balanchine offerings. In its first iteration, Theme and Variations was an extended pas de deux with the interventions of a full corps de ballet—women first, men joining in toward the end—a sort of compressed nineteenth-century classical ballet presented for its own qualities of relative abstraction but still performed in regalia against a royal background as if it were an historical divertissement. Like...


Favorite Things

What Is a Classic?

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Ballets-USA program cover in 1958 (from the collection of Mark Franko)
 

In its continuing celebration of the 100th anniversary of Jerome Robbins this past winter season, New York City Ballet has revived one more Robbins work, a piece dating back to 1958—New York Export: Opus Jazz.[1] An ensemble work for sixteen dancers with a jazz-inspired score by Robert Prince and sets by Ben Shahn, New York Export: Opus Jazz was first shown on a tour of Robbins’s Ballets U.S.A. in Europe and later had its New York City premiere in an all-Robbins Broadway season.[2]

...


Favorite Things

Favorite Things: Whither Vibrancy? How Long Relevance?

- By Mark Franko

Photo:  Francisco Moncion as the Angel of Death and Nicolas Magallanes as Orpheus in a studio portrait by George Platt Lynes based on Balanchine's Orpheus (1950). Used with permission.
 

At the time of this writing the New York City Ballet remains a company without an artistic director and continues to be overseen by an interim artistic team. Five principal male dancers are gone. Robert Fairchild has moved on; Joaquin De Luz retired; and, Chase Finlay, caught up in a sex abuse scandal, resigned. Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro, peripherally associated with Finlay’s problems, were dismissed last fall by the leadership team after having initially been suspended. Given such dramatic attrition in the ranks of leading male...


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