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Favorite Things

Dancing Balanchine's Late Modernism

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Mira Nadon in George Balanchine’s Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photographer: Erin Baiano. Courtesy of the New York City Ballet.

Amongst the diverse offerings of New York City Ballet this winter season, an intriguing cross-section of Balanchine/Stravinsky neoclassical ballets stretching from 1944 to 1972 were programmed. Provocative pairings and insightful performances increased our understanding of the Balanchine-Stravinsky collaboration. For the inspiring work of this season, credit goes to the dancers who rediscover, animate, and realize before our eyes this distinguished repertoire and its importance, doubtless a weighty responsibility. But credit must also go to coaches Suzanne Farrell and Rebecca Krohn, among others, whose collaboration with the...


Favorite Things

Insiders/Outsiders and the U.S. Stage

- By Len Berkman

Photo: Andrew DeVries, The Other Side of Eden. Courtesy of the artist.

Among the lesser discussed aspects of “mainstream” theater (and film as well as TV) in the U.S. is its overarching goal to stir proud “insider” feelings in its large-scale audiences. Realism became a major implement in that regard. What could make “us ticket-holders” feel more welcome than the stage’s invisible fourth wall: for us to see and hear through, as we sit invisible in the dark, “flies on the wall,” our only hoped for sounds to be our collective laughter, tears, or resounding climactic applause.

Needless to say, “outsiders” too are invariably, in far smaller numbers, among these...


Favorite Things

William Forsythe’s A Quiet Evening of Dance: A Meditative Choreographic Act

- By Mark Franko

Photo: Ander Zabala (left), Parvaneh Sharafali (right) in A Quiet Evening of Dance. Photo: Mohamed Sadek. Courtesy of The Shed.

This fall Peter Brook presented Why?, a play-as-conversation between three actors in which they reflect intellectually and performatively in deftly sketched scenes on theater-making from the actor’s perspective. This chamber work, composed of discussions about the actor’s craft, is directed in part toward the audience with no lack of enlightening, whimsical, and sometimes quite moving illustrations. Why? is a theoretical and historical brief on theater’s infinite possibilities and mortal dangers, a fit addition to the distinguished career of Peter Brook, which now spans seven decades. In the play’s...


Favorite Things

Teodor Currentzis’s Verdi: Ecclesiastic or Sublimative?

- By Alexei Parin

Photo: Teodor Currentzis. Courtesy of Anton Zavjyalov and MusicAeterna.

Some works in the history of music have received directly opposing assessments. Throughout his life, Giuseppe Verdi wrote operas. And then, suddenly, at the same time as Aida, he composed his Messa da Requiem. At first, in 1868, he created only one part—the last section (Libera Me). This was to be his contribution to a collective composition, a ­­Requiem in memory of Rossini. It was never performed, however. And when in 1873 Alessandro Manzoni, the author of I Promessi Sposi (a novel that Verdi read when he was only sixteen!) died, the next day the composer decided to create a grand memorial—a requiem—to “our Saint.”...


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...


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