Archive for March 18th, 2010


by Sam Juliano

     For the second time in the 2009-2010 opera season the Metropolitan Opera has struck artistic pay dirt with a brilliantly staged new production, that sets the bar for creative license and proves that some of the more obscure properties in the repetory can reaches exhalted levels with the right chemistry.  Dimitri Shostakovich’s atonal and avante garde The Nose, written when the celebrated Russian composer was only 22, joins the early season staging of Janacek’s From the House of the Dead as prime examples of how the most unlikely material could be transformed into something really special when the orchestra, conductor and set designers are at the top of their game.

     Shostakovich wrote his first opera at the pinnacle of the ‘anything-goes’ period of early Soviet art in the late 20’s in that window after the revolution when artistic experiment fermented until more oppressive laws discouraged freedom of expression.  In music, the influence of the Western avant-gardists such as Schoenberg, Hindemith and Stravinsky was considerable, and in fact Berg’s Wozzack was staged in Leningrad at precisely the time Shostakovich was penning The Nose.  That opera’s chamber trappings influenced Shostakovich’s work, as did his his fellow countryman Prokofiev’s sometimes chromatic and rhythmatically unstable The Love for Three Oranges.  Although The Nose enjoyed some success in Leningrad, it was not taken up again in that country until the 1970’s, as the piece is forbiddingly hard to stage, with its spiky and difficult orchestral writing and its cast of over 70 characters.  Of course the story of a man who loses his nose, showcases the kind of individuality that was scorned by the authorites, a matter which unquestionably helped shelve the work indefinitely. (more…)

Read Full Post »

by Allan Fish

(Germany 1929 132m) DVD1/2

Aka. Der Büchse der Pandora

Don’t bring Lulu

p  George C.Horzetzky, Seymour Nebenzahl  d  Georg W.Pabst  w  Ladislaus Vajda, George W.Pabst  plays  “Erdegeist” and “Pandora’s Box” by Franz Wedekind  ph  Günther Krampf  ed  Joseph R.Flieser  Peer Ruben  art  Andrei Andreiev  cos  Göttlieb Hesch

Louise Brooks (Lulu), Fritz Kortner (Dr Peter Schorn), Franz Lederer (Alwa Schorn), Gustav Diessl (Jack the Ripper), Carl Gotz (Schigolch), Alice Roberts (Countess Anna Geschwitz), Daisy D’Ora (Marie de Zarniko), Krafft Raschig (Roderigo Quast), Michael Von Newlinsky (Marquis Casti-Piani), Sig Arno (Stage manager),

Okay, so the tagline is unoriginal, but it’s so apt for this piece.  You may not want to bring this Lulu, but you’re intoxicated with her.  In all her films in Hollywood Louise Brooks seemed restrained, reserved and even, perish the thought, uninteresting.  Yet German director Pabst saw enough in her performance in Beggars of Life to warrant bringing her over from Hollywood to star in his long cherished adaptation of Wedekind’s deliciously melodramatic and seedy Lulu plays.  If her performance in the later Diary of a Lost Girl is probably stronger, that film doesn’t remotely resemble what it was originally.  Pandora’s Box, after painstaking restoration, does.  Furthermore, her appearance transcends mere performance, entering that too rarely glimpsed world of being.  She is a force of nature; a force of sexy, immoral, sluttish nature, but a force of nature nonetheless.  She is of course doomed, and Brooks never escaped the role for the rest of her career, but her place in cinema history and in immortality was beyond secure. (more…)

Read Full Post »