Claude Rains, this most patrician and elegant of screen actors, still sustains a fascination for the average filmgoer. And his life story is full of surprises: He spoke cockney and had been abused as a child. In Mr. Skeffington, he tells Bette Davis that his success is a rags-to-riches story. In David Skal’s Claude Rains: An Actor’s Voice (University Press of Kentucky) that parallel is made...
The irony behind the early censure of Tosca (1900) as a “shabby little shocker,” unworthy of Puccini’s talents in the eyes of the then musical sophisticates, is that its current overwhelming popularity does not entirely discredit those initial criticisms. Based upon a trashy 1887 melodrama written by Victorien Sardou as a vehicle for the flamboyant, equally overripe Sarah Bernhardt, such critical reactions...
The subterranean quality of Bartok’s ominous score for Bluebeard’s Castle, the dark harmonic undercurrent of his only opera, may seem surprisingly tame for those familiar with the shock waves of dissonant sound outbursts characterizing the Hungarian composer’s later works, where music spills boldly across a broad limitless tapestry like the splatter of a black-and-white Pollock canvas. Unlike Pollock, Bartok usually...
The Mahler canon of great, sometimes unruly symphonies has increased its hold on music lovers with the passing years. The undeniably compulsive emotional power of these sublime works has long challenged the mastery and stamina of many great conductors...
The Milwaukee Rep’s season opener, Nikolai Gogol’s
classic satire The Government Inspector,
turned out to be a much-needed winner on all counts. After an indifferent
summer season, opening-night audiences were delighted with Jeffrey Hatcher’s
hilariously spiky, refreshingly updated translation, demonstrating once again
director Joseph Hanreddy’s knack at coordinating a talented cast of skillful
players into an ensemble...
The beautiful black-and-white photo of Vivien Leigh on the cover of Molly Haskell's compelling new book, Frankly, My Dear:Gone With the Wind Revisited
(Yale University Press), casts an eerie shadow on the dust cover. It's
an ominous reminder of the exhausting two-year search for the right
actress to portray Scarlett O'Hara and of Leigh's own mortality, but
the haunting photo gives no hint at the brilliance...
Of all the great composers from the past century, Mahler cannot be
accused of reticence or lack of confidence. None of his work, however,
has the overreaching ambition of the choral Eighth, often inaccurately
referred to as the "symphony of a thousand," a slight exaggeration of
its stupefying number of participants. Comprising eight soloists,
double chorus, children's chorus and an orchestra of at least 120
players, and blessed with Mahler's own reverential benediction of
creating a work that reaches out...
Renée Fleming is one of the most glamorous and renowned opera stars in the world. Now at the pinnacle of her spectacularly successful career, her public image highlights a generation of performers who are evolving from the traditional role of opera singer into the more contemporary view of "singing actress." Yet, in one of the most difficult of the vocal arts, challenging...
The Magic Flute concerns a remarkably innocent little instrument
that charms all who listen to it. Its magic leads Tamino through a
labyrinth of three trials to determine whether his virtue and purity
are worthy to win the hand of his beloved Pamina and to join the secret
brotherhood worshipping at the Temple of Nature, Wisdom and Reason
under the guardianship of Sarastro, who holds Pamina captive, wishing
to release her from the influence of darkness and superstition embodied
by her mother, the Queen...