January 25, 2020
Bergman, Berg and Hudson Yards
A few weeks ago I ended one of my posts with a photo of Ingmar Bergman as an angel. I am a huge fan. His films are unforgettable experiences. I think that I have seen most of his works. He is not only a director, but a poet, an artist, a musician … If you have not seen anything by him, I recommend that you start with Fanny and Alexander. If you can get a hold of the mini-series, which he originally made for Swedish TV, they are superior to the theatrical version. Every time I see this film, I feel like I am devoting myself to a luxurious classic novel. A masterpiece. In any case, you will never forget the opening scene. Here is a still from it.
This past week has been pretty stressful, because I had a number of issues to solve or attempt to solve. The art world is complicated and full of drama, that’s for sure.
As a result I didn’t get to read my book at all (the Girl at the Door … an Italian novel) and whenever I let a whole week pass without reading, I feel a little bit lost. As if part of my world has been taken away. That novel is very difficult. I don’t know what to think of it yet.
I did get to practice every day, thank God, but I can’t say I accomplished much as my mind was often distracted with other things.
One great thing that happened was that I managed to catch the last performance of Wozzeck at the MET. This opera is one of the greatest works of art ever created. Listening to it is like watching a Shakespeare play. It takes a few minutes to get adjusted to the language, but once you do, the magic begins. Berg is one of those rare geniuses who is so gifted that even in the most rigid of forms, he achieves absolute freedom and mind blowing beauty.
Just look at this picture of him. That’s exactly what his music sounds like. Beautiful, desturbed, depressed, brilliant, insightful, extreme, painful, hopeless, disastrous, sublime … I will never get enough of it.
I wasn’t crazy about the new production. I loved the old one, which was minimalist. All I remember from it is the HUGE red moon during the murder scene. This new production, like Lulu a couple of years ago, tries to do too much with the scenery. There is constantly something happening on the stage: people moving around, animation, more animation, lights, effects. As if whoever designed the sets was afraid that the audience needs the visuals in order not to be bored. Unfortunately all this action took away from the music. If one listens carefully and is not distracted constantly, one will hear the musical commentary and transformations in the interludes, all of them are absolutely brilliant. In this production the music became the background to the action on the stage. So, when the most powerful moments came, they were experienced visually rather than emotionally through the sound. I can’t believe that there was animation during the huge culmination of the opera. That was ridiculous. People have to trust Berg and let him be. If anything, that moment is absolutely still. Just sound. The hall should be completely dark. It really is the sound of the end of the world, whatever that means to you.
I think the scenery was some commentary on nuclear war or global warming, I am not sure … I didn’t read much about it. It is not that it didn’t correspond to the play and the opera. It did. But it was too much, too busy, too overpowering and unnecessary.
In general I don’t care much for spectacles in the opera. I think the MET is a place where people expect them. They clap when the curtains go up and love to see horses on the stage. Or Elephants. Huge scenes with elaborate decors. Poppy fields that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Golden domes and spectacular costumes.
I go for the music.
This weekend is Chinese New Year, one of my favorite holidays in the city. I plan to celebrate at Momofoku Kawi at Hudson Yards with two special friends. Then maybe go to Chinatown or see an exhibit at the new arts space near the Hudson Yards. Happy Year of the Rat. I forget what that means, but hopefully something very exciting will happen that doesn’t involve real rats. We sure have enough of them in this city.
Hudson Yards is one of those new developments in the city that I don’t know what to think about.
On one hand I am curious about it and might have even liked it when my kids were babies. It is a good place to walk around in the winter with a stroller. On another hand, I find all of these new developments and building extremely overwhelming and depressing. An extreme manifestation of new wealth, banality and greed. As if all the Trumps in the world are gathering to build fortresses in which to hide once the planet goes to hell. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have vast palaces underground and special escape routes out of the city. The way the Communists had underneath their party buildings.
The one thing I love there is a sculpture on the high line of a black woman, called “BriCK House.”… The artist is Simone Leigh. I need not explain it. The artist pretty much says it all.
My goal of creating more healthy work habits has been a complete disaster so far.
Hopefully next week will be more balanced.
Thanks for reading. Here is a picture of my daughter and I after her band concert last week.