Forgotbusters at The Solute

TMM.redskelton

This summer, the writers at The Solute have been exploring once-successful but now-neglected films in a series, “Forgotbusters: The Early Years.” The original Forgotbusters series was written by Nathan Rabin for The Dissolve, so this series, focused on films released before 1980, is a collective tribute to Rabin and the old place. For my entry, I wrote about two blockbuster comedies from 1965, The Great Race and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. You can read about them at The Solute.

Introducing a New Series at The Solute

Buckrogersserial

If you’ve enjoyed my summer coverage of movie serials in Fates Worse Than Death, I invite you to check out a new serial-related feature at The Solute: in Tune In Next Week, I’ll be watching and reviewing the same kinds of serials one episode at a time rather than over the course of a week. I explain more about this approach in this introductory article, as well as setting up the first serial I’ll be covering: 1939’s Buck Rogers, starring Flash Gordon star Buster Crabbe. The weekly approach will probably be a little different from what I did in Fates Worse Than Death, but I plan to continue that series here in the summer, and I expect the two formats to complement one another. (I also don’t plan on repeating coverage of serials I’ve already written about here.) New installments of Tune In Next Week will appear on The Solute on Saturday mornings. Come on over!

Wichita Symphony Orchestra: “The Gershwin Experience”

Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Hege, Music Director and Conductor
Lisa Vroman, soprano
Rick Faugno, dancer/vocalist
Jeffrey Biegel, piano

I reviewed “The Gershwin Experience,” a concert with multimedia elements (including still photos and archival footage projected onto a screen) celebrating the music of George Gershwin, presented by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra with the guest artists listed above. Many of Gershwin’s classic songs were performed, as well as the complete Rhapsody in Blue and excerpts from some of Gershwin’s other instrumental works. You can read my review for the Eagle here.

Wichita Symphony Orchestra: Handel/Mozart, Messiah

I had the opportunity to review the recent performance of Messiah by the Wichita Symphony Orchestra and Chorus this weekend. The version they performed was the 1789 revision of George Frideric Handel’s work by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. My review for The Wichita Eagle can be found here.

Messiah
George Frideric Handel, orchestrated by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Hege, Music Director and Conductor

Janet E. Brown, Soprano
Barbara Rearick, Mezzo-soprano
Dinyar Vania, Tenor
Timothy LeFebvre, Baritone

Wichita Symphony Orchestra Chorus
Michael Hanawalt, Chorus Director

Short Fiction at Defenestration

FG.Aura

I’m pleased to announce that a short “fake nonfiction” piece of mine has been published at Defenestration, “A Literary Magazine Devoted to Humor.” “Queen Aura’s Address to the People of Planet Mongo Upon Her Coronation Day” is just what it sounds like, a speech by the erstwhile Princess of Mongo eulogizing her father, Ming the Merciless, and setting a course for her planet’s future destiny. Regular readers of Fates Worse Than Death will recognize this as an outgrowth of my interest in pulp characters and, from my review of the 1936 Flash Gordon serial, my conviction that Aura is “the real hero of the story, resourceful, determined, and intense.” I hope you enjoy it.

Wichita Symphony Orchestra with Sarah Chang, Violin

Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Hege, Music Director and Conductor
Sarah Chang, Violin

Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, Richard Strauss
West Side Story Suite for Violin and Orchestra, Leonard Bernstein (arr. David Newman)
Tzigane, Maurice Ravel
La Valse, Maurice Ravel

I reviewed the opening concert of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s Classics Concerts series for The Wichita Eagle; the article can be read here.

Revisiting Farinelli il Castrato at The Solute

Farinelli

Gérard and Andrée Corbiau’s 1994 film Farinelli il Castrato was released in the US twenty years ago this month. At the time of its release, the film received a lot of attention for its use of digital editing to simulate the castrato‘s unique vocal qualities. I took a look at it to see how it holds up as cutting-edge technology and as a drama about some age-old concerns (sex, money, and artistry). Visit The Solute to read the article.

Wichita Symphony Orchestra with Samuel Ramey: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle

Bluebeard.Chihuly

Béla Bartók: Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, Op. 11

Samuel Ramey as Bluebeard
Nancy Maultsby as Judith

Wichita Symphony Orchestra
Daniel Hege, Music Director and Conductor
Marie Allyn King, Stage Director

This past weekend I had the opportunity to hear the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Bartók’s 1911 opera with Samuel Ramey in the title role, enhanced by Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures (seen above). A deeply penetrating psychological study, the opera is based on the fairy tale about a young bride who uncovers her new husband’s bloody secrets, but the text (by Béla Balázs) replaces a literal retelling of the story with one almost completely interior. Productions typically include staging that brings out the symbolism in the text (such as Michael Powell’s 1963 production for West German television that places a nuptial bed at the center of the action), and Chihuly’s sculptures were no exception. The sculptures, in the shape of spears, bulbs, flowers, and more, represented images as diverse as an armory, a hoard of gold and jewels, and a lake of tears.

Bluebeard.Powell2

A particular challenge to the stage director is the ambiguity of the ending; Powell’s direction can be read as an interrogation of coercion and consent, with the clear implication that Judith dies to learn the truth. For the WSO’s performance, Marie Allyn King chose to keep the ending mysterious, allowing the audience to reach their own conclusions. In any case, Judith’s character arc is a tricky path for any actress, and one which Nancy Maultsby successfully threaded, both pushing Bluebeard to uncover his secrets (at one point she turned the tables on Bluebeard with a gesture as simple and economical as a hand raised in denial of him) but fearing what she may uncover. (In this regard, Bluebeard’s Castle has much in common with the sumptuous gothic horror of Roger Corman’s Poe films, making the truth something to be both yearned for and dreaded.) King’s staging and Maultsby’s performance suggested, at least to this viewer, that Judith ultimately fell victim to the powerlessness of being put on a pedestal: the prison of royalty. As Ramey said in a Q&A after the performance, “She was warned!”

Bluebeard.Powell1

Here’s what I wrote for the Wichita Eagle.

Wichita Symphony with Stephen Hough, piano

Sergei Prokofiev: Symphony No. 1 in D Major, Op. 25, “Classical”
Ludwig van Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19 and Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15
Stephen Hough, piano

British pianist (and composer, author, etc.) Stephen Hough joined the Wichita Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Daniel Hege for a performance of two Beethoven piano concertos and Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony. You can read my brief write-up of the concert for The Wichita Eagle here.