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Arts & Culture

Opera preview: Rare, rarer, rarest

Jun 10, 2008
Mary Wilson as the Queen of Spain in 2008 production of una cosi rara  300 pixels
Ken Howard, Opera theater | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, June 10, 2008 - Twenty-six years ago, Opera Theatre of St. Louis mounted a new production of a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart favorite, "Cosi fan tutte." This opera is often presented as something of a joke about the duplicity of women, but according to the vision of the polymathic genius Jonathan Miller, who was stage director, and the extraordinary musicality of the late Calvin Simmons, who was conductor, the 1982 "Cosi" emerged as something considerably more than another misogynistic romp. It was, in fact, no joke at all: Similar to the Enlightenment gem "Una cosa rara," currently on stage, "Cosi" was a luminous revelation of an Age of Reason inquiry into the nature of human beings.

William Roth
Provided | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 2, 2008 - When the St. Louis Actors' Studio announced its 2007-08 season, the first four shows offered a wealth of range, with all of the titles united by the seasonal theme of "The Family Dynamic." Everything from three-hour dramas to sitcom-like comedies was represented on the debut slate, which included "The Late Henry Moss" and "A Delicate Balance." Though that kind of aggressive, "anything goes" approach might be a surprise for a new company, it's not shocking for a company trying to make its mark in a booming market, led by a trio of seasoned theater professionals.

'Not your mother's plush'

Jun 9, 2008
from 2008 crammed organisms show 300 pixels
Rachel Heidenry | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 9, 2008 - A furry black creature with big teeth and pink spikes stretched out its arms in welcome at the Crammed Organisms plush show – an exhibit in four parts.

Michael Browning, a student at Washington University, came with his roommates to check out the show's first event at Delmar's Star Clipper Comics. Browning's childhood teddy bear, Teddy, looked nothing like the two-headed girls, green blobs and other works.

Gardens shimmer in the sun in Hermann

Jun 8, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis  Beacon: June 8, 2008 - At least it wasn't raining.

That's what we laughingly told ourselves as we braved the heat and muggy conditions to visit the gardens on the annual Hermann garden tour and plant sale -- and then took in the art fair in the center part of town. Better a hot, bright sun than the almost biblical deluges of late. As usual, the gardens were a delight.

Circus Flora soars

Jun 7, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 7, 2008 - Circus Flora opened its 21st season in St. Louis on Friday, June 6, with one of the best shows in its history. Anchored by two superb trapeze acts – three when you count the deceptively goofy-appearing high-bar antics of clown Giovanni Zoppe, known as “Nino” – the show started strong and stayed that way.

The Lens: Secret-agent homme

Jun 6, 2008
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Music Box Films

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 6, 2008 - Sometime around 1964 or '65, after the success of the first James Bond films, movie screens - especially drive-ins and neighborhood houses - were besieged by the Attack of the Pseudo-Bonds. From America's Robert Vaughn, (whose TV series "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was recycled for theatrical release) to Sean Connery's brother, any leading man who could part his hair, hold a gun and look presentable in a dinner jacket had a shot at temporary stardom.

The Lens: Carried away

Jun 5, 2008
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New Line Cinema

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 5, 2008 - It's time for me to come out of the closet: I'm a guy who just saw the new "Sex and the City" film. And I liked it. Not just a little bit, either. A lot. I laughed a lot and actually cried a bit, too, but let's not dwell on that, because dudes don't do that.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 5, 2008 - “Una Cosa Rara” was so popular in 18th-century Vienna that when it first was performed in 1786, it overshadowed Mozart’s new opera “The Marriage of Figaro.”

Mozart and Vincente Martin y Soler, who composed the music of “Cosa Rara,” were, in a sense, school chums. Both studied privately under Bologna music composition master Giovanni Battista Martini. And the libretto, or story, of “Cosa Rara” was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, a frequent partner with Mozart.

The Lens: Woody, take two

Jun 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 3, 2008 - An earlier entry on Woody Allen was left incomplete, not from any attempt to create suspense but solely due to the limitations of my cut-and-paste editing technique, which sometimes proves to be biased toward the first task.

So to finish my point ...

What separates most of Allen's work since roughly the early '80s from his earlier films, and what frustrates many of the preconceptions of his critics, is a kind of single-mindedness in his comic approach.

Twangfest adapts to stay alive

Jun 3, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 3, 2008 - These are hard times in the world of Americana music, a genre that spans all manner of styles from folk, blues, country and bluegrass to rockabilly, alternative country and roots rock.

With CD sales plummeting across the board, the small, independent labels that specialize in Americana have been hit especially hard. An Americana radio format has never really taken off. And two magazines that wrote about the genre with depth and clarity, No Depression and Harp, have shuttered in recent months.

three bed sheet sculptures are cast bronze with rich, blackish patinas. 2008. 300 pals
Courtesy of the gallery | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: June 2, 2008 - Thank god for artists like Joseph Havel, who make fascinating objects out of the simplest stuff and leave plenty of room for humor.

The Lens: Family ties

May 30, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 30, 2008 -  Though I suppose it made headlines at the time, I don't recall hearing or reading anything about the 1972 death of Barbara Baekeland, an American socialite who married (and divorced) the grandson of the inventor of Bakelite and was murdered by her 25-year-old son, Tony. (But I should point out that until a few years ago I didn't even know what Bakelite was.)

Review: A 'Butterfly' that didn't ascend

May 29, 2008
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Photo by Ken Howard | Opera Theatre St. Louis

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - In its 33 seasons of life, Opera Theatre of St. Louis has grown into a company of international renown, but equally as important, it has brought to hometown audiences productions of extraordinary quality. “Madame Butterfly” has made regular appearances. The first production was in Forest Park at the Muny, and Butterfly under the stars and the gigantic fans was a night to remember. Subsequent productions, many of them equally memorable, were mounted in 1984, 1992 and 1997.

The Lens: Silver city

May 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - Local cinephiles might consider temporarily abandoning the darkness of the movie theater for the bright lights of the bookstore on Thursday, June 5, when novelist Marisa Silver reads from her lauded new work, “The God of War,” at Left Bank Books , 399 N. Euclid Ave.

Once upon a time, there was 'Sex in the City'

May 29, 2008
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New Line Cinema

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - Can "Sex and the City" be just a movie - or does it have to carry the weight of feminism and social commentary, all the while teetering on precarious 4-inch Manolo Blahnik stiletto heels?

That's a question Carrie Bradshaw might have asked after scanning a theater jam-packed with more women than seats. With many clutching cosmos, the women in this preview audience Wednesday night were obviously psyched about catching up with Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her gal pals Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis).

The Lens: EVERYTHING = CINEMA

May 29, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 29, 2008 - The title of Richard Brody's new book, "Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard" (Metropolitan Books, 702 pages, $40), comes from one of those aphorisms about life and art that flow so easily from its subject, a man who once listed his name in a film's titles as Jean-Luc Cinema Godard. To use a more famous quote, Godard's belief that "Photography is truth, and cinema is truth 24 times a second" has guided his work for the last 50 years, a prodigious output currently standing at more than 75 films and videos of every shape, size and form.

This year's barbecue costs more

May 29, 2008
2008 graphic
St. Louis Beacon archives

The article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 29, 2008 - Here is today's good news, St. Louis: There will be 97-cent pork steaks this Memorial Day weekend -- no ifs, ands or butts about it.

Once again, both Shop 'N Save and Schnucks are promising they "WILL NOT BE UNDERSOLD" on that Gateway City favorite -- pork butts sliced into steaks. And, there's price protection on fresh brats sold in bulk packages, too -- about $1.99/pound.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 29, 2008 - 

At Bruno David

The three shows on view at Bruno David are definitely worth a look.

The Lens: Sydney Pollack, 1934-2008

May 27, 2008

This article appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: May 27, 2008 - Sydney Pollack, director, producer and surprisingly effective character actor, was one of a handful of filmmakers who emerged in the early days of television drama and graduated to a successful career in feature films, establishing himself in the late '60s and '70s as the director-of-choice for some of the most prominent movie stars of the New Hollywood.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Act one, scene one: The young woman, 18, with dark hair pulled into a loose ponytail, leaves her high school and heads for the theater. Soon, she finds herself sitting in the dark, fifth row from the stage, off to the side.

The lights go down. The opera begins. Clayton High School senior Sumi Garg waits to take the stage during the Opera Theatre of St. Louis’ rehearsal of “The Tales of Hoffmann.”

It’s a small part, her first in opera. It’s her first time even seeing an opera.

Lent by The Capital Group Foundation, 2002.05 © 2006 The Gordon Parks Foundation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: As I was walking through the “Bare Witness: Photographs by Gordon Parks” exhibit at the St. Louis Museum, I was reminded of when I first became familiar with Gordon Parks.

I was a student at Iowa State University on one of my rare "study sessions" at the library. As I remember it, things weren’t going too well and my mind kept wandering off from my studies. So, I got up and looked for photography books.

Tour de 'Hoffmann'

May 25, 2008

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Both Sigmund Freud and his renegade apostle Carl Jung were drawn to the work of the Romantic genius E. T. A. Hoffmann, a legal scholar, composer, painter, poet and, well, a drunk. No surprise really these three men would find each other. The interests and concerns of Freud, Jung and Hoffmann, indeed their lives’ work, were parallel. The foundation of the industry of all three giants was built on journeys into the human unconscious and on examinations of fantasy and the ways in which the unconscious and fantasy manifest themselves in human behavior as well as in great human achievements such as art.

Jennifer Johnson mezzo soprano 300 pxls 2008
Ken Howard | Opera Theatre of St. Louis | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The sensation of a young singer stepping in for an established star -- a "Star is Born" moment -- is adding excitement to Opera Theatre of St. Louis' production of Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann."

On Sat. night, May 24, mezzo-soprano Jennifer Johnson, 23, steps into the dazzling role of Nicklausse, Hoffmann's great companion and muse in "The Tales of Hoffmann." In February she won the Metropolitan Opera National Council's annual auditions and for the next six weeks she is subbing for a resting mezzo soprano. The role has some of the opera's most beautiful arias.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Don't blame me, I voted for Sen. Palantine: We already knew he was influenced by "Star Wars" and "Rambo." Now, as reported on The Screengrab, a Columbia University economist writing in the Financial Times has constructed a Rube Goldberg-like string of events in which Ronald Reagan's economic policies of the 1980s were made possible by ... Travis Bickle. Coming soon: How Leslie Nielsen and Lloyd Bridges helped Reagan handle the flight controllers' strike.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This year' 36th annual Gypsy Caravan marks a kind of homecoming for Belleville antiques dealers Al and Jeannine Meinen, as the giant Memorial Day crafts and antiques market returns to the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus after a seven-year hiatus.

"It's always a lot of fun," said Al Meinen, who with his wife, has sold vintage furniture and other primitives at 20 Gypsy Caravan events. "We certainly sell, but we're always buying too, always looking," he said. "And we love visiting with people from all over the country."

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Robert Hunt, who is already firmly established as our most prolific correspondent, has been writing on film for nearly 30 years, appearing in an array of publications, both here and elsewhere. His lengthiest association was with the Riverfront Times, where he served as a film and DVD critic in the 1980s and '90s. Robert was also the manager of the Tivoli Theatre, curated (and self-financed) several excellent film series (I remember him manning the projector for a screening of "Mean Streets" in the late '70s at the First Unitarian Church), and was the first artistic director of the St. Louis Film Festival (before "International" was added to our name).

Left to right: Raphe Makarewicz, Cameron Davis and Andrew Borba, who plays the title character, will star in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' production of Richard III in Forest Park. 2008 300 pxls
Provided by Shakespeare Festival | St. Louis Beacon archives

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: He's terrible, really. A horror. He's as twisted on the outside as he is on the inside. Born a younger son to an ambitious politician, he hacks his way into power using the joint weapons of deception and fear. He aligns himself with clever but amoral men who do his bidding. He undermines the state. He is a nightmare.

Russell Strom (left) and Scott Lowenbaum were married May 17 at Temple Israel.  300 pxls 2008
Richard Weiss | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A gay wedding in St. Louis is no longer an extraordinary affair. Though there is no official count, ministers and rabbis will tell you that dozens of gay weddings have been celebrated in churches and synagogues here in recent years.One took place on Saturday at Temple Israel when Scott Lowenbaum married Russell Strom.

Meredith, Cece and Justin Harris 300 px;s 2008
Provided by the Harris family | St. Louis Beacon archive

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: The Harris family has decided to move.

Justin and Meredith Harris and baby Cecilia are leaving New Orleans. They will soon put their dog into a rented truck with all their possessions and move from their traditional home in Uptown to a ranch house in Glendale in St. Louis County.

Photo of David MacRunnel 300 pxls 2008
Photo provided by David MacRunnel

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It all started, this fascination with vinyl record albums, says David MacRunnel, back when he was 2 years old.

"My mother (Linda) used to force me to listen to records, her music, Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis, 24-7," says MacRunnel of Creve Coeur.

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