Saturday, June 30, 2012

And Another List

Below is a listing of opera performances Andrew and I attended within the last year.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte”, performed by Minnesota Opera

Jules Massenet’s “Werther”, performed by Minnesota Opera

Gaetano Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor”, performed by Minnesota Opera

Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”, performed by Minnesota Opera


Our opera-going last season was confined to Minnesota Opera.

I have no idea how many Minnesota Opera productions we will attend next season—the 2012-2013 Minnesota Opera prospectus is not appealing to us; it is possible we will skip the season altogether—and I have no idea how many Minnesota Concert Opera presentations and University Of Minnesota Opera Theatre productions we will attend.

We WILL be going to Chicago next season, twice, to catch four Lyric Opera Of Chicago productions.

I have never been to Lyric Opera Of Chicago, and I have no idea what to expect.

I last updated this list on July 5, 2011.

The McGuire

The McGuire Theater at The Walker Art Center.

The McGuire seats only 385 persons, but the size of its stage is that of an 1100-seat theater. The same is true of the theater’s technical specifications and backstage amenities, all designed to accommodate complicated productions of a large dance company.

The McGuire is, by far, the ugliest theater I have ever entered.

Andrew says the McGuire is the ugliest theater on the planet.

Andrew’s mother calls the McGuire “a horror”.

Andrew’s father says it is regrettable that the McGuire is fireproof.

Another List

Below is a chronological listing of dance performances Andrew and I attended over the past year.


Mariinsky Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

Swan Lake [Peter Illich Tchaikovsky/Marius Petipa-Konstantin Sergeyev]


Mariinsky Ballet
Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

La Bayadere [Ludwig Minkus/Marius Petipa-Vakhtang Chabukiani-Vladimir Ponomarev]


Scottish Ballet
Orpheum Theatre

Kings 2 Ends [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart-Steve Reich/Jorma Elo]
Song Of The Earth [Gustav Mahler/Kenneth MacMillan]


Merce Cunningham Dance Company
McGuire Theater, Walker Art Center

Antic Meet [John Cage/Merce Cunningham]
RainForest [David Tudor/Merce Cunningham]
Pond Way [Brian Eno/Merce Cunningham]


Houston Ballet
Orpheum Theatre

ONE/end/ONE [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart/Jorma Elo]
In The Night [Frederic Chopin/Jerome Robbins]
Rush [Bohuslav Martinu/Christopher Wheeldon]


Ballet Preljocaj
Orpheum Theatre

Snow White [Gustav Mahler/Angelin Preljocaj]


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Orpheum Theatre

Arden Court [William Boyce/Paul Taylor]
Minus 16 [Popular Music/Ohad Naharin]
Revelations [Spirituals/Alvin Ailey]


Kansas City Ballet
Kauffman Center For The Performing Arts
Kansas City

Serenade [Peter Illich Tchaikovsky/George Balanchine]
Afternoon Of A Faun [Claude Debussy/Jerome Robbins]
Les Gentilhommes [George Frideric Handel/Peter Martins]
Souvenirs [Samuel Barber/Todd Bolender]


Our rate of dance-going did not decline last season, even though Minneapolis lacks a full-time, large-scale ballet company. Andrew and I attended roughly the same number of dance performances last season as we had the previous three seasons, when we had enjoyed easy access to Boston Ballet and New York City Ballet.

Last season was the first time since I met Andrew that we did not attend a performance of New York City Ballet. To make amends, we SHALL see New York City Ballet next season, because NYCB will visit Minneapolis—and will even bring its own orchestra.

There are two full-time, small-scale ballet/modern dance companies based in the Twin Cities, James Sewell Ballet and Minnesota Dance Theatre, but we never attend any of their performances. Perhaps we are foolish for ignoring them.

Next season, four different organizations in the Twin Cities will present visiting dance troupes.

The Northrop Dance Series, under the auspices of The University Of Minnesota, remains the big-budget sponsor of visiting dance companies. Northrop is the sponsor of NYCB’s upcoming visit to Minneapolis as well as next season’s visits by the Joffrey and Béjart companies, among many others.

The new Cowles Center For The Performing Arts in downtown Minneapolis—which we have not yet visited—will offer a full array of modern-dance events next season.

The Ordway Center in Saint Paul, too, presents a modern-dance series.

The McGuire Theater at The Walker Art Center is also home to numerous modern-dance presentations.

Over the last few decades, Minneapolis has become a center of sorts for modern dance, perhaps the most important after New York. There is a sizable and dedicated audience for modern dance here—but I have a limited appetite for modern dance, and remain indifferent to the proliferation of modern-dance activity around town.

Next season, we will make a point of catching NYCB, the Joffrey and the Béjart—but I doubt whether we will attend many of the other events.

I last updated this list on July 8, 2011.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Wurtele

The Guthrie auditorium with the thrust stage, one of three theaters at the new Guthrie.

The theater with the thrust stage has a capacity of 1100 patrons, 340 fewer than the original Guthrie, which also had featured a thrust stage (the original Guthrie was, shamefully, demolished in 2006 after only 43 years of use).

Updating My Lists

July 1 approaches—which signals that it is time for me to update my lists!

Below is a chronological listing of theater performances Andrew and I attended over the past year.


Simon Gray’s “Butley” at the Duchess Theatre, London

Harold Pinter’s “Betrayal” at the Comedy Theatre, London

Tom Stoppard’s “Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead” at the Haymarket Theatre, London

George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” at the Garrick Theatre, London

Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at The National Theatre, London

The Richard Rodgers-Oscar Hammerstein II musical, “Oklahoma!”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington

William Inge’s “Bus Stop” at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

Tracy Letts’s “August: Osage County” at Park Square Theatre, Saint Paul

Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs” at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington

Sam Shepard’s “True West” at Minneapolis Theatre Garage, Minneapolis

William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis

William Douglas-Home’s “The Reluctant Debutante” at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

The Cy Coleman-Dorothy Fields-Neil Simon musical, “Sweet Charity”, at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington

Doug Wright’s “I Am My Own Wife” at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis

A. R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room” at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

Anton Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya”, a presentation of The University Of Minnesota Department Of Theatre Arts And Dance, at the Rarig Center, Minneapolis

Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”, a presentation of The University Of Minnesota Department Of Theatre Arts And Dance, at the Rarig Center, Minneapolis

Brandon Thomas’s “Charley’s Aunt” at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

Peter Quilter’s “End Of The Rainbow” at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

Frederick Knott’s “Dial M For Murder” at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis

Jean Anouilh’s “The Lark”, as adapted by Lillian Hellman, at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

Noel Coward’s “Hay Fever” at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

Neil Simon’s “Lost In Yonkers” at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

Donald Margulies’s “Time Stands Still” at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

John Patrick Shanley’s “Doubt” at Park Square Theatre, Saint Paul

Jeffrey Hatcher’s “Compleat Female Stage Beauty” at Minneapolis Theatre Garage, Minneapolis

Beth Henley’s “Crimes Of The Heart” at Bloomington Civic Theatre, Bloomington

Agatha Christie’s “The Hollow” at Theater In The Round, Minneapolis

Neil Simon’s “Laughter On The 23rd Floor” at Park Square Theatre, Saint Paul


By my count, we attended thirty theater performances, five in London and twenty-five in the Twin Cities. The total is roughly double the number of performances we attended in any of the previous three years, when Andrew and I were living in Boston. Boston is not a theater town, while Minneapolis very much IS a theater town.

My list reveals a few notable facts.

For the first time since I met Andrew, we did not go to New York within the last year and, consequently, we saw nothing on Broadway.

We did not attend any of the touring Broadway productions playing in Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

We caught only two musicals, and both were in Bloomington.

Local repertory companies avoided challenging plays last season, perhaps because of the economy.

We went to The Guthrie only five times.

For the sixth consecutive year, no play by Henrik Ibsen was staged in the city in which we were residing.

For the first time, we saw two productions of the same play within a single season. Since the play was “The Cherry Orchard”, one of the greatest dramas ever written, we were engrossed in the onstage proceedings both times.


The best production we witnessed within the last year was an extraordinary production of “True West” at tiny Minneapolis Theatre Garage.

Park Square Theatre’s presentation of “August: Osage County” was better than the original Broadway production. It was much subtler, with a better-balanced cast, and nowhere near so much played for laughs as what we had encountered in New York.

The Guthrie’s presentations, dripping money, were overstuffed and overproduced. Except for “End Of The Rainbow”, a London import, the Guthrie productions we experienced were more or less awful (but very expensive-looking).


By my calculation, Andrew and I have now attended 121 theater productions since February 2006.

I last updated this list on July 3, 2011.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Catherine Deneuve In “Indochine”

Catherine Deneuve reigns in "Indochine". That is, she presides over its second-rate fiction with the manner of an empress who knows her powers are constitutionally limited but who continues to take her duties seriously. She can't change the course of the film, but her lofty presence keeps it from flying apart.

Vincent Canby

Thursday, June 14, 2012

“Custom Will Reconcile People To Any Atrocity”

George Bernard Shaw, more gadfly than thinker, offered aphorisms by the truckload—and the aphorisms, more often than not, contained little if any truth.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


More than five years ago, Andrew, writing about our plans for a 2007 summer trip, revealed that his parents, for years and years and years, had requested brochures from Canada’s two summer theater festivals, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival and The Shaw Festival, without once attending a single performance at either festival.

To this day, Andrew’s parents still have not gone near Stratford or Niagara-On-The-Lake (although, in an internet age, they no longer find it necessary to order brochures through the mail in order to learn about the summer productions at each venue).

That situation will change within the next two months.

Three years ago, over Labor Day Weekend 2009, Andrew and I decided to attend The Shaw Festival.

Andrew and I were living in Boston at the time, and there was nothing in Boston we had wanted to do over Labor Day Weekend—and, looking for a short out-of-town trip for the holiday weekend, we had settled upon The Shaw Festival, there being frequent and convenient flights between Boston and Buffalo. It had been a snap for us to fly to Buffalo, cross the Canadian border, and be in Niagara-On-The-Lake in no time flat.

We enjoyed that long weekend, even though summer 2009 had not, from a repertory perspective, been a good year for The Shaw Festival. 2009 was the year The Shaw presented all ten of Noel Coward’s one-act plays, and such a concentration of little-known Coward was not a hit with critics or the public.

We saw five plays that weekend: two Shaw plays, neither from his top drawer (“The Devil’s Disciple” and “In Good King Charles’s Golden Days”); an O’Neill play not among O’Neill’s finest (“A Moon For The Misbegotten”); a cynical, post-war commercial comedy (“Born Yesterday”); and a Sondheim musical, lamely staged and lamely presented (“Sunday In The Park With George”). We had managed to avoid all the Coward plays, but we had been forced to see other plays we would never have gone out of our way to see.

That weekend, Andrew and I had found the quality of performance at The Shaw somewhat lower than we had expected. In 2009, we thought The Shaw had been two notches below London’s National Theatre and one notch below The Guthrie—which would not have mattered much had the repertory on offer been more pleasing to us.

This summer, The Shaw has a splendid lineup of plays, much better than 2009—and we are going to return to Niagara-On-The-Lake the week after Labor Day and see all ten mainstage productions.

Andrew’s parents will join us—in fact, it was they who suggested the trip once they saw how appealing was this year’s Shaw repertory—and Alex will be participating in the trip, too. The Shaw will be everyone’s 2012 summer vacation.

It should be a low-key and stress-free few days: a daily matinee and a daily evening performance, interspersed with lots of good food. Andrew’s father proclaimed that we will be required to be in STRICT relaxation mode, sleeping in each morning, enjoying a nice breakfast, moseying around town for an hour or two, enjoying a nice lunch, attending the matinee, enjoying a post-matinee afternoon tea (if we feel like it), enjoying a nice dinner, and attending the evening performance (followed by a light late-night supper if we feel like it).

Andrew’s mother should love it—and so should everyone else.

We shall fly into Toronto (much easier to get to from Minneapolis than Buffalo), rent a car, and drive down to Niagara-On-The-Lake. Our hotel will be the same hotel at which Andrew and I stayed three years ago. Andrew and I liked that hotel very much, and we are confident that Andrew’s parents will like it, too. It is perfectly situated for walking to all three venues used by The Shaw.

There are many parallels between The Shaw and The Guthrie.

The Shaw has roughly the same annual budget as The Guthrie. Both The Shaw and The Guthrie use three theaters. Both institutions offer roughly the same number of productions each year. Both employ literally hundreds of persons full-time. Both tend to offer traditional stagings. Both are, I believe, inherently conservative institutions, in the business of preservation, not innovation. The Shaw’s Jackie Maxwell and The Guthrie’s Joe Dowling are at the very top of their profession, among the most respected theater professionals in the English-speaking world.

Both institutions have weathered the economic downturn with ease, neither reducing the number of annual presentations and neither suffering a loss of quality.

The same apparently cannot be said of The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, which has seen its audience contract for years on end. (The Shaw Festival’s audience grew by five per cent in 2011; The Stratford Shakespeare Festival’s audience contracted by thirteen per cent in 2011, its tenth consecutive annual decline.)

There must be something wrong with The Stratford Shakespeare Festival. If its audience is dwindling, either it is offering the wrong repertory mix or its productions are displeasing.

According to Andrew’s father, The Stratford Shakespeare Festival was a major theatrical destination in the 1970s—in fact, it was THE unmissable summer festival for a period lasting more than ten years, beginning in the late 1960s and ending in the early 1980s.

Apparently EVERYONE interested in theater—whether Canadian, American, British or Australian—attended the festival in its glory years. Productions featured the finest actors and directors from London, New York and elsewhere. Festival presentations attracted worldwide, in-depth press coverage. Productions often became the basis for major theatrical hits on both sides of The Atlantic.

Something happened in the 1980s. The festival lost its status as the world’s most vital summer festival—and with that loss came a permanent loss of cachet. The Stratford Shakespeare Festival is today just one more in an endless series of summer festivals throughout North America and Europe. No one pays much attention to it any more.

Someday I would like to attend The Stratford Shakespeare Festival—but not this year. Its announced presentations for 2012 are of far less interest to me than the presentations at The Shaw.

Someday I would also like to attend The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and the summer opera festivals in Glimmerglass and Santa Fe. In Europe, I would like to attend, at least once, the summer festivals at Edinburgh, Glyndebourne, Aix-En-Provence, Salzburg and Bayreuth—even though I am told, by persons in positions to know, that standards at all such festivals have declined grievously in recent decades.

In 2009, Andrew and I (and my family) were in Salzburg for two days coincident with The Salzburg Music Festival. The cheapest ticket to a festival event was $450.00—for a Martha Argerich recital—and, needless to say, we were unwilling to shell out $450.00 per seat to hear Argerich (unless she had promised to blow up the concert hall for a final encore). It is no wonder that Andrew’s father refers to The Salzburg Music Festival as The Salzburg Money Festival.

Festival prices are getting out of hand. Five days at The Shaw Festival will cost us more than ten days in Paris—an alternative destination we considered but rejected—because we are laying out thousands of dollars for theater tickets (it is too late for us to acquire money-saving season passes). Festivals may now be within reach only of the well-heeled—and, for me, that detracts significantly from their appeal.

In the Upper Midwest, the most important summer festival, oddly, is in the State Of Minnesota. It is The Minnesota Beethoven Festival, a three-week-long event held each July in Winona and devoted primarily—but not exclusively—to chamber music.

The Minnesota Beethoven Festival, not yet ten years old, is largely unknown outside Minnesota—yet it has attracted leading musicians from all over the world since its inception. Its performances invariably sell out before the festival even commences.

Next month, for the first time, we shall attend a performance at The Minnesota Beethoven Festival. We shall attend one of two performances by the Leipzig String Quartet.

It will be our only concert or recital of the summer.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Trip Has Been Planned!

For immediately after Labor Day (and Paris as a prospect has been scratched for 2012).

Our destination:

Over five days, we shall attend eight plays, one musical and one opera.

In the order we shall see them:

Terence Rattigan’s “French Without Tears”

Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter”

George Bernard Shaw’s “The Millionaress”

Leonard Bernstein’s “Trouble In Tahiti”

Githa Sowerby’s “A Man And Some Women”

Henrik Ibsen’s “Hedda Gabler”

The Stephen Flaherty-Lynn Ahrens-Terrence McNally musical, “Ragtime”

John Guare’s “His Girl Friday”, adapted from the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play, “The Front Page”, and the Charles Lederer-Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur screenplay for the film, “His Girl Friday”

George Bernard Shaw’s “Misalliance”

William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba”

Andrew and I still have our baseball caps from three years ago!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cathedral Of Saint Paul

Cathedral Of Saint Paul (“National Shrine Of The Apostle Paul”), which sits on the highest point of land in the city of Saint Paul.

Cathedral Of Saint Paul was designed by Emmanuel Lewis Masqueray, the same French-American architect that designed The Basilica Of Saint Mary in Minneapolis.

I find it odd that two of the most important Roman Catholic edifices in America are located in the Twin Cities, the world's largest center of Lutheranism.