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Friday, February 27, 2015

In Context: Semele

The Canadian Opera Company's production of Handel's Semele comes to BAM March 4—10. Context is everything, so get even closer to the show with this curated selection of articles, interviews, and videos related to the production. Once you've seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Cuban Culture in Clear Focus

Creole Choir of Cuba at BAM in 2011. Photo: Rahav Segev
By Sandy Sawotka

When BAM President Karen Brooks Hopkins was honored last month in Havana by the Ludwig Foundation of Cuba, it spoke to BAM’s longstanding commitment to maintaining cultural links between the US and Cuba. The vibrant, eclectic artistry of the island nation has been featured memorably in numerous BAM programs. Ballet Folklórico Cutumba performed in 2002 as part of BAM’s annual DanceAfrica celebration. As part of the citywide ¡Sí Cuba! festival in 2011, BAM presented dance by Ballet Nacional de Cuba, plus a second visit by Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, and music by the Creole Choir of Cuba, the O’Farrill Family Band, the Cuban Cowboys, Nag Champayons, Delexilio, Telmary Díaz, the Pedrito Martinez Group, and Quimbombó. Red, Hot + Cuba (2012) was an all-star celebration of Cuba’s music scene, with El Tosco, Alexander Abreu, Carlos Varela, CuCu Diamantes, and other captivating artists taking the stage.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

BAM podcast: Philip Glass' Etudes

In the inaugural episode of the BAM podcast, Philip Glass and nine world-renowned pianists discuss his piano etudes and what makes them so remarkable and challenging to perform.

Glass, along with fellow composers Timo Andres, Anton Batagov, Tania Leon, and Nico Muhly; new music champion Bruce Levingston; loyal Glass interpreters Maki Namekawa and Sally Whitwell; jazz prodigy Aaron Diehl; and classical virtuoso Jenny Lin performed the etudes in a concert produced by Linda Brumbach and Pomegranate Arts during the BAM Next Wave Festival on December 5 and 6, 2014.

Monday, February 23, 2015

From the Archives: Groundbreaking Black Artistry at BAM

In honor of Black History Month, we turned to the BAM Hamm Archives to learn more about some of the numerous legendary black artists who’ve graced our stages over the years. Many of these artists deeply integrated activism and their support for civil rights and equality into their art.

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was a pioneering artist best known for singing the iconic “Ol’ Man River” in stage and film productions of Show Boat. In 1931, he also performed a one-night song recital at BAM's very own Howard Gilman Opera House. In 2015, BAM presented the story of the civil rights activist and performer in the theatrical production The Tallest Tree in the Forest.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Where Chinese Spirits Dwell—Semele's Temple

Semele's temple. Photo: Gary Beechey.
By David Hsieh

“Gong Hey Fat Choy!” Today we start the 4712th Chinese new year, the year of the ram. According to astrology, it’s the year to show your gentle hearts and creative impulses!

Many of the Chinese new year customs are known among non-Chinese. For instance, the marking of years with 12 animals; the standard greeting of “Gong Hey Fat Choy!” (in Cantonese) or “Gong Xi Fa Cai!” (in Mandarin), which means “wishing you good fortune;” giving “red packet money” to children; lighting firecrackers; watching the lion dance. But some are less known, including the act of paying tribute to one’s ancestors.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BAM Illustrated: Eugene O'Neill in Buenos Aires

Eugene O'Neill's seminal play The Iceman Cometh, now onstage at the BAM Harvey Theater, was first performed in the last decade of O'Neill's life. Years earlier, before he had any theatrical aspirations at all, O'Neill was 21, going nowhere in particular and found himself adrift in Buenos Aires.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Be my adventurous artist, audience, and idea

We’d like to think that we’re no softies here at the BAM blog and that we’re immune to Valentine’s Day sentiment. But this year, we're feeling the love. To express our amour, we looked to some of our most iconic artists for some very BAM ways to play cupid.

Send the images below to your paramours via Twitter or Facebook. Or click for larger versions to print or save to your desktop. Happy Valentine's Day!

Angels in America (2014 Next Wave Festival)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Semele in a Chinese Shrine

Steven Humes as Cadmus in 2012. Photo: Michael Cooper
By David Hsieh 

An ad appeared in London’s Daily Post on January 9, 1744: “By Particular Desire, Mr. Handel proposes to Perform, by Subscription, Twelve Times during next Lent, and engages to play two New Performances (and some of his former Oratorios, if Time will permit).”

Mr. Handel, was, of course, George Frideric Handel, the most famous opera composer and impresario in London then. But in 1744, his fortune was dwindling. Audience taste had turned from Italian to English opera and oratorio; the rival Opera of the Nobility was siphoning the aristocratic patronage he had enjoyed for the past 30 years. The ad was his attempt to establish a subscription-based model to put on shows.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Keepin' It Cool, and Real, with Kim Gordon

On February 23, Kim Gordon comes to BAM as part of our Unbound book release series with Greenlight Bookstore. The founder and bassist of Sonic Youth will talk about her influences and contemporaries—in conjunction with the release of her new memoir, Girl in a Band—in an intimate conversation interspersed with film selections. Here, we offer some insight into Gordon's cultural impact over the past few decades.

Kim Gordon by Logan Sibrel.

By Max Steele

In many ways Kim Gordon is the archetypal American artist: an iconoclastic Californian cool girl turned New York City art-world maven and punk rock legend. Profoundly critical of the art and music establishments of her time (while of course working within them), Gordon’s fruitfully mined an outsider perspective on rock and roll, performance, pleasure, and youth culture. Equally fluent in the linguas francas of punk rock and visual art, Gordon has always occupied an interesting place in the culture of the last forty years.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Goodman’s Greatest Hits

Amy Goodman. Photo: David Belisle
Amy Goodman, the investigative journalist, syndicated columnist, and the host of the daily independent global news hour, Democracy Now!, has said “The only ground rule for good reporting I know is that you don’t trade your principles for access. We call it the access of evil.” Sticking to this principal, Goodman has been able to tackle some very interesting and often tough issues and get very candid responses from her subjects. She has written five New York Times bestselling books and has received some of the highest awards in journalism. According to Noam Chomsky, "Amy Goodman has taken investigative journalism to new heights of exciting, informative, and probing analysis." And Cornel West has called her “a towering progressive freedom fighter in the media and the world.”

On February 11, she speaks at BAM with Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood. As Goodman is well-known for not shying away from the most difficult questions with some of the world’s most powerful people, for not being afraid to get into probing discussions with some complicated public figures of our time, this conversation promises to be challenging and perhaps even revelatory. In preparation for her appearance at BAM, here are a few of Goodman’s greatest-hit interviews from the arts and culture realm:

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Carpenter Craft

This month, BAMcinématek pays tribute to legendary director John Carpenter with a full-career film retrospective and a selection of his favorite film scores.

Jamie Lee Curtis in The Fog. Photo courtesy AVCO Embassy Pictures/Photofest
By R. Emmet Sweeney

He came of age in film school at the same time as the Steven Spielberg/George Lucas “movie brats,” but John Carpenter is generally excluded from triumphal histories of 1970s New Hollywood cinema. Yet Carpenter’s genre reinventions have become as equally influential as those of his cinéaste brethren. While Lucas and Spielberg tried to supersize the 1930s adventure serial, Carpenter took the professionals-on-a-mission films of Howard Hawks and fractured them for the Reagan era. He developed a style of slow-burn—precisely choreographed widescreen features that were irresistible tension-and-release machines. But while Jaws and Star Wars appealed to all audiences, Carpenter’s subversive streak led to films deeply suspicious of the American dream, creating entertainments that stick in your throat.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Zhang Huan's Notes on Semele

The Canadian Opera Company's production of Semele, directed by Zhang Huan, will be at the Howard Gilman Opera House from March 4—10. A note from the director follows.

The Canadian Opera Company's Semele. Photo: Gary Beechey
By Zhang Huan

Directing a film, or designing a piece of architecture or the set for a stage production would seem to be a smooth and natural composition for an artist, but to ask an artist to design the set for an opera is a different story altogether, quite extraordinary indeed. The reason is simple: there are very few people who understand opera, and even fewer artists who understand it. In all honesty, I too do not understand opera, but I like doing things out of the ordinary. That is why I have continued to make art to this day. Frankly speaking, I never imagined I would have the chance to be director and set designer for a Western opera, particularly because the original opera was so foreign and distant to me. Even though I have done performance art for many years, it is a completely different category of performance. Looking back on my predestined affinity with theater, at times it may seem absurd but all at once it is still part of my destiny.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Life in Hell, Before The Simpsons

By Susan Yung

Many isotopian half-lives before Matt Groening concocted The Simpsons and Futurama, he was well-known for his weird, affable characters in Life in Hell, which ran in print over the course of 35 years. Life in Hell features a pair of jaded rabbits (Binky and Sheba), a one-eared bunny (Bongo), and a fez-wearing gay couple of an indeterminate bipedal species, Akbar & Jeff. Groening usually played with the structure of a square, often breaking it into 16 or 9 panels, or treated it as one large frame in which an individual figure would be lost either in a crowd or in space.

“The Family Circle of Inmates"

The Goodman Theatre's revival of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh opens at BAM this Thursday, February 5. To help you keep track of this talented cast of 18, we're reposting this helpful character guide originally compiled by the Goodman Theatre's Literary team back in April 2012.

The cast of The Iceman Cometh.

By Marianne Cassidy

Harry Hope’s Saloon and Rooming House, the fictional setting of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, is based on a number of real saloons and dive bars that O’Neill frequented in his early 20s in Greenwich Village in the 1910s, such as Jimmy-The-Priest’s and The Golden Swan (better known as The Hell Hole). Saloons such as these were notorious for their clientele, a sordid mish-mash of drunks, petty criminals, struggling artists, political dissidents and prostitutes. O’Neill found a community within these walls and true friends among those who were “drowned at the bottom of a bottle,” and nowhere is the affection and sympathy the playwright had for this community more profoundly felt than in The Iceman Cometh. The gang at Harry Hope’s have all known each other for years and all ages, professions, nationalities and creeds are welcome under Harry’s roof. Since the cast is so large and the characters so varied, we’ve compiled an intro to these colorfully drawn characters, each with a history and a pipe dream that is uniquely their own.