In this issue: Our first “After Dark” edition of Now, More Than Ever, celebrates the sweet and funny, decidedly offbeat, edgy, odd, and out-and-out raunchy elements of artistic expression
Now, More Than Ever: Issue 34
A series of performing arts videos for a time of physical distancing, compiled by Jeremy Geffen, Executive and Artistic Director, Cal Performances
Let’s try something different today! In our first “After Dark” edition of Now, More Than Ever, I thought we might push our norms by celebrating some examples of artistic expression that might not usually make their way into this forum. The videos I’ve selected run the gamut—from sweet and funny to decidedly offbeat, from edgy and odd to out-and-out raunchy. I trust you won’t take any of this too seriously.
Teletubbies Opening Sequence
Stravinsky: “Danse sacrale” from Le Sacre du printemps
I nearly fell over backwards when I first saw this video, the images fitting so well with the music (an edited version—there’s a big cut in the middle—of the “Sacrificial Dance” from Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring). Recently, a major international conductor—a man of considerable renown—posted this on Twitter, so it’s certainly making the rounds. If you ever suspected something nefarious, even sinister, about the Teletubbies, this should confirm it!
Bizet: “Habanera” from Carmen
August Schram, tenor
So, you think you know the “Habanera” from Bizet’s Carmen? Perhaps you should watch this totally bonkers video by Swiss tenor August Schram. Then we’ll talk!
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl (Doll-mation)
Barbra Streisand, vocals
Here’s a loving, meticulous, and more than slightly obsessive tribute—with dolls!—to an iconic scene from the film version of Funny Girl. More to our purposes, it’s also a wonderful example of creative expression during a time of pandemic lockdown. If you have a large enough screen, I encourage you to watch both of these videos simultaneously; doll wrangler Warren Wright’s attention to detail is nothing short of heroic!
“The Dying Swan”
Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin), dancer
Michel Fokine, choreography
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo
The much-loved (and hilarious!) Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo has been a regular visitor to Cal Performances for decades now, and we were heartbroken when the pandemic forced the cancellation of Zellerbach Hall performances last March. If you still need a reminder of the company’s brilliance, look no further than this terrific performance by the legendary Ida Nevasayneva (Paul Ghiselin). (And should you wish to refer to the original, back in May we discussed a video of the great Maya Plisetskaya dancing this timeless classic.)
Ligeti: Mysteries of the Macabre
Barbara Hannigan, soprano and conductor
Le Grand Macabre is Hungarian composer György Ligeti’s only opera; oddly enough, given that it was written in the 1970s (and revised in 1996), it was not until 2004 that it received its US premiere, right here in the Bay Area with San Francisco Opera. In 1992, Ligeti created a concert suite comprised of three arias from the opera under the title Mysteries of the Macabre, seen here.
The extraordinarily talented and adventurous Barbara Hannigan (featured twice already in Now, More Than Ever—Issue 6 on April 13, and Issue 33 on August 17) made quite a name for herself as Gepopo, the leader of the secret police, a role she performed with orchestras around the world, most famously and often with conductor Sir Simon Rattle. But in recent years, Hannigan has begun conducting music herself. She now regularly brings down the house both conducting and singing this dazzlingly difficult role, all without breaking character. It’s a true tour de force, and it’s worth noting that the costume design is entirely her own.
To give you some idea of how difficult it must have been to learn this part, here’s just one representative stanza from the lyrics:
Zero-zero! Kommen Störche!
Menge, Menge, Menge!
“You’ve Got to Give Me Some”
Cécile McLorin Salvant, vocals
Sullivan Fortner, piano
Just how to describe Bessie Smith’s famous lowdown number, “You’ve Got to Give Me Some”? Ribald? Certainly. Blue? Absolutely. And if you browse through the YouTube comment string here, you’ll find some other choice descriptions. You might expect this to be the most innocent video on today’s list, just a classic jazz standard featuring voice and piano, but I remember being in the Live From Here audience for this taping and feeling the blood rush to my cheeks as I blushed in embarrassment. As always, the peerless Cécile McLorin Salvant performs with such class and smooth vocal elegance that you hardly notice what’s passing by. All in all, this clip reminds me of the classic Mae West quote: “When I’m good, I’m very good, but when I’m bad, I’m better!”
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