Geoffrey O’Brien is Editor in Chief of the Library of America. His books include Sonata for Jukebox: An Autobiography of My Ears. (August 2016)

IN THE REVIEW

An Overwhelming ‘Elektra’

Susan Neves as the Confidante, Waltraud Meier as Clytemnestra, and Nina Stemme as Elektra in Patrice Chéreau’s production of Elektra, at the Metropolitan Opera

Elektra

an opera by Richard Strauss, directed by Patrice Chéreau, with Vincent Huguet
There is no music as the curtain goes up on the Met’s new production of Richard Strauss’s Elektra—the last testament of director Patrice Chéreau, who died in October 2013, not long after this production’s premiere in Aix-en-Provence. The silence continues for what seems like a long time as we take …

Secrets of an Underground Man

Black Deutschland

by Darryl Pinckney
Darryl Pinckney’s Black Deutschland begins and ends with a book, a book its protagonist Jed Goodfinch tells us from the start was “the wrong book”: Christopher Isherwood’s The Berlin Stories, whose vision of gay life in Weimar Berlin has imparted to this young black man “the daydream of being the rootless stranger in Berlin who seduced tough German boys.”

Bizet Wins at the Met

Les Pêcheurs de Perles [The Pearl Fishers]

an opera by Georges Bizet, produced by Penny Woolcock, at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City, December 31, 2015–February 4, 2016
If a B-opera is something like a B-movie, then The Pearl Fishers has some of the same characteristics—brevity, spareness (four solo voices and a chorus carry the whole show), and rapid exposition—and is built around a libretto whose central elements might call to mind a Hollywood second feature along the lines of /i>Bird of Paradise or Pearl of the South Pacific: an exotic isle (Ceylon), a prohibited desire, two friends torn apart by their love for the same woman, a devastating storm interpreted by superstitious islanders as a manifestation of divine wrath.

His Way

Frank Sinatra and John F. Kennedy at the Sands Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, February 1960

Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World

by David Lehman

Sinatra: The Chairman

by James Kaplan
The Frank Sinatra centenary has brought forth an inevitably immense array of monuments and keepsakes. These have included Sinatra: All or Nothing at All, a four-hour documentary by filmmaker Alex Gibney; a comprehensive multi-CD survey of his broadcast performances, Frank Sinatra: A Voice on Air, 1935–1955 (Columbia/Legacy), including many previously …

NYR DAILY

Shakespeare’s Unfilmable Dream

Kathryn Hunter as Puck in Julie Taymor's film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, 2014

Julie Taymor declared recently that A Midsummer Night’s Dream is “unfilmable.” The remark was intended not to disparage her own just-released movie version of the play, but to define what it is: a record of a stage production. Cinematic art direction and special effects, however cunning, cannot adequately substitute for the very different kind of magic that actors can create out of the tension of being live on stage.

A Flophouse Symphony

Nathan Lane as Hickey, center, in Robert Falls’s production of Eugene O’Neill's The Iceman Cometh, 2015

Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh needs its pauses and its slowdowns and even its moments when the whole play feels like an enormously heavy contraption that has slipped off its base and is about to come crashing down. It needs the nearly five hours of stage time that it takes up in Robert Falls’s exemplary production, now playing at BAM’s Harvey Theater.

Pynchon’s Blue Shadow

Owen Wilson and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice

To say that Paul Thomas Anderson has faithfully and successfully adapted Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice to the screen is another way of saying that he has changed it into something entirely different. The words in Anderson’s film are mostly Pynchon’s; the plot elements too, however freely they have been culled and transposed; the free-associative multiplicity and ricocheting mood changes are carried over with a miraculous lightness of touch.

Tamburlaine’s Seductive Terror

A scene from Michael Boyd's production of Tamburlaine at Theatre for a New Audience, 2014

The career of Christopher Marlowe’s world-conquering Tamburlaine, performed by John Douglas Thompson at Theatre for a New Audience, progresses like a river in flood, rising steadily and irresistibly and spilling over into actions of spectacular destruction, sparing nothing that stands in opposition. Thompson has created a unified person of the most extreme contradictions.

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