Monday, February 4, 2008

A Follow-up to Our Date with Brooklyn, Joanna Newsom, Thomas Beisl and Barack Obama

I loved our date with Brooklyn the other night! It reconfirmed everything I love about our home-borough and leading a lush life. Annie Ricci, General Managing Diva of Opera on Tap, is also a stellar companion for such pursuits.

Brooklyn is the understated diva-borough of New York City! It has everything Manhattan has without the superior attitude. It even has its own lovely, 2000-some seat opera house! The Howard Gilman Opera House is replete with ornate ceiling and red velvet curtains, carved box-seats and characteristically, vertiginous nose-bleed seats that still have a great view of the stage (That's where we sat). The opera house is only one of the great venues at BAM, one of the most innovative artistic centers in the city, and it's mine! I do share it with the other 2,465,326 residents of Brooklyn, but it's still mine! I'm so rich!

Annie already described our evening and our meal at Austrian restaurant, Thomas Biesl, in sumptuous detail, I just thought I'd add a few things. First off, Thomas Beisl has great beers on tap: Gosser, Czechwar, the original Budweiser from the Czech Republic, and another German pilsner I recognized from my time in Berlin. Yumm!

Also, in view of tomorrow's big event, Super Tuesday, a wanted to mention that Joanna Newsom's drummer plugged Barack Obama during the show on Thursday night. He even talked about campaigning for Obama in Iowa. Joanna herself continued the conversation and said that her whole band were Obama believers. That was more than 2,000 captive fans receiving the message that the cool young folks like Obama. Pretty powerful endorsement!

I was interested to hear how the orchestra would be used in this project, never having heard Newsome's album “Ys”, and was a bit disappointed. Pop-classical cross-overs and collaborations are always difficult. The two genres are difficult to blend due to the practicalities of governing a large group of musicians at the same time. Rehearsals are necessary to make things sound organic. A conductor has to know what kinds of tempo changes are going to happen and where a band-leader might take liberties. If not, the music falls apart. On the other hand, if a band has to play with metronomic strictness, their style and uniqueness can disappear.

The music didn't fall apart the other night, but it also wasn't very tight. The orchestral writing of Vandyke Parks was unimaginative and pale, unfortunately acting more to diffuse the intensity Newsom's music than to enhance it. Her solo song in the middle of the orchestral section of the show came into beautiful focus after the muzzy, bland string harmonies and very occasional bits of brass or wind. I was hoping the orchestra would be like another member of the band, telling the story, heightening the emotion, setting the scene, but twas not to be.

Newsom's solo music is captivating. The unique, unstudied, unselfconsciousness of her singing and the almost human sounds of her harp are so personal, her lyrics so evocative and non-linear, I had the feeling I was observing her dreaming instead of performing. It's useless to pull her songs apart. The individual elements aren't impressive on their own, but they create an experience for the audience; take listeners on a surreal, emotional journey.

If I had to pair an alcoholic beverage with Joanna Newsom and 2,000 idealistic and stylish young people in a Brooklyn opera house, I'd say something floral, clean, post-racial...a delicious cold sake. I'll hope to be tasting some in the near future and will get back to you with specific recommendations. Until then, yay Giants! I'm still recovering from the decadence, and get your asses to the voting booths!


1 comment:

Co-MD said...

What the hell? No one cares about our future president, Austrian food or fairy-folk?