Essentials

Essentials

by BRIAN KELLOW and TRISTAN KRAFT

Essentials South Pacific hdl 114
Szot and Kelli O'Hara in South Pacific
© Joan Marcus 2014
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Essentials Brokeback Mountain Cover 114
Essentials American Summer sm 114
Bogarting laughs: Pierce and Garofalo
© USA Films/Photofest 2014

Essential Paulo Szot Performance: Emile de Becque in the 2008 Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific. In his Tony-winning characterization, Szot stayed in the moment dramatically while never losing his grip on what seems an unshakable vocal technique. When he sang the heartrending "This Nearly Was Mine," he plumbed the song's emotional depths without spilling over into pathos, and without losing any of the song's forward momentum. It's hard to imagine that there has ever been a more complete portrayal of de Becque than the one etched by Szot. spacer William R. Braun talks to Paulo Szot in "Bat Man." 

Essential Brokeback Mountain Primer: Close Range: Wyoming Stories (Scribner). Opera- and moviegoers who haven't read Annie Proulx's now-venerable short story "Brokeback Mountain" may be surprised by how short it actually is. Close Range (1999) offers a more comprehensive, satisfying glimpse at Proulx's vision of Wyoming and the salty, brusque characters who live there besides Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist. There's an old man who "drank his Everclear stirred with a peeled willow stick for bitter taste" in "The Half-Skinned Steer." There's Diamond Felts — "Five-foot three, rapping, tapping, nail-biting, he radiated unease" — in "The Mud Below." In "Pair a Spurs," there's Car Scrope, whose features "consisted of a big, close-cropped head, platinum-blond mustache, a ruined back from a pneumatic drill ride on the back of a sunfishing, fence-cornering, tatter-eared pinto … feet wrecked from a lifetime in tight cowboy boots, and simian arms whose wrists no shirt cuffs would ever kiss." spacer Annie Proulx talks with OPERANEWS in "Woman of Few Words." 

Essential David Hyde Pierce Primer: Wet Hot American Summer. Don't be fooled by mediocre reviews of the film: with too many plots, scant production values and heavy-handed slapstick, the 2001 David Wain movie is absurdly, knowingly bad. It features a whole list of then-and-still-successful comedians (Pierce, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Michael Showalter) deadpanning as teenage camp counselors. As a timid astronomy professor, Pierce's humor is alarmingly dry; when he explains to campers the meaning of his associate professorship, he says, "It means that I'm …" he pauses, then whispers, "less." spacer David Hyde Pierce is this month's Listener of Note. 

Essential Valery Gergiev Performance: Pique Dame, recorded for Philips (now Decca) with the Kirov Opera and Orchestra, St. Petersburg, 1992. Nearly all of Tchaikovsky's major characters are miserable with their present lot; the Countess (here, the great Irina Arkhipova) drives this theme home when she complains, "Oh, I hate the world today! What times we live in! People simply do not know how to enjoy themselves anymore." Gergiev superbly catches this melancholy backward glance with an unerring sense of tempo and nuance. Elsewhere he reveals the odd, at times perversely humorous details in the orchestration with beautiful transparency. He also draws excellent performances from a cast that includes Maria Guleghina (Lisa), Gegam Gregorian (Gherman), Vladimir Chernov (Yeletsky), Nikolai Putilin (Tomsky) and Olga Borodina (Pauline). spacer Broadcast coverage of Eugene Onegin, conducted by Gergiev, begins on p. 40.

BRIAN KELLOW, TRISTAN KRAFT

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Current Issue: December 2014 — VOL. 79, NO. 6