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The New Criterion

Quite simply, the best cultural review in the world
- John O’Sullivan



A capital night of Rossini at the Met

by Jay Nordlinger

Posted: Feb 24, 2015 12:34 PM

Joyce DiDonato as Elena and Juan Diego Flórez as Giacomo V in La donna del lago

The Metropolitan Opera is now presenting La donna del lago, by Rossini. It has never done so before. That title, in English, is The Lady of the Lake. Sir Walter Scott wrote his narrative poem in 1810, and Rossini made an opera out of it within the decade.

It is one of his magnificent works. It has two famous arias, including the one that it ends with: “Tanti affetti.” There is no greater showpiece aria in bel canto. The other famous aria is “Mura felici,” slain by Marilyn Horne, among others.

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Cold comfort

by Natasha Simons

Posted: Feb 23, 2015 12:44 PM

Photo Credit: Richard Termine

The Iceman Cometh is one of those plays that many feel they have to see only once—and perhaps not even quite that many times. Edgar Allen Poe, a gifted literary critic as well as a powerful creative force, wrote that any work of literary art must observe the "limit of a single sitting.” I can say with some certainty that Eugene O'Neill was not concerned with that limit when he wrote Iceman, an endurance test of approximately five hours. As a matter of principle, any review of the play must come back to the facticity of its length; it is a difficult and taxing experience no matter the excellence of the acting, design, or directing—which, luckily, is all there in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s recent staging of the 2012 Goodman Theatre production.

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Sisyphus ascendant

by Eric C. Simpson

Posted: Feb 20, 2015 04:15 PM

Vince B. Vincent in Sisyphus; photo by Reuben Radding

I won’t attempt to give you a plot summary of Sisyphus, an opera I attended last Friday, if only because a linear plot isn’t part of the creative team’s objective. The titular mythological figure is represented, albeit as a self-obsessed club kahuna. Present too is the nymph Aegina, whose fling with Zeus, given a flippant treatment at first, later serves as the basis for the opera’s brightest poetry. In the corner alone is Brianna, an artist struggling almost as much to find inspiration as she is to find romance. All of these scenes fit together somehow, though the exact configuration is neither clear nor terribly important.

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Feb 20, 2015 11:05 AM

Tomas Balaztena, Winter in Quaker Ridge, 2012. 

It's cold outside. 


Recent links of note:

What Must We Think About When We Think About Politics?
Myron Magnet, City Journal
Data isn't enough. 

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Singing trumps staging at the Met

by Eric C. Simpson

Posted: Feb 17, 2015 01:17 PM

Joyce DiDonato in La Donna del Lago; photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

When we go to a major opera house like the Met, we expect to have it all—first-rate singing, beautiful playing, and compelling drama. That can be a difficult package to put together. The Met's new production of La Donna del Lago isn't much to look at, but Joyce DiDonato's performance is absolutely worth hearing:

It doesn’t take much courage to tell the listening public that DiDonato is among the world’s greatest singing actors of any voice type; on Monday she was beyond perfect. Given the opportunity to introduce a major role to the Met’s audience, she gave a performance that may ultimately stand as a high point in her already lofty career. What we heard was one of the world’s best voices in top form—her tone was pure honey, her coloratura effortlessly fluttering, her ornamentation fearless.

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Human nature and celebrity

by James Bowman

Posted: Feb 13, 2015 04:42 PM

Brian Williams and David Carr

It must have been the fifth or sixth time this morning that the “anchors” on my local news-radio station told me that the “wind-chill factor” was sub-zero that poor old Brian Williams came swimming up into my thoughts. Having been born in a part of the country where sub-zero temperatures—the real, not the “wind-chill factor” kind—are pretty normal at this time of year, I have always been a bit impatient with the weather hyperbole so often to be met with in softer southern regions such as Washington, D.C. I understand that it is a convenient conversation-starter and therefore a contributor to social solidarity at an informal level—when you meet someone in the elevator, for example, or walking the steaming dogs. But heard on the radio, and at such length, it makes you think these people are desperate either for something to talk about or to pretend to be my friends.

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In Case You Missed It

by Christine Emba

Posted: Feb 13, 2015 02:38 PM

Charles Darwin's children were inveterate doodlers. Though it appears in his Origin of Species manuscript, this fish has not been identified in life.


Recent links of note:

Museums Ban Selfie Sticks From Their Stately Venues of Enlightened Gazing
Maggie Lange, New York Magazine
So much for #museumselfie day. 

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The Whiff of a New Blacklist

by James Panero

Posted: Feb 12, 2015 02:47 PM

Recent protests at the Met Opera and Carnegie Hall signal a new turn in the relationship between art and politics.

Protesters shouting down concertgoers; musicians silenced by hecklers; agitators taking the stages of our performances. All this represents a new turn in the relationship between arts and politics.... Current events have now claimed a front seat on the culture, and it’s time to stop them at the gate.

In today's Wall Street journal, I look to the role of music in the Cold War and argue how culture is better as a bridge than a wedge for confronting political differences.

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About ArmaVirumque


( AHR-mah wih-ROOM-kweh)


In the Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil sang of "arms and a man" (Arma virumque cano). Month in and month out, The New Criterion expounds with great clarity and wit on the art, culture, and political controversies of our times. With postings of reviews, essays, links, recs, and news, Armavirumque seeks to continue this mission in accordance with the timetable of the digital age.


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