This week: Puccini’s Tosca, protecting treasures & more.
American Pravda: My Fight For Truth in the Era of Fake News, by James O’Keefe (St. Martin’s Press): James O’Keefe, the creator of Project Veritas, is a national treasure. His signature style of undercover investigative reporting, in which reporters secretly tape the corrupt and felonious, has exposed rotten enterprises from ACORN to Planned Parenthood, the lavishly funded abortion mill started by the anti-black eugenicist Margaret Sanger in the early twentieth century and which now, as O’Keefe’s videos demonstrated, routinely sells fetal tissue harvested from aborted babies. For his efforts, he has been excoriated by The New York Times,banned by Twitter, and demonized by the Left. His new book, American Pravda: My Fight For Truth in the Era of Fake News, offers a brisk chronicle of his efforts to speak truth to power and beam light into the darkness of the deep state and the media-industrial complex that helps keep the dominant narrative impervious to dissent. The chief difference, O’Keefe observes, between the Russian newspaper Pravda and the dominant American media is that the Russian people knew they were being lied to. “Pravda” might mean “truth,” but no one was fooled. In contemporary America, there is still a presumption that the media is, at bottom, honest. O’Keefe has done as much as anyone to expose the fragility of that assumption. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that O’Keefe’s campaigns are not driven by ideology. Although its enemies describe Project Veritas as “conservative” or “right-wing,” in fact, as O’Keefe notes, “we take no real position on issues beyond free speech and honest government.” Of course, free speech and honest government have been in notoriously short supply in a world where political correctness has sharply limited the boundaries of acceptable opinion. This book is a clarion call on behalf of accountability, transparency, and responsible government: items high on the rhetorical agenda of the bureaucrats that run our lives but somehow always forgotten when it comes to their exercising power. —RK
“Mario Naves: Long Island City” at Elizabeth Harris Gallery (January 6–February 10, 2018): This Saturday, an exhibition of work by the artist Mario Naves will open at Chelsea’s Elizabeth Harris Gallery. Naves, a painter, prominent professor of art in a number of New York–area institutions, and frequent contributor to The New Criterion,has been making acrylic and oil paintings for a number of years that are informed by the improvisatory process of abstract collage, deep historical awareness, and imagery from contemporary life. Naves’s works, though abstract, are notable for a clear but perhaps mysterious presence of subject, suggested in part by the rhythmic spaces of his “overlapping” forms and his specific and sensitive sense of color. This exhibition in particular, Naves’s seventh solo show at Elizabeth Harris Gallery, is framed around “the influence of one’s environment”—for Naves, the Queens neighborhood in which his studio is situated—which inevitably tends to seep into even the most non-objective postures of artists of all kinds. —AS
Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera (through May 12)and Isabel Leonard at the Armory (January 5 & 7):Puccini’s Tosca is just about the quintessential melodramatic opera: love, murder, sex, torture, intrigue, all brought to life with ravishing melodies and one of the most gripping scores ever written for the stage. The new production by David McVicar that premiered at the Met on New Year’s Eve is a throwback, but nothing about it felt stale on first viewing—the grand, opulent sets by John Macfarlane create a powerful setting for Puccini’s most intense drama, particularly the dark, chilly representation of the Palazzo Farnese constructed for the second act. A second cast, led by Anna Netrebko, will take over in the spring, but see the opera now with Sonya Yoncheva, if you can. Yoncheva’s simmering portrayal of the tormented diva marks a new high point for her young career (read my full thoughts on the performance here). For something a little lighter, try the Park Avenue Armory this weekend: the Board of Officers Room is among the most lavish recital venues in New York, and will be hosting the terrific young mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard in an all-Bernstein program on Friday and Sunday. —ECS
Protecting Europe’s Cultural Treasures: The Frick Art Reference Library, The Monuments Men, and Provenance Research Today (January 9): While a 2014 movie brought the story of the “Monuments Men”—Allied soldiers who worked to save Europe’s priceless artistic heritage from Nazi theft and destruction—to the big screen, a lecture at the Frick next Tuesday will illuminate another aspect of the tale. During World War II, the Frick’s Art Reference Library served as the governmental headquarters for research devoted to protecting and recovering Europe’s art. All told, over 700 maps were created for the express purpose of identifying “monuments to be spared from allied bombing.” Dr. Inge Reist, the Director of the Center for the History of Collecting at the Frick Art Reference Library, will detail the Library’s historical role and the ways in which its work continues today in cases of restitution. —BR
From the archive:“Lionel Trilling & the critical imagination” by Gertrude Himmelfarb (October 2011). On the critic’s “moral realism.”
From the current issue: “Hockney at the Metropolitan” by Karen Wilkin. On “David Hockney” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.