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This week: Auden young and old & the New York Phil’s Rheingold
Early Auden, Later Auden: A Critical Biography, Edward Mendelson (Princeton University Press): The story goes that Edward Mendelson, asked by W. H. Auden about an article he, Auden, had written years before but had lost track of, promptly retrieved a copy from his exhaustive files of the poet’s work. That sort of thing makes an impression on one and it wasn’t long before Auden anointed Mendelson as his literary executor, a task he has undertaken these past several decades with devotion, intelligence, and unbounded energy. Not only have many volumes of the Collected Works been coming out one by one under his editorial aegis, but also he has been a huge enabler of the Auden cottage industry, aiding scholars, giving talks, and generally keeping the Auden flame burning with that hard, gemlike luster. I think one of Mendelson’s first efforts in the temple of Auden was his brilliant Early Auden, a biography that took Auden from his childhood through his comet-like arrival on the literary scene to the eve of his move to the United States at the beginning of the Second World War. That book came out in 1981, to be followed almost twenty years later by Later Auden, a worthy companion to the first installment. Mendelson writes with allegro clarity, brings a cleansing circumspection and wide, lightly worn literary culture to the table. The results are minor masterpieces of the biographer’s art that not only tell the story of the life of its subject but also plumb his literary significance with taste, sympathy, and learning. Now Mendelson has brought the two volumes of his magisterial biography together in a single big book replete with new introductions. Anyone interested in Auden—which is another way of saying anyone interested in the main current of twentieth-century literary culture in the Anglosphere—will want this book. —RK
“Ronnie Landfield” at Findlay Galleries (through June 3): Half a century ago, Ronnie Landfield looked through the wormhole of Formalism and found deep space in the saturated “color fields” of all-over abstraction. Now extended at the newly combined Findlay Galleries, a broad selection of Landfield’s lush, paint-filled landscapes, neither realist nor abstract but a startling in-between, remains on view in “Ronnie Landfield: American Color Field Master” (catalogue here). For more, see “Gallery Chronicle” (February 2016). —JP
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall (May 31, June 3 & June 6) & Das Rheingold performed by the New York Philharmonic (June 1, 3 & 6): Though it comes at the very end of the season, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra’s annual concert series at Carnegie Hall is among the first things I circle on my calendar each year. In music by Verdi and Wagner they are without peer, but to hear them play music by Brahms, Beethoven, and other masters of the symphonic repertoire is a rare treat. In this case, it’s Mahler making up the better part of their three-concert stand, including an enticing Saturday matinee program that includes Schumann’s “Rhenish” Symphony and Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, with soloists Karen Cargill and Stuart Skelton. Mirroring the Met Orchestra’s role swap, the New York Philharmonic this week presents a concert performance of Das Rheingold, the first leg in Wagner’s great Ring cycle, starring Eric Owens and Jamie Barton. Alan Gilbert conducts, in one of his final appearances as the Philharmonic’s Music Director. —ECS
“Le Fête de Jeanne d’Arc” at Riverside Park (May 30): Ce soir! Come celebrate Joan of Arc’s Feast Day at La Fête de Jeanne d’Arc, an evening of music by Via Paris Jazz Band and *free* macarons by Ladurée at New York’s Joan of Arc Memorial, 93rd Street and Riverside Drive, 5–8 PM on May 30. Help me inaugurate this new annual event I’ve put together with the Joan of Arc Statue Committee and the Riverside Park Conservancy. Read about the history of this memorial in my January 2016 “Gallery Chronicle.”—JP
“The Return of the Brooklyn Performance Combine” at The Muse (June 3): What’s happening? A re-Happening. In homage to Theater Event #1, John Cage’s summer 1952 “Happening” at Black Mountain College, the arts nonprofit Norte Maar has organized a new “durational performance mashup” to take place in Bushwick this Saturday, 7 to 9 PM. Called “The Return of the Brooklyn Performance Combine,” the 120-minute event is directed by chance operations, with “poets, painters, performers, and a meteorologist” performing together in a crossed-connection of unexpected affinities. For a discussion of the last “Combine,” see “How Brooklyn Missed Brooklyn.”—JP
By the Editors: “The Stolen Stradivarius” by Eric C. Simpson (The Wall Street Journal): A review of Gone by Min Kym.
From the current issue: “The tragic sensibility” by Robert D. Kaplan: On the unpredictability of life, both in politics and on the stage.