This week: dance outdoors, Mozart scores & more.
Undomesticated Dissent by Curtis W. Freeman (Baylor University Press): On unconsecrated soil in the London Borough of Islington lies Bunhill Fields, a burial ground that functioned from 1665 to 1854 as the final resting place for some of England’s most notable “Nonconformists,” those who dissented against the governance and theology of the Church of England. At the center of Bunhill lies monuments to the site’s three most important heroes of literary dissent: John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, and William Blake. It is perhaps ironic that Curtis W. Freeman, a Research Professor of Theology and the Director of the Baptist House of Studies at Duke Divinity School, begins his study of Bunyan, Defoe, and Blake with the stony monuments to their lives rather than the light and portable printed words of their intellectual and creative opposition. As Freeman points out, however, his narrative is, in short, “an exercise in remembering,” an effort to “show how and why dissent matters” in light of Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Blake’s Jerusalem. Reading these seminal works as evangelist denunciations of the Anglican Church, Undomesticated Dissent is a nuanced defense of the positive nonconformist’s crucial and indispensable place in a successful and flourishing democracy.—AS
“Eighteenth-Century Pastel Portraits” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Through October 29): When one thinks of eighteenth-century portraits, three images come to mind. The first is something like Joshua Reynolds’s 1778 Portrait of Jane Fleming, Countess of Harrington, which seems the quintessence of the “grand manner:” the soigné subject standing proudly in front of a balustrade, an Arcadian landscape and classical urn behind. The next would be something by Pompeo Batoni, perhaps his 1758–59 Portrait of Sir Wyndham Knatchbull-Wyndham, which shows the young buck standing in a loggia, pointing out at the remains of antiquity, a bust of Minerva watching over him, all indicative of his Italian grand tour. The final might be the canonical “Kit Cat Club” portraits of the early–eighteenth century by Sir Godfrey Kneller, whose fixed dimensions and dark backgrounds bring Whig grandees to the fore. To these we can add another. The Met has collected pastel portraits from its own collection to display another facet of the eighteenth-century portrait tradition. The works by Coypel, Carriera, Labille-Guiard, and others evince a delicacy not often found in the other, better-known modes of portraiture from the time period. Collected in a single room, they are well worth a look. —BR
Don Giovanni at the Mostly Mozart festival(August 17, 19–20): There’s only one week left in this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival, but what a week: on tap are performances of Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto by Kirill Gerstein and Gil Shaham, two of today’s leading performers. For me, the highlight of the week is the return of Iván Fischer’s production of Don Giovanni, which first appeared at the festival in 2011. Fischer brings the Budapest Festival Orchestra back to New York for three performances of Mozart’s masterpiece, starring Christopher Maltman in the title role, Lucy Crowe as Donna Elvira, and José Fardilha as Leporello.—ECS
“Dance at Socrates” at Socrates Sculpture Park, Astoria, Queens (August 19): Put down the hemlock, pack up the picnic blankets, and head to Socrates Sculpture Park on the water in Astoria, Queens for the final weekend of Norte Maar’s “Dance at Socrates,” the choreographic residency and performance series now in its fifth summer season. Nico Brown and event organizer Gleich Dances headline the free public performance on Saturday at 4 PM, accompanied by Benjamin Briones Ballet, Cirio Collective, Krista Jensen (an alumna of the young choreographer program), and Rachel Cohen/Racoco—which is now crowd-funding a seasonal thirty-dancer work for late summer bloom.—JP
From the archive: “The Tynan phenomenon” by Hilton Kramer (October 1987).On the life and works of Kenneth Tynan, the post-War English theater critic.
From the current issue:“The Met at middle age” by George Loomis. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera House.