Sign up to receive “Critic’s Notebook” in your inbox every week—it only takes a few seconds and it’s completely free! “Critic’s Notebook” is a weekly preview of the best to read, see, and hear in New York and beyond, compiled by the editors of The New Criterion.
This Week: Pushkin, Puccini, & a painting protégé?
Novels, Tales, Journeys: The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin, translated and edited by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky (Knopf): One need only skim the biographies of a few nineteenth-century poets to shatter the stereotype of the “artist aloof”: Lord Byron famously fell in with Greek rebels as they fought off the Ottomans, while Sir Walter Scott led the expedition to recover Scotland’s long lost crown jewels. Alexander Pushkin stands out within this group, with his romantic read on Russian life that was a direct result of his entanglement in political activism. Novels, Tales, and Journeys, a new translation of Pushkin’s prose, displays the author’s immersion in Russian life even more directly than the poetry that has come to define his legacy; short novels like The Captain’s Daughter present Pushkin’s thoughts on social strife without the intermediate layer of verse. —MU
“Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Through January 16): Twenty years his younger, Valentin de Boulogne (1591–1632) became the greatest French follower of Caravaggio. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has now assembled an astonishing forty-five of Valentin’s sixty known paintings that survive from all corners of Europe along with significant loans from the Louvre. Considering Valentin’s unique fusion of Caravaggesque realism with Renaissance idealism, “how is it possible,” asks the curator Keith Christiansen, “that there has never before been an exhibition devoted to this artist of such amazing stature?” “Never” no longer, as the Met brings this tenebrous master into the light of day. —JP
Manon Lescaut at the Metropolitan Opera (Through December 10): The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut already seemed packed with star power when it debuted last year with the leading couple of Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna. This season, the company doubles down on Sir Richard Eyre’s much-maligned staging, bringing divissima Anna Netrebko to the stage for five performances in what will be her company role debut. Marcelo Álvarez plays her lover Des Grieux, with Christopher Maltman as Lescaut and Brindley Sherratt as Geronte. Marco Armiliato conducts. —ECS
Jane Jacobs Centennial Lecture Series at the Museum at Eldridge Street (November 21): In 2005, the year before she died, the urban conservationist Jane Jacobs helped to organize the creation of the Center for the Living City, a group that works to preserve the experience of pedestrians in the midst of urban development. Throughout 2016, the centennial year of Jacobs’s birth, the CLC has undertaken to preserve the legacy of Jacobs herself, in addition to the city life she cherished, with a series of lectures about Jacob’s life and influence. Next Monday at the Museum at Eldridge Street, New York’s former transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will present a lecture attributing her creation of over sixty public plazas to Jacobs’s decades-long dream of a human-centered city. —MU
From the archive: “The real Caravaggio?” by Marco Grassi: On the artist, his techniques, and the question of originality.
From the current issue: “Tocqueville’s English correspondence,” by S. J. D. Green: On the French statesman’s English-language letters.
Broadcast: Wall Street Journal editor Eric Gibson discusses how postmodernism reshaped the character of art museums. From “The Future of Permanence in an Age of Ephemera,” a symposium on museums hosted by The New Criterion at the Consulate General of France on October 21, 2016. Presentations to be published in the December 2016 issue of The New Criterion.