News & Notes starts catching up

ArtsWatch covers Venice's art and music, 'Wild Man,' the prepared pianist, Pablo Neruda and Wendy Westerwelle

Bernardo Stozzi, "Street Musicians," 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

Bernardo Strozzi, “Street Musicians,” 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

So, News & Notes hasn’t been exactly regular the past few weeks, and we’re going to attempt to get caught up this week, even though it’s supposed to be breezy today and we’re ardent proponents of using the weather as an excuse to sit around and read, watch House of Cards,  and listen to music. The first catching up we’re going to do is simply catching up with ourselves! Yes, ArtsWatch was hopping this weekend.

The biggest art show of the season, one packed with Old Masters (Tintoretto, Tiepolo, Longhi, Canaletto, Strozzi), opened at the Portland Art Museum over the weekend, Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music, and Bob Hicks took the time machine back to the Venice of the doges.

Most of the 120-odd works on display are modestly sized, essentially domestic in scale, and they tend to speak quietly, in the struck and plucked unamplified reverberations of the Baroque temperament. They’re best absorbed slowly, personally, at a pace and perception that dials down to their own until it can broaden as it enters their scale. Nothing’s in a rush. The secret is to take some time with them, so you can enter into the leisurely and richly burnished patterns of their world.

Jana Hanchett prepares us for Paul Roberts, who prepares pianists to prepare the playing of their pieces, which quite a lot of preparation, once you think about it! Roberts will be in town for master classes and performances, February 22-24. Hanchett quotes Roberts”

“I feel the music is an end of itself, and yet the inspiration going towards it is essential. It’s a paradox that I have not resolved in my mind and maybe that’s one of the essences of art: unresolved paradoxes that create this kind of spark.”

The theater world continues to radiate new productions in the new year. The subject of Ardiente Paciencia, the new show at Milagro Theatre, is ostensibly the last years of the life of the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, but there’s more lurking, as Bob Hicks reports.

For most of its length Ardiente Paciencia leaves its darker implications outside of the playing circle, lurking but not impinging on the movement of the play: Neruda seems in a happy twilight of his life, and his benevolent spirit spreads like a balm over the others. The play makes its political points implicitly, concentrating on telling the tale of these four sweetly interlinking lives and then, late in the game, letting the outside world lower the boom.

AL Adams dropped in on Wendy Westerwelle’s newest show of comedy sketches, Medicarefully Fabulous, and unsurprisingly, perhaps, found a crowd of Westerwelle devotees (perhaps dating back to her days with Storefront Theatre) cheering on her impersonations.

That’s not to undersell a show which, even for the uninitiated, has its moments. It’s a cavalcade of fully-costumed character work where evidently no imitation is off-limits. Her Asian manicurist parody is actually one of her best…no, don’t stop reading. Her accent and manner is studied and realistic, and she wisely uses the character to insult herself, Wendy, by pointing out all of her own unsightly hairs, age spots, and wrinkles in the guise of third-party customer service.

A constant problem that dance as an art form faces: How to preserve the dances of the past. The BodyVox method is to use its junior company, BodyVox-2, to keep Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland’s best dances in the muscles of its dancers. That’s what the company is doing with Hampton’s Wild Man, to great effect per reviewer Martha Ullman West, who quite enjoyed the rest of the program, too.

From the manipulation of those two-dimensional set pieces (at one point the dancers run around the stage, carrying them like shields over their faces, looking like hats with legs), to the flying lifts, to the tender whispering gestures in some intimate duets, these dancers’ talent and artistry and commitment to the work made the 23-year-old piece look as if Hampton had just made it.  He had initially made it for eight dancers, but has recast it for six, and it seems to me the lighting — at one point a hellish red — is more intense than it was originally.

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