Downton Abbey

ArtsWatch Weekly: farewell jazz fest, young lovers, noblesse oblige

A look at the week that was in Oregon arts. A glimpse ahead at the week that's going to be.

Well, that was quite a week, wasn’t it?

  • We saw Downton Abbey off to that great fox hunt in the sky, with a whizbang final episode that brought babies and pairings-off tumbling into the untaped future and put a stamp on the age of noblesse oblige. All in all it was, we noted (quoting the most excellent Dowager Countess Maggie Smith, for so we tend to think of her), “happy enough.”
  • We wrapped up the latest PDX Jazz Festival, which was dedicated to John Coltrane and his fellow reed players but was at least as notable, Angela Allen writes, for the excellence of its pianists. Allen praised the likes of sax virtuosos Nicole Glover, Sonny Fortune, Ravi Coltrane, and others, then added: “The keyboardists, though, stole my heart — not only the soloists but the sidemen who played in trios and quartets, duos and big bands, alongside the headliners.” The esteemed jazz journalist Doug Ramsey was in town for the festivities, too, and filed several reviews on his excellent site Rifftides, which we’ve reprinted with his permission here. Also, do take a gander at Mark Sheldon’s wonderful photos accompanying both stories of musical moments frozen in time, including this one, of 77-year-old sound explorer Charles Lloyd:
Charles Lloyd © 2016 Mark Sheldon

Charles Lloyd © 2016 Mark Sheldon

  • And we took a multifaceted look at Oregon Ballet Theatre’s newly announced season and its just-closed revival of James Canfield’s Romeo and Juliet, a long-missing company cornerstone: Canfield, OBT’s founding artistic director, brought it into the company with him when OBT was formed in 1990, but until this production it hadn’t been seen onstage here in more than fifteen years. First, in Sweet tragedy: rehearsing ‘R&J’, Martha Ullman West delves into the rehearsal hall and the ballet world’s history with Shakespeare’s teenage tragedy. Then, in Ballet masters of the 21st century, dance journalist and former dancer Gavin Larsen follows OBT’s ballet masters Lisa Kipp and Jeff Stanton as they prepare the company’s dancers for the ballet. Finally, in A fresh ‘R&J,’ a fling with the giants, Ullman West talks about OBT’s just-announced 2016-17 season (called Giants) and reviews the performance of R&J, in which she finds Ansa Deguchi revelatory as Juliet.

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Happy enough: Downton Abbey’s fairy-tale ending

Roll up the red carpet: It's all over, and now where are we going to get our fantasy helping of noblesse oblige?

Sunday, bloody Sunday: and now, after all that, what are we going to do with our Sunday evenings?

Here at ArtsWatch World Headquarters we freely confess we’ve been captivated by the grand soap opera/slash/fairy tale that is Downton Abbey, and we – alright, I – watched it trot off into the fox-hunting sunset with just a trace of a tear in my eye. Sunday’s wrap-up after six seasons on American television screens was also a bit of an unwrap, actually, tying up loose ends but also opening little gifts, unveiling a neat little dollop of happiness for just about everyone. Then again, the show’s British, so it’s happy with a footnote. As the crisp and cutting and utterly essential Lady Violet remarks after damp-mop spinster-with-a-kid Edith finally snares her fabulously wealthy Bertie and waltzes down the aisle of her storybook wedding, “They’ll be happy enough. Which is the English version of a happy ending.”

All in the upper-crust family: It' been swell. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited for Masterpiece

All in the upper-crust family: It’s been swell. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited for Masterpiece

Way back in January 2011, when the whole escapade was just about to begin on American home screens, I looked on the series hopefully in this column as a showcase for the American actor Elizabeth McGovern, whom I assumed would have a leading role as the mistress of the estate. As it turned out, McGovern was key, and charming, a kind of quiet glue for her wayward and trouble-prone upper-crust clan, but only part of what truly has been an ensemble show (although more than once it might have sunk without the witty presence of the great Maggie Smith as the imperious and eminently quotable Violet).

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