January 17, 2018

By Nancy Plum

Students at Princeton University have an incredibly diverse range of choices for musical experiences on campus. One of the most challenging this year was the opera class Music 219, in which music majors and non-majors joined together to explore a single theme or production. As described by Humanities Council Visiting Lecture Thomas Guthrie, co-teacher of Music 219, this year’s class was “all about exploring what it’s like to be in an opera.” The 30 students who participated in the class performed the resulting operatic project this past weekend at Richardson Auditorium. Guthrie and University Director of Choral Activities Gabriel Crouch (also co-teacher of Music 219) led the students through a staged production in Italian (with English super-titles) of what is considered the first fully-developed opera — Claudio Monteverdi’s 1607 L’Orfeo. Friday night’s performance (the opera was repeated Saturday night) showed both the depth of the class and how even those who are not studying music extensively can rise to a challenge.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

In his 1915-1936 prime, Charlie Chaplin, who died 40 years ago this past Christmas, wasn’t just the most celebrated film personality of his time, he was an international icon. With his derby, his mustache, his baggy pants, and his cane, the Tramp became a secular deity; the sainted spirit of laughter; comedy and humanity incarnate. He was also exposed to a tabloid-driven version of the Hollywood dynamic of sex and power that surfaced last fall with the Harvey Weinstein revelations.  more

By Kam Williams

The Post is a movie that should be compared to two classic newsroom thrillers: All the President’s Men (1976) and Spotlight (2015). Like the former, it’s set in Washington, D.C. in the 70s and is about an attempt by the Nixon administration to prevent the publication of incriminating information leaked to the Washington Post by a whistleblower. And it’s eerily similar to the Best Picture Oscar-winner Spotlight in that they’re both dramas about an idealistic newspaper’s legal battle in defense of freedom of the press.

Hollywood has a predictable habit of parroting success, which means it’s just a matter of time before a knockoff of a big hit arrives in theaters. In this case, Spotlight’s Academy Award-winning scriptwriter, Josh Singer, was tapped to tweak first timer Liz Hannah’s original screenplay about the Pentagon Papers. more

January 10, 2018

What shocks the virtuous Philosopher delights the chameleon poet. — John Keats

By Stuart Mitchner

Richard Starkey and Paul Muldoon have a rendezvous with the Queen. Some time in the new year, the Beatles’ drummer Ringo Starr will be knighted by Elizabeth II and the Princeton professor will receive the Queen’s Gold Medal for poetry.

Perhaps it’s too much to expect Her Majesty to dub the Beatle “Sir Ringo,” a pairing of extremes that would surely delight the chameleon poet being honored for his “restless, playful brilliance.”  more

“IT’S A DOG’S LIFE”: This painting by Charles David Viera is part of his “Narrative Paintings” exhibition, on view in the Arts Council of Princeton’s Lower Level Gallery through February 3. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, January 13 from 3-5 p.m.

The Arts Council of Princeton presents two new exhibitions, “Heroes of Comic Art” and “Narrative Paintings.” Both will have opening receptions on Saturday, January 13 from 3-5 p.m.

“Heroes of Comic Art” features original published artworks by Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Curt Swan, John Buscema, Jack Davis, Steve Ditko, and other artists that created many of the comic heroes in today’s books and films. It will be on view in the Arts Council’s Taplin Gallery through March 10. The works are from the collection of Charles David Viera. more

TANJUNG DATU: The beaded art of Wendy Ellsworth is featured in “A Passion for Beads,” running January 14 through April 22 at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, January 14 at 2 p.m.

Wendy Ellsworth creates art bead by tiny bead, and with a seemingly endless variety of colors, shapes, and textures at her fingertips, her palette appears unlimited.

“I consider myself a color artist, with beads representing tiny photons of colored light which can be woven together to form infinite patterns of beauty and delight,” Ellsworth said.  more

By Kam Williams

Darkest Hour and Dunkirk cover the same period of time, which was Winston Churchill’s (Gary Oldman) first month as prime minister of Great Britain. When he was sworn in on May 10, 1940, the country was at war with Germany which had already conquered most of Europe and was just starting to invade Belgium, France, and the Netherlands.

Churchill’s predecessor, Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) had unsuccessfully tried a diplomatic policy of appeasement which had only emboldened Hitler. As a result, soon after entering office, Winston found himself facing a daunting task after the Nazis’ blitzkrieg had broken through the Maginot Line.  more

January 3, 2018

“TAKE FLIGHT”: This acrylic painting by Michael Schweigart is part of “Visionaries,” an exhibit also featuring the work of Claudia Fouse Fountaine, Alan Klawans, and Carol McClure Sanzalone. The exhibit will be at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville from February 8 to March 4. An artists’ reception will be on February 11 from 1 to 5 p.m.

Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville presents “Visionaries,” an exhibit featuring works of Claudia Fouse Fountaine, Alan Klawans, Carol McClure Sanzalone, and Michael Schweigart from February 8 to March 4. Highlighting images of nature and the environment, the exhibit will showcase a variety of media and creative techniques unique to each artist as they express their creative visions. more

“3 LINE ASCENDING #5”: This turned wood piece is part of “David Ellsworth: A Passion for Wood,” an exhibition running January 14 through April 22 at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, January 14 from 2 to 4 p.m.

In a career spanning four decades, David Ellsworth has become one of the premier designers of turned wooden vessels, deeply influencing contemporary craft and numerous artists.

This month, the Hunterdon Art Museum (HAM) will spotlight his work in “David Ellsworth: A Passion for Wood,” an exhibition which focuses on the woodturner’s technical and aesthetic development through the years, noted Ingrid Renard, who is curating the exhibition with Hildreth York. more

By Nancy Plum

The holiday season means many things in Princeton — a brightly-decorated tree in Palmer Square, busy post office lines, and in musical terms, the annual performance of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Presented by McCarter Theatre, this performance in Richardson Auditorium has always given audiences a respite from breakneck December activities, and this year was no exception. Last Monday night, 21 instrumentalists joined together in a variety of combinations to perform Bach’s six concertos which are considered the epitome of the Baroque form. Each concerto featured a different blend of soloists, and the members of the Chamber Music Society demonstrated both solid ensemble and refined solo playing.  more

By Stuart Mitchner

At the dawn of a new year in American popular culture it’s time to remember the losses of 2017 and pay tribute to the gains of 1917. Major deaths in the world of rock were legends Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, along with Tom Petty, Greg Allman, John Wetton, among others, and in the grey area between rock and jazz, Allan Holdsworth and Larry Coryell. Jazz losses included pianist Horace Parlan, bop vocalist Jon Hendricks of the premiere word-jazz group, Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, and Buddy Greco who began his jazz, pop, and country career at 16 playing piano, singing, arranging, and touring the world with the Benny Goodman band. The jazz world also lost columnist and social critic Nat Hentoff, who wrote for Down Beat and the Village Voice, and was listening to Billie Holiday when he died. more

By Kam Williams

In 1998, 19-year-old Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) met a mysterious, middle-aged man named Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) in a San Francisco acting class. Wiseau not only lied about his age but claimed to be from New Orleans, despite a thick, Eastern European accent.

However, Tommy was wealthy enough to underwrite a Hollywood production that starred himself. And Greg was willing to overlook the eccentric millionaire’s inexperience when he was offered a co-starring role. more

December 27, 2017

By Stuart Mitchner

Some years before Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) became as cherished a Christmas tradition as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, film-buff friends of mine smirked when I dared to suggest that it was a great movie. Admittedly, it beggared belief that anyone could be as noble as James Stewart’s good banker George Bailey or as evil as Lionel Barrymore’s bad banker Mr. Potter. What really made the cynics sneer was that the whole enterprise depended on a tipsy angel named Clarence (Henry Travers), who offers homilies like “Each man’s life touches so many other lives” as he gives a suicidal George Bailey a tour of Pottersville, the mean-spirited, lawless nightmare his town Bedford Falls would have become had he never existed. more

“PORTRAIT OF MY FATHER”: Henriette Wyeth’s 1937 painting of her father, artist N.C. Wyeth, is featured in “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective,” running from January 21 through May 16 at the Michener Museum of Art in Doylestown, Pa. The exhibit also features the work of Henriette’s husband, artist Peter Hurd.

In January, the Michener Art Museum will present “Magical & Real: Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd, A Retrospective,” an exhibition that explores the work, marriage, and careers of two remarkable artists who contributed to the canon and dialogue of 20th century American art.  more

Ulysses Grantz Dietz

Rago Arts and Auction Center in Lambertville will host curator and author Ulysses Grantz Dietz on January 18 as he delivers a presentation titled “It Was All Modern: Art, Craft, and the Rhetoric of the Marketplace.”

The presentation looks at a range of modern objects, from the 1890s to the 21st century, and explores different meanings of “modern.” more

By Kam Williams

Twenty years ago, Frances McDormand won an Academy Award for Fargo, a delightful whodunit set in a tiny Minnesota town inhabited by colorful local characters. In that Coen Brothers’ black comedy, McDormand played a dedicated police chief who was tireless in her efforts to solve a murder case, even though she was pregnant.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a similar dark mystery set in the Midwest, that’s also full of folksy characters. McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, the mother of her teenage daughter (Kathryn Newton) whose beaten and raped corpse was found lying in a ditch along a lonely stretch of road. more

December 20, 2017

“SAVE THIS I”: This painting by Charles Bryan is part of “Past Looking Forward,” an exhibition featuring the work of Bryan and Diana Weymar at the Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School. The exhibition runs from January 8 through February 1, with an artist’s reception on January 12 from 12:30 to 1 p.m.

The Anne Reid ’72 Art Gallery at Princeton Day School will present “Past Looking Forward,” featuring the work of artists Charles Bryan and Diana Weymar, from January 8 through February 1. There will be an artists’ reception on Friday, January 12 from 12:30 to 1 p.m. The exhibit and reception are free and open to the public. more

“CLOSE ENCOUNTER”: This watercolor painting by Beatrice Bork is part of “Naturally Inspired,” an exhibit also featuring the work of Bill Jersey, Maxine Shore, and Joe Kazimierczyk. The exhibit will be at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville from January 4 through February 4, with an opening reception on January 7  from 1-4 p.m.

Fine artists Bill Jersey, Maxine Shore, Beatrice Bork, and Joe Kazimierczyk explore the great outdoors through their unique interpretations in “Naturally Inspired,” an exhibit at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville running January 4 through February 4. All are invited to attend the opening reception on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. more

“RED BERRIES:” Linda Gilbert’s acrylic painting will be featured in the Gourgaud Gallery’s ninth annual “Open Call Exhibit,” running January 7 through January 26. A reception with refreshments will be held on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.

The Gourgaud Gallery will present its ninth annual “Open Call Exhibit” from Sunday, January 7 through Friday, January 26. The theme is trees and plants. An opening reception with refreshments will be held on Sunday, January 7 from 1 to 3 p.m.  more

“All good things come to those who wait,” so goes the saying. The audience for New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Friday night concert at Richardson Auditorium had to wait a bit for the orchestra to arrive through the snow, but following the late start, orchestra, chorus, and soloists presented a well-informed performance of George Frideric Handel’s perennial Christmas holiday favorite, Messiah. NJSO Music Director Xian Zhang took a unique and creative journey through a work which is enjoyable in any form, but so much more fun with an imaginative approach to performance practice. more

By Stuart Mitchner

When Doug Jones beat Roy Moore in Alabama’s special election last week, viewers who had lived and died, thrilled and chilled, yawned and dreamed through all 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return felt a transcendental connection to the happy outcome. If we were smiling it was not only because a principled man defeated a scoundrel, it was knowing that a miracle was in the stars even before the allegations against Moore saturated the news. Given the power of the narratives and counter narratives circulating on television and the internet, we knew the impossible was possible.  more

By Kam Williams

Saoirse Ronan is only 23 and has already been nominated for an Academy Award twice: for Brooklyn (2015) and Atonement (2005). Now, she’s certain to land another nomination for her memorable performance as the title character in Lady Bird.

It’s hard to say whether three times will prove to be the charm for her, since this has been a banner year for actresses, with powerful performances turned in by competitors like Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, and Meryl Streep. Win or lose, Ronan deserves all of her accolades for her performance in a very demanding role as a tormented teen constantly in crisis.  more

December 13, 2017

By Stuart Mitchner

In the unlikely event that the New York Times Book Review or anyone else ever asks me what books are on my night stand, the tome that’s been there for years waiting for me to write about it is Carl Van Vechten’s The Tiger in the House: A Cultural History of the Cat (Knopf 1920), which has been called “the best single treatise on the cat” and “a treasure house of literary gossip.” Like so many of my books, this one, the 1936 edition, has passed through the secondhand bookstores of Manhattan and therefore embodies three of my favorite things — cats, used bookstores, and New York City. more

“FEATHER & FLIGHT”: This photograph of a great horned owl mother and baby by Wayne
Domkowski is part of the “Feather & Flight: Juried Exhibit” at the D&R Greenway Land Trust Johnson Education Center in Princeton. The exhibit, which features more than 80 works of art celebrating birds, runs through February 9.

D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center galleries take flight with more than 80 works of art in “Feather & Flight: Juried Exhibit,” on view through February 9.

“Birds are more than beautiful; they are bellwethers of environmental health,” says Curator Diana Moore. “This exhibit celebrates birds, and also highlights conservation’s significant role in supporting crucial travel patterns for the 4,000 species that migrate. Because of New Jersey’s location along the Atlantic flyway, our natural resources are critical to avian survival.” more

The Arts Council of Princeton and McCarter Theatre Center have announced “Cows in Our Town,” a new community-wide public art project created to promote awareness of local artists and McCarter’s upcoming production of Marie Jones’ Stones in His Pockets. Through a series of art installations placed in local businesses “Cows in Our Town” will run December 20 — February 11 and aims to enhance the around-town experience for visitors and Princeton residents alike through the holiday season and into the new year.  more