July 3, 2013

In the world of chamber music, there are numerous string quartets but fewer small ensembles combining wind instruments. The Dorian Wind Quintet, founded at Tanglewood more than 50 years ago, has collaborated with a number of composers, festivals, and educational institutions, exploring and creating repertoire for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn. The five members of the Dorian Wind Quintet came to Richardson Auditorium last Thursday night as part of the Princeton University Summer Concerts series, presenting works from the 18th to 20th centuries.

Flutist Gretchen Pusch, oboist Gerard Reuter, clarinetist Benjamin Fingland, bassoonist John Hunt, and hornist Karl Kramer-Johansen opened their program with an intriguing work from a composer with longevity in both age and reputation — the 1948 Quintet for Woodwinds of Elliott Carter, who died last year at the remarkable age of 103. The music of Carter can be described as intricate and complex and the Dorian Quintet achieved a smooth blend among the instruments, with crisp rhythmic figures and refreshing unisons. Mr. Kramer-Johansen’s horn playing melded well into the instrumental texture, and the quintet found particularly elegant sonorities in the second movement, Allegro.

The Dorian Quintet devoted a considerable portion of Thursday night’s concert to the musical influence of Antonin Reicha, one of a myriad of late 18th-century Bohemian composers who were overshadowed by the German and Austrian titans. Reicha’s Quintet in E-flat Major for Winds was every bit as charming as the chamber music of Mozart, but the works of Reicha and some of his contemporaries is not nearly as well known. Reicha’s Quintet in E-Flat is but a portion of his Opus 88, a large compendium of wind quintets, and the Dorian players focused on the work’s classical sophistication and characteristic melodic appeal that marked European music of the late 18th century.

The opening movement of the Reicha Quintet began with similar chords to Mozart’s opera overtures, and the Dorian Quintet made the most of every tapered phrase and appoggiatura. The players demonstrated graceful dialogs between flute and bassoon as well as clarinet and horn. The third movement, Andante, was so melodic (especially from the horn solo) it could have been an aria from an opera.

The Dorian Wind Quintet took Reicha’s tunefulness one step further in the early 2000s by commissioning five composers to write variations on the opening theme of the Quintet in E-flat Major. The grazioso theme was presented by oboist Mr. Reuter, after which the Dorian Quintet launched into five variations marked by quick and precise playing, as each instrumentalist took a turn leading the music. The variation by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett was sprightly with a quick harmonic twist and full of moving parts, while George Perle’s treatment was led by flutist Ms. Pusch (with echoes by Mr. Reuter) and contained some of the more dissonant passages. Staccato effects from hornist Mr. Kramer-Johansen marked the “Draino” variation of Bruce Adolphe and a majestic variation, complete with horn call, by Lee Hoiby closed the set with complex and intricate instrumental colors.

Thursday night’s performance, the second in the 2013 Princeton Summer Concerts series, was as refreshing as water ice in a summer which is starting off a bit on the hot and muggy side. The remaining concerts in the series will no doubt be just as energizing as Princeton relaxes into the summer music season.

—Nancy Plum

 

book revWhile today, July 3, is Franz Kafka’s 130th birthday, the shadow of his name continues to spread, stretching on either side of his birth and death dates, 1883 and 1924. As Frederick Karl, one of his numerous biographers, once observed, the word “Kafkaesque” has “entered the language in a way no other writer’s has.” Joycean, Proustian, Hitchcockian, even Chaplinesque — nothing else approaches the sheer adaptibility of the ominously nuanced dynamite packed into the K-word. The definitions are all over the place. Wiktionary suggests “marked by a senseless, disorienting, often menacing complexity,” or “marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger.” Wikipedia’s Kafka entry mentions “surreal situations like those in his writing.” Merriam-Webster comes at the word as “having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.” Ask someone on the street to free associate and you’ll find them running roughly the same changes, as in bizarre, weird, paranoid, existential, far out, sick, perverse, dreamlike, nightmarish, phantasmagoric, absurd, funny, grotesque, scary, dark, ad infinitum.

According to Jack Greenberg’s piece “From Kafka to Kafkaesque” in Franz Kafka: The Office Writings (Princeton University Press 2009), edited by Princeton professor emeritus Stanley Corngold, with Greenberg and Benno Wagner, a Lexis search of state and federal courts found 245 opinions in which “Kafkaesque” was used, five of them in the Supreme Court. Between 2002 and 2006, Westlaw’s All News reported between 455 and 669 uses of the word outside the courtroom in “encounters of everyday life with the law, and the bureaucracies of state and society.”

Kafka Reads the Times

Consume a steady diet of Kafka for the better part of a week and you can’t get through the Sunday New York Times without the feeling that he’s reading over your shoulder. Take the story about the last words of Death Row inmates in Texas that concludes by quoting a killer with the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction name of James Lee Beathard, who begins his final “rambling statement” by pointing out that “this is one of the few times people will listen to what I have to say.”

Kafka might also do a double take at the wording of another quote in the same article (“From America’s Busiest Death Chamber, a Catalogue of Last Rants, Pleas, and Apologies”). As Stanley Corngold observes in an email message, a Human Rights spokesman’s statement that “The death penalty is a process, not an act” might have been taken verbatim from The Trial (Der Process), which “describes just that, a trial as a process, where ‘the verdict is not suddenly arrived at, the proceedings only gradually merge into the verdict.’”

Still reading the Times, I come to an update on the  factory collapse that killed 1,129 people in Bangladesh in April (“Justice Still Elusive in Factory Disasters in Bangladesh”) and Kafka’s at my back again, and no wonder, since between 1908 and 1922 he was writing reports on accidents in the workplace as Senior Legal Secretary at the Workmen’s Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia. But what a feast of Kafkology is online. Like the story headlined “Kafkaesque reality and Bangladesh” in Dhaka’s Financial Express, where the K-word is used four times and the “absurd reality” of the country’s “metaphorical change” is compared to the metamorphosis of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa into a giant beetle.

In July of last year, the Secretary-General of Amnesty International Canada spoke of the “Kafkaesque injustice of the U.S. “war on terror.” The Irish Times leads with “Kafkaesque scenes” in a story about the 9/11 court hearings; the word is also used to describe Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, budget cuts to courts in California, the arrest of an innocent Canadian, the banning of a life-saving drug, a customer’s bill dispute with AT&T, and not least the ten safety-deposit boxes of Kafka’s unpublished writings being “trapped in courts and bureaucracy” in Tel Aviv. No less Kafkaesque is a situation taking shape around the unpublished work J.D. Salinger left behind when he died in January 2010. At the top of Salinger’s list of favorite writers, Kafka shares with Kierkegaard the honor of prefacing Seymour an Introduction, the skeleton key to the Glass family saga 50-years-in-the-making that remains unreleased and unaccounted for by Salinger’s heirs. For the millions of readers waiting for the book or books, the K-word hovers over the disheartening possibility that Salinger may have decided to follow the example set by Kafka when he instructed his executor Max Brod to destroy all his unpublished work, including The Trial and The Castle.

An Embarrassment

By now, thanks in part to Max Brod’s refusal to follow his dear friend’s instructions, there is ample evidence to make a case for Franz Kafka as the most representative writer of his time and our time, the 20th and early 21st century. And if that’s even a little bit true, consider what it suggests about naysayers like Joseph Epstein in his piece in the July-August Atlantic (“Is Franz Kafka Overrated?”) on naysayer Saul Friedländer’s Franz Kafka: The Poet of Shame and Guilt. The review is an embarrassment right from the outset when Epstein chattily informs us that he has a difficult time reading Kafka with his “morning tea and toast” (all that disorientation and those nasty rodents and beetles). The reviewer subsequently outdoes himself by observing that “In the unending critical Easter-egg hunt for the secret meaning in Franz Kafka’s fiction, Friedländer has retrieved the gay egg.” At the end, after claiming that none of Kafka’s greatest proponents can say why he is “truly a major writer,” meaning of course that he must not be one, Epstein concludes with just the sort of patronize-your-betters stuff that gives litchat a bad name: “Great writers are impressed by the mysteries of life; poor Franz Kafka was crushed by them.”

In fact, it was Salinger’s aversion to this sort of pernicious blather that helped dissuade him from publishing Hapworth 16, 1924 in 1997 when Orchises Press was ready to rescue it from the pages of the June 19, 1965 New Yorker.

Funny Ha-Ha 

Kafka doesn’t just travel back and forth over the border between funny ha-ha and funny-peculiar, he has it both ways, as do, to name a few, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, Beethoven and Berlioz, Buster Keaton and Harry Langdon, Alfred Hitchcock and F.W. Murnau, Rimbaud and Gogol, Chagall and Picasso, Pound and Eliot, Shakespeare and Marlowe, and the Marx Brothers. Spend enough time on Planet Kafka and you begin to think he was peering over DaVinci’s shoulder as Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa (“how about a little more mystery in that smile”) or whispering in Shakespeare’s ear as he wrote the cliff scene in King Lear (“Make old Gloucester think he’s fallen off and then bring in Lear with a mouse and a piece of toasted cheese”) or on the set of The Gold Rush with Chaplin (“Try turning the Tramp into a giant chicken”).

As observed by W.G. Sebald in Campo Santo (Modern Library paper 2011) and Hanns Zischler in Kafka Goes to the Movies, (Univ. of Chicago Press 2002), Kafka was infatuated with cinema. One diary entry from 1913 read simply: “Went to the movies. Cried.” Another: “Boundless entertainment.” Since I haven’t had time to find a copy of Zischler’s book (except for the online sample), I have no way of knowing whether or not any Chaplin shorts were among the films that Kafka saw at Prague’s Landestheater. Given Charlie Chaplin’s immense popularity in Europe, however, it’s possible Kafka could have seen his 1916 two-reeler One A.M., where a grandfather clock’s giant swinging pendulum keeps knocking Chaplin’s cosmically drunken man-about-town assover-backwards down either wing of a double flight of stairs. Or maybe Kafka found the man’s struggles with the big clock and the malignant beast of a wall-bed terrifying, or at least uncomfortably on the funny-peculiar side. Zischler has researched the exact bill at the Landestheater that Kafka would have seen on Sept. 23-24 1912, when, according to the diary, “I tore myself away from writing” (he was at work on the novel published posthumously as Amerika.) The first thing on the program was Strange Insects, a documentary short; perhaps it’s only a Kafkaesque coincidence, but Kafka was also writing his most famous work at the time, in which an office worker wakes up one morning to find he’s been transformed into, according to Kafka admirer Vladimir Nabokov’s reading, “a monstrous insect.”

Early Kafka

Going through Kafka in less than a week is far worse than seeing Rome in a day. I was able to at least read in the various commentaries, diaries, letters, The Metamorphosis and “In the Penal Colony,” but the highlight was reading Description of a Struggle for the first time. One of Kafka’s first efforts, written when he was 20, the novella is included in The Complete Stories, but with a disclaimer from John Updike (another example of patronizing one’s betters) to the effect that it’s “not merely opaque but repellent.” How then was it that this particular piece of work convinced Max Brod that Kafka was a genius? All I can say is that reading it felt like being a child again falling under the spell of pure invention, moving through the invented woods and over the invented hills that are being sketched into view even as you are getting high reading a writer drunk with his own imaginings, evoking with every sentence a delirium of associations, Gogol, Rimbaud, deNerval, Buster Keaton in Sherlock Jr., Groucho Marx, Alice in Wonderland (“… my arms were as huge as the clouds … my head no larger than an ant’s egg, my legs lay over the wooded mountains”), Chagall (“the ladies and gentlemen who should be walking on the pavement are floating … when the wind rises again they are helpless, and all their feet leave the ground at the same time”). According to Updike, Kafka read Description of a Struggle “aloud to friends, sometimes laughing so hard he could not continue reading.”

It’s good to keep that in mind, poor Kafka, “crushed by the mysteries of life,” reading his work to friends, and not just his early work, and laughing out loud.

Princeton’s resident authority on all things Kafka, translator of the million-selling Bantam edition of The Metamorphosis, author and editor of numerous ventures into Kafkology, Stanley Corngold provided various email guides for this too-brief journey. I should also mention that another longtime Princeton resident, the Southern Way’s own Charles Neider, was there before almost anyone in America with his 1947 study, The Frozen Sea.

—Stuart Mitchner

 
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CONEY ISLAND GIRL: Rineke Dijkstra’s chromogenic print, Coney Island, N.Y., July 9, 1993, is part of the exhibition, “Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” currently on view at the Princeton University Art Museum. For more information, call (609) 258-3767 or visit: www.artmuseum.princeton.edu. (Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York)

Sondra Gilman and her husband Celso Gonzalez-Falla own what is, arguably, one of the world’s finest photography collections. The couple’s Upper East Side townhouse contains vintage and contemporary photography. Visitors to the Princeton University Art Museum can savor major work gathered by the couple over the past 40 plus years in an exhibition that opened on Saturday, June 29.

Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography features more than 70 iconic images from the past 100 years of photography, including works by Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Rineke Dijkstra, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Helen Levitt, André Kertész, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Misrach, Vik Muniz, Man Ray, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Garry Winogrand, Francesca Woodman, and others.

Known as a smart curator with a keen eye, Ms. Gilman was the subject of a series of portraits by Andy Warhol in the 1970s. She is a patron and collector of Warhol and other Pop artists like Rauschenberg and Johns and an important figure at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she is a trustee. The photo gallery there is named for her, as well as the curatorship for photography.

In a recent interview, Ms. Gilman spoke about what prompted her to start collecting photography at a time when the medium was rarely considered a fine art. In the mid-1970s, she purchased three Eugène Atget prints after seeing the work of the French documentary photographer at the Museum of Modern Art. “I had an epiphany …. I ended up buying the three Atget [images] for $250 each and everybody thought I was insane. This was in the mid-70s. They had no value. I mean you couldn’t give away a photograph at that time.”

The exhibition at Princeton University is divided into seven sections and explores key themes and subjects, including landscape, portraiture, childhood, constructed photography, abstraction, the object, and urban scenes. It embodies the collectors’ emotional and aesthetic response to many of the medium’s most important images.

Seminal works such as Man Ray’s 1933 “Portrait of Meret Oppenheim,” Henri Cartier-Bresson’s 1954 “Rue Mouffetard,” and a classic typological grid from the period 1965 to 1973 by Bernd and Hilla Becher, share space with Sally Mann’s 1987 “Jesse at Five,” a 1993 image from Hiroshi Sugimoto’s series “Seascapes” and a 2004 large-format photograph of urban renewal in China by Edward Burtynsky.

Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Jacksonville in collaboration with the Princeton University Art Museum, where it continues through September 15.

Admission is free. An exhibition catalogue, published by MOCA Jacksonville, features selected images as well as entries by curators Ben Thompson and Paul Karabinis and an interview with the collectors. For more information, call (609) 258-3767 or visit: www.artmuseum.princeton.edu.

—Linda Arntzenius

 

“Children are not born to be historians of their little world. They do not interview their parents about events that happened earlier in their parents’ lives. Children live in the moment, care only about their own lives and about their friends,” writes Princeton resident Terri Halbreich David, PhD in the introduction to her recently-published book, Mail Call: The Wartime Correspondence of An American Couple, 1943-1945.

In fact, Ms. David does indeed become an historian of sorts, sharing the wartime correspondence of her parents, Lester and Shirley Halbreich, and bringing it to life for new generations.

Letter writing — on paper — is something of a lost art today. With the advent of the internet, e-mail, smart phones, texting, and twitter, etc., the carefully-crafted letter has become a rarity. That was certainly not true during the war years of the 1940s. It was a time when the arrival of a letter meant the world to those serving overseas and to those waiting at home.

When Ms. David’s father, Lester Halbreich gave her 600 letters containing the correspondence between her parents during World War II, she found a treasure trove, evidence not only of her parents’ deep devotion to each other but of the unique history of those wartime years.

Happy Childhood

She remembers a happy childhood, with parents who clearly loved each other and their children, but she had never known about the existence of the letters. When her father gave them to her, with no real explanation, in 1995 after her mother’s death, she was hesitant to read them.

“I was shocked when my father gave me the letters. I didn’t read them for 12 years. I felt I was invading their privacy, although I did organize them by date according to the postmarks.”

Her father’s death in 2000, and then her retirement as a school psychologist in the West Windsor-Plainsboro Community Middle School in 2009, provided enough time for her to reconsider. “I now had an emotional distance, and I felt I could read the letters,” she explains. “It is a revelation to see your parents as young people at 20 and 27. They were so young, so passionate, and so excited and enthusiastic about their lives.”

She describes her reaction to this in her book. “I could not have imagined the wonderful surprise that awaited me. There, in black and white, I found the richly-textured and detailed account of my parents as a newlywed couple, very much in love but separated for month after month by the demands of war. Through these letters, I was able to step back in time and come to know them years before I was born, to see them when they were very young, quite unlike the middle-aged or older couple I had known, and learn about their daily lives, their concerns, their friends, and their aspirations. I also had glimpses of my older brother as an infant, of my two aunts as teenagers, and of our other relatives.”

Whirlwind Courtship

Lester and Shirley, both residents of Brooklyn, met in a resort hotel in the Catskill Mountains of New York in the summer of 1941. It was a whirlwind courtship, and they married three weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941. Lester was 24, Shirley 18. He was in his last year of dental school at New York University, and Shirley had finished the first semester of her freshman year at NYU.

After war was declared, Lester enlisted in the Navy. Having been in Naval ROTC in college, he entered as an officer, eventually serving as a dentist on the USS Oxford, a transport troopship in and around combat zones in the Pacific Theater of the war.

Once she began reading the letters, Ms. David became more and more involved in the lives of her parents and their wartime experiences. She also began to feel the need to share them. “It took all summer to read the letters, and I realized how wonderful they were and so out-of-the ordinary. I wanted to share them with a wider audience.

Her father, especially, had the ability to provide vivid descriptions of what he saw, as well as profound expressions of his love for Shirley, and her mother’s letters were equally forthright in her love for Lester, and fascinating depictions of life at home in Brooklyn.

She began to sort the letters by topic rather than chronology; a secretarial service helped transfer the letters onto the computer, and Ms. David set about writing in earnest, gradually weaving a tapestry of compelling narrative, with the letters as the focus.

“I wrote nearly every day, and I was really living in the 1940s. I became so involved in what day-to-day life was like then. It was sometimes hard to return to the present.”

First Son

Lester was stationed at several bases before he was assigned to the Oxford, and their letters began in 1943. From Corpus Christi, Texas, he wrote to Shirley constantly. The most common theme was his loneliness for her, until she was able to join him there.

In 1944, their first son, Jeffrey, was born, just after Lester’s departure for assignment on the West Coast, prior to joining the Oxford. Many of the subsequent letters referred to his dental practice and treating the men aboard ship, as well as continued references to how much he missed his wife.

On July 23, 1944, he wrote: “Darling, one thing I want you to know. I am always lonesome for you.”

This was followed in August by: “I know that I have told you this a thousand or more times, but it bears repetition. I love you, my darling, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my might …. I could die of unrequited love because you are not here with me.”

When letters from Shirley didn’t arrive regularly, Lester was both melancholy and frustrated. On August 26, 1944, he wrote: “My darling wife, evidently the mail system is very fouled up, for except for that one letter of yours I told you about, I’ve had no word from you, this despite the fact that I know that you’ve written to me.”

And then he expressed his great happiness when they did arrive. March 19, 1945: “At long last a windfall of letters. Again, I believe, honestly, that a prayer of mine was answered.”

Another Day

Other letters described the events of his day, both routine or otherwise. On September 14, 1944, he related this news to Shirley. “It really is interesting to listen to the various comments come over the loudspeakers. And how salty I am getting! The first thing you hear is a hum as the loudspeakers warm up, then comes the boatswain’s whistle, loud and shrill for attention. Then, ‘Now hear this ….’”

Other times he was reflective, such as on October 1, 1944: “Time at sea is so evanescent. It seems to drag, yet lo and behold, another day is gone.”

On occasion, Lester’s correspondence reported news of battles and war zones, which he could relate when the censors gave the go ahead. For example, April 7, 1945, he wrote: “The censor has given us permission to write saying that we have been in a recent invasion, and that we are all right. See, I told you not to worry.”

Then he was able to write about the invasion of Okinawa, which he had observed from the ship: “Fires were burning everywhere, and the sky was clouded with smoke. At frequent intervals, both in time and space, a star shell would be sent up, its brilliant dead whiteness lighting up the area over which it hung.”

In contrast to such dramatic events, much of the time aboard ship was routine. To combat the boredom, Lester found time to read (including Shakespeare), play bridge, and watch the movies the Navy provided. In addition, he enjoyed the natural world around him, the ocean, and the sky, and he was eloquent in his ability to express what he saw.

As he wrote in October 1944: “It was a lovely night. A great full moon shone brilliantly on the water. And the ship rocked slowly and majestically to the movement of the waves. Standing where we were, the moon appeared right over the mast, and instead of the ship moving, it seemed as if the moon was describing circles about the ship.”

Flying Fish

Also in October of that year, he wrote: “Yesterday, while standing on the fo’castle, I saw a couple of schools of flying fish. At first glance, I was really amazed. I knew how far we were from land, and here were these swallow-like creatures skimming the waves. A moment after the sun shone on them from the right angle and lighted up their brilliant blue iridescence, and the filmy gossamer-like fins, I could see them for the fish they were.”

At the same time Lester was serving aboard ship, Shirley was coping with life on the home front. This involved rationing, budgeting, paying the bills, and caring for the baby. She shared many of her day-to-day activities and observations with him in her letters. Socializing was also an important part of her life.

As Ms. David notes in the book, “Because the electronic age, including television, was far in the future, there was less to do on one’s own than there later would be. Much of life, much more than is common today, was social, and the great part of that social life was centered on family.”

Holidays, of course, were focused on family visits, but there was also a great deal of casual visiting taking place during week days. “Family relationships were a central part of everyday life, everyone actively involved with each other and always up to date on each other’s lives,” continues Ms. David.

Shirley also often writes about the weather, noting especially cold winter days and hot summer nights. Heating oil was among the items rationed, and she mentioned this in some of her letters.

In January 1945, she wrote, “The room was really freezing, as only our rooms can be. In fact, it was 40 degrees in my room.” On January 11, she added, “My darling, it was 5 below zero today, yet Jeff and I braved the elements, and stayed out for two hours.”

Black-out Shades

On January 17, the weather was still cold, and now there was snow. “Darling, more snow today, but in the afternoon, it cleared up, so I got Jeff, Skipper (the dog), and I dressed in our winter clothes, and off we trudged. I must admit it nearly broke my back, pushing that carriage (with Skipper pulling) through the slush and piled-up snow.”

The war intruded on the homefront in many ways, points out Ms. David. “It was inescapable, from the news on the radio, in movies, newsreels, in the newspapers, and constant conversation with all who visited. It also made itself felt in more subtle ways, such as the rationing that had become such a part of the fabric of daily life, to the black-out shades that had to be pulled down at night so that no light would be emitted to guide enemy planes that made it that far, and to the fact that nearly all the men were in some branch of the military.”

At times, Shirley referred to the war, its duration, its meaning and implications, and to specific events, such as the deaths of Franklin Roosevelt and Hitler, and finally to the end of the European War. It is hard to realize that at this point, she is only 22 years old; the voice is of one much older.

In May of 1945, she wrote, “The news has come at last of the unconditional surrender of the Germans. All New York, especially along Broadway, is packed with hysterical mobs. It’s wonderful news, and certainly an indication that complete victory cannot be far off, but I don’t feel that all-out joyous feeling I thought I would. I’m so sorry for all the misery the war has brought, and for all the lives lost.”

“The News showed the atrocity pictures of the German concentration camps,” she continued. “Darling, can those people be sane? Can reasoning men do those things to other men, and still remain civilized? I kept my eyes open throughout, for I never want to forget what they did.”

Shirley also reflected on what lay ahead with the world at peace. “The events of the last few days have been breathtaking in their rapidity. Truly, we are witnessing in this week alone, the end of a ghastly era. I pray a new one will dawn much brighter. I’ve lived with aggression and persecution and war for so long. How will peace feel? I pray it’s forever.”

Better Future

On May 8, she added: “We realize that victory with Japan must come before we really celebrate the end of this horrible war. Then, too, people can’t forget the price of this war (not to be measured by any standards of money) in the cost of human lives or human sufferings.

“But there is one thing God has blessed us with, and that is faith. We all have hopes for a better future and permanent peace — towards that goal we strive. I do wish that my son grows up in a world where the words ‘war’ and ‘inequality of race and color’ are obsolete. For what land, or gold, or ‘place in the sun’ is worth the agonies of war?”

With the fighting winding down in Europe and the end in sight in the Pacific as well, Lester began to think about life after the war, contemplating where the couple might live, and what options would be available to them. Mostly, he yearned for the day when they would be together again. “And that, my darling wife, brings us up to today, a day nearer home. A day when these thin schemes of mine and yours can be turned into reality; and above all, a day when we two shall be once more together again.”

The Halbreichs were happily married for 54 years, living in New York City for most of that time. In addition to Jeff and Terri, a third child, David, was born to them.

It was Ms. David’s wish to share her parents story and their letters of those wartime days with others, and she worked diligently on it for four years. She published it this year, and it is now available on Amazon.com and also Barnesandnoble.com.

Ms. David was part of a recent book signing event at Cornell University (her father’s alma mater), and in September, she will speak about the book at a Rotary Club breakfast in Hamilton.

Mail Call is dedicated to:

“Shirley and Lester Halbreich, my parents,

whose lives of love and quiet dignity

inspired it, and whose personal example

inspires their daughter still.”

—Jean Stratton

 

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents photos by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick and Kris Giacobbe, titled “REPORT: Providing Health Care Where Basic Needs are Unmet” through November. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has works by painters Alla Podolsky and Charlie Katzenbach July 5-August 4. The opening is July 6, 5-9 p.m. Visit lambertvillearts.com.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has a Terrace Project by Chris Maher and Instructor/Student Work on view through July. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Bank of Princeton Community Art Gallery, 10 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Fresh eyes on art” featuring young Bucks County artists, through July 13.

Bernstein Gallery, Robertson Hall, Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University has “Passages: Mixed Media Artwork by Ela Shah” through September 11. (609) 497-2441.

Cherry Grove Farm, 3200 Route 206, Lawrenceville, is displaying work by members of The Creative Collective throughout the summer. Visit meetup.com/Creative-Collective-of-Mercer-County.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Dangerous Blossoms,” a mixed-media exhibit, through July 19. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, presents the Delaware Valley Fine Crafts Invitational and “Memories of Warsaw,” paintings and drawings by Kyle Hamilton, through July 28. “Trenton Entourage Motors ‘Round the World in 1909” is through September 22. (609) 989-1191.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” is on view through August.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Look Again” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, “Into the Garden” by Martha Weintraub, and “Colors of Iceland” by Wiebke Martens” through July 7. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, Cranbury, has “Caithness and Sutherland Landscapes,” photos by Kelli Lynn Abdoney, July 8-28.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, has Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” in the East Gallery through July. In the Meadow, “THRE3” and “MYTHOS” are on view. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. “We Love Princeton: Stories from the Street” and “Einstein at Home” are also on view. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song” through September 29. “Nelson Shanks: A Brush with Reality” is exhibited through September 8. “Harry Bertoia: Structure and Sound” is on view July 20-October 13. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Henri-Gabriel Ibels” through September 8. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14. “Stars: Contemporary Prints by Derriere L’Etoile Studio” is on view through September 29. “Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music” is on view through September 13. On July 10, “Art After Hours” will celebrate a new exhibit, “Maples in the Mist: Chinese Poems for Children Illustrated by Jean & Mou-sien Tseng” from 5-9 p.m. The Cancion Franklin Band will perform; admission is $5. The exhibit runs July 10-June 22, 2014.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, shows “Coastal Impression, Painters of the Jersey Shore, 1880-1940” through September 29. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 37 West Bridge Street, New Hope, has “Cut and Paste: The Art of Ruth Marcus” in its A Space Gallery July 13-28.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, has “The Re-Connection Project: Endangered Birds of New Jersey” through July 15. Visit statemuseum.nj.gov.

The Princeton University Art Museum has “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” through September 15. “American Prospects: 19th Century City Views by William James Bennett” is shown through July 14. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has works by Aaron Epstein through August 6. The opening is July 12,7-9p.m.

Tinicum Arts Festival, Tinicum Park, Route 32, Erwinna, Pennsylvania, has works by John Schmidtberger, who will paint at the site beginning at 11 a.m. July 13. The festival continues through July 14, 5 p.m. Visit www.TinicumArtsFes
tival.org.

Two-Nineteen Gallery, 219 East Hanover Street, Trenton, presents “What’s Happenin’” through July 5. Mel Leipzig curated the exhibit of emerging artists. www.sagecoalitionnj.com.

Veridian Gallery, 43 South Main Street, Pennington, has recent oil paintings and studies by Thom Montanari July 12-September 13. The opening is July 12, 6-9 p.m. (609) 737-3838.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, has “Full Circles/Painters Circle,” the work of older artists, through July 20.

movie rev

THE UNSUNG HEROES OF THE SINGING WORLD RECEIVE SOME RECOGNITION AT LAST: Some of the many back up singers in the pop music world are shown singing their hearts out in a recording studio. Unfortunately, while waiting and hoping for their breakthrough into the world of stardom, these passionate musicians were underpaid and underappreciated.

Do the names Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, Darlene Love, Claudia Lennear, Tata Vega, or Lynn Mabry ring a bell? Probably not, yet you are undoubtedly very familiar with their work as backup singers for a variety of musical icons.

For example, it’s Merry’s powerful voice that adds a memorable touch of soul to the Rolling Stones’ classic “Gimme Shelter” in the brief interlude where she makes the most of the opportunity to belt out the bizarre lyrics “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away!” The same can be said of Darlene who not only sang backup on hundreds of hits by everyone from Elvis Presley to The Beach Boys to Tom Jones to Sonny and Cher, but she also anonymously ghost recorded the lead vocals on such 60s anthems as “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “He’s a Rebel” and “It’s in His Kiss,” without getting credit or decent compensation.

Sadly, despite their considerable talents, these artist generally have little to show financially for their contributions to rock, soul, and other music genres. Most of the backups are black and female with gospel backgrounds, and have stories about being underpaid, under-appreciated and sometimes outright exploited. For example, Darlene had to clean houses as a maid between gigs in order to survive at a low point in her career.

Most backup singers are frustrated artists who spend years helping others shine while waiting for that big break, that might never come, that could catapult them into the limelight. Finally, thanks to Twenty Feet from Stardom, these neglected singers are finally getting their credit, if not the fortune and fame that has eluded them for so long.

Directed by Morgan Neville, this entertaining and illuminating documentary includes testimonials from Sting, Bruce Springsteen, Bette Midler, Sheryl Crow, and other greats who freely pay tribute.

Excellent (HHHH). Rated PG-13 for profanity and sexuality. Running time: 91 minutes. Distributor: Radius-TWC.

—Kam Williams

 
June 26, 2013

dvd revThe magnitude of the response to James Gandolfini’s death in Rome last Wednesday is clearly also a tribute to a fictional character and a television series created by David Chase and his writers. If Chase had picked someone else to play Tony Soprano back in 1998 (as almost happened), Gandolfini (1961-2013) would be remembered as a good actor with a knack for playing heavies. But it works both ways and the part of a lifetime miraculously found perhaps the only actor in the world worthy of it, as Chase implied when he called Gandolfini “one of the greatest actors of this or any time.” Then Chase raised the stakes: “A great deal of that genius resided in those sad eyes. I remember telling him many times, ‘You don’t get it. You’re like Mozart.’ There would be silence at the other end of the phone.”

The outpouring of grief and adulation for this New Jersey native, a Rutgers graduate of the Class of 1983 for whom the state’s flags were flown at half-mast Monday, has been extraordinary. I can’t recall another instance where the actor and the role were so closely associated in the process of mourning. Friends and fellow actors knew him on another level, needless to say. Yet even they could not help but speak of Tony Soprano, a work of art in human form conceived by David Chase and embodied and brought to life by James Gandolfini. People clearly loved something beyond the racist, sexist brute who could and did kill with his bare hands. They loved his heart, his humanity, his anger, his misery, his wife, his children, the way he went out to the driveway in robe and slippers to get the Star Ledger like thousands of other New Jerseyans, his doomed efforts to deal with a nightmare mother, and a dangerous, highly profitable, but crushingly burdensome business.

The Mozart Factor

Or, taking the hint from Chase, you could say we loved his music. The reference to Mozart in connection with the mobster who towered like a stormy, despairing god over HBO’s monumental 86-episode series with its 60-plus murders and countless acts of violence apparently left some journalists scratching their heads. In the AP and ABC obituaries, among others, the Mozart remark was edited out. As if David Chase, of all people, should be corrected for thinking such a thing. This is someone who made music the sonic lifeblood of his series; he knew what he was talking about. And he knew enough to mention the “silence at the other end of the phone” — in case anyone doubted that Gandolfini himself still didn’t “get it.” The actor wasn’t being modest; he was behaving in character. For instance Tony’s reaction the time his lovely shrink Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco) ventured into the lofty regions of “pain and truth” — “Pain and truth! C’mon! I’m a fat f-ing crook from New Jersey!”

If the Mozart quote seems over the top, how about Shakespeare? The Guardian obituary said “Shakespeare would have been proud to write for Tony Soprano” and the New York Post notice hailed “the Shakespearean grandeur” of his performance. In fact, what else but aesthetic hyperbole can explain the dimensions of Gandolfini’s appeal as Tony Soprano, and the seismic impact of his death on the media? Try to imagine anything comparable greeting the untimely passing of the brilliant actors who play Walt White of Breaking Bad, Don Draper of Mad Men, Jack Bauer of 24, Al Swearengen of Deadwood, or any other series figures who, as various obituaries have suggested, might never have happened without the example of Tony Soprano?

Music Hath Charms

From January 10 1999, to the sudden fade to silent black on June 10, 2007, the scene that marked The Sopranos and its unlikely hero for greatness, the scene essential to the dynamic that captivated audiences here and around the world, occurred in the opening episode when a family of ducks abandon Tony Soprano’s swimming pool. For the Mozart-minded creator of a series where the titular family’s last name has operatic associations, what better way to accompany such a transformative moment than with an aria for a soprano booming from the sound system during a family gathering? In the world’s first up-close and personal encounter with Tony Soprano, the big man is beaming like a proud parent at the beauty of the family of ducks splashing in his pool while Luba Orgonosova sings “Chi il Bel Sogno Di Doretta” (“Doretta’s Beautiful Dream”) from Puccini’s La Rondine. Here he is, the king in his domain, a big cigar in his mouth, a can of lighter fluid for the Bar-B-Q in his hand, friends and family gathered in his spacious backyard. Then, as first one duck, then another, then all go flying off, the light goes out of his eyes, his hand clutches his heart, his head drops, the cigar falls from his mouth, and down he goes, face first, the can of lighter fluid hitting the grill, which bursts into flame as his frightened wife and children run to help him. It’s the visual equivalent of a psychic explosion. “Panic attack” doesn’t do it justice, but that’s the clinical term that leads him to therapy with Dr. Melfi and that helped first-time audiences all over the world bond with the series.

Some of Tony’s most memorable and revealing lines are spoken in Dr. Melfi’s office (“what kind of a human being am I if my own mother wants me dead?”). The therapy sessions, as David Chase has pointed out, allow the writers to sound and develop their own themes and plot elements through the medium of an educated white-collar listener who also happens to represent a significant slice of the show’s viewership. It’s partly through his sessions with Melfi that Tony can be perceived as the “richly complex” mob boss mentioned in the original headline of the New York Times obituary (wouldn’t you know, someone edited out the “richly” in the online edition).

Family Above All

When Dr.Melfi hears about the flyaway ducks and Tony’s collapse, she tells him, “You’re afraid of losing your family.” As the reaction to James Gandolfini’s death indicates, the Sopranos family dynamic works brilliantly. Just give the brute a house in a monied North Jersey neighborhood, his castle to protect from FBI surveillance teams and the occasional black bear. At the Bada-Bing and Satriale’s, it’s essentially power and business. In bed or on the floor or up against the desk with various women, it’s power and pleasure. At home, he hangs out, stuffs his face, watches TV, sustains an alliance of sorts with Carmela (Edie Falco), the complicated woman he’s married to, and does his best to be an old-school father to his teenage kids, A.J. and Meadow (Robert Iler and Jamie-Lynn Sigler). He can be oafish, foolish, sometimes pathetic, sometimes surprisingly charming (he has a smile to die for, sly and seductive). Mozart, he’s not, but when he’s in the family element he’s “one of us” more believably than, say, Archie Bunker ever was.

There are plenty of laughs in The Sopranos, but not the canned sitcom variety. It’s the human comedy that prevails in Chase’s world, and while Tony’s casual racism is never funny, only ugly and benighted, it’s also perfectly true to life, as is his clueless way of dealing with the attitudes his kids bring home from school. Like the time A.J., in the midst of being scolded, calmly tells his parents, “Death just shows the ultimate absurdity of life,” upon which his father (“Are you trying to make me angry?”) threatens to throw him through the window. Unintimidated, A.J. nails it: “See. That’s what I mean, life is absurd.” When Carmella shouts “God forgive you!” A.J. doesn’t miss a beat: “There is no god.” Which raises a shocked “HEY!” from both parents. Where is this coming from, they wonder? Could it be that new English teacher Mr. So-and-so from Oberlin? At this point Meadow, now a student at Columbia, lays it on the line: “You want him to read something other than Hustler? You want him to be an educated person? What do you think education is? You just make more money? This is education.” During the stunned parental hiatus, A.J. continues waxing philosophical, “Do you ever think why you were born?” while Meadow quotes Madame de Staël (“In life one must choose between boredom and suffering”). Stick a fork in the parents, they’re done, nothing more to say, until Tony tells Meadow, lamely, “Go to your room.”

It’s called putting Tony in his place, and no one does it like his family. Meadow does it. Carmela does it. Not so much A.J., he just breaks his father’s heart, over and over. Whenever Tony’s in the hospital fighting for his life, his family’s there pulling for him. If you love Carmela and who cannot love Carmela (when she tells off the freeloading young priest, you feel like cheering), it reflects on Tony. And what a work of art is that battered and bewildered marriage, and how real it became to the actors, witness Edie Falco’s comment on Gandolfini’s death, “The love between Tony and Carmela was one of the greatest I’ve ever known.” When Jamie-Lynn Sigler heard the news, she referred to her “father” for eight years and his ability “to make you feel like everything would be alright if he was around.” On his Facebook page, Robert Iler wrote: “I haven’t cried in years and now I can’t stop …. Please tell me this is all a bad dream … I love you so much james and always will.”

4:32

The movie never ends/It goes on and on and on and on.

—Journey, “Don’t Stop Believin’

During the last four minutes and 32 seconds of Tony Soprano’s television life, each time someone walks into Holsten’s Ice Cream Parlor on Bloomfield Avenue, a bell rings and he looks up. His looks are neutral, watchful, but not excessively so. He’s expecting his wife, son, and daughter, who will enter the place, one by one, in that order. When Carmela comes in and sits down across from him, the look that passes between them is at once comfortable, affectionate, and knowing. The song Tony has chosen to play on the tabletop jukebox selector, “Don’t Stop Believin,’” is likely one they shared when they were dating back in the early eighties. A few seconds later A.J. comes in on the heels of the man in the Members Only jacket some inventive viewers have deduced is there for the express purpose of killing Tony (Chase picked for this key role of “phantom killer” a non-actor who owns a pizza parlor in Bucks County; go figure). When the bell rings for the last time as Meadow rushes in (we never actually see her enter), Tony looks up (shown above), the music stops and the screen goes black.

Does what happened or didn’t happen at Holsten’s six years ago this month matter now? When the owners heard the news from Rome, they put a Reserved marker on Tony’s table.

SCENTS AND SENTIMENTS: Smooth-talker Steven Kodaly (Kenny Francoeur) romances a smiling Ilona Ritter (Katrina Michaels), as perfume shop employees Sipos (Tommy Prast) and Arpad (Brad Wilson) look on in Princeton Summer Theater’s production of the 1963 romantic musical “She Loves Me,” playing at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus through June 30.

SCENTS AND SENTIMENTS: Smooth-talker Steven Kodaly (Kenny Francoeur) romances a smiling Ilona Ritter (Katrina Michaels), as perfume shop employees Sipos (Tommy Prast) and Arpad (Brad Wilson) look on in Princeton Summer Theater’s production of the 1963 romantic musical “She Loves Me,” playing at the Hamilton Murray Theater on the Princeton University campus through June 30.

“A romantic atmosphere” pervades the Hamilton Murray Theater, as Princeton Summer Theater (PST) embarks on its new season with a rollicking, endearing production of She Loves Me, a 1963 Broadway hit musical by Jerry Bock (music), Sheldon Harnick (lyrics), and Joe Masteroff (book).

The atmosphere at PST is also full of energy and excitement, as this community of vibrant, committed theater students and young professionals tackles a challenging classic of the musical theater repertoire. It may be a small musical by blockbuster Broadway standards, overshadowed in many ways by Mr. Bock and Mr. Harnick’s A Fiddler on the Roof, which opened one year later; and it may seem old fashioned in both its 1930s Budapest setting and its traditional, character-driven romantic fare. But She Loves Me, in the capable hands of Sash Bischoff, 2009 Princeton University graduate and currently New York-based director, and her talented 13-member ensemble, takes full advantage of the smallness, which translates into an engaging intimacy and focus, and its old fashioned-ness, which proves to be charming and timeless.

With an impressive contingent of recent graduates and undergraduates from Princeton, NYU, and elsewhere, Princeton Summer Theater is winning over sell-out audiences with this luminous and endearing, thoroughly professional opening production. The outlook for its 45th season could hardly be brighter, as its stimulating, eclectic season continues in July with Beth Henley’s Crimes of the Heart and a stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock and John Buchan’s The 39 Steps, followed by Donald Margulies Time Stands Still in August.

Set in a perfume shop, She Loves Me is a retelling of Miklos Laszlo’s Hungarian play, Parfumerie, first staged in 1937. The fact that this story has inspired at least three popular movies — The Shop Around the Corner in 1940 with James Stewart, In the Good Old Summertime in 1947 with Judy Garland, and You’ve Got Mail in 1998 with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, in addition to She Loves Me, is ample evidence of the timeless appeal of this simple story of two perfume clerks who squabble constantly, but, unknown to each other, are romantic pen pals deeply in love with their anonymous correspondents.

She Loves Me presents a variety of stories and perspectives on love and romance amongst the seven major characters. In every role, every musical number, and every major scene these characters and their complex human relationships come to vibrant life through the high-quality acting and commitment to character, first-rate musical accompaniment, superb vocal talent throughout the cast, and the finely tuned pacing, direction, and choreography.

The seven-piece band, under the unerring baton of Emily Whitaker, occupies an orchestra pit in the background across the upstage area, and creates an unobtrusive but powerful presence in delivering this melodious music, as well as supporting the plot and character development here.

The redoubtable, ingenious Jeffrey Van Velsor (set designer) and Laura Hildebrand (technical director) lead the production team and create with flair and resourcefulness the world of Maraczek’s perfumerie and its inhabitants. The scenes shift smoothly and rapidly as the three-part walls turn to transform the locale from inside to outside the shop, then to various other interior and exterior Budapest locations. Alex Mannix’s striking and apt lighting and Annika Bennett’s expressive, colorful period costumes further transport the audience into the world of She Loves Me.

As the central quarrelsome duo, Woody Buck as Georg and Holly Linneman as Amalia are strong from start to finish, with confident, appealing voices, credible, compelling characterizations, and a lively chemistry. They win over the audience from the start, and anticipation rises as the mystery of the anonymous romantic epistles gradually unfolds.

From their romantic reflections over each other’s letters (“Three Letters,” “I Don’t Know His Name”) to eager anticipation at the thought of their first meeting (“Tonight at Eight,” “Will He Like Me?”) to their disappointments, at the end of the first of two acts, when the meeting doesn’t quite come off (“Dear Friend”) — Mr. Buck and Ms. Linneman successfully establish this show’s heartwarming central core. A break-through in their romantic travails, precipitated by a gift of “Vanilla Ice Cream,” and the realization of deep feelings on both sides (“She Loves Me”) come to life in two wonderfully rich and memorable theatrical moments here.

In contrast with this fairy tale romance, Amalia’s outspoken friend and confidante, Ilona Ritter (Katrina Michaels), has her own romantic dilemmas. Ms. Michaels uses an attention-grabbing stage presence and her strong, confident vocal talents to advantage in creating this sympathetic, entertaining character who learns her own lessons in dealing with the vicissitudes of romance with a two-timing (or is it more than two?) paramour.

As Kodaly, Ilona’s urbane, deceiving lover, Kenny Francoeur maintains his suave, charming façade to the end. He crowns his exhortations of true love in the face of all evidence to the contrary in his first-rate song-and-dance numbers, “Ilona” near the end of the first act and his smilingly caustic farewell, “Grand Knowing You,” near the end of the second act.

Meanwhile, in another one of several subplots, Arpad (Brad Wilson), the bicycle-riding, eager young errand boy aspiring to become a clerk, provides perspective and some light comic background as he observes the proceedings, learns some life lessons, and develops in maturity and character as the plot unwinds.

Tommy Prast’s Sipos, another perfume clerk, effectively lends the jaded vantage point of age and experience to the proceedings, while Evan Thompson’s Mr. Maraczek, the aging owner of the shop, contributes additional darker shadings to the tone of She Loves Me with his nostalgic reminiscences of his youth, in the tuneful “Days Gone By,” and his despair and suicide attempt over his wife’s infidelity.

In addition to these intriguing stories, the importance of the ensemble, mostly nameless and in the background though they be, should not be underestimated. Chris Beard, Maeve Brady, Victoria Gruenberg, Emma Paton, Pat Rounds, and Nikki Yarnell, in a variety of roles from fashionable perfume shoppers to restaurant patrons (with a highly dramatic and athletic tour de force by Mr. Beard as the head waiter), sustain their own complex characters and remain credible throughout in helping to create this captivating world.

In discussing the four major productions of the 2013 Princeton Summer Theater season, artistic director Emma Watt says, “They were bound by a common theme of making the ordinary extraordinary.” With its exquisite music, lyrics, and book, under the direction of Ms. Bischoff and her superb PST company, She Loves Me does just that and promises a dynamic, exhilarating PST season ahead.

 

This season The Princeton Festival has been presenting a wide variety of musical genres ranging from a cappella vocal jazz to chamber music to the Festival’s annual youth piano competition. There is only one major operatic offering this season, presented this past weekend with a repeat performance later in the festival. The music of opera titan Richard Wagner might initially seem a bit overwhelming for a summer music audience, but The Princeton Festival’s production of Wagner’s 1843 Der fliegende Holländer (The Flying Dutchman) was crisp as dramatic theater with musical emphasis on elegance, melodic solo lines, and the omnipresent brass which marks much of Wagner’s operatic output.

Performed in German with English supertitles at McCarter’s Matthews Theatre, last Saturday night’s performance drew its six principal lead cast members from high places, beginning with the Metropolitan Opera. Both principal male characters were sung by Met regulars; baritone Mark Delavan and bass Richard Bernstein took charge of their roles and the tension between their characters with clear vocal and dramatic strength clearly gained from years on opera’s major stages. Much of this opera revolves around the sea, and as the Norwegian sea captain Daland, Mr. Bernstein vocally rolled with the undulating orchestral accompaniment and visual effects of the tossing waves. Looking sufficiently bedraggled for being eternally at sea, Mr. Delavan’s “Flying Dutchman” conveyed a range of emotions, both plaintive and foreboding, as he sought to break the curse of endless wandering on the ocean seeking the love of his life. Like the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Mr. Delavan’s Dutchman was on a mission, the roots of which were clearly not of this earth.

Soprano Indra Thomas may not be singing at the Met at this time, but that is likely in her future. Philadelphia audiences have long known how amazing Ms. Thomas is as a singer and the sold-out house at McCarter clearly recognized her vocal powers and range of emotions in her role as Daland’s daughter Senta. From her dreamy presence among her fellow spinning girls to her final leap into the ocean to join her beloved Dutchman, Ms. Thomas produced an incredible amount of sound with very little effort and exhibited the ability to change musical expression and mood on a dime in this demanding role.

Two stand-out tenors were Jason Wickson, singing the role of the huntsman Erik and Alex Richardson as Daland’s steersman. Mr. Richardson set the stage well for the arrival of the Dutchman’s “phantom” ship with a lyrical and appealing voice, and Mr. Wickson definitively proclaimed his love for Senta in a passionate and richly musical soliloquy. Rounding out this very solid cast was mezzo-soprano Dana Beth Miller, keeping the spinning girls in line with rich vocal tones, maternal instinct, and toughness. The six principals of this opera were well supported by large choruses of sailors and spinning girls who provided full and solid choral accompaniment for the large ensemble scenes.

Although the cast was listed as only eight principal roles, there were two other “characters” with significant impact on the production — the Princeton Festival Orchestra and the technology employed to bring Wagner’s libretto and music to life. Conductor Richard Tang Yuk cleanly led an orchestra which showed exact playing from the crisp horn call which opened the overture. Throughout the long introduction to the first act, Mr. Tang Yuk kept the music rolling along, bringing out the early 19th-century classicism and refinement. Elegant wind and brass solos recurred throughout the opera, including from hornist Karen Schubert, oboist Geoff Deemer and English hornist Evan Ocheret. With rich lower strings capturing the mood of the sea topped by a graceful harp, the Festival Orchestra captured the nuances of the story (especially with Senta’s passages echoed by oboe) and never overpowered the singers.

Technology has revolutionized operatic production with the capabilities of visual effects on flat screens, and designers Marc Pirolo, Norman Coates, and David Palmer created innovative and at times spell-binding visuals to absorb the backdrops of the stage. The sea undulated, clouds floated by and The Dutchman’s vessel arose as a ghost ship from the bottom of the sea. Lighting changes matched the moods of the story, and this ability to successfully combine film and live opera enhanced the audience’s experience considerably.

This opera was a major undertaking for The Princeton Festival — somewhat off the beaten repertory track and requiring a depth of vocal talent which surely was a huge financial investment. The house was close to sold out on Saturday night, showing that perhaps Wagner can have a home in Princeton after all.

 
I’M GOING TO GET YOU ON A NAVY SHIP IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, WHERE YOU’LL BE SAFE: Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, right) is struggling through the panic-stricken crowd with his wife Karen (Mireille Enos, left), who is holding their daughter Constance (Sterling Jerins). Gerry is holding onto their other daughter Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) as they work their way to the embarkation point where Gerry’s family can be transported to the Navy’s safe ship, while Gerry goes off to help save the world from the pandemic.

I’M GOING TO GET YOU ON A NAVY SHIP IN THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, WHERE YOU’LL BE SAFE: Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt, right) is struggling through the panic-stricken crowd with his wife Karen (Mireille Enos, left), who is holding their daughter Constance (Sterling Jerins). Gerry is holding onto their other daughter Rachel (Abigail Hargrove) as they work their way to the embarkation point where Gerry’s family can be transported to the Navy’s safe ship, while Gerry goes off to help save the world from the pandemic.

After a career spent risking his life in international hotspots like Bosnia and Liberia, Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) resigned from his dangerous post at the United Nations in order to devote himself to his family. As the story unfolds, we find him assuring his wife (Mireille Enos) and young daughters (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove) that he has quit his job to spend more time with them at home.

However, that same morning on TV, network news anchors are reporting rumors of a rapidly spreading rabies outbreak overseas. Eventually, all hell starts to breaks loose in the U.S., too, after the president perishes and the vice president is missing.

By the time the Emergency Broadcast System takes over the airwaves, the escalating zombie scourge can no longer be covered up or contained. And the pandemic, which started in Taiwan, has already overrun a dozen countries.

Given the desperate state of affairs, Gerry has no choice but to answer the call when he is begged by the U.N. Deputy Secretary General Thierry Umutoni (Fana Mokoena) to come out of retirement. He agrees to join a crack team of researchers whose mission is to find the source of the outbreak and develop a vaccine.

After he secures berths for his family aboard a quarantined Navy ship that is safely located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Gerry boards a plane to try and track down the epidemic. What ensues is a harrowing adventure that includes South Korea, Jerusalem, and Wales.

At each stop, Gerry and his team members encounter voracious zombies that can only be destroyed by burning them or shooting them in the head. Of course, the team ultimately figures out how to turn the tide, although the resolution conveniently leaves a loophole, thereby setting up the beginning of the sequel for the second film in a planned trilogy.

Directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball), World War Z is a summer blockbuster any way you slice it. With its hordes of man-eating creatures, mob scenes of panicked citizens, tension-maximizing editing, captivating special effects, breathtaking panoramas of the collapse of civilization, and a matinee idol as the hero, the film’s features assure the audience its money’s worth of viewing pleasure and excitement.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for disturbing images and pervasive horror violence. Running time: 115 minutes. Distributor: Paramount Pictures.

 

 

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents photos by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick and Kris Giacobbe, titled “REPORT: Providing Health Care Where Basic Needs are Unmet” through November. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Sunshine & Joy,” paintings by Douglas Sardo and Joe Kazimierczyk through June 30. A closing reception is June 30, 3-5 p.m. From July 5-August 4, painters Alla Podolsky and Charlie Katzenbach show their work. The opening is July 6, 5-9 p.m. Visit lambertville
arts.com.

Arts Council of Prince–ton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has a Terrace Project by Chris Maher and Instructor/Student Work on view through July. www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Bernstein Gallery, Robertson Hall, Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University has “Passages: Mixed Media Artwork by Ela Shah” through September 11. (609) 497-2441.

Cherry Grove Farm, 3200 Route 206, Lawrenceville, is displaying work by members of The Creative Collective throughout the summer. Visit meetup.com/Creative-Collec
tive-of-Mercer-County.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Dangerous Blossoms,” a mixed-media exhibit, through July 19. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, presents the Delaware Valley Fine Crafts Invitational and “Memories of Warsaw,” paintings and drawings by Kyle Hamilton, through July 28. “Trenton Entourage Motors ‘Round the World in 1909” is through September 22. The opening reception for the shows is June 22, 7-9 p.m. (609) 989-1191.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” is on view through August.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Look Again” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, “Into the Garden” by Martha Weintraub, and “Colors of Iceland” by Wiebke Martens” through July 7. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, Cranbury, has “Spring Splash,” works by Watercolorists Unlimited, through June 30. From July 8-28, “Caithness and Sutherland Landscapes,” photos by Kelli Lynn Abdoney, is on display.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, has Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” in the East Gallery through July. In the Meadow, “THRE3” and “MYTHOS” are on view. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. “We Love Princeton: Stories from the Street” and “Einstein at Home” are also on view. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song” through September 29. “Nelson Shanks: A Brush with Reality” is exhibited through September 8. “Harry Bertola: Structure and Sound” is on view July 20-October 13. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Henri-Gabriel Ibels” through September 8. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14. “Stars: Contemporary Prints by Derriere L’Etoile Studio” is on view through September 29. “Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music” is on view through September 13. “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” is on view weekends through June 30.

Lawrence Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, shows Robert Allard’s pen and ink and pencil drawings through June 30. Visit mcl.org.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, shows “Coastal Impression, Painters of the Jersey Shore, 1880-1940” through September 29. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has the Artsbridge 19th Annual Juried Show through June 29 (Fridays-Sundays, 1-5 p.m.). In the “A” Space, “don’t mention the WAR,” recent work by Linda Guenste, is on view through July 3. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, has “The Re-Connection Project: Endangered Birds of New Jersey” through July 15. Visit statemuseum.nj.gov.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Gallery, 20 Library Place, exhibits works by master iconographers and apprentices of the Prosopon School through June 30.

The Princeton University Art Museum has “Picturing Power: Capitalism, Democracy, and American Portraiture” through June 30. From June 29-September 15, “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” is exhibited. “American Prospects: 19th Century City Views by William James Bennett” is shown through July 14. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has “Away We Go,” a group exhibition by Art+10, through July 2. From July 3-August 5, Vasundhara Bharatiya will be showing her work. The opening is July 14, 3-6 p.m.

Two-Nineteen Gallery, 219 East Hanover Street, Trenton, presents “What’s Happenin’” through July 5. Mel Leipzig curated the exhibit of emerging artists. www.sagecoalitionnj.com.

Veridian Gallery, 43 South Main Street, Pennington, has recent watercolors by Linda Bradshaw through June 29.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, has “Full Circles/Painters Circle,” the work of older artists, through July 20.

June 21, 2013

book revHe reached the Capital as the poor, hunted fugitive slave reaches the North, in disguise, seeking concealment, evading pursuers … crawling and dodging under the sable wing of night. He changed his programme, took another route, started at another hour, travelled in other company, and arrived at another time in Washington. We have no censure for the President at this point. He only did what braver men have done.

—Frederick Douglass,

Life and Times (1881)

There are many reasons to think well of Baltimore, in spite of its being the place where the plot to assassinate President-elect Abraham Lincoln was hatched and might have been carried out but for the counter machinations described in Daniel Stashower’s The Hour of Peril: The Secret Plot to Murder Lincoln Before the Civil War (Minotaur Books $26.99).

Let’s start with the fact that the Baltimore Ravens are the only professional sports team in the world named for a poem. When the owner of the Cleveland Browns decided to move his NFL franchise to Baltimore, a telephone survey and a fan contest came up with a list of 17 names that was trimmed to three by focus groups of 200 Baltimore area residents and a phone survey of 1000 people. A fan contest drawing 33, 288 voters picked Edgar Allan Poe’s immortal bird over the Marauders and the Americans.

It’s hard not to like a city that chooses for its team’s mascot and emblem a bird of ill-omen from a poem dreamed up by a dissolute genius who died under suspect circumstances on that same city’s mean streets. And how have these Ravens fared under the curse of Poe’s “grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore”? A year after taking the field in 1999, they won the Super Bowl. Last year Edgar’s team did it again. All told, since they moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, they have made the play-offs nine times.

Other reasons to hang four big stars on Baltimore: the Florentine tower once crowned by a giant bottle of Bromo Seltzer; the red neon of the Domino sugar sign reflected in the harbor; the Fells Point diner immortalized in Barry Levinson’s Diner, and, of course, Camden Yards, a throwback to baseball’s glory years built on a site associated with the proposed assassination of the man who saved the Union. Meanwhile let’s add a fifth star for David Simon’s peerless five-part portrait of “Bulletmore Murderland” in The Wire, and Randy Newman’s “Baltimore,” arguably the best song ever written about an American city. Whether or not it’s true that Newman composed it without ever having actually experienced the place, the way he sings the bluesy lament over an edgy, atmospheric piano vamp (“It’s hard just to live”), you know he owns Baltimore the way Ray Davies owns Waterloo Station and Wordsworth owns Westminster Bridge and Keats owns the Grecian Urn.

Travel back to February 1861 in The Hour of Peril and the city’s not something you want to write a song about, it’s the “mob-town” of secessionist riot, bristling with weaponry, like a malevolent juggernaut set in motion to crush the new president before he can reach the nation’s capitol. In Stashower’s book, Baltimore is the epicenter of villainy, a haven for radicals such as Poe’s eerie double, the assassin-in-waiting John Wilkes Booth, who, like Poe, is buried in Baltimore. Stashower’s compulsive page-turner becomes a litany of threats until the sheer magnitude of the communal death-wish expressed in vows to shoot, stab, bludgeon, or bomb the despised “tyrant” makes The Hour of Peril seem nothing less than a prologue to the moment Booth fired the shot heard round the land on April 14, 1865.

And in case you think everyone in Baltimore has come round to agreeing with the rest of the country that Lincoln was our greatest president (per Nate Silver’s composite FiveThirtyEight poll on nytimes.com), you need only look up the assassin on welcometobaltimorehon.com, to find, from March of this year, “a gaint [sic] who killed a midget god bless john wilkes booth,” and from September 2012, “God Bless the Great Maryland Hero.”

“All Was Confusion”

Apparently there are people who still contend that Baltimore posed no serious threat to Lincoln’s life, that he could have moved from Calvert Street Station to Camden Depot as scheduled. At the time, security constraints precluded disclosure of the evidence that might have silenced those who were lambasting him for not riding proudly into town to make a speech like the ones he’d been delivering to cheering crowds on his triumphant post-election whistlestop tour from Springfield, Illinois through Indiana, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Besides being a compelling narrative, The Hour of Peril makes a strong, thoroughly researched case for the life-saving necessity of presidential subterfuge on February 22-23, 1861. No one but the most blindly biased reader will finish the book believing that Lincoln could have passed through Baltimore unscathed. The Pratt Street riot that occurred two months later and cost the lives of four Union soldiers and 12 civilians (historians consider it the first bloodshed of the Civil War) offers a hint of the calamity prevented by Alan Pinkerton’s detective work, among numerous other factors that convinced the president-elect to let discretion be the better part of valor. And, as Lincoln feared, the decision to sneak through Baltimore incognito in a different train hours ahead of schedule (arriving in Washington, as he put it himself, “like a thief in the night”) exposed him to ridicule from newspapers both north and south.

In fact, even friendly crowds proved to be dangerous. There were crushes at every station, near-riots, injuries, drunken brawls, squads of police “swept aside,” soldiers called in to maintain order. In Albany, “all was confusion, hurry, disorder, mud, riot, and discomfort.” In New York City, where the security and crowd control were impressively managed, there was still “much anxiety,” according to the poet Walt Whitman, who “had no doubt” that “many an assassin’s knife and pistol lurk’d in hip or breast pocket.” It was worse in New Jersey, which Lincoln had failed to carry in the election and “where signs of ambivalence, if not outright hostility, were plainly visible along the route.” In Newark, Lincoln’s carriage “passed a black-bearded effigy swinging by the neck from a lamp post.”

Lincoln’s Character

Stashower’s account of Lincoln’s words and actions during the 13-day tour provides some unusual glimpses of the man, some less than flattering, but all in the arc of his character as history and legend have shaped it — unaffected, down to earth, fond of a quip or a good story, cool under fire. But then his virtues were also seen as defects. Old Abe the country wit was no more than a bumptious fool with delusions of grandeur to his enemies, and even his friends thought some of the speeches he made along the way weak and foolishly out of touch with the plight of the nation.

The Movie 

The Baltimore Plot inspired Anthony Mann’s 1951 film, The Tall Target, as exciting a train movie as Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Dick Powell stars as John Kennedy, a New York City police detective named after the real-life New York police commissioner who vied with Pinkerton for the credit in warning Lincoln away from Baltimore. While the narrative excitement in The Hour of Peril develops out of the struggle to ensure Lincoln’s safe passage to Washington, The Tall Target takes the term “action-packed” to another level. Along with Paul Vogel’s richly film-noirish cinematography, the fun of the movie is in the way the life-and-death struggle meshes with details of the mid-19th-century train, the curtained berths, the engineers and firemen, the horse-drawn passage of the carriages through the streets of Baltimore, the interplay of passengers unaware of the high-stakes battle going on around them (one such scene takes place at the New Brunswick station).  Powell/Kennedy’s life is inadvertently saved by one of his enemies, a conspirator (played by the ever-effervescent Adolphe Menjou), and then by a conflicted black servant (a sweetly sympathetic Ruby Dee) who has a warm quasi sibling relationship with her mistress (Paula Raymond). Judging from the number of times Powell is either hanging by one hand from the moving train or crawling along on top of it or chasing after it, his performance must have been the most exhausting of his Hollywood career.

The Captivating Widow

At the end of The Tall Target the female Pinkerton agent who discreetly boards the train in Baltimore with the disguised president-elect is played by an actress with a name (Katherine Warren) almost identical with that of her real-life counterpart Kate Warne. Quoted in The Hour of Peril, Pinkerton depicts the first female detective in America as a “slender, graceful … perfectly self-possessed” young widow with “captivating blue eyes — sharp, decisive, and filled with fire.”  Half a century ahead of her time (the NYPD’s first female investigator was hired in 1903), she proved to be “a versatile and utterly fearless operator,” as when she forged “a useful intimacy” with the wife of a suspected murderer and posed as a fortune teller (“the only living descendant of Hermes”) in the investigation of a superstitious suspect. Her role in the uncovering of the Baltimore plot was essential. She infiltrated Baltimore society as a “Mrs. Barley of Alabama” with “an ease of manner that was,” in Pinkerton’s words, again, “quite captivating” as she cultivated “the acquaintance of the wives and daughters of the conspirators.” While standing up to male operatives and others trying to bully classified information out of her, Mrs. Warne successfully delivered the messages that helped convince Lincoln to go along with Pinkerton’s plan and board an earlier train in the guise of her invalid brother for the last perilous stretch of the journey to Washington; it was also up to her to make sure they had berths in the rearmost part of the car. Mrs. Warne recalled that the president was “so very tall that he could not lay straight in his berth” and that he “talked very friendly for some time …. The excitement seemed to keep us all awake.”

Pinkerton’s habit of using the word “captivating” in regard to Kate Warne has tempted some to wonder if they had a relationship outside the profession (at 42, he was almost 20 years her senior). Perhaps someone will remake The Tall Target with a romantic subplot in which the Dick Powell character’s accomplice is a mysterious female who appears at crucial moments and by the end has everyone, including Abraham Lincoln, under her spell. Randy Newman could compose a soundtrack worthy of her -— and Baltimore.

POPPY: This watercolor by Gail Bracegirdle is part of the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition currently on view at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. To confirm hours and for more information, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

POPPY: This watercolor by Gail Bracegirdle is part of the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition currently on view at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. To confirm hours and for more information, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

A range of works in a variety of media by artists Silvere Boureau, Gail Bracegirdle, Linda Brooks Hirschman, Bisa Butler, Dolores Cohen, Lora Durr, Kathie Miranda, Linnea W. Rhodes, William Vandever, Andrew Wilkinson, and Anne Zeman comprise the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s current show, “Dangerous Blossoms.”

The title of the show says it all. But while the focus is on poisonous and invasive species that do harm to humans, insects, and other plant species, the images on view celebrate their beauty at the same time. You’ll find “Flowery Foes” such as Foxglove, Pokeweed, and Porcelain Berry.

You’ll learn of the potent secrets of poisonous plants such as those which authors like Agatha Christie have favored as a means of murder as well as how beautiful but fatal flowers are increasingly destroying native species in our region.

“New toxicities spell the death of native plants, who have no defenses against the exotics,” says Curator Diana Moore. “Despite their beauty, invasives such as loosestrife, certain celandines, honeysuckles, and multiflora rose spell doom for native landscapes.”

All art is for sale, a 35 percent of each sale supports D&R Greenway’s preservation and stewardship mission. “A key factor of D&R Greenway stewardship is the removal of invasive species, replacing them with the natives that belong here,” says President Linda Mead.

To this end, the D&R Greenway sells native plants grown from seed to local gardens and gardeners. Natives require less water and fertilizer to thrive. They evolved with their pollinators, nourishing insects and birds over the centuries. The seeds are gathered by volunteers on the Land Trust’s preserves.

Highlights of “Dangerous Blossoms” include Silvere Boureau’s oil paintings of Porcelain Vine, Foxglove, and Belladonna, and Andrew Wilkinson’s outstanding photographs.

Don’t miss Anne Zeman’s photographs. “I began photographing flowers for their beauty,” says Ms. Zeman. “I now photograph plants primarily for identification and to understand how they relate to their environment. To look at a plant closely you become aware of something else — perhaps how an insect is drawn to it or how it survives in harsh or unusual conditions,” she says.

For the “Dangerous Blossoms” exhibition, Ms. Zeman writes, in the commentary to her work, that she “began to think about the unique relationship of beauty and danger, whether it be toxic to humans, insects, or the environment. The poisonous properties of many plants are well known, but other dangers lurk, too: the Round-leaved Sundew’s sticky moonscape is lethal to the insect that lands on it; the Pitcher Plant lures with sweet nectar only to consume the unsuspecting; and the lovely looking Porcelain Berry is so invasive it chokes out edible native plants necessary for our birds and insects.”

Of course, no exhibition at the Greenway would be complete without advice on the environment. In this instance you will find listings of alternative natives such as Swamp Milkweed, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Hollow Stem Joe Pye, Swamp Rose, New England Aster, and Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint as well as a Top Ten List of What Not to Plant: Japanese Barberry, Butterfly Bush, European Privet, Siebold and Linden Viburnums, Amur and Japanese Honeysuckles, Purple Loosestrife, and Callery Pear, which have been found to be most invasive to the landscapes managed by the D&R Greenway Trust.

Emily Blackman, who manages the Native Plant Nursery, mentions the following perennials, shrubs, grasses and sedges as currently available: Hollow-Stem Joe Pye, Autumn Helenium, Narrow-Leaved Mountain Mint; Buttonbush, Sweet Pepperbush, Steeplebush; Pennsylvania Sedge, Bottlebrush Grass, and Woolgrass. A current nursery catalog is available online.

“Dangerous Blossoms” is in three rooms at the Johnson Education Center, including the Marie L. Matthews Gallery, named for the noted Princeton artist and a nature photographer, at the D&R Greenway Land Trust, One Preservation Place (off Rosedale Road) through July 19, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., except holidays. The nursery is open to the public from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays through the end of August (except July 5). For more on the nursery, contact Emily Blackman at (609) 924-4646, ext. 126, or eblackman@drgreenway.org. For more on D&R Greenway, call (609) 924-4646, or visit: www.drgreenway.org.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents photos by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick and Kris Giacobbe, titled “REPORT: Providing Health Care Where Basic Needs are Unmet” through November. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Sunshine & Joy,” paintings by Douglas Sardo and Joe Kazimierczyk through June 30. A closing reception is June 30, 3-5 p.m. From July 5-August 4, painters Alla Podolsky and Charlie Katzenbach show their work. The opening is July 6, 5-9 p.m. Visit lambertvillearts.com.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has a Terrace Project by Chris Maher and Instructor/Student Work on view through July. www.artscouncilof
princeton.org.

Cherry Grove Farm, 3200 Route 206, Lawrenceville, is displaying work by members of The Creative Collective throughout the summer. Visit meetup.com/Creative-Collec
tive-of-Mercer-County.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing Township, presents “Art, Innovation and Ideas,” a juried K-12 exhibition through June 23 including work by students from all over the state. Artist Faith Ringgold is among the jurors.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Dangerous Blossoms,” a mixed-media exhibit, through July 19. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, presents the Delaware Valley Fine Crafts Invitational and “Memories of Warsaw,” paintings and drawings by Kyle Hamilton, through July 28. “Trenton Entourage Motors ‘Round the World in 1909” is through September 22. The opening reception for the shows is June 22, 7-9 p.m. (609) 989-1191.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” is on view through August.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Look Again” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, “Into the Garden” by Martha Weintraub, and “Colors of Iceland” by Wiebke Martens” through July 7. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, Cranbury, has “Spring Splash,” works by Watercolorists Unlimited, through June 30.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, has Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” in the East Gallery through July. In the Meadow, “THRE3” and “MYTHOS” are on view. Visit www.grounds
forsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. “We Love Princeton: Stories from the Street” and “Einstein at Home” are also on view. For more information visit www.princeton
history.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song” through September 29. “Nelson Shanks: A Brush with Reality” is exhibited through September 8. “Harry Bertola: Structure and Sound” is on view July 20-October 13. Visit www.michenerartmuseum.org.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick is exhibiting “Henri-Gabriel Ibels” through September 8. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14. “Stars: Contemporary Prints by Derriere L’Etoile Studio” is on view through September 29. “Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music” is on view through September 13. “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” is on view weekends through June 30.

Lawrence Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, shows Robert Allard’s pen and ink and pencil drawings through June 30. Visit mcl.org.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, shows “Coastal Impression, Painters of the Jersey Shore, 1880-1940” through September 29. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has the Artsbridge 19th Annual Juried Show through June 29 (Fridays-Sundays, 1-5 p.m.). In the “A” Space, “don’t mention the WAR,” recent work by Linda Guenste, is on view through July 3. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, has “The Re-Connection Project: Endangered Birds of New Jersey” through July 15. Visit statemuseum.nj.gov.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, has in it’s second floor gallery a “Drip Art Series” by members of the Arctists Collective.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Gallery, 20 Library Place, exhibits works by master iconographers and apprentices of the Prosopon School through June 30.

The Princeton University Art Museum has “Picturing Power: Capitalism, Democracy, and American Portraiture” through June 30. “1913: The Year of Modernism” is on display through June 23. From June 29-September 15, “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” is exhibited. “American Prospects: 19th Century City Views by William James Bennett” is shown through July 14. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has “Away We Go,” a group exhibition by Art+10, through July 2. From July 3-August 5, Vasundhara Bharatiya will be showing her work. The opening is July 14, 3-6 p.m.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, has works by Jordana Scheer through June 22.

Two-Nineteen Gallery, 219 East Hanover Street, Trenton, presents “What’s Happenin’” through July 5. Mel Leipzig curated the exhibit of emerging artists. www.sagecoalitionnj.com.

Veridian Gallery, 43 South Main Street, Pennington, has recent watercolors by Linda Bradshaw through June 29.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, has “Full Circles/Painters Circle,” the work of older artists, through July 20. The opening reception is June 23, 4-6 p.m. (609) 716-1931.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT??: Four of the celebrities, from left, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, and Craig Robinson, who managed to save themselves from the apocalyptic earthquake that interrupted the Hollywood party they were at, are confronted by something they have never seen before and are trying to figure out a way of escaping from it.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT??: Four of the celebrities, from left, Danny McBride, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, and Craig Robinson, who managed to save themselves from the apocalyptic earthquake that interrupted the Hollywood party they were at, are confronted by something they have never seen before and are trying to figure out a way of escaping from it.

When Jay Baruchel was picked up at the Los Angeles airport by his close friend and fellow Canadian Seth Rogen, he was disappointed to learn that instead of unwinding, they were going to a housewarming party at James Franco’s mansion where a lot of celebrities would be in attendance. Despite having achieved his own measure of success, low-key Jay still lives in Montreal, in part to avoid such shallow Hollywood gatherings.

Upon their arrival, he awkwardly exchanges pleasantries with the host and Jonah Hill, both of whom he secretly suspects hate him. Furthermore, he’s overwhelmed to find himself surrounded by so many famous people whom he’s never seen in person before, icons that include Kevin Hart, Channing Tatum, Jason Segel, Emma Watson, and Mindy Kaling, to name a few.

Jay also feels uncomfortable about the liquor, drugs, and bawdy behavior. Such as when Craig Robinson sits down at the piano to sing a tune called “Take Your Panties Off,” while wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the same phrase.

However, all of the above becomes irrelevant when an earthquake registering 9.7 on the Richter scale rocks the city and rips a giant fissure right in front of Franco’s place. The guests scatter in all directions as a widening sinkhole starts to swallow some of the revelers at the same time that blue beams of light lift others heavenward.

Meanwhile, James, Jay, Seth, Emily, Craig, and Jonah barricade themselves inside to await rescue. Eventually it dawns on them that the cavalry might never be coming, since what’s unfolding all across Los Angeles looks more like Judgment Day than the result of an earthquake.

Thus unfolds This Is the End, a zany apocalyptic comedy that is the directorial debut of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the writing team responsible for Superbad and Pineapple Express. This novel adventure proves to be every bit as side-splitting as their earlier work, and much of the inspired humor is due to the actors who are willing to be the butt of the joke while playing themselves.

Excellent (****). R for crude humor, coarse sexuality, graphic nudity, drug use, violence, and pervasive profanity. Running time: 107 minutes. Distributor: Columbia Pictures

June 12, 2013

book Thomas Wolfebooks henry millerThe largest and most unknown continent of all is Brooklyn. You can say that I’ve gone out into the wilderness five hundred times armed with a trusty map, now worn to tatters, and have prowled about, exploring the place in the dark hours of the night as not even Stanley explored Africa in his search for Dr Livingstone.

—Thomas Wolfe (1900-1938)

It can also be said that the man with the map — a writer of immense, notoriously verbose novels — summed up the story of his writing life in a six-page monologue about someone attempting to do the impossible. The situation described in Thomas Wolfe’s letter of December 11, 1933, from 5 Montague Terrace in Brooklyn Heights, is the subject of “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn” (1935), a story told in a Brooklynese dialect in which the 6’6 Wolfe is the “big guy” with the map asking a Brooklynite how to get to Eighteenth Avenue and Sixty-second Street. In the letter, the prosaic statement, “The Brooklyn people boast that you can live here a lifetime and never get to know their town,” becomes the story’s punchline, “It’d take a guy a lifetime to know Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo. An’ even den, yuh wouldn’t know it all.”

Williamsburg Surprise

Brooklyn’s on my mind after three hours wandering around Williamsburg while my son attacked acres of used LPs in the Academy Records warehouse on North 6th Street. I’ve never looked forward to these Brooklyn visits, thanks to past misadventures driving across the Williamsburg Bridge. Not even the knowledge that the saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins used the bridge’s walkway as a practice space during his sabbatical in 1959-61 could soften the blow of being shunted onto the vehicular Russian Roulette of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway or airhorn-blasted into a near-fatal panic by a tailgating truck.

What a difference a book makes. Take my copy of the 1938 Obelisk Press/Paris edition of Henry Miller’s Black Spring, the pages yellowed and brittle and drenched with atmosphere, as much a place as a book, the opening chapter, “The 14th Ward,” bearing an in-your-face epigraph, “What is not in the open street is false, derived, that is to say, literature.” It’s Henry Miller all the way, still feeling the creative headwind that produced the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, he’s asking no questions, he’s got no map in his hand, he’s grabbing your arm, you can almost hear his Brooklyn accent, “I am a patriot — of the 14th Ward, where I was raised. The rest of the country doesn’t exist for me, except as an idea, or history, or literature.”

So why am I excited? Why has Williamsburg suddenly become a desirable destination in spite of the dreaded crossing? Because just around the corner from Academy Records is the house Henry Miller grew up in. I’m in the 14th Ward. Whatever they may call it these days, it’s his ward. No longer do I have to kill three hours in a place without a single inspirational association. I knew Miller had lived in Brooklyn, I’ve heard recordings, he may not be as extreme with his “t’roo and t’roos” as the character in Wolfe’s story, but you know where he’s coming from. I’d always assumed he grew up in one of those far-flung spots on Wolfe’s tattered map, like Bushwick, Myrtle Avenue, or the street where 13-year-old Henry’s life was changed one day when a book peddler sold him what he thought was a cops-and-robbers penny dreadful called Crime and Punishment by some Russian writer with an unpronounceable last name. In Black Spring, “It was exactly five minutes past seven, at the corner of Broadway and Kosciusko Street, when Dostoievski first flashed across my horizon.”

As soon as I dropped my son off at Academy, I walked a few short blocks and found myself face to face with Henry Miller’s boyhood home, which is still standing at 662 Driggs Avenue, a modest three-story red-brick building with a whole block to itself. My guess is Miller would be glad to know that no historical marker has been hammered in place next to the painted-over shop windows on the ground floor. Here it is, as he writes in Black Spring, “The house wherein I passed the most important years of my life.”

Miller’s house made my day. Out of the labyrinth of streets that fascinated and challenged and submerged Thomas Wolfe, here’s the place where Miller, “born and raised in the street,” began living the book of his life: “To be born in the street means to wander all your life, to be free. It means accident and incident, drama and movement. It means above all dream.” And across the way, still there, is the “ideal street,” Filmore Place, described in Tropic of Capricorn: “Ideal for a boy, a lover, a maniac, a drunkard, a crook, a lecher, a thug, an astronomer, a musician, a poet, a tailor, a shoemaker, a politician.”

Perhaps it all comes down to attitude. In his own way, Miller, like Wolfe, attempted the impossible, but he never asked for directions. He found his voice in an attitude of joyous rhetorical arrogance of which Brooklyn native/resident Norman Mailer writes, “one has to take English back to Marlowe and Shakespeare before encountering a wealth of imagery equal in intensity.” Though Wolfe was a gifted mimic, as in “Only the Dead Know Brooklyn,” he didn’t live long enough to throw the map away and stand outside himself. William Faulkner’s oft-quoted rationale for ranking Wolfe at the top of his list of writers (he isn’t even on most lists in 2013) concerned the magnitude of the attempt — “his was the most splendid failure. He had tried hardest to take all the experience that he was capable of observing and imagining and put it down in one book, on the head of a pin.”

Working in Brooklyn

Thomas Wolfe was my heroic, word-drunk alter ego the summer I was writing my first novel and riding the 4th Avenue Local from 8th and Broadway in Manhattan into darkest Bay Ridge to work in the office of a hiring hall on the Bush Terminal docks. The best thing about the job was getting to say, at age 18, “Waterfront, Mitchner” every time I picked up the phone. On my way back to the subway each afternoon I had to run the gauntlet of stares and occasional taunts from tough-looking teenagers, male and female, hanging out on stoops (picture the ones in Bruce Davidson’s Brooklyn Gang: Summer 1959). I must have looked like an alien species, a hick from the sticks; at work I was greeted with friendly obscenities (here comes that “blankety-blank Hoo-sher so-and-so”) and kidded mercilessly about the fat love letters from my “little Hoo-sher sweetheart” that I arrived with every morning and read on coffee breaks. Among my co-workers was a sadistic, foul-mouthed ex-cop who delighted in tormenting the other non-Brooklynite, a timid Danish-American in his fifties who lived in a cheap hotel in lower Manhattan and rode the subway home with me every day miserably bemoaning his lot because of the way the ex-cop and the other people in the office harrassed him.

Crane’s Bridge

Two summers later when my first novel was published, complete with Wolfian cliches (“The rivers flowed”), I was staying on the top floor of a friend’s State Street brownstone in “dah Heights.” On hot summer evenings we would walk to the Promenade to admire the view of the towers of lower Manhattan, passing on the way Wolfe’s Montague Terrace residence (W.H. Auden lived in the same block five years later). Another Heights resident, poet Hart Crane, described the effect of the view soon after moving into the “quiet and charming” neighborhood in 1924: “It is particularly fine to feel the greatest city in the world from enough distance, as I do here, to see its larger proportions.” In another letter, he speaks of living “in the shadow” of the subject of his most famous poem, “The Bridge” (“It was in the evening darkness of its shadow that I started the last part of that poem”). Crane called the Brooklyn Bridge not only “the most beautiful in the world” but “the most superb piece of construction.” He didn’t know at the time that he was writing his poem in the room once inhabited by the bridge’s designer, Washington Roebling.

Whitman Opens His Arms

In the summer of 1878, some 50 years before Crane moved into the house on Columbia Heights, Brooklyn’s single most compelling literary figure was gazing beyond “the grand obelisk-like towers” of the then-unfinished bridge to “the grandest physical habitat and surroundings of land and water the globe affords — namely, Manhattan island and Brooklyn, which the future shall join in one city.”

While Wolfe made a subject of the impossibility of fathoming Brooklyn, Walt Whitman simply opened his arms and took it all in and all America with it, writing in the preamble to his first self-published song of himself, “Without effort and without exposing in the least how it is done the greatest poet brings the spirit of any or all events and passions and scenes and persons some more and some less to bear on your individual character as you hear or read. To do this well is to compete with the laws that pursue and follow time.”

Turn back to the title page and all you see is Leaves of Grass in massive letters and under it no publisher, no author, only this boldly printed evidence of time and place:

Brooklyn, New York: 1855.

On the facing page there he is, the sparsely bearded poet, sketched in an attitude of no-nonsense intensity, eyeing you, daring you to take the plunge, one hand in the pocket of his corduroy trousers, other arm bent, shirt open at the throat, dark undershirt showing at the top, hat at an angle, worn by a man who contains multitudes.

PRINCETON PHOTOGRAPHERS: Carl H. Geisler’s “Window” from his series “Into the Sky: Gehry at Bard,” is among works by members of the Princeton Photography Club in the inaugural exhibition, “A Point of View,” at a new gallery space opening this Thursday, June 13, with a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, One Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton. For more information, visit rwjhamil ton.org. For more about the Princeton Photography Club, visit princetonphotoclub.org.

PRINCETON PHOTOGRAPHERS: Carl H. Geisler’s “Window” from his series “Into the Sky: Gehry at Bard,” is among works by members of the Princeton Photography Club in the inaugural exhibition, “A Point of View,” at a new gallery space opening this Thursday, June 13, with a reception from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, One Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton. For more information, visit rwjhamil
ton.org. For more about the Princeton Photography Club, visit princetonphotoclub.org.

Local photographers will showcase their work and inaugurate a new gallery space dedicated to the photographic arts when the exhibition “A Point of View” opens this Thursday, June 13, at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton. An opening reception will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The exhibition, a collaboration between the hospital and the Princeton Photography Club, will feature five full series selected from the works of the club’s members: “Curves of Steel” by Lillian Ciuffreda, “Into the Sky: Gehry at Bard” by Carl H. Giesler, “Musicians” by Simon Laufer, “Yesterday’s Papers: The Human Condition” by Maia Reim, and “Cannas in Black and White” by Martha Weintraub.

Also on view will be individual photographs by India Blake, Randy Koslo, Mary Leck, Valerie Chaucer-Levine, Sandra Shapiro, Pat Steo, Serge Trigoubovich, and J. Verni.

The Lakefront Gallery was developed with the guidance of photographer and RWJ Hamilton cardiologist Ilya Genin, MD, and Sheila Geisler, who curated this first exhibition. It is managed by Diane Grillo, vice president of marketing and communications at RWJ Hamilton. The gallery space, which is ADA-accessible, is on the first floor of the hospital along the mezzanine above the Roma Bank Café.

Designed as a not-for-profit dedicated to emerging artists to whom it provides space at no charge, the new gallery hopes to encourage experimentation and creativity. The idea is to provide exposure for local artists as well as to enrich the hospital environment by bringing original artwork to the walls of the hospital. Curator Sheila Geisler is happy to consider new photographic art of all kinds.

The new gallery shares a kindred philosophy with the Princeton Photography Club. Founded by a small group of photographers in 1982, the Club promotes artistic excellence while helping its members gain expertise in photographic techniques. Its nearly 300 photographers range from veteran professionals to beginners. “It has been my privilege to be president of the club for the past six years,” said Carl H. Geisler. “What a delight to have seen the club grow and the quality of images soar.”

The club meets regularly at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center. During the past few years it has hosted talks by invited photographers the likes of Amy Arbus, Larry Fink, Emmet Gowen, Seward Johnson, Stephen Perloff, Mary Louise Pierson, Jeff Rotman, Ernestine Ruben, and George Tice.

In addition, the club hosts workshops throughout the year, led by experts and by members with particular knowledge and skills in the areas of introductory and advanced camera techniques, color management and composition, image editing, documentary photography, matting and framing, and more.

Dr. Genin offers monthly workshops and Ricardo Barros gives two sequential six-session courses in creativity, in which he explores what makes a creative photograph. Each level has a waiting list as word of mouth has spread and class size is limited.

“A Point of View” is at the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, One Hamilton Health Place, Hamilton. For more information, visit rwjhamilton.org. To submit work for consideration, contact gallery curator Sheila Geisler at (732) 422-3676 or sgeisler@rci.rutgers.edu. For more about the Princeton Photography Club, visit princetonphotoclub.org.

The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra (GPYO) finished the 2012-13 season by showcasing two of the ensembles of the orchestra’s expansive program as well as a guest vocal soloist and a winner of the GPYO-sponsored concerto competition, all part of the opening concert of this year’s Princeton Festival. Like most GPYO performances, the concert Saturday night at Richardson Auditorium included shorter pieces and movements from larger orchestral works, but the selection of overtures, vocal airs, and symphonic movements delighted the audience and gave the graduating seniors from the ensemble the opportunity to go out on a high note.

GPYO’s season this year included a record level of participation in the four ensembles which make up their program, as well as a concert at Carnegie Hall. The Youth Orchestra, and in particular its spring concert, has maintained a strong history with the Princeton/ Pettoranello Sister City connection, and the concert Saturday night paid tribute with Neapolitan songs performed by guest tenor Jon Darios. Mr. Darios, a well-established and accomplished singer and actor, performed a lively art song of Rossini and three selections from the early 20th century with animation and keen excitement, even if overpowered by the GPYO Symphonic Orchestra in the first half of the concert. The Rossini “La Danza” and spirited rendition of “Funiculi, Funicula” (without which no Neapolitan vocal evening would be complete) were accompanied by a more restrained orchestral backing, making the words much crisper and the spirit of the songs more clear. Throughout all the vocal selections, both orchestra and soloist handled teasing rubatos well, with clean swirling winds especially marking the Francesco Paolo Tosti air toward the beginning of the program.

Symphonic Orchestra conductor Kawika Kahalehoe began the evening with the exuberant playing of the overture to Rossini’s opera La Gazza Ladra. Clean and subtle playing could be heard from a large brass section, with the strings coming to life in the second part of the overture. A trio of crisp flutes and solos from oboist Heeyoung Park contrasted the lean string sound, as well as exceptional piccolo playing from Sarah Gift, especially in the extreme upper register of the instrument. Rossini overtures always have a bit of mischievous humor, which the Symphonic Orchestra was able to find.

The GPYO Concert Orchestra, conducted by Dr. Arvin Gopal, demonstrated a more contained sound than the Symphonic Orchestra, with a nice light sectional string sound in Rossini’s overture to The Barber of Seville. The familiar second half of the overture erred on the side of musical care rather than brisk tempo, but still achieved drama, aided by horn, clarinet, and bassoon solos. Dr. Gopal bravely led the Concert Orchestra through the tricky Jupiter movement of Gustav Holst’s The Planets, beginning in a sprightly tempo with crisp brass and decisive strokes by the strings, and lavishly playing through the familiar “I Vow to Thee, my Country” hymn. The Concert Orchestra also found lightness and melody in an overture to Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, effectively opened by a trumpet lead from Andrew Hill.

The star of the second half of the concert was clearly Dallas Noble, a thirteen-year-old violinist who was a winner of the GPYO Concerto Competition. Her selection of Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole was no easy task, made even more remarkable by the fact that she played with the orchestra in all the other pieces on the program, rather than sit and wait her turn to solo. Ms. Noble is clearly serious about her music, as the violin solo reached high into the instrument’s register from the start. She was clearly in control of the music, finding passion, lyricism, and sweetness in the one-movement piece, while the Symphonic Orchestra provided some of its cleanest playing of the evening. A ten-year veteran of the violin and currently a student at the prestigious Settlement Music School, Ms. Noble clearly has a future with this instrument and will no doubt be winning more competitions in the future.

The 53rd Annual Spring Concert of the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra was the opening event of The Princeton Festival, which is presenting concerts throughout the month in venues around Princeton. More information about The Princeton Festival and its schedule of performances and workshops can be obtained by visiting www.princ
etonfestival.org.

Art All Night, in the Roebling Wire Rope Factory, 675 South Clinton Avenue, Trenton, starts Saturday, June 15 at 3 p.m. and runs through the following day. Visit artworkstrenton.org for more information.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents photos by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick and Kris Giacobbe, titled “REPORT: Providing Health Care Where Basic Needs are Unmet” through November. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “Sunshine & Joy,” paintings by Douglas Sardo and Joe Kazimierczyk through June 30. A closing reception is June 30, 3-5 p.m. Visit lambertvillearts.com.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, “Unchained, the Bike Art Show” through June 13. The show explores the intersection of art and bike culture. Visit www.art
workstrenton.org.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has “Neighborhood Portrait: Documenting the Witherspoon-Jackson Community” on permanent exhibit. “Mimesis,” curated by Thaddeus Erdahl with works by regional ceramics artists, runs through June 15. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing Township, presents “Art, Innovation and Ideas,” a juried K-12 exhibition through June 23 including work by students from all over the state. Artist Faith Ringgold is among the jurors.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Dangerous Blossoms,” a mixed-media exhibit, through July 19. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, presents the Delaware Valley Fine Crafts Invitational and “Memories of Warsaw,” paintings and drawings by Kyle Hamilton, June 15-July 28. “Trenton Entourage Motors ‘Round the World in 1909” is June 15-September 22. The opening reception for all three shows is June 22, 7-9 p.m. A fine craft demonstration by Joyce Inderbitzin and Geoffrey Noden is July 14, 2 p.m. (609) 989-1191.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” is on view through August.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has “Look Again” by Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, “Into the Garden” by Martha Weintraub, and “Colors of Iceland” by Wiebke Martens” through July 7. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, Cranbury, has “Spring Splash,” works by Watercolorists Unlimited, through June 30.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, has Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” in the East Gallery through July. In the Meadow, “THRE3” and “MYTHOS” are on view. Visit www.groundsforsculp
ture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. “We Love Princeton: Stories from the Street” and “Einstein at Home” are also on view. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Transformations II: Works in Steel by Karl Stirner” through June 16. “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song” is on view through September 29. “Nelson Shanks: A Brush with Reality” is exhibited through September 8. “Harry Bertola: Structure and Sound” is on view July 20-October 13. Visit www.michenerart
museum.org.

Jane, 7 Spring Street, hosts “The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop Show” through June 14.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23. “Henri-Gabriel Ibels” is exhibited through September 8. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14. “Stars: Contemporary Prints by Derriere L’Etoile Studio” is on view through September 29. “Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music” is on view through September 13.

Lawrence Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, shows Robert Allard’s pen and ink and pencil drawings through June 30. A reception is June 15, 1-4 p.m. Visit mcl.org.

Morpeth Contemporary, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, presents paintings by Ann O’Connor, titled “reverie,” through June 15.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, shows “Coastal Impression, Painters of the Jersey Shore, 1880-1940” through September 29. Visit www.morven.org.

New Hope Arts Center, 2 Stockton Avenue, New Hope, Pa., has the Artsbridge 19th Annual Juried Show through June 29 (Fridays-Sundays, 1-5 p.m.). In the “A” Space, “don’t mention the WAR,” recent work by Linda Guenste, is on view through July 3. Visit www.artsbridgeonline.com.

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton, has “The Re-Connection Project: Endangered Birds of New Jersey” through July 15. Visit statemuseum.nj.gov.

Prallsville Mill, Sawmill Gallery, 33 Risler Street, Route 29, Stockton, has artworks by Lucy Graves McVicker and Charles McVicker through June 15. A reception is Saturday, June 15, 3-5 p.m.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, has in it’s second floor gallery a Drip Art Series by members of the Arctists Collective. A reception is June 14, 6-9 p.m. It is sponsored by The Arc Mercer. www.arcmercer.org.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Gallery, 20 Library Place, exhibits works by master iconographers and apprentices of the Prosopon School through June 30.

The Princeton University Art Museum “Picturing Power: Capitalism, Democracy, and American Portraiture” is on view through June 30. “1913: The Year of Modernism” is on display through June 23. From June 29-September 15, “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” is exhibited. “American Prospects: 19th Century City Views by William James Bennett” is shown through July 14. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has “Away We Go,” a group exhibition by Art+10, through July 2.

Straube Center, 1 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, shows Jay McClellan’s “Tip, Honey & Lucky-Bold Barks” paintings through June 14. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, has works by Jordana Scheer through June 22.

Two-Nineteen Gallery, 219 East Hanover Street, Trenton, presents “Emerging Artist Exhibition” through July 6. The opening reception is June 14, 6-10 p.m.

Veridian Gallery, 43 South Main Street, Pennington, has recent watercolors by Linda Bradshaw through June 29.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, exhibits “WW33: Full Circles,” by artists aged 13-33, through June 15. From June 15-July 20, “Full Circles/Painters Circle” shows the work of older artists. The opening reception is June 23, 4-6 p.m.  (609) 716-1931.

I KNOW I CAN FLY DOWN THERE AND FIX IT, DAD: A youthful Superman (Dylan Sprayberry, right) reassures his anxious father (Kevin Costner) that, thanks to his extraordinary super powers, he can solve the potential disaster they are looking at.

I KNOW I CAN FLY DOWN THERE AND FIX IT, DAD: A youthful Superman (Dylan Sprayberry, right) reassures his anxious father (Kevin Costner) that, thanks to his extraordinary super powers, he can solve the potential disaster they are looking at.

For my generation, Superman was “a strange visitor from another planet” who was “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound“ who was engaged in “a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way.” However, in this age of information, audiences want to know a lot more about a superhero’s history.

Also, what passed for special effects on the original TV show were cheesy flying sequences in which support wires were plainly visible. And the fight scenes generally ended when the bumbling villain with little imagination ran out of bullets and threw his pistol at the Man of Steel’s chest in sheer frustration.

Over the years, Superman has been revived twice on television (Lois & Clark and Smallville) and five times on the big screen. This sixth film version stars Henry Cavill in the title role opposite Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Russell Crowe as Jor-El, Laurence Fishburne as a black Perry White, and Rebecca Buller as Jenny (not Jimmy) Olsen.

Director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) undertook Man of Steel as a remake of the series, because plans are already in the works for the character to reappear in an adaptation of DC Comics’ Justice League scheduled for 2015. Thus, this movie devotes considerable attention to an explanation of Superman’s roots.

The picture opens on the planet Krypton where we find the parents (Crowe and Ayelet Zurer) of the planet’s first naturally-conceived child in centuries, secretly sending their newborn in an unmanned spaceship headed to Earth. This development doesn’t sit well with genetic engineer General Zod (Michael Shannon), a megalomaniac in charge of deciding which of Krypton’s bloodlines are allowed to continue, and this baby’s family definitely isn’t one of them.

The rocket crash-lands in the cornfields of Jonathan (Kevin Costner) and Martha Kent (Diane Lane), a kindly couple who proceed to raise the baby as their own. Of course, Clark isn’t like other boys, and he does his best to harness and hide his superpowers, although they occasionally come in handy like when he rescues a school bus full of students that’s sinking in a river.

The plot thickens when aliens arrive from Krypton in order to eliminate Superman. Not surprisingly, they’re led by the diabolical Zod, who proceeds to commandeer the mass media, spouting typical invasion threats warning the “People of Earth” that resistance is futile. But, he hasn’t taken into account Superman.

At this juncture, the action the kids have been waiting for finally kicks into high gear, with a spectacular battle replete with dizzying technical wizardry and acrobatic dexterity that mercifully reduces the pretentious dialogue that is laced with pseudo-scientific babble. Ultimately, good, and the American way, triumph over evil, and Superman is left alive to defend truth and justice in upcoming sequels and spinoffs.

Very Good (***). Rated PG-13 for profanity, violence, and intense action sequences. Running time: 143 minutes. Distributor: Warner Brothers.

June 5, 2013

dvd revThe first real summer vacation I ever had was two and a half months in Europe with a student tour called the Golden Bear. I picked that particular tour because it was the only one that went to Vienna and Berlin, two cities that had aroused my interest because of the rich post-war atmosphere of Carol Reed and Graham Greene’s classic European thriller The Third Man starring Orson Welles in the title role.

When the Golden Bear powers-that-be cancelled the Berlin visit and feebly attempted to make up for it with a few extra days in Switzerland, I thought of the moment in The Third Man when after cynically justifying his immoral doings on the black market, Welles’s Harry Lime says: “In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Flying

The first leg of the tour was from Amsterdam to Hamburg to Copenhagen to Stockholm to Oslo, where our bipolar tour conductor — a South African anti-apartheid exile with a DPhil from Oxford in political philosophy — was hauled off screaming to a hospital by the Oslo police. We made it back to Hamburg and a new guide on our own, don’t ask me how. After stops in Heidelberg and Rothenberg, we arrived in Munich, which is where we first heard “Volare,” joy set to music, the song of the summer.

“Volare” offered a subliminal release to those of us who were still feeling the aftershock of the tour leader’s breakdown. You couldn’t just hear it, you had to sing it, as we did at a night club in Schwabing, the student quarter, where a red-jacketed band had been playing exotic items like “See You Later Alligator.” I didn’t even know what I was singing at first. I thought it was a girl’s name, “Oh Lolly.” The meaning didn’t matter. Everyone was singing this song, whether or not they knew the Italian lyrics. Soon enough we knew all you needed to know, the chorus, “Vo-lare,” sung as if your heart was soaring, followed by joy-sounds, oh-ho, then “Can-tare,” Italian for singing, drawn out to the last measure of musical devotion, then more happy, happy Oh-oh-oh-oh-ho’s, then, “Nel blue di pinto di blu” (the formal title), which I never bothered to translate, figuring, as most people did, that it refers to the blue sky you’re flying into on the wings of the song we were still singing as we walked back to the hotel from the club. It seemed to come out of nowhere, an infusion of pure melody, musical nitrous oxide, for you’re already almost laughing with the sheer exhilaration of singing it. The following night “Volare” was being sung in the beer halls, we were dancing to it, making up our own words in pidgin Italian. Every summer should have such a song. A summer anthem.

“Volare” was an international sensation, a preview of what the Beatles would accomplish on the grand scale in the sixties and ABBA in the seventies. Not until now, all these years later, do I find that a song that seemed little more than love-drunk hyperbole is about the singer painting his hands and face blue before being swept up by the wind and flying off in the infinite sky (“cielo infinito”). Like Coleridge waking from an opium dream to compose “Kubla Khan,” Franco Migliacci is said to have awakened from a wine-drunk nightmare to find his lyric in two Chagall prints on the wall of his room, one in which a yellow man is suspended in midair, another where half the painter’s face is blue. Putting the lyrics together with Dominic Modugno’s tune took several days. According to Modugno’s wife, the key word “volare” was inspired by a storm suddenly blowing open a window.

Tour in Free Fall

As the incident in Oslo suggests, my first European summer was not all about “Volare.” For some of my companions on the tour, there was Mitch Miller’s catchy, impossible-not-to-whistle-along-with “River Kwai March (Colonel Bogey)” from the then-recent film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. The first time our tall, shambling, twitchy, hyper, bird-like tour leader took his position in the front of an Amsterdam tour bus, a summer-camp-sing-along epidemic spread among us, set off when someone began singing the “River Kwai March” using his first name, “Rob-in, he makes the tour go round, Rob-in, dum-da-dum-dum-dum,” and so forth. What followed was only a spontaneous, good-natured, playful, typically American serenade that any normal, reasonably sound-of-mind-and-body person in the tour guide role would find amusing and harmless, a sign of friendly acceptance from his charges. But the summer campers of the Golden Bear sang or chanted the chorus incessantly even as it became clear, at least to those of us who had begun to know him, that Robin was an accident waiting to happen.

By the time of the overnight train from Copenhagen to Stockholm, those of us Robin had taken into his confidence were aware that he was in psychic free fall and that the jaunty ditty sung in his name had become the mocking theme song of his madness. We tried to alert the others to tone down the he’s-a-jolly-good fellow stuff. By then the situation should have been obvious if only from the way he periodically stamped his feet and shouted in his South African BBC accent, “I am NOT a tour leader! I am a courier!” This was around the time, perhaps due to the incessant singing, that he began outlining his plan for us to become traveling entertainers, a troupe to be known, what else, as The Golden Bears (“We shall sing for our supper!”). He wrote a song of his own for us that began, “We are ze Europins of ze Golden Bear, Ve haf Stars und Strawdust in R hair.”

On the night train to Oslo, using an umbrella that he called a bumbershoot, he began attacking some of the more insistent chanters of the “River Kwai March.” At the student hostel in Oslo no one was singing as we stood watching from the doorways of our rooms while the police led him down the corridor howling his “I am a courier” mantra. Fifteen years later someone in Bristol who had read Robin’s book Drop Out! told me that he had died “in a doss-house fire.”

“The Third Man Theme”

Online it’s claimed that Dominic Modugno’s recording of “Volare” spent five weeks in first place on the Billboard Top 100 chart in the summer of 1958. Nine years earlier, between April and July of 1949, the zither player Anton Karras’s Decca recording of “The Third Man Theme” spent 11 weeks atop the Billboard chart. It’s amusing to find that the mysterious, atmospheric music from the movie that led me to choose the tour for its Vienna-Berlin feature actually outsold the feel-good anthem that lifted the spirits of the shellshocked Golden Bears in the aftermath of our leader’s breakdown.

Karras’s haunting music and Third Man cinematographer Robert Krasker’s dramatically lit, mood-drenched visions of nocturnal Vienna streetscapes created the European post-war-noir excitement I found in long walks through the streets of Hamburg and Munich and above all Vienna, where our hotel, the Urania, was only 15 minutes from the Prater and the giant ferris wheel that provides the setting for the film’s most famous scene. Except for the chase through the sewers at the end, and the electric moment when we first see the mysterious back-from-the-dead “third man” discovered in a dark doorway by a brief flash of light, Orson Welles’s unforgettable performance as a charming scoundrel named Harry Lime is played out in his meeting at the Prater with his old college pal and writer of pulp westerns, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton). I was about to say the scene is among Welles’s finest hours, except that barely six minutes pass from the moment Holly spots a small dark figure approaching from the distance to the goodbye moment of the “cuckoo clock” speech, which Welles wrote himself.

Once the two men are in the closed carriage of the moving ferris wheel, Carol Reed and Graham Greene play second fiddle to the aura and ambience of Welles, actor and director and personality. While the idea that he had a hand in the direction of the picture has been laid to rest, anyone who knows his work will recognize the way the voices jar and jostle one another in a void; the play of expression on Lime’s face from sly to sinister to dyspeptic to a hollow heartiness, the breezy cynicism with which he justifies his villainy when he tells Cotton to look at the people down below, asking, “Would you really feel any pity if one of those dots stopped moving forever?”

That question and the notion that evil could be charming or fascinating in itself caught me up when I first saw the film as a child and again after a recent viewing of the brilliantly remastered Criterion DVD. For all the pleasures of that long-ago summer, there’s no forgetting the screaming man in Oslo or the reality behind the aesthetic excitement of the ruined buildings, bombed out vistas, and haunted faces of the Third Man’s Vienna

Summer Romance

As the tour unfolded, Italy outshone everything else. The essence of a summer dream vacation was a mixture of the mindless joy of “Volare” with the poetry of Fellini’s La Strada, a film that eventually meant even more to me than The Third Man (for one thing, I became hopelessly infatuated with a girl on the tour who resembled Giuletta Messina’s mystic gamin, Gelsomina). The Third Man evoked wartime and intrigue, while the emotional fanfare of LaStrada complemented the sheer joy of “Volare.” But then who could imagine that Harry Lime himself would show up later that summer at a production of Puccini’s Turandot at the Baths of Carcacalla? There he was sitting five rows in front of us, no way you could miss him, Orson Welles ten years down the road from his death in the sewers of Vienna, big and bearded and surrounded by beautiful women.

Finally, any dissertation on the subject of dream summer holidays has to include at least a mention of the ultimate summer holiday romance, Before Sunrise. There’s a dream to savor, to meet Julie Delpy on a train to Vienna, to fall in love, and to have your first kiss on the ferris wheel at the Prater. And now after Before Sunset in Paris, here comes Before Midnight in Greece.

In the image from The Third Man shown above, Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) is waiting at the Prater for his old friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles).

INTO THE GARDEN: Hopewell’s fine art photography gallery features works by Martha Weintraub, whose “Conservatory,” shown here, is one of several garden images on view. Ms. Weintraub creates hand-colored gel transfers from her photographs to yield whimsical and often surrealistic landscapes. (Image Courtesy of Gallery 14)

INTO THE GARDEN: Hopewell’s fine art photography gallery features works by Martha Weintraub, whose “Conservatory,” shown here, is one of several garden images on view. Ms. Weintraub creates hand-colored gel transfers from her photographs to yield whimsical and often surrealistic landscapes.
(Image Courtesy of Gallery 14)

Photographers Martha Weintraub, Rhoda Kassof-Isaac, and Wiebke Martens feature in a joint exhibition at Hopewell’s fine photography Gallery 14, opening Friday June 7 and running through July 7.

Ms. Weintraub has a series of “Into the Garden” images in the show. “Since the ancient Egyptians, people have been taming the wilderness into spaces reflecting beauty, style, and status,” says Ms. Weintraub, who likens a garden to a work of art “Like painters, garden designers plan perspectives of foreground, middle, and background in their compositions. Designs thus express more than the flowers, trees, shrubs, and water features they may include; history and geography influence design; European and American gardens differ from the gardens of the Far East, which value irregularity and surprise.”

Ms. Weintraub approaches her photography as if it were painting rather than a record of reality. In Photoshop she often improvises, combining and modifying different elements to create a composition. Some of her work is whimsical and surrealistic with imaginary and colorful landscapes, while other work is sensitive consisting of lovely botanical renditions. In either case the viewer is invited to immerse oneself in quiet contemplation.

She has visited many gardens near her home and in travels abroad. For her garden images, she creates hand-colored gel transfers, post computer. She begins by taking photographs, which she then converts to black and white positives and prints on transfer film. Using a gel medium and a roller, she transfers the positives to artist’s water color paper and then hand-colors each image using water color pencils and acrylic paints.

The results are impressions of gardens, not literal translations. Her work is reminiscent of illustrations found in 19th century English literature, etchings, and Chinese and Japanese wood block prints.

Ms. Weintraub’s photographs have been chosen for a number of local and national juried shows. Her image City of Books was awarded Best in Show at Phillips’ Mill Annual Photography Exhibit in 2012. She is the current president of Gallery 14 and her work can be viewed at: www.martha
weintraub.com.

Both painter and photographer, Ms. Kassof-Isaac is a founding member of Gallery 14 and has been inspired by the group’s growth and reputation. “This gallery is a place where professional photographers gather to discuss, share, and explore the new directions that the art of photography is moving toward. Inspiration thrives, grows, and is content in this atmosphere,” she says. The collection of her works on show is titled “Look Again.”

Of the relationship between painting and photography in her work, she says; “Is this like having two languages? The two media speak with each other and offer greater inspiration.”

Ms. Kassof-Isaac is also a teacher and a psychoanalyst. She has lived in Switzerland and Italy for many years. Her photographic work is enhanced by painting on each image.

Ms. Martens has been fascinated by photography ever since receiving her first camera at age 12 and concentrated on travel and landscape when she grew up.

In recent years, she has significantly expanded the scope of her work, exploring the great variety of textures, patterns, and colors in nature.

Last year, on a tour of Iceland, she was captivated by the landscapes, from farm houses in lush, green, pastoral settings to surreal black tuff ring volcanoes. Looking closely, she discovered small flowers covering an orange rock face, algae growing on stones like hair, and beautiful basalt formations. Her images capture the contrasting colors of Iceland. Her collection “Colors of Iceland” is in Gallery 14‘s Goodkind Gallery.

Her work has previously been exhibited at Dalet Gallery in Philadelphia, Art Way Gallery in Plainsboro, and the Bank of Princeton in Lambertville, among others.

For more information and gallery hours, call (609) 333-8511.

Art Times Two Gallery, Princeton Brain and Spine Care, 731 Alexander Road, presents photos by Eileen Hohmuth-Lemonick and Kris Giacobbe, titled “REPORT: Providing Health Care Where Basic Needs are Unmet” through November. View by appointment. Call (609) 203-4622.

Artists’ Gallery, 18 Bridge Street, Lambertville, has “EAT,” a show by photographer John Treichler, through June 9. (609) 397-4588.

Artworks, 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, “Unchained, the Bike Art Show” through June 13. The show explores the intersection of art and bike culture. Visit www.art
workstrenton.org.

Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson Center, 102 Witherspoon Street, has “Neighborhood Portrait: Documenting the Witherspoon-Jackson Community” on permanent exhibit. “Mimesis,” curated by Thaddeus Erdahl with works by regional ceramics artists, runs through June 15. www.artscouncil
ofprinceton.org.

Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, has “Cooking for Change,” photos by Steve Riskind and text by Doris Friedensohn, through June 7.

College of New Jersey Art Gallery, Pennington Road, Ewing Township, presents “Art, Innovation and Ideas,” a juried K-12 exhibition through June 23 including work by students from all over the state. Artist Faith Ringgold is among the jurors.

D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place, has “Dangerous Blossoms,” a mixed-media exhibit, through July 19. Visit www.drgreenway.org.

Ellarslie, Trenton’s City Museum in Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, presents the Delaware Valley Fine Crafts Invitational and “Memories of Warsaw,” paintings and drawings by Kyle Hamilton, June 15-July 28. “Trenton Entourage Motors ‘Round the World in 1909” is June 15-September 22. The opening reception for all three shows is June 22, 7-9 p.m. A fine craft demonstration by Joyce Inderbitzin and Geoffrey Noden is July 14, 2 p.m. (609) 989-1191.

Firestone Library at Princeton University, has “Your True Friend and Enemy: Princeton and the Civil War” in the Mudd Manuscript Library through July 31. “A Republic in the Wilderness: Treasures of American History from Jamestown to Appomattox” is on view through August.

Gallery 14, 14 Mercer Street, Hopewell, has works by George W. Taylor in July. Visit photogallery14.com.

Gourgaud Gallery, Town Hall, Cranbury, has “Spring Splash,” works by Watercolorists Unlimited, through June 30.

Grounds for Sculpture, Fairgrounds Road in Hamilton, has Ming Fay’s “Canutopia” in the East Gallery through July. In the Meadow, “THRE3” and “MYTHOS” are on view. Visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

Historical Society of Princeton, Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, has photographs from its collection in the Princeton Pride Gallery. “We Love Princeton: Stories from the Street” and “Einstein at Home” are also on view. For more information visit www.princetonhistory.org.

The James A. Michener Art Museum at 138 South Pine Street in Doylestown, Pa., has “Transformations II: Works in Steel by Karl Stirner” through June 16.  “Creative Hand, Discerning Heart: Form, Rhythm, Song” is on view through September 29. “Nelson Shanks: A Brush with Reality” is exhibited June 8-September 8. Visit www.
michenerartmuseum.org.

Jane, 7 Spring Street, hosts “The James McPhillips Museum and Gift Shop Show” through June 14.

The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, 71 Hamilton Street, on the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, has “Lynd Ward Draws Stories: Inspired by Mexico’s History, Mark Twain, and Adventures in the Woods” through June 23. “Henri-Gabriel Ibels” is exhibited through September 8. Works by Russian artist Leonid Sokov are displayed through July 14. “Stars: Contemporary Prints by Derriere L’Etoile Studio” is on view through September 29. “Leningrad’s Perestroika: Crosscurrents in Photography, Video, and Music” is on view through September 13.

Lawrence Library, 2751 Brunswick Pike, shows Robert Allard’s pen and ink and pencil drawings through June 30. A reception is June 15, 1-4 p.m. Visit mcl.org.

Morpeth Contemporary, 43 West Broad Street, Hopewell, presents paintings by Ann O’Connor, titled “reverie,” through June 15.

Morven Museum & Garden, 55 Stockton Street, shows “Coastal Impression, Painters of the Jersey Shore, 1880-1940” through September 29. Visit www.morven.org.

Princeton Public Library, 65 Witherspoon Street, has in it’s second floor gallery a Drip Art Series by members of the Arctists Collective. A reception is June 14, 6-9 p.m. It is sponsored by The Arc Mercer. www.arcmercer.org.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s Erdman Gallery, 20 Library Place, exhibits works by master iconographers and apprentices of the Prosopon School through June 30.

The Princeton University Art Museum has “Revealing the African Presence in Renaissance Europe” through June 9. “Picturing Power: Capitalism, Democracy, and American Portraiture” is on view through June 30. “1913: The Year of Modernism” is on display through June 23. From June 29-September 15, “Shared Vision: The Sondra Gilman and Celso Gonzalez-Falla Collection of Photography” is exhibited. “American Prospects: 19th Century City Views by William James Bennett” is shown through July 14. Museum hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday, 1 to 5 p.m. Call (609) 258-3788.

Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, has “Away We Go,” a group exhibition by Art+10, through July 2.

Straube Center, 1 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, shows Jay McClellan’s “Tip, Honey & Lucky-Bold Barks” paintings through June 14. Visit www.straubecenter.com.

Triumph Brewery, 138 Nassau Street, has works
by Jordana Scheer through June 22.

Veridian Gallery, 43 South Main Street, Pennington, has recent watercolors by Linda Bradshaw through June 29.

West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road, West Windsor, exhibits “WW33: Full Circles,” by artists aged 13-33, through June 15. From June 15-July 20, “Full Circles/Painters Circle” shows the work of older artists. The opening reception is June 23, 4-6 p.m. (609) 716-1931.

Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street, will exhibit “A Princeton Mix,” a collage mural by Nancy Shill, with a dedication June 6 from 5-6:30 p.m. Sponsored by the Arts Council of Princeton, the mural is made entirely of materials found or collected in Princeton. Also on view will be collages by students who were in Ms. Shill’s workshops.

THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR OUR HIDEAWAY!: The three teens, Patrick (Gabriel Basso, left), Biaggio (Moises Arias, center), and Joe (Nick Robinson) have found a clearing in the woods that is the ideal place for them to build a shack so they can run away from their controlling parents for the summer.

THIS IS THE PERFECT PLACE FOR OUR HIDEAWAY!: The three teens, Patrick (Gabriel Basso, left), Biaggio (Moises Arias, center), and Joe (Nick Robinson) have found a clearing in the woods that is the ideal place for them to build a shack so they can run away from their controlling parents for the summer.

Freshman year of high school has just ended for Patrick (Gabriel Basso) who isn’t looking forward to spending the summer under the same roof as his over protective parents (Megan Mullally and Marc Evan Jackson), who monitor his every move and tease him mercilessly about his raging hormones. The situation’s even worse for Joe (Nick Robinson) whose widowed father’s (Nick Offerman) way of grieving involves belittling and grounding Joe at every opportunity.

One night at a party, the best friends come up with a solution to their predicament when they discover a clearing in the middle of the forest. Why not build a house out in the woods where they will be free from the abuse and control of their meddling parents?

Swearing each other to secrecy, they hatch an impromptu plan to live off the land. They are joined in their clandestine endeavor by classmate Biaggio (Moises Arias), a mysterious eccentric contemporary who is willing to help them out.

Next, they’re building a shack out of materials they found on a construction lot, and forage for food by diving into a dumpster behind a restaurant. Meanwhile, their worried parents are calling the poice, convinced that the missing boys have been kidnapped.

That is the point of departure of The Kings of Summer, a quirky comedy that is also the directorial debut of Jordan Vogt-Roberts. His laugh-a-minute adventure is reminiscent of some the best of the rebellious adolescent genre movies, such as Stand by Me (1986), Superbad (2007), Ghost World (2001), Super 8 (2011) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).

The picture’s clever script, written by first-timer Chris Galletta, is laced with hilarious scenes such as when Biaggio attempts to throw the police off their trail with a ransom note from the fictitious “Jamal Colorado” inspired by combining a black first name with one of the fifty states. Biaggio’s main role in the film is to provide intermittent comic relief.

The movie is about the trio’s struggle to survive while eluding the search party. The plot thickens with the sudden arrival of Kelly (Erin Moriarty) at their hideaway, a beautiful young woman who Joe is interested in dating.

Will Kelly prove to be the boys’ undoing, or will their bond remain intact? Let’s just say that between memorable performances by a cast of relative newcomers, and a haunting score by Ryan Miller, The Kings of Summer is a sleeper not to be missed.

Excellent (****). Rated R for profanity and underage alcohol consumption. In English and Italian with subtitles. Running time: 95 minutes. Distributor: CBS Films.

May 29, 2013

book rev1Minor miracles are literature’s stock in trade. Thus an English poet who died at 47 in 1599 can change the lives of a stableman’s son in London in 1813, a graduate student at Indiana University in 1944, and a sophomore at the University of California-Berkeley in 1963. The poet whose work enforced the change is Edmund Spenser. The intermediaries include John Keats’s friend and tutor Charles Cowden Clarke, followed some 130 years later by Rudolph Gottfried, editor of the Prose Works for the Variorium Edition of Spenser overseen by A.H. Judson, who wrote the Variorium biography (1945). The last and personally most significant intermediary, and the inspiration for this column, is Renaissance scholar Paul J. Alpers, who died at 80 on Sunday, May 19.

If there were a Mount Rushmore of pre-1700 English literature, Edmund Spenser would have a place up there along with Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Milton. The sculptor would be working in the dark, however, since the elegant Elizabethan face on the cover of Andrew Hadfield’s Edmund Spenser: A Life (2012) is a portrait of “A gentleman said to be Edmund Spenser.” As the biographer himself admits, there is “no reliable image” of the poet, although he clearly has a soft spot in his heart for the “charming print” from English Literature for Boys and Girls that shows Spenser reading something of his to a suavely attentive Sir Walter Raleigh.

Clarke and Keats

According to Robert Gittings’s biography John Keats (1968), it was the 26-year-old C.C. Clarke’s reading of Spenser’s “Epithalamion” to the 18-year-old Keats that struck the “spark” which, in Clarke’s words, “fired the train of Keats’s poetic tendencies.” Keats was “so enchanted” that he took away the first volume of The Faerie Queen that night, and, as Clarke says, “ramped through” it “like a young horse turned into a Spring meadow.” Merely reading “Spring-headed Hydras and sea-shouldering Whales” wasn’t enough for him; according to Clarke, Keats “hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant as he repeated the last words.”

In Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s 1819 lecture on The Faerie Queen, the element outside “all particular space or time” that moves short, pugnacious, impressionable young men to mimic horses and whales is viewed in “the domains neither of history or geography” but “truly in land of Faery, that is, of mental space. The poet has placed you in a dream, a charmed sleep, and you neither wish, nor have the power, to inquire where you are, or how you got there.”

Although Keats’s first recorded poem, no surprise, was “Imitation of Spenser,” the Spenserian fancy flows most freely in his early letters along with citings from Shakespeare and other literary forebearers. Keats is still exulting in Spenser’s “Spring meadow,” as when a borrowing of “sun-shine in a shady place” from the first book of the Faerie Queen inspires his “Close to the source, bright, pure, and undefil’d/Whence gush the streams of song.”

The author of The Faerie Queen is all over a verse letter from 1816 to Clarke, with references to “Mulla’s stream” which flows near Spenser’s home in Kilcolman, and allusions to the Faerie Queen’s Belphoebe, Una, Archimago, and, in case you doubt where he’s coming from, “Spenserian vowels that elope with ease,/And float along like birds o’er summer seas.”

By the time he writes to Benjamin Bailey on 13 March 1818, Keats has abandoned “faery land” for an earthier element as he imagines ways to discourage his ailing brother Tom from coming to join him in Devonshire’s “splashy, rainy, misty snowy, foggy, haily floody, muddy slipshod County.” When he does fall back on Spenser, referring to the flowers that “have an Acrasian spell about them,” it’s only to launch another flight of fancy wherein he’s “able to beat off the devonshire waves like soap froth,” which, after references to Julius Caesar, England’s strong Men, and Edmond Ironside’s descendants,” brings him to one of those details his art and character are grounded on: “Scenery is fine — but human nature is finer — The Sward is richer for the tread of a real, nervous english foot.”

book rev2Spenser in Indiana

The Indiana University graduate student whose life was changed by Spenser enjoys reading to his six-year-old son from handsomely decorated and illustrated little books like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Stories from the Faerie Queen Told to the Children by Jeanie Lang, whose preface claims Edmund Spenser could see Fairyland “more clearly” than other men. In fact, the Indiana campus. made a perfect Fairyland for children living near the lofty limestone castle of the Union Building with its terraces and battlements and balconies for sentries and bowmen, and down below a moat we called the Jordan River, with a “draw bridge” across all two yards of it. A spacious greensward called Dunn Meadow fronted the castle, enriched by the tread of sneaker-footed female students firing arrows at red-blue-yellow bull’s eye targets on sunny afternoons while we staged our own Robin Hood-style tournaments with sticks for swords, riding the same imaginary horses on which we galloped downtown for cowboy-movie Saturday matinees. The campus woods on the other side of the castle were dark and deep with sunny Spenserian glades and “gloomy glens” like the one where Sir Guyon meets Mammon on his way to Merlin’s cave.

In the midst of these woods was the humble single-story building housing the offices and classrooms of the English Department where resident Spenserians Judson and Gottfried taught the courses that helped make a scholar of my father. What specifically lured him into the enchanted forests of academia, however, was Spenser’s The Shepheardes Calender and its mysterious presenter, a personage known only by the initials “E.K.” My father’s mission to determine the identity of E.K., something no one had been able to do in just under 400 years (and to this day, it seems), led to an article for Studies in Philology taking issue with the theory that Spenser himself was E.K. The larger result was the plunge into Medieval studies that made Bloomington our home for the next 30 years. A decade and a half later I was reading The Faerie Queen in Rudolph Gottfried’s senior survey

Spenser at Berkeley

Of the UC Berkeley campus, which was once upon a time even more deeply wooded than Indiana’s, all I remember is the little bridge where my future wife and I sat talking for hours the night we met. Next year her life would be changed, not so much by Spenser as by the teaching of Paul Alpers. Berkeley in the mid-sixties was an exciting place to be. You could cut your political teeth at demonstrations led by Mario Savio; dance to the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead at the Fillmore in San Francisco; hang out with filmmakers like Ben Van Meter who did the light shows at the Avalon Ballroom; have your math homework done by Phil Lesh of the Dead; and take classes from poets like Thom Gunn, critics like Stanley Fish, Stephen Orgel, Fred Crews of the Pooh Perplex, and celebrity teachers like Edward Teller.

Above and beyond all the political, cultural, and musical excitement was the experience of reading The Faerie Queen for a teacher who made the poem matter so much that you were up all night writing papers (often handed in late) meant to more than meet his expectations. The other teachers went about their business with varying degrees of professionalism. Although Alpers was a tall, imposing presence “from another world,” a graduate of Reuben Brower’s famous Hum 6 course at Harvard, he read and taught and lived Spenser earnestly, wholeheartedly, and unaffectedly. His essay on King Lear had just appeared in Brower and Poirier’s landmark anthology, In Defense of Reading (1963). Four years later Princeton University Press brought out Alpers’s magnum opus, The Poetry of the Faerie Queene. 

That undergraduate course in Spenser was the beginning of a 50 year friendship sharing books and films and MLA conventions. Jeanie Lang’s note at the beginning of Stories from the Faerie Queen says of Edmund Spenser the simple essence of what could be said of Paul Alpers: “He was brave and true and gentle, and loved so dearly all things that are beautiful and all things that are good, that his eyes could see Fairyland more clearly than the eyes of other men ever could.”

Andrew Hadfield’s biography is available at the Princeton Public Library.