Sunday, April 18, 2010

Gotterdammerung, Billy Collins, and Alvin Ailey

This has been quite a cultural week for me. It started this past Sunday with Wagner’s opera Gotterdammerung at the L.A. Opera, then onto hearing America’s Poet Laureate Billy Collins at the MFA, and finally the Alvin Ailey Dance Group at the Wang Center (I refuse to call it the Citi Center). I have been trying to figure out how these all go together. They are all visual except for Billy Collins? None of them has been nominated for an Emmy or Golden Globe? They are all pretty different when you come down to it. I was beginning to feel that I was getting either indiscriminate or too universal in my tastes. After only a small amount of self-rebuke I came to the conclusion that they were all “playful.” Don’t worry, this will not be a discourse on my inner child, but more about what can catch your breath and attention. As the L.A. Times review tells you this is an unusual production of Gotterdammerung that is more like Star Wars than Wagner. Light Swords, a floating top hat, and a phalanx of dwarfs in funky masks and costumes all shout out “PLAYFUL.” Then again how can the poet laureate be playful? Billy Collins is wonderful, and even more amazing he is a clone of Bob Newhart, the 80’s comedian. In voice, delivery, and timing this could have been a monologue on the Smothers Brothers. He has a wonderful ability to play with words, ideas, and metaphors. Just like Bob Newhart. Finally, the Alvin Ailey Dancers – you can’t get more playful than most contemporary dance. It is beautiful and tongue-in-cheek at the same time. Whether it is a look at the Harlem Renaissance, the African roots of Jazz and dance, or the images of the old south, it is a playful and original way of presenting material that has become too iconic and stereotyped. Ok – maybe this is all too profound or even pretentious. I will try to compensate in my next post which will be about shopping for drapes.

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