All posts by John Birge

A Strauss soundtrack for babies doing what babies do

And the winner of today’s award for “Best Use of ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ in a Diaper Commercial” goes to … (drumroll, please)

Safe to say that Richard Strauss wouldn’t have anticipated Pampers, but in real life, he was indeed familiar with babies in particular and domestic routines in general. In fact, he composed a symphony, the “Domestic Symphony,” which describes a day in the life of the Strauss family. As Strauss described it, “”My next tone poem will represent a day in my family. It will be partly lyrical, partly humorous.” The dedication reads “to my dear wife and our son.” Strauss was 40, he’d been married 10 years, and his son was 7.

HBO: Six by Sondheim | Broadway on Hennepin: Five Debuts

If you admire Stephen Sondheim, or if like some of us you’re completely obsessed with the depth of the man’s genius), or especially if you’re not yet familiar with his work, you MUST see the new HBO documentary Six by Sondheim. A great portrait of a great artist.

It was created by two of Sondheim’s closest friends, director James Lapine (Into the Woods, Sunday in the Park with George) and former New York Times theater critic Frank Rich. They frame Sondheim’s career through six iconic songs and sixty years worth of fascinating video interviews with this most intelligent and articulate creative force. Six by Sondheim has its final airing this Saturday afternoon on HBO2. Below is the trailer (which to be honest doesn’t really do the the film justice), or if you’re lucky you just might be able to find the entire show online….

Elsewhere on Broadway, Hennepin Theatre Trust announced its 2014-15 Broadway on Hennepin season. The Book of Mormon returns, so if you couldn’t get tickets last year, plan on August 20 – September 7. Other hits coming to Minneapolis include multiple Tony winners Kinky Boots, the revival of Pippin, Motown the Musical, Jersey Boys, and Annie.

More shows and complete ticket info here.

The Awfulness of Classical Music Explained??

That’s the title of a Huffington Post piece which laments the atmosphere at classical music concerts. A sample:

Although I loved the music I heard that evening, I was struck at the time by how matter-of-factly my guide dismissed my observation that concerts might not be easy to figure out for a first-timer. And he took it for granted that I would find the impressive edifice and music itself a satisfactory recompense for my troubles. And he might have been right, I suppose, had I at least been allowed to authentically enjoy the performance going on inside that hall as I might spontaneously appreciate any other cultural pursuit like a movie or a dance or a hip-hop concert — if I could clap when clapping felt needed, laugh when it was funny, shout when I couldn’t contain the joy building up inside myself. What would that have been like?

Clearly this essay is intentionally provocative, and that’s fine FWIW. But is anyone else weary by now of these perennial “classical concerts are stuffy and weird” rants?

EVERY event of any kind involves certain specialized ritual.

One behaves differently at a hockey game, or a Catholic Mass, or Kabuki theater.

Dinner at Matt’s Bar is different than Vincent’s (tho they’re both delicious).

At an orchestra concert, respectful silence is presumed.

Instead of whining in the Huff Post that ‘classical concerts are strange and unfamiliar and I just don’t get it and I feel like I don’t belong and why doesn’t the world revolve around me and MY COMFORT???‘, wouldn’t it be great for once to read an editorial that advocates opening one’s mind to a new experience and appreciating it on its own terms? Otherwise it’s kinda like criticizing a Zen retreat because it’s not a Gospel Revival.

Minnesota Opera: Mozart meets Méliès

Here’s a dazzling trailer of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” as you’ve never seen it. Unless you saw it at the Berlin Comic Opera, that is. And you’ll be able to see it at Minnesota Opera next season. The projections make it look like Mozart meets Méliès (Georges Méliès, the experimental film maker memorialized in the movie “Hugo”). Toss in some Tim Burton too, along with William Kentridge,the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and the Brothers Quay. Spectacular!

The Rite of Appalachian Spring

Today is the 100th anniversary of Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring.”

October 30, 2044 is the 100th anniversary of Copland’s ballet “Appalachian Spring.”

I’m glad that musical genius Michael Monroe didn’t make us wait 31 years to combine them into one beautiful, brilliant spring mashup: