Monday, August 10, 2009

The Drama Drop-

As the artistic season starts to ramp up, so does the news. And that means, it's time to bring back The Drama Drop. Forget Healthcare Reform and the screaming Banshees who are hollering against it. Forget Cash for Clunkers. Forget the latest who-wants-what from the Michael Jackson estate... it's time to get down to brass tax.

#1- I ask you: how is it that a no-nonsense, Missouri born man with an affinity for baseball and country music got confirmed as the newest Chaiman of the National Endowment for the Arts? Because Rocco Landesman is not only a business savvy champion for the arts, he is also a Tony winning Broadway producer that grew up around the Crystal Palace - the cabaret theater that his father and uncle ran in St. Louis. In a fantastic article for the NY Times last Friday, Robin Pogrebin writes:
Mr. Landesman, 62, made clear that he has little patience for the disdain with which some politicians still seem to view the endowment, more than a decade after the culture wars that nearly destroyed it.

He was particularly angered, he said, by parts of the debate over whether to include $50 million for the agency in the federal stimulus bill, citing the comment by Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in February, that arts money did not belong in the bill. That kind of thinking suggests that “artists don’t have kids to send to college,” Mr. Landesman said, “or food to put on the table, or medical bills to pay.”

In American politics generally, he added: “The arts are a little bit of a target. The subtext is that it is elitist, left wing, maybe even a little gay.”

Mr. Landesman said that as chairman he will focus on the potential of the arts to help in the country’s economic recovery.

“I wouldn’t have come to the N.E.A. if it was just about padding around in the agency,” he said, and worrying about which nonprofits deserve more funds. “We need to have a seat at the big table with the grown-ups. Art should be part of the plans to come out of this recession.”
#2- Our next entry comes via one of my favorite dames: La Cieca of Parterre.com. It would seem that Anna Netrebko will not sing La Traviata in New York during the 2010-2011 season. According to an interview the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, Netrebko has cancelled for two reasons: a sense of routine in this production she loves so well, and a concern that she might not be as effective in the staging as she was in a certain well-known DVD release. La Netrebko (who appears to be in competition with a certain Angela Gheorghiu over who is the next Callas) went further and discussed future repertoire in terms of programming for her “new voice”: Anna Bolena, Faust, Trovatore and Lohengrin.

I don't get it. Did she trade the other one in? I would hope not. I saw her spectacular Norma Desmond-like Lucia di Lammermoor via the Met Player and was instantly a fan... of her in THAT role.

#3- Finally, I am a huge-tastic Rachel Maddow fan because she is one of the most witty, well-spoken, smart and down-to-earth personalities on television. On Saturday, she gave me an entirely new reason to love her. At a free, outdoor event hosted by Jacob’s Pillow Dance, the popular political commentator, host of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and radio personality discussed the role that the arts play in our lives and society as a whole. Coming via the blog Dancing Perfectly Free, here are some of Dr. Maddow's comments:

“Sometimes we choose to serve our country in uniform, in war. Sometimes in elected office. And those are the ways of serving our country that I think we are trained to easily call heroic. It’s also a service to your country, I think, to teach poetry in the prisons, to be an incredibly dedicated student of dance, to fight for funding music and arts education in the schools. A country without an expectation of minimal artistic literacy, without a basic structure by which the artists among us can be awakened and given the choice of following their talents and a way to get to be great at what they do, is a country that is not actually as great as it could be. And a country without the capacity to nurture artistic greatness is not being a great country. It is a service to our country, and sometimes it is heroic service to our country, to fight for the United States of America to have the capacity to nurture artistic greatness.”

“Not just in wartime but especially in wartime, and not just in hard economic times but especially in hard economic times, the arts get dismissed as ‘sissy’. Dance gets dismissed as craft, creativity gets dismissed as inessential, to the detriment of our country. And so when we fight for dance, when we buy art that’s made by living American artists, when we say that even when you cut education to the bone, you do not cut arts and music education, because arts and music education IS bone, it is structural, it is essential; you are, in [Jacob’s Pillow founder] Ted Shawn’s words, you are preserving the way of life that we are supposedly fighting for and it’s worth being proud of.”
[Photos- Top: Rocco Landesman in his Manhattan office. Damon Winter/The New York Times. Middle: Anna Netrebko. Getty Images. Bottom: Rachel Maddow at Jacob’s Pillow, photo by Christopher Duggan]

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