Battle of the Brows
Item one: earlier this summer, New York City hosted its first large-scale, single-site, multidisciplinary arts festival. Sixty-four performances were staged in the three-week-long Lincoln Center Festival ’96, under the slogan, “Classic, Contemporary, and Beyond.” In an unusual move for Lincoln Center, which tends to keep to the middle of the cultural road, many of them had the unmistakable flavor of the avant-garde—or at least of yesterday’s avant-garde.
Thus, the single playwright featured at the festival was Samuel Beckett, all nineteen of whose plays, including Waiting for Godot (1952) and Krapp’s Last Tape (1959), were performed by the Gate Theater of Dublin; the featured composer was the late Morton Feldman, an American precursor of minimalism who, though unknown to the public at large, continues to be treated as a cult figure by a tiny band of admirers. The Lyons Opera Ballet presented a postmodern, tarted-up restaging by Maguy Marin of the 19th-century ballet Coppélia; the Houston Grand Opera presented a production of the Virgil Thomson-Gertrude Stein nonsense opera Four Saints in Three Acts, which premiered in 1934 and which has been beloved ever since of music critics.
About the Author
Terry Teachout is COMMENTARY’s critic-at-large and the drama critic of the Wall Street Journal. Satchmo at the Waldorf, his first play, runs through November 4 at Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut.