Cher Public

Ass backwards

“If you think that elegant transitions like these are the crucial elements in the Ring — if you view Wagner’s cycle primarily as a series of logistical puzzles waiting to be solved with advanced technology — Ka might convince you, as it apparently did Mr. Gelb, that Mr. Lepage is the man for the job.  But if you care more about the cycle’s nuances — its characters and their relationships, its emotions, its philosophical complexities — then the idea of giving the reins to the creator of Ka, which is wholly devoid of all those complexities, is preposterous.” Zachary Woolfe went to Las Vegas and all we got was a thoughtful analysis of why Robert Lepage never was a good fit for the Ring.

  • Signor Bruschino

    With every piece by Woolfe that i read, I long for him to be the lead classical critic at the times. I also long for him but thats another story altogether.

    • Will

      Just checked him out on Google Images — agreed! He also has a very impressive academic record, but the ultimate recommendation is the way he writes.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Woolfe’s summary: “Cirque du Soleil chose him [Lepage] for his avant-garde cachet; then the Met wanted his crowd-pleasing panache. In both cases the results have lacked what great theater demands: something to say.”

  • Yes, but what did he think of Lipsynch?

    • Jack Jikes

      Ah ha -- a sin of omission that vitiates the implication that Lepage’s time has passed. Woolfe is probably not at all familiar with his Ex Machina theater work --
      this is where the core of a trenchant emotional sensibility lies. Lypsynch -- c. 2009 -- is concurrent with Lepage’s Ring planning and its astonishing power makes the sad failure of his Ring all the more bewildering. Woolfe lacks the cultural resources to do justice to this puzzlement

      • Well, I would hesitate to extrapolate a “sin of omission” from a single sentence referring in a general way to Lepage’s earlier works-- essentially a throwaway at the end of a short, general-interest piece focused on comparing two current works. And is Lipsynch — an original multimedia work improvised by a company — really comparable to a fixed-text work like the Ring?

        So Woolfe didn’t see Lipsynch three years ago, which is before he started writing for the Times. Should nobody write anything until they’ve seen everything?

        • sterlingkay

          Well KA is an original multi-media work improvised by a company developed through a long workshop period— it is not a “fixed-text work”…so why is THAT comparable to the RING and LIPSYNCH is not?

          • sterlingkay

            Lepage has done some extraordinary work in his career. It seems just a bit high-handed to suggest on the basis of KA (a commercial show that is somewhat of an anomaly in Lepage’s career) that the idea of him directing the RING is “preposterous”. It is nothing but 20-20 hind-sight to say that after the fact.

            We get it, Woolfe didn’t like it. La Cieca didn’t like it. JJ didn’t like it. Heck, I didn’t like it much either. In fact, I was shocked and disappointed by the RING given my experience of Lepage as a director.

            Woolfe is a very talented young writer and he understands that the way to get attention in this business is to throw mud at big targets-- Midgette is good at it too.

            I remember a rather unfortunate “thought piece” by Mr. Woolfe in which he decried the use of puppets in theater. His point being that the novelty of puppets wears out quickly in a performance and adult audiences cannot connect to puppets on an emotional level. A few weeks after that piece ran, WAR HORSE opened on Broadway and has had audiences in tears ever since.

          • You seem determined to get a “gotcha” in here, so all I can say is that so far as I know Woolfe’s piece never pretended to be an exhaustive retrospective of Lepage’s career. Rather, it examined similarities between the Ring and a piece that Lepage and the Met themselves have repeatedly referenced for comparison.

            Or are you so ingenuous as to imagine that Ronald Blum dreamed up the connection purely on his own? Or that Dan Wakin drew the identical comparison purely by blind chance? Or did they both follow the lead of Mark Swed, or perhaps of John Rockwell?

            No, the point here is that these writers and everyone else were handed the Ring/KA comparison by the Met’s PR. Probably they (and that includes me) should have been more critical of the comparison early on, but, with the connection made, it’s only fair that it be pursued to its logical conclusion.

            I don’t know why you feel you have to carry water for Peter Gelb, but you should know it’s extremely obvious what you’re doing.

          • sterlingkay

            Well perhaps for the same reason that you seem to carry water for Zachary Woolfe, which is just as obvious…maybe I have the hots for Peter Gelb instead of Woolfe.

            And I will now glad put myself on moderation.

  • Camille

    ZW a very smart man and a very fine writer. Would also like to see him promoted to the top job.

    Now, does anyone know what those tatooed asses are up to? Nol comprendo.

    • ianw2

      Oh, fine. I guess I’ll do it then.

      Zachary Woolfe is not just one of opera’s most celebrated critics, but perhaps its most convincing writer. A consummate artist, his one and only role when he writes in the Times is to breathe so much life into the opera’s main character that readers lose themselves in his unforgettable words. That is the passion of Zachary Woolfe.

    • Quanto Painy Fakor

      I hope those tatts are on body stockings!

  • David

    Is it La Boheme? Benoît employs the heavies to get rent off the Bohemians in Act 1?

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    Rossini singer-eating machine:

  • La Valkyrietta

    On the spot article.

    I love Las Vegas, but it is an opera desert. Its idea of opera is The Phantom of the Opera at Venetian, sometimes Bocelli at the Mandalay Bay arena and, apparently, KA at MGM :).
    Perhaps Gelb should join forces with Lepage and both become joint Nevada entrepreneurs, that could be good for the opera fans that still remain at the Met.

  • Jack Jikes

    seterlingkay -- you made finely reasoned points. I adore Japan’s Bunraku theater and loathed Woolfe’s analysis of the frequently wondrous world of puppetry. Of all the critic’s La Cieca invited us to peruse only John Rockwell has the cultural breadth to offer a decent analysis. Woolfe implies, grudgingly via hearsay, that Lepage’s time was the ’80s and ’90s -- but Lipsynch looms so large with its Wagnerian elegiac dimension, eight-and-a-half hour running time and a leading lady who’s an opera soprano, that it demands consideration. Lepage is a great man -- Woolfe emerges as a very limited hedgehog.

  • Bianca Castafiore

    OT: I won the St. Agnes of Varis lottery again, this time for the Siegfried matinee this Saturday, but I can only take so much of that awful croaking by the Void… so I’m skipping it even though I have not seen it… Will try to catch the one with Dalayman at the end of the month.

  • Bianca Castafiore

    From today’s NYT corrections:

    A critic’s notebook article on Tuesday about the Cirque du Soleil show “Ka” in Las Vegas, created and directed by Robert Lepage, whose production of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle is now at the Metropolitan Opera, misstated the timing of the Met’s decision to have Mr. Lepage produce the cycle. Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, said he hired Mr. Lepage before seeing “Ka,” not after.

    • Jack Jikes

      Which fits into my notion of Woolfe’s lack of instinctual grace.

    • m. croche

      Excellent catch, Bianca -- I missed the punchline. Very funny, indeed.

      Oh well, I’m sure ZW had a nice trip to Vegas.

      • m. croche

        Maybe La Cieca should change one of the tags to “Peter Gelb Can Fucking Time Travel”

  • toitoitoi

    I just want to be the assistant makeup artist wielding the Sharpie…