Cher Public

Lips together, teeth apart

The enigmatic half-smile that gives its name to Leonardo’s “La Gioconda” or Mona Lisa, his most famous painting, has been fancifully credited to many emotions. Is the lady daydreaming or flirting or pondering one of the painter’s anatomical diagrams? It has recently been suggested that she is Leonardo himself in drag, savoring a joke at our expense. Mr. Peabody, that Leonardo among canines, claimed she was suffering from toothache, and (as usual) he and his Wayback machine saved the day—it is true that until the advent of scientific dentistry, portraits were never painted with parted lips.   Read more »

Light my foyer

Each year, Leon Botstein leads the American Symphony Orchestra in a concert opera or two. His choices vary between two repertories: deeply obscure works or operas by Richard Strauss. On Sunday, at Carnegie Hall, the two circles of this Venn Diagram overlapped in a very rare display of Strauss’s second opera, Feuersnot (Need for Fire), in possibly its New York professional debut. Naturally, that drew quite a crowd.   Read more »