June 4, 2014 | by Jessie Gaynor
May 12, 2014 | by Roxana Popescu
The half-ton red-velvet curtain fell for what may be the last time on a San Diego Opera performance in mid-April, to a sold-out matinée of Don Quixote. Before the show, patrons drank wine outside, talking about the sad turn of events and snapping photos to mark the occasion: funeral selfies, opera style. In the final minutes of the final performance, Ferruccio Furlanetto—as a lanky and, even by operatic standards, gorgeously expressive Don Quixote—collapsed on a cluster of boulders under a starlit sky, relinquishing his last breath, and with it, his perpetual quest for a better tomorrow.
In March, the Opera’s board of directors voted to fold the forty-nine-year-old company, citing financial problems. After the announcement, which surprised many, came a media storm with all the musical metaphors you could hope for. (Would the fat lady sing? Would there be a reprise?) There were social media campaigns and T-shirts; candlelight vigils; protesters, one in a death mask; a large, last-ditch donation, and a series of smaller contributions from first-time donors; and then there was a genius twist. Someone closely read the opera’s bylaws and discovered that everybody who donated at least $101 toward the current season was considered an association member with voting rights, which meant they could make decisions and recommendations. A second board vote postponed the closure to May 29 and bought some time for fundraising. For the past month and a half, problem solvers have been hunting for ways to keep the San Diego Opera running. Ditch the massive theater? Save the chorus? What is necessary, and what is sufficient, to create opera? Read More »
January 3, 2013 | by John Jeremiah Sullivan
Ten years ago I was on the highway from Tennessee to Kentucky—can’t even remember the reason for the trip—but I kept the car radio on the AM band, set to “Scan,” because I’d noticed, over several years’ driving around this part of the world, how almost every small town you pass has at least one little church that’s broadcasting a low-wattage radio show, and you often hear fascinatingly crazy preaching on those transmissions and, less frequently, fine singing. That particular Sunday in January it was raining, and I was somewhere north of Memphis, passing depressing roadside storage buildings, when a remarkable live signal came across. The sound at first was like that of a giant wet towel rhythmically slapping on somebody’s back. After a minute I realized it came from hundreds of rain-soaked shoes stomping in unison on a concrete floor. I tried to imagine the inside of the church. It must have been cavernous. Or maybe—more likely—it was a warehouse, where this Pentecostal group had been forced to convene. Slap … slap … midtempo, it filled the car, as the people chanted a single line, “If He sends me, I’ll GO-oooo … If He sends me, I’ll GO-oooo,” a three-note melody, simple to the point of crudity, but with a strange elegance. Folks got up and started testifying. A woman thanked God because on Christmas Eve she’d gone to the welfare office to get food stamps, and there’d been something wrong with her forms—a paper she hadn’t known was expired—“but the man give it to me anyway,” she said. “God softened his heart.”
January 1, 2013 | by Jessie Gaynor
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
December 7, 2012 | by William Styron
To George Plimpton
December 1, 1953 Ravello, Italy
Herewith the interview, revised and expanded. I think that in the future it might be a good idea for you to get a tape-recorder for these darn things, because it’s a bitch of a job for the interviewee to edit his own words. Now you will note that I did not completely eliminate all the first part; as a matter of fact I retained the bulk of it, but made quite a few changes and emendations. I think it’s better now, certainly printable. Besides all the additions, you will notice I made a few eliminations. I cut out a few of the cuss-words, which were all too abundant. I cut out the cracks against little Truman and Anthony West, who God knows deserves them, but they seemed a little in poor taste. I also tempered my criticism of Faulkner. I have tried to keep the tone impersonal and conversational throughout, and I think that I’ve succeeded.
You will notice, too, that I’ve taken your suggestion and have added quite a bit toward the end. I hope you will find the questions—some of which are yours—and answers suitable; at least the piece is considerably lengthened, and I’ve gotten off my chest a few things I’ve wanted to say. One important thing is that I think you must somehow invent a little atmosphere to surround the piece. It’s mighty bare without any stage directions, and I think if you place the thing right where the original interview started, in the Café Select, or some equivalent, it will provide a suitably bibulous background.
December 6, 2012 | by William Styron
To George Plimpton
September 18, 1953 Ravello, Italy
Last night I did something which I only do once or twice in a generation: I stayed up all night with a bottle of Schenley’s and watched the dawn. That sort of thing is a perverse, masochistic business and at around 9 A.M. I was entertaining the idea of writing two or three novels before I went to bed, but oblivion closed in an hour later, and I just woke up. It is now almost sunset. This is mainly by way of saying that if this letter doesn’t have a Chesterﬁeldian elegance + grace you will at least have been apprised of the reason.
My main reason for writing this letter is one-fold, I have been forced down certain channels of contemplation by a recent communiqué from John (“The Second Happiest Day”) Phillips, to use current journalese. Primarily, I was interested in his remarks about a Hemingway issue of PR; and I think at this point and without further ado I can shoulder my burden as advisory editor of the snappiest little mag on the Rive Gauche and say that I think it’s a great idea. Peter and THG apparently (according to Marquand) are not so enthusiastic about the proposition; as for me I think that if you really have enough interesting, fresh material in the ofﬁng (it must be interesting, fresh, original, and there must be quite a bit of it) then it might be one of the literary coups of all time. As Marquand said, print the word Hemingway in neon all over each page and both covers. Anything goes. Read More »