Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Vincent is Back!

Van Gogh dazzles at Netherlands' Kroeller-Mueller

With the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam closed for renovations until April, the world's second-largest collection of the Dutch master's work is stepping into the limelight.

The Kroeller-Mueller museum in the eastern Netherlands is not as well-known but is still considered a jewel among connoisseurs. It has revamped the layout of its central rooms, giving more space and more focus to its very best works.

"Van Gogh really stands central now, both physically in the museum and in the collection as a whole," director Lisette Pelsers said in a telephone interview.

This week the museum announced "Vincent is Back," because after a time in which many of its 91 Vincent Van Gogh paintings, 180 drawings and other works have been on loan, they are set to return in style.

It has opened "Native Soil," the first of a two-part exhibition looking at the spectacular changes that Van Gogh underwent in his artistic career, which took place almost entirely in the decade from 1880 to 1890. The appropriately wintery exhibit focuses on Van Gogh's formative years in the Netherlands, with a dark palette and simple, somber subjects.

"Native Soil" culminates in what is widely regarded as Van Gogh's first great masterpiece, the 1885 "Potato Eaters." It also shows smaller works that presage the colorful brilliance to come, such as the 1885 "Head of a Woman Wearing a White Hat," which may have been part of Van Gogh's preparations for "Potato Eaters,;" and the emotive 1882 study "Sorrowful Old Man" in black chalk.

"You can really see him struggling to find his style as an artist," Pelsers said. [more...]

Friday, December 7, 2012

Maeterlinck Lives!

In Claus Guth's haunting new production of Debussy's "Pelleas et Melisande," the characters move as if in a trance between two worlds — both of them unrelentingly bleak.

The French composer's only completed opera, starring baritone Christian Gerhaher and soprano Christiane Karg in the title roles, was seen Thursday night in the seventh of eight performances by the Frankfurt Opera this fall. The final one is Saturday night.

The story, adapted by Maurice Maeterlinck from his own symbolist play, sounds straightforward when reduced to its elements: Golaud, grandson of King Arkel, meets a mysterious, much younger woman, marries her and brings her home to his family's castle. She and his half-brother, Pelleas, fall in love, and Golaud's suspicions that they are having an affair (apparently unfounded) lead him to murder his rival. Melisande dies after giving birth to Golaud's child.

But in Maeterlinck's world nothing is quite what it seems, and as the characters wander through the story, their words, feelings and motivations are often impossible to pin down. Debussy captures this atmosphere of dreamy uncertainty and shifting reality with a score whose chromaticism continually eludes the musical resolution of traditional key structure. [more...]