By Rodger Skidmore
COVID-19 is still here, and so are you. This means that you’ve not yet been to France this spring and probably won’t get to see Monet’s garden at all this year. Too bad.
Those that have been to his garden absolutely loved being there. But admit it, when you were last in his garden, that visit was crammed in between a trip to the Eiffel Tower and dinner at Le Train Bleu — everything was just a blur. So, seeing an original painting of his garden is, in a way, even better (especially if you own that painting), as you can view it day after day without being rushed.
Looking at a coffee table book showing off every aspect of the garden can be pleasant, but face it, the weight of the book plays havoc on your sciatic nerve while the book rests in your lap.
Perhaps the best way to leisurely view Monet’s work is to stroll peacefully through it at Selby Botanical Gardens here in downtown Sarasota, through June 27. You’ll be able to walk slowly across his famous bridge and see water lilies in the pond below, just as if you were in Giverny.
And, as you view all things Monet, you will not be alone. Representations of the art of the POP artist Roy Lichtenstein, who fell in love with Monet’s paintings back in the 1960s, are spotted about the paths that wind through Selby’s jungle walkways. And not just Monet’s Lilly pads. There are also 3D versions of Monet’s haystacks — in morning, afternoon, and evening light — as envisioned by Lichtenstein.
From little things like Lichtenstein flower pots filled with real eye POP-ing flowers to a two-story Lichtenstein version of Monet’s house are as unreally real as one could wish. This exhibition Roy Lichtenstein: Monet’s Garden Goes POP! is part of the continuing Jean & Alfred Goldstein’s exhibition series which, in the past, has brought us the Selby’s visions of Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Marc Chagall.
A highlight of highlights of this exceptional exhibit would be a slow walk through the conservatory where Claude Monet’s garden, arches, arbors, home, and lily pond are all Lichtenstein-ized with the ever-gorgeous display of tropical flowers encompassing them. And, at the other end of the garden, the Payne Mansion contains a number of original Lichtenstein paintings on loan from the Lichtenstein Foundation, museums, and a local collector. Lichtenstein Nights (entertainment, light refreshments, and beautiful sunset lit views included) are another hit. Information at Selby.org.
We’re not talking ballet here, but opera. There are two different live operas being performed at the lovely Sarasota Opera House this month. The first live performances are of Il Signor Bruschino, who actually is now kind of dead, in that this Rossini opera was first performed in 1813. While Rossini and all his friends are long gone, the opera is alive and full of comedy (get this — a case of mistaken identity — perhaps an opera first) as two lovers get together. There are eight roles plus some non-singing essential workers (servants), and 18 musical numbers with Victor Derenzi conducting. A really nice recording was done in 1991 with Sam Ramey, Kathleen Battle, and the English Chamber Orchestra, but that recording is not a DVD, so to catch the action go to your local Opera House and get the full effect.
The second live opera, Dido and Aeneas, is based on a story older than dirt: Virgil’s Aeneid, with dramatic baroque music by Henry Purcell. But, of course, it’s always fun to see an opera when they say of the lead characters, “scheming sorcery and fateful spells doom their great passion.” Lisa Chavez is Dido, and Andrew Surrena is Aeneas, with Jesse Martins conducting.
Both of April’s operas are about the trials and tribulations of getting married against various obstacles. And, as they say, “winsome, loathsome.” These two have overlapping live performance dates between the ninth and the 25th of the month and will continue streaming on into May. Performance dates and more at Sarasotaopera.org.
Well, since the word “tutu” was mentioned, it is only fair to let you know that the Sarasota Ballet’s Digital Program 6 is also being offered this month. The program will be two early gems by George Balanchine and Sir Frederick Ashton. Balanchine’s Serenade was the first ballet that he choreographed (in America) back in 1934. This revised, and presumably better, version followed the following year with music by Tchaikovsky. Sir Frederick’s ballet Façade was first performed for the Camargo Society in London. That group was credited with saving ballet in England during the early years of the Depression, and was named for Marie Camargo, an 18th-century ballerina. That society’s repertoire was later incorporated into what became the Royal Ballet.
More information about this streaming presentation (April 23 through 27), and the Sarasota Ballet in general, is at Sarasostaballet.org.
The new supersedes the old
While the title of this section is a generally accepted phrase, it is quite often, upon analysis, not the case. Yes, at the end of each year we see a cartoon depicting an image of a decrepit old year being pushed aside by a little runt representing the new year — and everyone applauds. Sure, out with the old, in with the new.
And naturally, when the shine on an old trophy wife gets a bit dull, get a newer one, even if it’s a bit plastic. Yes, the new may be super (at least by its own definition), but the old does not always cede its place to the new. Good dancers still grace our TV screens doing a graceful waltz, while there are not many shows featuring the Macarena. And there more devotees to Bach and Mozart than there are to Milli Vanilli.
But there are problems when testing any theorem. Did the new thing that we listened to, watched, or did, provide real enjoyment? On more than one level? For how long? Did the memories of it last? And, did we wish to experience it again, or was it just the newness of it that appealed? We, in Sarasota, retiring or visiting from so many different places, have the chance to try and test so many things. Do you like American processed cheese slices, a wedge of brie, or Wisconsin string cheese (braided, straight or smoked)? Or, at various times, all of the above? And, how soon would you like to experience them again?
On the musical front, Bach and Mozart are available everywhere. Contemporary music, not so much.
Well, now is your chance to hear Sarasota’s contribution to modern music: enSRQ (AKA ensembleNEWSRQ) is presenting a new work, Body Vessel, by 2019 Hermitage Artist Retreat/Greenfield prize winner Helga Davis at 3 p.m. on April 12 at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe campus on Orange Avenue.
This will be enSRQ’s fifth concert presentation of this COVID-19-convulsed 2020-2021 season. But, while this will be their newest concert, it will not have pushed out, or diminished, the previous four, as all are available for streaming. See the latest, starting on April 12, and the others right now on ensrq.org/watch. Donations accepted.