Category Archives: Commentary

WHEN MILTON MET SHAKESPEARE: POET’S NOTES ON BARD APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN FOUND ·

(Alison Flood’s article appeared in the Guardian, 9/16.)

Hailed as one of the most significant archival discoveries of modern times, text seems to show the Paradise Lost poet making careful annotations on his edition of Shakespeare’s plays

Almost 400 years after the first folio of Shakespeare was published in 1623, scholars believe they have identified the early owner of one copy of the text, who made hundreds of insightful annotations throughout: John Milton.

The astonishing find, which academics say could be one of the most important literary discoveries of modern times, was made by Cambridge University fellow Jason Scott-Warren when he was reading an article about the anonymous annotator by Pennsylvania State University English professor Claire Bourne. Bourne’s study of this copy, which has been housed in the Free Library of Philadelphia since 1944, dated the annotator to the mid-17th century, finding them alive to “the sense, accuracy, and interpretative possibility of the dialogue”. She also provided many images of the handwritten notes, which struck Scott-Warren as looking oddly similar to Milton’s hand.

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FIONA SHAW AND KIRSTEN SHEPHERD-BARR ON ELEONORA DUSE (BBC RADIO 4) ·

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Fiona Shaw, BAFTA award-winning star of Killing Eve, joins Matthew Parris to explore the life of one of history’s most remarkable actresses whose name has slipped from public memory. She inspired Stanislavski’s ‘method’, changed Chekhov’s mind about acting, and took Chaplin’s breath away – the nineteenth-century performer, Eleonora Duse. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, professor of English and Theatre Studies at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, helps Fiona and Matthew uncover the drama of Duse’s life, both on and off the stage. Producer: Camellia Sinclair.

 

HARRY POTTER BROUGHT HIM TO BROADWAY. NOW HIS WORK IS EVERYWHERE. ·

(Michael Paulson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 9/4; via Pam Green.)

Eccentric and prodigious, the writer Jack Thorne won a Tony for “Cursed Child.” Up next: “Sunday” at the Atlantic Theater Company, and “His Dark Materials” on HBO..

LONDON — Jack Thorne has no shortage of ways to characterize his own eccentricity. “I’m a slightly deranged adult.” “I’m not very good with other people.” “I’m mental.”

He points out a Ralph Steadman poster on the wall of his book-lined home office, an image grotesque enough to prompt objections from his 3-year-old son. “I like it,” he smiles. “It expresses my self-hatred.”

Mr. Thorne, a 40-year-old English writer, describes much of his life as a succession of dark chapters, including a disabling skin condition that affected him for years.

But now he finds himself in a spot he could never have imagined: a happily married father with thriving stage and screen careers that have made him one of the most prodigious — and sought-after — storytellers of the moment.

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Photo: The New York Times 

 

CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (22) ·

Let someone teach us to speak simply, musically, nobly, beautifully, but without vocal acrobatics, actors’ pathos and all the odds and ends of scenic diction.  We want the same thing in movement and action.  Let them be humble and not completely expressive and scenic in the theatrical sense of the word, but then they are not false, and they are humanly simple.  (MLIA)

WHY DID THE SOVIETS NOT WANT US TO KNOW ABOUT THE PIANIST MARIA GRINBERG? ·

(Damian Thompson’s article appeared in the Spectator, 9/7.)

She was one of only four women to record the complete Beethoven piano sonatas but the state kept her in obscurity

Only four women pianists have recorded complete cycles of the Beethoven piano sonatas: Maria Grinberg, Annie Fischer, H. J. Lim and Mari Kodama. I’ve written before about the chain-smoking ‘Ashtray Annie’ Fischer: she was a true poet of the piano and her Beethoven sonatas are remarkably penetrating — as, alas, is the sound of her beaten-up Bösendorfer. Lim produced her cycle in a hurry when she was just 24; it’s engaging but breathless. Kodama’s set, just completed, is a bit polite.

Which leaves Maria Grinberg (1908–78), whose recordings remain just where the Soviet authorities wanted them. In obscurity. That is shameful — and not because she was the first woman and the first Russian to record all the sonatas. (In those days Jews from Odessa in Ukraine counted as Russians.) This is an unforgettable cycle. Unforgettable, that is, in the unlikely event that you’ve heard it.

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CONSTANT STANISLAVSKI (21) ·

In the repertoire of an actor, among the large number of parts played by him, there are some that seem to have been creating themselves in his inner consciousness for a long time.  One only has to touch the role and it comes to life without any of the tortures of creation, without any quest or technical work.  Life itself has created that role in its own good time, life and nature.  (MLIA)

THE RELEASE OF OLEG SENTSOV AND THE PLIGHT OF THOSE LEFT BEHIND ·

(Masha Gessen’s article appeared in the New Yorker, 9/10.)

Russia released its most famous prisoner on Saturday. Oleg Sentsov, a forty-three-year-old Crimean journalist and film director, returned to Ukraine after serving five years of a twenty-year sentence. He was one of thirty-five Ukrainian citizens released by Russia in exchange for Ukraine freeing an equal number of Russian citizens. Human-rights groups around the world, activists, and some politicians had been working to draw attention to Sentsov’s case since he was arrested, in May, 2014. In a moment when the U.S. government appears to have dropped human rights from its international agenda, Sentsov’s story shows that a concerted international effort on behalf of one man can still yield results, but it also highlights the limitations of such efforts. Several dozen more Ukrainian citizens, sentenced on equally spurious charges, remain in Russian prisons.

Sentsov was convicted of terrorism ostensibly for setting fires to the doors of the offices of the ruling Russian party, United Russia, in Crimea, and plotting to blow up a monument to Lenin. The prosecution provided no evidence of Sentsov’s participation in either the fires (an established part of radical protests in Russia, usually regarded as crimes against property) or a plot to destroy the monument. The court offered no explanation for why an alleged plot to blow up an inanimate object was viewed as terrorism.

Sentsov was born in Crimea, in an ethnic Russian family. Like most Crimeans, he grew up speaking Russian, but, like an apparent minority of them, he identified strongly as a Ukrainian citizen, and opposed the Russian occupation. He took part in the revolutionary movement that brought down the Ukrainian President, in February, 2014. At the conclusion of his trial, he declined to ask the Russian court for leniency, because, he said, he did not recognize its authority over him.

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Photograph by Ovsyannikova Yulia / Ukrinform / ZUMA