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Howard Kissel
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Blog Entries by Howard Kissel

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

2 Comments | Posted February 21, 2012 | 02/21/12 08:22 AM ET

Yes, I know. You're supposed to write about your summer vacation just after you take it.

But what better time to recall the golden days of summer than on one of the coldest days of winter? It's as if you stored these memories precisely to warm you up when things...

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Romeo and Juliet

1 Comments | Posted February 15, 2012 | 02/15/12 04:18 PM ET

I took a very learned friend to see the New York City Ballet's Romeo and Juliet Tuesday night, the first of six performances. Surveying the mayhem at the end, he helpfully observed that if Juliet had only taken a sleeping potion she would still be breathing, however faintly, which should...

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Merrily We Roll Along

4 Comments | Posted February 9, 2012 | 02/09/12 07:32 PM ET

In the nearly four decades I have been reviewing theater I have seen shows revived, altered, sometimes but seldom improved. But never --- until last night -- have I seen one totally, gloriously reborn.

That show is Stephen Sondheim's longtime problem child "Merrily We Roll Along," which initially had a...

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Lincoln's Signature

1 Comments | Posted February 2, 2012 | 02/02/12 04:49 PM ET

How much can a piece of paper be worth?

Quite a lot, if it has Abraham Lincoln's signature on it. The actual value of the over-sized sheet of paper that went on display Wednesday at the New-York Historical Society has not been disclosed. That, after all, would be vulgar. And...

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Wit

Posted January 31, 2012 | 01/31/12 06:28 PM ET

When I saw Margaret Edson's Wit the first time, back in 1998, I identified with its central character, an English professor who specializes in John Donne's Holy Sonnets, a person who cares deeply about ideas. I also identified with her as a somewhat snobbish, obstinate person trying to deal with...

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The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess

15 Comments | Posted January 20, 2012 | 01/20/12 10:32 AM ET

One of the privileges of being a New Yorker used to be that if you wanted to see Picasso's "Guernica," all you had to do was hop on the subway and go to the Museum of Modern Art. Thirty years ago, in accord with the artist's wishes, "Guernica" went back...

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Maria Cooper Janis

3 Comments | Posted January 13, 2012 | 01/13/12 10:45 AM ET

There are two Steinway grands in the living room of Maria Cooper Janis's Park Avenue apartment.

One belongs to her husband, the virtuoso pianist Byron Janis. That one is temporarily "out of order." The innards of its middle section, which regularly receive a grueling workout, have been removed for restoration.

...
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Eva Zeisel: 1906-2011

7 Comments | Posted January 4, 2012 | 01/04/12 02:20 PM ET

On my stove is a kettle I bought four years ago in the gift shop of the Museum of Modern Art. It was manufactured the year before. The designer was the first woman to have a one-person show at MoMA, back in 1946. When she designed the kettle she was...

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The Enchanted Island

1 Comments | Posted January 1, 2012 | 01/01/12 09:34 PM ET

Given the importance of the New Year's Eve Gala to the Metropolitan Opera's fundraising efforts, it is quite extraordinary that Saturday night the Met ushered in the new year not with a War Horse (like "Carmen" or "La Traviata" the past few years), not with a party opera (like "Die...

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Ravel et al. at the Philharmonic

2 Comments | Posted December 29, 2011 | 12/29/11 02:15 PM ET

Certain pieces, no matter how sophisticated your audio equipment is, can only be fully understood in the concert hall. Much of Ravel's orchestral output falls into this category, especially the two pieces the New York Philharmonic performed Wednesday night at Avery Fisher Hall. (The program will be repeated today and...

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On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

Posted December 12, 2011 | 12/12/11 11:24 AM ET

On the one hand, I can't wait to hear the cast album that will accompany the revival of Alan Jay Lerner and Burton Lane's 1965 On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, since, apart from the glorious score, it has interpolations of other Lane songs you don't hear often,...

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Cosi Fan Tutte

Posted December 11, 2011 | 12/11/11 10:29 AM ET

Many years ago I heard a concert by the Juilliard School student orchestra conducted by Jorge Mester, then the musical director of the Louisville Orchestra. On the program was a seldom played Mozart symphony, which they performed with great precision. What impressed me was the extraordinary conscientiousness of the student...

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The Met's New Faust

Posted November 30, 2011 | 11/30/11 12:28 PM ET

19th century grand opera is potentially the most emotionally involving of all the performing arts. And yet the trend for directors in the last few decades has been to cerebralize these works, as if the soaring melodies and lush orchestrations constituted a kind of Rosetta Stone they must decipher.

For...

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Pauline Kael

Posted November 21, 2011 | 11/21/11 11:20 AM ET

Many years ago, during a press screening of John Irving's "The Hotel New Hampshire," not a pleasurable film, there was a moment when a character made the observation, "Bears float."

"So does shit," said someone in a stage whisper. It was an unmistakable voice, and the anger behind the comment...

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Memories of Kate Smith

Posted October 31, 2011 | 10/31/11 12:00 PM ET

I have spent the last hour paying bills. No, I don't pay online. I still write out checks and I still go to the post office eager to see what new commemoratives they offer. With my last check I also used my last Kate Smith stamp, a poignant moment.

She...

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Sweet Bye and Bye

Posted October 23, 2011 | 10/23/11 10:46 PM ET

My father was an inveterate book buyer, a habit, alas, he passed on to me. Many of the books he bought, mainly in used bookstores, were of little interest to me. But I can still remember being excited by the arrival of a volume in a bright yellow binding with...

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Another 'Follies'

Posted October 21, 2011 | 10/21/11 07:24 PM ET

In February of 1971 Harold Prince produced and directed a musical with score by Stephen Sondheim and book by James Goldman. It received largely mixed to negative reviews, limped along for over a year and lost $685,000 of its $800,000 capitalization.

Who could imagine that, 40 years later, that show...

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Anna Bolena

Posted September 28, 2011 | 09/28/11 05:21 PM ET

For the first time in years opening night at the Metropolitan Opera was a total triumph.

What makes the achievement more remarkable is that the opera being performed is of historic significance but has none of the qualities that makes for a staple of the repertory. In fact Donizetti's "Anna...

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New York Philharmonic New Season

Posted September 23, 2011 | 09/23/11 05:55 PM ET

Medical issues have kept me from attending the New York Philharmonic as often as I would have liked, but the opening concert Wednesday night made clear that the bond between the orchestra and its "new" musical director, Alan Gilbert, is as close as any this difficult orchestra and a "boss"...

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Wagner, Walton and an English Country Lad

Posted September 18, 2011 | 09/18/11 10:08 PM ET

Saturday night the New York Philharmonic performed the work of three great musicians -- fabulously.

The first was Richard Wagner, his Prelude to "Tannhauser" and the Bacchanalia. This is one of Wagner's best known pieces but if you're used to hearing it from the pit of an opera house (the...

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