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Alice Munro wins Man Booker International Prize

Canadian writer Alice Munro, whose short stories set the small towns and rural communities of Western Ontario and the Canadian Pacific Northwest have been recognized for decades as among the finest in contemporary fiction, has been named the recipient of the 2009 Man Booker International Prize, it was announced on Wednesday in London.  Peter Carey, E.L. Doctorow, Mario Vargas Llosa, V. S. Naipaul, and Joyce Carol Oates were among the thirteen other finalists for the award.
The prize, which is awarded for excellence over a writer's career body of work rather than a single novel or collection of stories, is presented biennially to a living author who has published work in English (or work generally available in English language  translation) that has made a major contribution to fiction on the world stage.   The most recent (2007) winner, Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe, appeared in Just Buffalo Literary Center's Babel Reading Series last September.
Munro was selected by a jury of international authors chaired by Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist Jane Smiley, who told The Guardian that the selection process had been a challenging one, but that Munro's stories "just won us over".  "Her work is practically perfect. Any writer has to gawk when reading her because her work is very subtle and precise," said Smiley. "Her thoughtfulness about every subject is so read [her] is to learn something every time that you never thought of before."

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464 Gallery mounts LGBT art show

Ladies of the Rising Sun- .. 

"Ladies of the Rising Sun" by Marcus L. Wise. Part of the exhibition "Color" at 464 Gallery (464 Amherst St.)

464 Gallery , an alternative art space that recently opened its doors on Buffalo's West Side, will open an exhibition of work by local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered artists next Friday. Work by Paul Rybarcyzk, Scott Klaurens, Michael Klemm, Daniel Rodgers, H. Duane Mallaber, Joelle LoDestro and several others will be on view in the space, which officially opened in March. The show is aimed to coincide with Buffalo's annual Pride celebration, which takes place June 6 and 7.

Gallery founder Marcus L. Wise launched the show, one of two LGBT-themed art shows to hit the Buffalo arts scene in the past few months (the other being "Prism: One Community, Many Perspectives" at CEPA Gallery in March.), to provide a venue for the area's sometimes underexposed LGBT artists.

"I've been part of the gay community in Buffalo for 15 years and now I have this resource which offers me the opportunity to give something back," Wise said. "Idon't really feel that LGBT artists are necessarily excluded from the arts in general in Buffalo, but I thought it would be nice to do something that is special for the community."

Wise said the gallery, which is part of one of the city's less well known artsy enclaves near the Buffalo State College campus, has been attracting steady crowds and doing respectable business since its opening in March.

--Colin Dabkowski

From Buffalo to Saratoga

Vehar Lake George Opera at Saratoga is including in its summer season a performance of "Eleanor Roosevelt," a new opera by Buffalo composer Persis Parshall Vehar, pictured at left.

Advertised as a "developmental premiere," the opera will be presented as a workshop performance, accompanied by piano. "Be the first to hear this new opera based on the life and impact of Eleanor Roosevelt," the Opera at Saratoga brochure invites. "This unique workshop performance brings cast, composer and audience together for the first time to experience and guide an opera still in development. ... The opera explores an important period in American history which has many parallels to today."

Persis Vehar is well-known in Buffalo for her imaginative creations, which include a group of songs set to the raucous poetry of Charles Bukowski and a one-act opera based on the life of Chopin.

In case anyone is going to be in the neighborhood, the performance of "Eleanor Roosevelt" takes place at 1 p.m. July 11 at the Spa Little Theater at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The two opera on SPAC's main season are "Madama Butterfly" (on July 2, 5, 8, 10 and 12) and "Don Pasquale" (July 3, 7, 9 and 11).

Find information on Lake George Opera at Saratoga here.

And you can check out Buffalo bass baritone Valerian Ruminski giving an atmospheric performance of Vehar's "Spring Swan," set to the poetry of Charles Bukowski, here. 

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

'Have fun ... It's not sports!'

Cliburn Tuesday night, the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition's jury spoke, and the original 29 contestants were cruelly cut down to a mere 12. These 12 go on to the semifinals, and then six advance to the finals.

Interestingly, no American pianists made the cut.

Just as interestingly, the announcement on the Cliburn Foundation Web site about who was in and who was out elicited a flurry of angry comments. They are a riot to read through. It is like a classical piano version of "American Idol."

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Padel resigns Oxford post; admits she tainted Walcott

Just 10 days after she was elected as the first female Professor of Poetry at Oxford University--a position that is regarded as the second most distinguished literary title in Britain next to poet laureate--Ruth Padel resigned from the position on Monday when e-mails surfaced linking her to a smear campaign against the presumptive favorite for the position, Nobel Prize winning St. Lucian poet Derek Walcott.
Walcott withdrew his named from consideration from the election on May 12th following an anonymous letter campaign directed at Oxford academics calling attention to two charges of sexual harassment that had been leveled at him by former students -- one stemming from an incident at Harvard University in 1982 and another by then Boston University student Nicole Niemi that resulted in an out-of-court settlement in 1996. In an interview with the London Evening Standard, Walcott said "While I was happy to be put forward for the [Oxford] post, if it has degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination, I do not want to be part of it."

Both prior to and following her election on May 16th, Padel -- who is widely respected as a poet, but better known as the great-great granddaughter of Charles Darwin, about whom she has written Darwin: A Life in Poems (2009) -- denied any involvement in the campaign to taint Walcott and condemned its anonymity. Over the week-end, however, e-mails surfaced that documented Padel's attempts to make reporters from two British newspapers -- The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph -- aware of past charges of sexual indiscretion that had been leveled against Walcott during his teaching career in the United States. Notably, the e-mails made reference to the same source material (a book called The Lecherous Professor by Billie Wright Dziech and Linda Weiner) as the anonymous letters.

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Semyon Bychkov, on the world's stage


Semyon Bychkov's new recording of Wagner's "Lohengrin," made with his WDR Orchestra Cologne, is scheduled for release in a couple of weeks. And Bychkov, the former music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, is interviewed about it in the June issue of BBC Music Magazine.

That is Bychkov at right in the picture above. The biker-looking guy on the left is Johan Botha, who sings the part of Lohengrin in the recording and who just sang the part with Bychkov in April at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. I have not been able to figure out who the person in the middle is. Anybody out there know him?

I have gotten the chance to talk to Bychkov several times, and I love it. He is warm, bubbly, likable and quotable. He is very affectionate about Buffalo and always seems to have time for anyone from our town, a weakness of his that I use freely to my advantage.

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What Buffalo was wearing in 1951

While reseraching an exhibition of work by Martha Visser't Hooft which will accompany Wednesday's performance of "The Soldier's Tale," local art dealer Dean Brownrout came across a fascinating "review" of the 1951 Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra production of the piece in the Buffalo Evening News.

It begins by hailing the performance as "One of the most outstanding musical and dramatic presentationsit has been Buffalo's opportunity to witness." But then it launches into the apparently far more interesting business of what our city's elite philanthropists were wearing on that Friday evening at the Buffalo Seminary.

It follows:


--Colin Dabkowski

More Buffalo love from The Times


And the pro-Buffalo press keeps rolling in. The New York Times Magazine has a summer travel feature that highlights some of our fair city's best artistic offerings, including the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Hallwalls, the Darwin D. Martin House Complex and, naturally, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery (sadly enough, closed this week because of financial difficulties).

What's your take on all this attention?

--Colin Dabkowski

How the Albright-Knox got its Frida Kahlo


Albright-Knox Art Gallery curator Holly E. Hughes tells the curious tale of how "Self Portrait with Monkey," a 1938 painting by Frida Kahlo, came into the gallery's collection. The portrait, which was recently put on view after an extended absence, is part of the exhibition "Frida Kahlo: Through the Lens of Nickolas Muray," on view (at least when the gallery reopens next Wednesday) through July 5. Read all about it tomorrow's edition of Gusto.

--Colin Dabkowski

Countdown to the Cliburn

Cliburn The Van Cliburn International Piano Competition is beginning on Friday. And you can watch it live, eleven hours a day, from your computer.

You can find out how to do that by clicking here.

You can find out about the 29 contestants here.

As of Thursday the big news was that the contestants had drawn lots to see who would play when. You can update yourself on that here.

I plan on looking in on it now and then. Having been in the Van Cliburn Amateur Competition, it is easy for me to put myself in these 30 contestants' shoes. 

Also, there is one contestant I am cheering on, Eduard Kunz, because he and I have the same name. He is 28 and from Siberia. I have already left a message for Cousin Eduard on Facebook and have told him to do the family proud. Also, not to brag, but I have his cell phone number so if he wins I can be the first to congratulate him!

Continue reading "Countdown to the Cliburn" »

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