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In the hands of the masters


In today's paper I got to interview Dr. David Karpeles, who owns the famous Karpeles Collection we get to glimpse in our local Karpeles manuscript libraries (one is on North at Elmwood; the other farther west, on Porter near Kleinhans). Talking with Dr. Karpeles was a thrill for me because I have wanted to talk to him for a long time.

It was funny, all I did was call him up, without an appointment, and he was sitting there all ready to talk. I love that in a person.

The reason I have been wanting to talk with Dr. Karpeles is because his manuscript collection is the biggest in the world and his music collection, in particular, makes me dizzy. It is almost inconceivable to think of owning the original manuscript of Beethoven's "Emperor" Concerto, the Nocturne from Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or a few pages from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro." By the way, that is a Mozart manuscript pictured up above, a picture I found online. Can anyone figure out what piece it is? I am going to try to find out.

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Gabrielle Burton on Donner, fiction vs. memoir and feminist heroines

 As we spoke by telephone to writer Gabrielle Burton at her home in Venice, Calif., on Monday afternoon, she and her husband, Roger, were packing for their flight back east to Buffalo and tonight's 7:30 p.m. reading in Earth's Daughter's Gray Hair Series at Hallwalls Cinema, 341 Delaware Ave. (near Tupper).

Whenever the Burton family returns to Buffalo -- their erstwhile home for more than three decades while Roger was a tenured psychology professor at the University of Buffalo -- it's a noteworthy occasion. Many readers may recall the newly renovated Shea's Performing Arts Center gala premiere of "Manna From Heaven," the independent film based on a screenplay by Gabrielle that was shot and set in Buffalo by the five Burton daughters' Five Sisters Productions in 2001. 

When I mentioned to her that President Obama would be visiting Buffalo on Thursday, Burton (who had apparently been apprised of the fact) quipped that she would "try not to upstage him. ... Actually,  I'm sure that won't be a problem," she laughed dryly. 

What follows below are the highlights of the brief interview that followed on the subject of Impatient with Desire (Hyperion Books), Burton's new historical novel (see my Buffalo News review here) based on the now legendary Westward migration of the ill-fated Donner Party in the winter of 1846-1847 as told from the perspective of Tamsen Donner, the proto-feminist matriarch of the journey, and last year's Searching for Tamsen Donner (The University of Nebraska's American Lives Series, edited by Tobias Woolf) her remarkable interpolation of straightforward biography with personal memoir, on her three-decade-long fascination (some might call it an "obsession") with Tamsen Donner, and the remarkable parallels she develops between her own life and that of the Donner Party heroine:

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William Carlos Williams: Live!

Thanks to advances in digital technology, a great many archival recordings of 20th century poetry that were formerly judged to be of too poor sound quality or too fragile source material for general dissemination are now available for streaming on the World Wide Web.
One of the richest archives of recorded readings dating over seven decades is that of the  
Unterberg Poetry Center located in the 92nd Street Y in New York City, home to one of this country's best known programs of readings, seminars, and writing workshops hosted in the organization's facilities at Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street in Manhattan.
The very first poetry reading at the 92nd Street Y was given by William Carlos Williams in October of 1939. While no recording of that reading exists, the Poetry Center at the Y recently posted an 18-minute, 41-second excerpt of a subsequent reading by Dr. Williams at the Y on Jan. 27, 1954.
Download the MP3 podcast of the audio file for later listening.
--R.D. Pohl

American Poetry Review publishes last interview with Lucille Clifton

If you happen to be in or near a bookstore this Mother's Day week-end, be sure to drop in and pick up a copy of the May/June issue of The American Poetry Review, which features poet Chard deNiord's extraordinary last interview with Buffalo native Lucille Clifton, the National Book Award, Ruth Lily Prize, and recent Frost Centennial Medal winning poet, who died  on February 13th at age 73. 
The Philadelphia-based APR--which has been this country's highest profile poetry "tabloid" since 1972--makes a portion of its content available online, but this interview is a print-only exclusive. 
The career-spanning interview which was conducted on January 12th, 2010--just over a month before Clifton's death--at her home in Columbia, Maryland runs to nine triple column-spaced tabloid pages and extended, by deNiord's account, over three hours in real time.   Even if you're familiar with Clifton's work and career, there is much here that adds perspective, including her discussion of poetic craft, and her early college experience at Howard University where her fellow students included Amiri Baraka, Toni Morrison (later her editor at Random House), and Roberta Flack, and her teachers included Sterling Brown, Owen Dodson, and James Baldwin.

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Native Buffalonian appointed director of New Orleans Museum of Art


Susan Taylor takes over as director of the New Orleans Museum of Art on Sept. 1 / Photo courtesy New Orleans Museum of Art

Doug MacCash of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports that Susan Taylor, a Buffalo native and former director of the Princeton University Art Museum, has been named director of the New Orleans Museum of Art. On Sept. 1, Taylor will replace outgoing director John Bullard, who has led the respected institution for more than 35 years.

Before assuming the directorship of the Princeton museum, Taylor served a 12-year term as director of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College. In his article on the appointment, MacCash notes the importance of Taylor's upbringing in Buffalo to her successful career as an art historian and museum administrator:

Born in Buffalo, N.Y., 54 year ago, Taylor said her interest in art was first kindled as a child in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in her hometown, where she encountered strange paintings by such artists as Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg — although she admits that she didn’t understand avant-garde art until much later. 

--Colin Dabkowski

New on ArtsBeat: The weekly theater roundup


John Fredo and Maggie Zindle in Edward Albee's "The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?" Photo by Derek Gee/ The Buffalo News

So what if I'm blatantly stealing an idea from Wall Street Journal critic Terry Teachout's weekly posting of recommended shows in New York? Buffalo deserves its own periodic blog list of the hottest shows on the theater scene. So, starting today, ArtsBeat will host a weekly roundup of the hottest productions on the boards in and around Western New York.

Let it be known that this list contains only my personal recommendations and those of our reviewers. It's in no way meant to discourage anyone from attending any of the many shows going on around town during any given week, but rather to highlight productions of particular merit.

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A Wikipedia ode to Katharine Cornell

Katharine cornell

Actress Katharine Cornell

Last week, before taking off for New Orleans, I got an e-mail from one Randy Reade, a longtime fan of legendary Buffalo-raised actress Katharine Cornell. He wrote that he'd been disappointed to find that there wasn't much information about Cornell online. So, worried about her fading legacy (which has been fading for some time), Reade wrote up an extensive Wikipedia entry on Cornell.

Here's a quote from the entry, which reveals a lot about how little things have change for stage actors since Cornell's time:

"I do think that the rapid success achieved by some people in pictures has seriously hurt the chances of a lot young men and woman who are studying for the stage. The success stories that we read in the Hollywood magazines make is all sound too easy. A youngster was a chauffeur yesterday and today he owns four swimming pools! It doesn't work that way on the stage.... Some young actresses haven't been inclined to listen to me when I told [them] that there was no royal road to success on the stage..."

--Colin Dabkowski

Hitting a new high

Brownlee Opera is big business! The Metropolitan Opera, winding up its season of simulcasts, reports that a new record has been set. It sold 2.2 million tickets to its live opera transmissions this season.

That is 400,000 more than the season before, the Associated Press reports.

The most recent telecast was Saturday's broadcast of Rossini's "Armida," starring soprano Renee Fleming and tenor Lawrence Brownlee, pictured at left. An estimated 105,000 in North America watched it, and so did an additional 84,000 in Europe and Latin America.

And the numbers are still not all in. The AP story adds: "With delayed telecasts in Asia, Latin America, Oceania and South Africa, plus repeats in North America and Europe, the Met expects its 'Armida' audience to reach 250,000."

This is a victory for Peter Gelb, the man at the helm of the Met. Gelb has been spearheading the telecasts for four years now. "When I took over this position, I was determined to use every means I could to get opera into some greater part of the consciousness of the mainstream public," he told The Buffalo News several months ago.

The Buffalo area simulcasts, seen at the Regal theaters on Elmwood and Transit, have proven tremendously popular. They routinely sell out well in advance. Repeat broadcasts on Wednesdays also draw crowds.

The sales figures make me wonder if there is too much hand-wringing over the age of most operas, the fact that many that are the most popular are 100 or 200 or even 300 years old. We don't fret about the age of Shakespeare plays, do we? And no one looks at "The Canterbury Tales" and says, "Let's stop reading this. It's kind of old."

Maybe we should all just relax and enjoy the show.

You can catch "Armida" as an encore transmission at 6:30 p.m. May 19. Call the theater for info (the Elmwood Regal is 871-0950, and Transit is 633-8918) or get tickets online. Eleven Met simulcasts are set for next season, beginning with Wagner's "Das Rheingold" on Oct. 9.

-- Mary Kunz Goldman


Google Book Settlement in limbo; Auletta on Apple and e-books


What's happening with the long-delayed and enormously complex Google Book Settlement now that the United States Senate has confirmed the appointment of Judge Denny Chin to replace now United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit? 


That's the question many observes are asking following the April 22 Senate confirmation of Chin, who in addition to presiding on the bench over the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers suit against Google, was the judge on the United States district court for the Southern District of New York who last year sentenced Ponzi-scheme investor Bernie Madoff to 150 years in federal prison.  


At least one commentator, the copyright and intellectual property site Scrivener's Error, speculates that unless Chin is nearly done writing his decision, the case will be reassigned to another judge serving on the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York, most likely George B. Daniels. The daunting prospect of bringing Daniels up to speed on the nearly five-year history of the case, the sweeping implications of the already once revised proposed settlement for commerce and intellectual property law, and the enormous outpouring of amicus briefs that were submitted to the court during a "fairness hearing" conducted on Feb. 18, will likely result in a substantial delay in the issuance of the court's final ruling.

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