Miscellany

by

Howard Adelman

  1.                   Israel Galván at Koerner Hall.

Last night we went to watch Israel Galván’s flamenco dance production at Koerner Hall called La Edad de Oro with the traditional combination of dancer, guitarist and soloist. But what a combination! What a tour de force! It is no wonder that Galván has won virtually every possible prize in the flamenco world for he is not only a brilliant and extremely athletic dancer but a very innovative choreographer who uses his hands and arms as much as his feet to greatly broaden the expressiveness of flamenco while retaining the classical lines of this dance. The exactitude and detail of his movements along with the sudden shifts – and even full stops – literally take your breath away. You see him virtually always as a side silhouette or a straight frontal view and almost always in square or rectangular patches of light rather than a round spot. He must bring along his own lighting man for the lighting really enhanced the performance.

Israel Galván was more than accompanied by David Lagos as the phenomenal flamenco singer and Alfredo Lagos on classical guitar. These are two outstanding soloists in their own right. The syncopated clapping that accompanied the dancing, the guitar playing or the singing was unforgettable and we had never seen anything like it before. I just wish I understood the grammar of flamenco or even just the Spanish lyrics and perhaps I could have been as wild and vocal as the appreciative audience. Some traditional positions of el toro are obvious, but I was unable to interpret the birdlike fluttering and the variety of other moves though one cannot mistake the great artistry in his bodily movements and twists as he dances with amazing speed, discipline and control or fail the appreciate a great evening. It is really a pity that only.05% of the Metro Toronto population got a chance to see and hear his one night tour, but it is probably thanks to Koerner Hall and the efforts of Mervon Mehta that we get to see such outstanding artists.

  1. Marry Me a Little at the Tarragon Theatre

You can tell that I am old. I love Stephen Sondheim. I suspet none of my children and certainly not my grandchildren would care for Sondheim – well perhaps Gabriel would appreciate the gore of Sweeney Todd. I think he is the greatest of all the great lyricists that emerged in the golden age – la edad de oro – of Broadway musicals. They are intricate plays on words and meanings and rhymes that are unsurpassed, especially when the melody inserts dissonance and atonality and has that punctuated character of a Seuret painting as in his best musical, Sunday in the Park with George based directly on Seuret’s painting. His use of polyphony intricately interweaving two different melodies is unequalled.

Though Sondheim never produced a musical the equal of Porgy and Bess, for me he never produced a song I did not like or at least, a song of his that I heard for I confess I probably have not heard a great many of his songs. West Side Story, for which he wrote only the lyrics, rivals Guys and Dolls for me as my second most favoured musicals.

Marry Me a Little, a pastiche of Sondheim music and lyrics woven into a story of a couple coming together and breaking up in a loft in New York as revived at Tarragon and performed by Elodie Gillett and Adrian Marchuk as the songwriter in the loft who dumps Elodie when she asks him to “Marry me a little”, is just a delight and excellently produced and performed. If you grew up in the golden age of Broadway musicals and love the genre and if you want to see an excellent revival, you too should go see it.

  1. The Obama Doctrine

If we believe many of the latest reports, Putin has decided to stop the build-up of troops on the eastern border of Ukraine. The reasons could not be the pin pricks of the sanctions already in place. As much an I am an admirer of Obama, I would also not credit his persuasive powers when he was on the phone with Putin from Saudi Arabia for an hour on Friday. Perhaps it was the threat of more sanctions, but I suspect the effect was really indirect resulting from the downs and ups of the Russian ruble and stock market during March. The Russian ruble was at an all time high before the crisis over the Crimea, reaching 36.66 per $US. After a relatively steep drop, the ruble rose back up on Friday to 35.79, when Putin signalled that Russian troops would not invade Ukraine and that he had agreed with Obama to begin a dialogue and diplomatic process to end the imbroglio.

Should anyone trust Putin? The signals are so unclear and ambiguous. His past record of promises do not inspire trust. Further, the outright barrage of lies about the Ukraine is just sickening. Further, financial speculation is based on hope for the future more than hard-headed analysis. At the beginning of March when Russia invaded Crimea, the Russian stock market, MICEX, fell 10.7% from almost 1500 points, wiping out well over $50 billion in value, and now sits at 1344.12. Putin’s crony capitalists are probably running scared and possibly urged Putin to take up Obama’s offer of re-engagement. If true, then my fears were misplaced and Obama’s gradual approach and eschewing the threat of force may have worked. We will have to just wait and see – something the Ukrainians cannot afford to do. Can you imagine what would have happened to the currencies and the stockmarkets of the West as well as Russia if Obama had taken the advice of Charles Krauthammer and put America back in the role of policeman of the world? Though there is evidence that Obama’s deliberate and steady withdrawal from that roll, particularly in the Gulf, has made allies like Saudi Arabia very nervous and resentful, I personally welcome America’s stand-down from imperial ambitions.

4. Bagels and Cream Cheese

Now that the ski season is over, I have to rush off to bring fresh bagels and cream cheese to my grandchildren in Toronto and resume our Sunday morning ritual. But one last item.

  1.       Jews in the Ukraine

Following David Frum’s brief visit and observations of what is happening to the Jewish community in the Ukraine, the Jewish Chronicle has an excellent report on Jewish support for the current government i as an antidote to Putin’s accusations of rampant anti-Semitism in Ukraine. (http://www.thejc.com/news/world-news/116914/ukraine-community-ready-%EF%AC%81ght-russian-invasion)

Gennadiy Korban, multi-millionaire businessman and the deputy head of Dnepropetrovsk with the largest Jewish community in Ukraine is busy preparing a militia for defence of that eastern city because he is convinced the West will not provide military aid.

Billionaire Gennady Bogolyubov, has pledged to personally fight the Russians if they invade.

Regional Governor Igor Kolomoisky donated $25 million to the Ukrainian army’s southern command to pay for fuel for military vehicles and aircraft..

Dnepropetrovsk Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kaminezki declared: “What Putin is saying about antisemitism in the Ukraine is mostly just a lie to divide us. We Jews are fighting as Ukrainians, for freedom for all our country.”

Oleg Rostovtsev, a PR rep of the Jewish community in Dnepropetrovsk, stated: “This is our country, our community, our city. Jews are part of Ukraine’s political nation. Some Israeli citizens who served in the IDF have already come back to offer their services to the Ukrainian army and others are planning to do so,” 

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