Fully-staged opera in the Princeton area this summer ranges from a
work more than 200 years old to one that includes music written during
this year’s Memorial Day weekend. The venerable work is Mozart’s "Cosi
Fan Tutte," which premiered in 1790; the new material is a 90-second
addition to composer Michael Ching’s 1996 "Buoso’s Ghost."
Not yet 50, Ching is the younger of the two living creators of opera
whose work is presented in Princeton this summer. The other living
composer is Gian Carlo Menotti, who is 94. We talked to Ching because
there are some novel aspects about his entry in the summer’s opera
entertainment and because reaching him in Memphis, Tennessee, was
easier than tracking down Menotti, who lives in Scotland.
New Jersey Opera Theater presents both "Cosi" and "Ghost," along with
Puccini’s "Gianni Schicchi" and Donizetti’s "L’Elisir d’Amore" in an
all-comedy three-production season at McCarter’s Berlind Theater from
Friday, July 7, to Sunday, July 23. The one-act "Ghost" appears on a
double bill with Puccini’s one-act "Gianni Schicchi," to which it is a
sequel. "Gianni Schicchi" was originally a component of Puccini’s trio
of one-act operas known as "Il Trittico." Ching separated "Schicchi"
from the other two pieces in order to combine it with "Ghost." NJOT
singers will preview the four operas at Princeton Public Library on
Wednesday, June 21.
Supplementing its 15 full-length opera evenings this summer, NJOT
offers additional musical theater programs. "Mozart and Friends" takes
place Saturday, July 15, at 2, and "Puccini, Verdi and Friends takes
place on Saturday, Saturday, July 22, in the Berlind Theater. "Musical
Theater Under the Stars" takes place at Pettoranello Gardens, Friday,
June 30, and Saturday, July 1 at 8:30 p.m.
Tragedy – operawise – comes to the area with Puccini’s "Madama
Butterfly," offered by the Princeton Festival in three weekend
performances, Saturdays, June 24 and July 1, and Sunday, July 9 at the
Lawrenceville School. Artistic director Richard Tang-Yuk will present
a preview of the opera with principal singers performing selections on
Thursday, June 15, at Princeton Public Library.
On Saturday, July 1, the Festival also presents Gian Carlo Menotti’s
chamber opera, "The Old Maid and The Thief," a comedy, and the first
opera written specifically for radio. The performance on WWFM is open
to a live studio audience. In addition to opera the festival also
includes orchestral, chamber music, and jazz programs (see music story
on page 30).
And if you want to hear more budding opera stars: On Wednesdays, July
12 and 26; Fridays, July 14, 21, and 28; and Saturday, July 29, the
rising stars of the coOPERAtive program at Westminster, an opera
training program for singers 19 and older, present a free recital in
In advance of the NJOT performances, composer Ching comes to New
Jersey Tuesday and Wednesday, June 20 and 21, to help prepare "Buoso’s
Ghost" for its eighth performance. Michael Scarola directs the piece;
James Caraher conducts. Scarola and Caraher collaborated for the
Indianapolis performance of the work in 1999. "I don’t expect to have
to do much," says Ching in a telephone interview from his Tennessee
office, where he is artistic director of Opera Memphis. Followers of
the recently defunct New Jersey Opera Festival have seen Ching conduct
"Madama Butterfly" (1999), "Carmen" (2000), and "Turandot" (2001) for
that company. He will not be on hand for the Berlind Theater
performances of "Ghost." They conflict with his commitment to conduct
"The King and I" in Honolulu.
In "Gianni Schicchi," the opera to which "Buoso’s Ghost" is a sequel,
Buoso Donati has died, discreetly poisoned by his family. The family
is dismayed to find that he has left his wealth to a monastery, rather
than to them. They engage the scoundrel Gianni Schicchi to impersonate
the late Buoso and write a new will. Schicchi tricks the family by
rewriting the will so that he, and not the family, is the beneficiary.
Ching’s "Buoso’s Ghost" takes up the story seconds after Buoso’s
death, grafting a sequel onto the 1918 work. Indeed, the final bars of
"Schicchi" comprise the opening music of "Ghost." Composer Ching calls
the combination of one-act operas, which requires only a single stage
set, "elegant in its producibility." He points out that Puccini’s "Il
Trittico," the set of three operas of which "Schicchi" is one, is a
strong piece that is difficult to produce, except for the biggest
opera companies, because it requires three different stage sets. "I
treat the two one-acters as one opera in two acts," director Scarola
told U.S. 1 (February 22, 2006).
In "Buoso’s Ghost" the enraged relatives, who had poisoned Buoso,
attempt to avenge themselves. They accuse Schicci of the poisoning.
However, he has forged a suicide note, which he leaves on Buoso’s
body. As the relatives plan to murder Schicchi, he blows out the
candles, summons the ghost of Buoso, and scares the family from the
"Practically the only negative criticism I got about the opera was
from people who felt it should be a little longer," Ching says. He
considered expanding the piece only modestly. "I didn’t want the
expansion to seem extraneous. I wanted it to be taut, with people
wishing for more, not looking at their watches.
"There was something I thought I could add to help the audience figure
out what happened. Fairly early in `Gianni Schicchi,’ the family
poisons Buoso, but it’s not played up. I devised a way to make the
poisoning obvious in `Buoso’s Ghost.’" The addition will be done for
the first time in the Princeton performance.
Also new is the east coast premiere of "Buoso’s Ghost" with a full
orchestra. An earlier New York performance used only piano as
Ching’s writing of the opera was a by-product of a breakfast
conversation in Chicago when Memphis Opera, Florida Grand Opera, and
Chautauqua Opera were conducting joint auditions. "We were shooting
the breeze about the idea of sequels. We wondered what happened to
Alfredo and Giorgio after `La Traviata’ ends: Does Alfredo forgive
Giorgio for persuading Violetta to abandon him? What happens to Madame
Butterfly’s child? I was the only composer in the crowd, so I took on
the project of a sequel to `Gianni Schicchi,’" says Ching.
The libretto for "Ghost" was Ching’s own work. "I’m a student of
Carlisle Floyd," he says by way of explanation. Floyd, composer of
"Susannah," told U.S. 1 (April 26, 2006), "I would be much too cranky
with someone else as a librettist." Ching is less testy than Floyd
about working with a librettist and has had another person provide his
lyrics. However, having conducted and produced "Gianni Schicchi" and
knowing "Ghost" links up to that work, Ching thought he was
particularly well-qualified for the job.
Born in Honolulu in 1958, Ching started composing as a child and says
that he became serious about composing by the time he reached high
school. Before attending high school, he had already studied
composition formally at the Interlochen Music School in northern
Michigan, and had had private composition instruction.
Ching’s father, an accomplished amateur pianist, was a college
professor in theater and speech. "He played everything from Chopin to
Dave Brubeck transcriptions," Ching says. "He wanted to go into music
but his family discouraged him." There was music in the family,
however. Ching’s great uncle was one of the first Asians to play
violin in what became the Honolulu Symphony. Ching’s mother, a
homemaker, was from the Chicago area.
Ching started piano at about six. He studied flute, violin, and oboe,
mostly to learn to write music. Duke University’s undergraduate
scholarship in composition attracted him after high school. At Duke he
studied with Scottish composer Iain Hamilton and Robert Ward, composer
of "The Crucible." Graduating in 1980, his senior project was a
one-act opera retelling a vampire story set in New Orleans.
Immediately after graduating he worked at the Houston Opera Studio
with Carlisle Floyd. He has been involved with opera ever since as a
composer and administrator. After posts at Florida Grand Opera,
Virginia Opera, and Chautauqua, he joined Memphis Opera as artistic
director in 1992.
Ching’s wife is a professor of English at the University of Memphis.
The couple has a seven-year-old daughter.
As both an administrator and a composer Ching understands how the two
areas impinge on each other. He shared his insights with New Music
Box, the online music presence in a December, 2003, article. Today he
stands behind what he wrote at the time. "Being a composer and running
Opera Memphis is fraught with contradictory impulses. On the one hand,
one feels instinctively the desire to explore and support new
projects; on the other, survival seems to dictate a steady diet of
He is skeptical of excellent productions as an engine of creativity
for opera. "It’s strange to say, but I think the emphasis on high
quality productions has hurt the creation of new work. Back in the
19th century, production quality wasn’t as important, and I think that
helped more new work reach the stage. Over in Nashville, hundreds of
songs get written in order for a couple to become hits. A similar kind
of churn and creative investment would be much healthier for opera.
"Probably the best thing about running an opera company as a composer
is that I know hundreds of members of the audience and when I write, I
can write with a clear idea of who they are. It’s similar to writing
for a particular performer or ensemble – it has an impact on the way
So far, Ching has written six operas. His most recent work, "Corps of
Discovery," commissioned by the University of Missouri for the
commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark
expedition, is a full-length opera.The other five are one-act works.
"It’s a practical thing," he says. "I don’t think it’s a good idea to
do a big, long full-length opera that takes three or four years of
your life." Even with the work he did over Memorial Day Weekend,
"Buoso’s Ghost" cost him nowehere near that much time.
Summer Arts: Theater
by LucyAnn Dunlap
After the cancellation of last summer’s season because of difficulties
finding a place to perform, Princeton Rep is back in business with
what the company feels is their talisman play, Shakespeare’s "Twelfth
Night." The company, a mix of Equity and non-Equity actors under the
direction of Princeton Rep stalwart founder Victoria Liberatori, will
perform Thursdays through Sundays, July 20 through August 27, at
Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater, Community Park North in Princeton.
Founded in 1984 the company presented during its first years free
Shakespeare in Palmer Square, with each production drawing bigger and
bigger crowds. Their exceedingly popular production of "Twelfth Night"
caught the attention of Princeton Borough mayor Marvin Reed, who
suggested they move to the larger space at Pettoranello Gardens where
they brightened the summers until last year.
Happily, they’re back this summer with the same play that brought them
luck before. As a theater patron noted in a recent E-mail to the
company, "Thank you for working out your differences and returning to
Pettoranello Gardens. Whenever we the people are deprived of your
incredible program, we are the losers. You have introduced a whole new
generation to appreciate Shakespeare; that’s an incredible gift."
Liberatori will direct this "Twelfth Night," featuring some returning
actors (Nell Gwynn, "Much Ado About Nothing," 2004; and Donald Kimmel,
"King Lear," 2002,) as well as some new to the company. The play was
written by Shakespeare at the height of his career, well liked during
his time, and continues to be a popular choice for contemporary
Set in the Kingdom of Ilyria, it begins with Orsinio listening to
music and pining for love. Liberatori will build on this musical
introduction, adding original music as the plots progress. Yes, there
are mistaken identities, a girl disguised as a boy, misdelivered
letters, separated twins – the usual complications of Shakespeare’s
comedies. Viola loves Orsinio; Orsinio loves Olivia; and Olivia loves
Cesario. At the same time, the local "characters" – raucous Sir Toby,
silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek, feisty Maria, and dour Malvolio – interact
with merry and not-so-merry hijinks. In the end all ends well except
for poor old Malvolio.
Liberatori is noted for enlivening her productions, cutting where
useful, and making Shakespeare accessible to a wide family audience.
Bringing new blood to Princeton Rep, the young director Alexandra
Hoge, 32, joins Liberatori as co-producing artistic director. Hoge
first worked with the company during the 2004 season as an assistant
producer and an assistant director. With a fresh perspective, new
ideas, and theater connections, she says, "I can relate to younger
people. After all, I’m not that far away from their age group."
Hoge brings a wide range of experience, all the more impressive
because of her age. She was born in then-communist Romania but her
family was able to come to United States when Hoge was three years
old. "Getting out of Romania was difficult, rough going," she says in
a phone interview. Her father is a lawyer and her mother works in a
law firm, though she had wanted to be an opera singer – under the
communist regime, she was unable to follow that dream.
Hoge grew up with her family in the Washington, D.C., area. She seems
to have inherited her mother’s artistic bent. After graduating in 1997
from George Washington University with a bachelors in dramatic
literature, she worked in the D.C. area and a few places further
afield as a stage manager and directing small shows. "I didn’t know
that I wanted to go into directing until after I graduated from
Following a "life-long dream" she went to Paris "to investigate the
theater scene." She took various theater classes at small ateliers
that taught private classes but was disappointed with the theater that
she saw there, other than work by British director Peter Brook and
Romanian director Gabor Tompa.
Returning from abroad, she embarked the Masters of Fine Arts program
at the Actors Studio Drama School, which until May, 2005, was
associated with the New School University (it is associated now with
Pace University.) Some readers may be familiar with the television
program "Inside the Actors Studio," the Bravo program hosted by James
Lipton. On the program Lipton interviews actors and directors with
probing as well as lighter questions – "What is your favorite curse
word?" – followed by a Q&A between the guest and the student audience
(it is a required course for first-year students – Hoge says her
favorites were Martin Sheen and Robert Redford). Hoge was awarded an
MFA in directing in 2005.
After some free-lance directing she found her way to Princeton Rep.
She says her new role to invigorate the company "is an opportunity to
work on an exciting project and gain valuable experience. I love
directing, and I’ve always been involved the artistic side of things,
but to be a really good director and theater artist, you need to
understand all aspects of the theater, especially the business side,
including promotion and fundraising. This is a great opportunity for
me to grow and understand."
Included in Hoge’s multitude of duties (she and Liberatori are the
only full-time staffers) is heading up the Repertory Apprentice
Program (RAP). Open by audition to young people ages 16 to 18 the
program offers classes taught by theater professionals, the
opportunity to work alongside the professional actors on the
production of "Twelfth Night," as well as to present an evening
all-student performance of Shakespeare scenes. The class slate
includes Movement for Actors, Empowering the Actor, and Stage Design,
as well as a two-day intensive movement workshop on "Viewpoints" and
Michael Chekhov technique. According to the Michael Chekhov
Association website, "the fundamental nature of the Chekhov approach
is to bring the psychology of the character into the body through
movement and gesture, creating an enriched and active inner life,
making the creation of a character an imaginative, organic, and
Hoge is especially pleased to bring in from the Actors Studio
directing teacher Stuart Vaughan for a master class, an intensive
workshop on "The Method and the Classics." Over four days, students
will spend their mornings in a master class and their afternoons
rehearsing. This will be capped by a public performance on Friday,
Vaughan will return on Saturday, July 29, to lead another master class
that will be open to actors other than those in the RAP program. A
director closely associated with the beginnings of Joseph Papp’s
Public Theater in New York, Vaughan directed a number of their
festival plays and has worked as a director at the Seattle Repertory
Theater, Repertory Theater New Orleans, and the New Globe Theater, and
was artistic director of New York’s Phoenix Theater. He has directed
over 40 New York productions, including 16 Shakespeares, and has
served as guest director for regional theaters from coast to coast.
When asked, "Why Princeton Rep?" Hoge answers, "I believe in their
Pettoranello Gardens Amphitheater, 609-921-3682, www.princetonrep.org.
Twelfth Night. First night for Shakespeare’s musical comedy. Thursdays
to Sunday evenings. Free, donations invited. Thursday, July 20,
through Sunday, August 27.
PlayLab Series. Staged readings at an indoor location. Monday, August
7. Also, August 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16.
Master class. "The Method and the Classics" presented by Stuart
Vaughan, the founding artistic director of the New York Shakespeare
Festival and the Seattle Repertory Theater. He has directed more than
40 New York productions. Register. $100. Saturday, July 29.
146 Route 130, Bordentown, 609-291-9000, www.theacademytheatre.com.
Footloose. Musical. $25. Friday, June 16, through Saturday, June 24.
635 North Delmorr Avenue, Morrisville, 215-295-3694,
Man of La Mancha. Musical about Don Quixote. $20. Thursday, June 15,
through Sunday, June 25.
Bristol Riverside Theater
120 Radcliffe Street, Bristol, 215-785-0100, www.brtstage.org.
For Sentimental Reasons. A tribute to Nat King Cole conceived,
written, and directed by Edward Keith Baker. $34 to $42. Wednesday,
June 14, through Sunday, June 18.
Bucks County Playhouse
70 South Main Street, New Hope, 215-862-2041,
Urinetown. Musical. $20. Wednesday, June 14, through Sunday, June 18.
The Graduate. $20. Wednesday, June 21, through Sunday, June 25..
Miss Saigon. Musical. $20. Wednesday, June 28, through, Sunday, July
Aida. Musical. $20. Wednesday, July 12, through Sunday, July 23.
Ragtime. Musical. $20. Wednesday, July 26, through Sunday, August 6.
The Music Man. Musical. $20. Wednesday, August 9, through Sunday,
The Full Monty. Musical. $20. Wednesday, August 23, through Sunday,
Mercer County College, 609-584-9444, www.kelseyatmccc.org.
What Causes Homosexuality? One-act plays include "Mr. Charles,
Currently of Palm Beach" by Paul Rudnick, and "The Altruists" by Nicky
Silver. Fourth annual AIDS benefit. Silent auction, cocktail
reception. Proceeds to Open Arms Foundation, Graffiti Productions, and
the James Tolin Memorial Scholarship. $40. Friday and Saturday, June
23 and 24.
The Comedy of Errors. Shakespeare `70 presents a comedy about a
shipwreck, lost jewelry, mistaken identity, and two sets of twins.
$12. Friday, June 30, through Sunday, July 9.
The Music Man. Yardley Players presents a hometown family musical
about the formation of a boys band by a swindler. $16. Friday, July
14, through Sunday, July 23.
Grease! Stars in the Park presents a musical about the early days of
rock and roll. $16. Friday, July 28, through Sunday, August 6..
Peddie School, Hightstown, 609-490-7550, www.peddie.org/capps.
The Odyssey. Mary Zimmerman’s production directed by Princeton
resident Rick Joyce. Bruce Clough of Hightstown performs the title
role. $12. Friday, July 7, through Sunday, July 16..
New Play Premiere
Hamilton Murray Theater, 609-258-7062, www.princetonsummertheater.org.
Miss Connections, a new contemporary comedy set in Princeton, written
by Princeton resident Marvin Harold Cheiten. Directed by Dan
Berkowitz. $10. Thursday through Sunday, August 17 to 20.
5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell, 609-466-2766,
Out of Order. Ray Cooney’s British farce about a junior minister and a
secretary for the opposition. $25.25. Weekends rhrough Saturday, July
Nunsensations! Dan Goggin’s newest Nunsense musical. $25.25 to $27.
Friday, July 14, through Saturday, August 26..
Open Air Theater
Washington Crossing State Park, 609-737-1826, www.oatnj.org.
The Last Five Years. Musical. $8 to $10. Thursday, June 15, through
Saturday, June 14.
The Tempest. Drama. $8 to $10. Thursday, June 29, through Saturday,
My Fair Lady. Musical classic presented by Actors’ Net. $8 to $10.
Thursday, July 20, through Saturday, July 29..
My Way: A Musical Tribute to Frank Sinatra. Weber Theater Company
presents a musical revue of Sinatra’s rise to stardom featuring more
than 56 of his favorite songs. $8 to $10. Thursday, August 3, through
Radio Gals. Hedgerow Theater Company presents a family musical about
five wacky women in the 1920s. $8 to $10. Thursday, August 17, through
Saturday, August 26..
Mill Hill Playhouse, Front and Montgomery streets, Trenton,
A Stone Carver. Comic family drama by award-winning author William
Mastrosimone and Passage’s resident playwright. When an elderly stone
carver refuses to leave his home to make way for a new highway exit
ramp, his son, the politician, visits. $25. Thursday, June 15, through
Sunday, June 18.
Capestro Theater, Roosevelt Park, Route 1 South, Edison, 732-548-2884,
The Scarlet Pimpernel. Frank Wildhorn’s musical set during the French
Revolution. Bring a chair. $5 adults; $4 seniors; children free.
Tuesday, June 27, through Saturday, July 8..
Seussical the Musical. Ahren’s and Flaherty’s musical based on the
works of Dr. Seuss. Bring a chair. $5 adults; $4 seniors; children
free. Wednesday, July 19, through Saturday, July 29..
Cats. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical based on poems of T.S. Eliot.
Bring a chair. $5 adults; $4 seniors; children free. Wednesday, August
9, through Saturday, August 19..
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon Street, 609-924-9529, www.princetonlibrary.org.
All the World’s a Stage. Scenes from Shakespeare by students of
Shakespeare summer camp directed by Julia Poulos and Mary Greenberg.
Free. Saturday, July 8.
Hamilton Murray Theater, 609-258-7062, www.princetonsummertheater.org.
Wait Until Dark. Frederick Knott’s drama. $14 to $16. Thursday, June
15, through Sunday, June 25.
Black Comedy. Peter Shaffer’s farce. $14 to $16. Thursday, June 29,
through Sunday, July 9.
Little Shop of Horrors. Alan Menken and Howard Ashman musical about a
mysterious plant. $14 to $16. Thursday, July 13,
Betrayal. Harold Pinter’s love story told in reverse of how an affair
affects the lives of three friends. $14 to $16. Thursday, August 3,
through Sunday, August 13.
475 DeMott Lane, Somerset, 732-873-2210, www.villagerstheatre.com.
The Sound of Music. Classic Hammerstein musical set in World War II
features "My Favorite Things," "Edelweiss," and "Climb Every
Mountain." $18. Friday, June 16, through Sunday, June 25.
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little. Comedy by Paul Zindel features the
three Reardon sisters and their neighbors. $12. Friday, July 7,
through Saturday, July 22.
Summer Art: The Dog Days
by Cassidy Enoch-Rex
On a visit to the small New England village of Kent, Connecticut, last
year Christie Robb saw "ARTdogs of Kent," a series of outdoor
sculptures of ceramic dogs, painted and decorated by artists. She knew
right away the concept would work well in Princeton. "The concept fits
perfectly in Princeton because of its strong support of the arts and
its bustling downtown," says Robb, who is co-chair with Jody Erdman of
the first annual Princeton Dog Walk. A collection of 50 uniquely
altered canine sculptures, which were "unleashed" at a private event
for artists and sponsors in May, are now on view throughout downtown
Princeton shopfronts. The statues, decorated by students, artists, and
personalities such as sculptor J. Seward Johnson, author Joyce Carol
Oates, and designer/ architect Michael Graves, will be sold at auction
on Saturday, September 16, at the D&R Greenway Land Trust on Rosedale
Road. Proceeds will benefit the cardiac and pulmonary care program at
the University Medical Center at Princeton.
Robb, an artist herself, says, "we really wanted this show to create a
positive buzz throughout the community. The whole community will
benefit from the dogs, just as the whole community benefits from the
hospital." A book with photos of all 50 dogs is also being planned.
The dogs began as identical, life-size, 30-inch-tall, eight-pound
ceramic bisque "blanks" that resemble a well-behaved Labrador, created
by Eric Samuelson of Litenin Ceramics in Gaylordsville, CT, the same
ceramist who created the dogs for the Kent project. Last fall
co-chairs Robb and Erdman sent proposal letters to 100 artists. Says
Erdman: "After receiving a wide variety of proposals, we chose a
selection of artists, who would cover different ages and many
different art disciplines." This also included sending dogs to 10
schools and arts organizations. The dogs were sent to the artists and
organizations from January through April with a May 1 deadline and
simple instructions: Have fun. The resulting creations vary widely in
style; they came back painted, clothed, and, in some cases, altered
from their docile, seated position.
"The beauty of the show is seeing how 50 people treated the same dog
model," Robb says. "Some of the artists had so much fun with this
that they don’t want to give up their dogs. They plan to bid on them
"I terraformed the dog," says Robert Cannon, a full-time artist living
in Princeton. "I have my method of working, which dictates what I do –
I knew right away how it would come out." Though he received a degree
in architecture from Yale University in the early ’90s, Cannon is now
an artist working primarily as a sculptor whose work is heavily
influenced by the "melding of technology and the landscape." Cannon
altered the original structure of the dog, cutting it apart and
reassembling it with the cavities and seams filled with earth and
living plants, both literally and figuratively animating the sculpture
in a remarkable way.
Cannon’s artistic interests are very much fueled by his experiences
growing up in New Jersey, "where images of second growth forests, vast
man made reservoirs, overgrown farms, rusted out factories, and
flooded quarries all amid super-highways and biotech industrial
plants, pressed heavily on me. We live in a state that has seen the
rise and fall of several eras and American history, and that history
is written large in the landscape. Reading the landscape is key to
understanding who we are and what lies ahead. This is what motivates
my work," says Cannon in a phone interview.
`Barking Dog" is a creation by full-time parent, part-time artist
Cindy Besselaar. Besselaar considers herself a collage artist working
with photographic papers and is most currently working on large-scale
botanical assemblages on particle board and canvas. Besselaar studied
textile design at FIT and decorative painting at Parsons in New York
in the early 1990s before starting her own decorative painting
business. She put all of her experience together in creating "Barking
Dog," a process which involved photographing trees in Greenway Meadows
Park, manipulating the images of tree bark on a computer, and then
applying them to the surface of the dog, resulting in a richly
colorful, abstracted surface. Besselaar says the project "was a great
opportunity to be able to apply my own artistic technique to something
unique and different – I know a lot of people had fun doing it."
J. Seward Johnson Jr. is best-known for his lifelike, figurative
bronze sculptures set in public spaces, which often cause passers-by
to perform a double-take in order to determine whether or not the
figures are real. For the Princeton Dog Walk Johnson created "Fetch,"
a black dog holding a white basket labeled "biohazard," filled with
dirty gauze pads and rubber gloves. Though the basket contents are
"rather repulsive," says Johnson, he considers the overall gestalt of
the piece to be tongue-in-cheek as "the dog holds the basket in the
most benign way, as if he’s just doing his job."
Johnson says that the experience of making "Fetch" was a personal
throw-back of 40 years to when he first started sculpting. Though he
has been a successful artist for many years, surrounded by the latest
tools and technology, Johnson had very little formal training. He took
one sculpture class but quit before completing it and simply procured
himself a studio and began to make sculpture. He made "Fetch" at his
home in Florida, where he has none of his sculpting tools and had to
be creative with what he had available – no small feat considering he
had to cut and reposition the head to tilt upward and hold a basket.
"It was a good challenge. It was fun. It was like starting over
again," he says.
Full-time artist Eva Mantel created "Mascot" in which she "covered the
dog with heiroglyphic-looking animals, meant to have an archaic look –
as if it was something from a museum." In fact the surface is collaged
with images from studies that Mantel created in museums looking at
other images of dogs in archeology.
Mantel was "born and bred" in Princeton. Her parents ran an
educational publishing company but her father was also a filmmaker and
documentarian, and her mother recorded poetry and other spoken word
performances back in the ’50s including some by the legendary Dylan
Thomas. Mantel earned a degree in English (while also taking art
classes) at Penn in 1985 and earned a masters in fine art from the
School of Visual Art in New York in 1988. She creates works on paper,
video, and installation pieces.
Though she contemplates culture more broadly in most of her other
work, in "Mascot" she says she is also exploring ownership. "I wanted
it to be all dogs to all cultures. I tried to make it multicultural,
so much so, that there would be so many `owners’ that it would be
confusing," she says. "Mascot," humorously and cleverly, wears a
dog-tag inscribed "call me."
Princeton Dog Walk, 50 ceramic dogs painted and decorated by artists,
students, and organizations. On display throughout downtown Princeton
storefronts through Labor Day. Selection of dogs on display September
7 to 15 at Princeton Day School, Colross Admission Building. Auction
Saturday, September 16, D&R Greenway Land Trust, Rosedale Road,
Princeton. $50. 609-497-4069 or visit www.princetonhcs.org/auxiliary.
Summer Arts: Music
by Elaine Strauss
In more than half dozen chamber music concerts this summer, the
Princeton area has an opportunity to hear a spectrum of ensembles. The
purveyors of this bounty are Princeton University Summer Concerts
(four concerts, overwhelmingly classical, each with a different
ensemble in Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton campus), the
Princeton Festival (two concerts: one jazz, one classical at the
Lawrenceville School); Westminster Choir College of Rider University
(two concerts: one jazz, one early music in Westminster’s Bristol
Chapel in Princeton), and Grounds for Sculpture (a folk-oriented
performance by the Susquehanna Ensemble, with the somewhat unusual
instrumentation of flute, oboe, viola, and cello, in Hamilton.)
Violinist Peter Winograd stands out by appearing in two concerts. On
Tuesday, June 20, he plays with the American String Quartet, his
regular chamber music ensemble, under the auspices of the Princeton
University Summer Concerts in Richardson Auditorium. And on Sunday,
July 2, he appears for the first time with Concordia Chamber Players,
in an event sponsored by the Princeton Festival in the Lawrenceville
School’s Kirby Arts Center.
The American String Quartet concert, which includes music by Mozart,
Haydn, and Brahms, is the most musically conservative of the four
events sponsored by the Princeton Summer Concerts. Members of the
quartet, besides Winograd, are Laurie Carney, violin; Daniel
Avshalomov, viola; and Wolfram Koessel, cello. "We offered them
several programs, including Shostakovich and Bartok, and this was what
they chose," Winograd says, in a telephone interview from his West
Nyack, New York, home.
During this centenary year of Shostakovich’s birth, an anniversary
marked in general by restraint, a Shostakovich quartet appears in the
Borealis Quartet program of the Princeton Summer series on Thursday,
July 6, and also in the Princeton Festival’s Concordia Chamber
Players’ (Lawrenceville School) program on Sunday, July 2. The
Lawrenceville program also includes works by Rachmaninoff,
Shostakovich, and Schubert.
Additional performers in what Winograd calls the "mix and match"
Concordia ensemble are his wife Catarina Szepes, violin; Daniel
Pannier, viola; Mark Kosower, cello; Michelle Djokic, cello; and Blair
McMillen, piano. Cellist Djokic, drawing on her web of connections in
the New York-Philadelphia chamber music corridor, founded the
loosely-organized Concordia Chamber Players in 1997. The home base of
the group is New Hope’s acoustically attractive 500-seat Stephen Buck
Since Winograd appears both with his regular quartet in Princeton and
with the ad hoc group in Lawrenceville, we asked him about the
difference between playing in an established ensemble and playing on a
mix and match basis. "There are a bunch of us who play in formed
chamber groups who do this type of playing, and we have the same
reactions. It’s easier for something to come together when it’s your
own group. You can easily achieve polish and unanimity of purpose. It
can be exciting to strive for highest level of music in a formed
group. But when we play with other experienced players who know the
repertoire well, there’s an incredible spontaneity and excitement
about putting a piece together in a matter of days, rather than
months. It’s the best of both worlds when you can participate in both
kinds of groups."
There is some unpredictability, however, to playing outside a
musician’s regular ensemble. "When someone asks you to play with a mix
and match group, you never know what type of dynamic there will be,"
Winograd says. "You may see eye to eye about a particular piece and
disagree a lot about another. People may be arguing the entire time
about tempo. Sometimes they don’t take to each others’ musical
personality. When players differ musically, there’s tension because
one style goes against the other, and it’s difficult to achieve
homogeneity or unanimity. If someone who plays Mozart very
romantically is paired with someone who sees it strictly classically,
one is not going to convince the other in two rehearsals." There is a
practical upside, though, to combining oil and water attitudes in a
mix and match group. "Often," Winograd says, "there’s not enough time
to develop tensions."
Having been married to fellow Lawrenceville performer Catarina Szepes
for 10 years, Winograd has had ample opportunity to develop tensions
with her musical style. But mutual stress is not one of the pair’s
activities. "For some couples, playing together is a slippery slope,"
Winograd says. "You have to criticize and disagree." No problem here.
"We met at a chamber music festival in Taos, New Mexico, in the `90s,
and since then we’ve looked for opportunities to play together. We’ve
always kept our sense of humor, and enjoyed collaborating. It brings
out the best in both of us."
Born in Berlin, Szepes trained at the Karlsruhe Hochschule for Music
before coming to the United States. Besides the Taos music festival,
she has participated in Vermont’s Marlboro Festival.
Winograd was born into a musical family in New York City in 1960 and
began his musical studies with his parents. His father, Arthur
Winograd, is the founding cellist of the Juilliard Quartet. His
mother, who died in the late 1980s, was a professional pianist. His
older sister is a psychotherapist in Chatham. "She started piano but
didn’t take to it," Winograd says. "Even so, because of her early
background, when she comes to concerts she gets it. That’s what you
want in a concertgoer." Winograd gave his first solo public
performance at age 11, and at 17 was accepted as a scholarship student
by Juilliard’s noteworthy pedagogue, Dorothy DeLay.
Winograd’s father, now retired, lives in Lincoln Park. "I’ve picked
him up and brought him to concerts when we played in Princeton," son
Peter says. "He loves to go over pieces after the concert and discuss
He says he "was not conscious that growing up in a musical family was
unusual. But I was conscious that I was doing a lot of things that
other kids on the block were not doing. I played piano trios with my
parents from the time I could handle the violin parts. I must have
been about 10. My father was conductor of the Hartford Orchestra and
would have members of the orchestra come to our house and play. There
were big parties. At the end of the playing, there was lots of food.
Those weekends were just part of life for me. I knew that other people
were not interested in classical music."
In 1990, the same year he became a member of the Manhattan School of
Music faculty, Winograd became a member of the American Quartet.
Founded in 1974, when its original members were students at Juilliard,
its personnel studied with members of the Juilliard Quartet. The
Quartet has been in residence at the Aspen Music Festival since 1974
and at the Manhattan School of Music in New York since 1984. Over a
period of four years beginning in 2001, they brought to Princeton’s
Richardson Auditorium a series of concerts called "4-5-6," which
presented, in addition to selected string quartets, the complete
quintets and sextets of Mozart and Brahms.
Two of the current American Quartet musicians, violinist Laurie Carney
and violist Daniel Avshalomov, are original members of the ensemble.
The original cellist left in 2002. Current cellist Wolfram Koessel
came on board earlier this year. Winograd expects that the present
configuration of personnel will be stable.
"Since a quartet has only has four members, changing one player has a
dramatic effect on the group." Winograd says. The quartet approaches
making a personnel change with caution. Winograd, whose tenure at the
American has encompassed two changes, describes the process of
choosing a new player. "We get the names of about 10 people and tell
them the repertoire we want to play. Then we read through the pieces.
The first time, we just play and talk. Then we call back some of the
people, play different repertoire, and go through a rehearsal process.
When we think that everything is working, we make an offer."
Winograd’s first lessons outside his home were in the teaching
tradition developed by the Japanese pedagogue, Shinichi Suzuki. He
started Suzuki violin at age four and remained with the method, which
stresses group instruction and finesses the need to learn to read
music, for three years.
Winograd is enthusiastic about the Suzuki method as an avenue to
violin teaching for young children. "It’s a great way for young
children to become comfortable holding the instrument and learning the
basic motions. If they start at 10, they can’t hold the violin. At
four, they can do anything."
The Winograds have seen to it that their children, seven-year-old
Sophia and five-year-old Nicholas, have been exposed to Suzuki music
instruction. Sophia studies violin; Nicholas, cello. "Studying music
is a lot of fun when it’s done right," Winograd says. "The kids come
to American Quartet concerts all the time. They’re good listeners.
They can sit through an entire program."
In the graying audiences for chamber music, children of that age stand
out. But, like their father, they may not realize that their family
activities are out of the ordinary.
Although Winograd and his wife live outside New York City, they are
within easy reach of Manhattan. Their West Nyack home is 30 minutes
from the Manhattan School of Music, where he teaches, and 40 minutes
from Lincoln Center. That’s handy for a musical family. The Winograd
children are both about to perform with their Suzuki classes in
Manhattan. With Suzuki’s philosophy confirming their parents’ habitual
activities, playing in public may be of no particular significance in
their daily lives.
Summer Arts: International Music Series
by Kevin L. Carter
There are some things that are somewhat mysterious about the man who
calls himself Patrick Mystery. Ask him where he’s from, and he’ll tell
However, there is no mystery about one thing – he is passionate about
everything he does, especially his sometime vocation: reggae singer.
He is especially passionate about the music’s original role in the
hands and voices of his heroes, Bob Marley and Jimmy Cliff, who
combined a cool Caribbean vibe with fiery social commentary.
Patrick Mystery’s eponymous band will perform the last show, Thursday,
August 31, in a series of world music-related concerts at the
Princeton Shopping Center this summer. The shows are sponsored by the
Arts Council of Princeton. Among the performances, which will be held
on successive Thursday nights between 6 and 8 p.m., are groups playing
music from Greece, Latin America, Ireland, England, Germany, and
The son of a general contractor and a homemaker, Patrick Mystery
(whose real name is Patrick Phillips) was born in Barbados. His first
musical influence was the music of the Anglican church. "I sang
soprano in the church choir. I was a pretty decent soprano," he says.
"My father was sort of religious. He thought the church was a good
place for us (three boys, three girls) to be." His first instrument
was the harmonica. "My mom purchased it for me when I was a kid, and I
blew that thing whenever I had the chance."
So Mystery spent his formative years playing and singing in the church
– and listening to reggae. It was the release of the Jamaican film,
"The Harder They Come," as well as the emergence of Marley outside of
his native Jamaica that inspired young Patrick to truly absorb the
messages of reggae. "It was really an awakening for me," he says. "It
was Marley’s `Natural Mystic’ that really stuck in my blood, as well
as Jimmy Cliff’s music, which was very much inspirational to me."
After moving to Brooklyn in 1978, Mystery picked up acoustic and
electric guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. The group, Patrick
Mystery, which has been performing since 1995, now has Andrea G on
lead guitar ("you’re not going to find many female lead guitarists in
reggae" says Mystery), Prince Hallam on rhythm guitar, Sherwin
Henperry on keyboards, Ras Jude on bass, and Gary Steele on drums. The
group’s namesake serves as lead vocalist.
"I try to keep an authentic feel in my music," Mystery says. "But it
is merely a feel for me. I do not try to copy anything – I feel the
music. Music is vibration. It is not what is written down on a piece
of paper. It is what you hear and what you feel."
Several of his tunes, most notably "Innocent Blood," bear the imprint
of Marley but Mystery’s style of writing comes more from his
experiences. "I am not a prolific writer but the songs I get come from
somewhere. The ideas flow, I try to put down a framework for them, and
pretty soon I have a song. I try to explain this to my musicians; I
try to put down what I feel and get them to listen to the songs."
Although he is Caribbean-born Mystery considers himself a citizen of
the world – hence his first response when asked about his origins.
"People tend to pigeonhole you when you come from a particular place,"
he says. "But I belong everywhere. There are no borders for me. I am a
person who fits in anywhere in the world."
The name "Mystery" fits the singer, he admits, but it didn’t
originally come as a result of any desire on his part to be
obfuscatory or vague about his life. Rather, it came because he was
and is a student of the ancient Egyptian Mystery System.
The Mystery System, he explains, was a system of education and
socialization taught in ancient Egyptian universities, which adherents
believe gave rise to Greek and Roman religion and cosmology and,
eventually, the basis of what became Western mathematics and science.
"My brother and I had studied the Mystery System, and we were sitting
around one day talking about how that would be a good name for a
band," he says. "The Mystery System is all about the cultivation of
knowledge and wisdom, and we thought we could bring some knowledge of
it to the members of the band. They started calling me Mr. Mystery,
and that evolved into Patrick Mystery."
Reggae music specifically and Caribbean music in general has been
modernized, lamentably, some believe, into a highly electronicized,
hip-hop and funk-inflected genre, characterized by shouted, rather
than sung, lyrics and a pervasive "bling-bling" ethos.
But the music played by this group always strives to show the same
social consciousness that Patrick Mystery’s heroes demonstrated. "My
music tends to be sociopolitical, to deal with world issues," he says.
"I am against the destruction of cultures and habitats by big
corporations and governments. There are many innocent people dying who
are not involved in the political or economic elites or do not have
any control over the global economy."
In his other life, Mystery works as a computer network administrator
for CBIZ Healthcare Solutions, a health care business service firm in
East Windsor, where he lives. He has long, cascading dreadlocks and a
full beard and acknowledges that his appearance isn’t that typical for
computer geeks in corporate America. For that matter, he says, his
appearance isn’t that typical for anyone in corporate America. "I feel
I belong everywhere. I do not box myself in. I fit in every situation,
and am comfortable with everyone. I believe we are all brothers, and
that belief comes out in my dealings with everyone."
He knows that in other corporate settings, people who wish to wear
locks or braids have sued – sometimes unsuccessfully – to have the
right to don hairstyles and clothing that fits their heritage. But
Mystery says he has never had problems getting along with anyone on
the job, even though, such as on a recent corporate trip to Cleveland,
he noticed that he was the only person there with dreads and a beard.
But his supervisors and coworkers are very much aware of his life as a
reggae singer – as well as his sometimes scathing critiques of the
status quo. His bosses, company president Sam Donio and his direct
supervisor, George Kelley, "support me steadfastly," says Mystery.
While Mystery’s songs sometimes attack the status quo, they are always
underpinned with a message of love and understanding. "I do not
believe anyone is alienated by me. If we can find common ground we can
find solutions to world issues."