A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What I'm Listening To

Benjamin Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream. Brian Asawa (Oberon); Sylvia McNair (Tytania); Carl Ferguson (Puck); Robert Lloyd (Bottom); Ian Bostridge (Flute). London Symphony Orchestra, New London Children's Choir, conducted by Colin Davis.

I have to confess that A Midsummer Night's Dream has been spoiled for me, at least musically speaking, by Mendelssohn. It's what I expect to hear whenever I encounter the play, thanks largely to Warner Bros. and that mad 1935 version with Mickey Rooney as Puck and James Cagney as Bottom. Nevertheless, Britten's version, with its wonderful orchestral variety, grows on me every time I hear it. I sometimes wish that Britten had had Shakespeare as his librettist for everything, instead of people like Myfanwy Piper. (Someday I will find out how to pronounce "Myfanwy," and stop thinking "my fanny" every time I see it.) This is a lovely recording: Sylvia McNair is a sweet-voiced Tytania, Brian Asawa a commanding Oberon, and Robert Lloyd acts splendidly as Bottom. But in some ways the biggest surprise is Ian Bostridge, whom I'm used to thinking of as a rather arty singer; but he's hilarious as Flute/Thisbe.

Noise of the Day

Jon Stewart on Obama's media blitz. (Don't miss the Peggy Noonan bit.)
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Five Easy Pieces
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

George Packer on the McChrystal report on Afghanistan.
The only surprise is the impressiveness of McChrystal’s analysis. I was wrong in May when I questioned the appointment of a special-operations man to run this war. McChrystal’s report is written in plain English, it’s self-critical, and it shows more understanding of the nature of the fight in Afghanistan than most journalism and academic work.