Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Don’t Put Away James Levine’s Recordings...Play Them

At 5:06 PM today, the esteemed New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini published an article in which he confessed his dismay at the allegations of sexual abuse made against Conductor James Levine of the Metropolitan Opera. In this article, Mr. Tommasini makes specific reference to a “handsome dark-wood case” he has in his apartment, which contains, among other things, “a two box set of performances from the Metropolitan Opera with James Levine conducting...” He intimates that, given the terrible news about James Levine, he’s now wrestling with whether that set of recordings ought still to have pride of place in his living room.

How can we begin to deal with the tragedy of the almost daily revelations we read in the news about the stories upon stories of sexual abuse, physical violence, molestation, predation. How do we deal with it? How do we understand it? How can we cope when, in some cases, a handful of these people have been our heroes?

We are talking about persons who have entertained us, who have informed us, who have enriched our lives...some in small ways and some in large...but who all possess a common streak of darkness that cuts through their minds and cuts through their souls. A darkness most of us cannot understand. A complex tangle of ego, sexual desire, hubris, and, dare I say it...of madness.

Anthony Tommasini wrestles with James Levine’s legacy as one of the preeminent conductors of our time or any time, and with the relentless drumbeat of the allegations against him. He recognizes Levine’s genius. He applauds his body of work, but bemoans the fact that during an interview he had with him a number of years ago he could not get Levine to open up about his private life...as if opening up would have served as some sort of confessional catharsis that would have made it all go away and somehow, in the clearer light of day, reveal to us more of the complexity of James Levine as he really is.

My respect for Mr. Tommasini is profound. He’s one of the few music critics whose writing I enjoy almost unreservedly. I do not know him, but the quality of his writing and the perceptiveness of his understanding of musicians, what they do, and how they translate notes on the printed page to what reverberates in our ears and enriches our lives has always struck me as a singular gift.

But in the matter of James Levine, and in the matter of what to do with that two boxed set of recordings commemorating the 40th anniversary of Mr. Levine’s Met debut, I find myself completely at odds with Mr. Tommasini. I believe that he could not be more wrong in what he has written, the way he has written it, and in the conclusions he has come to. All of which seems to me to be the saddest betrayal of all. I’ll let you read the article itself and of course come to your own conclusions.

Mr. Tommasini is, in my view, wrong to have expected Mr. Levine to have been anything but circumspect about his personal life during an interview they had in 1998. We all have a right to be circumspect about our personal lives. No amount of opening up to a curious critic, even one as insightful as Mr. Tommasini, is required. We have a right to our privacy, and we have a right not to have to be transparent at every moment of every day and in every conceivable way. No one has a right to force things out of people for their own personal reasons and in the service of their own agendas.

The saddest part of Mr. Tommasini’s article is that he appears to be wrestling with where that commemorative two boxed set of James Levine’s Met recordings should go, now that these terrible accusations have been made. Should it moved out of his living room, away from its place of honor to someplace else less visible? Should it be given away? The implied question in all of this is should any of this music conducted by Mr. Levine now be played at all? Is the playing of one of these recordings an act in itself of betrayal? Does it somehow diminish the terrible ordeals suffered by the young musicians who Mr. Levine is alleged to have abused and molested?

Everything that I have read about James Levine in the past two days sickens me, saddens me, and fills me with apprehension for the future. But make no mistake: James Levine is a singular genius. He is not only one of the great conductors in the history of classical music, he is quite simply the finest conductor of opera who has ever lived. What he has done for music, for musicians, and for the furtherance of our great Western tradition cannot be disputed.

That he has now been revealed as a man with a deep unfathomable darkness in his soul is tragic and horrific to contemplate. But let us not make another mistake: James Levine is a human being, and the great depth of perception and understanding that he has brought to the performance of music betrays his humanness while it exalts our own. We may not want to hear this right now. So it’s okay if you want to stop reading.

However, for those of you willing to stick with me for a few more sentences, I say to Anthony Tommasini, and I say to you all, do not put away your recordings by James Levine. Listen to them, preferably tonight if possible. Celebrate these performances of unmistakable genius, and remember as you do it that one of the great lessons of art, and of music...that most approachable of the arts...is to remind us of our humanity. As we listen to this music and as we reflect, with great sadness on the fate of these young men who have suffered, let us also reflect on James Levine’s suffering. I cannot imagine what his life must be like as he now must privately deal with demons most probably beyond his wildest imaginings.

However, let us listen to the music he made, and let that music speak to us, as only music can. Let us not listen to it because we wish to forget about what Mr. Levine did or the harm he caused or the immeasurable hurt suffered by those young men. Let James Levine’s recordings reveal to us another message: no man could have made a career by so consistently elevating our experience of life as did James Levine, and not have, at least, a kernel of humanity in him. Listening to James Levine’s recordings will not absolve him of his crimes; neither will it make us complicit in them. All it should do is remind us, for a few brief needed moments, of our flawed but common humanity.


- Michael Maglaras

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Winston-Salem Screening of New Film on the Arts of America's Gilded Age



Director's Screening of America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age

Date: Thursday, December 14, 2017

Time: 6:00pm 

Location:  Reynolda House Museum of American Art, 2250 Reynolda Rd., Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Tickets: $15
View clips from the film at this link
America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age tells the story of the painting, sculpture, music, and literature of America’s renaissance—the tremendous outpouring of artistic endeavor that occurred between the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and the death of Mark Twain in 1910. 
Using more than ninety paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptural works by such important American artists as John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Alfred Stieglitz, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, writer/director Michael Maglaras tells the story of the rising of American society through the voices of some of its most creative spirits. 
The film includes the only known footage of Mark Twain, taken in 1909. 
Maglaras, hailed as a “virtuoso filmmaker,” will speak following the film, joined by producer Terri Templeton and Wake Forest University art historian David Lubin, whose scholarly insights feature prominently throughout the film. 
A review in Artes Magazine claimed “this film is a tour de force, offering a comprehensive, multi-layered glimpse into many moving parts of an historical period...skillfully showing us what we as Americans were capable of becoming.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Norwalk Community College Movies of the Month

Independent filmmakers Michael Maglaras and Terri Templeton of Ashford, Connecticut return to Norwalk Community College to screen their new film project – their seventh in twelve years and their sixth “essay in film” – highlighting works from what Mark Twain described as “The Gilded Age.”

The film is titled America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age and will screen at Norwalk Community College on Thursday, October 19 at 6:30 PM as part of its Movies-of-the-Month free film series.

Clips from the film can be viewed at this link: https://vimeo.com/two17films

Featuring the only known film footage of Mark Twain, who gave “The Gilded Age” its name, America Rising tells the story of how, after the Civil War, American art and American artists came into their own on the world stage. In painting, in sculpture, in architecture, and in music, America found its artistic soul and voice in the art created during the explosion of American economic growth, which Mark Twain wrote about in his novel, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today.”

Using more than 90 works of art, featuring painters as diverse as Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Maurice Prendergast, and John Singer Sargent, and with the great public sculpture of creative geniuses such as Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his “Robert Gould Shaw Memorial” (referred to in the film by Director Maglaras as “the finest piece of memorial sculpture in America”), “America Rising creates a portrait of a country reinventing itself, after the tragic events of the Civil War, as a major artistic force. America Rising shows an America poised, through its art, to commemorate its past and invent its future.

This film has been called “mesmerizing and wondrous” by Trent Nicholas at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and “a brilliant, creative combination of sounds and images…a tour de force” by Richard Friswell, editor of ARTES Magazine. 

WHAT:  Screening of 217 Films’ America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age
Connecticut filmmakers, director Michael Maglaras and executive producer Terri Templeton, will introduce the film and take questions following the screening.

WHEN:
Thursday, October 19
6:30 PM

WHERE:
Norwalk Community College
PepsiCo Theater on NCC’s East Campus
188 Richards Ave.
Norwalk, Connecticut

COST:  Free and open to the public

About 217 Films:  217 Films is an independent film company located in Ashford, Connecticut. “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age” is the seventh film by director Michael Maglaras and executive producer Terri Templeton. 

In twelve years of filmmaking, and by employing a concept which he originated – the idea of an “essay in film” – Maglaras has asked us to stop, look, appreciate and recognize the importance of our collective American cultural life through films about artists as diverse as Marsden Hartley, John Marin and Lynd Ward, and events such as the world-changing 1913 Armory Show and the arts of the American Depression. 

Maglaras and Templeton hold the distinction of having been invited to present four of their films at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. where the Director of Film, Peggy Parsons, has described their work as “virtuoso filmmaking.”

The Sacramento Bee called Maglaras a filmmaker of "Bergman-like gravitas." His films have been described as "alive and fresh" (Art New England) "elegiac and insightful" (Naples Daily News) "unforgettable" (Journal of American History) and “comparable to that of the widely acclaimed Ken Burns” (New Britain Herald).


Stage on Screen Features Film on the Arts of the Gilded Age

On Sunday, October 8th and Monday, October 9th, the Old Greenbelt Theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland will show our film America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age as part of its popular Stage on Screen series.  

Tickets can be purchased at this link.  

Excerpts from the film can be viewed here.

America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age tells the story of the painting, the sculpture, the music and the literature of America's renaissance ... the tremendous outpouring of artistic endeavor that occurred between the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and the death of Mark Twain in 1910.

Employing more than 90 paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculptural works by such important America artists as John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Alfred Stieglitz, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, writer/director Michael Maglaras tells the story of the rising of American society through the voices of some of its most creative spirits.  

Michael Maglaras has been hailed as a "virtuoso filmmaker."  He founded 217 Films in 2003 with the aim of introducing a new audience to the rich history of the art of the American experience.  

You will not want to miss America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age...an exciting and enlightening look at America through the eyes of its most creative citizens.  

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gilded Age Artists on the Big Screen in Des Moines



On Thursday, September 7th, we're bringing our new film on the arts of the Gilded Age to the Des Moines Art Center.  This is the third time we've been invited to screen our work in Des Moines and we look forward to presenting this film and engaging with the audience.

More information about the screening can be found at this link.

Michael Maglaras, Director
Terri Templeton, Executive Producer
90 minutes / Not Rated / 2016

Film Description: The exciting and compelling story covers "America's Renaissance," the tremendous outpouring of artistic endeavor that occurred during the time between Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865 and the death of Mark Twain in 1910. More than 90 high-definition examples of art are shown, including works by John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Alfred Stieglitz, and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, plus the recently discovered, only known film footage of Twain, taken in 1909. 
View clips from the film on Vimeo at this link.  


Saturday, June 24, 2017

WNPR Public Radio Interview: Michael Maglaras

WNPR arts reporter, Ray Hardman, caught up with director Michael Maglaras this week to talk about his new film "America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age."

"Those are the 45 years in which the American arts movement came into his own -- great paintings, sculpture, literature," said Maglaras, "but as we try to say in the film, that's the period where the American artistic presence in the world really is first felt."

Listen to the full interview at this link.

Opera House to Present Meet the Filmmaker Event


“We are very excited to be screening this film and to have the filmmakers available to talk about its creation,” notes Opera House Executive Director Rick Davis. “As part of our effort to offer a wide variety of intriguing programming, we believe this event will appeal not only to lovers of art and history, but to movie buffs as well.”

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House will present a recent film from Filmmaker Michael Maglaras titled “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age on Thursday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m., as part of its Art & Architecture: On Screen series. To celebrate local artists, the Opera House has partnered with members of the North Shore Arts Alliance on a special art installation at the Opera House from 6:30-7:30pm, immediately prior to the screening. The exhibit will include work by artists including Katherine Galbraith who created portraits at the National Gallery of Art under their Copyist Program, both of them from portraits by John Singer Sargent including this one of Mrs. Henry White.

The 1891 Fredonia Opera House will present a recent film from Filmmaker Michael Maglaras titled “America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age” on Thursday, June 29, at 7:30 p.m., as part of its Art & Architecture: On Screen series. Maglaras and Producer Terri Templeton will introduce the film and will lead a talk-back and Q&A following its screening. In addition, the Opera House has partnered with the North Shore Arts Alliance to present an exhibition of local artists’ works at the Opera House immediately prior to the screening.
“America Rising: The Arts of the Gilded Age” tells the story of the painting, the sculpture, the music, and the literature of America’s renaissance … the tremendous outpouring of artistic endeavor that occurred between the death of Abraham Lincoln in 1865 and the death of Mark Twain in 1910.
Read the full article at this link.