This week: Alexei Ratmansky, Joan Mitchell, Dido in the graveyard & more from the world of culture.
“Whipped Cream,” at American Ballet Theatre (May 28 and 29): Finding a ballet for all ages can be a tough nut to crack. With Whipped Cream, American Ballet Theatre lays it on thick in a production that joyfully dances from sugary sweetness to saccharine over-indulgence. Now returning to the Metropolitan Opera House for just its second run, Whipped Cream hides the balletic razor blades in this updated production of Schlagobers, the extravagant “billionaire’s ballet” Richard Strauss created for the Vienna State Opera in the 1920s that the starving audiences of the Austro-Hungarian Empire somehow failed to bite. With choreography by artist-in-residence Alexei Ratmansky and sets and costumes by the Surrealist West Coast painter Mark Ryden, Whipped Cream stirs cartoonish darkness into a light confection in a way that both satisfies and delights. —JP
“Joan Mitchell: I carry my landscapes around with me,” at David Zwirner (through July 12): Joan Mitchell, a leading member of Abstract Expressionism’s “second generation,” rejected the premise that her light-filled and color-rich paintings were “landscapes” in the conventional sense. And yet she never denied that much of her painting was closely bound to the experience of nature. Mitchell’s relationship with the landscape—she specifically mentioned her childhood home near Lake Michigan—was perhaps akin to that of Bonnard, the great French colorist, who painted from memory rather than direct observation. Put another way, one might think of Wordsworth’s famous formulation of the poetic process: “emotion recollected in tranquility.” David Zwirner, which last year announced exclusive representation of Joan Mitchell, is now host to an exhibition that examines this relationship and includes nine large polyptych compositions. This significant show anticipates a major retrospective that will begin at the Baltimore Museum of Art in the fall of 2020 before traveling to the SFMoMA and the Guggenheim Museum. —AS
“Purcell: Dido and Aeneas,” at Green-Wood Cemetery (June 4 through 8): The fourth book of the Aeneid contains one of the most tragic affairs in all of literature: that of Dido and Aeneas. Next week, two of its later incarnations—Henry Purcell’s 1680 opera Dido and Aeneas and Christopher Marlowe’s 1593 play about the doomed lovers—will be resurrected together. The mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack will play Dido in a performance, directed by Alek Shrader, that weaves together these three versions of the story in an unlikely (but acoustically excellent) setting: the catacombs of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. While you’re there, take the time to explore the grounds of one of the United States’ first rural cemeteries, once one of its most popular tourist attractions and the final resting place of famous New Yorkers such as Leonard Bernstein, Henry Ward Beecher, Horace Greeley, and Ada Rehan. —HN
Sotheby’s new galleries (open now): Tucked away on York Avenue, Sotheby’s lacks the centrality of its rival Christie’s, which sits in the middle of New York at Rockefeller Center. But the location is a boon in other ways—away from Midtown’s traffic, the auction house’s offices become an oasis for art. That’s even more true now that the firm has completed a renovation of its gallery spaces under the direction of its architects, OMA. The renovation increases gallery space from 67,000 square feet to 90,000 and adds for the first time double-height space for the display of large objects. The galleries are open to the public, so art lovers will want to stop in soon. —BR
From the archive: “Whitman’s spell,” by Thomas M. Disch (October 2008). A review of Worshipping Walt: The Whitman Disciples, by Michael Robertson.
From the current issue: “The Left against Zion,” by Dominic Green. On liberals’ views of Israel.