New York Stories

April 7, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | TRAVEL |

April in New York – never mind the snow and sleet, it’s still a tootlin’ town. The Varnished Culture traversed Manhattan in search of slightly off-the-wall aspects of the Bagel. We liked the Strand Bookstore on lower Broadway (celebrity trigger warning – Paul Giamatti spotted there), famed from the scene with Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey in Hannah and Her Sisters, and Argosy Bookshop, a great old-fashioned shop on 116 East 59th Street… And right next door to Argosy, Yankees fans can stock up on all their gear, whilst they await that elusive 41st winning season… The Varnished Culture chooses to stay at…

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Cosi fan tutte

April 6, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | MUSIC, Opera, OPERA, THUMBNAIL REVIEWS, TRAVEL |

At the Metropolitan Opera, NYC, April 2018 – Mozart, the Met, and Spring in New York…what more could one wish for?  Some Spring weather, perhaps? Cosi Fan Tutte has the most preposterous plot in all opera, which takes in a lot of territory. But Mozart’s music rolls along so merrily that it doesn’t matter, and the piece can survive, and even be enhanced by throwing the switch to vaudeville, as director Phelim McDermott does here by re-imagining the action in 1950s Coney Island. Lucy and Desi and Ethel and Fred…ah, no, sorry, let’s start again: Ferrando (Ben Bliss) and Guglielmo…

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Slick Picks by Frick

April 4, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, TRAVEL |

The World above, a worldly scene below - Vermeer's "Officer and Laughing Girl"

The Frick Collection, NYC, April 2018 – Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919), steel and coke millionaire, was largely self-taught but he was dead-eyed when it came to collecting art.  The collection at his neo-classical mansion on East 70th and 5th is spectacular. Frick’s picks were almost impeccable, with the odd exception. Also he left an imprimatur for the future purchase of pieces that appear to reflect his good taste.  How about this superb early Rembrandt of merchant Nicolaes Ruts, holding out what appears to be a bill of goods, looking like he is driving a hard bargain: There are some powerful works…

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At the Guggenheim

April 3, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | ART, TRAVEL |

NYC, April 2018 – We have written previously on the pleasing facade and innards of the building. Now to the guts, namely the hanging lute of the art, and its reverberations. This was not quite as splendid, unfortunately. The main exhibit appeared to be a collection of rubbish from a garage, otherwise described as ‘Take My Breath Away,’ a series of “contemporary sculptures, works on paper and installations” by someone called Danh Vo. A minor showing featured tired Mike Rothko imitations by Josef Albers from his wanderings in Mexico, and there were a few pieces by Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957) that…

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March 4, 2018 | Posted by Guest Reviewer | TRAVEL |

By David Astin [Our thanks to David for this comprehensive article.  He is an ‘old Cuba hand’ and knows more about that fascinating island than any travel agent (or ‘Smart Traveller.’).  The Varnished Culture has had its reservations about Castro and his legacy, although there’s no denying that he had genuine passion and guts, but we still mean to go to Cuba, and David’s piece is an invaluable source for those who do.]   I am not going to go into the Cuban political situation, much as I disagree with it. That is not what this article is about. This…

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