George Gershwin

The fashionable take on Diane Paulus’ new production of Porgy and Bess on Broadway is that it is a triumph by Audra McDonald, as Bess, surrounded by an underpowered but respectable production. Unsurprisingly, the Times’ Ben Brantley, with his eternal weakness for grande dames, has led in this vein. Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal has been less polite, deeming the thing “emotionally null” and warning that anyone who has seen the piece before will be appalled. Teachout is closer to the mark.

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  There’s a cheeky scene in Born Yesterday, George Cukor’s Americanized upending of Pygmalion,that casts light on the thinking behind the marquee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on Broadway this season. About a third of the way into the Cukor film, William Holden, on assignment to instill class in Judy Holiday, takes her to the symphony. “What's the name of this number, did you say?” she asks him. “Beethoven’s Second Symphony, Opus Thirty-Six,” he answers. “I didn’t ask you who made it up,” she snaps back.

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The Italian film-maker Nanni Moretti has had a schismatic career. Almost unknown in America, he is a critical and public darling in Europe, a winner of festival prizes. Because he writes and directs and stars in his films and because his roles are generally quiet and thoughtful, and sometimes thoughtfully comic, he has been compared to Woody Allen. (No physical resemblance: Moretti is tall, slim, bearded, good-looking.) This is to compare George Gershwin with Stephen Sondheim simply because each wrote smart songs about contemporary life.

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Last weekend was the hundredth anniversary of George Gershwin's birth, and, to commemorate the event, while seeking refuge from the obscene cd-rom containing the appendices of the Starr report, I put on the Brooklyn Academy of Music's terrific recording of Gershwin's greatest political operetta, Of Thee I Sing.

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