Tag Archives: writing

The veggie, the vegan, the raw.

My grandmother used to take my family to Chester, Connecticut once in a while. There was a French restaurant called Restaurant du Village that served the loveliest vegetable terrine.

Chester, Connecticut

Chester, Connecticut

I hadn’t been back to Chester in years. But now there’s a vegan/vegetarian/raw food restaurant there, named for its address: Six Main. It’s the subject of my latest food story. Read it here.


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A sweet tooth’s guide to New Haven.

Or, in other words, my guide to New Haven in the Hartford Courant.

With some photos that didn’t make it into the article.

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Sometimes I review this local-ish orchestra for its local newspaper. The orchestra had a concert recently, so I sent my usual note to the paper’s arts editor confirming that I should review the concert. And I got a reply that I didn’t expect.

“Since the concert will not be over until late Saturday night (it starts at 8, and runs 120 minutes), we probably won’t be able to get it into Sunday’s paper, which is where our readers would expect to read about a concert the previous night. To run it on Monday would be too long after the concert.”

Which was news to me, because for over a year I’d been doing exactly that.

So I asked where that had come from. And the editor said: “It’s just that publishing a review two days later, is no longer news. I realize we have done it in the past, but have found it to be not the best use of our resources and a disservice to readers.”

A disservice to readers?

Now the orchestra will only get reviewed twice a year, when it gives afternoon concerts. I think *that* is a disservice, both to the orchestra and to the community. Publishing reviews online first, and a day later in print, is no tragedy in my book. Publishing a review signals that it’s a worthwhile part of the arts coverage.


I heard that a friend and critic was no longer going to review the orchestra he’d been reviewing for ages. The paper (a different one from the one above) would no longer pay him to write.

Professional writers can’t be expected to write without pay. Their time, their thoughts, their words: these all have value.


I ran into that paper’s arts editor a few days later, and we talked a bit. “Did you hear?” She asked. The paper is cutting – are you ready for this? – all of its arts critics.

All of them.

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What do you write about when you write about opera?

The other day, I came across this piece by Mark Prescott, in which he writes:

Most reviews of productions I’ve attended concern themselves nearly exclusively with a detailed analysis of the director’s conception of the drama. The fact that the writer is generally a music rather than theatre expert is even more bemusing.

Of course, my first (and self-centered) thought was: “Oh, crap. Do I do that?”

Sometimes. But.

One thing that Prescott neglects to point out is that, with a new production of an opera that’s part of the repertory, the critics will already know the music, while the production is new. So it’s hardly surprising that the critic will pay attention to what is specific to this production. Yes, the performance of the music is important, but the music itself is already familiar.

The audience can go listen to a recording of what the music (the composition, not that particular performance) sounds like, but there’s nowhere to get an equivalent overview of the staging. So the review will probably include a little reportage.

Also, everyone has their reasons for loving opera. What draws me in is when it’s about something big and complicated and resonant, like Nixon in China or Cardillac. The production will more overtly communicate what the opera is about than the singers’ and orchestra’s performance of the music will.

I wonder if he feels that reviews of new operas also focus too much on the production. A review of a new opera should probably split more evenly, because there’s no more previous knowledge of the music than there is of the production. The elements are usually more integrated,

Does he want something more like this review? A rundown of voices that reads like a sportscast? Really, there are more interesting things to me than a scorecard of how people performed. I mean, it’s a  positive review – “winning performance,” “admirable performance,” “top-notch ensemble,” “lovely sounds” – but there’s no poetry in it. Reading that review does little to communicate the experience of watching and hearing that Romeo et Juliette. It doesn’t do much to make me want to go see the opera.

What also comes to mind is Anne Midgette’s recent piece about multiple critical voices. Every critic will have his or her own slant, focus, interest, etc. The richest and most interesting conversations will be those with multiple voices and opinions.

So I find myself wanting to say, nicely: don’t tell me what to write about. Don’t tell other critics what to write about. We’ll each write about what stands out to us. We’ll write about whatever strikes us as important or relevant or just plain interesting. Because that’s what will make our responses our own.

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All of the words in the dictionary

“This is the worst job I’ve ever seen in my life. It would be as if I was sitting at my desk and all of the words in the dictionary were lolling around my desk, glaring at me and smoking.”

– writer Fran Lebowitz
on choreographer Jerome Robbins

(“This” = choreography)


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Brunch and an opera

1. I went into the city yesterday to have brunch with some friends from my Galapagos trip and to see a new opera called Piazza Navona.

Brunch was delicious. I may forever need to eat eggs benedict on cheddar-jalapeño biscuits. And chipotle hollandaise is a beautiful thing.

2. I remember the actual Piazza Navona, though I haven’t been there in ten years. It’s in Rome, right near the apartment where my brother spent a lovely semester as a college junior. I visited him there, and I remember walking through the piazza many times on my way to the bakery tucked in one corner. I also remember how delicious the food was on that trip. There seems to be a theme here.

3. When I go to a new opera, I generally expect to see something with edges. I expect to hear some dissonance, see some angst, and have my thoughts provoked.

Yesterday, I settled into my seat on the train and started reading the libretto to Piazza Navona, which the composer had kindly sent me. And I couldn’t believe how fluffy it was: a totally improbable romantic comedy of errors.

Having just read Bill Buford’s Heat, in which he wrote about his experience in numerous Italian restaurant kitchens, I found myself thinking, “But they’d never promote him to executive chef after he’s then cooked all of one meal!” And why was this character the brother of that one? Totally gratuitous. And why do characters talk about falling in love when they’ve just met someone? Come on, that never works. The whole thing seemed like a romanticized, Eat Pray Love vision of Rome. So that was the attitude I walked into the theater with.

Fortunately, the production itself made this fluffernutter rather enjoyable. Here’s my review at Parterre.

4. Since they’d cut the three-act opera down to 75 continuous minutes, I spent more time eating than I did at the opera. I’m not sure I like what that implies about me.

But my meal was almost as memorable as the opera, and the opera was partly about memorable food, and all in all the day was lovely.


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On the role of arts journalism

I wrote the Roundtable column for the January/February issue of The Arts Paper, a paper published by the New Haven Arts Council. The column isn’t on the Arts Council’s website, so I thought I’d post it here in case you’re not able to pick up a copy.

On the role of arts journalism

I’ve been writing about music for
years, but I had to stop and think when
I was asked recently: Why do we need
arts journalism? The question might have
surprised me less if it hadn’t come from
a career music critic in a room full of
arts writers. Yet it was worth asking: Why
do we need reporters and critics when we
can just go out and enjoy a performance?
In the words of Rocco Landesman, chairman
of the National Endowment for the
Arts: “Informed voices, in whatever media
venue they reside, are critical to the
health and vibrancy of the arts.” Those
informed voices tell us what’s important
in the arts world and why it matters.

To read the rest: click here to download a pdf or here to view a jpg.


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