Lavender & under suspicion
by Roberto Friedman
One of the best gay novels of recent times, made into an opera, was named in The New York Times' end-of-year list for "The Best Classical Music of 2016." Based on gay historical novelist Thomas Mallon's brilliant Fellow Travelers (2007), the opera of the same name centers on a gay romance during the "Lavender Scare" of the McCarthyite 1950s in Washington, DC. It's a mostly forgotten piece of LGBT history that takes on new relevance as we enter a new reactionary – not "conservative," reactionary – period of American history.
Fellow Travelers, the modern opera conceived and developed by G. Sterling Zinsmeyer, premiered last year as part of the Cincinnati Opera's 2016 season and received rave reviews from the press, including the Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, and Opera News. The work received standing ovations at every one of its 10 sold-out Cincinnati Opera performances. Zinsmeyer told the press, "There were times when it felt that this opera might never see the light of day, but our dedicated and talented creative team kept persevering. It's wonderful to see that dedication being so universally acknowledged."
After optioning the rights for Mallon's novel, Zinsmeyer developing the opera with director Kevin Newbury, commissioning Gregory Spears to compose the opera and Gregory Pierce to write the libretto. Fellow Travelers was workshopped at the Cincinnati Opera and the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music under Opera Fusion: New Works, a program funded by the Mellon Foundation. The piece was so well received that the Cincinnati Opera offered to co-produce. Its honor by the NY Times is a great win for the LGBTQ community.
Mallon's novels based on recent American history also include Dewey Defeats Truman (1997), Watergate: A Novel (2012) and Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years (2015), which also features a gay subplot. Of his novels Mallon writes, "I have operated along the always sliding scale of historical fiction. The texts contain deviations from fact that some readers will regard as unpardonable and others will deem unworthy of notice. But they remain works of fiction, not history."
Last Saturday night Out There & the intrepid Pepi headed out into the rainstorm to Davies Symphony Hall to hear the great San Francisco Symphony perform Leonard Bernstein 's original film score and see the immortal Marlon Brando in director Elia Kazan 's classic film On the Waterfront (screenplay by Budd Schulberg), winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture. The timeless story about violence, corruption, and redemption, with an Oscar-nominated score, is one of the greatest films of all time according to the American Film Institute . And we coulda been a contender! David Newman conducted the San Francisco Symphony in a brilliant performance. We felt like we were right there on the docks of Jersey harbor, dodging the Mob. Then back out into the wet we went.
More, mostly British
The Mostly British Film Festival has announced an exciting addition to its 2017 lineup, The Sense of an Ending, based on Julian Barnes' Man Booker Prize-winning novel. The drumroll cast includes Jim Broadbent , Michele Dockery , Charlotte Rampling and Emily Mortimer . The film is about how memory plays tricks on us and the consequences of decisions made when young. Sense of an Ending will play at 7 p.m. on Mon., Feb. 20, fresh from its premiere at the Palm Springs Film Festival.
Mostly British runs Feb. 16-23 at the Vogue Theater in SF. Other highlights are a tribute to The Beatles on film, featuring movies about them and A Hard Day's Night, in which they star. The festival opens with Their Finest, about the British film industry in World War II, starring Bill Nighy, who will be at the screening and will be interviewed afterward. Tickets to this event are selling fast.
Another guest of honor is famed film editor Anne V. Coates, an Oscar winner for Lawrence of Arabia and a five-time nominee who this year has been awarded a honorary Oscar, known as the Governor's Award, by the Academy. Her remarkable career began as an assistant on The Red Shoes and continued through the recent 50 Shades of Grey. She is a great storyteller and has worked with the best, including David Lean and Steven Soderbergh .
Tickets and information are at mostlybritish.org or the Vogue box office. All films will screen at the Vogue.