About John Conklin

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So far John Conklin has created 20 blog entries.

The Legend of Lucretia: Exploring an Archetype

By |2019-03-01T14:19:57-03:30March 1st, 2019|

The story of Lucretia encompasses a brutal sexual attack, the tragic and devastating personal action that follows it, and the momentous political events that subsequently arise from it—a relatively straightforward narrative sequence. But the complex ambiguities and the disturbing moral and psychological interpretations that lie below the surface have long fascinated writers, painters, composers, and philosophers. And, of course, it is to be discouragingly (but crucially) noted that, for the most part, these are male viewpoints. As we anticipate the new BLO production of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, we examine some of the various accounts of this…legend? myth? moral fable?...as well as touch on its origin as historical actuality.

GAZES: Schoenberg the Artist

By |2018-11-01T15:32:26-03:30November 1st, 2018|

Schoenberg flourished in the rich soil of Vienna at the turn of the 20th century…a loam full of nutrients such as Freud, Mahler, Schnitzler, but also deeply laced with the toxic wastes of anti-Semitism, virulent nationalism, and rabid conservatism. Surrounded by artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, and Oskar Kokoschka, the young composer even seriously considered a career as a painter. This aspect of a protean talent (he was also a renowned teacher, critic, and an important writer on music theory) opens new and revelatory insights into the complexities of this iconic creator.

The Conductor Cometh: Leonard Bernstein

By |2018-04-23T13:08:07-03:30April 23rd, 2018|

Among Leonard Bernstein's many (many...so many!...too many?) personas—classical composer (of symphonies, ballets, and operas), Broadway composer (of mighty hits and legendary flops), performer, educator, author, spokesperson for sexual freedom, political activist, media star, gossip column fodder, “Wunderkind of the Western World"—conductor was but one, although central to the very complicated picture of this complex and controversial man. The essential quality of his conducting—and its reception—was equally complex and controversial. Was he a genius? Charlatan? Visionary? Flamboyant poseur? Let's explore some videos and decide for ourselves.

A Snapshot from 1952

By |2018-04-17T17:32:52-03:30April 17th, 2018|

1952: All might have seemed well, even as the Korean War escalated. In February the US bombed North Korean hydro-electric plants. Truman continued as president but the beloved daddy-figure Eisenhower was elected in November. 1952 saw the opening of the first Holiday Inn, the firstMAD lo-cal soft drink, the first Kentucky Fried Chicken eatery, the first "Don't Walk" sign (in NYC naturally), the first Mad magazine, the first roll-on deodorant, and the first regularly scheduled jet flight (from London to Johannesburg).

What do SCOTCH TAPE, CHE GUEVARA, and THE THREEPENNY OPERA have in common?

By |2018-03-20T19:58:14-03:30March 20th, 2018|

Perhaps it time to play another round of the activity I like to call “The Game of Dates,” or “The Terrors and Pleasures of Chronology,” or maybe “Serendipitous Synchronicity.” So, to begin… The Threepenny Opera had its first performance in Berlin on the 31st of August 1928—let’s explore what else occurred that year. Yes, (and it is sometimes hard to believe ) all of the following events happened in that year—and this is just my personal choice of highlights! Random concurrence? Misleading coincidence? Meaningful juxtaposition? Cosmic joke?

“Mackie” Goes Wild: “Mack the Knife” Part II

By |2018-03-16T16:12:49-03:30March 16th, 2018|

As one fishes in the sometimes murky, sometimes surprisingly lucid backwaters and hidden streams of YouTube, one can hook some very odd items. We have looked at and listened to some relatively straightforward renditions of the insidiously persuasive strains of “Mackie Messer,” or “Mack the Knife.” Here are some others. It is always interesting when listening to the seductive melody and its application in a myriad of contexts to remember what this brutal and cruel song is really about: murder, arson, rape …

Song about A Serial Killer Hits Top of the Charts: “Mack the Knife”

By |2018-03-16T16:15:07-03:30March 16th, 2018|

Although a last-minute addition to the original production in 1928, “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” has gone on to become its biggest hit. Someone has claimed it as the greatest show number ever--well, perhaps...its afterlife and reverberations have indeed been extraordinary. We sample some items here. But first, let’s put it in a proper cultural context...

Brecht Hated Opera: So Why Write Threepenny?

By |2018-03-14T15:32:57-03:30March 14th, 2018|

"Brecht hated opera”—a bit simplistic and overstated, granted, but perhaps not entirely inappropriate for dealing with the polemical, articulate, and highly opinionated mind and beliefs of this protean playwright, poet, composer, director, actor, producer, designer, performer, and theoretician. Certainly Brecht despised opera productions and audiences of his day as the co