The arts field looks crowded this fall, but the Monitor's reviewers pinpoint what to look for in the season ahead


`FALL Packed With Pix,'' announced a recent headline in Variety, the show-business newspaper. And sure enough, this autumn promises more movies - and more diversity - than the weeks between Labor Day and Thanksgiving usually hold.

The most keenly anticipated offerings come in three categories: would-be blockbusters, high-quality Hollywood fare, and foreign or independent productions. Pictures hoping for blockbuster-type profits include ''The Specialist,'' with Sylvester Stallone and Sharon Stone in the story of a bomb expert with a secret, and ''Timecop,'' a time-travel adventure with a story that's as speedy as it is confusing. Also look for the skydiving ''Terminal Velocity'' to land on local screens.

Other high-profile releases aim beyond the action-movie crowd. In a controversial casting maneuver, Tom Cruise stars in ''Interview With the Vampire,'' based on Anne Rice's artsy horror novel. Robert De Niro also puts on monster makeup in ''Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,'' costarring Kenneth Branagh as fiction's most famous mad scientist.

Nostalgia buffs may prefer Warren Beatty's romantic ''Love Affair,'' based on the weepy 1957 ''An Affair to Remember'' that boasted Katharine Hepburn in its solid cast. Also rooted in the past is ''The Browning Version,'' with an Albert Finney performance that's earned much advance praise.

Robert Redford enters the sweepstakes with ''Quiz Show,'' which he directed, and Anthony Hopkins takes a comic turn in ''The Road to Wellville,'' about an obsessive food magnate. ''Cobb'' stars the busy Tommy Lee Jones as a baseball great. Woody Allen returns (again) with the comic thriller ''Bullets Over Broadway.''

Among more unusual offerings, early word is highly enthusiastic about Tim Burton's offbeat ''Ed Wood,'' with Johnny Depp as a real Hollywood filmmaker whose life was even less conventional than his movies. ''Hoop Dreams'' is a much-anticipated documentary about inner-city basketball players. Sean Penn follows up his superb drama ''The Indian Runner'' with ''Crossing Guard,'' starring Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, and David Mamet presents ''Oleanna,'' based on his searing play about gender politics, w hich was produced in both the United States and London.

And for those with strong stomachs, Quentin Tarantino has cooked up ''Pulp Fiction,'' a three-part crime drama already honored by major film festivals.

Other items range from the comedy ''Only You,'' with the attractive pair of Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei, to ''The New Age,'' a marriage portrait by Michael Tolkin, who counts ''The Player'' and ''The Rapture'' among his credits. Tim Robbins stars in ''The Shawshank Redemption'' and Kevin Costner teams with young Elijah Wood for ''The War.''

And don't forget the non-American contingent, headed by ''Dear Diary,'' a deeply personal movie from Nanni Moretti, a leading Italian filmmaker. Unlike anything Hollywood has to offer, it helps make the coming season a tantalizingly varied prospect.

- David Sterritt


THE two big shows that everyone is waiting for this fall have both opened elsewhere to great acclaim. Andrew Lloyd Webber's new musical ''Sunset Boulevard,'' which is playing in London and recently closed in Los Angeles, is arriving with Glenn Close in the starring role. Advance sales have reached $20 million. The acclaimed Hal Prince revival of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's ''Showboat,'' currently selling out in Toronto, is also highly anticipated.

Otherwise, virtually nothing else has been announced for the fall season on Broadway. The Roundabout will be reviving Brian Friel's early play, ''Philadelphia, Here I Come,'' followed by Tennessee Williams's ''The Glass Menagerie,'' starring Julie Harris. An intriguing possibility for Broadway, still unconfirmed, is reclusive filmmaker Terrence Malick's (''Days of Heaven'') adaptation of the classic Japanese film ''Sansho the Baliff.''

As usual, more interesting work is being done Off Broadway. The Public Theater has one of its most exciting seasons in years coming up, including a new play written and directed by Sam Shepard, ''Simpatico,'' starring Beverly D'Angelo, Marcia Gay Harden, Fred Ward, and Ed Harris. A prospect to be relished is Christopher Walken starring in his own play about Elvis, called ''Him.'' Other shows at the Public this fall will be directed by Tony-winner George C. Wolfe (''Blade to the Heat'') and Hal Prince (''Th e Petrified Prince,'' with music by Michael John LaChiusa).

The Manhattan Theatre Club will unveil new works by Terrence McNally (''Love! Valour! Compassion!'') and Christopher Durang (''Durang Durang''), and the WPA has Israel Horovitz's new ''Unexpected Tenderness.'' The Signature Theatre Company, which devotes each season to an individual playwright, will present works by Horton Foote, including two world premires. The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival will feature England's all-male Cheek by Jowl company in ''As You Like It.''

To compete with the Radio City Christmas show, a musical adaptation of ''A Christmas Carol,'' with music by Alan Menken, will fill the huge Paramount Theatre from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.

Around the country, the most eagerly awaited productions include Anthony Burgess's adaptation of his novel ''A Clockwork Orange,'' produced by Chicago's Steppenwolf Company, and a revival of ''How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,'' starring Matthew Broderick, at California's La Jolla Playhouse.

- Frank Scheck


NO blockbuster looms for New York this fall. Instead of sound bites and fury, the art schedule offers quieter pleasures comparing artists from times past and present.

The Guggenheim museum focuses on two countries' cultural recovery after World War II. At its uptown location, a survey of Italian art and design opens Oct. 7 with art, film, and fashion produced in the years 1943 to 1968. These boom years, known as the ''Italian miracle,'' spawned not only Mario Merz's Arte Povera igloos but also Fellini movies, Ferragamo shoes, and Valentino dresses. At the SoHo Guggenheim starting Sept. 14, is a survey of postwar avant-garde art from Japan. Countering the charge that con temporary Japanese art is derivative, the art springs from radical methods and mediums.

Opening Sept. 13, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offers a print show by one of America's most innovative artists, Louise Bourgeois. Enigmatic images document Bourgeois's tactic, as she says, ''of directly converting antagonism.'' On Sept. 25, MoMA unveils a Cy Twombly retrospective. Known for paintings that resemble scrawled chalkboards, Twombly will exhibit from Sept. 24 a new 55-foot-long painting at Gagosian's SoHo gallery. Also on a grand scale will be the Dia Center for the Arts' show, beginning Sept . 16, of five monumental paintings by Andy Warhol based on Leonardo da Vinci's ''Last Supper.''

The Metropolitan Museum hosts the first museum exhibit (opening Oct. 4) of 19th-century photography by douard Baldus. Baldus made exquisite images of Gothic cathedrals and Roman ruins from 1851 to 1861, when photography was in its infancy. At the same time, French painters like Courbet and Delacroix were shunning stuffy Salon painting for a daring style that culminated in Impressionism. From Sept. 27, 150 proto-Impressionist works dazzle at the Met.

On Oct. 11 the much-lauded show of paintings by the greatest living Abstract Expressionist, Willem de Kooning, arrives at the Met. To further demonstrate Abstract Expressionism's vitality, the Whitney museum will display Franz Kline's black-and-white paintings starting Dec. 16.

A Giacometti retrospective (Oct. 27 to Dec. 10) appears at Acquavella Galleries, featuring 60 of his trademark spindly sculptures and 10 paintings.

The Pierpont Morgan Library will display 100 master drawings from the distinguished Thaw collection (opening Sept. 21). From Rembrandt and Rubens to Czanne, Matisse, and Pollock, the images prove, as Goethe said, how drawings ''bring immediately before us the mood of [the artist's] mind at the moment of creation.''

The most anticipated opening of the season highlights crafts as much as art. On Oct. 30, the new Heye Center of the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian debuts in a renovated Beaux Arts jewel, the US Custom House near Battery Park. Inaugural shows feature historical objects like feathered headdresses and art by living native Americans. While not exactly breaking new ground, this exhibit in particular, and the fall art season in general, should document the link between tradition and inventi on.

- Carol Strickland


LONDONERS - and visitors to London - will have the opportunity to see German artist Rebecca Horn's work ''Concert for Anarchy'' this autumn. This work consists of a motorized grand piano hanging from a ceiling upside-down. Alarmingly, it shoots out and then slowly retracts its keys.

This is part of a larger showing of her works (many of them ''machines'' of sporadic and unpredictable habits) that has been traveling throughout Europe since its original 1993 showing at New York's Guggenheim museum. (Tate Gallery Sept. 27 to Jan. 8, 1995, and Serpentine Gallery Sept. 28 to Jan. 8. After London, the exhibition will be displayed in Grenoble, France.)

A more conventional offering will be James Whistler's mother - though the major exhibition of the American artist's work at the Tate (including the painting of his famous mother, which is coming over from the Louvre) won't fail to remind us that he, in his day, was an outrageous modernist.

He took critic John Ruskin to court for describing his ''Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling Rocket'' (lent to the show by Detroit) as ''flinging a pot of paint in the public's face.'' Yesterday's shockers oft become today's old favorites.

This, the largest exhibition devoted to Whistler since his death in 1903, will offer heavyweight reassessment of an artist too frequently remembered as a wit and dandy and not enough as a painter, etcher, and designer. (Tate Gallery Oct. 13 to Jan. 8, 1995. It travels to Paris's Muse d'Orsay and then to Washington's National Gallery.)

Also eventually going to Washington, after its initial showing in London, is an exhibit titled ''The Glory of Venice 1700 to 1800.''

In some ways the 18th century might be seen as the second wind of art for that watery Italian city. Its 18th-century painters are, perhaps, more frivolous and decorative than the profound Renaissance masters Titian and Veronese, but the delicious theatricalities of Tiepolo are not to be scoffed at. Nor are the dark visions of Piranesi or the brilliant cityscapes of Canaletto, Guardi, and Bellotto. (Royal Academy Sept. 15 to Dec. 14. Thereafter at Washington's National Gallery.)

For architecture-history buffs, ''C.R. Mackintosh, The Chelsea Years'' will be worth catching. The exhibit was seen earlier in Glasgow, which was Mackintosh's home city and the place his best work was done.

In 1913, however, after half a decade of producing no major work, MacKintosh resigned from partnership in the Glasgow firm where he had (partly through drink) become a ''liability'' and headed south.

This show looks at his attempt in London, 1915 to '23, to bring about ''a process of recovery.'' He produced drawings but no resulting buildings. Yet Alan Crawford, co-curator, believes he had not ''entirely lost his way.'' (Heinz Gallery, Royal Institute of British Architects, 21 Portman Square, London. Sept. 8 to Oct 29.)

- Christopher Andreae


THE most exciting concert prospect for the fall is the return to the stage of Lena Horne, who will be performing two shows at Carnegie Hall Sept. 16 and 17, with the delicious possibility of more to come. This ageless singer, who has recently released a gorgeous new album, has rarely sung in public in recent years.

Although many older country singers have found that their careers have been waylaid by the younger generation of ''hunks with hats,'' Johnny Cash, who has been taken to heart by Generation X, is an exception. He recently released his finest album in years, ''American Recordings,'' and will be supporting it with a national tour, featuring a special solo acoustic set.

Otherwise, most of the acts on the road will be continuing their summer tours. These include such superstar headliners as the Rolling Stones, the Eagles, Kenny G, Phil Collins, Aerosmith, John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, ZZ Top, and Harry Connick Jr., among others.

Some of the other performers that are making the national rounds include Sarah McLachlan, All-4-One, Tori Amos, Collective Soul, Sheryl Crow, the Gin Blossoms, Joan Jett, Los Lobos, Basia, Love Spit Love, B.B. King, Trisha Yearwood, and Vince Gill.

Sandra Bernhard is playing theaters with her ''Excuses for Bad Behavior'' tour. Among the acts that will be playing clubs are Bob Dylan, believe it or not (he'll be at Roseland in NYC), Joe Cocker, Barenaked Ladies, David Lee Roth, and former model-actress-turned-singer (''Return to the Blue Lagoon'') Milla, whose album is one of the year's unlikeliest critical hits. Also returning to the scene is Boingo (minus the Oingo), whose leader, Danny Elfman, is taking a break from his day job composing movie sound tracks.

Probably the most eagerly anticipated new tour of the fall is Bryan Ferry, formerly of Roxy Music, who hasn't hit the road in six years. Multiplatinum act Boyz II Men is also a possibility, although no dates are confirmed. And a wonderful prospect for the holidays is a solo tour by Aaron Neville (the Neville Brothers will also be on the road), in which he will sing Christmas music.

- Frank Scheck


AS opera singers approach the end of their careers, most of them understandably pare down their repertory, focusing on the roles that best suit them. Not so tenor Placido Domingo, who is taking more chances than ever. In recent years he has been moving into the Wagnerian repertory, taking on the roles of Parsifal, Lohengrin, and Walter. Last season, to celebrate his 25th anniversary at the Metropolitan Opera, he sang Siegmund in a gala performance of Act I of ''Die Walkre.'' Tristan, that voice-killer, is

on Domingo's roster for 1996.

Incredibly, Domingo is simultaneously exploring a lighter role of Mozart. On Oct. 1 at the Met, he sings the title role of ''Idomeneo'' with a cast that includes soprano Dawn Upshaw. This should be one of the early highlights of the upcoming New York season.

Other operatic events also look promising. Starting on Oct. 13, the young German conductor Christian Thielemann will lead seven performances at the Met of Strauss's luxurious ''Arabella.'' Thielemann came to attention as the conductor whom Kathleen Battle walked out on during rehearsals of ''Der Rosenkavalier'' two seasons ago. However, Thielemann is a revelatory musician. He could be the next Karl Bhm.

The New York City Opera is presenting a novelty work long absent from the repertory. Borodin's opera ''Prince Igor'' is something of a mess: Left unfinished at his death in 1887, it was completed by Glazunov and orchestrated mostly by Rimsky-Korsakov. The exotic story, set in the 12th century, is earnestly nationalistic and hopelessly confused. However, the opera is filled with colorful, enchanting music, some of which was transformed into the songs for the Broadway show ''Kismet.'' City Opera's new produc tion is the first in New York in 25 years.

Speaking of Russian music, the string quartets of Shostakovich are intensely personal, mercurial, and musically knotty works. That they have been gaining such a solid footing in the concert-hall repertory is due, in part, to the tireless advocacy of the Borodin String Quartet. The Borodin players will present the complete 15 Shostakovich quartets in a five-concert series at Alice Tully Hall starting Oct. 30. Any chance to hear these fine musicians play these extraordinary works is not to be missed.

And in an enticing recital titled ''American Dreams'' on Oct. 8 at the 92nd Street Y (Tisch Center for the Arts), a group of lively singers, including Joan Morris, William Sharp, and Lorraine Hunt, will present songs of Broadway's George Gershwin and Harold Arlen, alongside those of Charles Ives, Charles Griffes, and Marc Blitzstein.

- Anthony Tommasini

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today