John Davis tells a true and little-known story of a collective conversion to Judaism in a small village in the south of Italy, which began in the 1920s, in “The Jews of San Nicandro” (Yale). The unusual series of events, resulting in most of the community moving to Israel after the founding of the state, was inspired by a shoemaker who had a vision of God calling him to bring Judaism to the stretch of Catholic Italy.
This fall, Yale University Press is launching a new biography series, Jewish Lives. Robert Gottlieb’s “Sarah; The Life of Sarah Bernhardt” (September) is the first in the series, and the first biography in decades of the woman considered the most famous actress in the world. The intrepid, energetic Bernhardt played many classic roles and traveled to perform for soldiers under bombardment in World War I, even after she had a leg amputated. Gottlieb captures her romantic spirit and ever-dramatic ways, on and off stage — she performed through her late 70s.
As in her previous acclaimed novels, Nicole Krauss’ subject in “Great House” (Norton, October), is memory. Her new book unfolds mysteries through four narrators, all of whom are linked by an imposing wooden desk with lots of drawers and even more secrets. At different times, the desk is in the home of an American novelist, a Chilean poet who disappears, a professor in England and a brother and sister in Jerusalem.
“Richard McBee: Hearing Sarah.” In 16 extremely large, colorful paintings, Richard McBee re-imagines biblical stories about Sarah, Abraham’s wife, from her point of view. (JCC in Manhattan; Aug. 25-Oct. 28)
Mika Rottenberg’s ‘Squeeze’ at Mary Boone Gallery.
The Argentine-born, Israeli-raised artist Mika Rottenberg, 33, has been toiling away in New York for more than a decade. She earned her BFA at the School of Visual Arts in 2000, and an MFA from Columbia four years later; ever since, she’s emerged as one of the city’s most promising young artists. That is what New York magazine wrote about her in 2007, including her in its Top Ten list of “Young Masters,” and by 2008, it seemed all but confirmed.
Erich Weiss emigrated from Budapest to Wisconsin when he was 4 years old. The son of a rabbi, and with seven siblings, his career could have ended up like any of the tens of thousands of Jewish immigrants arriving in America at in the late 19th century. But of course it didn’t, and Weiss would transform himself into one of the greatest showman of all time.
Where are the next great composers of Jewish liturgical music coming from? Who will be the 21st century’s Lewandowski, Carlebach, Friedman, someone whose music will leave an indelible mark on the spiritual growth of Jews in America and across the globe? Needless to say, there is no single answer to those questions, but if anyone is looking harder for the next voice of the Jewish spirit than Cantor Ramon Tasat, we’d like to meet him or her.
Bernstein (in the fall) and Zorn (in the spring) at NY City Opera.
Special to the Jewish Week
When George Steel became the New York City Opera’s general manager and artistic director a year and a half ago, it was as if someone had given a particularly ardent fantasy baseball buff the keys to Yankee Stadium.
“I have a list of some 20 or 30 operas I’m dying to do,” he says, easing back in his office chair in the company’s offices below Lincoln Center. “I’m constantly daydreaming and imagining seasons, which artists to attach to each project. We’ve sketched out the seasons through 2017-‘18.”