The Enduring Power Of Jesus

The actual observance of Christianity is plummeting in modern-day Britain, but in the arts, the religion’s narratives and iconography remain powerful sources of both inspiration and controversy – from the very successful music of classical composers James MacMillan and John Tavener to artist Chris Ofili’s notorious Holy Virgin Mary (the one with the elephant dung) and sculptor Terence Koh’s depiction of Jesus with an erection to Jerry Springer: The Opera and David Hare’s play Gethsemane to the BBC1 television series Apparitions, about a contemporary priest chasing Satan away from souls. How does the subject of Christianity continue to engage artists and audiences, even as belief wanes?

Could Milk Have Helped Defeat Prop 8?

Gus van Sant’s new biopic on Harvey Milk, the gay activist and politician assassinated in San Francisco’s City Hall in 1978, opened just three weeks after voters passed a constitutional amendment undoing California’s legalization of same-sex marriage. “How does Proposition 8 change the meaning – the symbolic significance as well as the real-world function – of Milk? And if the film had found an audience early enough, could it have made a difference?”

Mortier, Having Jilted New York, Elopes To Madrid

A mere three weeks after he pulled out of his agreement to run New York City Opera beginning next season, retiring Paris Opera director Gérard Mortier has signed on to become artistic director of the Teatro Real in Madrid, beginning in January 2010. Mortier will not hire a successor to departing music director Jesús López-Cobos, opting instead to “work with a permanent team of orchestra directors which will replace the opera house’s musical director position.”

Spike Milligan Memorabilia Earns £92K At Auction

Handwritten poems and cartoons, a matchbox with a snarky homemade label, Christmas cards and signed gifts from various Beatles (who were friends), and other miscellaneous stuff belonging to the comedian and founder of BBC radio’s legendary Goon Show went for surprisingly high prices at Bonham’s in London this week. (Oddly, a restored 1883 Broadwood grand piano, estimated at £2,000 to £3,000 and occasionally played by no less than Paul McCartney, went to a friend of the family for £400. Where were the period-instrument folks?)

Pianist Rae Imamura, 63, New Music Specialist

“Rae Imamura, a pianist and music educator with an abiding passion for new and experimental music, died of cancer Saturday at her home in Berkeley. She was 63. For decades, Ms. Imamura was a devoted advocate for the works of living composers, including John Cage, Robert Ashley, Lou Harrison, Terry Riley, John Adams and Paul Dresher. Her collaborators also included jazz luminaries such as Ornette Coleman and the Art Ensemble of Chicago.”