Isaac Mizrahi: 'Peter and the Wolf', a Lesson for the Ages
Isaac Mizrahi in Peter and the Wolf at Works & Process at the Guggenheim
Photo by Richard Termine
For the past three years, fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi has joined George Manahan and the Julliard Ensemble, and a visual artist, to perform Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim. In this exclusive post for the Carnegie Hall Blog in advance of the December 2010 performances—part of JapanNYC—he reflects on his participation and the lessons to be learned by not taking yourself too seriously.
I've been reading Peter and The Wolf for about three years now at the Guggenheim and it's one of my favorite yearly events. It satisfies the huge ham in me and it gives me something to do ... otherwise, I have too much time on my hands and that's not a good thing. I get morose and obsessive about the holidays and I end up eating too much.
Somehow knowing one has to appear before a live audience keeps things in check. Albeit an audience of mostly children who wouldn't notice a few extra holiday pounds. All the same it's good. Also, it's such a dream working with George Manahan, Jennifer Tipton, and the Julliard musicians. It's also great to be exposed to the kooky artists who do the installations which I always adore.
Speaking of time on my hands, Peter and The Wolf was something that Prokofiev wrote in a very short time. It was a kind of lark written to entertain kids. It wasn't something he killed himself over like some of his other (incredibly beautiful) symphonies or ballet scores. Yet it's something he will be remembered for probably more than anything else he ever wrote. Isn't that a lesson for the ages ... a cautionary tale? The minute you find yourself taking your work too seriously it's time to dash something off. I always like the things I work least on. I think the truest way to practice art is to procrastinate. The more you procrastinate the more you subliminally meditate about something and edit in your head. Even lounging on the couch watching the Real Housewives of New York is a form of meditation ... at least for a fashion designer. Performing Peter and The Wolf does leave me less time for the housewives and less time to procrastinate in earnest but it also cuts down the time I have to obsess about clothes and torture my design staff ... so it's a win win situation.
Thank the gods that the Guggenheim thought of me to do this. When I was a kid I watched the tv show that Leonard Bernstein did in which he conducted and played the narrator and I remember it being very long.
When I got the libretto I realized how much Bernstein embroidered on it. He talked and talked and added whole characters I think. There might have been a wicked witch and a toad and a mad-capped heiress in that televised version. The only live reading of this I ever saw was about ten years ago at a chamber reading of it in Bridgehampton. The narrator was Elaine Stritch and it was perfect. I think she was born to play the grandfather ... where I think my great role is the bird. I relate to that little fellow more than anyone can know.
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