14. See Falstaff
Hey there, big guy.
James Levine, refreshed by his medically enforced sabbatical, conducts Robert Carsen’s new production of Verdi’s comedic opera. Ambrogio Maestri—large of voice, body, and personality—sings the brutally funny title role. —Justin Davidson
The Metropolitan Opera, opening December 6.
15. Hear Iron & Wine, Calexico, and Nick Lowe
Weird triple threat, in a good way.
Iron & Wine, a.k.a. Sam Beam, is an archetypal long-bearded indie troubadour who lately has expanded his sonic palette from folk to chamber pop and beyond. Calexico are specialists in the sulfurous, high-desert spaghetti-Western ballads. The wry British pub-rocker Nick Lowe has evolved into a gray eminence who writes ballads worthy of Bing Crosby’s croon. So, altogether, the crowd will tilt heavily toward the bespectacled types who spent hours in used-record stores back when those places existed. —J.R.
Beacon Theater, December 10.
16. See Hit List
The fake musical from Smash is fake no more.
Theater geeks, this one is for you: An actual performance of the fictional musical at the center of NBC’s late, semi-lamented Smash. Sold out, but maybe you can cadge a ticket on Craigslist or from a jazz-hands-brandishing friend.
54 Below, December 8 and 9.
17. Read The Particle at the End of the Universe
Small big thing.
The Royal Society of London was founded, incredibly, in 1660—before Sir Isaac Newton came of age, and centuries before anyone imagined a mysterious particle called a Higgs boson. Among its other duties, the society awards a £25,000 prize to the best popular-science book of the year; this year’s winner, Sean Carroll’s The Particle at the End of the Universe, might be your best shot at grasping how scientists knew to look for the Higgs, how they found it, and what that find means—both for physics and about the nature of the universe.—Kathryn Schulz
18. See Daniel Kitson: Analog.Ue
It’s a monolog.ue.
A witty, thinky, luxuriantly bearded performer who is, kind of, Yorkshire’s answer to Spalding Gray.
St. Ann’s Warehouse, through December 21.
19. Watch Grey Gardens
“I’m pulverized by this latest thing.”
Criterion provides a great excuse to revisit the Maysles brothers’ defining 1975 documentary.
Criterion Collection Blu-ray, December 10.
20. Read The CG Story
Lucas and Pixar and much more.
A giant, gorgeously produced coffee-table history of computer-generated imagery that’s also pretty smartly written. Excellent for the grown-up Pixar freak and/or computer geek in your life.
It's Hard to Describe, Really
21. Gape at The Star Wars Holiday Special
Happy holi—wait, what is this thing?
George Lucas would have preferred that this 1978 quickie cash-in TV special had gone the way of Alderaan. Built around Chewbacca and his family’s celebration of “Life Day,” it’s a bizarre hybrid of kiddie special and slapped-together variety show, largely subtitled in Wookiee, with horrendous musical numbers performed by the likes of Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, and Bea Arthur. “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it,” Lucas once said, and until the YouTube age, he was largely able to keep it hidden. Pity for him; joy for us. —M.Z.S.
On YouTube, Dailymotion, etc.
22. Read Poetry of the First World War
An anthology from an era when a war could be Great.
Not since the Siege of Troy has a conflict been so closely defined by the poetry that it inspired”: thus observes Tim Kendall in his introduction to this excellent new anthology, with works by Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Mary Borden, and many more. —K.S.
Oxford University Press.
23. See Lenny Cooke
Do you remember Lenny Cooke? I didn’t, but in 2001 he was high-school basketball’s next superstar—ahead of LeBron and Carmelo. What happened next you can watch (and wince at) in Josh and Benny Safdie’s excellent documentary. Then wonder who the next poor soul mangled by the American Hype Machine will be … —D.E.
Opens December 6.
24. Hear Hrím and Other Works
Iceland is a hot spring of new music these days, and Miller is devoting its latest Composer Portrait concert to one of the country’s most volcanic composers, Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Beneath a minimalist surface, the music boils and spits. —J.D.
Miller Theatre, December 5.
25. Read Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Behind the throne.
Jung Chang’s book dives into a genuinely fascinating figure: a fierce imperial consort who ruled behind the thrones of two successive Chinese emperors and helped ease China into the twentieth century. It’s not a quick, light read—so many names! So many chess moves!—but it’s a fantastic Machiavellian tale by the author of the definitive Mao biography.