Deborah Weisgall

Deborah Weisgall has written about music, visual arts, and architecture for many publications, including The New York Times, The AtlanticThe New Yorker, Esquire, and The Wall Street Journal. She has also written a memoir, A Joyful Noise (Grove/Atlantic), about her father and grandfather and their music, and two novels, including The World Before Her (Houghton Mifflin). Follow her on twitter @deborahweisgall

Recent Articles

Music and Memory

The dangerous state of Zionism invites us to cherish the diaspora as Jewish cultural and religious homeland.

(Photo/Aaron Levin)
This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel By Ari Shavit Spiegel & Grau. 445 pp. $28 At Home In Exile: Why Diaspora Is Good For the Jews By Alan Wolfe Beacon Press. 296 pp. $28 Our choir rehearsals start about a month before the High Holidays, toward the end of summer. The lake is getting colder, the swamp maples have started to turn red, and the lines of cars clogging the roads in midcoast Maine have thinned. We rehearse in the synagogue in Rockland, a working-class town not yet completely transformed into a destination for vacationers. The synagogue is a small clapboard building on a side street a couple of blocks from the ferry terminal. Thirty years ago, when I first went to services here with my father, an east wind blew the smell of the fish-processing plant into its open windows. The congregation was small; a few of the children and grandchildren of eastern European immigrants who found...

Loving the Opera in HD

Once controversial, Metropolitan Opera broadcasts for movie-theater audiences have become a gateway for new (and returning) fans.

Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera
On a Saturday afternoon last December, I picked up my ticket for the Metropolitan Opera’s Falstaff and hurried down the backstage corridors to a trailer behind Lincoln Center. The crew of Live in HD , the Met’s popular series of broadcasts to movie theaters, was crowded into the truck before an array of monitors. On the main monitor, the soprano Renée Fleming, in a bronzy, shimmering dress, stood in the wings rehearsing her intro. “On this snowy day in New York,” Fleming began and recited information: Falstaff , which premiered in 1893, was the Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi’s last, sublime work, a comedy based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor . This was the Met’s first new production of the opera in five decades, and James Levine, the Met’s music director, was back in the orchestra pit after an absence of more than two years. When Fleming finished, you could hear broadcast director Gary Halvorson asking for a lighting...

New Treasure in Maine

The Colby College Museum of Art reopens, ready to share its $100 million gift and quietly bold vision.  

Trent Bell Photography / The Lewitt Estate / Artists Rights Society
Trent Bell Photography / The Lewitt Estate / Artists Rights Society The southeast façade of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion offers a view of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #559. Colby College perches on Mayflower Hill at the western edge of Waterville, a tired post-industrial city in central Maine. Brick classrooms and dorms, mostly nostalgic, neo-Georgian architecture, are ranged around curving roads. Relatively new, the campus still feels like a work in progress. Colby is the northern-most school in the New England Small College Athletic Conference, a kind of scaled-down Ivy League. In contrast to Waterville, it is booming. It is increasingly selective but remains resolutely unpretentious, its mascot a white mule. In January the college can feel as isolated as the Arctic. It is an unlikely place to find an important museum, and few people know that Colby has one. One cold afternoon in May, glad I’d brought a down vest, I walked past ground crews raking seed into a...

The Mother of All Girls' Books

The secret subversiveness of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” This is how Louisa May Alcott begins Little Women . She wrote it in 1868, when she was 35, after months of urging by Thomas Niles, a Boston publisher who wanted a story for girls. She had not had much luck with a serious novel, she needed money, and it was part of a deal that her father, Bronson Alcott, had proposed. If Louisa said yes, Niles would agree to publish Bronson’s philosophical treatise, Tablets . A dutiful daughter, she couldn’t say no. I know the novel by heart. I read it for the first time when I was nine years old; my father bought me a British edition of the first part—the original Little Women . ( Good Wives , the second part, appeared just over six months later. In America, the two parts were immediately combined, but in England, they are still published separately.) We were living on a hill above Florence, Italy, but Concord, Massachusetts, where...