Gertrude Stein Questionnaire: Tim Smith

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Tim Smith was born in Washington, D.C., and has an M.A. in music history from Occidental College in Los Angeles. He joined The Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and became theater critic as well in 2009. Along the way, he also started pontificating occasionally on visual art. His news and views can be found on the Sun Blog Artsmash.

Prior to arriving in Baltimore, Smith served as classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida. In those days, he was a regular contributor to NPR’s “Performance Today” and had a weekly program, “Classical Notes,” on WXEL-FM, the NPR affiliate for the Palm Beaches. He has written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and is a longtime contributor to Opera News. Remaining copies of his book, “The NPR Curious Listener’s Guide to Classical Music” (Perigee, 2002), could probably fetch thousands on Ebay.

Name: Tim Smith
Age: Legal
Occupation: Critic
Baltimore Neighborhood: Homeland

Obsessive Collections: Autographs (my prized possessions include Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss, Puccini, Donizetti, Oscar Wilde and Lillie Langtry); books on Oscar Wilde; and, most obsessively, solo piano reductions of symphonies, operas, etc.

Currently Reading: I like alternating between two books at a time. Right now: “The Secret Life of Oscar Wilde” by Neil McKenna and “Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand” by William J. Mann. (OMG, can a gay guy get more stereotypical?)

Coolest Place You’ve Ever Lived: Even though very different from the city I knew growing up, I still find Washington a very cool place and always get a lift from seeing the monuments, the Mall, the museums, the White House, the views from the roof of the Kennedy Center or from GW Parkway – except when I’m stuck in traffic, when I think the whole place is a hopeless mess of a burg.

Hobbies or Leisure Activities: Playing the piano, especially all those arrangements of symphonies and what-not I keep digging up, including works by Mahler, Elgar and Wagner. Also love tormenting pieces by Bach, Schubert and Grieg. But I am most at home putting my own spin on pop standards by Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, etc., and anything Streisand sang in her great early days.

Favorite Food to Eat at Home: Almost any kind of risotto, which is one of the great things cooked by my partner (even after getting married last year, we find it strange to use the term “husband”). His lemon risotto is a particular favorite.

Favorite Food to Eat Out: The lasagna at Grano Emporio in Hampden. It has always tasted thoroughly authentic to me, unlike the glop that passes for Italian at so many places.

Beverage of Choice: A Gimlet, up, usually with Tanqueray. For a splurge, I make it with Edinburgh Gin, which I find awfully tasty.

Political Leanings: Journalists are not supposed to have pronounced political leanings, so I will only say that if Pope Francis were running for elected office around here, I’d probably vote for him.

Favorite Baltimore spot to hang out: I don’t do much hanging out anywhere other than home, but I never get tired of taking circumferential walks around the calming grounds of Fort McHenry. Passing Orpheus’ statue, which must be the campiest possible tribute to Francis Scott Key, is always a highlight.

Pets: Felix, our impossibly cute, personable, 18-year-old cat, the last surviving pet. We came to Baltimore with two other cats and a dog, all gone to their reward.

Favorite Artist, Living or Dead: Leonard Bernstein, whose wonderfully individualistic music-making never fails to give me a jolt.

Movie that Sums Up the Current State of Your Life: “Beserk!” (1967 flick starring the ageless Joan Crawford, who is revered in our house)

Favorite Bad Habit: Speaking with an accent for no logical reason; usually Southern, British or, even more annoyingly, Irish.

Mantra or Favorite Quote: “We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

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