Saturday, July 21, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Anton Kuerti (1938)
Isaac Stern (1920-2001)
Cat Stevens (1948)
Margaret Ahrens (1950)

and

Hart Crane (1899-1932)
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
Tess Gallagher (1943)
Garry Trudeau (1948)

Friday, July 20, 2018

Portland Opera's "La Cerentola" a magical treat

Alasdair Kent as Don Ramiro and Kate Farrar in the title role | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Among the many notable productions that Christopher Mattaliano has directed at Portland Opera, the company’s new production of “La Cenerentola” has to be counted as one of his best. The performance on opening night (Friday, July 13) at the Newmark Theatre sparkled with humor and heartfelt, poignant moments. An outstanding cast, consisting of up-and-coming young talent and seasoned veterans, blended seamlessly to make the well-known story of Cinderella a fresh and enchanting experience.

The production featured inventive and expertly paced acting that kept the audience wondering what would happen next. The comic scenes had everyone in stitches, like the rivalry between Cinderella’s bad sisters, which started with ballet-posed-one-upmanship and accelerated to hilarious extremes with both of them rolling across the floor in a mock cat fight. Yet there were plenty of moments when genuine seriousness came through equally strong, such as after Cinderella and the prince lock eyes for the first time in the “Un soave no so che” duet.

Kate Farrar in the title role combined a supple and powerful delivery with superb acting to sweep even the most reticent listener into her character’s aura. Her singing of Nacqui all’ affanno embodied grace and kindness that wrapped up the opera in wonderful bow.

Australian tenor Alasdair Kent excelled as Don Ramiero (the prince), and while his voice at first seemed a tad thin, he just kept getting better and better throughout the evening. He sang all of the high notes with a golden tone, including the stratospheric ones in the Si, retrovarla io guiro aria.


Ryan Thorn as Dandini | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera.
Ryan Thorn was an absolute stitch as the prince’s valet, Dandini, especially when he melodramatically fell to the floor after realizing that he couldn’t win Cinderella.

Eduardo Chama raked in the laughs as the pompous and bumblingly malevolent Don Magnifico, threatening to steal the show at any moment. 

Helen Huang’s Clorinda and Laura Beckel Thoreson’s Tisbe were absolutely mesmerizing with incredibly well-timed gestures and expressions that perfectly matched up with the corresponding musical phrase.
Laura Beckel Thoreson as Tisbe, Eduardo Chama as Don Magnifico, Helen Huang as Clorinda | Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
Daniel Mobbs created Alidoro, the stately philosopher-tutor-magician, with a warm, sympathetic voice.
| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera
The chorus of leaping footmen made each of their entries a wonderful diversion. But whenever they moved away from the front of the stage, they were hard to hear, owing to the very dry acoustic of the Newmark.

Despite the small size of the Newmark’s orchestra pit, Carolyn Kuan got a lot of sound from the chamber orchestra and paced her forces with verve. Still, some more strings would have improved the overall sound, which got rather thin at times, not matter how much she gestured.

The sets, designed by Daniel Meeker and built by Oregon Ballet Theatre for Portland Opera, were straightforward and evoked everything in the story without being gimmicky. Sue Bonde’s fanciful costume designs were terrific, especially the gaudy outfits that Clorinda and Tisbe wore.

If there were some way to improve the sound of the Newmark Theatre, the production would have been even more satisfying. The Newmark has a very dry acoustic that does not favor music. Someday it would be terrific if Portland had an excellent space for opera, then a production like “La Cerentola” would be truly magical.
| Photo by Cory Weaver/Portland Opera

Today's Birthdays

Gaston Carraud (1864-1920)
Déodat de Séverac (1872-1921)
Gunnar de Frumerie (1908-1987)
Vilém Tauský (1910-2004)
Michael Gielen (1927)
Nam June Paik (1932-2006)
Hukwe Zawose (1938-2003)
Carlos Santana (1947)
Bob Priest (1951)

and

Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374)
Pavel Kohout (1928)
Cormac McCarthy (1933)

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Boyd Neel (1905-1981)
Louis Kentner (1905-1987)
Klaus Egge (1906-1979)
Peggy Stuart-Coolidge (1913-1981)
Robert Mann (1920-2018)
Gerd Albrecht (1935-2014)
Nicholas Danby (1935-1937)
Dominic Muldowney (1952)
David Robertson (1958)
Carlo Rizzi (1960)
Mark Wigglesworth (1964)
Evelyn Glennie (1965)
Russell Braun (1965)

and

Edgar Degas (1834-1917)
Vladimir Mayakovsky (1893-1930)

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747)
Pauline Viardot (1821-1910)
Julius Fučík (1872-1916)
Kurt Masur (1927-2015)
Screamin' Jay Hawkins (1929-2000)
R. Murray Schafer (1933)
Ricky Skaggs (1954)
Tobias Picker (1954)

and

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979)
Harry Levin (1912-1994)
Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933)
Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005)
Elizabeth Gilbert (1969)

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Sir Donald F. Tovey (1875-1940)
Eleanor Steber (1914-1990)
Vince Guaraldi (1928-1976)
Peter Schickele (1935)
Michael Roll (1946)
Dauwn Upshaw (1960)

and

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970)
Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946)
Erle Stanley Gardner (1899-1970)

Monday, July 16, 2018

CMNW's July 15 matinee was a peripatetic delight

Benjamin Lulich
The program presented on Sunday July 15 at the Lincoln Performance Hall as part of the Chamber Music Northwest summer festival was a rich repast featuring works from the most spare, stripped-down solo work to sumptuous sound walls from an eclectic barrage of instruments.

Clarinettist Benjamin Lulich played Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet to open the program. The rich, woody timbre he employed in the opening, and the weight of importance placed on each individual note lent the air of a self-conscious, mildly sad threnody with a long, slow, riveting decrescendo al niente at the end. The finale felt like a slightly wonky klezmer tune, marvelously short, sweet and delicious, like a musical petit fours. Flutist Ransom Wilson followed this with Debussy's iconic Syrinx for solo flute, playing with a sinuous, serpentine clarity of line and skillful manipulation, varying timbre even across individual notes.

Jean Cartan's (1906-1932)  Sonatine for Flute and Clarinet was next, as Wilson and Lulich joined forces for a Pastorale that opened as curious ricercar followed by a murmuring accompagnato for flute, and there were fascinating times when the duo managed to sound like two flutes, or even two clarinets. The Berceuse was characterized by a warm, buttery 4-note ostinato from the clarinet, and they reveled in the dissonant cadences of the Rondeau.

Jacques Ibert's Suite from Le jardiniere de Samos saw the woodwind players joined by Mikio Sasaki on trumpet, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, Mihai Marica on cello, and percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum.Highlights from the Ibert included Frautschi's dancing, 2-note saltando chords in the Air de danse, the 3-voiced fugue with delightfully bouncy entrances, and the incredible efficacy of the ensemble playing in bringing out the highlights from amongst a welter of interweaving lines.

Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat comprised the second half of the afternoon, and for it the Ibert ensemble (minus cello and flute) were joined by Charles Reneau on trombone, Peter Lloyd on bass, and  bassoonist Julie Feves, who also provided a delightful narrative of the tale before the music started.

Jennifer Frautschi
In the opening movement Lloyd's staccato was so biting that at times it sounded like a pizzicato. Frautschi's double-stopped air in the second movement was truly engaging, and the lines were tossed so seamlessly between bassoon and trombone it was sometimes difficult to tell where one instrument ended and the other began. The Pastorale was played as a sad and evocative duet between bassoon and clarinet. The wild and wonderful staccato trumpet theme from the Royal March was another highlight, and during the Three Dances Frautschi played a languorous tango, redolent with mystery, and a slow and staggering ragtime. The Grand Choral was appropriately reverent, and the group rendered it like the odd modern cousin of a chorale at the outset of a Bach cantata.

Such incredible variety over a short concert (perhaps an hour's worth of music) is one reason why CMNW is such an important part of the region's cultural landscape, and further is an example of the ingenuity of the programming.

Today's Birthdays

Antoine François Marmontel (1816-1898)
Eugène Ysaÿe (1858-1931)
Fritz Mahler (1901-1973)
Goffredo Petrassi (1904-2003)
Bella Davidovich (1928)
Bryden Thomson (1928-1991)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941)
Pinchas Zukerman (1948)
Richard Margison (1954)
Joanna MacGregor (1959)
James MacMillan (1959)
Helmut Oehring (1961)

and

Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792)
Roald Amundsen (1872-1928)
Ginger Rogers (1911-1995)
Tony Kushner (1956)

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Today's Birthdays

Ronald Binge (1910-1979)
Jack Beeson (1921-2010)
Julian Bream (1933)
Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)
Geoffrey Burgon (1941-2010)
Linda Ronstadt (1946)
John Casken (1949)
Gérard Lesne (1956)

and

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669)
Thomas Bulfinch (1796-1867)
Walter Benjamin (1892-1940)
Iris Murdoch (1919-1999)
Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Arianna Huffington (1950)