Showing posts with label SLC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SLC. Show all posts

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

I have been anticipating last night's Utah Symphony concert for weeks!  It featured one of my favorite guest conductors, Mark Wigglesworth (with a name like that how can you not love him?), one of my favorite soloists, Jon Kimura Parker, and one of my favorite pieces by one of my favorite composers, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff!  It was worth the wait because it was a never-to-be-forgotten night at Abravanel Hall (stop reading right now and go here for a ticket to tonight's performance of the same program).  The orchestra began with the Overture to Rossini's The Barber of Seville, an opera I really enjoy.  As wonderful as this performance was, honestly, I could hardly contain myself waiting for Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.  I love this piece so much because it is deeply emotional and lush but I especially love the 18th variation (it is featured in the movie Somewhere in Time) because it is so unbearably romantic and I was literally swooning.  Parker gave an incredibly passionate performance and I loved watching his fingers fly up and down the keyboard.  The audience was also thrilled with his performance and gave him a thundering ovation after which he played "Blues Etude" by Oscar Peterson as an encore!  After the intermission the orchestra played Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 1.  I really loved the stately theme (Elgar also composed Pomp and Circumstance) played in variations throughout the piece.  The stirring conclusion (I loved the harps) was a wonderful way to end an amazing concert.

Note:  So far I have spent every weekend in November at Abravanel Hall.  Next weekend I will be taking a break for another one of my passions: hockey!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sean Requested a Jazz Game!

My nephew got a smartphone at the beginning of the school year because he is going to a charter school instead of his home school and it is a bit further away from home.  Sometimes he randomly calls me during the day and I have to admit that I really love it when he does.  One day he called me to ask me to help him organize his school work and I made arrangements to meet him one day and go through his backpack.  We talked about various other things and, as we were finishing our conversation, he casually mentioned that we hadn't been to a Jazz game for a long time.  It was at that moment when I understood the purpose of his phone call.  I told him we would have to look at the schedule to see when the next Saturday home game was and he said it was against the Brooklyn Nets!  You have to admire his preparation!  We went last night and had so much fun!  I usually buy him a shirt (I only take him to one or two games a year and, besides, spoiling is the first article in the aunt by-laws) and he picked the cool shirt he is wearing in the picture.  It conveniently did not have a price tag on it and when it was scanned at the register we found out that it was $55.  What?  It is actually an NBA limited edition shirt for Veteran's Day and the Jazz players were wearing them during warm-ups so I guess it is worth it (said in a sarcastic voice). The Vivint Arena has undergone a really cool renovation so there are lots of great restaurants inside now.  We ate at Hire's which was fantastic but expensive!  Then we always have to get ice cream at half-time.  Ka-ching!  He is an expensive date but I love him so much (either that or I have the word “sucker” on my forehead!).  The Jazz played really well, leading the Nets for most of the game.  Donovan Mitchell had a great game, leading the team with 26 points, and Rodney Hood electrified the crowd with five three-pointers!  The Jazz ended up winning 114-106!  Sean thought he was the good luck charm!  I had so much fun with him and he is already planning our annual winter break Jazz game!

Note:  Ladies and gentlemen I am pleased to announce that my new Jazz crush is Ricky Rubio!  He has great hair!

Friday, November 3, 2017

A Comedy of Tenors at PTC

Several years ago I saw Lend Me A Tenor at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and I thought it was so much fun!  When I found out that the sequel, A Comedy of Tenors, would be a part of PTC's 2017-2018 season I got really excited.  This show is a hilarious romp through an elegant Parisian hotel suite as an impresario (Andy Prosky) tries to get three temperamental tenors (Hansel Tan, Gregory North, and Storm Lineberger) to stop fighting long enough to take the stage for the concert of the century.  Add a bellhop looking for his big break, misunderstandings galore, mistaken identities with comedic results, characters in various stages of undress hiding from each other, and plenty of face slapping and door slamming and you have a delightful evening of theatre.  What makes this show so much fun is the manic physical comedy and all of the actors have superb comedic timing.  At one point, there was so much running around I couldn't keep track of what was happening and there are some astoundingly quick costume changes.  I loved it and I laughed out loud multiple times as did everyone around me.  Oh and by the way, all three of our tenors can really sing!  They performed an impressive rendition of "Libiamo ne' lieti calici" from Verdi's La Traviata.  It is a bit risque in some parts but that just adds to the fun.  I would highly recommend this delightful production (tickets may be purchased here) which runs at Pioneer Theatre until Nov. 4.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Thriller 2017

I love rituals and traditions.  In a world that seems to be full of chaos it is really nice to have something that you can count on and look forward to!  I have recently purchased tickets to quite a few seasonal performances and I have already started looking forward to them.  One such performance occurred last night after putting in a long and difficult week at school finishing up the first quarter (students only care about their grade during the last week of the quarter).  It was exactly what I needed!  In my opinion, it simply wouldn't be Halloween if I didn't get to see Odyssey Dance Theatre's production of Thriller.  The fact that I have seen this show so many times adds to, rather than detracts from, my enjoyment because I anticipate each number as I watch!  I love when the undead begin cavorting in a graveyard during "Thriller," when the break-dancing mummy comes to life in "Curse of the Mummy," when the uncooperative pandas begin acting up in "Miss Alli's Nighmare," when Frankenstein breaks his Bride's neck in "Frankenstein & Frankenstein," when the tap-dancing skeletons start tossing their heads around in "Dem Bones," when a trio of Jasons get crazy with their chainsaws in "Jason Jam," when the scarecrows come to life in "Children of the Corn," when condemned witches come back for revenge in "Salem's Mass," when a group of chucky dolls come to life in "Chucky-Rama," and when acrobatic vampires spin and leap in "Lost Boys."  Even though the numbers are the same from year to year, there always seems to be some new choreography or special effects to keep them interesting.  This year, in addition to the hilarious films of Scott Winn (the twerking stormtroopers are my favorite) in between numbers, there were some amazing aerial numbers choreographed by Aeris Aerial Arts.  I absolutely loved "Bats in a Box" which featured between four and six aerialists performing on a spinning steel box.  It was fabulous and I may or may not have said "Wow" out loud multiple times!  I also really liked "Phantom of the Opera" which featured two aerialists performing on a rope (it reminded me of Cirque de Soleil).  It is such a fun and exuberant show and I highly recommend getting at ticket (there are four more performances at Kingsbury Hall) which may be purchased here.

Note:  I have been attending this concert for twenty years!  I remember the first concert distinctly because I had just started teaching at Westminster College in 1997 and I ran into two of my students.  Last night I only saw one of my HHS students!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bob Dylan at the Eccles Theater

I first saw Bob Dylan in concert many years ago at Deer Valley and I was really disappointed.  I literally couldn't recognize what song he was singing because he performed most of them with very different arrangements and different phrasing.  I suppose he has earned the right to do as he pleases but it is something you have to understand in order to enjoy his show.  When I found out that he was coming to SLC again, I decided that I could listen to "Mr. Tambourine Man" any time I wanted on my iPod and this concert would be an opportunity to see an unbelievably talented musician, a rock and roll icon really, jam with a group of equally talented musicians in a live show so I bought a ticket.  This time around the fact that nearly every song was virtually unrecognizable mattered not because it was Bob Dylan on the stage!   He can jam.  With a mane of unruly hair and a permanent scowl on his face, he spent as much time behind a baby grand piano as he did standing with a microphone in one rock-star pose after another.  He played for over two hours and his set featured an eclectic mixture of hits and covers of the old standards.  Of the former, my favorites were "Things Have Changed," which is how he opened the show, and "Blowin' in the Wind," which he played as part of the encore.  Of the latter, I particularly enjoyed "Melancholy Mood" and an incredibly atmospheric rendition of "Autumn Leaves" (which rivaled the version performed by Leslie Odom, Jr.).  Dylan performed with a five member band, each of whom played multiple instruments, and they sounded amazing.  He did not acknowledge the audience in any way but, again, it simply didn't matter because he is pretty much the coolest dude around.  If there is anyone cooler than Bob Dylan, I have yet to see him!  This same concert will be performed again at the Eccles Theater tonight (tickets may be purchased here) and I recommend it if you want to see an incredible live show.  Stay home and listen to your iPod if you want to hear the songs the way you remember them from your youth!

Friday, October 13, 2017

An American in Paris

I have wanted to see the Tony Award-winning musical An American in Paris for a long time so I was thrilled when Broadway at the Eccles announced it as the first show of the 2017-2018 season.  I was able to see it last night and I thought it was wonderful.  The story follows the movie of the same name (a personal favorite) pretty closely.  A U.S. soldier named Jerry Mulligan (McGee Maddox) decides to remain in Paris after World War II and meets an aspiring ballerina named Lise (Sara Esty).  He pursues her and they begin to fall in love.  However, Lise has become engaged to Henri (Nick Spangler) out of a duty she feels to him and his family for protecting her during the war and Jerry is pursued by a wealthy heiress (Emily Ferranti) who wants to promote his art.  Will they choose love or duty?  Both Maddox and Esty are incredible dancers and the choreography is absolutely stunning, especially in "I've Got Beginner's Luck" and "I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise."  The final 18-minute ballet to the tune of "An American in Paris" is simply spectacular and it was amazing to me that the leads have the skill and stamina to perform such demanding choreography at the end of a Broadway show!  It was a lot of fun to hear the well-known songs, written by George and Ira Gershwin, such as "I Got Rhythm," "'S Wonderful," "But Not For Me," and "They Can't Take That Away From Me."  I loved all of the costumes but the sets are so creative!  The minimalist sketches that Jerry draws throughout the show are often projected on screens to transport audience members to the middle of Paris.  This is an old-fashioned and incredibly romantic musical that reminded me of the big Hollywood extravaganzas of the 1950s.  Who could ask for anything more!  I highly recommend seeing it if you get a chance and this particular production runs at the Eccles Theatre until Sunday (tickets may be purchased here).

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Utah Opera's La Boheme

In honor of its 40th Anniversary, Utah Opera began the 2017-2018 season with the same opera chosen for the inaugural season, Puccini's La Boheme.  It is one of my favorite operas so it was a treat to be able to see it for the second time this year!  It was a marvelous production of a magnificent opera and I loved every minute of it.  The libretto is about a group of artists living in a garret apartment in Paris in the nineteenth century.  Marcellus (Michael Adams), a painter, is in love with Musetta (Utah native Celena Shafer) but their relationship ends because Musetta is a flirt and Marcellus is jealous.  Rudolpho (Scott Quinn), a poet, is in love with Mimi (Jennifer Black) but their relationship ends because Mimi is dying of consumption and Rudolpho feels guilty that he can't take care of her.  Marcellus and Musetta have a volatile relationship that is really fun to watch, especially in the amusing aria "Quando m'en vo" or "Musetta's Waltz" which is staged very well in this production.  But Rudolpho and Mimi are ill-fated lovers who are heartbreaking to watch and their beautiful duet at the end of Act I, "O soave fanciulla," brought spontaneous tears to my eyes!  Quinn and Black have beautiful voices and great chemistry with each other.  I always enjoy Shafer, a perennial favorite with Utah audiences, and she gives a great performance.  Adams, who has been diagnosed with bronchitis, began Act I but couldn't continue so John Nelson sang from the side of the stage as Adams continued to act the role.  At first it seemed strange but, after a while, I didn't notice any more and Nelson has a great voice.  I also enjoyed Ao Li and Samuel Schultz as the other bohemians.  The costumes and the set are fantastic (San Francisco Opera had larger and more elaborate sets in their production but Utah Opera's set worked well for the size of the stage at Capitol Theatre).  I loved this production and I highly recommend getting a ticket!  It runs at Capitol Theatre through Oct. 15 and tickets may be purchased here.

Note:  I was sitting on an aisle and a very distinguished older gentleman stopped near me saying that he was dizzy.  I smiled at him and suggested that the cause of his dizziness was the loud pattern in the carpet whereupon he answered, "No.  I'm just old."  I laughed so he stayed and flirted with me outrageously until the curtain rose!  During the intermission he came back to talk to me which was fun because he was charm personified!  Opera lovers are great!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time at PTC

I wasn't sure if I would be able to see PTC's production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because of my crazy schedule right now.  But I have heard nothing but rave reviews from everyone I know who has seen it!  I decided I better try to squeeze it in and I am so glad that I did last night!  It is absolutely wonderful and I loved it.  In fact, you should stop reading right now and go here for tickets to one of the few remaining performances (it runs through Saturday, Sept. 30).  Christopher Boone (Harrison Bryan) is a fifteen-year-old math prodigy with an amazing memory who is also autistic.  He has difficulty in social situations, doesn't like loud noises or having his routine disrupted, and cannot abide having anyone touch him.  When he is wrongly accused of killing his neighbor's dog, he decides to solve the murder himself (and write a book about it).  As he uncovers clues to the mystery, he discovers secrets about his own family which leads to a journey, literally and figuratively, of self-discovery where he learns that he can do anything.  It is also a very powerful story about two parents, Ed (Tom O'Keefe) and Judy (Stephanie Howell), trying to find an emotional connection with their special needs son and some of their interactions with Christopher are heartbreaking.  The story is told as Christopher reads his book aloud with some excerpts read by his teacher Siobhan (Melissa Miller).  The staging of this play is brilliant!  The set looks like a series of building blocks placed together with items such as tables, beds, chests of drawers, and even a rat cage (I loved when Christopher introduced his pet rat to people by saying that it doesn't have the bubonic plague), pulled out from a block when needed.  There are six actors who play all of the rest of the supporting characters who enter and exit the stage with clever choreography and blocking.  I was especially impressed with the choreography and sound design during scenes in train stations and on the underground because they mimic the sensory overload that Christopher is experiencing.  The entire cast is excellent but Bryan gives a deeply affecting performance.  The role is emotionally and physically demanding and he nails it!  Christopher's behavior is often very frustrating and Bryan is somehow able to make him into a likable character that you cheer for in the end.  I cannot praise this production enough and I only wish I had time to see it again!  Do not miss it!

Note:  If you go, stay in your seat through the bows.  Trust me on this!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Howard Jones at Red Butte Garden

Last night I went to the Red Butte Garden Amphitheatre to see Howard Jones in concert and I had so much fun!  I absolutely love Howard Jones!  I've seen him at least five times in concert and I've enjoyed every single one because he always puts on such a great show!  The opening band was Men Without Hats and they began with their biggest hit, "The Safety Dance."  That got the crowd up and dancing because you can dance if you want to!  They played their other big hit, "Pop Goes the World," and then a cover of Abba's "SOS" followed by a song from their new album Love in the Age of War called "Head Above Water."  They ended their set with an extended version of "The Safety Dance" which got another big cheer from the audience.  They sounded exactly like they did in their heyday and I enjoyed their set.  The next act was the English Beat and they brought back lots of memories of my high school days with "Tears of a Clown," "Too Nice to Talk To," "Tenderness," and "I Confess."  I was thrilled when they played one of my favorite songs, "Save It For Later," and they joked about it being included on the soundtrack for Spider-Man: Homecoming (I may or may not have squealed when the song played while Peter got ready for the dance because I hadn't heard it for a long time).  They ended their set with "Mirror in the Bathroom" to the delight of the crowd.  Finally, Howard Jones took the stage and my inner fifteen year old was absolutely thrilled!  He began with "Conditioning," "Equality," and "The Human Touch."  Every time I go to a concert there is always one obscure song that I hope the band will play and I hoped Howard Jones would play "The Prisoner."  I was so excited when he played it early in his set!  Then he played all of his biggest hits: "Like to Get to Know You Well," "You Know I Love You...Don't You?," "Hide and Seek" (the crowd sang the chorus just like they did at Live Aid in 1985), an acoustic version of "No One Is to Blame," "What Is Love?," "Everlasting Love," "Life In One Day," and "New Song." For the encore he sang "Things Can Only Get Better" accompanied by the crowd in an exuberant and extended chorus!  So much fun!  It was the perfect summer concert because, while it was extremely hot while standing in line, the temperature dropped quite a bit in time for the music and Red Butte Garden is such a great venue.

Note:  I went to this concert with my friend Cyndi.  We became friends on Facebook because we have a lot of friends in common but we haven't ever done anything together until last night.  We had such a great time and I hope we can get together again soon.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Day at the Clark Planetarium

Since Sean and I had to leave the zoo earlier than planned, we decided to visit Clark Planetarium which is probably Sean's favorite place.  We have been here many times before but there have been some renovations with some new exhibits added.  Sean was in heaven!  The really great thing about the planetarium is that all of the exhibits are free of charge.  There are Earth exhibits about water, wind, volcanoes, and earthquakes; moon exhibits including actual moon rocks, the phases of the moon, and lunar landings; and space exhibits about planets, black holes, and gravity.  Sean really likes playing with the tornado simulator, the gravity floor, and the lunar landing video game.  He could spend hours and hours here.  You can also buy tickets ($7.00) to see 3D movies about the Earth and space in the IMAX theater and star shows in the Dome theater.  While Sean and I were there we saw a show in the IMAX theater called "Amazon Adventure" which was absolutely fascinating.  Clark Planetarium is not just fun for kids.  I like visiting in the evening to see laser shows set to music.  You can go here to find out more information about all of the activities and shows at the planetarium.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Day at Utah's Hogle Zoo

Sean asked me if I could spend some time with him this week so I decided to take him to the zoo on Monday.  Unfortunately, it was really windy and rainy so we didn't stay as long as we wanted to but we had a lot of fun.  I hadn't been there for a long time so I hadn't seen the new African savanna enclosures for the giraffes, zebras, and lions.  There was a new baby zebra which had been born in April and it was so cute (she doesn't have a name yet).  My favorite is the elephant enclosure which houses Christie and her baby Zuri.  Zuri has grown a lot since my last visit to the zoo!  We also went to the Great Ape house and, luckily, some of them were playing outside which was fun to see.  We finally made it to the Asian highlands enclosure to see the tigers Kazek and Cila.  There were lots of animals that we weren't able to see but the rain got to be too much for us to handle and we left after grabbing some lunch at the Oasis Cafe.  There are lots of things to do at the zoo such as the carousel and the train and I have to admit that I am a little bit sad that Sean doesn't like to ride the carousel any more!  Hogle Zoo is a wonderful place to visit (when it is not raining) for children and adults.  Go here for more information about hours and admission.

Note:  Currently the zoo has a fun exhibit called Bugzillas with larger than life animatronic bugs throughout the zoo.  Sean really liked the tarantula.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A Day at the Natural History Museum of Utah

On Friday I was on aunt detail and I told Sean that we could do anything that he wanted.  He chose to visit the Natural History Museum of Utah on the campus of the University of Utah.  Sean absolutely loves this place and we ended up spending most of the day there.  The museum showcases the history, physical geography, plant life, and earliest peoples of Utah.  There are lots of fun interactive displays for kids and Sean and I enjoyed the Great Salt Lake exhibit and the earthquake exhibit.  Sean's structure withstood the earthquake much longer than mine did!  I absolutely loved the dinosaur displays.  I had never been to this museum before and I quite enjoyed it.  I think it is a great place for both adults and kids because the displays are very informative as well as vibrant and interactive.  I think Sean could have stayed for hours and hours.  Go here for more information about hours and admission prices.

Note:  Currently there is a special exhibit about the Vikings which Sean and I both really enjoyed.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella

Thursday night I went to the Eccles Theater to see the Broadway touring production of Rodger's & Hammerstein's Cinderella.  After watching this musical I can definitively say that I prefer the Disney version of this story.  I really didn't like the commentary on class structure and the fact that Cinderella is now a social reformer who must rescue the prince from everyone in his court deceiving him about the conditions in his kingdom.  I also didn't like the portrayal of the stepsisters who are merely silly instead of mean and end up as Cinderella's sympathetic conspirators.  I'm sure that this is an attempt to make the story more up-to-date for modern audiences but I yearned for the traditional fairy tale because it is so much more magical and romantic.  Having said that, I did love the gorgeous costumes and I was especially impressed by the quick changes from rags to elaborate ball gowns in the blink of an eye all while Cinderella is singing.  I also really loved the choreography, particularly during the "Cinderella Waltz" which is amazing.  Both Tatyana Lubov, as Cinderella, and Hayden Stanes, as Prince Topher, have wonderful voices and my favorite songs were "In My Own Little Corner," "Ten Minutes Ago," "A Lovely Night," and "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?"  Joanna Johnson, a Utah native, is hilarious as Charlotte, one of the stepsisters, and I really enjoyed her in the song "Stepsister's Lament."  There were a lot of little girls in the audience, wearing tiaras that you can buy in the lobby, but if you are planning to take your little girls you should know that this production is very different from the one that they are probably familiar with.  However, the performances, costumes, and choreography make this a fun night out.  It runs at the Eccles Theater through June 4 (go here for tickets).

Note:  The theater was evacuated in the middle of the ball scene because of a fire, which turned out to be a false alarm.  I was impressed that the cast was able to pick right up with the same energy as before the alarm.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Rite of Spring

Last night's Utah Symphony concert was the final one of the 2016-2017 season.  In my opinion it has been an outstanding season as it has featured so many incredible performances of some of my favorite pieces.  Last night was no exception.  The orchestra began with a piece by Tchaikovsky called Souvenir d'un lieu cher (Memory of a dear place).  It consists of three little vignettes which were originally intended for a violin concerto but they were abandoned and later orchestrated by Alexander Glazunov.  I thought all three of them were beautiful with a lovely performance by soloist Simone Porter on violin.  Next the orchestra played Ameriques by Edgard Varese and it was quite spectacular.  This piece was written when Varese moved to New York City after World War I.  He wanted to capture the cacophony of industrialization and one of the main themes involved a siren!  I was very impressed by the sheer number of musicians on the stage (there were 15 musicians on percussion instruments alone!).  After the intermission the orchestra concluded the concert with The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky and it was amazing.  This piece, as the same implies, is about a pagan ritual celebrating the advent of spring and I think it is wild and exuberant.  I really loved all of the themes played by the brass and the timpani and I could definitely see young girls dancing with abandon as I listened.  I really enjoyed this concert (especially since I am now officially on summer vacation) and I recommend getting a ticket to tonight's concert featuring the same program (go here).

Note:  The Utah Symphony will be performing concerts at various outdoor venues during the summer.  I am particularly looking forward to La La Land performed in concert at the Usana Amphitheater and to Leslie Odom, Jr. (from the original cast of Hamilton) with the Utah Symphony at the Deer Valley Amphitheater.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Utah Opera's Don Giovanni

Mozart's Don Giovanni is my very favorite opera.  I've seen it several times and I had the opportunity to see Utah Opera's production last night.  Don Giovanni (Joshua Hopkins) is a rake who spends most of his time trying to add to his considerable list of conquests with the help of his loyal servant, Leporello (Matthew Burns).  The opera opens with the attempted rape of Donna Anna (Melinda Whittington) by Giovanni.  Her father, the Commentadore (Richard Wiegold), challenges him and, in a struggle, Giovanni kills him.  Anna begs her fiancĂ©, Don Ottavio (Aaron Blake) to avenge her honor and her father's death.  Next, Giovanni and Leporello observe Donna Elvira (Caitlin Lynch) lamenting the fact that her lover has abandoned her and, realizing that she is talking about him, Giovanni mocks her mercilessly.  She vows revenge.  Finally, Giovanni openly attempts to seduce Zerlina (Sarah Coit) during her wedding, enraging the groom Masetto (Markel Reed) who also vows revenge.  As all of these characters attempt to exact justice, Giovanni is somehow able to elude them, most notably by having Leporello impersonate him while he attempts to seduce Elvira's maid.  Giovanni can't hide forever as the ghost of the Commentadore returns from the dead to accuse him and send him to hell.  The music of this opera is absolutely beautiful (Oh, how I love Mozart) and the Utah Symphony performs it brilliantly, from the dramatic opening notes of the Overture to the shattering conclusion.  All of the actors sing their roles with so much passion and I was especially impressed with Wiegold, who is quite terrifying in the final scene.  Director Kristine McIntyre, in an attempt to make this opera more accessible to audiences, modernized the setting and gave the production a film noir treatment.  The color palette is entirely black and white with very low lighting.  The action takes place on the streets of a big city and the men are portrayed as gangsters in dark suits, trench coats, and fedoras and the women are either victims or femme fatales in elegant dresses with full skirts.  Without a doubt, this is an amazing production which I highly recommend (there is only one performance left!) but, to be honest, I missed the grandeur of the original setting and I found the alternate ending to be a bit anticlimactic.  I sometimes think that directors underestimate their audience.  We don't necessarily need to have the material  dumbed down made more accessible to understand and enjoy the libretto.  But, what do I know?  My favorite staging of this opera is the Twyla Tharp version in the movie Amadeus.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Will Rogers Follies at PTC

Because I have a rush pass to Pioneer Theatre, I can see the current production any time I want.  I planned to see The Will Rogers Follies on four different occasions but something always came up to change my plans (mostly spontaneous invitations to do other things).  I finally made it to the show last night and it was just delightful.  This extravagant musical tells the life story of Will Rogers (David M. Lutken), America's favorite humorist, as if it were a big song and dance production by Florenz Ziegfeld.  Rogers performs rope tricks, has a little bit of fun with politics (it is rather eerie how much the political situation today resembles that of Herbert Hoover), and sings and dances with a bevy of high-kicking showgirls.  Of course there are a few occasional comments from Mr. Ziegfeld himself (the voice of Donny Osmond) with suggestions to make the show more interesting for the audience, such as moving his wedding to Betty Blake (Lisa Brescia) to the end of Act 1 even though they had four children by this point in the story!  Lutken does an amazing job delivering bits of homespun wisdom (and he's not too shabby with a rope, either).  All of the big song and dance numbers are quite spectacular led by Ziegfeld's Favorite, Chryssie Whitehead, and an incredibly talented ensemble of dancers.  I was especially impressed with "Our Favorite Son."  The wranglers, who are very easy on the eyes, also really impressed me in "Give a Man Enough Rope."  The four children, Kimball Stinger, Ava Hoekstra, Nathan Eliason, and Mila Belle Howells, are absolutely adorable and just about steal every scene they are in.  Finally, the costumes are incredible!  It is worth the price of admission just for the costumes alone; however, there are lots of reasons why you should go see this show and the most important one is that it is just so much fun!  It runs at PTC until Saturday (go here for tickets).

Note:  Kudos to PTC for such a great season!  I have enjoyed every production immensely (I think my favorite would have to be King Charles III) and I am looking forward to next season as well (especially Bright Star).

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Rhapsody in Blue

It was standing room only at Abravanel Hall last night.  The Utah Symphony and guest conductor Kazuki Yamada performed a wildly entertaining concert featuring two quintessentially American composers as well as a quintessentially Russian one and I really enjoyed it.  The orchestra began with El Salon Mexico by Aaron Copland (which was particularly appropriate for Cinco de Mayo).  This piece is based on Mexican folk music and is meant to represent an imaginary dance hall full of dancing couples.  I thought it was lively, exuberant, and full of whimsy and it was a lot of fun to listen to it.  Next came the popular classical jazz piece Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin with pianist Benyamin Nuss.  A thrill went through the audience as we heard the instantly recognizable glissando from a solo clarinet (I have always thought that Tad Calcara, Utah Symphony's Principal Clarinet, would be right at home in a jazz band from the 1920s) and that feeling continued as the theme was repeated in various forms as the piece progressed.  Nuss was absolutely amazing and I honestly can't tell you what was more interesting to watch:  his fingers flying up and down the keyboard or Yamada hopping about on the podium!  After the intermission the orchestra played Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  I didn't recognize this piece by name but as soon as I heard the big booming notes from the brass I remembered hearing it before.  I loved it!  I especially loved the beautiful theme repeated by a lone violin (Concertmaster Madeline Adkins played brilliantly) and a harp which is meant to represent Scheherazade beguiling her husband with tales of the Orient.  The various movements correspond, loosely, to The Thousand and One Nights and the music is incredibly dramatic.  When the piece ended, the man sitting next to me exclaimed, "That was beautiful!"  I certainly agree!  If you can get a ticket (there were very few empty seats last night) to tonight's performance of the same program, I highly suggest you do so (go here).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Barber's Violin Concerto

I feel like I am making progress in my appreciation of classical music.  Last night's Utah Symphony concert not only featured a piece that I actually recognized but it also featured a conductor that I really like!  Yeah, I know conductors by name!  Jun Markl is a frequent guest with the Utah Symphony and I have always really enjoyed his interpretations.  I think he is elegance personified on the podium!  When I learned that Markl would be performing with the the Utah Symphony and that the concert would feature Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings, I had to get a ticket and I am so glad I did!  The orchestra began with the aforementioned Adagio for Strings and I loved it!  It is mournful and melancholy (Why do I like such sad pieces?) but I think it is exquisitely beautiful!  I love how the theme is developed by the violins and then is picked up by the violas and then the cellos and then, finally, by the basses.  As I listened I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me and I was filled with such a sense of yearning.  I enjoyed this moving piece very much!  Next, the orchestra played Barber's Concerto for Violin with soloist Karen Gomyo.  I was not familiar with this piece but I loved it.  I thought it was incredibly romantic and Gomyo gave a very passionate performance, especially in the final movement.  The second movement featured a theme played by a solo oboe which gave me goosebumps!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Piano Quartet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms arranged by Arnold Schoenberg for the full orchestra.  I especially liked the final movement which was inspired by a gypsy dancing and included a fun theme played by the solo clarinet and a theme played by the xylophone.  The same program will be performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I highly recommend it for a chance to see Jun Markl in action!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Pictures at an Exhibition

Last night's Utah Symphony concert featured one of my very favorite pieces, Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky.  It seems like the Utah Symphony programmed the 2016-2017 season with me in mind as they have featured so many of my favorites (Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, Mozart's Requiem, and now Pictures at an Exhibition).  The concert began with Military March No. 1 from Pomp and Circumstance by Edward Elgar which is instantly familiar to anyone who has ever been through a commencement ceremony.  I enjoyed hearing it and I am looking forward to hearing it again in seven weeks (but who's counting?) when my seniors are unleashed on the world!  The concert continued with Elgar's Violin Concerto with soloist Fumiaki Miura.  I loved this piece so much, especially the second movement which is almost unbearably beautiful and incredibly emotional.  Miura played brilliantly and received a rousing standing ovation!  After the intermission, the orchestra played Mussorgsky's masterpiece which, as the name implies, was written to commemorate the exhibition of ten paintings by Victor Hartmann after his death.  There are ten pieces which correspond to each of the paintings and these are connected by a Promenade (in several iterations played by different sections of the orchestra) which represents walking through the gallery from picture to picture.  I had goosebumps when I heard the opening fanfare in the first Promenade played by the brass!  It is amazing to me how you can almost visualize each painting as the orchestra plays.  I love each piece but I think my favorite is for the painting Byldo which experts believe is a group of oxen pulling a cart (many of Hartmann's paintings haven't survived).  I loved the theme played by the tenor tuba and the timpani because it is so atmospheric.  I always try to hear this piece whenever it is performed and I certainly enjoyed it last night.  You can hear it when this program is performed again tonight (go here for tickets) and I definitely recommend that you do so!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

MJ

Every year in October I have a tradition of seeing Thriller, a Halloween dance concert performed by Odyssey Dance Theatre.  I always enjoy it so much so this year I decided to attend one of their three spring repertory concerts.  I chose MJ which features the music of Michael Jackson and it was simply amazing.  Members of the company performed to "Thriller," "She's Out of My Life," "Workin' Day and Night," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Off the Wall," "Hollywood," "Don't Stop "Til You Get Enough," "P.Y.T.," "Man in the Mirror," "Dangerous," "The Girl is Mine," "Never Can Say Goodbye," "Ain't No Sunshine," "Dirty Diana," "Rockin' Robin," "Billie Jean," and "Jam."  They were all really good but my favorites were "Earth Song," which was a very lyrical dance performed by the whole company wearing flowing earth-tone costumes, "They Don't Care About Us," which featured the female cast tap dancing in black leather costumes (this reminded me of the choreography in the film This Is It), and "Blood on the Dance Floor," which was a very stylized dance performed by the whole company wearing black and red costumes.  I also really loved the finale which was a mash-up of "Smooth Criminal" and "Beat It."  This piece was basically a dance-off between 1920's gangsters and molls and a street gang and it was a lot of fun.  The dancers of ODT are incredibly talented and this concert made me remember how much I enjoyed Michael Jackson as a performer.  I loved the show and I highly recommend it.  ODT's spring repertory program also includes Let It Be, featuring the music of the Beatles, and Purple Rain, featuring the music of Prince.  All three concerts will be performed through April 8 at Kingsbury Hall and tickets may be purchased here.
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