Showing posts from April, 2018

Actors Theatre of Indiana's gothic fun: 'The Mystery of Edwin Drood' is completed in a tuneful, playful, specter-banishing way

I admired the indecisiveness, or perhaps the passive resistance, of the few audience members who dropped the entire ballot into the basket near the end of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood" at the Center for the Performing Arts' Studio Theatre. Fundamentally, of course, audience involvement ought never to be passive. This show goes further, inviting patrons to vote on their choice of the eponymous hero's killer to answer the perennial question of its genre: Whodunit? Edwin Drood (Cynthia Collins) is the center of attention from a spectrum of acquaintances. But to drop the whole ballot in the basket, oh well: maybe that's an inspired choice, because the frame setting of Rupert Holmes' boisterous musical comedy is an English music-hall troupe desperate to engage with its audience at every juncture. So whodunit in this context is a question whose answer is blowing in the madcap wind. In the Actors Theatre of Indiana production, which opened over the weekend,

The Administration states its basic immigration policy: We hear you knocking, but you can't come in

ISO program explores the exotic, both buoyant and bizarre

Spanish conductor Gustavo Gimeno made a good impression with the ISO. Years ago I read a short story about jazz musicians. The features of the story (I believe it was in the old Esquire, which once was of literary interest) are long forgotten, but I remember how hip the main character claimed himself to be by preferring Bartok's "Miraculous Mandarin" to the most often cited classical piece authentically drawing upon jazz: Milhaud's "La Creation du Monde." I don't know if in fact jazz musicians who are musically aware outside their genre have a thing for "The Miraculous Mandarin." But I can see why they might, after enjoying the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra 's performance of the suite Sunday evening at Hilbert Circle Theatre. Compared to Milhaud's masterpiece, "The Miraculous Mandarin" carries no reflection of jazz. But in the shortened suite version of the Hungarian composer's "pantomime of gestures,"

'Nothing On' to lose: IRT's 'Noises Off' sends up chaos of inept theater

Fantasy fulfillment: Actor sticks it to the director of "Nothing On" Michael Frayn's "Noises Off" suggests that theater has something in common with the law and sausage: If you love it, you don't want to see how it's made. But that's exactly what the play has you look at, unsparingly and to hilarious effect. The process by which a provincial British troupe cobbles together an antic comedy is itself subject to farcical distortion under Frayn's cracked lens, as Indiana Repertory Theatre demonstrated Friday night. The season-ending production incorporates the company's capabilities at a little-visited end of its theatrical spectrum: fast-paced intricate physical comedy, with every bit of action and dialogue pitched at a feverish level. As in many farces, "Noises Off" at bottom upholds the hoary dignity of "the well-made play." Each of its three acts advances the story, such as it is, and forms a unit that shifts pe

Running in exalted circles: J.S. Bach and Philip Glass concertos by Simone Dinnerstein

Philip Glass has expressed his affinity for J.S. Bach in no uncertain terms to Terry Gross on "Fresh Air," and the use of repetitive structures indeed connects both composers over a two-and-a-half-century span. Simone Dinnerstein plays the concerto for Philip Glass. "Circles" subjects both men to the artistic vision of Simone Dinnerstein, already celebrated for her performances of Bach since her 2007 recording of the Goldberg Variations shot to the top of the classical charts. Some critical cavils at her style as being too soft, too neatly rounded, even somewhat salon-ish don't register with me. She is among many pianists to go in a different direction with Bach than Glenn Gould's signature digging in (representative in the Goldbergs of 1955 and 1981). The new release ( Orange Mountain Music ) brings her together with the Boston chamber orchestra A Far Cry , and their rapport is evident not only in Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV

Reading Roth under a cloud: How a printing error at a crucial place almost ruined a captivating novel for me

Philip Roth, circa 1977 A character in my copy of "The Professor of Desire" makes a startling admission to the narrator-protagonist, David Kepesh, early in Philip Roth 's 1977 novel. The vain, glamorous Helen, with whom Kepesh will soon contract a disastrous marriage, is telling her story of having left a rich lover who sought her approval to murder his wife. Helen says, in part: "It terrified me to know he could even have such a thought. Or maybe it was so excruciatingly tempting that that's why I went running." Except in my copy, on page 42, that's not exactly how what Helen says looks in print. The adverb appears this way: "excrutiatingly." We've all encountered typos in books. But this one? No, it was not to be believed. But there it was, in a book published by high-toned Farrar, Straus and freaking Giroux!. A pivotal bit of dialogue had suddenly been knocked askew with "excrutiatingly." That is not an alternati

Dr. Ronny Jackson's lesson learned: Like a bridge sinking into water, Trump will let you down

Ensemble Music brings a distinguished season to an end with Pacifica Quartet, plus an estimable singer

The new Pacifica: Austin Hartman, Guy Ben-Ziony, Simin Ganatra, Brandon Vamos. Making its first appearance under Ensemble Music Society auspices since 2011, the Pacifica Quartet returned to the venerable series Wednesday with half its personnel different from that with which it established itself. Austin Hartman, formerly of the University of Indianapolis and its fledgling string quartet, is now the Pacifica's second violinist, and Guy Ben-Ziony has replaced Masumi Per Rostad as violist. Founders Simin Ganatra and Brandon Vamos continue to anchor the ensemble as first violinist and cellist, respectively. At the Indiana History Center, the new group presented two works the former personnel recorded for the Chicago-based Cedille label: Shostakovich's Quartet No. 3 in F major and Schumann's Quartet in A minor. Mitzi Westra, close to ideal as "Il Tramonto" interpreter A special treat came with the program's centerpiece, "Il Tramonto" by Otto

Burgeoning organ quartet makes an impact at the Jazz Kitchen

Steve Snyder at his other instrument, the piano, in a shot from a DePauw promotional video. In only its second major local outing, Prime Vintage gave notice it could be a force to be reckoned with in the area's small-group jazz scene, especially since it fills a void in the organ-and-guitar-centered genre. The shade of Mel Rhyne must be pleased. Steve Snyder, director of jazz ensembles at DePauw University, is a lifelong pianist who added the Hammond B3 organ to his arsenal as a performer about 10 years ago. Teaching at a university in eastern Kentucky, he serendipitously found a way to address the problem of there being too few bassists in the area. "I came across an organ that hadn't been played in years," he said between Jazz Kitchen sets Tuesday evening, "in a practice room that no one ever used." (The B3 encourages the player to supply his own bass line.) The organ provided what had been missing as Snyder gigged around off-campus. Since 2014

On Capitol Hill: Drawing upon Fats Domino (a long reach!), Republicans in Congress might well sing this tax-reform ditty together as they look toward November

'Tain't Nobody's Business If He Does': An old song serves my turn to marvel at No. 45's indifference to norms, consistency, and the rule of law

ICO reaps continued rewards from connection with James Aikman as composer in residence

The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, under the direction of Matthew Kraemer, continues to make a James Aikman, composer of a Viola Concerto for Csaba Erdelyi more richly outlined self-portrait in its programming. In part, this has been accomplished through the association of several years' standing with Indianapolis native James Aikman as composer in residence. What this has most recently yielded is a Viola Concerto, whose premiere performance was given Saturday night by the orchestra and its  principal violist Csaba Erdelyi, for whom it was written. The principle of contrast or differentiation between one or more instrumentalists and an ensemble is basic to the concerto. That principle makes it older than the symphony, which anchors the repertoire up to today for the type of musical organization known as the symphony orchestra. And the principle is roomy enough to go in the direction of competition or toward partnership. Seen the latter way, it's more evident that eac

In UIndy concert of "firsts," Indianapolis Quartet continues to assert its superiority in local chamber music

IQ: Zachary De Pue, Joana Genova, Austin Huntington, and Michael Strauss The soft-spoken title of the Indianapolis Quartet's concert Monday night — "Firsts" — refers to the first (and in one case the only) example of three composers' contributions to the string-quartet genre. Also, the group is at the end of its first season with the current personnel: Zachary De Pue and Joana Genova, violins; Michael Isaac Strauss, viola; Austin Huntington, cello. The musicians gave plenty of evidence they have coalesced as an artistic unit in a program of works by Beethoven, Shostakovich, and Debussy. To take up the hardest piece first: Claude Debussy's sole contribution to the string-quartet repertoire is a masterpiece that has his unique signature all over it; it occupied the second half of the performance in the DeHaan Fine Arts Center at the University of Indianapolis , the quartet's home. Cohesive though the Debussy quartet is, it takes up and satisfies novel no

Chris Potter brings his tenor sax, chock full of stamina and ideas, to the Jazz Kitchen

Chris Potter has been among the top tenor saxophonists for two decades. In the second set of a one-night stand at the Jazz Kitchen , Chris Potter and his quartet got matters off to a roaring start with "Bemsha Steps," a clever mash-up of Thelonious Monk's "Bemsha Swing" and John Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Though the repertoire of Potter originals is huge, that overture indicated how original Potter can be when he wrestles with the tradition and updates it with capable 2018 flair. With him on the bandstand were compatible sidemen Adam Rogers, guitar; Fima Ephron, bass, and Dan Weiss, drums. The quartet effectively unloaded a half-dozen tunes upon a receptive full house. When the composer in Potter rares back and delivers, the performer in him (and in his sidemen) rises to the occasion. His shrugging title to "Pop Tune No. 1" might suggest something quite sketchy, but that proved not to be the case. With triplets underlying the mel

Les Miz ripoff for a good cause: To those who serve at Trump's pleasure, bring your phone wherever you go!

Ignore your Twitter feed at your peril; it may be the best way to know (although not before the world) that you've been fired.

Loss lightened: Billy Collins reads his poems at Butler

I had Billy Collins autograph one of the two volumes of his poetry I own after his reading Wednesday night at Butler University . Among the striking things in "The Art of Drowning" (1995) is the epigraph. It seems rice-paper-thin in the usually weighty category of epigraphs, those brief borrowings often placed at the head of stories, articles, poems, and (as here) even whole books to lend an overarching meaning to what follows. Billy Collins: Poetic master of reflective amusement that lightens loss From the Japanese poet Shimaki Akahiko, the one for "The Art of Drowning" runs: "Where did that dog / that used to be here go? / I thought about him / once again tonight / before I went to bed." After the Butler reading, the quotation seems apt as a clue to Collins' place as a popular poet — a thinly populated category of writer. The sidelong look at the environment, the taking notice of something missing, the casual tone — all are characteristics th

Horacio Franco, a mainstay of contemporary Baroque performance practice in Mexico, energized a hometown crowd in Mexico City

For a couple of Festival Music Society  seasons, Indianapolis fans of early music got to hear a group Looking uncharacteristically grim, Horacio Franco is in fact full of graciousness and smiles on the concert stage. from Mexico City whose young recorder player, Horacio Franco, wowed the city's three music critics of the time as well as the audience. For the Indianapolis Star, I mentioned Franco's "well-supported, impassioned performance." Last weekend, Franco was treated to an ecstatic reception by a full house at the Mexican capital's Palacio de Bellas Artes for his 40th-anniversary concert. The four decades mark his professional career, which started in his early teens. In July 1990, he was a young man in a group called Trio Renacimiento Hotteterre (named for  a prominent 18th-century flutist-composer), which was on the schedule of a couple of Indianapolis Early Music Festivals. The program I heard April 14 with my son, William, his good friend Areli M

It Could Happen to You, General Kelly: A warning, adapted from the Great American Songbook, to the White House chief of staff

The Policeman's Song Updated: A G&S ditty applied to New York's new law curbing some cops' lust

Urbanski leads the ISO in a run-up to its Washington, D.C., appearance next week

The marketing focus has been on the familiar work on this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra concerts. But the exciting move forward was preparation for a concert in Washington, D.C., Alisa Weilerstein, soloist with ISO here and in Washington. next weekend, and the program's inclusion of two compositions from the music director's homeland. Krzysztof Urbanski anchored Friday's Classical Series concert in Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, and he used the concert's first half to show off the orchestra in Wojciech Kilar's "Orawa" and Witold Lutoslawski's Cello Concerto, the latter featuring American concert artist Alisa Weilerstein as soloist. The bracing Lutoslawski piece will be featured in the SHIFT Festival appearance of the ISO on April 13. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts concert will be supplemented by Krzysztof Penderecki's "Credo," with vocal soloists and two local choruses: the Indianapolis S

The other shoe drops: Dance Kaleidoscope devotes a program to "divos"

Honed by an Indy Fringe Festival  show just as its predecessor "Divas" had been, "Divos" shows off further refinements in Dance Kaleidoscope dancers as choreographers. In addition, the program, which opened Thursday evening on the OneAmerica Stage at Indiana Repertory Theatre , is crowned by two world premieres — one by artistic director David Hochoy, the other by the troupe's frequent guest choreographer, Nicholas Owens. Brandon Comer: The spirit of Elton John The second half of the show's concentration on two seasoned choreographers by no means overshadows the enchanting variety of the seven short pieces before intermission. And each echoed the variety of responses to particular male pop idols evident in what DK members first fashioned upon their colleagues last summer. The sunny fantasies of Elton John brought out the full brio of Hochoy's muse: She's a lady with the instincts of a good-time gal. With Brandon Comer as central figure in &qu

Billy Cobham and his fiery quintet cap a two-night stand at the Jazz Kitchen

His patented whirlwind style, with precise accents and crisp patterns on the monstrous kit he favors, Billy Cobham displayed the intensity and exactitude he's famous for. yields little to age, it seems. Billy Cobham, a force in jazz-rock fusion of the 1970s, will turn 74 next month. The last of four sets at the Jazz Kitchen Saturday night showed him to be in fighting trim, buoyed by an ensemble of relative youngsters, of whom guitarist Fareed Haque is probably the best-known here. Ranging across a spectrum (pun unavoidable) of his repertoire from the past four decades, the master drummer was as focused on the encore "Red Baron" as he had been on "Matador" and "On the Move" an hour-and-a-half earlier. That hard-grooving encore provided the most extensive display of each sideman's solo chops. The astuteness of each of them was evident throughout the set, but bassist Tim Landers came through with a particular well-rounded, rhythmically int