Showing posts from November, 2018

Fonseca Theatre Company: 'Hooded' shows so much of what's hidden from Americans

Is it a violation of the conventional prohibition against spoilers in a play review if the revealed scene is the first one? I'm choosing to think the ban doesn't apply in the case of  "Hooded, or Being Black for Dummies," which has one more weekend to run in a Fonseca Theatre Company production at Indy Convergence . A stern cop confronts Marquis. So I'm dismissing spoiler etiquette here. The scene is too wonderful a way of placing the play's contradictions about race in capsule form. It's when Warren Jackson as an officious police officer strides onstage to order the audience to turn cellphones back on, put the ringers at their loudest, and feel free to text or take calls during the show. There's also some strong advice to laugh only when a certain ceiling light comes on in the course of the performance. Immediately, a projection on the room's east wall gives the audience opposite instructions. This white liberal complied with the initial

'A Christmas Carol' at IRT: Scrooge can hardly wait to be released from life-forged chains

The first time I saw the Indiana Repertory Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol" with Ryan Artzberger as Ebenezer Scrooge, the old skinflint's awakening to new life struck me as revelatory. Self-made: Scrooge in his counting-house, unknowingly chained. Back then, there was Scrooge's stunned pause as he processes the new person he has been granted the opportunity to become following the Three Spirits' visits. As much as I still cherish that image — with the giggles coming on gradually, with the casting off of long-practiced misanthropy taking on the aura of transfiguration — I welcome the quickened pace of the new production's final moments. Under Benjamin Hanna's direction, there's something like the flicking of a switch between sobs and giggles as Scrooge seizes upon the rare good fortune of making good on what he has just learned. As seen opening night Saturday, Artzberger's Scrooge throws himself immediately into the joy of childhood

Who's superstitious? Maybe not the new Phoenix, as it debuts its 13th annual "Very Phoenix Xmas" production

Curiosity is the mother of superstition, probably. If you believe you can protect yourself against Momentarily sedate, eight female actors make up the "Merry Superstitious" cast. exercising too much curiosity, you may adopt practices or sayings with the supposed supernatural power to ward off bad luck or bring on good fortune. Phoenix Theatre grabs that bull by the horns in titling its 13th annual variety show "A Very Phoenix Xmas 13: Merry Superstitious." Many theatergoers besides me will attend the company's first version of its 13-year-old Yuletide production in its new venue with a surfeit of curiosity. How will "A Very Phoenix Xmas" look and feel and sound there without the guidance of Bryan Fonseca? (His founding artistic hand was removed from the tiller last spring; he's now steering a new theatrical ship out of a west-side harbor. ) The short answer is that the new production connects with tradition in its sometimes sharp-edged mi

Rachel Barton Pine turns her lavish, expert attention to black American composers

As she informs the listener in her program notes to "Blues Dialogues," Rachel Barton Pine is a Chicagoan whose interest in the city's musical roots go way back, including a fervent affinity for the blues that she's long cultivated in addition to her classical training and achieved artistry. Another perspective: Rachel Barton Pine displays her classical/blues chops. In "Blues Dialogues: Music by Black Composers" ( Cedille Records ), she provides an extensive overview of works, some of which she has helped bring to light, for both violin alone and with piano accompaniment. It's not easy to give a thorough survey of the rewards to be had on this generously proportioned CD. Starting with Indianapolis' own David N. Baker, Pine looks back to the godfather of African-American classical music, William Grant Still, and up to Daniel Bernard Roumain, a composer in his 40s whose "Filter"  brings to the acoustic violin some of the borderline no

The Romaine Blues: A visionary salute in bad taste to a toxic food crisis

When he visited California over the weekend to see the fire damage, the President proved himself to be a stranger in Paradise

ICO patrons get a chance to hear a stellar principal player in a major concerto

Anton Stadler was a bit of a mess as a person, but as the premier clarinetist of his day he made posterity lucky in the music his excellence as a musician drew from his friend Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791). Eli Eban is also acting principal of the Israel Camerata/Jerusalem. Among the the results is perhaps the greatest wind-instrument concerto, the one in A major for clarinet, K. 622. Eli Eban, distinguished professor of clarinet at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, played the work at the peak of magnificence Saturday with the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra , of which he is principal clarinet. In the Schrott Center for the Arts, music director Matthew Kraemer conducted a program that also included Mendelssohn's "Trumpet" Overture in C major, op.101, and Luciano Berio's "Rendering," a restoration, with linking original material, of sketches for Franz Schubert's Tenth Symphony. The concerto is one of the marvelous products of Mozart'

I've Got a Feeling Jeff Flake will change his mind again before he retires

Indiana University production of "Hansel and Gretel" appeals to all ages in Clowes Hall performance

The challenge to innocence is a big driver of folktales, so think of the potential resonance now when exaggerated fears of childhood dangers have influenced parenting as never before. That means "Hansel and Gretel," an old German story given to world literature by the Brothers Grimm, loses some of its quaintness whenever a production of the Engelbert Humperdinck opera takes the stage nowadays. It's doing so this weekend — the second of two performances is this afternoon —in a show trucked in from Bloomington, where the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater mounted an updated production of "Hansel and Gretel" and debuted it at home just before Election Day. Brother and sister apprehensively face a night in the dark woods. Double-cast from the Jacobs School's wealth of sturdy young voices and conducted by Arthur Fagen, Friday's performance in Clowes Hall displayed the sureness of Opera Theater's customarily high production

Danish String Quartet returns amid lots of buzz from last year's Ensemble Music appearance

To deal with the novelty first: Hans Abrahamsen's String Quartet No. 1 ("Ten Preludes") gave the evening's best indication that even when the Danish String Quartet is presented with a miscellany of demands for the four players, they remain unfailingly a unit. The Danish Quartet, solidly unified in performance, indulges its individualism here. The group appeared again Wednesday in the Ensemble Music Society series at the Indiana History Center, 13 months after they made a sensational local debut. EMS President John Failey noted from the stage how unusual it is for this presenter to invite an ensemble back so soon. But the wisdom of the decision was evident in the difficulty of finding any of the Basile Theater 's 290 seats empty as the concert started. As for the work by the Danish composer Abrahamsen (b. 1952), it consists of a series of short pieces promising development of some sort but never allowing it to take place. The idioms mastered in the cour

Ronen Chamber Ensemble's season-long 'sister cities' theme visits Piran and native son Tartini

With two outright masterpieces shoring up the program, the Ronen Chamber Ensemble held on to its celebration of Indianapolis' Sister Cities with a salute to Giuseppe Tartini, a native of Piran, Slovenia (known as Pirano when it was part of the Venetian empire of his day (1692-1770)). The Concertino for Clarinet and Piano is Gordon Jacob's arrangement drawn from a couple of Tartini violin sonatas. It was played with the zest of a well-prepared appetizer to main courses of Mozart and Beethoven on Tuesday night at Indiana Landmarks Center . The slow-fast-slow-fast layout of the work made for satisfying contrasts of textures and tempos for the duo of David Bellman and Gregory Martin. The clarinetist's passagework was unfailingly smooth and even in the Allegro molto; in the other fast movement, a sometimes brutally rapid finale, the difficulty for the clarinet to match the notes-per-second capability of the violin occasionally became evident. Zachary DePue, Gregory Marti

When the rain comes, our president needs to stay indoors and let others celebrate First World War sacrifices

For 'The Mutilated,' NoExit Performance finds itself at home in the Propylaeum Carriage House

Not as bloody-minded as the title might have you thinking, "The Mutilated" is one of Tennessee Williams' explorations of the challenges life keeps posing to wholeness and healing among the largely self-wounded. The wounds go deep, but are more felt than seen. Williams was never one to soft-pedal his development of a theme, and the title of this 1966 drama serves to direct our attention to the secrets, hurts and shame of its main characters, who bring up their mutilation often. It's a cat fight in which both protagonists seem to have lost several of their nine flea-bitten lives. Venting in the park: Trinket Dugan tries to exorcise her demons. Female bonding is probably more durable than the kind men practice. Male friends would walk away from each other for good if they got on each other's nerves the way Trinket Dugan and Celeste Delacroix Griffin do in "The Mutilated." But the boil infecting their old friendship is lanced finally by a miracle; it

Stage director of the opera "Hansel and Gretel" has vision of both realism and mystery

The happy ending of Engelbert Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel" The outlines of the German folk tale about what can happen to curious, naughty kids when they wander off into the woods are well-known. The Engelbert Humperdinck opera is less familiar, and the composer's name to many brings up a late- 20th-century pop singer rather than a German composer (1854-1921). "Hansel and Gretel" (to use its English title, since it will be performed here in English) comes to Clowes Hall this weekend in an Indiana University Jacobs School of Music Opera Theater production. Michael Shell brings an extensive resume to IU. The lost children's "evening prayer" is a familiar tune — its greatest hit — in an opera mostly credited with being an extension of the innovations that Richard Wagner brought to the genre. Use of short melodic bits called "motives" (or "motifs," after the German word Leitmotif ) tie the music to the action in

Gold medalist Hadelich returns with a Bartok concerto, and the ISO tackles the thorny Shostakovich Fourth

The two major works on this weekend's Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra program are near-contemporaries, both products of the 1930s — the 20th century's most disturbing decade (if we exempt the two World Wars). Augustin Hadelich played Bartok superbly. Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 4 in C minor had to wait until 1961 for its first performance. Spooked by official backlash to his edgy opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," he prudently withdrew a work also saturated in scorned modernism. Bela Bartok's Violin Concerto No. 2 (the composer objected to the numbering, because he felt his first violin concerto didn't represent him well) premiered in Amsterdam without its composer's attendance. The turmoil in Europe had prompted his self-exile to the United States, where he died in 1945. Krzysztof Urbanski conducted both works Friday night at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in a Classical Series concert. Soon the orchestra will begin its monthlong wallow in

Combined presentation: Michelangelo String Quartet visits, bringing back 1982 IVCI gold medalist

Michelangelo Quartet was founded in 2002. Every seat filled in the Basile Theater of the Glick Indiana History Center is no surprise when it comes to a combined presentation such as the Ensemble Music Society and the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis offered Wednesday night. Both have large, loyal audiences on their own, so their collaboration can be expected to work such wonders. Bringing the two venerable organizations together was the appearance of the Michelangelo String Quartet, featuring an IVCI laureate from the inaugural contest in 1982: Gold medalist Mihaela Martin in the first violin chair. Her usual colleagues are also on the faculty of the Kronberg Academy. Second violinist Daniel Austrich, sidelined by illness, was replaced by Kronberg student Stephen Waarts, who was an IVCI semifinalist in 2014. The ensemble's other members are Nobuko Imai, viola, and Frans Helmerson, cello. Stephen Waarts filled in for Daniel Austrich. One of the most po

APA Premiere Series, Part 2: Billy Test displays a genial, searching mentality in originals and trio leadership

Billy Test is anchored temporarily in Cologne, Germany, an Indianapolis sister city. In trio performances, some jazz pianists give in to woolgathering when they improvise, letting the bassist and drummer take care of keeping the pulse. This habit can project their personality distinctly. But except in the hands of genius, the result may have the listener longing for more centeredness, especially in repertoire from the Great American Songbook. That explains why I was taken immediately by Billy Test as he opened his first set Saturday night in the American Pianists Awards ' Premiere Series at the Jazz Kitchen . The vehicle of choice was Cole Porter's "All of You," with Test laying down an unaccompanied introduction before bassist Nick Tucker and drummer Kenny Phelps joined in. The scope of Test's intro was admirable in itself, but after the trio launched into the tune by the most durable Hoosier songwriter ever, there was even more to like. The pianist waxe

Jan Lisiecki, piano soloist with the ISO, probes to the heart of the Grieg concerto

Stories of masterpieces underappreciated when they were new are always good for poignancy and reassurance that now we know better. But some favorites still today were introduced to the world and quickly found favor. Two works whose history begins with "instant-hit" status form the bulk of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra' s program this weekend. Music director Krzysztof Urbanski is back on the Hilbert Circle Theatre podium to conduct Brahms' Symphony No. 2 in D major and Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor. To open the program, he swings to the much less familiar: "Polymorphia" by his Polish countryman Krzysztof Penderecki. Jan Lisiecki, now 23, in a publicity photo from a few years ago, when he was building a reputation For the Grieg concerto, a much-admired pinnacle of Romantic contributions to the piano-and-orchestra genre, he and the ISO enjoyed the presence of Jan Lisiecki in the solo role.  A young Canadian of Polish extraction, Lisieki sh

The Uncle Dan & Sophie Jam: A season closes out for the retrospective blend of music and chat

Dan Wakefield's got a bunch of stories; Steve Allee and Sophie Faught give him full attention. We're always learning, but some people are lucky enough to encounter mentors early who put a special stamp upon what the learning process yields. Teachers in formal and informal situations alike point out the stepping stones toward  individual success. Their teaching often reaches beyond their specialties, extending to wider horizons. The final session this season of "The Uncle Dan & Sophie Jam" at the Jazz Kitchen Wednesday night gave a free rein to such memories for host Sophie Faught, jazz saxophonist and composer; guest Steve Allee, pianist-composer-bandleader, and writer and co-host Dan Wakefield . Wakefield, who put post-World War II Indianapolis on the fiction map with "Going All the Way"* and has had a variety of titles since, remembers the lift he got as a Shortridge High School student helping sportswriter Corky Lamm of the Indianapolis News w