Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who's who in NCDT's 'Nutcracker'

Sure, the perennial "Nutcracker" performances are a big draw for children. But adults, too, can get swept along in Clara's trip to dreamland.

N.C. Dance Theatre's performances -- with the Charlotte Symphony playing Tchaikovsky's magical music -- are about to begin. So, for the benefit of NCDT-watchers making plans to go, here's an overview of who will play which main role at what time.

This will be NCDT's first performances without three of its "Nutcracker" veterans: Traci Gilchrest, Rebecca Carmazzi and Sasha Janes, whose dancing days are winding down. So there will be new faces in leading roles, such as Sarah Hayes Watson as the Snow Queen and David Morse and Naseeb Culpepper as Snow Kings. NCDT also will welcome back Justin VanWeest, who was out during the autumn with an injured shoulder, as Clara's uncle Drosselmeyer (photo by Peter Zay).

The casting is subject to change, of course. (Here's hoping nothing has to change because someone gets hurt.) The dates refer to evening performances unless a matinee is specified.

Clara, who receives a nutcracker as a Christmas gift, is played by three students from NCDT's school:
Blake Johnston, age 15: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17 matinee, Dec. 18.
Caitrin Murphy, age 13: Dec. 11, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 18 matinee.
Samantha Teves, age 13: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 17.

Fritz, Clara's bratty brother, also played by an NCDT student:
Eamon Murphy, age 11 (all performances).

Herr Drosselmeyer, Clara's mysterious uncle:
Mark Diamond: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Justin VanWeest: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
David Ingram: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

Snow Queen and Snow King in Act 1:
Sarah Hayes Watson and David Morse: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Jamie Dee and Pete Walker: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
Anna Gerberich and Naseeb Culpepper: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier in Act 2:
Alessandra Ball and Addul Manzano: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Anna Gerberich and David Morse: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
Jamie Dee and Pete Walker: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

And, in the Land of Sweets in Act 2:

Coffee (using Tchaikovsky's Arabian Dance):
Melissa Anduiza and Pete Walker: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Melissa Anduiza and Daniel Rodriguez: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
Alessandra Ball and Naseeb Culpepper: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

Candy Cane (using Tchaikovsky's Russian Dance):
Jordan Leeper: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Pete Walker: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
Gregory DeArmond: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

Rose (soloist in Waltz of the Flowers):
Anna Gerberich: Dec. 9, Dec. 11, Dec. 17, Dec. 18 matinee.
Alessandra Ball: Dec. 10, Dec. 11 matinee, Dec. 18.
Sarah Hayes Watson: Dec. 10 matinee, Dec. 16, Dec. 17 matinee.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Oratorio director gets bumped-up title

It's too bad that no one recorded the Charlotte Symphony's performances of Mozart's "Requiem" last month. The drama, eloquence and precision were a tribute to the orchestra and, even more, the Oratorio Singers of Charlotte. While the performances won't have a digital afterlife, the Singers' director is getting a consolation prize.

The orchestra is beefing up Scott Allen Jarrett's title. When he steps onto the podium Dec. 14 to conduct Handel's "Messiah," he'll do so as the orchestra's director of choruses and assistant conductor. (In case you're wondering about the plural "choruses," it isn't that the orchestra expects him to add more of them. It's counting the Singers' chamber chorus separately.)

The orchestra says the change recognizes Jarrett's leadership of the Oratorio Singers and his expanded role in the orchestra's activities.

"Under his directorship the chorus has flourished," music director Christopher Warren-Green said in a statement. "The progress is remarkable, and the entire Charlotte musical community is fortunate to have such excellent leadership."

This season, Jarrett's duties include conducting "Messiah" next week and Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" for the KnightSounds series in February; training the Oratorio Singers in "Magic of Christmas" music, Mozart's "Requiem" and Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis"; and conducting the Singers' chamber chorus in its annual performance at the Piccolo Spoleto festival in Charleston.

Even though Jarrett won't conduct Beethoven's "Missa Solemnis" in May -- Warren-Green will -- it may be his biggest test since he took over the Oratorio Singers in 2004. The "Missa" is not only one of the most eloquent of all choral works, it's one of the most challenging to learn and sing. Warren-Green's predecessor, Christof Perick, stayed away from it for that reason. But Jarrett, who has conducted it with a Boston group he also leads, thinks the Oratorio Singers can do it. If they pull it off, that'll be his real prize.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Go to opera house via the art museum

Most of the time, audiences get their first glimpse of an Opera Carolina production when the curtain goes up. But the Mint Museum Uptown will help set the scene for January's "Madama Butterfly."

"Jun Kaneko: In the Round" will spotlight the artist whose sets and costumes give "Butterfly" a new look -- a colorful, dramatic transformation of traditional Japanese styles.

The exhibition, opening Dec. 10, will put some of Kaneko's ceramic sculptures, which have been his specialty for decades, alongside his drawings for "Butterfly," his operatic debut. The show will expand outdoors in January, when a 12-foot sculpture of Kaneko's (photo courtesy of Jun Kaneko Studio) replaces the giant red Christmas-tree ornament in the Mint's plaza.

Kaneko was born in Japan in 1942. He moved to the United States to study in 1963, and he has long resided here. One of his mentors, ceramic artist Peter Voulkos, has described Kaneko's creations as "an amazing synthesis of painting and sculpture ... intellectual and playful."

By working together, Opera Carolina and the Mint can "increase appreciation for a renowned artist by showcasing a variety of mediums of his work," Mint president Kathleen Jameson said in a statement. People who see Kaneko's work in both the galleries and theater "can experience the continuity of form, pattern and design between these two modes of expression and creation," curator Carla Hanzal said.

Kaneko, who has been based in Omaha, Nebraska, for two decades, designed "Butterfly" for Omaha's opera company. Opera Carolina will return to him when it presents his new production of Mozart's "Magic Flute" -- shared with the opera companies of San Francisco, Washington and Omaha -- in January 2013.

For a taste of his "Butterfly," you can see a slideshow on Kaneko's website. But do yourself a favor. Look at the first five or 10 images -- enough to get a taste -- and stop there. That way you'll leave yourself something to discover in the theater.