Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bechtler updates Giacometti show

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art has freshened up its Alberto Giacometti show with another 15 of the Swiss artist's drawings.  

The new batch "deepens our understanding of Alberto Giacometti's growth as an artist," said Bechtler president John Boyer, the show's curator. The drawings, replacing some that were in "Giacometti: Memory and Presence" when it opened, were created from 1917 to 1964 -- spanning nearly all of Giacometti's  career. 

Two works that date back to 1920 -- a portrait of his brother and a watercolor of Venice, Italy -- reveal the budding artist's  "precocious skills as a draughtsman ... when Giacometti was still in his teens," Boyer said. A series of images of his father -- drawn over a 40-year period -- and a portrait of fellow artist Henri Matisse help continue the theme.   

The new selections will remain on display for the rest of the exhibition, which runs through Feb. 8. To whet potential viewers' appetite for the show, the museum has unveiled a video introduction hosted by Boyer: 

(Gallery photo: Jeff Siner -- jsiner@charlotteobserver.com) 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Stock up on champagne for Vienna concert

Remember to include champagne on your holiday shopping list, so you can add your toast as the Vienna Philharmonic climaxes the festive season with its annual New Year's telecast

Public television stations -- presumably including UNC-TV, though the station's online schedule stops in December -- will again take viewers to the gilded Musikverein concert hall Jan. 1.  The "Great Performances" concert will feature bubbly and seductive Viennese music, as always, plus tributes to two illustrious non-Austrians celebrating their bicentennials in 2013: Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi. 

Franz Welser-Moest, music director of the Vienna State Opera and Cleveland Orchestra, will conduct. As always, music of the Strauss family makes up most of the menu. As a lagniappe, the orchestra will throw in morsels by less-famous Austrians Joseph Lanner -- who's credited with turning the waltz from a country dance into the elegant affair that the Strausses cashed in on -- and Josef Hellmesberger. To be specific: 

Joseph Strauss: "Music of the Spheres," waltz 

Richard Wagner: Prelude to Act 3 of "Lohengrin" 

Josef Hellmesberger: "In Confidence," polka 

Josef Strauss: "Hesperus' Paths," polka 

Joseph Lanner: "Styrian Dances"

Johann Strauss: "Melodies Quadrille" 

Johann Strauss: "Where the Lemon Trees Bloom," waltz

Johann Strauss Sr.: "Memories of Ernst," also known as "The Carnival of Venice Fantasy" 

Josef Strauss: "Chatterbox," polka 

Johann Strauss: "By the Beautiful Blue Danube"

Johann Strauss Sr.: "Radetzky March" 

Did you notice the absence of birthday boy Verdi from the list? That's because he's represented in absentia by the "Melodies Quadrille," a potpourri of Verdi tunes dished up by Johann Strauss. I admit having to look that up. 

Stage and screen veteran Julie Andrews will again be the host, and she'll take audiences on a few sightseeing trips. This year's itinerary will include a traditional Austrian inn; the ornate, 18th-century National Library; and Schloss Hof, a baroque palace outside Vienna. As always, the Vienna State Ballet will swing into action, too. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Free Martha Graham night for dance novices

Hoping to create a new wave of dance lovers, UNC Charlotte will offer a free performance of the Martha Graham Dance Company to people who have never seen professional dance in Charlotte.

Online registration will open at 8 a.m. Monday for the performance, which will be Jan. 17 at the Knight Theater. The free night will precede the company’s originally announced performance Jan. 18, which includes an admission charge. 

The Jan 17 performance is sponsored by Wells Fargo Private Bank. The bank’s community affairs manager, Jay Everette, said the idea came from last winter’s free Opera Carolina performances of “Madama Butterfly,” sponsored by the Knight Foundation. The bank hopes people who sample the Graham company will go on to try Charlotte’s N.C. Dance Theatre. 

NCDT “is an impressive and entertaining company,” Everette said, “and we want more of our neighbors ... to attend their performances and be exposed to this performing arts treasure.” 
The Graham company – founded by the modern-dance pioneer in the 1920s – will make its first visit to Charlotte in 30 years. Both performances will “Appalachian Spring,” the work generally considered Graham’s masterpiece. A live, professional orchestra will perform Aaron Copland’s score.

For the free performance Jan. 17, registration will be on UNCC’s dance department website.Tickets will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, with a limit of 2 tickets per household. Registration will close at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Tickets for the Jan. 18 performance are $35-$45. They’re available from CarolinaTix

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Kaneko's art, going and coming

Japanese artist Jun Kaneko just lost his hold on prime South Tryon Street real estate, but he'll be back uptown soon.

Movers arrived at the Mint Museum Uptown on Monday and packed up Kaneko's "In the Round." The 12-foot-tall sculpture  had stood sentinel on the Mint's plaza since last winter, when it  tied in with more of Kaneko's art on display up the street: his sets and costumes for "Madama Butterfly," which Opera Carolina brought to Charlotte last January

Kaneko's "Butterfly" designs treated Japanese visual motifs freely, and many viewers saw power in their evocative colors and bold graphics. Opera Carolina had more of Kaneko's art in the works: It had gone in with several other companies to hire him for an opera that gives an artist's creativity free rein: Mozart's fairy tale "The Magic Flute."   

Kaneko's "Flute" premiered last summer at the San Francisco Opera, and Charlotte's audiences will be the second to see it. Opera Carolina's staging opens Jan. 19 at the Belk Theater. Kaneko himself will come along to help introduce it. 

In the meantime, "In the Round" is headed back to Kaneko's studio in Nebraska, and Christmas decorations will occupy the Mint's plaza through the holidays. The museum says it hopes to put another art work there next year.  

("In the Round" photo: Kristen Watts, Mint Museum Uptown; "Magic Flute" photo: San Francisco Opera, 2012) 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Vote for Art picks 3 new works for Mint

The voters have spoken, and they've declared that trash can be a valid means of expression. 

Visitors to The Mint Museum cast nearly 20,000 ballots in its Vote for Arts contest, picking their favorites from six candidates that have been on display at the Mint since the time of the Democratic National Convention. The polls closed Friday, and the Mint -- getting the count done much more quickly than Florida -- announced the results at its Ballot Ball fundraising gala that night. 

Thanks to money raised that night and other donations, the Mint will buy the top three vote-getters for its collection. The winners are: 

Vik Muniz's "The Birth of Venus, after Botticelli." a large-format photograph (above). Muniz recreated the famous Renaissance painting in a massive assemblage of discarded computers, wire, cans and other junk, then preserved the image on film.   

Mattia Biagi's "Before Midnight." Alluding to the Cinderella story, it's a sculpture of a Cinderella carriage covered in tar. 

Mathias Bengtsson's "Slice Chair Paper." Combining technology and sculpture, it's a chair composed of numerous layers of laser-cut paper glued together. 

(Photo: Vik Muniz/Licensed by VAGA, New York, N.Y.) 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Shakespeare opera comes to theaters

Romeo and Juliet. Macbeth. Othello. Falstaff and the Merry Wives. In addition to their original Shakesepeare incarnations, they all have second lives in beloved operas. Will Prospero be next?

You can help decide Saturday, when the Metropolitan Opera broadcasts Thomas Ades' "The Tempest" into movie theaters.

Ades, one of England's leading composers, brought out his version of Shakespeare's play in 2004, and it has been acclaimed on both sides of the Atlantic. At the Met, stage director Robert Lepage -- director of the Met's "Ring of the Nibelung" -- has put "The Tempest" into the world of 18th-century opera. Prospero works his spells in a likeness of Italy's La Scala opera house.

"Creating art is a potent alchemy, these artists are telling us, and this particular variety of it is just the sort of thing that the Met should be doing," the Wall Street Journal's Heidi Waleson wrote.

Ades designed the role of Prospero for British baritone Simon Keenlyside, who performs tomorrow.
Keenlyside is "a terrifically physical performer who projects youth and vitality," Ades says in a Met interview. That plays into Ades' view of Shakespeare's protagonist.

"I don't think of Prospero as an old man. ... When Prospero meditates on the evanescence of life, my feeling is actually it not that he does that every day and has been doing it for years. ... He's just realizing it at that exact moment. That's the first time he's thought this."

Ades designed the music to illuminate that.

"The storm at the beginning," Ades says, "is his interior torture and pain, his twistedness and anger about having his life stolen from him. ... Once those emotions have played out and he sees the effect they have had (on the characters), the music is almost like the sea or a surface of water -- it becomes calmer."

The Met broadcast starts at 12:55 p.m. at the usual theaters, Stonecrest near Ballantyne and Concord Mills. If you'd rather spend your Saturday afternoon outdoors, enjoying what's expected to be a nice weekend, you can still visit Prospero's island: The Met will have an encore showing Nov. 28.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Election results are already in at WDAV

Had enough of attack ads and robocalls? Turn on the radio, tune in to WDAV-FM and drop out of the political hullabaloo. The results of a more harmonious election will be on the air.  

The station will showcase the winners of its Cast Your Classical Ballot campaign beginning Monday night, Nov. 5. Joe Brant will devote his Symphony @ 7 program this week to the composers who topped the polling when WDAV let listeners go online and choose their favorite composers in six categories.

The contest was "a fun way to let listeners tell us their composer preferences," program director Frank Dominguez says. "We know that a lot of worthy composers didn’t make the ballot or win the voting. We hope it’s nevertheless entertaining to hear the composers listeners picked as their favorites." 

Nearly 1,000 listeners chimed in. The biggest winner of a category, according to WDAV's vote breakdown, was Rachmaninoff: He took 50 percent of the votes in the post-Romantic group, with the rest divided among Sibelius, Elgar and the write-in candidates included in "other." Russian heart-on-the-sleeve emotion dominated the Romantic era, too. Tchaikovsky was the big winner, attracting 45 percent of the vote -- handily beating second-place Brahms, at 20 percent. 

The Classical-period race with tighter, with Beethoven winning with 38 percent to Mozart's 30 percent. The contest was a bit closer still in the Impressionist group: Debussy won with 35 percent of the votes to Ravel's 29 percent. 

In Monday night's show, Baroque winner Bach (35 percent, with Vivaldi next at 27 percent) will be represented by his Violin Concerto in E. Brant will next play Classical winner Beethoven's Symphony No. 7. 

Tuesday will belong to Tchaikovsky: the Gavotte from his Suite No. 1; the Symphony No. 4; and the Andante Cantabile for string quartet, as arranged for orchestra by Leopold Stokowski.

WDAV says Brant is still deciding what he'll play Wednesday by Rachmaninoff and Thursday by the last two winners: Debussy and the modern/contemporary winner, Aaron Copland. In the last group, the composers who are actually our contemporaries -- as in alive -- were Hollywood's John Williams, who got 11 percent of the vote, and John Adams, with 6 percent. At least Williams has Oscars to console him. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Perick enjoys freelancer's life -- at least for a while

It's lucky that Christof Perick had a nonstop flight from Germany to Charlotte. Otherwise, Mother Nature might've gotten in his way for the second time -- which would've been particularly ungrateful of her this week,  since the music he'll conduct with the Charlotte Symphony is a celebration of nature's power and beauty. 

A volcanic eruption in April 2010 blasted a dust cloud over Europe that kept Perick from conducting his last concerts as the orchestra's music director. But he circumvented Sandy on Monday. So he's back for a three-week U.S. visit. It will not only return him to the Charlotte podium he occupied for nine seasons, but offer him other reminiscences of his work on this side of the Atlantic -- or, as he put it Tuesday, his "28-year history of conducting in this wonderful country." 

He plans visit friends in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles -- all cities where he has conducted prominently -- and close with the San Diego Symphony, which he has guest-conducted repeatedly over 20-plus years. (A Perick travel tip: If you ever travel from L.A. to San Diego, go by train. The ride offers spectacular views of the coast.)

 But first: The Charlotte Symphony concerts this weekend may offer some reminiscences of their own. They'll start with Carl Maria von Weber's Overture to "Der Freischutz," an opera that received full-length, concert-style performances from Perick and the orchestra in 2003. Next will come the "Spring" Symphony, Schumann's exuberant hymn to nature's annual rebirth. To cap things off, two of Bedrich Smetana's portraits of his native Bohemia: the beloved "The Moldau" and the less-famous but equally catchy "From Bohemia's Forests and Meadows." 

Perick hadn't yet gotten in front of the orchestra Tuesday morning. But he credited his successor, Christopher Warren-Green, for the fact that the orchestra is financially "safer" -- quickly rapping his knuckles on a wooden table in the Charlotte Symphony's office -- than it was during Perick's time. 

"I think it's probably because Christopher is living here," Perick said. He thinks Warren-Green's presence in Charlotte, promoting the orchestra around town, is "very important. I think it's very good. I was always saying that -- the orchestra needs someone who is (visible) at the arena, across the street." 

"I couldn't do that," Perick, who's based in Germany, added. "I didn't have the time to do that. In that regard, I'm not a good American music director. Because you need that talent and that outgoing personality to do all those things (in the community) convincingly." 

But Perick takes pride in cultivating the Charlotte Symphony's  style and precision -- something Warren-Green has complimented  from his own perspective. Perick points to similar work back home in Germany, where he last year finished a stint as music director of the Nuremberg State Theater. Zeroing in on a cycle of Mozart operas with the company's singers -- such as the vibrant Heidi Meier, who also made a couple of visits to Charlotte -- was a highlight, he said. 

For the time being, at least, Perick is a freelancer, leaving the day-to-day complications of opera houses and orchestras to others. "It's less office work," he said, "which is good."

"I thought it would be a little more restful," Perick said. "But I'm very busy." While orchestral appearances dominate his schedule,  some of his operatic standbys are in the offing, too. He'll go to Berlin to help celebrate Richard Wagner's bicentennial with "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg." Next summer he'll re-cross the Atlantic to lead Richard Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier" in Cincinnati. 

"Someone who's as infected with opera as I am -- you get nervous if you don't put your fingers at least once a year into Wagner or Strauss operas," he says with a chuckle. 

That may be why, even after a string of opera-house posts dating back to the start of his career in the 1970s, Perick might consider one more. 

What kind of opera job might appeal to him? 

"Not something huge," Perick said. "Something where you can do something good with young singers." There's no rush, though. 

"Am I putting a new music director burden on my shoulders or not? That's the question," he said, again with a laugh. "I'm allowing myself two or three years to find that out. There are chances. There are options. You get asked. 

"But it's very comfortable at the moment," he added, "going from one orchestra to another. It's very nice." 

(Photo: Jutta Missbach) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pre-concert palaver: Get the hook

One of the most invigorating experiences you can have in a theater or concert hall doesn't cost a cent to produce. But Charlotte's performing groups obviously don't think they can afford it. 

Put yourself into this scene: 

The audience is gathering in the Knight Theater for N.C. Dance Theatre's first performance of the season. The house lights go down. A hush falls over the audience. The anticipation builds. Then the rousing introduction of Johann Strauss' "Radetzky March" rings out. The curtain rises on a line of dancers, who snap into action for the Viennese revelries of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux's "Blue Danube." The season is off to an exuberant start. 

In reality, it didn't play out quite that way. Another step intruded. It came right after the auditorium's lights went down -- the moment I'm talking about, when the audience is on the brink of seeing what what it came for, and anything is possible. Instead, as at most everything I cover, the performance had to wait: 

Someone came onstage to talk. 

NCDT was just the most recent example. Curtain speeches, which used to be reserved for festive occasions or crises, have become a captive-audience ritual. 

Once in a great while, the chitchat aims at helping the audience grasp and enjoy what's in store -- such as when Christopher Warren-Green clued in the Charlotte Symphony's audience on the Beethoven program he put together for this fall's Classics opener. (Among other things, he picked three works that had their world premieres in the same long-ago concert.) That isn't usually what happens, though. 

More often, there are plugs for upcoming performances; acknowledgments of sponsors; salutes to the greatness of Charlotte and its cultural scene; tributes to the Arts & Science Council; assurances of how wonderful the performance will be. Logistical housekeeping sometimes comes in, too. With NCDT, there's an announcement of where the company's booster groups will have their after-performance get-togethers -- even though most of the audience isn't on the guest list. (Isn't there some way to inform the Opening Night Insiders about their shindig without reminding everyone else that they're Opening Night Outsiders?)

The talking spoils one of the distinctive thrills of a night in the theater -- one that you can't get from putting a CD or DVD into a machine in your living room. When the curtain finally rises, instead of being a "Here we go!" moment, it's reduced to: "Finally!" 

This also turns into plain old bad manners: treating guests like hostages. Sometimes, the pre-concert palaver doesn't even start until a few minutes after the theoretical starting time. The actual performance may not begin until five or 10 minutes past what's printed on everyone's tickets. So much for Southern hospitality. 

Nevertheless, audiences sit through it all quietly, and they applaud when the speaker instructs them to -- after lists of sponsors, for instance. I don't know whether that attests to Charlotteans' patience or their obedience. Maybe both. But there's one thing to be thankful for: At least the speeches don't get standing ovations. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reunite with Verdi through 'Otello'

Since Opera Carolina's season doesn't include Giuseppe Verdi, his fans will have to get their fixes elsewhere -- such as the Metropolitan Opera, which  broadcasts "Otello" into movie theaters Saturday. As usual, the Charlotte-area locations are Stonecrest, near Ballantyne, and Concord Mills

The operatic meeting of masters -- Verdi and Shakespeare -- also features Renee Fleming's return to a role that helped make her a star. When she portrayed the grievously wronged Desdemona opposite Placido Domingo's Moor in a Met telecast in 1996 -- only a few years into her career -- legions of viewers succumbed to her sumptuous voice and affecting presence. (Arts lovers in the Carolinas were ahead of the game on that, though, if they caught Fleming's two-year stint at the Spoleto Festival USA in 1989 and '90, playing the Countess in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro.")

Saturday's Otello will be the South African tenor Johan Botha. At the opening of this run of performances earlier in October, he performed despite being under the weather, and the strain  reportedly showed. Let's hope he's in better health now. When I saw Botha in the title role of Verdi's "Don Carlo" at the Met in 2006, his power and finesse were equally compelling. If that's any indication, he should have Otello in him. 

(Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shows will embody Mint traditions, widen its range

Besides opening two exhibitions last weekend, the Mint Museum Uptown is signaling what else it's bringing to Charlotte over the next year or so. They show the Mint striving to keep in touch with its roots -- through a wide-ranging decorative-arts exhibition, for instance -- while broadening its cultural horizons. 

"Sociales: Debora Arango Arrives Today" will introduce Charlotte to a pioneer of modern art in Colombia. Arango, who died in 2005 at age 98, depicted the upheavals and and social problems she witnessed during her eight-decade career -- especially during the unofficial civil war in the 1940s and '50s called "la epoca de la Violencia." Arango was at first castigated but ultimately honored for her paintings, which dramatize themes including poverty, prostitution, women's issues, violence and injustice. 
"She did it with brazen language," Colombian artist Fernando Botero said in Arango's obituary in the New York Times. "She was not preoccupied with aesthetics. What was central was expressing herself." Arango's "Justice," above, from the Museum of Modern Art of Medellin, Colombia, may drive home Botero's point. 
The show will run Feb. 23-June 16. 
"F.O.O.D.: Food, Objects, Objectives, Design" will showcase about 300 handmade and mass-produced items created for use preparing, cooking or presenting food. The show will be laid out in four sections: TABLE, a low-light, stylized dining area fitted out with place settings; KITCHEN, displaying high-design appliances and utensils; PANTRY, spotlighting the graphic design of food packaging and advertising; and GARDEN, a corridor with objects inspired by fruit and vegetables. 
Organized with Food Cultura of Barcelona, Spain, the show will have labels and texts in English and Spanish. It will run March 2-July 7.  
"Return to the Sea: Saltworks of Motoi Yamamoto" will be a large-scale installation built, sure enough, of salt. In Japan, Yamamoto's home, salt is a symbol of purification and mourning. Among its symbolic uses, it's employed during funeral rituals, and small piles of it are put at the entrances of restaurants and businesses to repel evil spirits. Yamamoto began working with salt after the death of his sister at age 24. 
"Drawing a labyrinth with salt is like following a trace of my memory," Yamamoto has said. "Memories seem to change and vanish as time goes by; however, what I seek is to capture a frozen moment that cannot be attained through pictures or writings." 
Yamamoto will spend two weeks at the Mint next spring crafting his installation, which be on display March 2-May 26. 
"Inventing  the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World's Fairs, 1851-1939." The show, coming the Mint next fall, will feature more than 200 items -- including glass, furniture, jewelry, ceramics and ceramics -- created for world expositions. They range from a massive Gothic Revival cabinet from the 1850s to an Art Deco glass chair from the 1930s to jewelry and porcelain by Tiffany, Baccarat, Cartier and Sevres.
"We associate world's fairs with fun, and also with signature architecture like the Eiffel Tower and the Crystal Palace," said Julian Zugazagoitia, director of Kansas City's Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the show debuted last spring. "But the importance of world's fairs was reflected in the objects that continue to inspire elegance and creativity." 

The show will run Sept. 21, 2013-Jan. 19, 2014. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Opera: All set for extra cash

That church occupying the Belk Theater this weekend during Puccini's "Tosca" isn't just a stage set. It's part of a cottage industry for Opera Carolina. 

The "Tosca" sets, which date back to the 1960s, originally belonged to the New York City Opera. When City Opera was finished with them, Opera Carolina bought them "for a song," general director James Meena says. The deal also included sets for Verdi's "La Traviata." The company put those to work last year. 

Designing and building brand-new sets can cost well into six figures or even more. So, like most companies other than the biggest ones, Opera Carolina typically rents sets that others have created. Over the past several years, though, the company has added another strategy: collecting sets that their owners no longer want. Opera Carolina turns around and rents them out -- charging a fee, of course. 

The company expects to clear about $100,000 from rentals this year, Meena says, after covering its expenses. It has to pay rent on storage and workshop space in NoDa, for instance. Some of the sets repose in donated space in Dillon, S.C. 

Before Opera Carolina put the "Tosca" sets onstage, it brought in a painter who specializes in stage sets to give them a touch-up.  "Tosca" heads out next, Meena says, to Arizona Opera, which will use them later this season. 

"As long as the opera business stays reasonably viable," Meena says," we're becoming a good source for a lot of these regional companies to get good-looking productions." 

Opera Carolina will go the opposite route for its next performances. Mozart's "The Magic Flute" will feature new sets, costumes and video projections by Jun Kaneko, creator of last season's "Madama Butterfly." Opera Carolina went in with several other companies to commission Kaneko's "Flute," which premiered in San Francisco this past summer.  "Flute" opens at the Belk Theater on Jan. 19. 

(Photo of "Tosca," Act 1: jonsilla.com) 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A new look at Picasso, courtesy of BofA

If you travel to the Northeast in the coming weeks for holiday shopping, visits to family or just a getaway, a Picasso exhibition sponsored by Bank of America may deserve a place in your schedule. 

"'Picasso Black and White' at the Guggenheim Museum is not only one of the most exquisitely beautiful exhibitions of modern art to appear in New York in recent years but also among the most intellectually engaging," begins the review in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal

The Guggenheim says this is the first show to explore a motif that spans Picasso's career: his use of black, white and grey as the basic palette for paintings, drawings and sculptures. This allowed Picasso to explore the power of line, form and subtle tonal shadings in "The Milliner's Workshop," above (Centre Pompidou, Paris) and more than 100 other works. Many of the works in the show have never been exhibited or published until now. 

The show opens with what the Journal calls "another remarkable event": the re-introduction of Picasso's "Woman Ironing," which has just returned from conservation work that included the removal  of discolored varnish. That was also funded by BofA -- in that case, courtesy of the bank's Art Conservation Project, which sponsors art restorations for museums worldwide. 

The show continues through Jan. 23. If you're headed westward ho after the holidays, you'll also have a chance at the show: It moves  to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, where it will run Feb. 24-May 27

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Arts school director will lead consulting group

The executive director of the Community School of the Arts, Andrea Stevenson, is stepping down to become the executive director of Charlotte's Lee Institute. 

Stevenson, who has led the school since 2007, said she looks forward to working with a variety of Charlotte groups in her new job. The Lee Institute is a nonprofit consulting group that advises nonprofits, community organizations and others on "how to become stronger and more effective," Stevenson said. 

"I love the opportunity to serve a wider range of organizations," Stevenson said. "As dearly as I love the arts, this seems like the logical next step." In volunteer work, she added, she has been involved with such issues as social justice, race and women's rights. 

Stevenson's "nonprofit expertise and enthusiasm along with her commitment to community will be invaluable as we continue our work across Charlotte and our region," said the institute's president, Cyndee Patterson, in a statement. 

Stevenson came to Charlotte after posts at cultural organizations including the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia; the Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, Texas; and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, also in Fort Worth. The Community School hopes to have an interim leader in place by the time Stevenson steps down Nov. 2, she said. She'll start at the Lee Institute on Nov. 26. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Met's Levine headed back to the podium

Let's forget the politicos' bad-mouthing and focus on good news: After being sidelined more than a year by health problems, the Metropolitan Opera's James Levine will return to the podium.  

Perched on a motorized wheelchair, Levine will lead the Met Orchestra in a concert at Carnegie Hall on May 19 -- almost exactly two years since he last conducted. Especially notable to those of us outside New York: Levine is scheduled to conduct three Met productions next season, and I can't imagine that one or two would not turn up on the movie-theater relays. 

Several years of health troubles climaxed for Levine in August 2011. A fall caused spinal injuries that, even after surgery, have left him "temporarily unable to walk," the Met's announcement says. His physicians, several of whom are quoted, say he's nevertheless in shape to go back into action, thanks to intensive rehab. 

"James Levine is an inspirational case, whose return to conducting will be a result of remarkable perseverance and hard work," the leader of his medical team says. 

No doubt Levine has more of that work ahead. Meanwhile, the opera house staff has a task to complement his: In order to accommodate his wheelchair, the announcement explains, "the Met's technical department is designing customized, elevating podiums that will be utilized on the Carnegie Hall stage and in the Met's orchestra pit." 

Keep your fingers crossed. Levine's health woes had already forced him to resign as the Boston Symphony's leader when, last year, he had to bow out of his entire season of engagements. It looked like that might be the end of the line for his conducting. That wouldn't have been right.  

Levine is only 69 years old, which isn't that much in conductor years. Yet, thanks to an rapid rise to prominence, he has been a linchpin of the opera world since the 1970s. Through his decades of radio broadcasts, telecasts and recordings -- and more recently, the Met's movie-theater showings -- he has been a fixture in U.S. opera lovers' lives. 

And through one portion of his job -- leader of the Met's orchestra -- Levine is the only conductor alive whose guidance and honing have lifted  an ensemble into the world's top handful. That's why I'm hoping the Met will beam Verdi's "Falstaff," one of his three operas next season, into theaters. 

I attended a "Falstaff" of Levine's at the Met a few years ago. He and his orchestra let fly with one of the most scintillating performances I've ever heard rise from an opera-house pit. Their color, dash and virtuosity let every facet of Verdi's comedy come to life in sound. The jingle of a coin purse being dangled as a bribe, the shimmer of moonlight, the laughter set off by the fat knight's comeuppance: The orchestra conjured up all of that and more. Look forward to "Falstaff" next season. It'll help you tune out the election's noise. 

Photo: Associated Press

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Multifaceted pianist to return to Charlotte

A multi-talented pianist will practically sneak into Charlotte on Thursday for his first concert here in more than five years. 

Jeremy Denk will be one of the six players when Charlotte Concerts hosts New York's Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at CPCC's Halton Theater. Since his last appearance in Charlotte -- with violinist Joshua Bell in 2007 -- Denk may have attracted as much notice for his writing as for his always-stylish piano playing. 

In an essay last spring in the New Yorker, Denk let readers in on the joys and challenges of recording a piece of musical Americana that's one of his specialties, Charles Ives' "Concord" Sonata. For NPR, on the air and online, he has discussed music from Bach's "Goldberg" Variations to another of his specialties, a set of etudes by Gyorgy Ligeti. His blog, ThinkDenk, features his meditations on a range of topics, musical and otherwise. It even includes a  fantasy interview  in which he collects insights on Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" Sonata from -- are you ready? -- Sarah Palin.

Denk played another powerful Beethoven sonata -- No. 32, Beethoven's last one -- in Charlotte in 2003 when he took part in the Brightstar Music Festival, the now-closed summer chamber music series founded by former Charlotte Symphony player Jennifer Sperry. Music lovers who are veterans of the Spoleto Festival USA may remember him from several years on the chamber-music roster down there.

On Thursday, Denk and five other musicians -- including John Zirbel, the Montreal Symphony's principal French horn -- will mix and match in three sonorous chamber works: Brahms' Horn Trio; Max Bruch's Eight Pieces for clarinet, viola and piano; and a work harking back to Brahms, the Sextet by Erno Dohnanyi. Denk will play in all of it. And if his past performances are any indication, he should contribute richly even when he isn't in the spotlight. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Start your opera season with a double feature

If you're a hard-core opera buff, Saturday will be your kind of day. The Metropolitan Opera will kick off this season's movie-theater showings in the afternoon with "The Elixir of Love," and Opera Carolina will open its season in the evening with "Tosca." 

A romantic comedy and a thriller, both of them Italian tunefests: not a bad double feature, actually. If that's a little much for you, though, no problem. Just spread them out. "Tosca" will have repeat performances Oct. 18 and 21, and the Met will encore "Elixir" on Nov. 7. 

Opera Carolina's season will continue after the holidays with Mozart's "The Magic Flute" -- featuring sets, costumes and video projections by Jun Kaneko, designer of last season's "Madama Butterfly" -- and Bizet's "The Pearl Fishers." "Elixir" kicks off a series of 12 Met showings, some of them featuring works that hardly ever turn up outside opera festivals or the biggest opera houses -- such as Berlioz's epic "The Trojans."

As usual, the Met showings will be at Stonecrest near Ballantyne and at Concord Mills. Here's the list: 

Saturday: Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love." (Photo of Anna Netrebko and Matthew Polenzani by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera) 

Oct. 27: Verdi's "Otello," with Renee Fleming as the doomed Desdemona. 

Nov. 10: Thomas Ades' "The Tempest." 

Dec. 1: Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." 

Dec. 8: Verdi's "A Masked Ball." 

Dec. 15: Verdi's "Aida." 

Jan. 5: Berlioz's "The Trojans." 

Jan. 19: Donizetti's "Maria Stuarda." 

Feb. 16: Verdi's "Rigoletto." 

March 2: Wagner's "Parsifal." 

March 16: Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini." 

April 27: Handel's "Julius Caesar." 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Young dancer Farley is in Vogue

 Silas Farley may be a lowly apprentice at the New York City Ballet, but the spotlight has landed on the Charlotte native anyway:  He's in the October issue of Vogue. 

I'd link to that if I could find it on Vogue's website.  Instead, you'll  have to go to page 296 of the magazine for a better look at the photo and the mini-profile by dance writer Gia Kourlas.

Besides discussing what dance means to him, he looks back at his family's home in Charlotte. "We have the perfect ballet kitchen," Farley says. "The countertops are just the height of a barre and the mirrors cover one whole wall."

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Audiences follow chamber music to new home

When Charlotte Chamber Music's First Tuesday series began its new incarnation at the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, the big question was: After 16 years of free concerts, would people still show up when they had to pay? 

They did. One hundred and one people came out at lunchtime Tuesday for "Surrealism in Music and Art," the season's first program, the museum said. While that was smaller than the typical turnout in the concerts' original form, it still meant that the museum staff -- and one or two of the musicians -- had to swing into action bringing extra chairs from the storeroom. The afternoon concert drew 188, filling the fourth-floor gallery that served as the concert hall. (Photo: Fred Braziel.) 

Whatever you call the museum's taking charge of the series -- a merger? a takeover? -- the concerts have a different mission now. For their first decade and a half, they gave the gift of music, as the saying goes, in the form of free concerts each month. The new goal: expand audiences' minds through the combination of music and art. 

Art works from the Bechtler collection are paired with the musical selections, and someone discusses their relationship before the musicians launch into each piece. When the concert's over, the audience can explore the galleries. The interdisciplinary experience comes with a price tag: $5 at lunchtime, $20 at the late-afternoon performance, for those who aren't Bechtler members. 

On Tuesday, the Bechtler Ensemble, a mix-and-match group of Charlotte musicians, performed music by composers whose works had kinships to the surrealists or to the artist currently in the Bechtler spotlight, Alberto Giacometti. The links were described by the tag-team speaking duo of Ben Roe, Charlotte Chamber Music's artistic director, and Bechtler vice president Christopher Lawing. 

They likened the sudden shifts of mood and style in Francis Poulenc's Cello Sonata to the collisions of seemingly incongruous visual elements in surrealist art. They set a wall sconce that harks back to ancient sculpture alongside Erik Satie's serene Gymnopedie No. 1, which also has classical inspiration. 

So the concert offered food for thought. While the gallery had its drawbacks -- such as reverberant acoustics that sometimes made  Stravinsky's rowdy "The Soldier's Tale" overbearing -- it served better than the downstairs lobby, where the museum first tried doing concerts. There wasn't nearly as much competition from air-conditioning hiss. The occasional noise that drifted up from downstairs wasn't as distracting as the street noise used to be.   

Can the art-and-music combination hold up over the months and years? That will be the challenge. Linking art from the Bechtler's modern niche with a steady diet of chamber music won't be easy. The organizers will need all their ingenuity to keep it eye- and ear-opening. Otherwise, the concerts' new mission won't last as long as the first one. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dr. Warren-Green's tonic for music lovers

Christopher Warren-Green tipped his hand Friday as to what he's up to with the Charlotte Symphony's KnightSounds concerts. 

The concert was titled "The Power of the Song," and the orchestra's ads said it would pay tribute to the art of song from Mozart to Bernstein to John Lennon. So it did Friday night, with the help of a pair of compelling sopranos. In the midst of it, though, came a composer who wasn't mentioned in the advertising: Osvaldo Golijov.

While Golijov, an Argentine native and U.S. resident, is one of today's most-performed composers -- and a Grammy winner, among other honors -- that doesn't necessarily mean a lot in Charlotte. No wonder Warren-Green devoted to it a bit more than the usual introductory chat from the podium. He noted that Golijov is "unknown" here, and he went on to acknowledge that unfamiliar names usually cause a flight from the box office. But with the KnightSounds concerts, which usually are built around themes rather than a headline musical work, Warren-Green hopes to expand his audience's horizons. 

"I aim to get you all to trust me," he said, adding a quip: "I'm a doctor." The audience -- a little nervous about what was coming? -- chuckled. 

Then it was time for Golijov's "How Slow the Wind," based on a   poem by Emily Dickinson. Soprano Christina Pier began by reciting Dickinson's verses, which begin: "How slow the wind / How slow the sea / How late their feathers be." Pier and the orchestra then set off on Golijov's music, which added a soulfulness of its own to Dickinson's enigmatic poetry. It was a nocturne for soprano and orchestra. The orchestra's deep, quiet tones set the scene. Dickinson's poetry unfolded in the soprano's long-breathed lines, which Pier intoned tellingly. The murmur of the bass clarinet and tolling of chimes, hushed though they were, lent urgency. 

Beyond the applause at the end, Dr. Warren-Green didn't ask the audience how the medicine had gone down. But the music did hit home with a yoga instructor I ran into afterward. It was haunting, she said, and she could imagine playing it during yoga classes. Maybe that isn't a reaction that Golijov would've expected. But it tells you that his message came across. 

The rest of the concert put pure tunefulness in the spotlight, from the noble lyricism of Handel's "Lascia ch'io pianga" -- long known as Handel's "Largo" -- to the Broadway pizazz of Bernstein's "Candide." Pier, a Catawba College faculty member, treated Handel and Mozart to finesse, dignity and silky tone. 

Susannah Biller mainly took the opposite tack, reveling in the high spirits of "Die Fledermaus" and "Candide." The more flamboyant the music was, the more she let loose with vibrant high notes and sure-fire vocal acrobatics. "Glitter and be Gay" from "Candide" brought down the house. 

Warren-Green and the orchestra complemented all of that. Afterward -- going along with the KnightSounds tradition of post-concert action -- the songfest continued with a karaoke contest in the lobby, with Warren-Green as emcee. Actually, the karaoke was mostly drowned out by the rest of the crowd in the lobby, as other concertgoers hung around and gabbed with friends. But that's OK. Isn't karaoke mainly for the participants anyway? Everyone was obviously having a good time. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cast your ballot -- for music

Are you mad about Mozart? Bonkers for Beethoven? Smitten with Smetana? Here's your chance to express yourself.  


"Cast Your Classical Ballot" is the lure for WDAV-FM's fall fund drive, which kicks off Oct. 3. Listeners can log onto the station's website and vote for their favorite composers in six categories, from Baroque through post-Romantic to contemporary. The station will feature the winners in its "Symphony at 7" program Nov. 5-8, when the music will offer a refuge from that other election. 

"In this time of political tug-of-war, WDAV has remained an oasis from the onslaught of campaign messaging," general manager Scott Nolan said in a statement. "And yet, in the spirit of the democratic process, we are giving our listeners the opportunity to elect the greatest composers of each classical-music era, once and for all." 

The election supervisors at WDAV have put only three names on the ballet for each category. But they've also left spots for write-ins. That's where you'll have to go if you are a fan of Smetana -- or Chopin, Puccini or Philip Glass.

WDAV aims to raise $210,000 through its fall campaign, which runs through Oct. 11. So it no doubt hopes listeners will also vote with their dollars by making contributions. Or do you think there's a super PAC that wants to spend money on Bach, Beethoven and Brahms? 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Take a look behind the scenes at 'Tosca'

Whether or not Samuel Johnson was correct that opera is "an exotic and irrational entertainment," it's definitely a complicated one. Opera Carolina is offering two behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to get its opening production of the season -- Puccini's "Tosca" -- onto the stage. 

It will start at the beginning. The company is inviting visitors into the rehearsal studio this Saturday, Aug. 29, as the cast -- including principals who have performed Puccini's thriller before, but not necessarily together -- sings through it together for their first time. Accompanied by piano, they'll tackle the entire, three-act score, Opera Carolina general director James Meena says. 

It should be a busy three hours. Then the spectators will go home, and the cast will get down to the nitty gritty of Puccini's stormy but tuneful tale of love, lust, murder and a double-cross from beyond the grave. They'll spend nearly two weeks polishing the music, putting together the staging with director Jay Lesenger, and adding the Charlotte Symphony. 

Opening night, with Meena conducting, will be Oct. 13 in the Belk Theater. The next afternoon, Oct. 14, the company will hold an open house at the Belk. The activities will include makeup and costume demonstrations, a tour of the theater, and activities for kids, Meena says. 

There's no charge for either occasion. But Opera Carolina asks that  visitors call to RSVP, especially since space is limited at the rehearsal studio. 
The company will make behind-the-scenes glimpses a regular event, Meena says. It hopes that will help more people bond with Opera Carolina and opera in general. 

"I'm guessing we won't get a huge response the first year," Meena says. "But if we can build it up into something people look forward to, it will strengthen our relationship with the public, and hopefully get people interested in seeing more of what we do." 

Besides showcasing the art and craft that go into producing opera, Saturday's rehearsal will also spotlight one of the challenges -- finding a place to rehearse. Since Blumenthal Performing Arts converted the studio behind the Belk Theater into a pocket-size theater, Meena says, his company and the Charlotte Symphony have had to go elsewhere -- carting around their singers, players and equipment. 

"Both of us are using churches," Meena says. "It's not where a real, professional company should be working, quite honestly. We make do. ... But it sets a standard that I'm just not happy with." 

"This is very much on my to-do list -- to address the issue of poor rehearsal facilities in town," he says. But there's no easy solution.

"Support space is just not sexy," Meena says. "Nobody (who might help pay for it) wants to put their name on a rehearsal facility. So it's kind of hard to address. But it's something we have to get done." 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Orchestra picks team to search for new leader

The Charlotte Symphony has picked the 14-member hunting party that will look for its next executive director.

The group is dominated by members of the Charlotte Symphony  operation: present and past board members, plus one player. It also includes representatives of some of the orchestra's main financial backers.

For the first time in recent years, at least, the president of the Arts & Science Council will take part in a symphony committee. Scott Provancher not only leads the ASC, one of the main supporters of the arts in Charlotte, but he also has experience in orchestra management, search committee chair Richard Osborne said. Provancher was the executive director of the Louisville Orchestra in Kentucky before he moved to the arts-fund arena. 

Wells Fargo and the Leon Levine Foundation, both of which have emerged as donors to the orchestra in recent years, are also represented. The search committee: 

Catherine Connor, board member. 
Brian Cromwell, board member. 
Jay Everette, Wells Fargo executive.
Bernie Hargadon, board member. 
Jane McColl, former board member. 
Richard Osborne, board member and search committee chair. 
Larry Polsky, a program director for the Leon Levine Foundation. 
Frank Portone, the orchestra's principal French horn. 
Scott Provancher, ASC. 
Laurie Readhead, board member. 
Pat Rodgers, former board chair. 
Emily Smith, chair of the orchestra's board. 
Bob Stickler, board member and interim executive director. 
Christopher Warren-Green, the orchestra's music director. 

They'll be looking for someone to help drive the orchestra's years-long effort to gets its finances onto a stable foundation. The new leader will succeed Jonathan Martin, who left in August to become chief executive of the Dallas Symphony. Martin came to Charlotte in May 2008 -- just before the recession made the already challenging job even tougher.  

The committee will meet for the first time Tuesday, Sept. 24. Its first task will be to spell out the qualities it wants in a new leader, Osborne said. It's likely to enlist an executive-search firm to help go from there. 

Having committee members from outside the orchestra's immediate circles -- such as the ASC, Wells and Levine Foundation -- helps widen its perspective, Osborne said. That  "increases the likelihood that you're going to hire someone who will be a success." 

Wells Fargo executive Everette has become prominent in Charlotte's arts scene as the bank has stepped up its support of cultural groups, including the orchestra, Opera Carolina and Mint Museum. Everette chairs the Mint's board of trustees. The Levine Foundation's Polsky is a former board chair of Discovery Place. 

The search committee will "try hard," Osborne said, to have the new chief in place by the start of the 2013-14 season -- which would be roughly the same amount of time it took to find Martin. But "we can't create candidates out of thin air," Osborne added. "We're at the mercy of the pool of candidates who are attractive and available."  

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eight artists, teachers to be honored by ASC

The spotlight will land on eight standouts in Charlotte culture and education  when the Arts & Science Council presents its ASC Honors on Oct. 16

The awards, given out every three years, recognize Charlotte-Mecklenburg residents who have increased the area's creative richness. 

"From Clara Jones transforming her west Charlotte home into a piano studio, housing 26 pianos, to teach hundreds of students, to Libby Withrow, an educator who engages students in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (in) the field of science every day, ASC is proud to honor them," ASC president Scott Provancher said in a statement. 

The honorees are: 

Robert Corbin, vice president of learning experiences at Discovery Place. He took part in the design of the new exhibitions unveiled in the science center's 2010 renovation. 

Clara Jones, a retired CMS music teacher and private piano teacher. She expanded her Lincoln Heights home repeatedly until it held more than 20 pianos for her students' use. 

Wesley Mancini, fiber artist and founder of Wesley Mancini, Ltd., which employs artists, colorists and others to create fabrics, rugs  and related products.  

Dan Morrill, a longtime UNC Charlotte history professor and Charlotte champion of historic preservation.

Kathy Reichs, a novelist, forensic anthropologist and UNCC professor. Reich's books inspired the television series "Bones," of which she's a producer. 

There also are three recipients of the Cato Lifetime Achievement  in Teaching Award: 

Byron Baldwin, photographer and longtime photography teacher at Myers Park High and colleges in the area. 

Andrew West, speech teacher at Myers Park High and coach of its prizewinning debate team. 

Elizabeth "Libby" Withrow, longtime CMS teacher and chair of the science department at South Mecklenburg High. 

The awards will be given out at concert featuring the Sphinx Virtuosi, a string orchestra founded by the Sphinx Organization, a national group aimed at creating classical-music opportunities for young African-American and Latino players. Charlotte Concerts brought the ensemble to Central Piedmont Community College last season, and it played with gusto. 

Tickets to the ASC event, which is co-sponsored by the Charlotte Symphony, are $20. The program will begin with spoken and video presentations honoring the recipients, the ASC says. Then the Sphinx Virtuosi will take over.   

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Charlotte Symphony takes to the airwaves

The Charlotte Symphony will reach far beyond the walls of the Belk Theater on Friday, taking to the airwaves and the Internet with the opening concert of its Classics season

WDAV-FM will broadcast the music live as the orchestra's music director, Christopher Warren-Green, leads a night of Beethoven. For an orchestra that rarely travels far from its home venues, this is a rare opportunity to reach listeners who are usually beyond its reach. 

"Our ability to broadcast select concerts, through our partnership with WDAV, helps us fulfill our mission to serve our whole community and reach a broader audience with powerful music," the orchestra's interim president, Robert Stickler, said in a statement.

Friday's broadcast will begin at 7 p.m., when Frank Dominguez, WDAV's program director, interviews Warren-Green from the stage. Announcers Mike McKay and Matt Rogers will take over at concert time, when the orchestra will play Beethoven's "Coriolan" Overture, Piano Concerto No. 4 -- with Brazilian pianist Arnaldo Cohen as the soloist -- and Symphony No. 4. 

WDAV says it's planning to be back at the Belk Theater in May, when the orchestra caps off its season with Beethoven's Ninth. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy 193rd birthday, Clara!

After around a century and a half of being overshadowed by her husband, Clara Schumann is finally having a posthumous moment in the spotlight. 

Robert Schumann's wife is getting a 193rd-birthday greeting from Google. Information-seekers who go onto the site today see a cozy little scene: a young woman reaching around eight little children to touch a keyboard. It's an homage to the fact that Clara was one of the most famous pianists of the 19th century -- and, on top of that, somehow found time to bear Schumann eight kids. 

That was only after a romance that today would probably be a media scandal. Schumann, as a young man, met and was smitten with Clara when she was barely  more than a child -- though she already was charismatic keyboard prodigy. Her father, who taught piano to both of them, was horrified, partly for selfish reasons: She was his claim to fame. Years of struggle between the two men ensued. Some biographers think the stress helped pave the way for the mental illness that eventually overtook Schumann.

After his death -- when Clara was only in her 30s -- she became the keeper of the flame for his music, as well as the breadwinner for the children. Nevertheless, she must have still had magnetism: The young Johannes Brahms fell in love with her. But he got nowhere. Her devotion remained with her late husband. 

Clara was a composer, too. As with many female musicians of her day, her creative work was mostly ignored for generations. The same fate befell Fanny Mendelssohn, Felix's sister. In past couple of decades, though, Clara's works have finally attracted attention again. So, as a postlude to Google's greetings, here's a sample of her music: the lusty finale of her Piano Concerto in A minor. See what you think.  

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Operatic epic arrives in your living room

Some people make pilgrimages across oceans to see Richard Wagner's "The Ring of the Nibelung," but this week there's a simpler way: You can immerse yourself in the four-opera saga of gods and gold in the comfort of your home. 

Thanks to public television's "Great Performances," the Metropolitan Opera's staging of the "Ring" is being shown on stations across the United States, including UNC-TV's Explorer channel and South Carolina's ETV. These are the same performances that many opera lovers saw in movie-theater relays as the Met unveiled its "Ring" step-by-step across two seasons.  

UNC-TV begins at 8 tonight, Sept 11, with "Wagner's Dream," a two-hour documentary about the Met's massive undertaking of planning the producing its "Ring." Among other things, the film offers an up-close look at the 45-ton, computer-controlled set nicknamed "The Machine" -- as well as some of the singers' jittery first encounters with it. "Das Rheingold," the opening drama of Wagner's tale, comes Wednesday night. 

On ETV, which started a day earlier, "Das Rheingold" launches the cycle tonight, Sept. 11, at 9 p.m. The remaining three operas  follow night by night on each station. (Charlotte's WTVI doesn't have the "Ring" on its schedule as far as I could find. If it's really there, let me know and I'll gladly update this.) 

There's really no way to avoid an over-used expression: This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to take in an operatic landmark without having to invest anything more than your time. As best I can recall, the last time broadcast TV showed the "Ring" was in the early 1980s, when public television broadcast the cycle from the festival founded by Wagner himself in Bayreuth, Germany.

Admittedly, the 20 hours or so that the "Ring" involves are an investment of their own. If you can't afford it, here are a couple of suggestions for spots you might sample. 

The opening act of the second opera, "The Valkyrie," is a little love story unto itself, building up to some of the most rapturous music in opera. The opening of the climactic drama, "Twilight of the Gods," is another oasis of romance and optimism before the gods' Armageddon finally arrives. Behind the warriors' breastplates, passionate hearts are beating.  

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Uptown chamber music moves, adds admission fee

After more than a decade of free chamber-music concerts that made it an uptown institution, Charlotte Chamber Music -- formerly named Chamber Music at St. Peter's -- says it's merging with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, where its monthly concerts will gain a home and an admission charge. 

The group's main series will open its season Oct. 2 in its new location, the gallery on the Bechtler museum's fourth floor. The added value of the museum visit explains the admission fee, Bechtler vice president  Christopher Lawing says.  The 12:10 p.m. performance will be free for Bechtler members, $5 for others. The 5:30 p.m. performance, which includes an after-concert reception, will be $15 for museum members, $20 for others. The concerts will continue through May on the first Tuesday of each month. 

Charlotte Chamber Music reached "a crossroads," the announcement on its website says. 

"We have had to confront a challenge that many nonprofit organizations eventually face: becoming a viable entity that exists beyond its founder and early roots," the letter from CCM executive director Elaine Spallone says. 

The group is "confronting the realities of the present," the letter says.  "Beyond our own walls, the Charlotte area has been roiled by economic and civic upheaval. ... The economy has severely affected all of us in the nonprofit industry and the arts especially."

When the concerts begin Oct. 2, they'll be "under the management of the Bechtler Museum," the letter says. But CCM's artistic director, former WDAV head Ben Roe, will "continue to be involved in programming." 

The Oct. 2 concert will feature the Bechtler Ensemble in works by Francis Poulenc, Igor Stravinsky and Erik Satie. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Former NY Yankee, band will promote the arts

Baseball player-turned-bandleader Bernie Williams and his band will headline a late-night concert Tuesday at the McGlohon Theater promoting the support of the arts.  

The ArtsJam concert is parts of ArtsVote2012, a national initiative launched by the advocacy group Americans for the Arts.  ArtsVote2012 is aimed at "ensuring that the arts impact federal elections," according to the concert announcement from the Arts & Science Council. The ASC is the local partner for the concert and ArtsSpeak, an invitation-only panel discussion Tuesday afternoon. 

The afternoon panelists will include former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx; and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn; Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers and bandleader Williams. They'll talk about the value of the arts and arts education, and they'll "underscore the importance of developing strong public policies" supporting the arts, the ASC says. 

Bernie and the All-Stars, the ex-Yankee's Latin Grammy-nominated musical group, will perform at 11 a.m. at the McGlohon Theater. "As a special thank you to Charlotte," the announcement says, Mecklenburg and Charlotte teachers and municipal workers, members of the military and college students can get two free, non-transferable tickets to the ArtsJam by visiting the Belk Theater box office.  Details: 704-372-1000.