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: 

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.