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.