“Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” Comes to Popejoy Hall

A national touring production of “Beautiful – The Carole King Musical” will be on the Popejoy Hall stage for seven performances – at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 12, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 13, 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 14, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15 and at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, June 16. Popejoy Hall is in the UNM Center for the Arts, main campus.

Tickets are available at www.unmtickets.com, at www.popejoypresents.com, at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and at The Pit (Dreamstyle Arena) or at the Center for the Arts box office. Groups of 10 or more inquire at groups@popejoypresents.com

By David Steinberg

The musical “Beautiful” serves up the many pop songs of singer-songwriter Carole King, songs that helped define America culture in the 1960s and ‘70s.

There were songs that King herself popularized, such as “One Fine Day” and “I Feel the Earth Move.”

And there were many of her songs that others popularized. Like “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (The Shirelles), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters), “The Locomotion” (Little Eva) and (“You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin).

King didn’t write those tunes by herself. She collaborated with Gerry Goffin. King wrote the music and Goffin the lyrics.

“This show feels like a play with music, not a jukebox musical. I feel lucky to have this role but also it is a really challenging character to portray,” Dylan S. Wallach said in a phone interview from San Francisco.

Dylan portrays Goffin opposite Sarah Bockel as King  in the national touring company production of “Beautiful.” It’s Dylan’s national touring production debut.

The musical will be at Popejoy Hall for seven performances from Wednesday, June 12 through Sunday, June 16.

King and Goffin met when they were teenagers at Queens College, N.Y., and were married from 1958 to 1970. But Goffin began dealing with mental illness. “What’s called bipolar disorder now. He tried electroshock therapy and other things but nothing helped him. He had a sad rest of his life,” Wallach said.

“You see him breaking down mentally over the course of the show. It’s a challenge to portray him as more than just happy or angry. He hurt Carole a lot and he regretted how much he had hurt her. She forgave him.”

Other principal characters in the musical are Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who where songwriting rivals of King and Goffin yet they remained friends.

After he finishes the tour with “Beautiful” this summer, Wallach plans on moving back to New York City. He intends to continue developing a comedy TV series called “Mannies” with a friend, Nick Carr. They’ve already written the pilot.

It’s based on their personal experiences as male nannies. 

A native of Maine, Dylan graduated from Carnegie Mellon where he studied acting. After college he started taking voice lessons. He had the part of Danny in a Toronto production of “Grease.”

On her own, Carole King composed “You’ve Got a Friend,” which was on her award-winning 1971 “Tapestry” album. The song was also a No. 1 hit for James Taylor.

“Beautiful” the musical won two Tony Awards in 2014, one for Best Leading Actress in a Musical and another for Best Sound Design in a Musical. It also earned a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album.

In 2013, President Obama presented Carole King with the fourth Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, the first awarded to a woman.

Review: “CATS” is at Popejoy Hall this weekend. Go see it. (Again? Sure)

The musical “CATS” will be on the Popejoy Hall stage at 7:30 p.m. tonight (Friday, May 17) and repeats at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19. Popejoy Hall is in the UNM Center for the Arts.

For tickets, visit www.unmtickets.com or www.popejoypresents.com, or call 925-5858 or go to ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit) or at the Center for the Arts box office. For groups of 10 or more email groups@popejoypresents.com.

By David Steinberg

How do you improve on a legend? In this case, the legendary Broadway show “CATS”?

The revival – rebirth, if you will – of “CATS” isn’t about improvement. It’s a matter of allowing for new interpretations by the musical’s creative team. Call it re-freshening.

Be assured that Andrew Lloyd Webber’s memorable musical score remains the same. (You can still hum along with Grizabella – quietly please – in her singing of the heartbreaking song “Memory.”) Keri René Fuller is the ancient Grizabella.

The story, too, remains unchanged. It is about one night in the life of the tribe of Jellicle Cats and the decision who among them will ascend to the “Heavyside Layer” and be reborn into a new life.

So what’s new in this thrilling national touring company production that’s at Popejoy Hall this weekend?

New and explosive sound design by Mick Potter. Eye-grabbing scenic and costume designs by John Napier. Popping new lighting design by Natasha Katz. And new choreography by Andy Blankenbuehler based on the original choreography.

The result is a production that is more rock concert-like. It seems louder. More lights brighten the darkness on the stage and strings of lightbulbs flash in different colors over the aisles.

Plus there are seemingly longer dance numbers that will make any seated audience member short of breath.

If there is a single character that brilliantly encapsulates all of these new design elements it is Mister Mistoffelees, joyfully and wordlessly performed by Tion Gaston. Gaston’s character does not appear until near the end of Act II but his dynamic performance brings to a head – and reminds viewers – of the many earlier solo performances of the rest of the ensemble.

Among them are the pillow-softness of Jennyanydots (Emily Jeanne Philliips), the rock star sexiness of Rum Tum Tugger (McGee Maddox), the spunkiness of the pair Mungojerrie (Tony D’Alelio) and Rumpleteazer (Rose Iannaccone), the aristocratic puffiness of Bustopher Jones (Timothy Gulan), the audible misdemeanors of the late-appearing Macavity (Tyler John Logan) and the slow motion of the patriarchal Old Deuteronomy (Brandon Michael Nase).

Then there are the other cast members who aren’t featured characters but give needed terpsichorean and voiced support to the production.

“CATS” opened in London in 1981 and the next year the production opened on Broadway, where it ran for 18 years. It won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.

The musical returned to Broadway in 2016 in a revival production that is now on a national tour.

Air, Water, Fire and Earth: These Four Elements Inspire the Program Selections of the May 19 Música Antigua de Albuquerque Concert

Música Antigua de Albuquerque presents a concert titled “The Four Elements”  at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, 601 Montaño NW.

Tickets are $20 general public, $15 seniors and $10 full-time students. For reservations and more information call 505-842-9613 or email musicaantigua@comcast.net.

By David Steinberg

“O ignis spiritus” – “O fire of the Holy Spirit” – is the earliest work on Música Antigua de Albuquerque’s May 19 concert program.

The song derives from a vivid vision of the composer, the famous 12th century German Benedictine abbess and mystic Hildegard of Bingen.

In this vision von Bingen saw tongues of flame fall from heaven and settle on her, bestowing knowledge and inspiring her creative life.

“It has a monophonic melody line so we add things,” said Art Sheinberg, a cofounder of Music Antigua. “One interesting thing we added is a drone played on a bowed bell. You take the bell and bow on the rim of it. That bowing gives an eerie, mystical sound.”

Another work in the “fire” category is by an anonymous composer in 14th century France. Its title “Restoes, restoes” means “Stop, stop” the fire of burning desire that my heart has for a beautiful lady, said Sheinberg.

“Fire” is one of the four elements in the concert’s overriding musical theme of “The Four Elements.”

Reflecting another element, earth, the ensemble will perform a song by Guillaume de Machaut, a 14th century French composer. The song is “Plus Dure Que Un Dyamant,” which means “Harder than a Diamond.” “It’s a song of unrequited love. The man is singing that the woman’s heart is harder than a diamond,” Sheinberg said.

Two pieces from the Cantigas de Santa Maria, a musical collection from 13th century Spain, refer to the earth. One is “Toller pod’a Madre,” which describes the eruption of Mt. Etna, and the other is “Assi pod’a Virgen,” which tells the story of a sinkhole that swallows a monastery and the monks inside. But a year later they’re regurgitated – alive and well.

In the category of “air” is “Fumeux Fume” meaning “Smoker Smokes,” a song by the 14th century composer Solage.

“It’s a very mysterious song. We don’t know what it’s about. Apparently there was a society of smokers before the time of tobacco. It just makes us wonder what they were smoking,” Sheinberg said.

The harmonies are just crazy, very dissonant.”

The same category has two songs about two kinds of wind – “Zefiro torno,” which lauds the gentle spring wind, and “When the chill Cherocco blows,” which is about a blustery winter wind causing people to head indoors and drink lots of ale to forget their misery.

The last category is water.

One song is “Tre Fontane” or “Three Fountains,” from 14th century Italy.
“It’s a monophonic dance called an estampie, Sheinberg said. The dancers are stomping in this instrumental piece.

Another song of unrequited love is “Since my tears and lamenting” from the late 17th century by Robert Morley.

The others members of Música Antigua are Dennis Davies-Wilson, Ruth Helgeson, Hovey Dean Corbin, David McGuire and Colleen Sheinberg.

All six ensemble members play on period instruments, such as viola da gamba, sackbut, recorder, shawm, vihuela de mano, lute and harpsichord.

Final Willy Sucre and Friends Concert Sunday, May 19 in Placitas

Willy Sucre and Friends play string quartets of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky and Béla Bartók at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 19 at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, six miles east of Interstate-25 in Placitas.

It is the final concert of the 2018-19 season of the Placitas Artists Series. For tickets in advance visit http://www.placitasarts.org, or go to The Merc Grocery Store, Homestead Village Shopping Center, Placitas, or at Under Charlie’s Covers in Bernalillo or, if available, at the door.

By David Steinberg

Some chamber music pieces are remembered for a single theme.

In the case of Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 it is the second movement – marked  andante cantabile.

The dominant melody of that movement was so emotionally powerful that when the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy heard it it is said it moved him to tears, according to violinist Krzysztof Zimowski.

“It’s a gorgeous melody,” Zimowski said.

And 70 years after the quartet premiered in Moscow in 1871, that same melody crossed musical boundaries by becoming a popular song in the United States, Zimowski said.

He said that Tchaikovsky got the idea for the melody when he heard a house painter whistling the tune.

The motifs of the melody are believed to be based on a Russian folk song.

Zimowski will play first violin in the Sunday, May 19 performance of the Tchaikovsky work and in Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 3 as part of the Placitas Artists Series.

Zimowski is joined by second violinist Justin Pollock, cellist James Holland and violist Willy Sucre in the concert at Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas.

Bartók was not only a composer but also an ethnomusicologist. He collected folk songs.

The Bartok, Zimowski said, “is a nice string quartet and is fairly short. It has four parts that are not movements. It’s all one piece without any breaks.” It was composed in 1927.

“The first part is calm, quiet, slow, exploring the harmonic values of the instruments. The second part has Hungarian folk dance motifs,” he noted.

The third part explores some harmonic themes from the first part and the fourth part is a recapitulation of the second part.

“Bartók is exploring different sounds,” Zimowski said.

The concert is the final one of the long-running Willy Sucre and Friends series.

Zimowski said he and Sucre began performing together in Placitas with the Helios String Quartet, two years after the Helios formed in 1988 as the Placitas Artists Series’ resident string quartet.

“It has been an amazing journey together. This concert will be a fine tribute to him,” said Zimowski, concertmaster of the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Sucre is a violist with the orchestra.

A New Production of “CATS” Comes to Popejoy Hall May 16-19

The musical “CATS” will have six performance at Popejoy Hall – at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16 and Friday, May 17, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19. Popejoy Hall is in the UNM Center for the Arts.

For tickets, visit www.unmtickets.com or www.popejoypresents.com, or call 925-5858 or go to ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and Dreamstyle Arena (The Pit) or at the Center for the Arts box office. For groups of 10 or more email groups@popejoypresents.com.

By David Steinberg

One of the characters Timothy Gulan portrays in the current touring production of the hit Broadway musical “CATS” is Gus, the Theatre Cat. And it’s a good fit for Gulan.

Gus is an older cat who reminisces about his exploits when he was a famous actor.

Like Gus, Gulan said he has many theatrical experiences to draw on.

“There are a lot of things I’ve been doing in my career,” he said in a phone interview from Denver.

At 50, Gulan is the oldest performer n the “CATS” touring production coming to Popejoy Hall May 16 through May 19.

On Broadway or on tour, he has been in Sting’s “The Last Ship,” in the 25th anniversary production of “Les Miserables,” in “South Pacific,” and “The Lion King,” among others.

His television and film credits include LCT’s “Passion,” “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Producers.”

Gulan has also acted in such regional productions as “The Glass Menagerie,” “Amadeus,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

“The best thing I can say is that typically in our business they say you should take better care of yourself than the average person because you have to,” he said. “I watch my diet but I make sure I get enough to eat. A lot of us in the cast turn into grazers. You can’t eat a big meal before the show. You eat half before and half after the show.”

Another one of his characters is Bustopher Jones, the enormously fat, lovable, upper-class cat whose costume resembles a tuxedo and spats.

All four of his roles, Gulan said, “are vocally different, so for me that’s a really a great amount of fun.” Of course, he must change costumes, wigs and makeup every time he changes characters. “So I fully exfoliate a lot,” he said.

Gulan exercises every day and he has a physical therapist who deals with his “special aches and bumps. She’ll suggest things. Do these exercises but not those. If I have issues, I check in with her because she’s a pro,” he added.

Gulan thinks of himself as an actor – and singer – who moves well. He doesn’t think of himself as a dancer. “In the beginning (of the musical) I do choreography, just not super hard stuff that the killer dancers are doing. In the ensemble stuff I sing very high. I sing low for Gus and Bustopher Jones,” he said.

Gulan grew up in Hartford, Conn., and received a BFA in acting at the University of Miami. His first professional acting job was in “Sweet Charity” at the Sharon Playhouse in the summer of 1988. His first professional acting job as a union member was in a national tour of “Les Miserables.”

Besides his stage, screen and TV work, Gulan also teaches and guest lectures.

“One big thing I teach is audition technique for students coming into the professional world because it is not as forgiving as the student world, at least at the college level,” he said.

Gulan also gives improv theater classes for social workers and hospice workers “because a lot of time these people have book knowledge but when faced with a person who doesn’t have trust in them, they have to think on their feet and listen to the signals the person is giving them. So there’s a lot of role playing and role reversals.”

Gulan has also acted as a patient with stage 3 liver cancer for doctors.  “I’m helping doctors understand what patients are experiencing. You can have all the knowledge but if you don’t have empathy it’s not going to work,” he said.

“CATS” is the story of a tribe of cats known as the Jellicles and their gathering is the night they choose which one among them will rise to the Heavyside Layer and enter a new life.

“CATS” opened in London in 1981 and the next year the Broadway production it opened at the Winter Garden Theatre, where it ran for 18 years. It won seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.

The musical returned to Broadway in 2016 in a revival with new scenic and costume design, new lighting design, new sound design and choreography based on the original choreography.

Perhaps the musical’s most famous song is “Memory,” which has been recorded by more than 150 artists.

A live-action film adaptation of the musical is scheduled to open this December.

Albuquerque Chamber Soloists in Concert Sunday, April 7

The Albuquerque Chamber Soloists’ 2018-19 season concludes with a concert at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 7 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1100 Indian School NE. Music of Sergei Prokofiev, Samuel Barber, Johannes Brahms and Jean-Baptiste Barriere. Tickets are $15 general public, $12 seniors, $5 students. Advance tickets are available online at www.brownpapertickets.com, at http://www.abqcs.com, and at PianoWerkes, 4640 Menaul NE, or at the door. Cash or check only.

A pre-concert reception and chat are at 2:15 p.m.

By David Steinberg

Johannes Brahms String Sextet No. 2 concludes the Albuquerque Chamber Soloists’ April 7 concert and it also closes out the ACS’ 2018-19  season.

“The sextet is the big piece on the program. It’s about 30 minutes long and it’s the biggest in terms of the number of personnel,” said ACS president James Holland.

“Brahms is my desert-island composer. The piece itself is symphonic in scope. …What I love about Brahms is how well he writes for strings — such a richness to the sound.”

Holland said that all six players are equal partners, whether playing the primary themes or propelling the piece forward.

The six players are Holland and Lisa Donald on cello, Jason Sah on viola and Cármelo de los Santos, Gabriel Gordon and Megan Holland on violin.

A theme in the first movement is a musical anagram. Brahms, James Holland said, had been briefly engaged to a German singer named Agathe. The theme has the letters of her name that correspond to successive notes.

“So he literally spelled her name with the notes,” Holland said. “He composed the piece when he was in his early 30s, several years after he had broken off the engagement. He may have been in a nostalgic frame of mind and thinking about her.”

The concert opens with Jean-Baptiste Barriere’s Sonata for Two Cellos. Barriere, a Frenchman, lived in the late Baroque period. He became a well-known cellist as well as a composer of works mostly for the cello. In recent years, his music is being performed more frequently, Holland said.

Megan Holland said the defining character of Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata for Two Violins in C major is that the two parts are entwined.

“There’s a lot of back-and-forth rhythms in all of the movement. The two violin parts are very dependent on one another to create unified themes,” she said. “There are some really driving rhythms in the second and fourth movements. They are fiery. …And the harmonies are pretty Russian.”

Holland said she has played the work many times and is excited to be performing it with Cármelo de los Santos in the April 7 concert.

Also on the program is Samuel Barber’s “Dover Beach,” a work for baritone and string quartet.

Paul Bower, who is singing the baritone part, said the work has a lot of nature imagery. “Barber’s music is great to sing. The range is very comfortable. It has a good melody with rewarding lines and phrases,” he said.

The text is a setting of a mid-19th century poem by Englishman Matthew Arnold.

“Barber composed it at age 21 while still a student at the Curtis Institute of Music,” said Megan Holland. “It was one of the few pieces from his youth that he felt good about his entire life. The poem is multi-layered and fairly dark… (the text is about) looking over the English Channel from the beaches of Dover on a moonlit night.”

But, she noted, the poem is a metaphor for humanity losing its moorings, its faith.

Review: “Kinky Boots” is One Red-Hot Musical – Visually and Emotionally

The musical “Kinky Boots” is being staged at 7:30 p.m. today (Friday, March 8) and repeats at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday, March 9 and 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10 in Popejoy Hall, Center for the Arts, main UNM campus.  Tickets are available at www.popejoypresents.com, at  www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858 and at ticket offices in the UNM Bookstore and the Pit (Dreamstyle Arena), and at the Center for the Arts box office.

Review by David Steinberg

“Kinky Boots” is  a musical wrapped around a series of uplifting, emotionally – and socially -charged concert songs. The songs make the musical.

Thursday’s opening night audience – mostly middle-aged theatrergoers – wildly cheered the singing with the gusto of teenagers. It is a feel-good show.

The songs, written by pop singer Cyndi Lauper, elevate the musical above its intertwined storylines. But you have to know the storylines to understand the songs.

The basic story is about Charlie, (Connor Allston) the young son who must deal with the dim future of his late father’s shoe factory in provincial Northampton, England. Fewer men are buying its dress shoes. What to do – shutter it or keep it open? Urged by one of its employees to find a niche market, the son agrees.

At Charlie’s insistence, in steps the vibrant male cross-dresser Lola nee Simon, (James Mosley).  Lola wants the factory to make his design of flashy boots; their heels must withstand the weight of male bodies. (the song “Sex Is in the Heel”).

Before, the factory can retool, Charlie, Lola and the workers have to deal with their personal problems, which are also society’s issues.

One powerful Act I song, “Not My Father’s Son,”  brings out the difficulties Charlie  has with his girlfriend because he wants to redirect the shoe business, and of Lola wanting to make her father understand his orientation of being a man in women’s clothes.

Act II finds Charlie searching for his identity -and his own acceptance – in the song “Soul of a Man” and Lola seeking acceptance for what she is in the tender, teary song “Hold Me in Your Heart.”

In one Act II scene Lola and bulky factory worker Don (James Fairchild) enter a boxing ring to decide who is more macho. Don wins because Lola, a former boxer, allows him to. Don knows it. More importantly, and key to the main storyline, Don comes to accept Lola for what she is. That allows the factory workers to come together and produce the new line of red-hot boots.

Though Lola and Charlie share top-billing, it is Mosley’s glamour and compassion as Lola who drives, and steals, the show.

Lola’s part is propelled forward in part by her bevy of supporting sequined, dynamic dancers – the Angels – in several numbers. These cross-dressing Amazons are decked out in brilliantly colored costumes and heat up the stage. Wow!

They bolster the shout-out gospel-like songs that close Act I (“Everybody Say Yeah”) and Act II (“Raise You Up/Just Be”).

“Kinky Boots” won a Tony Award for Best Musical of 2013 and Lauper earned one for Best Score.

Harvey Fierstein wrote the book. He is known for writing many Broadway hits, including “Newsies,” “La Cage aux Folles,” and “Torch Song Trilogy.”

“Kinky Boots” is based on a 2006 British film of the same name, and it, in turn, is based on a true story.

Tango Anyone? The ABQtango Fest 2019 is Wednesday, March 13 through Sunday, March 17

ABQtango Fest 2019 runs from Wednesday, March 13  through Sunday, March 17. All events are at First United Methodist Church, 315 Coal SE. Some events are free and others are with admission. For more information visit www.qtango.com or call 506-1728.

By David Steinberg

Erskine Maytorena isn’t exaggerating when he says that ABQQtango Fest is the largest live tango music event in the world.

The key word in his declaration is live.

“We have no recorded music at all. We have the most events that feature live music,” Maytorena said about the Albuquerque festival, now in its second year.

Maytorena is the founder, organizer, and director of the festival. All events are at the First United Methodist Church, in Downtown Albuquerque.

The festival kicks off at noon Wednesday, March 13 with a half-hour performance that is part of the church’s Bach’s Lunch Concert series.

The concert’s featured artist is Japan’s Yukie Kawanani, whom Maytorena describes as one of the best bandoneon players around.

“She performed last year at the festival and was probably the biggest hit. She has a sparkling personality. She’s someone everyone loves to play with yet she has no ego,” he said.

Kawanami will do solos and perform with ensembles.

Other box lunch performers will be Maytorena’s Qtango ensemble, violinist Keiko Kadby, who will solo and play with the quintet Los Angeles del Tango. Also performing  will be members of Tango Llaneros of Lubbock, Texas.

A $5 box lunch is available and donations are accepted. Donations will help pay to restore the church’s piano.

There is a Wednesday evening Potluck Practical/Open Rehearsal. $25 admission.

At 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 14 is a free gala concert titled “A Short History of Tango.”

The featured ensemble is La Juan D’Arienzo, an 11-piece band with four bandoneons from Buenos Aires.

“We’ll talk about some background of tango. We’ll talk about arrangers of tango music. The arrangements are equivalent to the big band arrangements (during the swing era). That’s the parallel I want to draw. There are multiple versions of many famous tango compositions,” said Maytorena, who plays bandoneon and sings.

Performing at the gala will be the Qtango ensemble, Keiko Kadby, Yukie Kawanami, Tango Llaneros and the Los Angeles del Tango ensemble that will have Mary Anne Sereth doubling on bass and violin.

Mary Anne Sereth plays double bass with Los Angeles del Tango and will be on violin in the grand orchestrra.

At 6:30 p.m. Friday is an Art Deco Milonga, a party primarily for dancers.

Saturday after there are two classes for dancers taught with a full orchestra. It is followed by a Black and White Milonga, a dress-up party that starts at 6:30 p.m. Space is limited. Call 506-1728 for reservations.

The Sunday March 17 Tea Milonga begins at 3 p.m. It, too, is mainly for dancers.

Music at the Time – and Places – of Leonardo da Vinci

Música Antigua de Albuquerque presents paired concerts titled “Leonardo’s World: Music at the Time of Leonardo da Vinci” are at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at Christ Lutheran Church, 1701 Arroyo Chamiso, Santa Fe and at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, March 10 at St. Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church, 601 Montano NW.

Tickets are $20 general public, $15 seniors and $10 full-time students. For reservations and more information call 505-842-9613 or email musicaantigua@comcast.net.

By David Steinberg

There’s a good reason that “Leonardo’s World,” the title of Música Antigua de Albuquerque’s paired March concerts, refers to Leonardo da Vinci.

The ensemble’s concerts recognize the 500th anniversary of the death of the famous Renaissance Man who painted the Mona Lisa. Da Vinci died in 1519.

Most of the music in the concerts was composed by people who were active in the cities where – and -when – da Vinci lived.

The first city on the program is Florence.

Da Vinci was born in the Italian town of the same name where his peasant-mother lived.

“When he was five he went to live in the household of his wealthy father, who lived in Florence,” said Colleen Sheinberg, a co-founder of Música Antigua.

The program opens with four works by unknown composers that are carnival songs that were performed during Mardi Gras and Florence’s annual May festival, Sheinberg said.

The second section, “More Music from Florence,” concludes with a late 15th century song by Bonnel Pietrequin that bids farewell to the city.

The next two sections have sacred and secular pieces that six composers wrote while living in Milan. The two well-known composers in this group are Franchinus Gaffurius and Josquin des Prez.

Des Prez’s piece “Scaramella va alla guerra” is a humorous song about a swashbuckler who always gets into trouble, Sheinberg said.

“Because it is humorous and lively we are using some of our more humorous sounding instruments on it. So we doing it with krumhorns, shawm, and also viol and recorder,” she explained.

She said she’s certain that Leonardo knew composers in those two cities “because he associated with Lorenzo di Medici in Florence and was familiar with Ludovico Sforza, the duke of Milan.”

Des Prez’s music reappears in a section that refers to Venice and in another section to the cities of Mantua, Cesena and Rome.

The program closes with music by composers who lived in France. One of them is “Doulce mémoire,” by Pierre Sandrin, who died 40 years after da Vinci’s death. The text was by the French king Francis I,  who had hired da Vinci as architect decades earlier.

“We don’t know if Leonardo heard any of these pieces. He could have but we don’t have any evidence. We have to assume the general musical milieu of the time,” Sheinberg said.

Da Vinci was a musician himself, she said He sang and played the lira da brachia, a bowed instrument played violin style.

Besides Colleen Sheinberg, the other members of Musica Antigua are co-foiunder Art Sheinberg, Hovey Dean Corbin Jr., Dennis Davies-Wilson,, Ruth Helgeson and David McGuire.

“The Pirates of Penzance” at UNM This Weekend. It Will Make You Smile and Laugh

Review

UNM Opera Theatre stages Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance” at 7:30 p.m. today (March 1) and Saturday, March 2, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3 in Keller Hall, Center for the Arts, main UNM campus. Tickets are $12 general public, $10 seniors and $8 students at www.unmtickets.com, by calling 925-5858 or at the Center for the Arts box office.

Supertitles are shown above the stage.  Prof. Kristin Ditlow gives a talk one hour before curtain. 

 

Review by David Steinberg

There are professional repertory companies that perform Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas of the 19th century.

The UNM Opera Theatre may not be one of them. Its staging of G&S’ “The Pirates of Penzance” is officially a student production.

But let me tell you, these young performers – undergraduates and graduate students – have the sound and look of professionals. Bravo!

All of them were outstanding in Thursday evening’s opening performance, from the leads to the ensembles to the musicians in the pit at UNM’s Keller Hall.

The singing and the acting blended beautifully. There were moments of drama and melodrama in between long passages of comedic patter and wordplay.

The opera tells the story of young Frederic, a member of a special band of pirates. Special because they’re all nice guys behind their piratical facade. Imagine that.

Frederic (sonorous tenor Curtis Storm) thinks he can end his service as a pirate because he’s approaching his 21st birthday. Problem is he was born on Feb. 29 in a leap year so he can’t unilaterally terminate his service with the band until 1940.

Frederic is a self-admitted slave to duty as a pirate. That loyalty endears him to his charming, cheerful love interest Mabel (soprano Sophia Neal with a memorable singing voice. OMG). Mabel is one of the daughters of Major-General Stanley, who falsely claims he’s an orphan. Being orphans happens to be the same fake claim the pirates make about themselves. (“Orphan! Often!”) 

Lillian Ridout, in a trouser role, meets the vocal demands as the paternal major-general.  In a reverse trouser role is counter-tenor Trent Llewellyn as Kate, another of Stanley’s daughters.

The role of the Pirate King is comically performed and richly sung by Jonathan Patton, who inserts asides into his lines. In one aside he provokes laughter by gently declaring “That’s my song!” He knows how to use body language.

The character of Ruth is an older female pirate who insists she must have Frederic. He’s reluctant to commit to her until he checks out other candidates, perhaps prettier, perhaps younger. Ruth eventually finds a mate. The role of Ruth is double cast. Karah Ingraham sang it with gusto Thursday and returns in it Saturday evening. Grace Weaver sings it tonight (Friday) and in the Sunday matinee.

The policemen are as hapless a gang as the pirates; they seem like the model for the Keystone Kops of American silent films.

Three cheers as well for the student pit orchestra and its conductor Kristin Ditlow, who also serves as music director and vocal coach for the production. Sam Shepperson, who heads the UNM Opera Theatre, directed and produced the opera.

“The Pirates of Penzance” provides audiences with hefty servings of merriment and silliness, qualities that give emotional balance to our lives today, 140 years after the opera premiered.