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Puppets steal the show at FlynnSpace

The Lane Series
On Friday, Nov. 16, at the University of Vermont's Redstone Recital Hall, the Lane Series presented a quite singular recital by Kim Kashkashian, viola, and Lydia Artymiw, piano. The concert was singular because one seldom gets the opportunity to hear a violist give a full recital, and in the case of Kashkashian, the audience heard the work of one of the premier viola players in the world (Jane Ambrose, president of the Lane Series, simply named her the greatest viola player in the world). Her fellow artist was considerably more partner then accompanist. The other singularity was the program. It ranged from a sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord by JS Bach and newer music by Shostakovich, Carlos Guastavino and Gy__ Kurt_(the latter being the only living composer). The Bach Sonata No. 3 in G Minor for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord was well played by the two performers, and there was generous give-and-take as the themes were tossed back and forth. Stylistically it was quite satisfying, but to my ears there was an imbalance between the piano and the viola, especially when the viola was in its lowest registers, that might have been better maintained had they not used the full stick on the piano for that particular work. The use of the practice stick might have helped. The Three Songs for Viola and Piano by Guastavino contained two highly lyrical selections and one more rhythmically dancelike parts. Both Kashkashian and Artymiw spun the lyricism out, thus displaying the most lyrical playing of the evening. It was the work of charm well played. The work by the Hungarian born Kurt_ Signs, Games, and Messages for solo viola and J_kok for solo piano -- or at least selections from those two works were also presented in the first half of the program. They are difficult, thorny, minimalist works for the performers -- who knew what they were doing; they were an agony for the audience only in so far as there was a distraction of knowing which sighing or game or message was being offered at any given moment. With the work of this density, a work so full of fragmented meanings, I would have given anything simply to have known what was being played when, as well as which of the named movements were those played by Artymiw and which were those played by Kashkashian. Speaking solely for myself, and paraphrasing the description of the late President Gerald Ford, I can't count and pay attention to the music at the same time -- besides which, how did I know when to begin and when to stop counting? This part of the program -- and I welcome intellectually challenging music -- could have benefited from some commentary, however brief, before it was played. The piece, even with these challenges, made some impressions, but if it was important enough to have listed the selections by name, some pertinent commentary would not have been amiss. The second half of the program was totally involved in the tremendously satisfying performance of the Sonata in C Major for Viola and Piano, Opus 147 by Dmitri Shostakovich. It was one of the single best performances of music by any performers that I have heard anywhere. Both Kashkashian and Artymiw were so enveloped in the music that they achieved a clarity and unanimity of intelligence and technique that seemed to come from a single entity. I quite love the music of Shostakovich, and when it is given a performance such as it received that evening, I understand why musicians labor to perform this rich and varied music. The sound was glorious; the partnership perfection. It was an especially satisfying evening for me, and I left the hall elevated. Viva La Voce Puppet Opera
For their third production, this company chose Johan Strauss II's Die Fledermaus (The Bat). Viva La Voce Puppet Opera is the brainchild of Roxanne Vought, who produced and directed the performance of the Strauss classic. FlynnSpace was filled with people of all ages and varying backgrounds, who had come to see this puppet opera (the couple sitting in front of me spoke in German the entire evening, while to my left I heard a smattering of French and Spanish; there were small children sitting in the first row, and children of all ages filling the rest of the theater). From those who knew the work very well, down to those who didn't know the work down at all, the sounds of merriment and pleasure in the presentation were constant throughout the performance. Of special note was the animated bat above the proscenium, who talked and carried on as the disgruntled man, Falke, whose revenge is worked out on this New Year's Eve in Old Vienna. The puppets themselves were marvels, and the live performers, whether speakers or singers, when they appeared, or human size versions of the costumes that the puppets wore. The singing was always satisfactory, and in the case of Beth Thompson, gloriously arch and beautifully sung (she sang the czard_from the second act). There are so many people to thank that it's really difficult, but the script by Mark Pekar hit all the highlights of the funny dialogue; the puppeteers Trish Denton, Meghan DeWald, Lee Anderson, Bon Provenzano; the singers Josh Pelkey, Thompson and Vought as well as those who sang the chorus; and music director Gahlord DeWald; costumes and puppets by Kathleen DeSimone; backdrops by Vanessa Mayer; stage construction by Nathaniel Plasha; and finally anyone who might have overlooked unintentionally. They were all contributors to an evening of delight Now that they have made FlynnSpace, one hopes that it is the first step to becoming a Vermont institution -- and that sometime they will be able to tour the show to other parts of Vermont. It was really that good! Briefly noted
The Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra and the Oriana singers and soloists, all under the direction of William Metcalfe, will present two performances of the first three cantatas from Bach's Christmas Oratorio as well as other seasonal music on December 13 in Stowe and on Dec. 14 in Burlington Sunday, Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. LOp_ de Montr_ will present its 12th edition of its Gala, featuring 20 opera singers from Canada of the United States Mexico and Australia, with the Metropolitan Orchestra of Greater Montr_ under the baton of American conductor Paul Nadler. For information: 514-985-2258 ... The Best Christmas Pageant Ever will be available on two weekends in December at the Waterfront Theatre: tickets at 86-Flynn; info: 862-2287 Bella Voce under the direction of Dr. Dawn Willis will give two concerts December 8 in Stowe at 8 p.m. and Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. in Burlington's First Baptist Church: tickets available at 86-Flynn. Henrik Ibsen's An Enemy of the People as adapted by Arthur Miller is currently holding place on the stage at the Leanor and Alvin Segal Theatre in this Montr_ complex of the arts. It is a mentally and ideologically remorseless play that Arthur Miller felt spoke some of the truth about the America of the 1950s. There are those who could easily construe the story about a man with "the truth" of pollution's becoming a major health hazard for a health spa that is the lifeblood of a small community with the present context of global warming. It comes to a conclusion with a nightmarish vision that rivals the ending of Shirley Jackson's famous short story ".Lottery" in its blind violence. The theme of the play is unequivocal: despite having the truth, the speaker of the truth sacrifices everything in his life for this abstract concept which he feels very deeply. But unlike Oedipus, whom he resembles in many aspects of hubristic action and speech (there is even a pestilence much like the pestilence that is decimating the population of Thebes), Dr. Stockmann never repents for a moment, despite all the blandishments and all the threats that are used to try to derail him from his purpose, which is to be a shining example of truth. To what extent he becomes so infatuated with his idea of what is truth that he slips over into serious clinical obsession is not absolutely certain or clear either in the text or in the production itself, but slip he does, bringing a sure destruction on him and his children as Oedipus did on his own. The climactic scene is at the warehouse where Dr. Stockmann is supposed to speak and is forced to remain silent by the threats of the entire populace who have been brought to a panic edge by the thought of new taxation. It was staged so as to make the audience a part of the town's populace -- I grant you, nothing new in itself -- but it worked triumphantly, and he gave a wonderful opportunity both to Ric Reid as Dr.Stockmann and William Vickers as Peter Stockmann to show us the guts of the play, which they did in spades. Throughout the play, they were at one another's throats, but this was their big moment of confrontation in public. This is not quite a David Mamet-type male confrontation, but it comes reasonably near to that -- with the exclusion of Mamet dialogue. The entire cast does a commendable job of bringing the play to life under the direction of Miles Potter, who does a splendid job especially in the warehouse scene in moving the personnel around the stage. Elsewhere his direction is telling in small details, although I did wonder a bit about some of the silent acting that was going on on stage left and stage right while the main action was in stage center. Be that as it may, it was extremely well directed. I have particular respect in Montr_ for those people who supply the sound design for the plays at the Segal and at the Centaur. I particularly liked the work of Tray Slocum, who did the sound design for this production. The set was serviceable but not outstanding; the costumes seemed to bespeak a certain timelessness, but at least indicated 20th century without identifying a countr If you do not know this play, or if you know this play but not in Arthur Miller's adaptation of it, it would not be amiss for you to find yourself on the road to Montr_. It is well worth a trip to go see it, and especially at a Sunday afternoon matinee, where you might have a good dinner before you joined the madding crowds returning to the States. The play runs through Dec. 9. Reservations: 514-739-7944. The Oops Deptartment
I accidentally and inadvertently left out the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts and their amazing contributions to the artistic quality and availability in the community -- it shows what can happen when a person is so focused on groups that he (read: I) forgets the bigger picture And the Craftsbury Chamber Players, who perform in July and August at UVMs Redstone Recital Hall as well as in their own home town of Hardwick.

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