Friday, June 28, 2013

French Twist: From Atget to Man Ray

The Delaware Art Museum starts their new exhibit of vintage photographs on Saturday, June 29.  The works are from the collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg and curated by Heather Campbell Coyle.  We were given a press tour by the enthusiastic Margaretta Frederick, who is chief curator for the museum.  Her delight in  the photographs and their history and the time in which they were made was infectious.

Boulevard de Strasbourg Corsets, 1912 
Eugène Atget
When you walk in and see the works in the collection by Eugène Atget, you may have your doubts about their artistic value.  Some are dark, some are gray and bleak and none are splashy, posed photographs that you might hope to see in a museum.  And yet, they represent the coincidence of turning points in history as well as turning points in photography.  Atget took pictures to record history, to record the Paris he knew after World War I, a Paris he sensed would never come back again.  He didn’t care if his work was pretty or artsy or even appreciated – he just wanted to record.   He also wanted his photographs to be regarded as historical documents, an unvarnished view -- not one made to look pretty.
After Atget, the other photographers in the collection seem to have worked harder to intrigue you and stop you cold as you try to puzzle what their photography represents.  Ilse Bing, using a much more modern camera than Atget, starts to look for different views whose unexpected angles and perspectives still show you Paris, but not the one you would see on a postcard. 

Fille de Montmartre playing Russian Billiards,
 Boulevard Rochechouart,  1932-33 Brassaï
Brassaï sneaks you in to those discreet brothels, eerie night clubs and opium dens – the faces captured in them showing an intense bristling as they reveal their secrets.  You can almost hear the surly waiters, the all-knowing demoiselles and their managers in this evocation of the darker side of Parisian life.

Jacques-Henri Lartigue was given a camera when he was six and took pictures of the Belle Époque when all seemed possible – flight of man and flight of fancy as a lady walks her dog down the street.   These early photographs were unearthed by none other than Richard Avedon and their juxtaposition in the display make you think of the optimism of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince – the world before the war changed it.

Man Ray’s photographs are fascinating for their inventiveness in concept – as well as his use of solarization – leaving the film to be exposed outside the camera for periods of time.  It was he who called the public’s attention to the work of Eugène Atget.  Man Ray heavily influenced his protégée, Dora Maar, who took his surrealist ideas and pushed them even further.

The highlight of the collection are the striking photos of Henri Cartier-Bresson.  They represent the world in a journalistic, yet artistic way.   A photograph which stuck in my mind and will probably be there forever is one of a matronly lady standing in front of a poster.  The lady is straining her eyes as she looks into the light and the eyes of the young lady in the poster are covered with stickers.   As you gaze at his work, you can see that he communicated his immediate impression of the scene he recorded.  He lets you look through his lens and shows you the view as he caught it in that instant. 

When you leave the exhibit, you will feel as if you were eavesdropping on a long conversation about Paris, art, nightlife, society and the world, and it will fill your mind for days to come.

The exhibit is open until September 15.  For more information and hours, see

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Delaware All-State Theatre Takes a Walk on the Dark Side with “Jekyll & Hyde The Musical”

Now in its 6th year, Delaware All-State Theatre (DAST) brings together the “best of the best” student performers from Delaware elementary, middle and high schools to put on a professional level production. From stellar casts to exceptional sets and costumes, DAST’s shows are of the highest caliber. After the group’s 2012 production of the boisterous musical comedy Hairspray, this summer DAST has taken a darker turn with its production of Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse’s musical thriller Jekyll & Hyde based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Every year I attend the DAST show, and every year I am amazed by the talents of the young adults. At times I forget I’m watching youth and teenagers, not professional performers. This year’s exceptional cast transports the audience to Victorian England where the newly engaged Dr. Henry Jekyll (Chad Michael Jervis) wants to create a remedy to remove the evil that he believes inhabits his catatonic father. After presenting his idea to the Board of Governors of St. Jude’s Hospital and requesting a human subject for testing, the Board quickly dismisses what they consider is a blasphemous proposal. Not having the backing of the Hospital, Dr. Jekyll decides to continue with his project and using himself as his subject.

Dr. Jekyll becomes obsessed with his work, which takes precedence over spending time with his fiancée Emma (Kristina Biddle) and his best friend/lawyer Gabriel John Utterson (Ben Walker). He becomes addicted to his elixir and the evil it brings out of him (Mr. Hyde). His addiction takes over causing him to shun Emma and Gabriel and cause terror and mayhem in the city. Mr. Hyde also begins a lurid affair with a prostitute Lucy Harris (Kayla Saunders), whom Dr. Jekyll befriended at a slum bar (The Red Rat) that he and Gabriel visited for Dr. Jekyll’s bachelor party.   

The stunning production directed by Jeffrey Santoro is dark and harsh, yet lively and engaging. The exceptional sets by DAST’s Technical director, Ryan Stofa and costumes by Lorraine Anderson create the spirit of the 1800s. From the streets of England to Dr. Jekyll’s laboratory to a sordid bar, the sets evoke a time passed by, while the costumes exemplify the divide between sophisticated members of society to prostitutes and peasants.     

However, it’s the cast that drives this musical, led by the captivating Mr. Jervis as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Mr. Jervis magnificently captures both sides of his character, finding and peeling away the layers of the enigmatic Dr. Jekyll and his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. He easily transforms from a loving and compassionate doctor to a vengeful and sadistic man. He best exemplified his capabilities during the Confrontation number when Mr. Hyde finally confronts Dr. Jekyll before taking over.  

Mr. Jervis shares the stage with equally talented leading ladies. Ms. Biddle as Dr. Jekyll’s high society fiancée, Emma, and Ms. Saunders as Mr. Hyde’s street tough mistress, Lucy, are brilliant! Both ladies have stunning voices that make it very hard to believe they are high school students. Their vulnerability that comes through their sumptuous duet In His Eyes is more than what is expected from high school students. Don’t worry, not every song is dark or sad, Ms. Saunders’s exuberant number Bring on the Men adds some light-hearted FUN to the production.  

The three leads are supported by a strong cast of students who electrify with their acting, singing and dancing talents. With precise musical direction by David Snyder and choreography by Tamara Paulino, this production is a sure fire hit!

Jekyll & Hyde runs through June 30 at the Laird Performing Art Center (Tatnall School). For additional information and/or to purchase tickets visit  

Monday, June 24, 2013

Artist Profile: Countertenor Gus Mercante

Gus Mercante sings very high notes – and when he does you can feel the audience jerk awake wondering how a man can produce notes in the stratosphere normally reserved for altos and mezzosopranos.  Yet, the quality of upper notes in a countertenor are smoother than a soprano voice, more boyish and without that extra strain that can irritate the listener when an untrained soprano reaches a bit too high in her range.  The countertenor uses a trained upper range that is not a falsetto like Smokey Robinson’s voice (which I also love, by the way), but more like a pure and directed sound which many describe as ‘head voice’.  The trick is to make the transition from that upper range to the lower notes without changing the quality of the vocal production. 

When Gus sings his very high range, it seems as if his voice is landing downwards from a gentle height.  His rounded, well-controlled tones are exactly what has garnered him myriad awards.  He won the 2007 Austrian American Society prize, a 2009 Fulbright scholarship to Germany  which included performances with opera companies in Augsburg, Nurnberg and Munich.  

This week Gus will perform in the Tanglewood Music Festival – a summer training and performing school which has been used to launch giants of American music such as Leonard Bernstein.  Originally, Tanglwood was the site of summer concerts for the Boston Symphony under the baton of Serge Kousevitsky, and it has now grown to a full-time music center which attracts over 350,000 visitors and attendees each summer.  For Gus to perform in the American premiere of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin, conducted by the composer – one of Britain’s prominent musicians -  is quite a coup for our local talent. 

Fame won’t change Gus.  He is always helping others – making calls to organize musicians and delivering scores to be transposed, handing out programs at the Italian festival with the calm of any old volunteer – yet, minutes later, he is singing his heart out to give a startlingly passionate rendition of Di tanti palpiti from Rossini’s Tancredi . His voice soars and resounds – especially in such a reverberant church.  In spite of thunderous applause, Gus’s first reaction is to study what he could have done to improve, which is no doubt why he is so good.

When he is not studying or helping others organize concerts, Gus is an active contributor to charities and worthy causes.  He makes his music work for others with his organization Lifesongs with which he raises money for charities and individuals as well as community-centered projects. 

I encourage you to listen to Gus while he is still a local artist, because those days may be limited. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Catch Free Live Music Every Thursday at the Wilmington Farmer's Market

The Wilmington Farmer's Market at Cool Spring Park is back every Thursday from 4 to 8 pm through October 3rd, with lots of local produce, baked goods, jams, honey, sausages, hot prepared food, artisan gifts, and, of course, entertainment. Stop over at six for dinner and live music in the park --  last week, the market opened for the season with rockabilly from The Green Mountain Valley Boys.

The Green Mountain Valley Boys at the Wilmington Farmer's Market.
This week, bring the kids out for Nature Jams! For a complete list of the weekly entertainment, see the entertainment schedule.

The Wilmington Farmer's Market is part of the Food Bank of Delaware CSA Program and the Senior Citizen 60+ Program. For more information, see

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Another Festival Visit...More Excellent Music!

Guest blogger Maxine Gaiber is Executive Director of the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and founding board director of the Delaware Arts Art Alliance. Her high school art teacher wrote in her yearbook, "be gentle as a critic," and she is finally following his advice!

The Delaware Chamber Music Festival Quartet.
Each time I attend the Delaware Chamber Music Festival, I am overwhelmed both by the quality of the performances and the enthusiasm of the audience.  And each time I gaze over the variegated sea of shades of gray hair around me, I worry about the future of classical music in the U.S.  Maybe each classical musical group should have a mandatory “bring your grandchild for free” day, so that a new generation can get “turned on” to this rewarding musical genre!
The Friday, June 21 Virtuosos concert was no exception.  I must admit that I lingered over my lo mein too long at the Chinese Festival and missed the Rachmaninoff piano trio, but the rest of the program more than made up for it.
Clancy Newman was brave to take on the well-known Brahms Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor, Op.38, but seemed up to the task.  He gave a lyrical performance filled with stunning musical contrasts and emotional energy.  He plays the cello high up against his body almost like a bass and — surrounding the cello with his arms and head — becomes almost one with his instrument.
The two Paganini pieces which followed, while well performed by Barbara Govatos and Christiaan Taggart, seemed slight and restrained by contrast, as though the musicians were warming up for the jazzy, tango-based Piazolla work which was next on the program.  This first movement of the History of the Tango gave Govatos and Taggart more opportunity to show the range and versatility of their instruments.
Smetana’s Piano Trio in G Minor, Op.15 was a fitting finale to this virtuoso evening. Newman told the sad story of the composer dedicating the work to his daughter, who died at age 7, but it wasn’t really necessary.  The passionate work is filled with sadness, anger, tenderness, and joy and needs no back story to amplify its power. It is a beautiful ensemble piece that enables all of the instruments to perform as one, as well as shine on their own. Govatos’ firm control of her instrument and her head of unmoving tight curls were in sharp contrast to Newman’s dramatic poses and flying locks of hair, but, visual styles aside, they make beautiful music together and were ably complemented by Marcantonio Barone on the piano.
By the end of the evening, I was shaken and stirred and slightly tipsy from the brilliant concoctions of music that wafted from the stage of the Concert Hall of The Music School of Delaware. Bravo and salud!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Smooth Beginning of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival

Barbara Govatos and Marcantonio Barone
From the first thirty-second note of the Grave in the Beethoven Opus 16, Barbara Govatos, Marcantonio Barone, Che Hung Chen and Priscilla Lee were glued together – making that treacherous journey through the beginning of the quintet with ease and confidence which is rarely managed,  even on recordings.  Mr. Barone even added a short and melodic bridge between the  Grave  and Allegro movements – keeping a Beethoven tradition but making it a fleeting and well-matched bridge to the faster movement.    

The theme of the first evening of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival was Classical Influences.  The Poulenc Sonata for flute and piano, Opus 164 may seem at first to be an incongruous fit for the Mozart and Beethoven, but the extremely soft dynamics of Ms. Guidetti’s flute in the Cantilena movement evoked the quiet of the second movement of Bach’s Italian Concerto.  The Presto giocoso cleared any lingering baroque feeling as the duo gave a brilliant rendition of the modern, dance-like movement.

The Mozart Piano quartet in G minor, K 478 was played with twenty-first century vigor – sometimes letting the modern piano dominate with the sudden fortes.  Yet Mr. Barone made the piano sing the theme of the second half of the first movement and Ms. Lee’s cello lines could be clearly heard as his accompaniment.  The vocal quality of the high notes of Che Hung Chen’s viola – especially in the Rondeau movement, was delightful. 

Pyxis rehearses with Barbara Govatos
The classical beginnings of the Festival will make way for romantic and even blues influences on Sunday, June 16 when the Pyxis Piano Quartet joins the Festival.  The quartet will also play a Delaware premiere by composer Kathryn Mishell, the winner of the 2010 Sylvia Glickman prize of the International Alliance for Women of Music.  On Friday, June 21, Christian Taggart will be a featured guest playing the Paganini Cantabile for violin and guitar, the Sonata concertante for violin and guitar and some Piazzola.  There will also be a fest of romantic trios played by Marcantonio Barone, Clancy Newman and Barbara Govatos.

The Festival will present a fourth and final concert with a Delaware premiere: String Quartet No. 2 by local composer Ingrid Arauco.  The theme Chip off the old Bach and the Bach Duet for violin and viola in C minor,  the Mozart  Adagio and Fugue in C minor and the Mendelssohn String Quintet in B-flat Major hint that Ms. Arauco’s string quartet will also be a classically structured piece. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wilmington Youth Jazz Band Wins "IN THE SPOTLIGHT"

Release courtesy of The Grand Opera House, June 12, 2013
The Wilmington Youth Jazz Band. Photo by Nancy JL Powel.
The Grand Opera House has announced the winner of its 2013 In The Spotlight talent competition. Wilmington Youth Jazz Band took the top honor in a juried finale earlier this month.

In The Spotlight, which has been presented regularly by The Grand over the last five years, holds a unique place in local/regional talent competitions, because it does not focus exclusively on singing or even music but presents the diverse talents of all those who audition. Both the preliminary qualifying rounds and the finale are decided by a panel of local judges with experience in the performing arts.

As the 2013 winner, Wilmington Youth Jazz Band received not only the bragging rights winning but also a $150 cash prize from The Grand and the opportunity to perform a showcase at the historic downtown venue during the upcoming season.  The band also received a $700 prize package that included donated gifts from several area merchants including the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Delaware Natural History Museum, Winterthur, Harry’s Hospitality Group, Hockessin Athletic Club and Dogfish Head Brewery and Restaurant.

“All of the finale acts could be considered winners,” says Pamelyn Manocchio, Director of Community Engagement at The Grand, “because they all get the opportunity to perform on the stage of Copeland Hall, where so many legendary performers have stood before them. But, Wilmington Youth Jazz Band impressed the judges more than any others.”

For more information about In the Spotlight, visit

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Going Into the Woods at the Wilmington Drama League

The Wilmington Drama League closes its 79th season with the charming musical Into the Woods by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine. The show’s plot about a baker and his wife who want to have a child, but first have to break a spell placed on them by their neighbor witch, is combined with multiple beloved Brothers Grimm fairy tales, including “Cinderella”, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, and “Rapunzel”.

Act one of the three hour production provides the basis of the original tales along with the new story, but act two reveals the reality of the ever afters – and for some of our favorite childhood characters, they’re not very happy! However, like many of the original fairy tales, Into the Woods provides a lesson to be learned. Throughout the show each character begins to realize that his/her actions lead to consequences that aren’t always what he/she actually wanted, expected, or intended. The characters learn that not only do they have to live with the consequences, but future generations will also have to contend with the outcomes.

Director Chris Turner’s delightful production boasts wonderful performances by the ensemble cast. Ed Emmi gives a charismatic performance as the Narrator of the show. Patrick Ruegsegger and Victoria Healy enthrall as the desperate baker and his wife. They’re great timing and superb voices are perfect for the roles. Zack Langrehr and Rebecca Gallatin are splendid as Jack and his mother. Both actors exquisitely bring the mother/son relationship to life and delicately handle the woes their characters’ must face. Christy Watt as the sassy Little Red Riding Hood and Shelli Haynes Ezold as the evil Witch give devilishly FUN performances. Both women bring out their inner-divas and command attention. Ms. Haynes Ezold rendition of “Children Will Listen” in the finale is absolutely gorgeous.

Set designer Tom Haughey has built an enchanting forest with whimsical homes where the characters dwell. His set, complemented by Jenna Ford’s colorful costume designs and the outstanding performances transports the audience from the real world to a beautiful fairy tale land that’s difficult to leave!

Into the Woods at the Wilmington Drama League closes June 16. Visit  or call 302.764.1172 for additional information and/or to purchase tickets. Below picture by Jonathan Ripsom.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Skirmish of Wits Prevails in Arden

By Guest Blogger, Bradford Wason. Brad is the Founder and Director of 23rd & 5th Design Group and currently works with DMG Marketing in Greenville. He is also on the faculty of Delaware College of Art & Design, and is an ardent Wilmington Arts & Culture supporter.

The last time I saw Much Ado About Nothing was in sixth grade — put on by Wilmington Montessori and led by the passionate Helen Gadsby, a devout Shakespeare fan. Helen had passed along her love of The Bard to years of Montessori children, and I certainly did not escape this delightful gift. Having not seen the piece since my humble beginnings, I did some light reading to brush up on the lines and plot.  Not that you need to; the Arden Shakespeare Gild did a magnificent job bringing this classic to life on the quaint outdoor Field Theatre on the Arden Green.  If you're not familiar with the plot, it's easy to follow the journey of the two central couples, both inflicted with love — one from cupid's arrow, the other from a trap.

I truly believe Shakespeare is meant to be enjoyed outdoors. It provides an ambience that harkens back to the Globe Theatre in London.  I would suggest — although the wooden benches do have backs — you bring a seat cushion with you (Note: bug spray might also be a wise idea, too). 
The Gild presented a delightful rendition with minimal props, backdrops and overly-complex period dress, allowing the work instead to stand firmly in its wit and clever writing, adorned by the passionate acting of some well-rounded talent.

The opening scene sets the tone of the performance, and the sharp tongue between Benedick (played by Adam Wahlberg) and Beatrice (Kerry Kristine McElrone), two of the shows star-crossed lovers. The chemistry between Wahlberg and McElrone (at right) is evident throughout. They play off each other with ease and exchange barbs with precision providing punch to the mirth and matter contrived by the Bard, all the while conjuring laughs from the audience. This is especially evident in a scene as their characters stalk their conspiring cohorts to carefully listen in, each buying into the myths created for their ears.  Wahlberg delights the crowd as he rolls on the ground (directly into the audience) or dons a straw hat in disguise. Accompanying their strong performances, a doe-eyed Claudio (Colin Antes) brings grace, wit and valor to the young lord of Florence. His lover, Hero (Emma Orr), brings a bubbly, soft and soothing presence to the stage, heightening the innocence of her character to be betrayed by the self-proclaimed villain, Don John (Dan Tucker).

Additional strong performances from Zachary Theis (Borachio), Lucy Smith (Margaret), James Kassees (Leonato), Robert Tietze (Don Pedro), and Dan Tucker seal the cast. Theis and Allan Kleban (Conrad) provide intrigue and tragedy in their scenes.
As Act I draws to a close, Balthasar (Rebecca Fisher) instructs the audience in the interlude. TIP: Bring a few dollars with you for the Gingerbread Bard–shaped cookie and glass of lemonade (each $1.50). All of the pretense and plotting of Act I comes to a head in Act II as the characters mingle and set the stage for acts of love or treachery. 
Will the tragic plot undo the unrequited love between star-crossed Hero and Claudio? Will the Herculean Cupid's Trap plotted by Don Pedro, Leonato, Hero, Claudio, Margaret and Ursula unite Benedick and Beatrice? The answers to these questions await you, along with many laughs and true delight in one of Shakespeare's classic comedies.

Much Ado About Nothing makes for a perfect night under the stars for a family outing or date night. The show is approachable, easily understood and translated beautifully to the outdoor stage by director Mary Catherine Kelley and her dedicated team. Although subtle, the work of Linda Kimmelman (Assistant Director), John King (Music Director/Composer), Valerie Hutchinson and Laure Wallace (Production Managers), Judith Calhoun (Costumes) and Dawn Morningstar (Choreography) do not go unnoticed. The musical accompaniment provided by Emily Loney, Rachel Loney, Melanie Riblett and Sam Arthur round out the performance with soft musical notes between scene changes and slight taunts to mock the actors in their monologues. 

If you're looking for a fun show with an entertaining cast in a unique outdoor setting, don't miss Much Ado About Nothing. The show continues June 13-15, 21 & 22 at 7:30p.m. at the Field Theatre on the Arden Green (Rain location: Gild Hall). Tickets are $10, General Admission, $8 Arden Club Members, $5 children 12 & under. To reserve your ticket call 302.475.3126, email: or visit