Sunday, May 17, 2015

Penn's Place Seeks New Artisans!

The Artisans Gifts & Gallery — part of Trader's Cove at Penn's Place — has served as an artisan small business incubator and retail shopping experience since July 2010. Located in the former William Penn Bed & Breakfast, directly across the street from the Court House Museum and central location of Delaware's National Park in Old New Castle, it has become a shopping destination for unique, handmade gifts and accessories.

Trader's Cove at Penn's Place is now seeking a few new artisans and craftspeople to fill available gallery/display space in the artist co-op.  The space can be filled by one or more artisans sharing the footprint.  Monthly rent is $167 and includes the following amenities:

  • Includes A/C, heat, water, electric and trash removal
  • Each room is equipped with its own A/C unit 
  • Free Wi-Fi thoughout the building
  • Website promotion and cooperative marketing efforts to promote your business 
  • Access to Color Printer at no additional charge
  • Break Room: Private room with table and 4 chairs, bathroom, closets, mini refrigerator and microwave
  • Trader’s Cove: A Best of Delaware Winner coffee shop located in the building to attract additional traffic to Penn’s Place
  • The Muse: A LIVE Entertainment Venue/Private Event space also designed to drive more traffic to the location 
  • Cooperative Coverage: We understand that you have demands on your time outside of Penn’s Place. We cover for each other and communicate on everything...together we are greater than the sum of our parts to help grow your business
  • Collaborative Effort: Meaning we are always open to new ideas and input 
The space is a cooperative effort; each occupying artist is expected to volunteer time in working in the gallery (artist themselves or their representative). Required time is one day per week (approximately 5-7 hours).

Trader's Cove at Penn's Place Hours
Thursday: 11:00am-5:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 11:00am-6:00pm
Sunday: Noon-5:00pm
For details on how to apply for artisan space, See

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Playhouse on Rodney Square Off to a Great Start

Delaware Arts Info is happy to report: According to initial numbers, The Playhouse on Rodney Square has already renewed more than 40% of its current season subscribers in the first three weeks of its renewal campaign. The 2015-16 Season, first unveiled at a launch event at The Playhouse on April 11, includes the Wilmington premiere of Jersey Boys, as well as return engagements of extremely popular past shows such as Annie, Chicago, Mamma Mia!, Blue Man Group and 42nd Street.  This will be the first season under the new management of The Grand Opera House administration.

“We are delighted by this enthusiastic response,” said Mark Fields, Executive Director of The Grand and Playhouse. “The patrons have confirmed our belief that we had put together an appealing, high-quality roster of Broadway favorites.”

The deadline to renew subscriptions is Saturday, May 23. The renewal process will continue through May 23, but interested individuals can order new subscriptions now. To purchase season ticket packages, visit or call The Playhouse Box Office at 302.888.0200. Individual tickets will go on sale at a date to be announced.

Delaware Arts Info is hopeful that initial indications of patron interest and enthusiasm will lead to an exciting new chapter in the theater's history. Congrats to The Playhouse staff!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Powerful, Raw & Visceral" - OperaDelaware's Sultry "Carmen" Hits A Nerve...and Is a Hit

(L-R): Audrey Babcock, Alok Kumar and Victoria Cannizzo star in La Tragedie de Carmen.
By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

OperaDelaware’s production of La Tragedie de Carmen is opera at its best: powerful, raw and visceral. Peter Brook et al. have crafted a stripped down version of Bizet’s classic that focuses on the fatal relationships between the gypsy, the soldier, the village girl and the bullfighter.

We all know the story: Carmen (Audrey Babcock) seduces the naïve soldier Don Jose (Alok Kumar) who is being pursued by the innocent Micaela (Victoria Cannizzo). Tragedy strikes when Carmen liases with the bullfighter Escamillo (Michael Mayes). The characters struggle with fate, love, infidelity and jealousy 
 and in true operatic fashion, most meet their fate by the time the curtain falls.

The opera is sung in French with English translations above the stage to help the audience follow the action.

The 1981 adaptation retains all of the musical treasures — albeit reordered 
 of the 1875 original: Carmen’s Habanera and Seguidilla, Don Jose’s Flower Song and Escamillo’s swaggering Toreador Song.

But gone are the cigarette girls, the children’s chorus and the other grand trappings of Bizet’s four-act Carmen. Brook’s hybrid — is it an opera? a play with music? 
 cuts Bizet’s work in half to about 80 minutes, delving into the visceral realism of Merimee’s novel.

The production’s stage design is equally economic: simple sets, lighting and costumes evoke the world of Carmen without distracting from the best part of the production: the singing.

Cannizzo, a soprano, sings with all the desperation and urgency one would expect of a lovesick innocent yet she never fails to fill the theatre with her lush, powerful voice. Too bad we only get to hear her at the beginning and end of Brook’s version.

Babcock, a mezzo-soprano making her OperaDelaware debut, possesses a voice that grabs you and compels you listen. Her voice suits Carmen perfectly; it is fiery, rich and sultry in a most convincing way.

Tenor Kumar sings as if his heart is breaking, evoking sympathy for his dupe of a character. Maybe he’s not as innocent as he seems, but he’s certainly no match for the morally depraved Carmen.

Mayes, also making his OperaDelaware debut, uses his deep, dominating baritone to supply Escamillo with enough sex appeal to balance Babcock’s seductive performance.

And Babcock does deliver one sexy performance. Her stage presence and movements are devilishly defiant, lighting up cigarettes only to blow smoke into the face of her rivals. She shamelessly flirts, only to discard a love interest when another strikes her fancy — even though she has a husband conveniently tucked away. And she is often seen sitting with her legs spread apart, her dress draping between them to maintain some sense of propriety. Now, all this is tame by today’s standards, but in the 19th Century, it was truly shocking.

Feminists may have latched onto Carmen as the epitome of a strong, sexually liberated woman, but Bizet makes it clear: sleep around and you pay the ultimate price.

Because of its brevity, accessible music and age-old plot of fate, love and jealousy, La Tragedie de Carmen gives the uninitiated a great introduction to the world of opera. For veteran opera goers, it offers a fresh look at a classic.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Another "Provocative Pairing" Season Performance by Mélomanie

Composer Larry Nelson (left) talks about his piece, Moonbow.
By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Mélomanie capped its season with one of its most eclectic programs to date. Sunday’s concert treated its audience to a Delaware premiere, a fiery Latin tango and several interesting representatives of the Baroque era.

Moonbow, the second premiere of the season, is a commission from Larry Nelson, a colleague of Mélomanie flautist Kimberly Reighley at West Chester University. In case you’re wondering, a moonbow is a rainbow produced by light reflected off the surface of the moon (rather than from direct sunlight) refracting off moisture in the air. The subject matter fits nicely with Nelson’s fascination with timbre, a motivating factor in his work.

The piece consists of 13 sections, each flowing into the next and exhibiting a wide variety of musical styles. There’s a blues chorus, a pensive “cello float” and a very un-Bach-like contrapuntal section requiring each instrument’s participation.

It was pleasing to hear Richardson’s harpsichord step out from its usual supporting role. One section — Angelic over vamp I and II 
— had the instrument chopping chords that were tonally distinct from the rest of the ensemble. Richardson also concluded the piece, playing in gospel style.

The piece is a demanding one, and each member of the ensemble contributed a strong performance.

Argentina for flute, violin and cello by Christopher Caliendo offered a stark contrast to the introspective quality of Moonbow. Once again, Caliendo proves he knows how to write for the flute. Reighley’s fiery playing carried the piece as it got support from a punchy accompaniment of Latin rhythms provided by violinist Christof Richter and cellist Douglas McNames.

The Baroque was well-represented with works by Boismortier, Telemann and Vivaldi. The participation of guest artist violinist Daniela Pierson allowed the ensemble to program works it would not normally have been able to perform.

Guest violinist Daniela Pierson (right) performs with Mélomanie.  
The concert opened with the Sonata IV in D Major (Op.34/4) by Joseph Bodin de Boismortier. Also known as the “French Telemann,” Boismortier took advantage of the demand for technically accessible and melodious music by the growing population of amateur musicians in the 18th Century. Partly for this reason, his works have not received the respect they deserve. The musicians gave a sparking performance of this short but aesthetically pleasing work that demonstrated the composer’s command of the rules of harmony and counterpoint as well as his gift for melody.

Violinists Richter and Pierson teamed up for Telemann’s Gulliver Suite, another piece written for amateur musicians. Swift’s satire gave Telemann the idea for a programmatic dance suite, each of whose movements recalls Swift’s characters with musical gestures. Richter and Pierson provided a nice interplay in the fifth and final dance — a loure 
which contrasted the civilized Houyhnhnms (Richter) with the untamed Yahoos (Pierson).

The concert closed with a performance of Vivaldi’s Sonata XII in D Minor (Folia), which is actually a set of 20 variations on “La folia,” a musical theme dating back to the 15th Century. Like other composers, Vivaldi sought to emulate Corelli’s version as evidenced by his choice of virtuosic flourishes. Vivaldi takes advantage of the extra violin — provided by Pierson — to engage in imitative play.

A Bit of Musical Heaven, Courtesy of Brandywine Baroque

By Guest Blogger, Christine Facciolo
Christine holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music and continues to apply her voice to all genres of music. An arts lover since childhood, she currently works as a freelance writer.

Brandywine Baroque topped off its 2014-2015 season as it has in years past with Harpsichord Heaven, a weekend festival featuring lectures and concerts by noted musicians and scholars from across the U.S. and Canada.

Brandywine Baroque founder and artistic director Karen Flint kicked off Saturday’s “marathon” with a concert of works by Jacques Champion de Chambonnieres, the founder of the French harpsichord school. Each of the 10 visiting harpsichordists then presented 40-minute concerts every hour on the hour. The day culminated with a Bach recital performed by British-born harpsichordist/scholar Davitt Moroney of the University of California at Berkeley.

But if you were pressed for time — or in the mood for something a bit more adventurous — Sunday’s Grande Finale performance was your ticket. This extravaganza brought all 10 musicians up front playing on five vintage harpsichords from The Flint Collection. The concert offered a cross-section of styles from across Europe, including Great Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

Particularly noteworthy were performances of two concerti for two harpsichords. Leon Schelhase and Luc Beausejour performed the Allegro movement of Joseph Schuster’s work in D major while husband and wife harpsichordists Gwendolyn Toth and Dongsok Shin offered the Allegro movement of Johann Gottlieb Graun’s composition in B-flat major.

Flint and Moroney reprised their performance of Nicholas Carleton’s Praeludium and a Verse in D for two to play. Only one part of the manuscript exists, so Moroney supplied his part, providing some interesting facts about the piece to the audience.

It was especially pleasing to hear Flint perform her arrangement of Lebegue’s Les Cloches. Although intended for organ, the composer noted that it was “suitable” for harpsichord, and the shimmering tones of the instrument certainly brought to mind church bells.

Twenty hands on five vintage harpsichords provided plenty of opportunities for performing transcriptions. These included the Entrance of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s Solomon, the Passsacaille from Handel’s opera Radimisto, and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major.

As always, there was a “surprise” in the final performance, and this year the musicians played their version of musical chairs to Handel’s 
Hallelujah chorus from the Messiah. At times, it sounded as if the audience was going to break out in a full-fledged Messiah sing- along. As with any game of musical chairs, one of the participants ultimately has nowhere to sit. Here that honor was bestowed on Arthur Haas  who rose to the occasion and “conducted” the final bars of the piece.