|Delaware Symphony Orchestra|
Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
By Christine Facciolo
Classical music devotees savored a Fifth of Beethoven at The Grand Friday, September 15, as the Delaware Symphony Orchestra kicked off what promises to be one of the most ambitious seasons in its 111-year history.
But before the orchestra rolled up its sleeves for the Beethoven, it offered up some lighter fare, courtesy of Prokofiev and Mozart.
Prokofiev subtitled his Symphony No. 1 (1917) the “Classical Symphony,” in homage to Haydn. Prokofiev’s ability to blend his 20th Century voice with the style of the great classicist is indeed remarkable, making this one of his most popular works.
The piece is usually performed by a large modern orchestra. But here, the orchestra was pared down appropriately, giving the music a lighter texture. The string work throughout was captivating. The Gavotte proceeded with its dislocated tune and plodding rhythm, while the final movement bubbled along at an exhilarating pace, producing many admiring smiles and enthusiastic applause.
Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra (K.299/297c) was the companion piece on the first half, an apt choice, since Haydn influenced Mozart as well as Prokofiev. Amado partnered DSO principals Kimberly Reighley (flute) and Sara Fuller (harp) who gave a poised yet exuberant reading of this finely wrought work. The orchestra carried out its supporting role with as much commitment as if it were center-stage, befitting the intimate nature of the piece, especially the flowing Andantino.
After intermission, Amado and the orchestra got down to business with a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth, certainly the most well-known – possibly the most beloved – work ever created.
Familiarity can breed contempt but not in this case. As Amado pointed out, there is always something new and interesting to discover in Beethoven’s Fifth. First, were those introductory notes really the hammer blows of fate knocking at the composer’s door? Probably not. A theory developed in the 1990s holds that those famous fortissimo phrases were influenced by Luigi Cherubini’s “Hymn du Pantheon.” Cherubini was a prominent composer during the French Revolution. Beethoven was a passionate supporter of the revolutionary ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Amado also pointed out the symmetry within the symphony’s first eight notes as well as the thematic and harmonic relationships between its movements.
If you listen to the Fifth largely on recordings, it’s easy to forget host thrilling a live performance ca be. This was a beautifully focused, fully energized performance of the Fifth with all the necessary elements in place: sonorous strings, flawless brass playing, full-bodied winds and above, a sense of drama and grandeur. The insistent C on the timpani had a palpable presence here, offering am effective set-up for the glorious, fortissimo rising chords that usher in the finale.
For full season info, see www.delawaresymphony.org.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
By Mike Logothetis
As my theater companion and I rose enthusiastically for a well-deserved standing ovation to City Theater Company's cast of LIZZIE, I smiled and told him, “Sisters are slayin’ it for themselves.” He laughed and nodded and told me to write it down. It’s a corny homage to the Eurythmics, but it fits.
|Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin as Lizzie. |
Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography.
We had just thoroughly enjoyed a rock opera that tells the tale of the infamous Borden double murders in Fall River, Massachusetts – for which youngest daughter Lizzie was tried and acquitted. The legend of Lizzie Borden is a part of Americana, but I can’t say the general public knows the gory details. (I didn’t.) This show covers most of the facts and theories surrounding the 1892 axe murders of Lizzie’s father and his second wife in their home.
But LIZZIE is less a history lesson and more a head-banging rock show that somehow includes incredibly tender moments. Lead actress Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin steals the show from three other amazing actresses by portraying Lizzie as confused, angry, demented, caring, conniving, steely and vulnerable.
McLaughlin showcases her acting chops and wonderful vocal abilities in a space where the audience is so close it’s almost part of the staged action. We are right there with Lizzie in her torment and famous act of conflict resolution. McLaughlin’s portrayal of a young tortured soul is eerie and touching. She impeccably hints at her character’s understanding of how she can escape her dreadful life through an unspeakable act.
But the three supporting actresses – Jill Knapp (Emma Borden), Kyleen Shaw ('Maggie' the maid) and Grace Tarves (Alice the neighbor) – are also outstanding. Shaw’s Bridget/Maggie is an opportunist who knows all about the goings on in “The House of Borden.” Meek neighbor Alice is given depth by Tarves, whose voice melds beautifully with that of McLaughlin in several duets. Knapp’s portrayal of judgmental but caring older sister Emma is strong and her vocals soar in her solos. Knapp’s frenzied performance of What The Fuck Now, Lizzie?! is a show highlight.
The six-piece Fall River Band was tight and got our toes tapping and heads bobbing during stand-out songs like This Is Not Love and Sweet Little Sister. Under the direction of Joe Trainor, the talented band is nimble enough to play rock, metal and gospel – like in the song Watchmen For the Morning, where our protagonist gets fitted with a straightjacket.
|The cast of CTC's Lizzie (L-R): Kyleen Shaw, Jill Knapp, Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin, |
Grace Tarves. Photo by Joe del Tufo/Moonloop Photography.
Director Michael Gray allows his actresses to roam throughout the American Horror Story-style set and deliver their lines facing any direction. The employment of wireless microphones allows the performers to quietly deliver some dialog plus fill the room with their powerful singing voices. Costumers Kerry Kristine McElrone and Lauren Peters have their women dressed in all white, and while some scenes relay a virginal innocence, others evoke images of witches gathered around a cauldron. One neat visual was Lizzie walking on stools placed before her every step by the other women while contemplating how to “clean a stain.”
The climax and finale of LIZZIE are superb and mesh the closing songs into a medley of sorts. Thirteen Days in Taunton recalls the Shel Silverstein/Johnny Cash song 25 Minutes to Go in that it is gallows humor at its finest. All four principles are strong over the final five songs, which cover the murder trial and aftermath. Chances are you’ll cheer the outcome and want to dance in the aisles like the audience on opening night.
LIZZIE originated in 1990 as a four-song experimental show by writer/director Tim Maner and songwriter Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer. It took help from Alan Stevens-Hewitt (and almost 20 years!) to fully flesh out the narrative, music and staging of the rock opera. The 2009 show was nominated for three Drama Desk awards in New York City during its initial run. The current two-act version at City Theater Company was arranged by the authors in 2013.
The limited run of LIZZIE ends this week with 8:00pm shows on September 13, 14, 15 and 16 in The Black Box at Opera Delaware Studios (4 South Poplar Street, Wilmington, DE 19801). Tickets are $28 (general admission), $25 (military), $20 (student), and $15 (child age 15 and under) and can be purchased online or at the box office. There is also a $40 VIP ticket package available.
Visit city-theater.org for more information, tickets and the remaining CTC season schedule.
Sunday, September 3, 2017
The following information comes from an Arts in Media press release announcing its clients' fall performance seasons. Check out the organizations' respective web and social media sites for complete details and ticketing information.
The Arts at Trinity, a free series in the heart of Wilmington hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church, is now in its seventh season of "pop-up" events in literature, drama, poetry and visual arts. This year opens on Saturday, Oct. 7 with the Serafin String Quartet performing works by Haydn, Mendelssohn and American composer William Grant Still. On Sunday, Nov. 5, Trinity Church Choir and an orchestra conducted by Terrence Gaus-Wollen perform sacred music by Bach as part of Trinity’s regular Sunday service. On Saturday, Dec. 2, rising jazz pianist Gil Scott Chapman performs classical and jazz works and his own compositions. All performances are free to attend. For more details, visit facebook.com/TheArtsatTrinity.
Christina leads off its 71st year with its second annual Homecoming Block Party on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 1:00-6:00pm. The free, family-friendly event includes tours, children’s activities and closes with JAMMIN’ @ CHRISTINA, a musicians’ jam session. This fall, Christina unveils a new program called Literary Café, which welcomes New York Times best-selling author and Delaware native Jeff Hobbs on Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21. Hobbs will discuss his work, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. CCAC’s focus on intimate live performances returns on Saturday, Nov. 18 with a concert by gospel/soul/hip hop drummer George “Spanky” McCurdy. CCAC then embraces holiday majesty on Sunday, Dec. 10 with the stunning contemporary dance/music/narration production of “Carols in Color” performed by Eleone Dance Theatre. Christina wraps up 2017 with a Student Holiday Showcase on Saturday, Dec. 16. Full details and tickets for events are available at ccacde.org.
Delaware’s Off-Broadway drops the axe on its 24th season with Lizzie, a blistering rock opera based on the 19th Century legend of notorious accused murderess Lizzie Borden, running Sept. 8-16 (Thursday, Sept. 7, 8:00pm preview and Sunday, Sept. 10, 2:00pm matinee). Four women front a six-piece rock band to tell a tale of murder and mayhem. Lizzie marks the CTC debut of Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin in the title role, alongside Jill Knapp of Hot Breakfast!, Kyleen Shaw and Grace Tarves. The band features Meghan Doyle, Joe Lopes, Dustin Samples, Noelle Picara, Sheila Hershey and Rich Degnars. CTC‘s Fearless Improv continues Third Thursday shows at Chelsea Tavern through 2017 with performances on Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec 21. Shows are also held at Penn’s Place in Old New Castle on Sept. 9 and Nov. 11. Fearless Improv 101 and Improv 301 — 8-week public workshop series teaching basic scenework and advanced performance techniques —begin Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Delaware Historical Society. In December, CTC returns to The Black Box to present a stripped-down version of the Sondheim classic, Sunday in the Park with George, running Dec. 1-16. They plan to collaborate with local visual artists to produce a “live” piece of art during each production — delivering a fresh, immersive multi-genre experience every night. Tickets for all CTC and Fearless productions are available at city-theater.org.
Wilmington’s most affordable and diverse music series presents three full-length Festival Concerts this fall, featuring organist David Schelat on Saturday, Oct. 14; Pyxis Piano Quartet on Saturday, Oct. 28; and Mastersingers of Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. Its much-beloved weekly music fest, Thursday Noontime Concerts, begins Thursday, Oct. 5 with a lineup including regional favorites like Copeland String Quartet, pianist Daniel Carunchio and countertenor Gus Mercante as well as a return appearance by Lyra Russian Choir – the vocal ensemble of St. Petersburg. The Noontime schedule culminates in the holiday tradition of the Cartoon Christmas Trio on Thursday, Dec. 7 and a holiday concert by Center City Chorale on Thursday, Dec. 14. Festival concert tickets and more details can be found at marketstreetmusicde.org.
Delaware’s ensemble known for ‘provocative pairings’ announces its 25th Anniversary Season! On Saturday, September 30, the season begins in a new partnership with the Delaware Historical Society for Up Close & Personal: The Violin – an informal afternoon of music and conversation featuring ensemble violinist, Christof Richter. This landmark season is highlighted by four new works from composers Chris Braddock, Jennifer Nicole Campbell, Mark Hagerty and Thomas Whitman, as well as a poetry and music collaboration entitled United Sounds of America with Delaware's Poets Laureate, The Twin Poets, Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Albert Mills. The ensemble also continues its longstanding partnership with its Wilmington Series home, The Delaware Contemporary, with a performance on Sunday, Oct. 29. That concert will feature the World Premiere of Up to the Light by Mark Hagerty with guest percussionist Chris Hanning and additional music of Bach and Abel. Full details and tickets for all performances can be found at melomanie.org.
The Music School boasts a busy fall of student and professional performances, beginning with its Opening Night – All Bach! A Thank-You Concert on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at 7:00pm at its Wilmington Branch. This concert will feature noted works by Bach including Brandenburg Concertos #3 and #5; B Minor Orchestral Suite & Violin Concerto in E Major, performed by chamber orchestra conducted by Simeone Tartaglione. The Music School’s additional professional concerts will include music of the Revolutionary War; the 10th anniversary of its Music of Many Lands program; and an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. The Wilmington Community Orchestra, under the baton of Tiffany Lu, will perform works from Barber to Beethoven. And, the school continues to host its Classical Café sessions, which encourage lively discussion on a variety of music-related topics, quarterly Open Mic Nights, a monthly Bluegrass Jam, jazz and several rock-based student and faculty ensemble performances. For complete details and tickets, visit musicschoolofdelaware.org.