michala petri

Michala Petri performs Friday at Chamber Music Northwest.

Michala Petri performs Friday at Chamber Music Northwest.

Baroque sounds again abound this weekend in Oregon. On Friday, the nonpareil Danish recorder virtuosa Michala Petri leads a quartet featuring the superb oboist (and Oregon Bach Festival veteran) Alan Vogel, plus cellist and harpsichordist in Chamber Music Northwest’s all-Baroque (Vivaldi, Bach, Telemann) concert at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium. Petri’s Baroque concert there during CMNW’s 2012 summer festival was one of the season’s best.

Another Shakespeare fest vet, guitarist David Rogers, enlists two more of his erstwhile Ashland colleagues, baroque dancers Daniel Stephens and Judy Kennedy, Portland Baroque Orchestra cellist Joanna Blendulf and harpist Laura Zaerr to perform Baroque music from Moliere’s 1661 Comédie-Ballet, “Les Facheux,” on Feb. 10 at Eugene’s First United Methodist Church.

Flutist Tessa Brinckmann performs in Corvallis Saturday.

Flutist Tessa Brinckmann performs in Corvallis Saturday.

Baroque music also informs the world premiere work performed Saturday at Corvallis Arts Center by New Zealand born flutist Tessa Brinckmann, who’s spent the past few years performing in Ashland’s Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Longtime OSF composer and fellow Southern Oregon University prof Todd Barton’s new “sonus sonorus” for Baroque flute and electronics, is inspired by an 18th century composition of French composer Jean-Marie Leclair. The splendidly diverse program, which she played Thursday night at Portland State University, also includes Brinckmann’s own sinuous new Turkish-influenced work “Hüzün Nar,” an energetic little piccolo piece by Australian composer Ross Edwards and music by American composers Shirish Korde (a haunting evocation of Japanese shakuhachi music), Washington’s Alex Shapiro (the mysterious “Below,” which evokes whale song and other aquatic echoes) and a virtuosic, appropriately titled barnburner, “Rapid Fire,” inspired by leading American composer Jennifer Higdon’s reaction to inner city violence. Each piece uses a different style and a different instrument, and Brinckmann proved masterful in all of them.

Another flutist, Robert Beall, plays Telemann, Schubert and more with various other chamber musicians at Portland’s Community Music Center Saturday night. The Oregon Chamber Players perform music by Gershwin and more Saturday at Portland’s All Saints Episcopal Church. And on Sunday afternoon in the Celebration Works series at downtown Portland’s First Presbyterian Church, singer Beth Madsen-Bradford and pianist Janet Coleman join PBO violinist Adam Lamotte and soprano Kim Giordano in love songs from the Baroque to the present.

Tosca (Kara Shay Thomson) delivers a sharp rejoinder to Scarpia's (Mark Schnaible) attempted rape and confirmed corruption. © Portland Opera / Cory Weaver

Tosca (Kara Shay Thomson) delivers a sharp rejoinder to Scarpia’s (Mark Schnaible) attempted rape and confirmed corruption. © Portland Opera / Cory Weaver

Orchestral and operatic offerings

On Feb. 9 at the University of Oregon’s Beall Concert Hall, the Oregon Mozart Players continue the revival (apparent here in recent performances and recording by Portland’s Martingale Ensemble) of  chamber orchestra arrangements by composer Arnold Schoenberg for a turn-of-the century Viennese concert series. The concert includes Mahler’s gorgeous song cycle (based on Chinese poetry) “The Song of the Earth,” and Claude Debussy’s beguiling “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun.”

And this weekend is the last chance to catch Portland Opera‘s performance of “Tosca” at Keller Auditorium. As I wrote in Willamette Week (whose cover this week is appropriately dedicated to the subject of domestic violence): Following last fall’s edgy, modernist version of Don Giovanni, the company delivers a Tosca for traditionalists: costumes and sets that explicitly evoke the original production’s late 19th-century Roman setting; soapy, melodramatic acting; a taut, sex- and violence-spattered thriller plot tightly directed by Metropolitan opera veteran David Kneuss; and of course Giacomo Puccini’s heart-tuggingly rhapsodic melodies, performed ably and powerfully (sometimes too powerfully for the singers, except for Kara Shay Thomson, whose soprano soars in the title role) by the PO orchestra directed by Joseph Colaneri. In this revival of a production last staged here in 2005, bass Mark Schnaible revels so charismatically in his character Scarpia’s unapologetic villainy that we almost root for the bad guy.



BodyVox opened the Washington
Park Summer Festival

With warm summer temperatures at last arriving in Oregon, a bumper crop of free outdoor shows provide a splendid way to combine two of the state’s greatest assets: verdant summers and vibrant music. On Saturday, the esteemed conductor Keith Clark leads a concert version of Johann Strauss’s popular comic opera The Bat (Die Fledermaus) at Washington Park Amphitheater this Saturday and at Concordia college next Saturday. The great locally based Metropolitan Opera baritone Richard Zeller headlines the cast in this tenth anniversary production of Portland SummerFest opera in the park.

This Saturday’s performance is part of the family-friendly annual Washington Park Summer Festival, which on Sunday hosts the Portland Festival Symphony’s annual free concert (which happens in other parks in and around Portland all month), led by the venerable conductor Lajos Balogh for the past 32 years. They’ll be playing music by Haydn, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky (boom!), and more.

The Washington Park series opened Thursday night with a performance by Portland’s popular BodyVox dance group, who kicked it off with a precisely timed, characteristically merry performance by a coverall-clad quartet (with feet tied together by orange tape), set to the Bobs’ characteristically jolly version of Talking Heads’ early hit “Psycho Killer.” Reverie, a `lovely version of the famous flower duet from Leo Delibes’ opera Lakme, featuring lovely costumes designed by Portland’s celebrated Michael Curry reminded me a bit of Imago Theater’s nature-oriented moves. Another slapsticky quartet, Usual Suspects, opened with klezmer style music by the inimitable Portland ensemble 3 Leg Torso and butt-to-butt bumpiness, then followed with a Chopin nocturne. Given the distant seats and profusion of kids, subtle moves would have been lost, so the group wisely relied on expertly executed sight gags, sometimes obscured from certain angles because of huge speakers mounted at the front of the stage; the sound was plenty loud, so it might have been better to place them at the back of the stage instead.

The second half featured a Bollywood number with a couple of intruders in Western outfits disrupting an Indian film production dance and several dances familiar from earlier BodyVox performances involving landing a really impressive and uncooperative fish, herding equally uncooperative sheep, rounding up an uncooperative orange bunny, and more. “Bottom of the World” paired a Tom Waits song with one of BV’s most endearing qualities: the inventive use of simple props — in this case, a long plank. Sometimes they don’t even need that, as Anna Marra and Josh Murry proved in their prop-less duet to the vocal harmonies of the Hi-Los, or magenta-frocked co-founder Jamey Hampton’s reprise of his dazzling solo to a Paganini showpiece, this time to a recording of the fiddle original rather than last week’s live marimba solo in BodyVox’s Chamber Music Northwest show. Its lighthearted creativity and broad audience appeal make BodyVox an Oregon treasure.


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