Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The New York Philharmonic, under the music directorship of Alan Gilbert who is programming rather adventurously these days to open the orchestra to different audiences, has announced four semi-staged performances of Stephen Sondheim's Company at Avery Fisher Hall.  The casting is quite interesting.

Bobby, a thirty-something New Yorker who is emotionally blocked, shuns commitment and lives vicariously through a circle of friends in various conditions of couplehood, will be Neil Patrick Harris; Patti LuPone is Joanne, who sings The Ladies Who Lunch.  Martha Plimpton, Anika Noni Rose and Jim Walton take other roles.
But the big news is that Stephen Colbert will be in the cast as Harry, taking part in several musical numbers.  Colbert had acting roles on a surprising number of TV series and a couple of TV movies before The Colbert Report put him on the map big time.  This looks to be his New York singing/acting debut.  With luck it may be telecast.


Handsome Siberian-born baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky brought his current recital program to Symphony Hall in Boston on Sunday afternoon, the second time he's appeared in Boston in recital.
Hvorostovsky had a rock band in his teen years and by his own admission was something of a wild man, his suave voice and good looks making him very popular with women. Serious voice studies eventually began and the trademark silvery white hair developed early and only added to the charisma.   International success followed an upset win in the BBC-sponsored Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

Without losing any of its honeyed smoothness or ease of production, at age 48 Hvorostovsky's voice has grown in dramatic power, allowing him to take on the big Verdi baritone roles that are at the heart of 19th century Italian opera.  His recital program began with four songs by Gabriel Fauré, sung with excellent French and very expressive, but also showing that his voice has become a bit too muscular to be ideal in the classic French song repertory.  Thereafter, however, it was golden all the way.

Sergei Taneyev is not well known in the U.S. but five of his very beautiful songs, many in a melancholy mood -- and nobody does melancholy like the Russians -- brought forward all the colors in Hvorostovsky's voice along with his storytelling power.   After intermission, he began with two big Petrarch Sonnet songs in Italian by Franz Liszt that he properly delivered as thrilling operatic arias, finishing with six Tchaikovsky romances.

The first encore was Iago's Credo from Verdi's Otello, an opera Hvorostovsky hasn't sung yet on stage but that's coming in a couple of years.  The second and last encore was another Tchaikovsky romance.

Ivari Ilja accompanied at the piano.  A long time collaborator with the baritone, he approached the big Steinway as a partner rather than, as is so often the case, a competitor.  There were no gratuitous outbursts of thunderous volume, but lots of poetic support for the vocal line.  In all, a very fine recital by artists at the top of their game.  


When the snow and ice have finally thawed, it will be time for some urban renewal for the abstract city sculpture.  Interestingly, wind and pressure from the ice didn't topple the tallest "buildings," but the middle height ones.


Phoenix, AZ blogger Michael Rockwell, aka Dr. Spo,  makes tropical shirts of interesting cotton print material that he manages to find in the most fantastic patterns as a hobby.  Last year he proposed sending his latest creation, made from fabric printed with images of many other tropical shirts, on a tour of interested fellow bloggers.  The idea was to raise money for several different charities: the blogger would wear the shirt, have pictures taken to post on his blog, and then send the shirt on to the next man on the list.  Fritz and I received the shirt late last week.

Included in the box was a spiral notebook in which previous models had written their thoughts on the shirt (or Shirt of Many Shirts as I began to call it), and on anything they wanted to talk about, actually.  The shirt was beautifully made, with perfectly straight stitching, beautiful seams and a skillfully set collar.  Dr. Spo has clearly mastered his craft.  Of course, it is cold and snowy here in southern New Hampshire and the shirt is tropical, I decided to get into the spirit of the thing.  And besides, if Mark Brown can show off his handsome chest in HIS picture, I think I have every right to do so here!

Fritz,  who goes through the winter with a variety of wool sweaters over a turtleneck, simply completed his ensemble by adding the shirt to the ensemble du jour.

The shirt is now on its way to Erik Rubright in Pea Ridge, Arkansas.  Our charity of choice, in consideration of Fritz's [totally successful] radiation treatment of last summer is Prostate Research.  And our thanks to Michael, a dear man with a ready wit, for thinking up the idea that has brought many of us together and will help out several worthy causes.

Yay! The Spo-shirt looks great on both of you. Could you feel the power? Could you feel the magic?
Hubba. I'm sorry were you saying other stuff? I got caught up in the sexy shirt pic.
I've been off-line for a few days; thank you again for being part of this. You two look as handsome as always!
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