Tag Archives: arts

Cleveland Orchestra: East Meets West with Bartok, Hosokawa and Takemitsu

 

This past weekend's Cleveland Orchestra concert was an artfully chosen pairing of pieces by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and Japanese composers Toru Takemitsu and Toshio Hosokawa. (photo of Severance Hall from flickr.com/photos/clevelandorchestra)

Lately I’ve been trying to discover more about the Cleveland blogging community. One of the blogs I’ve enjoyed reading is Cleveland Food and Brews, which focuses on how it’s not just wine that can complement a good meal, but also a nice well-crafted beer.  When there’s a particularly complementary pairing of food and drink, it raises the meal to another level.

Now you’re probably asking yourself what this has to do with the Cleveland Orchestra. Like the similarities and differences of fine food and drink playing off one another, this weekend’s concert at the Cleveland Orchestra expertly paired the styles of three composers for a musically enlightened program. With two pieces by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok and a piece each by Japanese composers Toru Takemitsu and Toshio Hosokawa, Conductor Franz Welser-Most and the Orchestra contrasted the influences of Eastern and Western styles against one another. However, as musicologist Peter Laki wrote in the program notes, there has been a long speculation about the similarities and kinship between the Hungarian and Japanese languages – making for an interesting evening.

The evening started with Woven Dreams, a composition by Hosokawa. Hosokawa is actually the first currently living composer I’ve seen performed at Severance, and the performance of Woven Dreams over the weekend was its U.S. premiere (with the world premiere happening over the summer at the Lucerne Festival by the Cleveland Orchestra). This piece actually surprised me as both Scott’s and my favorite of the evening.  Inspired by a dream Hosokawa once had about being a child in his mother’s womb, it had an almost imperceptible  beginning – very quietly building from a long B-flat tone. The waves of gradual, dissonant sound were mysterious – almost subtlely ominous at moments. The other thing I enjoyed was how the percussionists contributed so many sounds that filled in the background of the piece – jumping throughout between a wide assortment of instruments.

The other piece written by a Japanese composer was Garden Rain by Takemitsu. Scott and I had last seen a piece by Takemitsu at the October Fridays@7 concert when the Orchestra performed Dream/Window. That composition was inspired by the Buddhist garden Saiho-ji. Hailing from a country where gardens had been developed as a supreme artform, Takemitsu often focused on them in his work. Garden Rain was a short piece – running just under 10 minutes – for two brass quintets. Interestingly, Takemitsu was often influenced by Western literature and philosophy such as Finnegan’s Wake and Water and Dreams, influences which can be seen in Garden Rain. While I typically don’t think of exclusively brass pieces as serene, there was something very soft to it.  The staging of the musicians was also interesting – with the two quintets seated far upstage and a large void between them and Welser-Most.

Acclaimed French pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard performed Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Cleveland Orchestra this weekend. (photo from harrisonparrott.com, credit Felix Broede and DG)

These pieces were alternated with two pieces by Bela Bartok – his Piano Concerto No. 2 and Music for Stringed Instruments, Percussion and Celesta. Bartok was a Hungarian composer in the early-to-mid 1900s, deeply inspired by the folk music of his culture and his Russian contemporary Igor Stravinsky. Both of these inspirations were evident in the two pieces performed at this weekend’s concerts.

Although Scott found he had a problem with the cohesion of the overall Piano Concerto No. 2, I enjoyed its three movements and how the piano solo played into the other instruments. I particularly liked the third movement – which had sections structured like Hungarian folksongs and a finale that ended in a decisive and abrupt moment.

The first time the piece was performed by the Cleveland Orchestra, Bartok himself was the piano soloist. At this weekend’s concert, Piano Concerto No. 2 was performed by Pierre-Laurent Aimard. Aimard is a French pianist, acclaimed as one of today’s most important, skilled in both contemporary and classic music. He first performed with the Cleveland Orchestra in 1996 and has frequently returned to play in Severance as an artist-in-residence and going on tour throughout Europe and the U.S.  As someone who had not seen Aimard perform before, I realized moments into the piece why he is revered. He was clearly skilled but notably gracious and modest even during the audience’s applause – sharing the praise with Welser-Most and the rest of the Orchestra. It’s a welcome trait in a soloist.

The second Bartok piece, Music for Stringed Instruments, Percussion and Celesta, was an interesting four movements that alternated between slow-fast-slow-fast rhythms. My favorite part – similar to Concerto No. 2 – was the last movement. It was lively at moments coupled with a certain precision and crispness to the notes. Because of this, there was an almost animated dance to Welser-Most’s conducting as he led two choirs of musicians seated in opposition of one another. The contrasts of the two sets of musicians, as well as the alternation between the first, second, third and fourth movements’ tempos, struck me as reminiscent of the evening’s pairings – different yet connected to one another. As it worked for the entire concert, these alternating musical personalities worked in Music for Strings.

After this weekend’s performances, the Orchestra is off to Indiana for its Indiana University Residency, then Miami for its residency at the Adrienne Arsht Center. With additional stops in Chicago, Michigan, and Carnegie Hall, the Orchestra returns to its home in Severance Hall on February 11th.  Whether it’s here or there, the Orchestra is bringing artfully chosen concerts like Bartok, Takemitsu and Hosokawa to its all of its audiences.

Cleveland Orchestra 411:

The Cleveland Museum of Art's Armor Court

My most recent trip to the Cleveland Museum of Art was for October's Sketch Crawl in the Armor Court. (photo by ADHicken)

It would be impossible for me to write just one post about the Cleveland Museum of Art and successfully cover all of its exhibitions and collections.  Sure, there are volumes of books dedicated to this city treasure which are capable of doing it justice.  However, if I tried fitting the entirety of the internationally celebrated museum in one entry, it’d be too long for even me to read. 

Similarly, it’s just as difficult to see all of the Art Museum in only one visit. While I’ve been there a few times since moving to Cleveland, I still haven’t explored everything. My most recent visit was in October when the monthly Cleveland Sketch Crawl met in the Museum’s Armor Court

This section of the Museum has always been one of my favorite parts of the recently reopened 1916 gallery. When we came to the city in 2008, the Museum was about halfway through its massive ongoing renovation. The first time we visited the Museum was to see the temporary exhibit Arms and Armor from Imperial Austria. It was an excellent teaser for the re-unveiling of the Museum’s renowned Armor Court which happened later that year.  

The Armor Court features European arms and armor from 1400 – 1700 and includes helmets, weaponry of the blade, arrow and gun variety, and even full body armor for man and horse. Many of the pieces were acquired in 1916, when the Museum’s first director Frederic Allen Whiting persuaded John Long Severance to buy and donate a collection of armor from a collector in Boston. 

Sketch of a helmet and detailing from the State Guard of Elector Christian I of Saxony, 1560-1591 (sketch by ADHicken)

Since then it’s been a hit among visitors — especially children and those who typically have to be dragged to see art — for its glimpse into an exciting (and violent) part of history. In recent decades, curators discovered that some of the pieces original to the exhibit were fakes made of mismatched parts. These have since been replaced with authentic armor. The now fully genuine collection is housed in a beautiful, light-filled, enclosed courtyard.  With the 2008 reopening, the Armor Court was returned to how it looked in 1998, when it last underwent a top-to-bottom renovation.

When I visited for the Cleveland Sketch Crawl, I spent some time walking around the gallery trying to figure out what I wanted to draw during my short stay. While I was there, I enjoyed tracing the evolution of armor from Medieval to Renaissance times.

In the Middle Ages, there were mail tunics, or hauberks, that provided lighter-weight, more-flexible protection than their iron predecessors. Made of thousands of metal rings linked together, mail armor was coupled with helmets and shields for additional security.

Because of the challenges presented by longbows, crossbows and eventually firearms, plate armor became the new necessity in the Renaissance. These full suits of armor were made of hundreds of steel plates joined together to fit their owner specifically. This allowed for full protection, but also continued to offer the flexibility needed to fight. Other aspects of the body armor made shields unnecessary by deflecting attacks with angled surfaces. These surfaces also became a blank canvas for detailed designs and etchings such as a family’s coat of arms or illustrations of a warrior’s skill and style.  

A trip to the Armor Court allows you to view this evolution, as well as the weapons that inspired them.  For Medieval armor, there are examples of mail shirts from the 1400s in Europe and helmets from places like Italy. Likewise, there are full-body and partial suits of plated armor from the Renaissance, such as the centerpiece of the Museum’s Armor Court: the Field Armor for Man and Horse. One of the most memorable sights of the room, it’s a life-size model of a man and horse both decked out in full gear. The suit is from North Italy with gilding, leather and velvet etched with the Arms of the Vols-Colonna Family. It’s a magnificent site that can stop first-time visitors in their tracks.

Sketch of Armor for Man and Horse with the Arms of the Vols-Colonna Family, about 1575 (sketch by ADHicken)

Hung on the walls of the Court is my other favorite highlight of the room – the Dido and Aeneas tapestries. These 8 tapestries tell the tragic love story of Dido and Aeneas in The Aeneid, Virgil’s ancient Roman epic poem and the subject of my Latin studies in my junior year of high school. In addition to having a soft spot in my heart for the story (I loved translating Latin), it’s also portrayed on a beautiful, dynamic and very large scale.   

The tapestries were designed and woven in the 1600s by the Roman painter Giovanni Francesco Romanelli and Michel Wauters’ tapestry workshop, respectively.  They were donated in 1915 and are a permanent installation to the Museum. However, their constant exposure to light has caused the original colors to irreversibly fade, something that has prompted the Museum’s rotation of textiles to improve preservation.

The Sketch Crawl group spent over two hours in just this one room.  Fortunately, because admission to the Cleveland Museum of Arts‘ collections is free, you can take as many trips as you’d like to explore it — something I’m a long way from finishing on my list of Cleveland places I’d like to fully ‘clue into.’  Recognized as one of a few institutions still allowing no-cost access to 40,000+ objects spanning 6,000 years of achievement in the arts, the Museum fulfills its mission of being not just one of the world’s most distinguished comprehensive art museums but also one of Northeast Ohio’s principal civic and cultural institutions.

For a student of the arts, the Museum is also an excellent muse as you can freely explore the architecture and non-special-collection works up close and personal. As the building project continues through 2013, there will be even more sources of inspiration. However, if you plan on sketching at the Cleveland Art Museum, there are a few guidelines to protect the works there. The museum only allows pencil for sketching. You are not permitted to bring in pens, ink of any kind, paints, pastels or charcoal for obvious reasons.  Read the full gallery policies before you go.

The next Cleveland Sketch Crawl will be Jan. 8 at the Mounted Police station. (photo of mounted police from coolhistoryofcleveland.blog.com)

Numerous other options for sketching abound in Cleveland, as I continue to experience via the Cleveland Sketch Crawl. The next Crawl is this coming Saturday, Jan.  8th, 10am – noon. We’ll be venturing to the Cleveland Mounted Police station on the near eastside of Downtown. Check out the Cleveland Sketch Crawl blog for more information, including a link to where the station is located (since Google Maps will give you the wrong location if you try looking for it).

 

Cleveland Museum of Art 411:

Great Lakes Theater Festival's An Ideal Husband: An Ideal Complement to Othello

Sir Robert Chiltern (actor, Richard Klautsch, right) seeks advice from Lord Goring (actor, David Anthony Smith, left) in the Great Lakes Theater Festival production of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband. Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

My first inclination when Great Lakes Theater Festival announced their Fall Repertory of Othello and An Ideal Husband was to focus on the differences between the two plays. The first is a tragic, psychological, Shakespearean thriller.  The second, a witty “social comedy” by Oscar Wilde.  However, after seeing the second half of the Fall Rep when Scott’s parents recently visited, I realized they were surprisingly very complementary.

At the heart of both plays are the ideas of trust and truth, how they can be manipulated, and how others react to that manipulation. In Othello, there’s Iago’s manipulations of Othello, which corrupts the title character’s trust in his wife Desdemona with disastrous consequences.  In An Ideal Husband, Sir Robert, a prestigious member of the House of Commons, is trusted by his supporters and his wife, the proper Lady Chiltern, to be the exception to the rule — an upstanding politician without  fault. However, a mistake Sir Robert made as a young politician threatens his success and marriage when the scheming Mrs. Cheveley uses his past to blackmail him into supporting a fraudulent scheme he was planning on denouncing. 

Although there is political intrigue in An Ideal Husband and Othello (much of which can be tied into the current election season), Sir Robert is fortunate to have much better counsel than Othello did in Iago.  And in a nice twist of casting, GLTF company member David Alan Smith portrays both main characters’ confidantes. As Iago, Smith’s standout performance drove the action in Othello with his manipulations and lies. In An Ideal Husband,  Smith humorously plays the charming bachelor Lord Goring who may seem like he only wants to socialize all night (according to his father) and talk about nothing (according to himself), but instead is the voice of brutal honesty and subtle reason that reunites Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern and saves his friend’s career.  Casting the same actor in these two roles was a clever way to connect the overlapping themes in both productions.

Even without Othello to complement it, the Great Lakes Theater Festival’s production of An Ideal Husband would stand on its own beautifully (and if I had to choose, I actually preferred it). When I walked into the Hanna, I was first struck by the sparseness of the scene. I had partially expected an ornate set inspired by Wilde’s time; rather, four simple columns, a series of steps, a handful of chairs, and a white curtain dressed the stage.  

A simple yet elegant set provided the perfect canvas for GLTF actors Richard Klautsch (as Sir Robert) and Jodi Dominick (as Lady Chiltern) in An Ideal Husband. Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

However, by the end of the first few scenes, I’d argue that Nayna Ramey’s design was more effectively used to tell the story than a period set would have been. The formal, classic simplicity reflected the societal demands for propriety, while the open starkness echoed the unveiling of secrets. To fill the canvas of the set were Jason Lee Resler’s costumes. Each character or couple had its own color note that carried throughout the show — the bright blues and turquoises of Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern, the oranges of Viscount Goring and Mabel Chiltern, the ostentatious fuchsia of Mrs. Cheveley.  

These technical aspects were an excellent foil to the cast’s performances. Sara M. Bruner, who had played the faithful Desdemona in Othello, was cast as Mabel Chiltern, the dizzying and fickle younger sister of Sir Robert who has a particularly shining moment in the last scene when she sums up Wilde’s theme of reality vs impossible idealism.  Richard Klautsch and Jodi Dominick both did excellent jobs capturing the moral dilemmas their characters (Sir Robert and Lady Chiltern, respectively) struggled with.  And Laura Perrotta, a twelve-season veteran of GLTF, portrayed a devious Mrs. Cheveley whose persuasiveness and Machiavellian cunning rivaled Iago’s. In the background, a tableau of footmen set each scene and provided their own ongoing, comedic backstory – a nice touch to the main action.

If you haven’t seen either production yet, Othello runs until this Sunday (10/31) and An Ideal Husband until Saturday (10/30). I’d recommend seeing both for a clever and unexpectedly complementary experience.   Great Lakes Theater Festival will then return in December for A Christmas Carol, and in March and April with The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Two Gentlemen of Verona.

***

As a side note (which I’ve apparently become fond of making): After Saturday night’s production, Scott, his parents and I stuck around for that night’s installment in GLTF’s Nightcap Saturday series. I’ve been to other Audience Enhancement events at the Hanna, but this was my first time at Nightcap Saturday. I may have been distracted when we walked into the theater or just unobservant, but I have to credit the GLTF staff because I didn’t notice that they had a full band set up in the back corner of the theatre. As the applause from the final bow faded and the house lights came up, the Helen Welch Quartet struck up their jazz and blues covers in the lounge bar. Having the opportunity to relax in our banquette seats right in front of the bar, talk about the show, and enjoy a drink or two was a delightful way to end another night at the Hanna.

 

Great Lakes Theatre Festival 411:    

The Fall Repertory    

The Hanna Theatre    

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Dine Around at Crop Bistro

With PlayhouseSquare's Partners program, members can decide how they want to be involved by joining one of five committees or simply enjoying the Partners events and pre-sale ticketing benefits. (logo from playhousesquare.org)

I’m often looking for ways to get involved in an event beyond the basic experience. For me,  I find that doing instead of attending has always led to a more enriching and enjoyable experience. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy the Cleveland Sketch Crawl. It allows me to get out there and see different angles of the city through drawing. When I found out about the PlayhouseSquare’s Partners program, I knew this would be another unique opportunity to actively support an aspect of Cleveland I love — the city’s theater scene. 

Partners is the young professionals group at PlayhouseSquare.  Although it’s a donors program, it’s about more than just making a tax-deductible donation to the theater. It allows members to also support the country’s largest performance arts center outside New York City by volunteering their time and abilities.  Unlike other donor programs where you have to ‘buy in’ at a level way beyond the average income to get involved, even the lowest donor amount for Partners ($50 per individual/$75 for a couple) allows you to volunteer on one of the committees.  

The Jump Back Ball committee, for instance, is responsible for planning and organizing the group’s largest fundraising event – an annual black tie/costume ball located inside of PlayhouseSquare. Education committee members help raise money and awareness for the Bus Subsidy Fund, which brings children to the PlayhouseSquare theaters for educational performances. One of the Education committee’s programs is the Tinsel Town Party, an annual holiday-themed party for children and their families. The other committees include Membership, Social, and Fundraising. 

Next Monday, Partners will host a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare open to current members and anyone interested in joining the Partners program. The event will be followed by a complimentary happy hour at Bricco. (image from playhousesquare.org)

Of course, signing up for a Committee is optional. Those who don’t want to get involved in a Committee can still benefit from Partners with invitations to seasonal parties, pre-show receptions, master classes, pre-sale ticketing and other events.  One of these events is the Partners Dine Around program. Dine Around is a networking event (in the social – not business – sense of the word) that allows members to enjoy a Cleveland restaurant while meeting different members of Partners. 

From a list of four options, participants rank their favorite restaurants and then are assigned to one based upon availability. Each restaurant who participates sets everything up on separate checks so you don’t have to deal with splitting a check between a large group.  And because the 4 restaurants are all located in the same neighborhood, participants meet up afterwards at a bar to mingle some more. 

This month’s Dine Around was held downtown with the options of Crop, Metro, Blue Pointe and Sushi Rock (the post-dinner locale was D’Vine Wine Bar).  Scott and I happily ended up with our first choice – Crop Bistro. I’ve enjoyed their lunch before, but wanted to try them out for dinner before they moved from their W. 6th location to W. 25th Street.  Although I usually reserve Crop for a nice meal out, I really enjoy the reputation for creativity, sustainability and local food patronage they’ve built over the last couple of years. 

The interior of Crop Bistro's current location on W.6th (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

Scott and I started off with the Lobster Latte and  Chile Deviled Eggs with Prosciutto.  I’m going to borrow the description shared by another Crop fan when they recommended the Lobster Latte — it was sheer buttery goodness. A latte-style cup was filled with large chunks of lobster in a rich buttery broth topped with a mouth-watering buttery foam. Sure, it’s probably not the best for your health, but definitely good for the tastebuds.  The deviled eggs were also very delicious.  The mix for the egg yolk tasted and looked like it had a browner mustard than I’m accustomed to eating with deviled eggs and the crispy prosciutto that accented each piece was a nice complement in taste and texture to the rest of the egg.  

For our main dishes, I had the Thai D Bowl; Scott had the Pot Roast Short Ribs.  The Thai D Bowl consisted of cinnamon pappardelle, shiitakes, carrots, bell peppers, leeks and coconut curry.  I was very happy that the cinnamon in the pappardelle didn’t overpower the rest of the dish, which is what I had been a little apprehensive about when I ordered it.  I’ll admit – I didn’t have room for it all so I had to take some home for lunch the next day.  I didn’t reheat it and it was an entirely different (and delicious) experience having it as a cold noodles plate.  Scott’s Pot Roast Short Ribs came with braised root vegetables, pearl onions, and herb jus. Scott loves meat — I’d say he’d be happy eating some sort of beef product every day of his life if he could.  So for him to say it was the most tender, fall-off-the-bone dinner he’s ever had is a large compliment.  As much as I loved the Thai D Bowl, when I tasted some of the Short Ribs, the carnivore in me was kind of sad I hadn’t ordered that as well. 

Crop’s deviled eggs – just one of the delicious items Scott and I tasted during the Partners Dine Around. (photo by Crop and photographer Doug Kiley; cropbistro.com/tight-crop/food-gallery)

I figured if I was going to go all out at dinner, I might as well experiment with one of their drinks.  I ordered the AT&B which was a crisp mix of Apple Vodka and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc.  It was accented with a slice of spiced apple, which complemented the taste with an amazing aroma.  Another drink definitely worth trying was the Applewood Punch which a couple of the other guests in our party ordered, It consisted of Goslings Rum, Domaine de Canton, Apple Cider and Cinnamon Apple on the Rocks.  The evening was punctuated with excellent service from our waiter Nathan.  It can sometimes be hard to get attentive service in a large group, but Nathan and the rest of the Crop staff definitely delivered. 

The next Dine Around is in January, and I’ve heard rumors that we may be heading to Rocky River for that one.  Other events before then include the Partners 20th Anniversary Celebration Event (a pre-show party and tickets to the delightful Dixie’s Tupperware Party)  and a Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare featuring Joe Garry, host of Broadway Buzz, PlayhouseSquare historian and director of Jacque Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.  Although the 20th Anniversary Event is open only to current and past Partners, the Backstage Tour of PlayhouseSquare is open to anyone interested in learning more about Partners.

This year is the Partners’ 20th anniversary and since it’s founding in 1991, the group has raised more than $2.5 million to support the not-for-profit mission of PlayhouseSquare. I’ve only been a member since August, but I’m definitely excited to have discovered the program and hope to see it continue growing through its next milestone anniversary.

 

PlayhouseSquare Partners / Crop Dine Around 411:

About PlayhouseSquare Partners:

About Crop Bistro:

Fridays@7 Kick the Weekend Off Right with the Cleveland Orchestra

Severance Hall transforms for the Fridays@7 series - the perfect way to unwind at the end of the work week

When I was in college and prone to going out to all hours of the night, I’d look forward to Friday like many students because it meant the weekend (and its subsequent parties) had arrived. Of course, how I kicked off the weekend back then was a lot different than how I like to start it now.  From Polka Happy Hour to a movie at The Capitol, there are plenty of better ways to jumpstart the weekend besides my former gallivanting. And now there’s a new addition to my slate of options: the Fridays@7 series at the Cleveland Orchestra

With an early start time, the Fridays@7 series provides a full evening of music and pre- and post-concert celebrations. The doors to Severance Hall open up at 5pm for a pre-party of drinks, food and entertainment.  Then at 7, the Orchestra presents a concert without intermission, and an afterparty of artists selected by percussionist Jamey Haddad rounds out the unique evening. In addition to being an entertaining way to escape the stresses of the work week, the Fridays@7 series provides much more than an evening’s worth of geographically and stylistically diverse music.

Cleveland's Passport Project performs during the Fridays@7 pre-concert party

This past Friday was the opening concert in the 2010-2011 Fridays@7 series. Scott and I headed over to Severance Hall after a long week of work, happy to get our weekend started a little early. As we walked into Severance’s lobby, we were welcomed by the drum beats of Cleveland’s own Passport Project who kicked off the evening with the pre-party. Passport Project is a local world music and dance ensemble  who strives to build community and encourage diversity by designing lectures, interactive performances and concerts.  Besides the beats they provided, an aspect of their concert I enjoyed was encouraging guests to introduce themselves to at least 2 people they didn’t know.  While I sometimes shy away from networking exercises, it was a relaxed enough environment where this flowed very comfortably. It also helped that the bar was open, where guests could purchase libations and light food before the main event.

As 7 o’clock arrived, the crowd moved into the main hall of Severance.  As Conductor Franz Welser-Most took the stage, you could already tell this would be different than some of the other concerts I had been to.  Instead of the traditional suit and tails, Welser-Most and each musician were dressed in semi-formal black. The concert itself featured a dual performance –  Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu’s Dream/Window and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 (often referred to as Eroica/The Heroic). 

Even the Cleveland Orchestra loosens their ties for the Fridays@7 series - not donning the traditional suit and tails.

The two pieces the Orchestra performed definitely had their share of differences in style. Takemitsu’s Dream/Window was a modern interpretation of the Japanese Buddhist garden Saiho-ji as if being viewed in a dream and through a window. The overlapping harmonies and sometimes twisting, incoherent manner of the music had a unique and haunting effect as the piece mirrored the different perspectives of the garden.  Beethoven’s Eroica – composed in the early 1800s – took some of its inspiration from Beethoven’s admiration of Napoleon as a heroic leader.

However, although Eroica is more traditional than the modern 1985 Dream/Window, it wasn’t originally as well-received as it is today.  In addition to the original inspiration of Napoleon, there was also a deeply personal exploration in the basis of the piece as it was written around the time Beethoven publicly acknowledged his deafness. Instead of allowing the knowledge of his deafness to debilitate him, it is said his work on Eroica could have saved his life. The end result was 4 movements of dynamic, tumultuous and sometimes irreverent sound that shed new significance with each listen. Subsequently, the decision to perform Dream/Window and Eroica with their different styles, but similar impact, was a very deft one on the part of the Orchestra.

After the Orchestra, Nation Beat performed to a packed house in Severance Hall's Grand Foyer

In addition to a night of challenging music, the concert was yet another opportunity to observe how the Orchestra’s performances are a level of art completely separate from the pieces themselves. This was the first time I haven’t sat in the lower level of Severance.  While I enjoy being close because it establishes an almost personal connection with the musicians, sitting in the upstairs Dress Circle allowed us to see how the entire ‘machine’ flows together.  As Welser-Most led the musicians, you could see the instant reverberations of his movements spread from the strings back to the timpani and percussion sections. From the great restraint he exhibited in tiny flicks of his hands, to dramatic gestures or gentle, sweeping motions, the musicians played as if they were a perfect extension of Welser-Most. It reminded me of why I could see the Cleveland Orchestra perform almost anything and still be amazed simply by the beauty of them playing.

The evening was perfectly bookended by Nation Beat, a fusion group of Brazilian and southern U.S. styles.  As we made our way from our seats to the Grand Foyer, you could hear the afterparty had already begun.  Although Nation Beat heralds from New York, their music is a mix of Brazilian maracatu drumming, New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues. They provided an energizing performance where all of these styles flowed together seamlessly and guests had a chance to get up and dance.  Connecting the performance back to Cleveland, Nation Beat brought up musicians and singers from the Cleveland Institute of Music to join in on a piece they had practiced earlier that day when Nation Beat visited CIM.

Nation Beat invited students from the Cleveland Institute of Music to perform with them

The Fridays@7 series continues throughout the year with The Heroic Mahler on Dec. 3, A Hero’s Life on Jan. 14, Romantic Rachmaninoff on April 1, and Eighth Blackbird on May 27. This season not only features invigorating performances of musically diverse pieces, but also includes a Cleveland premiere and a conductor’s Cleveland Orchestra debut.

The entire Fridays@7 series is included as a subscription, or you can purchase individual tickets if there are a couple concerts in particular you’re interested in.  Personally, I’m very excited for the May 27 performance, which will feature Welser-Most as conductor and Joshua Smith on flute in Pulitzer Prize-winning Jennifer Higdon’s concerto.  It’s a much more enjoyable way to unwind than my revelries in years past.

 

Fridays@7 411:

Great Lakes Theater Festival Returns with a Vengeance

     

In the Great Lakes Theater Festival's production of Othello, a deadly plan is hatched between the gullible Roderigo (actor, Eduardo Placer, left) and the manipulative Iago (actor, David Anthony Smith, right). Photo by Roger Mastroianni.

 

This past Saturday, Great Lakes Theater Festival opened its 49th season with Shakespeare’s psychological thriller Othello.  Needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to the return of GLTF since the Spring Rep’s productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Bat Boy; my first Shakespearean tragedy at GLTF did not disappoint.     

This intense tale of jealousy and revenge is considered one of the greatest dramas of all time. Although I’ve read the play before, this was the first time I had seen a production of it. Director Risa Brainin did an excellent job as she strived to unravel the reasons behind the villainous Iago’s duplicity and Othello’s inexplicable belief in his lies.    

Although the E 14th Streetscape construction is underway around the Hanna Theatre, there are no changes to how you enter the theaters or where you may park.

 

Although Othello may be the title character, I found that it was Iago who drove the GLTF production. Actor David Anthony Smith returned to the Hanna stage after last year’s comedic turn as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And while the villain of Othello was a stark contrast to the bumbling Mechanical, Smith’s standout performance was compelling in its treachery. Iago’s actions may have been deplorable, but Smith’s characterization showed a glimmer of relatable humanity. Behind the jealousy, he exhibited the pride and paranoia that everyone has fallen prey to at some time.  Smith even elicited a few laughs from the audience, especially as he played off of Eduardo Pacer’s Roderigo who was both privy to Iago’s manipulations but also a victim of them.    

Another performance that stood out to me was Aled Davies’ portrayal of Desdemona’s father, Brabantino. Although he was only featured in a few of the early scenes, the anger, sadness, and betrayal Davies beautifully portrayed after Desdemona’s elopement plants the earliest seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind, which Iago later exploits.    

From the technical side of the production, I enjoyed the minimalistic and utilitarian nature of Russel Metheny’s set. The bi-level frame that the majority of the play’s action takes place in had a fittingly militaristic touch and effectively reflected the cage that Iago and Othello’s jealousies entrap them in. Composer Michael Keck’s dynamic soundtrack also did a stunning job of echoing the powerful emotions behind Iago’s deception and intrigue.    

A view of the Othello set from our seats in the banquette section. If you arrive early to Othello, you can watch the crew set the stage and the actors' fight call.

 

With the success of the individual players, applause needs to also be given to Producing Artistic Director Charles Fee. It’s under his guidance that productions such as Othello thrive and the GLTF theatre company continues to grow.  Unlike one-off touring productions, you have the opportunity with a well-established theatre company to see the actors’ and production staff’s progression from season to season.    

Last season was when I was first introduced to GLTF so I was thrilled to come back and see how actors from last year returned to undertake drastically different roles. By successfully balancing the experience of veteran GLTF members (such as Smith who’s now in his 8th season) with the fresh insights of new additions (such as David Alan Anderson who made his GLTF debut as Othello and Pacer who’s only in his second season), the Great Lakes Theatre Festival will continue to provide exciting theatrical experiences for the city of Cleveland.     

Grab a drink from the Hanna Theatre bar or a snack from their concession stand. The cupcakes are delicious and the cheese and crackers box a great value.

 

Othello runs until October 31st along with the second half of GLTF’s Fall Rep — Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband. Although the main event of each evening is the onstage performance, the GLTF has again expanded its popular Experience Enhancement Series with a full offering of pre and post show activities.    

As in previous seasons, the Hanna opens 90 minutes before curtain so that audience members can watch the crew set the stage and the actors’ combat calls. Post-show activities for the 2010-2011 season include Salon Thursdays, Happy Hour Fridays, Ice Cream Social Sundays, and their new ‘Nightcap Night’ music series on non-opening-night Saturdays.     

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing An Ideal Husband towards the end of October. Scott’s parents, who are fans of Wilde, will be visiting Cleveland so it’ll be a great opportunity to introduce them to the Great Lakes Theater Festival as well.     

     

Great Lakes Theatre Festival 411:    

The Fall Repertory    

The Hanna Theatre    

   

IngenuityFest 2010 Bridging Art, Technology and Cleveland

In addition to the art and tech exhibits, IngenuityFest 2010 also gave access to the tunnels and pipeworks under the Detroit Superior Bridge.

With the opening night of Othello and the Botanical Garden’s RIPE Festival, there’s a lot to write about this weekend. Regardless, though, I wanted to quickly post about my visit to IngenuityFest on Saturday afternoon. 

This weekend, IngenuityFest returned for its yearly celebration of art and technology in Cleveland. The last time I attended was two years ago down on Euclid Ave. during the first annual TikiCon.  This year, the Festival’s venue was the subway level of the Detroit Superior Bridge.  Connecting both the east and west sides of the city, Ingenuity’s exhibits and performances were held all along the bridge, the old subway tunnels and in the pipeworks. The mission of IngenuityFest is to expose audiences to educational, immersive, and sometimes challenging works of art and tech from Northeast Ohio performers and artists, high tech and engineering firms, and local schools including Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Institute of Art and CSU. As in years past, it provided a unique experience that engaged attendees as both spectators and participants. 

With a 22-page guide to the artists and exhibits, there is definitely a lot to check out at the Festival. However, I’ll have to settle with listing my top 3 things from IngenuityFest 2010. These were not just my favorites, but also encompassed the Festival’s cross-section of performance, visual arts, technology and interactive offerings.

"Bridging" by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre

 “Bridging” by Dancing Wheels and Inlet Dance Theatre:  Scott and I started our day by attending the premiere of “Bridging,” a beautiful performance by Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels (the first physically integrated dance company in the country) and Inlet Dance Theatre (internationally recognized for its modern dance performances). With an electronic score by local composer Jeremy Allen and innovative choreography that employed wheelchairs and segways, “Bridging” focused on the benefits of exchanging different points of view in a community. The choice of the Detroit Superior Bridge as the venue also served as a powerful metaphor for the collaboration between East and West sides and all members of the community that is needed if the city is to grow.     

Mural of the Cleveland skyline as part of the Cleveland West Art League's Line of Sight project

Line of Sight – The Bridge Span Mural Project: When it came to visual artwork, my favorite examples came from the murals that lined the span of the Detroit Superior bridge. Along the bridge span, members from the Cleveland West Art League have been painting murals on the plywood planks. Some murals were stylized renderings of the Cleveland skyline or commentary on social, economic and ecological problems in the city; other murals were non-Cleveland-related graphic designs and paintings. Either way, the murals are a unique way to beautify the walkway. When you walk along the bridge span, you’ll also have the opportunity to get up close to IngenuityFest’s signature installation: the man-made, sixty-foot-long Lifeline Waterfall. 

Dr. Sketch's Doodle Bar allowed guests to draw and write on any surface of the room

Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar: One of the unique ways IngenuityFest promoted audience interaction was through Dr. Sketchy’s Doodle Bar. With white walls, white couches, white tables and pedestals, the Cleveland chapter of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti Art School provided a clean space and markers for attendees to sketch, write or doodle whatever they wanted. With nearby bars and djs, it was also a place where people could go to just hang out. The best part is that you didn’t have to be an artist to participate. Even Clue Into Cleveland left its mark along with a quick sketch of the bridge’s arches.   

Clue Into Cleveland left its mark on one of the benches at Dr. Sketchy's

 Some exhibits such as the Mural Project and Sketch Bar are ongoing installations throughout the weekend, other events are scheduled plays, concerts and operas. IngenuityFest continues today from 12-5pm. The schedule for Sunday’s events can be downloaded off of the website along with a map of the Festival. Also, admission is free, so it’s an inexpensive and easy way to experience the innovation going on in Cleveland. 

IngenuityFest 411:   

 

Shore Cultural Centre Fundraiser in Euclid This Friday

Shore Cultural Centre's Auditorium - home of the Euclid Orchestra and Friday's Shore Cultural Collective Concert. (image from shorecultural.bravehost.com)

 

As much as I love Cleveland, the city has its fair share of problems from schools that need drastic improvements and issues in local government to poorly planned projects for city development. On the flip side, though, there are organizations that are legitimately trying to encourage the community’s involvement in discovering more of the Cleveland area and providing educational and basic needs support to its residents.      

This coming weekend, two events hope to foster and support larger involvement in one of this city’s strongest attributes – the local arts. Because the events’ geographic and thematic differences may target different audiences, they’re worth individual blog posts — making this a doubleheader day. This morning’s entry is focused on Euclid’s Shore Cultural Collective Concert and a post this evening will spotlight the Downtown Sparx City Hop.     

If you’re in the Downtown Euclid area this coming Friday, there’s the chance to listen to local music and support two causes when the Shore Cultural Centre hosts a fundraising concert to benefit both the Cultural Centre and the Euclid Hunger Center.     

The Shore Cultural Collective Concert starts at 6pm and will feature local musicians, including: Erin Boylard, Denny Carleton, Raven Dana, David Fox, Bill Hach, Sharon Hummer, Steve Mramor, Quinn Sands, and The Sinkovics. Monetary donations and canned food will be accepted at the door.     

The Shore Cultural Centre works to provide quality, family-oriented classes, events, services and resources for all ages in the Euclid area. Classes include pottery, fine and performing arts, yoga, and culinary arts. They also host a weekly Farmers’ Market on Fridays from 2-7pm and are home to the Shore Cultural Centre Auditorium, which provides a performance space for the Euclid Orchestra and other local theatrical and music performances.     

Funds raised from the concert will be shared with the Euclid Hunger Center. The Hunger Center provides basic food assistance to households in the area who are in need due to a lack of family financial resources.  It operates from the aid of Euclid churches and businesses, schools, civic and auxiliary groups, individual contributions, grants and the generosity of various food drives and fundraising events, such as this concert.     

The concert takes place Friday night from 6-8pm in the Cultural Centre’s auditorium (located in Downtown Euclid at 291 East 222nd Street).  More information about the Shore Cultural Centre can be found at www.shorecultural.bravehost.com, on the Shore Cultural Centre Facebook page, @ShoreCultural, and their blog.     

Not only will the Shore Cultural Collective feature an evening of local performers, it will also help support one of Cleveland’s community centers in their mission to improve our neighborhoods through low-cost access to the arts.     

If you can’t make it to the Shore Cultural Centre fundraiser on Friday night, another opportunity to experience Cleveland arts is on Saturday with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Sparx City Hop. For now, though, I’m off to work.   

Shore Cultural Collective 411:   

Hosted by Shore Cultural Centre
Shore Cultural Centre on Facebook
@ShoreCultural