Category Archives: Music

…And If Opera Isn’t Your Thing, How about High School Musicals?

The Metropolitan Opera isn’t the only great musical institution that has been shut down by this rotten virus. The pandemic hit the US just as high schools around the country were preparing to stage their Spring musicals. The resulting cancellations have broken the hearts of thousands of drama club kids who have worked for months on what should have been one of their happiest and most memorable high school experiences.

Tony Award-winning actress Laura Benanti* did something to make things a little better.

The response was huge. You can watch some of the videos and read encouraging tweets from dozens of theatre people on her Twitter feed. You’ll find even more snippets at #SunshineSongs.

Nicely done, Ms Benanti!


*She also won the Drama Desk Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award. Twice. Each.

If you haven’t seen her on stage, you probably know her from her spot-on imitation of Melania Trump on late-night TV.

A Gift from the Metropolitan Opera

Metropolitan Opera House

Metropolitan Opera House

Met to launch “Nightly Met Opera Streams,” a free series of encore Live in HD presentations streamed on the company website during the coronavirus closure

Because of coronavirus concerns, the Metropolitan Opera has canceled all performances through 31 March 2020, but there’s a silver lining: Each night for the duration of the closure, starting Monday, 16 March 2020, the Met will stream encore presentations from the award-winning Live in HD series of cinema transmissions on the company website for free. Learn more here.

All “Nightly Met Opera Streams” will begin at 7:30pm and will remain available via the homepage of metopera.org for 20 hours. The homepage link will open the performance on the Met Opera on Demand streaming service. The performance will also be viewable on all Met Opera on Demand apps.”

Here’s this week’s schedule:

March 16: Bizet’s Carmen
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Elīna Garanča and Roberto Alagna. (Originally broadcast January 16, 2010.)

March 17: Puccini’s La Bohème
Conducted by Nicola Luisotti, starring Angela Gheorghiu and Ramón Vargas. (Originally broadcast April 5, 2008.)

March 18: Verdi’s Il Trovatore
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Dolora Zajick, Yonghoon Lee, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. (Originally broadcast October 3, 2015.)

March 19: Verdi’s La Traviata
Conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, starring Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Flórez, and Quinn Kelsey. (Originally broadcast December 15, 2018.)

March 20: Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Flórez. (Originally broadcast April 26, 2008.)

March 21: Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
Conducted by Marco Armiliato, starring Anna Netrebko, Piotr Beczała, and Mariusz Kwiecien. (Originally broadcast February 7, 2009.)

March 22: Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin
Conducted by Valery Gergiev, starring Renée Fleming, Ramón Vargas, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky. (Originally broadcast February 24, 2007.)


With my goldfish-like attention span, I’ve never gotten into opera. I think I might give it a try this week.

Life on the Mississippi

Nobody dreams about air travel anymore. Nobody talks about the romance and adventure of flight. Travel by air has become almost indistinguishable from travel by bus, except, of course, that busses have more comfortable seats, more legroom, fewer restrictions on passenger movement, and no extra baggage charges. You don’t have to remove your belt and shoes before you’re allowed on a bus. I’ve heard you can even bring a bottle of Cherry Diet Pepsi onboard without being stopped by security.

But boats and ships! That’s where the magic lives. Talk about romance and adventure and intrigue! Just think about the many and varied classic films that have been set on boats:  Death on the Nile, Titanic, Lifeboat, The Poseidon Adventure, Mutiny on the Bounty, White Squall (ahem), and all those World War II Navy movies.

And riverboats—forever linked to the legacy of Mark Twain and to the ghosts of riverboat card sharks and mountebanks and lost souls like Spider John—might be the most captivating of them all.

So after lunch at Galatoire’s, I walked down to the Mississippi River to watch the boats go by.


Willis Alan Ramsey — “The Ballad of Spider John”

Lauv — “Modern Loneliness”

Really liking Lauv’s new release, “Modern Loneliness”, which is one of those songs that seems to be speaking directly to me. (And, it seems, directly to a lot of other people, as well.  The video was posted five days ago and already has more than two million views.)

“Modern Loneliness” is the final track on his first studio album, How I’m Feeling, which will be released on 6 March 2020. In early 2019, Lauv started to release singles that will appear on the album as they were completed, so 10 of the 21 cuts from How I’m Feeling are already out there online.

Lauv, after musical collaborations with everybody from Troye Sivan to BTS, is three months into a year-long world tour.


The image is the artwork for <i><b>How I'm Feeling</b></i>

The image is the artwork for How I’m Feeling

High Fidelity — The Remix

My earlier post about High Fidelity (the book) was by way of leading up to this posting about High Fidelity (the TV series). But before we get to that, have a look at the trailer for High Fidelity (the movie).

High Fidelity (the movie) was released back in 2000. It’s a pretty good film. The setting was switched from London to Chicago, but the script otherwise stays close to the novel, breaking the fourth wall to incorporate direct quotations from Rob’s internal musings. That great “What came first, the music or the misery?” passage made it into the movie intact, for instance.

Now Hulu is bringing High Fidelity to what used to be called “the small screen”. (With today’s wall-size monitors, that name no longer seems appropriate). The gimmick this time is that the 10-episode series flips the sex and race of most of the characters from the original novel. Rob Gordon, played by John Cusack in the movie, is now played by Zoë Kravitz.

Should be fun, and it’s bound to have a great soundtrack.

The series begins on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2020. While you’re waiting, read the book!

Peter Pan and Wendy at the Shakespeare Theatre in DC

This is the last weekend to catch Peter Pan and Wendy at the Shakespeare Theatre here in Washington, but tickets are still available for all remaining performances.

This being the 21st century, the show is notable for its non-traditional casting. Not only is Tinkerbell played by an actress, rather than by the usual flashlight beam or laser pointer, but Nana the dog is actually played by a dog, instead of by a man in a dog suit! Peter Pan and Wendy are given equal billing in the title. Most transgressive of all, Peter Pan is played by a young male, instead of by a mature lady!  Pretty woke, eh?

Here are some images from the show’s website:

The Darling Children's Bedroom

The Darling Children’s Bedroom

Pirates!

Pirates!

Yes, Pirates! And smart pirates, too. Not a one of them is smiling at that crocodile.

The Pirate Ship

The Pirate Ship

Tinkerbell

Tinkerbell

Wendy and Peter

Wendy and Peter


A Memorable Performance

Peter Pan has been performed on stage for more than a hundred years, but only rarely has a production been more memorable than the one that has become known as the “Greenport (Long Island) High School Peter Pan Fiasco of 2007”.

And cheers to the young cast, who kept their heads through all the chaos, knowing that The Show Must Go On.


Playing Peter Pan

In the Elizabethan Age, women were barred by law from appearing on stage, and female roles were played by men. In theatrical versions of Peter Pan, on the other hand, the role of Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, was traditionally played by a mature woman.

Some examples:

Jean Arthur was almost 50 years old when she played the role in the1950 Broadway production, and she was such a brilliant actress that she made it work. The show had music by Leonard Bernstein, and Boris Karloff playing the Captain Hook/George Darling roles

Mary Martin, 41, won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in the 1954 Broadway version. After the show had closed, the cast reunited for a live broadcast of the production on NBC TV. It attracted 65 million viewers, which, at the time, was the biggest audience ever for a TV show.

Cathy Rigby was only 20 when she first played the role in 1974, but she starred in the musical’s 1990 Broadway revival, and then toured the show. She played Peter Pan into her 60s, retiring in 2013.

Frozen Medley by Oxford’s Out of the Blue

Out of the Blue is Oxford University’s award-winning all-male a cappella group. At Christmas every year, the group releases a charity single for the benefit of Helen & Douglas House, the world’s first children’s hospice. It provides end-of-life and bereavement care to children and young adults, and to their families.

The 2019 single is a medley  of songs from Frozen and Frozen 2.

You can download the single from Bandcamp. The list price is £1.50 ($1.94), but you can pay more if you’d like to increase your contribution to the hospice.


Minor note: Good medley, but why on earth did they chop off the end of “Let It Go” without singing that final killer line: “The cold never bothered me anyway “?