Arts on the Horizon

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By Rodger Skidmore

How do we know hurricane season is over?

     One indicator is when the Snowbirds start winging their way south. And how can we forecast when this will begin to happen? Why, when we see that the first Masterworks concert of the season is to be performed by the Sarasota Orchestra. Florida Studio Theatre, the Urbanite Theatre and the Players all perform in smaller venues and can schedule shows all year long, but the Sarasota Orchestra, which performs in the 1,745 seat Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, is the real harbinger of cooler weather. Cooler weather here, and the beginning of unpleasantly cold weather up north, brings thousands of Snowbirds to Sarasota. And lots of Snowbirds equals lots of fannies which means those Masterworks concert’s seats can now be filled for three days in a row. 

     While it might be nice to open the season with a bang, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was performed by the orchestra just this past May at Ed Smith Stadium, so the opening big bang will have to be a  metaphysical or metaphorical one. Dvořák’s Cello Concerto is the starting gun with guest artist Adolfo Gutiérrez Arenas performing. Gutiérrez, a Spaniard born in Munich seems like the perfect person to be bowing this masterpiece by a Czech composer. His debut with the London Symphony was in Madrid performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor in 2010 under the baton of ……….. Anu Tali. It, and they, were exquisite, as Dvořák’s concerto should be, as well. 

     And the big gun on November 10th, 11th and 12th? Mahler’s 5th Symphony. Mahler wrote the original version of this work in 1904, revised it in 1905 and again in 1911 (although this later version was not published until 1964, when the score was republished). It is this later version that we will hear. And see. Watching Ms. Tali conduct the orchestra is always a pleasure – the vibrancy and clarity of the SO under her is a joy to behold.

     With the arrival of masses of Snowbirds in November, and their ranks swelling in December, it might also be a good thing to book your tickets for the December Masterworks concert – entitled Symphonic Carnival – before the Snowbirds snap up too great a share of the tickets. {If you are a Snowbird reading this column – don’t worry, we really do love you}.True to the theme of this concert (performed on December 8th, 9th and 10th) the opening number is the Roman Carnival Overture by Berlioz. It is followed by Barber’s Violin Concerto, the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. Benjamin Beilman is the soloist on Barber’s wonderful concerto.

New Takes

     They say that there are no new stories, only old ones that are retold: time and time again. Whether that is true or not, this is the season for retelling. First up is one of the oldest – Oedipus. Sophocles wrote three plays about Oedipus. In sequence they were Oedipus (Oedipus Rex), Oedipus (Oedipus at Colonus) and Antigone. Oedipus / Oedipus Rex – also known as Oedipus Tyrannus (not to be confused with Tyrannosaurus Rex) – is the most famous of the three and was first performed in 429 BCE – 2,446 years ago – how time flies). Sigmund Freud was the first to describe the Oedipus Complex (young males wanting to kill their fathers and have sex with their mothers) and declared it to be both natural and normal. While many may differ with his conclusions one must admit that this theme, or subtle variations of it, have drawn playwrights, producers, directors, actors and playgoers together for thousands of years.

     Many remakes try to make a show appeal to a new generation by changing the setting to Nazi Germany or mobsters in Chicago – steel helmets or vintage clothing from the 1920s do so much to change one’s perception of a play. But doing it straight permits the director and actors to really show their stuff – if they have it. And the FSU/Asolo conservatory for Actor Training usually does. With Oedipus, Greg Leaming is directing his seventh play with FSU/Asolo and has done another seven with the Asolo Repertory Theatre, after having served as Director of Artistic Programming for the Long Wharf Theatre in Conn.

     Later in the month Josh Rhodes is not only directing a new production of Evita, the Bio-Musical about the short unhappy/happy/unhappy life of Eva Perón, but has newly choreographed it as well. Like Jack Benny, this musical is only 39 years old and, given the state of affairs around the world, is still quite relevant. After all, the sexy wife of an evil dictator does have a certain allure. Ms. Perón, by putting her face and stamp of approval on government giveaway programs, was able to permit the corrupt administration of her husband to steal millions (billions, in today’s money) from the Argentine people. Puerto Rican singer and actress Ana Isabelle, chosen by 30 million Univision viewers as the next Latin music superstar, will become, for a month and a half, a small town girl who is able to sleep her way to international acclaim.

     Oedipus is at the Cook Theatre and runs from November 1st – 19th while Evita starts its run at the Mertz theatre on November 18th and continues through December 30th. The two shows also have preview presentations. More info for both at

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

     Forget Carnegie Hall, how do you get to Rootabaga Country? Just head straight to the Sarasota Opera House on November 11th and 12th. While the vegetable called rutabaga contains high levels of manganese, potassium, phosphorous, and zinc, the Sarasota Youth Opera’s world premiere of Rootabaga County contains laughs, life lessons and lots of interesting characters. Where else than Rootabaga Country could you take a sky journey via the Zigzag railroad to meet up with the Potato Face Blind Man, and follow the exploits of Please Gimme and Ax Me No Questions as they strive to find out more about their mother, Alelia while traveling through a land of farms, trains and corn fairies.

     This new opera by Rachel Peters is based on stories by the composer Carl Sandburg. The stories were written, partly, because Sandburg thought that American children did not really relate to European fairy tales that were filled with royalty and knights – and Rootabaga Country certainly is miles away from Paris and Mad King Ludwig’s castle. In writing the opera Ms. Peters took a series of interrelated tales and wove them into one story with a plot that children, the intended audience, could understand. The opera is about an hour long and has no intermission so will be over before a child’s attention span has reached its limit. And if you, your children or your grandchildren are enchanted by this stage production, there are the books and a CD that you will be able to share with each other that contain the entire range of characters, including those that did not make it into the opera. Times and ticket information at Beware, this web site also highlights the performances of this season's upcoming operas, which may also appeal to you.

Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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