Arts on the Horizon: April

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By Rodger Skidmore

Almost gone, but back again

When the telephone was first invented, Alexander Graham Bell spoke into a microphone and his voice was transmitted over a wire into another room and broadcast through a speaker.

For a brief time, you had to have a one-to-one connection with a separate wire going to each person with whom you wished to speak. One wire to your friend, one to your lover, one to your stockbroker, and so on.

Then came numbered phones with a switchboard operator who would connect your wire to that of the recipient. Named exchanges like Pennsylvania, Boulevard, etc. were next where one switchboard operator would switch you to a different part of the city. And finally, full automation to connect you to the world.

Well, the single direct line is back. Dial M, not for the Martins, but Dial M for Murder. Also, one direct call to the Asolo Rep box office will get you – credit card willing – tickets for this “new” thriller. While the play was first performed in London in 1952 with the 1954 Hitchcock film starring Grace Kelly fast on its heels, a new updated version is at the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Performing Arts Center through April 25. 

Yes, like the original, you know who the murderer is, who will be killed, and how (no, not with a candlestick in the dining room). But now the characters are more fully developed, with plot twists adding to the suspense once the after-murder action goes a bit wrong. Yes; how, if, what, and but will take place right before your eyes, keeping you guessing until the very end. 

Intimate Apparel, a long-distance love story (via letters, not the phone) by playwright Lynn Nottage, will also be at the Mertz Theatre through April 18. This is an intimate and intricate story of an immigrant seamstress in 1905 New York saving her money so that her bleak present can turn into a fulfilling future. Through an introduction by an acquaintance, a laborer on the Panama Canal begins a correspondence with her that leads her and you to the end of the show.

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Classical music in grand style

Do you ever wonder what happens in the Sarasota Opera House when Verdi, Wagner, and Rossini aren’t in town and the crystal chandelier goes dark?

Does the phantom of the opera stalk the halls, or do compositions of other masters waft upwards from the orchestra pit; up, up into the far reaches of the balcony? 

If you know that the musicians that make up La Musica are in town, then you know there will be music of the highest caliber performed by top notch artists in a quite lovely setting – like the Sarasota Opera House. 

Joseph Haydn composed 45 trios. On April 10, the first of three trios that he dedicated to Princess Maria Josepha (wife of Prince Nicholas Esterházy), Piano Trio in A Major for Piano, Violin and Cello, will start the evening with movements going from moderately fast to very lively (Allegro moderato to Vivace assai). This will be followed by Mendelssohn’s Piano Quartet, op. 1 and Brahms String Sextet no. 2 in G Major.

Two very lovely works.

On the 13th they will play Mozart’s arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major. That is to say, one that he wrote for himself to play in a private subscription series. Next up will be Kodály’s Serenade for two violins and Viola, op. 12, followed by two works by Anton Arensky – Six Children’s Pieces for Piano, Four Hands and Quartet no. 2 in A minor. 

The latter is quite spritely with some nice dark cello passages.

Finally, on the 16th there will be six different composers as well as a traditional Bulgarian folk dance on the program, ranging from Dvořák to Schumann. The most lush, soothing, somber piece is by Bedřich Smetana written after the death of his daughter Bedřiška (spoiler alert: Bedřiška is the feminine form of Bedřich, so yes, he really favored this daughter).

There will be pre-concert talks prior to each performance.

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April tutu

Yes, there are two ballet programs this April by the Sarasota Ballet. Both will be at that jewel of a musical venue, the Sarasota Opera House.

It is therefore fitting that the opening ballet performed on April 5 & 6 will be Emeralds, the first act of George Balanchine’s three-act ballet, Jewels. Venice, situated on another emerald green jewel, the Adriatic, was the setting for Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, for which Gabriel Fauré composed the music for a French version of that play. Fauré’s concert version of that music is used for this ballet.

Second up is the take-your-breath-away psychological drama by Sir Kenneth MacMillian, Las Hermanas.

This ballet was last seen in Sarasota in 2007 – Ian Webb’s first season – and is vividly remembered.

Truly, this ballet is an opera where the words have been translated/choreographed into the language of motion. The music caressing the sensuous/tortured dancers is Frank Martin’s Concerto for Harpsichord and Small Orchestra and is performed live by the Sarasota Orchestra.

Set in Spain, this is a story of love: love found, betrayed, and lost.

This year, the centenary of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, has his music popping up all over. On these two days, everyone’s got rhythm, including the Sarasota Ballet, who dance to many of his hits, such as Lady Be GoodEmbraceable You, that keep all those feet moving in Balanchine’s Who Cares?

The final program of the season brings, on April 26 and 27, a ballet by Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon knew three Americans. One was the sure-footed, slick, bon vivant American in Paris, portrayed in his one act ballet of that name, and the second, its antithesis, is the ballet The American,performed in this program – a tranquil America of open skies and great plains.

The third is the name that has been given to Dvořák’s String Quartet no. 12 in F MajorThe American, to which Wheeldon choreographed this ballet.

Two diametrically opposed ballets round out the evening. The company premiere of Jessica Lang’s Lyric Pieces is one of dreams and romantic moods danced to Edvard Grieg’s compositions of the same name.

A more physically demanding work by Sir Frederick Ashton, Sinfonietta, choreographed to a more modern score by Malcolm Williamson, is sure to bring everyone to a standing ovation as the Sarasota Ballet’s season ends.

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Everything’s ‘gone to the dogs’

In the Urbanite Theatre’s fourth Modern Works Festival, there were 200 plays submitted with three making it to a reading. As in most festivals of this type, there was one winner.

The world premiere of Brenda Withers’ winning play, Westminster is at the Urbanite through April 28. Urbanite co-founder Summer Wallace will be directing.
At the 2023 Westminster Dog Show, the top dog was a petit basset griffon Vendéen. The pooch in this play is a rescue dog given by one friend to another. These women and their partners face off over issues of class, accountability, and good breeding (either the dog’s or, perhaps, theirs).

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Rodger Skidmore
Author: Rodger Skidmore

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