Hercules vs. Vampires comes to Oregon

By Lorin Wilkerson

“Cigars, cigarettes? Sweets, flair?” If you heard these sing-song syllables from a beautiful cigarette girl ringing out over a noisy theater the last time you went out, you either last went to the movies in the 1950s, or attended the premier of the Opera Theater Oregon/Filmusik production of Mario Bava’s Hercules vs. Vampires this weekend. (Of course the cigars are bubblegum and the cigarettes chocolate or mint, but with all proceeds going to OTO, the ambience is what counts.)

This isn’t the first joining of forces between OTO, Portland’s homegrown alternative opera troupe, and Filmusik, a project that re-imagines the sonic world of classic cinema through brand new sound- and vocal tracks. It’s not the first collaboration, but to date it may be the most brilliant. Thanks to the combination of Los Angeles composer Patrick Morganelli’s inspired short opera composed specifically for this film, the sterling quality of the OTO singers and Erica Melton’s expert direction of the Filmusik orchestra, Hercules vs. Vampires (It. Ercole al Centro della Terra) was a high-caliber musical experience coupled with the guilty pleasure of watching a campy old movie. In short, it was exactly the type of experience that Filmusik seeks to impart and contintually does, in fresh new iterations time and again.
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Das Rheingold as Baywatch

By Lorin Wilkerson

On Wednesday night at the Clinton Street Theater in SE Portland, Opera Theater Oregon debuted what must surely be the world premier of any Wagner opera to be set as an episode of the once-popular, vapid TV series Baywatch. Das Rheingold may not seem at first like a suitable thematic partner for a show whose main claim to fame was a horde of buxom young women and bronzed, muscled men running around the beach (often in slow motion) rescuing people, preventing crime, and solving mysteries, but glimpse underneath the surface dissimilarities and a surprising mesh occurs.

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Review: Ancestors of the Guitar

By Lorin Wilkerson

In a concert entitled ‘The Ancestors of the Guitar,” Portland lutenist/guitarist Hideki Yamaya presented an insightful look into three early instruments on Friday night, January 29th at the Little Church in NE Portland. Despite a delayed start as the artist waited for latecomers (there was a mistake in The Oregonian directing listeners to the Old Church downtown), the small hall was nearly full as Yamaya played several sets, first on the vihuela, then on a Renaissance lute, and finally a Baroque guitar. Throughout the performance Yamaya put the intimate setting to good use, taking time to set the works in their historical and social contexts, frequently interpolating vignettes on the evolution of the guitar and other plucked string instruments.

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45th Parallel debuts in Portland

By Lorin Wilkerson

Saturday night, January 16th, marked the inaugural concert of a new Portland chamber music group that goes by the name of 45th Parallel.  Its goal is to make a home for chamber music by talented local musicians, to “bring Portland’s rich chamber music culture out of the living room and onto the stage.”  Last night’s concert at the Old Church was rich indeed, featuring a sort of A-list of some of Portland’s finest string players, in this case all members of the Oregon Symphony (and other groups).  The evening featured three works, by de Bériot, Verdi and Tchaikovsky, all of which works were influenced by opera or ballet.

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Portland Opera’s Orphée intriguing and convincing

Photo credit: Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

Photo credit: Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

It has been a pretty heady week for Portland Opera. The company took a gamble in producing Philip Glass’s Orphée on Friday evening (November 6) at Keller Auditorium and emerged a winner. This rarely heard opera retells the Orpheus legend according to the vision of Jean Cocteau, and it held a near-capacity audience spellbound. Continue reading

Oregon Symphony collaborates with two guests and finds Ravel a gem

jackiw

The Oregon Symphony made music with two guest artists on Saturday evening (October 31st) at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. The ensemble was led by Claus Peter Flor, a German conductor who is the music director of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and is well-known for his work with the Dallas Symphony over the past decade. Guest violinist Stefan Jackiw, a 29-year-old American virtuoso also made his debut with the orchestra, which played works by Ravel, Mozart, and Beethoven. Continue reading

Portland Baroque Orchestra celebrates youthful works of Mendelssohn

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The sound of a loud pop greeted the audience at the Portland Baroque Orchestra concert on Saturday evening (October 24) at Kaul Auditorium. It also surprised violin virtuoso Monica Huggett, because she just broke her E string about five seconds after beginning the first piece. After halting the orchestra, Huggett excused herself for a few minutes in order to attach a new string, and the audience got a chance to take a quick breather and reflect on the informal freshness of such a thing. Perhaps even Felix Mendelssohn, who was noted as a super straight-laced kind of guy, would’ve relaxed. In any case, after returning to the stage, Huggett and her ensemble whipped up some froth in a program that featured Mendelssohn’s music, all from during his early years. Continue reading