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DPO's 'A Touch of Fantasy' lives up to billing

Valentine’s Day brings out the red.  The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra celebrated by bringing out the music.

The concert, billed as "A Touch of Fantasy," lived up to its moniker.  Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite and Stravinsky’s Petrushka were all fairytale based.  The debut of very young, 19 year old French pianist Lise de la Salle, was no fantasy – it was fantastic.
Maestro Neal Gittleman has paraded quite a dossier of talent to the Schuster stage as Benjamin and Marian Schuster Young Classical Artists.  In Lise de la Sale, he picked another winner.  She played the challenging 2nd Piano Concerto of Camille Saint-Saëns.  Its blinding speed and complex thematic lines made it a virtuoso work from start to finish.  

Lovely and very youthful Lise introduced herself to the Dayton audience.  The concerto opened with a brilliant cadenza, as conductor and orchestra watched and listened.  Immediately, Lise put the audience on notice that real fireworks were yet to come.  The concerto, soloist and orchestra certainly lived up to that promise.

The orchestra, when it joined the soloist, often mirrored the piano with special modulations adding to the excitement. There was no real slow movement, only changing tempi and continued vivacity.  The entire performance was marked by extreme clarity and joyous musicality.  Every section had some special musical effect and all performed magnificently.

I know that Lise de la Sale will be a frequent visitor to the Philharmonic.  Dayton audiences can say, with pride, “we knew her when.”

The concert opened with Ravel’s delightful Mother Goose Suite.  These brief “postcards” contain the music of a master orchestrator showing off nearly every instrument.

Maestro Neal is a fabulous stage personality.  His talks are enlightening and fun to hear.  Unfortunately, he introduced each of the “Mother Goose” sections which broke up the continuity of the music.

The closing work was Stravinsky’s Petrushka.  Written for the ballet, this charming fairytale of puppets striving for human life and finding tragedy instead of pure joy, is a ballet masterpiece.  The characters dance the story to the great music.

Hearing it on the symphonic stage removes the distraction of the dancing and allows you to concentrate on the fabulous music.  As a special surprise gift, projected sur-titles described the action of the characters.  This made the musical program more clear and exciting. It was a great idea and one which the Philharmonic uses to advantage.  This time, the instruments were dancing instead of the ballerinas.

The Merchant of Venice at UD

Last week’s winter blasts played havoc with our theater schedule.  We were scheduled to see the opening of Wright State’s The Country Wife on the snowy Thursday.  Cooler heads prevailed and we rescheduled for Friday.  An e-mail from Stuart McDowell announced that the university was closed on Friday and the theater, as well.

I had been disappointed to miss the visit of The American Shakespeare Center’s tour hosted by UD.  Their previous appearance in 2005 included Twelfth Night and was a wonderful piece of theater.

This tour included The Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice. Thanks to the weather, I was able to see The Merchant of Venice done with their special élan.
The Center operates a reconstruction of Shakespeare’s indoor theater, The Blackfriars, in Staunton, Virginia. They use the Elizabethan lighting concept - no special stage lighting and the audience lit as well.  Some of the audience sits on the stage and the actors never leave the stage, sitting with the audience until they assume their multiple parts.

Shakespeare’s plays lend themselves perfectly to all manner of circumstances. There is the Olivier, Gielgud, Branagh brand of Shakespeare, elaborately done with great actors playing in authentic costumes and on realistic sets.

I also love the innovative freshness of a group of actors extracting the complete essence of the play from the language.  There is no better essence of drama than Shakespeare’s immortal language.  

The Merchant of Venice is a difficult play to watch.  The Jewish merchant is painted as an unsympathetic devil in spite of his long suffering insults at the hands of the Christian society.  He is abused, offended, hurt, and reviled.  He is supposed to accept these offenses since he is a heathen in a homogeneous society.

There was plenty of religious prejudice in the Elizabethan era as Catholics and the newly emerged Anglican Church were literally at war with each other.  Their only agreement was against the non-Christian heathens such as the Jews.  

To view the play, one must continually reference the cultural difference of that era. The play ends up with everyone living happily ever after except poor reviled, ruined and now forced Christian Shylock.

The gifted troupe of a dozen actors approached the play with passion and commitment.  Every role is important and every role was given its just due.  As Shylock, Christopher Seiler, the only returning actor from 2005, gave a masterful performance. The other roles wove a complete pattern of plot and language.  I must give special recognition to Evan Hoffmann who made his supporting role as Gratiano a masterpiece of comedic timing.  The same can be said for Ginna Hoben as Nerissa, another vital supporting role.

The winter snows made the visit to American Shakespeare Center’s production possible.  From now on, it will be a prime priority.

Fundraiser for Stivers at DAI March 7

The seedling Foundation, in support of Stivers School for the Arts, will host an evening of Hot Talent/Cool Gems on Friday, March 7, at The Dayton Art Institute. The evening will feature a jewelry auction, fine wine, generous hors d’oeuvres, gourmet desserts, coffee and other beverages. Individuals and small student groups will entertain during the 5:30 to7:30 p.m. auction and buffet. Sixty Minutes of Wow! showcasing the award winning Stivers Jazz Orchestra and Stivers Dance Ensemble plus other student groups will take place from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The evening’s sponsors include The seedling Foundation; DP&L; Time Warner Cable; and The Dayton Art Institute.

Proceeds from Hot Talent/Cool Gems will provide a critically needed foundation for the 2008-2009 goal of another $180,000. The Dayton Public Schools board has expressed an intention to restore cut adjunct funds and positions upon passage of a new levy. In the meantime the school and its adjuncts rely on community support provided through The seedling Foundation.

Tickets for the evening are $100 per person. Patron tables are available at $500 for Sapphire Level (four tickets, program listing, patron identification card on table) or $750 for Emerald Level (six tickets, program listing, patron identification card on table). Tickets and patron tables may be ordered at or by phoning (937) 251-6602.

Noonday recitals at CUMC

Recital:  12:05 p.m., Admission Free
Luncheon:  12:30 p.m., Cost $8.00
For luncheon reservations call the church office 293-3151

March 5

Leora Kline, violin
Daira Skriblis, piano

Christ United Methodist Church Sanctuary
3440 Shroyer Road, Kettering, Ohio

Open to the Public, Handicapped Accessible, Admission Free
For Questions:  Debi DeBanto, Communications Coordinator (937) 293-3151 or debi.debanto@christumc

BLAST! to rock Victoria

BLAST! is back - by popular demand! This spectacular performance event is “music in motion” – ranging from classical to the blues, jazz to rock and roll, and beyond.

Location: Victoria Theatre

Performance Dates: Thru March 2

Performance Times: Tuesday - Friday evenings at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

Ticket Prices:
Fri. & Sat. Evenings, Sat. & Sun. Matinee: $73, $69, $60, $39
All Other Performances: $63, $60, $52, $35
Discounts available for students, seniors and groups.

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February 26, 2008
Volume 17, No. 9

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