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Out & About: End of seasons loom on arts calendar

Lifestyle

Out & About: End of seasons loom on arts calendar

The leaves are getting greener every day as spring asserts itself in full vigor, but most of the major arts producers and presenters in southern Maine are ending their 2009-2010 seasons over the next few weeks.

Among those with final offerings are Portland Ovations, Portland Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Music Theater.

Portland Ovations goes out with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet Company, a troupe that combines classical terpsichorean traditions and aesthetic values with distinctly modern choreography.

Portland Symphony Orchestra wraps up with two performances of Gustav Mahler’s “mighty” Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.”

Lyric Music Theater closes out 2009-2010 with an outstanding production of “Guys and Dolls,” while the University of Southern Maine School of Music concludes its Spotlight Concert Series.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

The final presentation of Portland Ovations’ 2009-2010 season will be a performance by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, a traveling professional dance troupe that expresses the grace and elegance of classical ballet coupled with an eclectic repertoire of new works.

Aspen Santa Fe has made a name for itself in the terpsichorean world by performing inventive works by today’s foremost choreographers. Ten dancers will appear in the May 5 program, which will feature an imaginative reconstruction of Twyla Tharp’s masterful 1975 ballet, “Sue’s Leg,” set to the music of Fats Waller.

More recent creations include William Forsythe’s “Slingerland” and two works specially commissioned by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet: Jorma Elo’s “Red Sweet” and Moses Pendleton’s “Noir Blanc.”

Catch Portland Ovations’ wrap-up performance at 7:30 p.m. May 5 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

Portland Symphony Orchestra

Going out with a big bang is the big idea behind “Mighty Mahler,” the title of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s final two concerts of the 2009-2010 season. Maestro Robert Moody has programmed a single massive work, Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 (subtitled “Resurrection”) and he’s bringing in additional musical forces to assist his own.

Mahler No. 2 runs nearly two hours, and its five movements can be envisioned, as the composer himself suggested, as an apocalyptic musical essay on eschatology – an answer of sorts to the problems of death implied by Mahler’s No. 1.

More specifically, Mahler starts No. 2 with a funeral march, as the hero of his No. 1 is borne to the grave. Then he works out the remainder of the story through four additional movements, culminating in a thunderous portrayal of the Last Judgment.

No. 2 took several years to write, starting in 1888 and finishing in 1894. The PSO’s Mark Rohr notes that the main reason for the long creative time frame was that the composer was wrestling with the work’s huge scope, searching for the musical answers to all-important questions of life and death, then struggling to find the right symphonic forms.

Theology aside, No. 2 is scored for a large symphony orchestra augmented by additional instruments plus chorus and two solo singers. Moody has invited the Masterworks Chorus of the Choral Art Society to join the PSO, plus he’s engaged soprano Lisa Saffer and mezzo-soprano Mary Phillips as the lead voices.

The PSO performs this work twice at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall: May 2 at 2:30 p.m. and May 4 at 7:30 p.m. Call PortTix at 842-0800.

‘Guys and Dolls’

Last weekend, when I suggested to my girlfriend that we go to Lyric Music Theater’s final offering of its 2009-2010 season, I posed the idea as an evening with old friends: “Sky” Masterson, Sarah Brown, Nathan Detroit and Miss Adelaide. Plus we’d see Benny Southstreet, Rusty Charlie, Harry the Horse, Nicely Nicely Johnson, Angie the Ox and Big Jule. And we could top off the evening with a few performances by the Hot Box Girls.

That’s the cast of one of the most beautiful and successful musical comedies in Broadway history. “Guys and Dolls,” with score by Frank Loesser and book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows, debuted in 1950 and won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It’s been revived several times on Broadway and has enjoyed countless professional and community productions.

I adore “Guys and Dolls” and I’ve seen it at least a dozen times. I’ve come to love the quirky characters – mostly drawn from the New York demi-monde of the late 1940s – plus the show’s skillfully contrived plot, lush melodies and wonderful sense of humor.

Loesser’s masterpiece holds few surprises for me. But Lyric’s effort, directed by Vince and Denise Knue, was delightfully surprising in one key sense. It was by far the best community production of “Guys and Dolls” I’ve ever seen. And Lyric’s management knows how good it is: Even before the first curtain, they announced that “Guys and Dolls” has been extended until May 8.

The quartet of principal characters leads the large cast. Mark Dils as Sky Masterson and Brian McAloon as Nathan Detroit are delightful as the two leading men, but even their excellent performances are somewhat upstaged by their love interests: Jennifer Hoopes as Sarah Brown and Crystal Giordano as Miss Adelaide. Hoopes’ outstanding soprano voice adds luster to her portrayal of the ingenue and Giordano’s superb character rendition of the ditzy blonde comedienne are high points of the show.

Also worthy of special mention are Adam Normand, Tad Williams and Peter Salisbury. Their opening trio – a comic musical round on the subject of horse racing – elegantly sets the stage for the rest of the show.

Louise Keezer, Lyric’s longtime head costumer, also deserves mention. Ditto Leslie Chadbourne as music director.

Lyric Music Theater, 176 Sawyer St. in South Portland, presents “Guys and Dolls” through May 8 with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances and 2 p.m. Sunday matinees. Call 799-1421.

USM Spotlight Concert

The University of Southern Maine School of Music is winding down its academic year, and the Spotlight Concert Series will conclude its season on April 30 with “Art’s Message: The Music of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.”

Drummer Les Harris, Jr. and the USM Jazz Faculty will perform music made famous by drummer Art Blakey and his famous Jazz Messenger groups from the 1950s through the 1980s.

Performers include USM faculty members Harris on drums; Trent Austin, trumpet; Chris Oberholtzer, trombone; Bill Street, saxophones; Bronek Suchanek, bass; Mark Shilansky, piano; and Gary Wittner, guitar.

The concert gets underway at 8 p.m. April 30 in Corthell Concert Hall on the USM Gorham campus. Call the music box office at 780-5555.