Love lessons, acrobats and more
As harsh winter yields to sweet spring this Friday, love is in the air at The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn. "The 13th of Paris," the company's current offering, provides comic lessons in romance and more, and audiences are invited to sit in, chuckle and chortle.
Great music will be in the air March 24 as guest conductor JoAnn Falletta steps up to the podium to lead a Portland Symphony Orchestra program that includes major works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Maestro Falletta has invited virtuoso Michael Ludwig for the solo honors in Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major.
Acrobats will be in the flying through the air at Merrill Auditorium in Portland on March 26. The National Acrobats of China, who claim that their aerial artistry dates back 2,000 years, visit the Port City under the aegis of PCA Great Performances.
The Public Theatre
Three comically inconsistent views of love and romance form the core of the latest offering of The Public Theatre of Lewiston-Auburn. "The 13th of Paris" provides a delightful dollop of laughter and insight into the age-old mating game, played on stage by two generations of characters from France and America.
Here's the situation: A young American has fallen in love, but when his experience doesn't resemble the romantic ideal he's been expecting, he grabs a suitcase filled with the love letters of his grandparents and impulsively travels to Paris in search of love's true meaning. When he begins receiving romantic advice from a dapper French ghost in a pinstripe suit, he gets an unforgettable lesson.
Six actors divide into three romantic pairings. The oldest, a courtly couple who died 40 years ago, represent a long-lost ideal. But how real are they, we're led to wonder. Two other two couples are present-day people. The extremities of personal styles range from old-fashioned romance to barely controlled sexual lust. At the center of "The 13th of Paris" is a very confused young man – Pierre-Marc Diennet – who is torn between the two antipodal opposites.
Best performances are given by Bob Frankel as the older man and Alison Frederick as a sex-crazed young woman. I'm not sure whether my misgivings about Diennet's performance stemmed from the inherent difficulty of this insecure and inconsistent character or his own interpretation. It may also be the writing: Director Janet Mitchko Schario notes that her company's production is only the second ever. It certainly gets a fine set that evokes the romantic mood of the City of Light, designed by Michael Reidy.
The director calls this a "feel good" play and I totally agree. Despite some uncomfortably incongruous spots in Mat Smart's writing, my date and I loved this play and heartily recommend it.
Four performances remain at The Public Theatre (corner of Maple and Lisbon in Lewiston): 7 p.m. March 19; 8 p.m. March 19-20 and 2 p.m. March 21. Call 782-3200.
Portland Symphony Orchestra
Last week I commented on the comparative rarity of female conductors of symphony orchestras, noting that a pair of women maestros were slated to make guest appearances in Maine within the span of a few weeks. This past Sunday I attended a wonderful Midcoast Symphony concert that was conducted by Janna Hymes, a Camden resident who is also the music director of the Williamsburg Symphonia in Virginia. She was filling in for maestro Rohan Smith.
By tradition established by former Portland Symphony maestro Toshi Shimada, one Tuesday Classical concert each year is assigned to a guest conductor. On March 24, the PSO will be conducted by JoAnn Falletta, who leads two ensembles of her own. Falletta's best-known permanent gig is with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, where she is in her 10th year as music director. At Buffalo she earned a pair of Grammy Awards for leading the first recording of "Mr. Tambourine Man," by John Corigliano. Under contract with the Naxos label, the Buffalo Philharmonic is one of the most frequently recorded orchestras in the U.S. Falletta also helms the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
Three popular works are on her program, which opens with Hector Berlioz's colorful "Roman Carnival" overture. The big piece on the first half is Ludwig van Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D Major, a brilliant showpiece for soloist and orchestra that dates from the composer's most productive years.
To perform the demanding solo violin part, Falletta has invited virtuoso Michael Ludwig, who enjoys a multi-faceted career as a soloist, recording artist and chamber musician. A highly sought-after soloist, Ludwig has performed on four continents, including appearances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Boston Pops, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra. He will play a 1735 Guarneri del Gesu instrument.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6, best-known as "Pathetique," finishes the program. It's the famous Russian's final work, premiered less than two weeks before his death in 1893. PSO program annotator Mark Rohr comments that the composer was particularly proud of the "Pathetique," a title that he suggests should be translated as "emotional."
"I myself consider it the best and especially the most open-hearted of my works," Tchaikovsky confided to a friend. "I love it as I never have loved any other of my musical offspring."
Catch the Portland Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. March 24 at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800. Maestro Falletta will lead the pre-concert "conversation" at 6:15 p.m.
National Acrobats of China
A spectacular and colorful circus minus animals: That's the big idea behind one of the most fascinating acts presented by PCA Great Performances this year. The National Acrobats of China, basking in the glow of the 2008 Olympics, are currently touring the U.S. and the buses and trucks are headed for Portland March 26.
For more than half a century, this dazzling company of 35 incredibly athletic young performers has mesmerized audiences of all ages worldwide with stunning displays of the Chinese martial arts, illusion, high-flying stunts and extraordinary feats of balance.
In a recent interview, artistic director Jianguo Yao noted that the Chinese traditional of acrobatic entertainment dates back 2,000 years and the current wave of enthusiasm began in the 1920s. His own company was formed in the late 1940s as one of many state-run cultural enterprises. Nowadays it's one of China's most successful international exports.
Catch the National Acrobats of China at 7 p.m. March 26 – a special family-friendly start time – at Merrill Auditorium at Portland City Hall. Call PortTix at 842-0800.