Out and About: DaPonte String Quartet to play ‘scandalous music’
The summer arts and entertainment season is starting to wind down, but there’s still plenty of time to catch some quality shows, and there are still plenty of quality shows on the upcoming calendar.
One of the most intriguing is the “Scandalous” music festival, presented by the DaPonte String Quartet. In a series of three concerts, the four DaPontes will present “music that shocked the world” at a simply gorgeous venue, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay.
Maine State Music Theatre wraps up its 2012 season with one of the happiest and most tuneful Broadway shows ever written. The 1980 production of “42nd Street” was a long-running hit and copped the Tony Award for Best Musical.
The Kotzschmar Memorial Organ has been a mainstay of Portland’s cultural life for 100 years, so its legion of local friends will be hosting a centennial birthday celebration. It’s also a sort of going-away party, too. Beginning this month, the beloved instrument will be dismantled and shipped out for a two-year refurbishing and rebuilding.
Maine State Music Theatre is dropping the curtain on its 2012 season with a sensationally good professional production of one of the happiest, most tuneful and visually exciting Broadway musicals ever written, “42nd Street.” The 1980 Broadway show, with book by Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble, music by Harry Warren and lyrics by Al Dubin, garnered eight Tony Award nominations and won two, including Best Musical.
It’s a show-biz story set in the Great Depression. An aspiring young actress arrives in New York, hoping to land a job in the chorus line of the biggest show in town. She ends up the star, but only after Broadway’s reigning diva makes her exit.
The plot is a bit trite, but the score -- most of it from the 1933 Warner Brothers musical movie of the same name -- is magnificent. And the choreography, by Michael Lichtfeld, takes MSMT to the proverbial next level.
Director Charles Repole has assembled a wonderful cast, led by Alessa Neeck as the fresh young ingenue from the boonies, longtime MSMT favorite Karen K. Edissi as the aging diva and Patrick Ryan Sullivan as the strong-willed producer-director.
Other fine performances in smaller roles are by Tyler Hanes as the juvenile, Raymond Marc Dumont as the director’s harried assistant, Charis Leos as a kind-hearted actress and Mara Newberry as a worldly chorine.
There’s a pit crew of eight musicians; under the direction of Jason Wetzel, they have a large, lush sound that suggests a much larger orchestra.
Maine State Music Theatre presents “42nd Street” at Pickard Theater on the Bowdoin College campus in Brunswick through Aug. 25. Call 725-8769 or visit msmt.org.
Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ
The Friends of the Kotzschmar Organ are celebrating a centennial and saying goodbye over the next week.
The centennial refers to the magnificent instrument itself, which debuted in the newly built Portland City Hall in the summer of 1912. The gigantic organ was the gift of Portland-born publishing magnate Cyrus H.K. Curtis, who wanted to honor the memory of his childhood music teacher, Herman Kotzschmar. The namesake was a German-born musician, composer and pedagogue who was the leading figure in Portland’s cultural life in the latter half of the 19th century.
The goodbye refers to the fact that shortly after the week-long celebration, the “Mighty Kotzschmar” will be dismantled and shipped out for refurbishing and a total rebuilding -- a two-year process.
There are six concerts, starting Aug. 17 and ending Aug. 22. Guest organists include visitors from around the world. The culmination of the concert series is the Aug. 22 “Kotzschmar Gala Centennial,” which features Portland’s municipal organist Ray Cornils and the Kotzschmar Festival Brass, which mostly comprises members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra’s brass section.
There are also six “Festival Highlights,” which include lectures, demonstrations and a community sing-along. These run Aug. 18 through Aug. 21.
For full details, call FOKO executive director Kathleen Grammer at 553-4363 or visit foko.org.
DaPonte String Quartet
Something scandalous is happening with the DaPonte String Quartet, one of Maine’s premier classical music ensembles.
Are their pizzicatos laced with peccadilloes? Is the violist on performance-enhancing drugs? Is the cellist doing all-night raves with Lindsay Lohan?
Not exactly. But if you’d like to hear three nights of “music that shocked the world,” head for Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for the DaPontes’ “Scandalous Music Festival,” which runs Aug. 22, 26 and 29.
The selection of pieces embraces three centuries and several different schools and styles. Composers include Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, Maurice Ravel, Arnold Schoenberg, Benjamin Britten and Astor Piazzolla. Also included are the Broadway team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart -- and even a number of improvised pieces based on audience suggestions.
“Scandal” is the common theme. In some cases, the scandal is in the back story, such as Brahms’ “Agathe” sextet, a magnificent piece which was written out of guilt and surreptitiously dedicated to a woman the composer had jilted. Brahms also had a crush on Clara Schumann, wife of the famous composer -- and a famous pianist in her own right. There’s something sub rosa going on in the back story of the “Piano Quintet,” which the composer wrote for his wife’s performance.
In other cases, the scandalous material is in the work itself. For example, Ravel’s “Chansons Madecasses” uses erotic love poetry by third-world poets, the racier the better, to point up what he considered the sexually repressed prissiness of American high society. There was a riot at its 1926 Washington premiere. Tame by today’s standards, it’s also a gorgeous piece of seldom-performed music.
In “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” Rogers and Hart describe the louche cultural milieu and loose moral standards of New York’s nightclub scene in their ground-breaking 1940 Broadway musical, “Pal Joey.”
The festival concludes with two unusual musical adventures. Even by today’s standards, the tango is considered a sensuous and provocative dance form. The DaPontes will perform “Four Tangoes” by Piazzolla, an Argentinean composer who invented the “Nuevo Tango” by infusing the traditional tango with jazz and other Western musical elements. That will be followed by a unique performance, described as “improvisations on a scandalous theme,” which will use subjects provided by the audience.
Four guest artists join the quartet: pianist Jeffrey Goldberg, cellist Joshua Gordon, violist Lila Brown and soprano Karol Bennett. Festival performances are August 22, 26 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, on Barters Island Rd. in Boothbay. Call 633-4333 or visit daponte.org.