In the depths of the Durham Arts Council building last week, the Durham Symphony Orchestra gathered to rehearse its upcoming “A Musical Tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.”
It was a weeknight, and the musicians who came were volunteers and paid professionals, some in jeans and T-shirts, others in the business casual they wore all day at an office.
The national tour of “Evita” brings a musical masterpiece to the masses, with a performance unlike anything else at the Durham Performing Arts Center this season. It is on stage at DPAC through Sunday.
When Broadway producer Hal Luftig saw the original production of “Evita” in New York in 1979, it changed how he saw theater. It was the first time he had seen something sung through like that, and using very little set, he said. It starred Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin and won a Tony Award in 1980. “Evita” is the story of the rise of Argentina’s first lady Eva Peron in the 1940s.
Fast forward to London in 2006, when a new production debuted that was “authentic and completely reorchestrated,” Luftig said, with so much more knowledge of the Perons.
The audience at Sunday’s Durham Symphony concert will get an experience that is eclectic, ecumenical, and, to use Duke Ellington’s phrase, “beyond category.” Listeners will get their ears expanded with a new piece from the symphony’s composer of the year Steven Bryant, hear some arrangements of pieces from jazz musicians with North Carolina connections, and go to church.
The concert is a collaboration of many local musicians. William Henry Curry, musical director and conductor of the symphony, asked local musicians to take a look at the music of North Carolina musicians. He gave them a list of 12 compositions or arrangements by John Coltrane, Nina Simone, Billy Strayhorn and other musicians and asked them to pick something to perform. “I’ve learned enough working with artists to turn them loose on what they love,” Curry said. A grant from the North Carolina Arts Council allowed the symphony to hire more guest artists for the concert, he said.
For Lost in the Trees’ new recording “Past Life,” composer and singer Ari Picker wanted the sound “to feel like a band versus an ensemble.” For the band’s previous recordings “All Alone in an Empty House” (2008) and “A Church that Fits Our Needs” (2012), Picker would write the parts for a strings section, but for “Past Life,” he wanted a sound he calls less dense. On the new recording, a single guitar sound or synthesizer performs the same function as strings, brass and winds.
Eleven Brazilian dancers and work by French choreographer Mourad Merzouki wowed a packed Memorial Hall audience Tuesday in a program that showcased a passion for dancing and dance-making. Dancers display great heart, energy, strength and flexibility while Merzouki exhibits his limber imagination and creativity.
This choreographer’s early circus training continues to serve him well, especially in the sense of putting on a show that elicits joy and delight. His work is playful, comic, whimsical. He also creates some dance magic when he figures out how to turn ordinary, clear plastic cups into rain and make dancers appear to have two extra legs.
The set for PlayMakers Repertory Company’s production of Deborah Salem Smith’s play “Love Alone” contains what scenic designer Lee Savage calls “a wall of windows.” The set also has hanging squares that contain fluorescent lights, and three video screens. All of these design elements are intended to help draw the audience into two different worlds affected by a medical procedure gone wrong – the survivors grieving the loss of a loved one, and the doctors who are being sued for malpractice.
There are no “evil doctors’ in Salem Smith’s play, said director Vivienne Benesch. “What’s important about the play is that it’s not black and white,” she said. “Love Alone” follows the lives of the patients and doctors in a malpractice suit and becomes “a very beautiful, personal play about dealing with grief and forgiveness,” Benesch said.
In 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Edo Harbor and demanded that the Japanese open their gates to the West and they did. There are many explanations why the Shoguns opened up trade to this American when they had closed their country to foreign influence for more than 200 years. The history of Japan at this moment in time is beyond the scope of this column, but the results of this incident, especially those that affected Western art, reached halfway around the world and were a key influence in the development of modern art.
Virginia Scare, the founder of The VaudeVillain Revue, describes tonight’s Crimson Ball Valentine’s Day event as intended for adults, but also for “the kid in you.” The Raleigh-based troupe will present an evening of burlesque, live music, singing, and circus acts (including an aerialist and a juggler) during its 2nd Annual Color Ball at Motorco.
Duke University composer Paul Leary’s composition “Song of the Morrigan” takes its inspiration from a character in Celtic mythology. Morrigan is a goddess associated with battle and fertility, and Leary said he wants the piece to convey that “martial quality,” to give listeners the impression of a battlefield.
“It’s loud -- tonally driven but dissonant,” Leary said in a phone interview. The piece has “a lot of percussion. It sounds like artillery at times. I’m interested in how to present that kind of imagery in a piece,” he said.
In filmmaker Rodrigo Dorfman’s documentary, “Monsieur Contraste,” Durham photographer Jean-Christian Rostagni discusses his work as an attempt to balance realism and expression. Rostagni also struggles to balance artistic integrity with the need to pay the bills, and the art world’s commercial demand for product.
In “Monsieur Contraste,” Dorfman, whose films include “Generation Exile” and “One Night in Kernersville,” portrays Rostagni as a gentle soul with a strong do-it-yourself streak of independence. Born in France, Rostagni has been a photographer for more than 40 years. He came to the South about 20 years ago and settled in Durham, where he operates his Church of Photography gallery and shop out of his home.
For 10 years, Celtic Woman has pleased audiences with a wide range of traditional Irish, popular and original music sung by women and accompanied by energetic fiddler Mairead Nesbitt. While other Celtic women have come and gone over the years, Nesbitt remains the only founding member. She is joined now by Lisa Lambe, Susan McFadden and Mairead Carlin. Lambe joined Celtic Woman in 2011, followed by McFadden in 2012 and then Carlin, who replaced Chloe Agnew this past fall.