Portland Opera’s ‘Italian Girl’: Topsy turvy playground

Wacky production gives Rossini’s bubbly East-West comic tale contemporary appeal


Pizza, bathing suits, peeping-Tom camels, selfie-sticks, a chorus dressed in modest underwear and a ruler in a loin cloth were among wacky details in Portland Opera’s The Italian Girl in Algiers (L’Italiana in Algeri) at its July 22 premiere in Portland’s Newmark Theatre.

Aleksandra Romano stars as Isabella in Portland Opera's 'The Italian Girl in Algiers.' Photo: James Daniel.

Aleksandra Romano stars as Isabella in Portland Opera’s ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers.’ Photo: James Daniel.

These contemporary comic touches enlivened Gioachino Rossini’s silly laugh-happy story about a kidnapped Italian tourist who turns the tables on her bombastic bejeweled captor, Mustafa, the harem-holding head honcho of Algiers. This production’s direction, set, timing, choreography and acting combined to make this Italian Girl so appealing, so au courant, so unstuffy.


Win free tickets to “She’s Gotta Have It!”

30 years after its first release, Spike Lee's groundbreaking comedy plays as part of the Northwest Film Center's "Top Down: Rooftop Cinema" series


ArtsWatch has TEN pairs of tickets to give away to the Northwest Film Center’s Rooftop Cinema screening of Spike Lee’s 1986 comedy “She’s Gotta Have It!” Want to check out the movie that jump-started Spike’s amazing career? Want to do it under pleasant Portland summer skies? Just scroll down to the bottom of this page, and sign up for our weekly e-newsletters. Do it before midnight on Wednesday, July 27, and you’ll be eligible for the drawing. Like Mars Blackmon says, Just Do It! (OK, maybe he never really said that, but he could have.)shesgottahaveit_spike

Chamber Music Northwest reviews: Unspoiled by success

Where does a composer go after reaching the peak of popularity? Two concerts trace Beethoven's path from excellence to exploration


Ludwig van Beethoven’s extraordinary fame rests mostly on works he wrote in his mid- to late 30s. Even if you’re not a classical music fan, you probably know parts of his third (“Heroic”) and fifth (da-da-da-DAH) symphonies. If you are, you undoubtedly know his “Waldstein” and “Appassionata” piano sonatas, his violin concerto, and his last two piano concertos. String quartet lovers have his three “Razumovsky” quartets, informally named after the generous patron who commissioned them. They’re the only string quartets in the pantheon, but they fully measure up to their fellow icons.

The Dover Quartet played Beethoven at Reed College. Photo: Tom Emerson.

The Dover Quartet played Beethoven at Reed College. Photo: Tom Emerson.

The Dover Quartet, Chamber Music Northwest Protégé Project Artists just a few years ago, have since catapulted themselves toward a different pantheon after sweeping the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, winning First Prize and all three Special Prizes. Who better to bring Portland audiences Beethoven’s mid period string quartet masterpieces, as they did at CMNW’s July 11 concert at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium? They showed such mastery that even a critic could just relax and luxuriate in Beethoven’s endlessly inventive music.


FilmWatch Weekly: DIY art is the order of the day

New movies from France, China, and Mars (sort of) hit screens this week.

Recycled TV shows may dominate this weekend’s box office numbers, but our focus is on filmmakers who utilize pre-existing materials in more literal ways, as well as those who explore recurring themes through constantly varying stories.


“Microbe & Gasoline”: French director Michel Gondry tells a low-key (for him) story about two misfits who become friends and build a tiny car which they use to escape their humdrum lives. (Living Room Theaters) READ MORE


“Mountains May Depart” and “Jia Zhangke: A Guy from Fenyang”: The newest film from the Chinese auteur, which takes place over a 25-year span, screens along with a documentary about the filmmaker, one of global cinema’s leading lights. (Northwest Film Center) READ MORE


“A Space Program”: Artist Tom Sachs has constructed several installation/performance pieces over the last several years that mimic trips to the moon or Mars, but with equipment made out of plywood, Tyvek, and other ordinary materials. This documentary chronicles his latest effort. (Living Room Theaters) READ MORE


MusicWatch Weekly: Musical mixology

Intoxicating sounds on Oregon stages this week

This week in Oregon’s bubbly music scene, Portland Opera offers a double shot: Rossini and Tchaikovsky. Chamber Music Northwest swirls some new music into its Beethoven cocktail, and Creative Music Guild mixes much of its double dose of music on the fly. Please let ArtsWatch readers know about other intoxicating musical attractions in the comments section below.

Pants and dresses; Sherman and Kirk. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

BodyVox teams with Chamber Music Northwest this weekend. Photo: Blaine Truitt Covert

Chamber Music Northwest 
July 20-26
Wednesday and Thursday’s concerts at Nordia House and Reed College feature music by Carl Nielsen and Portland composer David Schiff’s arrangement of Grieg’s Lyric Suite.

Read my Willamette Week preview of Friday’s New@Noon multimedia concert at PSU’s Lincoln Hall featuring new music by Bruce Adolphe, Portland’s own Bonnie Miksch and more, and Saturday and Sunday’s Reed College/PSU show that includes Adolphe’s music alongside 20th century classics by Kurt Weill and Darius Milhaud. One of those Adolphe pieces highlights Saturday afternoon’s family concert, Marita and her Heart’s Desire.

Monday’s and Tuesday’s concerts, at Reed and PSU respectively, offer Beethoven’s most popular work (in his own time): his sunny, Mozartian Septet (whose popularity eventually irritated him when he wanted to push his music beyond it), plus his Op. 17 string quartet.

Akropolis Reed Quintet performs in Gresham Friday.

Akropolis Reed Quintet performs in Gresham Tuesday.

Weill’s Threepenny music returns along with the Akropolis Reed Quintet at Tuesday’s free community concert at Mt. Hood Community College. The show also includes new music by young composers Rob Deemer and David Biedenbender.

And don’t forget BodyVox’s collaboration with CMNW, which has several shows left this week. Read Bob Hicks’s ArtsWatch review.

Tony Barba and Tricapitate
July 20
Turn! Turn! Turn! Portland
Saxofans should consider this Creative Music Guild Outset Series show featuring Wisconsin-based Youngblood Brass Band member Barba, who’s all played with jazz legends like Andrew Hill and David Murray as well as popsters including Bon Iver, Mountain Goats, Violent Femmes and more. Sax trio Tricapitate features veteran Portland saxophonists Noah Bernstein and John Savage along with Ralph Carney.

Eugene Onegin”
July 21-26
Portland Opera, Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
Read Christa Morletti McIntyre’s ArtsWatch preview and Bruce Browne’s ArtsWatch review of Tchaikovsky’s opera, sung in Russian with English subtitles and directed by Kevin Newbury.

The Italian Girl in Algiers”
July 22-August 6
Portland Opera, Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
While Hollywood still struggles to portray women in truly heroic protagonist roles, Giacomo Rossini’s fizzy 1813 comedy-meets-Harlequin romance stars the titular headstrong woman who outwits a macho royal to score the hunky slave she really wants instead of him. Bubbling with energetic arias and intoxication both hormonal and alcoholic, surprisingly, it’s the first Portland production, and this one’s built especially for the intimate Newmark Theatre.

Aleksandra Romano stars as Isabella in Portland Opera's 'The Italian Girl in Algiers.' Photo: James Daniel.

Aleksandra Romano stars as Isabella in Portland Opera’s ‘The Italian Girl in Algiers.’ Photo: James Daniel.

MYS summer ensembles 
July 21
The Old Church, 1422 SW 11th Ave. Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the faculty chamber music concert starring present and former Oregon Symphony musicians.

Lakou Mizik
July 21, WOW Hall, Eugene, and July 22 Alberta Rose Theatre, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of the Haitian collective’s first Oregon appearances.

Extradition Series
July 23
Leaven Community Center: 5431 NE 20th Ave, Portland
Read my Willamette Week preview of this Creative Music Guild concert featuring a 20th century classic by James Tenney and music by today’s Portland and Seattle performer/composer/improvisers.

Want to read more about Oregon music? Support Oregon ArtsWatch!
Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

Show, Business: “The Lost World of Industrial Musicals”

Author and collector Steve Young brings an odd corner of American musicals to light in a Wednesday show at the Hollywood Theatre.

The 1950s and 60s are often considered the Golden Age of American musicals, both on stage and film. A special confluence of innovation in storytelling, songwriting and choreography coincided with the last vestiges of pop-cultural naiveté to produce classics such as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Oklahoma!,” and “West Side Story.”
But these years also saw the birth of a different sort of American musical, one that will be showcased on Wednesday, July 20, at the Hollywood Theatre, when author and collector Steve Young will present “The Lost World of Industrial Musicals.” These productions were designed for a very specific audience–attendees at corporate sales conventions—and were never intended for public consumption. Their goal was to introduce a new product line, or boost morale for the coming year, and the results are frequently surreal.


MusicWatch Weekly: Jazz and other chamber music

Jazz and classical music festivals highlight Oregon music this week

Jazz takes a bit of a holiday over the summer in Oregon, with fewer shows than usual, but the music blossoms this weekend in Portland, both indoors and out. Meanwhile, Chamber Music Northwest — which ArtsWatch has been covering like flies on honey — continues to hold down the classical end, and you’ll find plenty of other hot Oregon summer music listed below. Please feel free to recommend other concerts of interest to ArtsWatch readers in the comments section below.

Summer Sings
July 13 and 20
Portland Symphonic Choir, PCC Cascade Moriarty Arts Auditorium
This participatory summer tradition provides any Portland singer (though many come from amateur, school, church, or professional choirs) a score and the opportunity to sing one or more classic 18th and 19th century Requiems, directed by some of the city’s top choral conductors: Brahms’s German Requiem on July 13, and Faure’s Requiem on July 20.

The Emerson Quartet will play Beethoven's earlier quartets this summer at Chamber Music Northwest/Photo credit: Tom Emerson

The Emerson Quartet play Beethoven’s earlier quartets at Chamber Music Northwest/Photo credit: Tom Emerson

Chamber Music Northwest
July 13-19
Various venues, Portland
Beethoven’s on tap throughout the annual summer festival, and the pours are supersized this week. Wednesday at Alberta Rose, Zorá Quartet plays his final quartet, Op. 135 (read Angela Allen’s ArtsWatch review of their earlier performance) along with folk- inspired duets by Bartok and Shostakovich’s acclaimed 1940 Piano Quintet.

And on July 15, 16 and 17, the veteran Emerson Quartet (see Alice Hardesty’s interview with its violist Larry Dutton) plays six early Beethoven quartets and six late (and great) ones by his teacher, Haydn, in three different concerts over three days — a rare opportunity to hear one of the most acclaimed ensembles play some of the finest chamber music ever written.

If you want music of our own time, Thursday’s free noon community concert at the Portland Art Museum brings back the Akropolis Reed Quintet in a free, one-hour noon “interactive” concert that takes an architectural view of music by Rameau and Rob Deemer (a 2015 composition), a world premiere (wooHOO!) by Gregory Wanamaker, and Ton ter Doest’s colorful 1990 Circusmuziek.

On Thursday night, the young Dover Quartet plays Beethoven’s  “Harp” quartet, and are joined by CMNW clarinet champ David Shifrin in a quintet by Weber and another by American composer Richard Danielpour’s 2015 clarinet quintet, a world premiere (yay!) inspired by his Iranian father’s birthplace, Hamadan, as well as Persian and Klezmer music.

Another noon new music concert on Friday includes Vancouver BC born composer Joel Hoffman’s 1988 Fantasia Fiorentina for violin and piano, Danielpour’s Clarinet Quintet again and the West Coast premiere of New York composer Martin Bresnick’s 2015 trio And I Always Thought featuring Shifrin, Ani Kavafian and Bresnick’s wife, Lisa Moore, who happens to be one of the world’s most compelling new music pianists.

“Death and Delight” rehearsal from BodyVox on Vimeo.

CMNW’s recurring partnership with BodyVox resumes this week too, taking a Shakespearean turn that includes new choreography to Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet ballet music (arranged for solo piano) and Mendelssohn’s scintillating A Midsummer Night’s Dream theater music performed by piano duo Melvin Chen and Hilda Huang. The pair will also perform keyboard concertos by JS Bach, Mozart and Stravinsky on July 18 at Reed College and July 19 at Portland State.


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