Weekend MusicWatch: October 11-16

When did October get so... musical?

Christine Meadows, Erik Hundtoft, and Audrey Sackett
in Opera Theater Oregon’s The Old Maid and the Thief.

There’s too much recommended Oregon music going on to cram into just Saturday and Sunday, so this weekend’s survey extends from Thursday through Tuesday. Here’s the lowdown, arranged by genre.

Vivid Voices

“The Old Maid and the Thief,” Opera Theater Oregon, Thursday and Friday, Mission Theater, Portland: “Radio,” goes a line from an old “Twilight Zone” episode, “has to be believed to be seen.” In this ingenious, pell mell-paced new production of American composer Gian Carlo Menotti’s sly, funny and ultimately poignant one-act 1939 opera buffa about small town gossip, “The Old Maid and the Thief,” the ever inventive alt opera company brilliantly takes an opera that was intended to be heard on the radio and realizes it onstage — and in this case, meta is better. With help from sound effects artists and voice actors, the company transforms Northwest Portland’s vintage Mission Theater into a 1930s radio studio, with the audience witnessing not just the story itself but also the new frame narrative: a live recording of the performance for chamber quintet and a cast of singer-actors led by PSU prof and superb soprano (and PSU prof) Christine Meadows. It’s sort of a combination of a live opera and a radio production, but the clever concept never distracts from the fun and fine music making by a chamber ensemble skillfully led by OTO’s Erica Melton.

Old Maid and the Thief Trailer from Opera Theater Oregon on Vimeo.

The chuckle-a-minute new material—a vintage-looking, black and white film trailer satirically profiling the opera’s fictional stars (more meta material), a radio announcer whose sly intro and inter-scene patter obliquely reference some current events as well as the original 1930s exposition, newly composed (by Portland composer Justin Rails) ’30s style radio jingles for McMenamins and the other Portland sponsors, and put-upon sound effects artists who become part of the show as well—is even funnier than the original script. And the show’s crisp pacing and tight direction, along with the three sharp female leads’ (Meadows as Miss Todd, the hilarious Lisa Mooyman, whose early music-trained voice enables her to avoid grand opera excess in this snug setting, as the nosy Miss Pinkerton, and Audrey Sackett as the scheming maid Laetitia) gleefully exaggerated mugging, clear singing (ideally adjusted to the Mission’s relaxed, intimate atmosphere) and superb comic timing and chemistry (the script awards the lone male character, Erik Hudtoft’s Bob, a fine aria but much less opportunity for delight) make for a giddy evening.

Nicholas Meyer, Sunday, The Old Church, Portland: The former Portland baritone joins former Portland Opera associate conductor Robert Ainsley in songs by Debussy, Ravel, Faure and Schumann.

Chvatal/Kritzer Duo, Thursday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University: Soprano Janet Chvatal and baritone Marc Gremm join Portland guitar great Scott Kritzer in music from operas and more. Kritzer and Chvatal first played together in 1994 and toured for 11 years before she moved to Germany; it’s good to have them back with new arrangements.

Baroque Banquets

Portland Baroque Orchestra and Cappella Romana, Friday and Saturday First Baptist Church, Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium,  Sunday:
Two of the Northwest’s finest classical music ensembles, who made such beautiful music together in their performance and recording of J.S. Bach’s St. John Passion a couple years ago, reunite this weekend (at Portland’s downtown) to reprise music from that epic work, one of Bach’s moving funeral motets, “Come, Jesus, Come,” and two more of the Baroque era’s most popular masterpieces: Handel’s stirring “Dixit Dominus” and Vivaldi’s aptly named and justly acclaimed “Gloria” in D.

Wieland Kuijken, Eva Legene, Jillon Stoppels Dupree, Monday, Central Lutheran Church, Eugene: One of the real pioneers of the historically informed performance movement, the Dutch flutist Kuijken joins recorder player Legene and Seattle harpsichordist Dupree in music by Bach, Couperin, Vivaldi and more.

Orchestral Maneuvers

Oregon Symphony, Saturday-Monday, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland: The orchestra takes a rare turn into contemporary repertoire and comes up with a winner, French composer Henri Dutillieux’s engrossing 1985 violin concerto “Tree of Dreams” (inspired by Vincent Van Gogh paintings), plus Rimsky Korsakov’s exuberant “Spanish Caprice” and Tchaikovsky’s tragic final symphony.

Eugene Symphony, Thursday, Hult Center, Eugene: Opera soprano Christine Brewer joins the orchestra for Richard Strauss’s valedictory “Four Last Songs,” and the program also includes a Fifth of Beethoven and a waltz by Ravel.

Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra, Saturday and Sunday, First United Methodist Church, Portland, and Good Shepherd Community Church, Boring: Two pillars of the Romantic repertoire, Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A (with Rosa Li as soloist) and Brahms’s Symphony #4 highlight this season-opening program.

Portland State University Symphony, Saturday, Lincoln Recital Hall, Portland State University: this collegiate orchestra boldly brings audiences fascinating contemporary works that too many established organizations are too timid to attempt. Along with Maurice Ravel’s enchanting “Mother Goose Suite” and Fauré’s prelude to “Pelléas and Mélisande,” they’ll perform “Counter Phrases” by New York Philharmonic composer in residence Magnus Lindberg and Iranian composer Hossein Dehlavi’s “Concertino,” with Monica Parisa Rabii playing the zingy Persian hammered dulcimer called the santur.

Chamber Charmers

Peter Wiley and Anna Polonsky, Sunday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University: When we think of Beethoven’s greatest hits, the symphonies, string quartets and maybe piano sonatas leap to mind, but his gorgeous Cello Sonatas belong in the mix, too. Veteran cellist Peter Wiley (who starred in two of the 20th century’s finest chamber ensembles, the Beaux Arts Trio and the Guarneri Quartet) joins estimable young pianist Anna Polonsky in this Chamber Music Northwest recital of all five sonatas.

Pacifica Quartet, Monday and Tuesday, Lincoln Hall, Portland State University: On Monday, one of today’s top string quartets returns to play Dvorak’s Cypresses, Beethoven’s Op. 130 quartet (with its magnificent original ending, the Great Fugue) and a rarity, 20th century Polish-Russian composer Mieczysław Weinberg’s klezmer-flavored sixth quartet. On Tuesday, they play another Beethoven quartet, a terrific Prokofiev quartet and Smetana’s first quartet.

Juilliard Quartet, Sunday, Beall Concert Hall, University of Oregon: One of the oldest (founded in 1946) chamber ensembles plays some of the last chamber works of Mozart (String Quartet K. 575), Beethoven (that amazing Op. 130 quartet again, including the Great Fugue), and centenarian (and still active!) American composer Elliott Carter’s fifth quartet.

Cinema Musica

Reel Music Festival, Portland Art Museum Whitsell Auditorium: The first week of the venerable annual film series about music includes several films about classical and postclassical composers, including Mahler (1 pm Oct. 13) and Wagner (4:30 pm Oct. 14). On Wednesday, filmmaker Eva Soltes will introduce her new documentary about one of America’s greatest composers: Portland born Lou Harrison. We’ll tell you more about that one soon.

Beta Collide, Saturday, University of Oregon Prince Lucien Campbell Hall: When he was a UO student in the 1990s, trumpeter Brian McWhorter earned a strong reputation for his original scores to silent films like Metropolis. Now a UO faculty member, McWhorter has concocted another new one for an old film: “Ed’s Coed,” a silent farce made by UO students in 1929. He’ll perform it with his terrific new music ensemble Beta Collide.

Global Sounds

Al-Andalus, Friday and Saturday, Eliot Hall, Reed College: The Portland-based world music ensemble (flamenco guitar, ud and other Middle Eastern instruments, cello, voice) brings Spanish dancer Laura Dubroca back for songs of love in many languages and from many lands.

Sammilan—Spirit of Krishna, Saturday, First Congregational Church, Portland: In this intriguing thematic concert presented by the Kalakendra organization, several stars of Indian music led by the great flutist Shashank, (along with a singer, sitar player and a pair of virtuoso percussionists) perform classical and folk music, from many of India’s diverse regions, all associated with the Hindu god Krishna.

Broken Flowers Pt.1 from Agnieszka Laska on Vimeo.

New Music

Broken Flowers, Friday-Sunday, Zoomtopia, Portland: Agniezska Laska Dancers’ powerful work, on the important subject of sex trafficking, features a gripping score by Portland composer Jack Gabel that incorporates his own compositions and music by other composers from the CD “Hendrix Uncovered,” by Portland composer Gary Noland, and by Polish composer Roman Palester.

Seventh Species, Saturday, Classic Pianos, Portland: Veteran Portland composer/pianist Gary Noland plays and narrates his two-hour monologue, “The Pipsqueak Scrolls.”

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