While Oregon swelters in its usual late spring musical swoon, a pair of operettas about criminal exiles returning home in disguise after years away, and other music for voices highlight this week’s music scene.
Improvisation Summit of Portland
Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave. Portland
If you fancy creative musicians who make it up as they go, the Creative Music Guild’s fifth annual fest is the place to be. Along with accomplished veterans of the spontaneous compositions scene like Vinny Golia, Golden Retriever, Pebble Trio (led by the intrepid San Francisco keyboardist Thollem McDonas), Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble with Holland Andrews, Battle Hymns & Gamble (Battle Hymns & Gardens with Mike Gamble), John Gross, Rich Halley and more, the festival features newer voices to keep it fresh, including bringing in electronic instruments, choral music and more. The June 3 Round Robin curated by Blue Crane Reed Wallsmith brings together a dozen top musicians (some more famous in non-improv settings, like the Decemberist guitarist Chris Funk and Efterklang violist Peter Broderick, others from various improv traditions like the great jazz bassists Tod Sickafoose and Andre St. James, tamboura virtuoso Michael Stirling) in duets.
Portland Opera, Keller Auditorium.
Stephen Sondheim’s bloody tale of a wronged barber’s revenge long ago moved from Broadway to opera houses, and this staging, based on the New York City Opera production, blends both worlds. It stars acclaimed Metropolitan Opera baritone David Pittsinger and a cast of local stars led by Susannah Mars. As I wrote last year in Eugene Weekly when Eugene Opera presented the operatic version of Sondheim’s 1979 musical:
Ask Eugene Opera managing director Mark Beudert why his opera company is doing a Broadway musical, and he talks about another piece “that didn’t start out in an opera house, that was new and different, kind of edgy in 1875. That work of art is Carmen. Within 25 years, it had been taken over by full sized opera companies.”
There is something undeniably operatic about the story, set in 19th century England, which is part revenge fantasy, part allegory of the depredations of capitalism (especially given its Soylent Green plot device). The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is determined to avenge his unjust imprisonment and other injustices perpetrated by a corrupt system.
Even if you’ve seen the original, Beudert explains, the operatic version (which follows other productions by major companies including New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Royal Opera) unleashes the full glory of Sondheim’s darkly beautiful score. “The music responds to the same technique we use in opera,” says Beudert, who saw the original Broadway production in New York and an operatic version in London.”The style is somewhat different but not markedly so, so I see this piece making the same sort of transition Carmen did. I think it can breathe in a larger environment.”
Mock’s Crest Productions, Mago Hunt Center, University of Portland, 5000 N Willamette Blvd. Portland
Another, less macabre tale of an exile who returns home and commits crimes, this Gilbert and Sullivan operetta takes a happier turn than Sondheim’s.
William Champan Nyah & Rhonda Rizzo
Willie Hall, Central Oregon Community College
In this benefit for the Cascades Classical Music foundation, the accomplished pianists pair up on a single instrument in four-hand music by Oregon composer Terry McQuilkin, Mozart, Poulenc and more.
Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Portland
The world-renowned, Grammy-nominated Afro-Caribbean jazz ensemble that heated up ART’s Cuba Libre! Returns, unencumbered by all those actors and dialogue, in what’s sure to be an electrifying show.
Northwest Art Song
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 147 NW 19th Ave. Portland
Soprano Arwen Myers, mezzo soprano Laura Beckel Thoreson, pianist Susan McDaniel, tenor Les Green, and harpist Kate Petak close the fledgling vocal music project’s debut season with too rarely heard music by England’s greatest 20th century composer, Benjamin Britten, including Abraham & Isaac, the sweet A Charm of Lullabies, the stirring Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, A Birthday Hansel, and more.
June 4, Living Savior Lutheran Church, 8740 S.W. Sagert Street, Tualatin; and June 5, Saint Matthew Catholic Church, 447 S.E. 3rd Ave. Hillsboro
The 60-voice Hillsboro based choir auditions its third and final candidate for artistic director, Scott Tuomi, who’ll lead Benjamin Britten’s lovely Hymn to St. Cecilia, contemporary composer Eriks Esenvalds’s Stars, music by William Byrd, and more.
Eric Skye and Mark Goldenberg
O’Connor’s Vault, 7850 SW Capitol Hwy. Portland
The LA/PDX guitar duo mellifluously melds fingerstyle Americana, jazz and more.
Oregon Pro Arte Chamber Orchestras
Kaul Auditorium, Reed College, 3203 SE Woodstock Blvd., Portland
Concert features Brahms’s first symphony, Beethoven’s bombastic Wellington’s Victory, and a new work by the winner of the 2016 John Kenneth Cole Composition Prize.
University of Oregon choral ensembles
Beall Concert Hall, Eugene
Various student choirs sing a wide range of repertoire, including an Ethan Sperry raga arrangement, a pair of Hail Marys, Russian music, and more.
Metropolitan Youth Symphony
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland
The orchestra’s season-ending concert takes a dramatic cast, with music by Wagner and Bizet, plus the famous opening movement of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto (starring concerto competition winner Cammie Lee) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s exhilarating Capriccio Español.
Satori Men’s Chorus
Central Lutheran Church, 1820 NE 21st Avenue, Portland
Susan Dorn conducts and Ben Milstein accompanies the choir in durable, boomer-friendly pop songs from the 1960s.
Chamber Music Amici
The Shedd, 868 High Street, Eugene
Oregon Bach Festival fave trumpeter Guy Few and bassoonist Nadina Mackie Jackson join the Eugene chamber music veterans in music by Vivaldi, Purcell, Shostakovich, and contemporary Canadian composers Glenn Buhr, Keith Bissell, and Mathieu Lussier.
June 7, The Shedd, 868 High Street, Eugene, and June 9, Alberta Rose Theatre, 3000 NE Alberta St, Portland
Read my Eugene Weekly preview of the Texas singer-songwriter’s bilingual concert.
Artists Repertory Theater, Portland
Singers Hailey Kilgore, Hudson Hale, Camille Trinka, Vin Shambry, Josie Seid, Rick Lewis and Courtney Freed sing songs about family, in conjunction with ART’s production of Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth featuring that wild Antrobus clan.