Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music

News & Notes: Last Chance Café

Four shows to set at your table before they close on Sunday

All good things must come to an end, and sometimes they do it before we have a chance to see them. This is the final weekend for four things in Portland that might get you out of the house and into a seat at the cultural banquet before their final day tomorrow, Sunday, May 11.

Mendelson and Alper in "The Quality of Life." Photo: Owen Carey

Mendelson and Alper in “The Quality of Life.” Photo: Owen Carey

The Quality of Life. Artists Rep’s beautiful, deep, and nuanced production of Jane Anderson’s four-hand drama has three more performances, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. By turns funny, contemplative and sorrowful, it explores the relationship between two mature couples and their four conflicting attitudes toward impending or recent death. It’s a quiet stunner, with superb direction by Allen Nause, an imaginative set by Tim Stapleton, and top-of-the-line performances by Linda Alper, Michael Mendelson, Susannah Mars, and Michael Fisher-Welsh. Look here for Marty Hughley’s excellent ArtsWatch review. Ticket information here.

A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff. Subtitled Spiritual Implications of the Financial Collapse, Alicia Jo Rabins’ musical theater piece opened for a brief run in February but was smacked, like so many shows, by the snowstorm that kept people mostly indoors. It came back Thursday for a brief run at PSU’s Lincoln Hall Studio Theatre, and has final performances of this run at  7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Producer Boom Arts says Rabins “views Bernie Madoff and the system which allowed him to function through the lens of ancient Jewish and Buddhist texts on financial ethics, ecology, and cycles.” ArtsWatch’s A.L. Adams caught the show this time around and will file her report. Win Goodbody of Portland Theatre Scene saw it in February and raves, calling it “a season highlight.” Ticket information here.

Othello. Portland Center Stage’s production of Shakespeare’s provocative tragedy has drawn mixed response from audiences, but it’s a stately-looking show that lays out the play’s themes and relationships cleanly, blending humor and drama. Read Marty Hughley’s nuanced review for ArtsWatch here. Final performances at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Ticket information here.

Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music. The Portland Art Museum’s big exhibition featuring the likes of Canaletto, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, and Strozzi, along with some gorgeous period musical instruments and musical scores, successfully suggests the form and nature of cultural life over three centuries when Venetian influence was at its height. I reviewed the show for ArtsWatch after it opened in February. Today and tomorrow are its final days; the museum’s open until 5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Bernardo Strozzi, “Street Musicians,” 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

Bernardo Strozzi, “Street Musicians,” 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

 

 

News & Notes starts catching up

ArtsWatch covers Venice's art and music, 'Wild Man,' the prepared pianist, Pablo Neruda and Wendy Westerwelle

Bernardo Stozzi, "Street Musicians," 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

Bernardo Strozzi, “Street Musicians,” 1634-37, oil on canvas, 43.3 x 61.6 inches, Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library

So, News & Notes hasn’t been exactly regular the past few weeks, and we’re going to attempt to get caught up this week, even though it’s supposed to be breezy today and we’re ardent proponents of using the weather as an excuse to sit around and read, watch House of Cards,  and listen to music. The first catching up we’re going to do is simply catching up with ourselves! Yes, ArtsWatch was hopping this weekend.

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Venice in the balance: 300 years of art & music

The Portland Art Museum's big new slice of history finds the art in the music and the music in the art

The Portland Art Museum’s lovely new exhibit Venice: The Golden Age of Art and Music has many keys, and not quite at random I’m choosing this one to unlock it: a modest but beautifully detailed brass sackbut, minus mouthpiece, from the latter half of the 16th century.

Jacopo Comin, called Tintoretto, "The Contest Between Apollo and Marsyas," c. 1545, oil on canvas, 55 x 94.5 inches, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

Jacopo Comin, called Tintoretto, “The Contest Between Apollo and Marsyas,” c. 1545, oil on canvas, 55 x 94.5 inches, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

I choose this piece not only because “sackbut” is an undeniably fun word to type, but also because this exquisite antique musical instrument, an ancestor of the modern tenor trombone, is representative of the superbly measured charms of the exhibition as a whole. Like Pietro Longhi’s warm and slyly funny painted domestic scenes, or Tiepolo’s paintings of celestial coronations or artists at work, this anonymously crafted sackbut is evidence of a culture that believed in nuance and stability above bold revolutionary sweep. It was a conservative society, in the cultural rather than political sense, much more comfortable with the interweaving conversation than the elocutionary shout.

Compared to the modern trombone, the sackbut is small. This example has delicate tubing and a bell that opens elegantly, a funnel of perfect proportion to unleash a soft and rounded yet commanding tone. The brass is cunningly and lovingly worked, ornamental yet restrained. The instrument seems a masterwork of form and function, scaled not to the expanses of symphonic concert palaces but to the intimate warmth of the chamber hall.

Proportionality and balance are hallmarks of this exhibition, which originated at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and is showing in Portland, its only stop in the United States, through May 11. Drawn from 49 lending sources – including the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, London’s National Gallery, the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, the Uffizi in Florence, and the Kunsthistorisches in Vienna – it offers a glimpse into the aspirations and achievements of the thousand-year Venetian Republic during its final three centuries, until 1797, when Napoleon came knocking forcibly and the doges decided to surrender quietly rather than embroil their city-state in a probably unwinnable war. Most of the 120-odd works on display are modestly sized, essentially domestic in scale, and they tend to speak quietly, in the struck and plucked unamplified reverberations of the Baroque temperament. They’re best absorbed slowly, personally, at a pace and perception that dials down to their own until it can broaden as it enters their scale. Nothing’s in a rush. The secret is to take some time with them, so you can enter into the leisurely and richly burnished patterns of their world.

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