Monday, November 30, 2015

Now's the Time to Visit the Westmoreland Museum of American Art

George Inness (1825 – 1894), Moonrise, Alexandria Bay, 1891, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 45 inches, Bequest of Richard Mellon Scaife, 2015.65
   
     While I may be late on this one (the exhibit opened on October 25), there’s still plenty of time to catch “A Passion for Collecting: Selections from the Richard M. Scaife Bequest” This important exhibit is up through February 14, 2016.
    In July 2014, the Museum of American Art in Greensburg learned it would receive half of Richard M. Scaife’s art  collection; the other half is bequeathed to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Per Mr. Scaife’s wishes, the selection process was conducted in a round-robin format, much like a sports draft. At the conclusion of round one, a total of 71 works were acquired by each institution. The Westmoreland was also fortunate to receive five paintings by the self-taught Pittsburgh artist John Kane bequeathed directly to the museum by Mr. Scaife.


Gerrit Beneker (1882-1934), The Iron Worker, 1905, Oil on board, 34 1/2 x 24 1/2 inches, Bequest of Richard M. Scaife, 2015.17

   During his lifetime, Mr. Scaife enjoyed living with his collection at his two homes in southwestern Pennsylvania as well as his homes in California and Massachusetts where he was apt to collect the work of regional artists showing scenes from those locales. This was especially true in Nantucket where he surrounded himself with nautical subject matter by both historical and contemporary artists. A broader selection of American art could be found at his homes in Pittsburgh and Ligonier.
    Mr. Scaife’s extraordinary gift fills significant gaps in the Museum’s holdings in the areas of Hudson River School painting, Boston school artists, American impressionism and marine painting. A stained glass window entitled Moon Over Clouds by John LaFarge will serve as a wonderful complement to the Museum’s Thomas Lynch Tiffany Window, allowing visitors to compare Tiffany’s and LaFarge’s stained glass techniques.

\Aiden​ Lassell Ripley (1896-1969), The Young Nursemaid, Not dated, Watercolor on paper, 26 1/2 x 34 1/2 inches, Bequest of Richard M. Scaife, 2015.87

   Paintings with Western Pennsylvania connections include An Interior View of Oak Manor painted in 1889 by American impressionist and realist William Merritt Chase during a visit to the Pittsburgh home of Mr. and Mrs. Porter; David Gilmour Blythe’s Prospecting/Bullcreek City that depicts both the detritus and environmental damage caused by the oil drilling boom near Oil City, PA and the potential of getting rich quick by investing in the industry; and a large view of the Laurel Ridge by contemporary artist Charles Fagan.
    The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, located at 221 N. Main Street in Greensburg, Pa., is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Closed Monday. Admission is a suggested $15 donation for adults, $10 for seniors 65+.. Admission is free for Museum Members, children (18 & under), students (with valid ID), veterans, and military (active duty & reserve) and their families. Parking is free.
    Admission is free the first Sunday of each month thanks to the generous support from the Jack Buncher Foundation. It’s a great day to bring all of your friends and family. Upcoming "All About You" Sunday dates are December 6, January 3 and February 7.

    For more information, phone 724.837.1500 or visit website thewestmoreland.org.

Jesse Talbot (1806-1879), Indian Hunter, c. 1840s, Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 inches, Bequest of Richard M. Scaife, 2015.92


Sunday, November 29, 2015

off the WALL Explores Autism in New Play

Sarah Silk, Erika Cuenca, Shaun Cameron Hall Photo Credit: Heather Mul

    off the WALL Productions in Carnegie  is o presenting Laura Brienza’s Scared of Sarah as the second offering of its  2015-16 season with the gracious support of The Arts for Autism Foundation of Pittsburgh,

Plot Summary
    Lily’s pregnant, and her husband Sam is stuck in a panic that rings entirely true: they owe more than a small fortune in school loans – how will they support a baby?  Then the couple begins to face an even graver but all-too-real possibility: what if their unborn child turns out to be like Lily’s older sister, Sarah?
    Sarah is autistic—not so far on the spectrum that she is unable to care for herself, but still very difficult to handle and know, processing the universe in such a seemingly unfathomable way.
     Sarah’s employed, lives independently, has hobbies, and by all means looks “normal,” but she’s not quite neuro-typical.  She’s the kind of person that one might interact with every day, not realizing her brain is a little different.  What, Lily wonders, if our baby can’t stand to be held or touched, the way Sarah was?  What if I don’t love my own child?

Written by Laura Brienza
Directed by Ingrid Sonnichsen
Featuring Erika Cuenca, Shaun Cameron Hall, and Sarah Silk

off the WALL productions at Carnegie Stage , 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA. 15106    Performance dates: December 4-5, 10-12, and 16-19 @ 8:00 PM.  Matinees: December 6, 13 @ 3 pm
Tickets: $ 5.00 - $ 40.00.  Phone: 724-873-3576 or www.insideoffthewall.com 

   



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pittsburgh Symphony to Perform "A Waltz Tradition"

Music Director and Conductor Manfred Honeck Photo Credit: Felix Broede


    The annual tradition returns! The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Manfred Honeck perform waltzes and polkas from his home country of Austria on November 27 and 29 at Heinz Hall.
    A toe-tapping kick-off to the holiday season, this weekend features some of the most popular works from Vienna, including the best pieces by the Strauss family, in a concert that is fun, festive and perfect for the whole family! As a special treat, dancers from the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School will dance on stage during several of the waltzes and polkas. 
    The heart of the concert is Rossini’s Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra and Weber’s Clarinet Concerto No.1, featuring a virtuosic performance by the Pittsburgh Symphony’s clarinet star Michael Rusinek. Each of these pieces showcases the clarinet’s amazing, dynamic range of sound. This lively musical program will perfectly accompany your family’s Thanksgiving celebrations!
    A pre-concert talk, open to all ticket holders and led by Assistant Conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, will occur on stage one hour before each concert. Program notes for the weekend are available online at pittsburghsymphony.org/waltz and on the PSO mobile app the day of the concert.
    The concert begins at 8 p.m. on Friday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets, ranging in price from $20 to $94, can be purchased by calling the Heinz Hall box office at 412-392-4900 or visiting pittsburghsymphony.org/waltz. Families can buy one adult ticket and get one child ticket free by ordering their tickets in person at the box office or by phone. This offer is not valid online.

About the Artists
    Michael Rusinek is currently the principal clarinetist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, teaches clarinet and chamber music at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and teaches clarinet at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Starting in summer 2016, he joins the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School. Born in Toronto, Canada, his early studies were with Avrahm Galper at the Royal Conservatory of Music. He later attended the Curtis Institute of Music, studying with Donald Montanaro. Upon graduation, he served as assistant principal clarinet with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. In addition to his position in the Pittsburgh Symphony, he has performed as principal clarinet with the orchestras of Philadelphia, St. Louis, The Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam and National Arts Center in Ottawa, Canada.

Principal Clarinetist
     Rusinek has performed as a soloist with many orchestras and as a recitalist across Canada, on CBC Radio and throughout the United States and Israel, including appearances with the Czech Philharmonic, Concerto Classic Wien, Toronto Symphony, Belgrade Philharmonic, Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra, Aspen Chamber Symphony and the Symphony Orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music. He has been heard as a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony many times and, in May 2008, he premiered a new concerto by composer Alan Fletcher, a concerto commissioned for him by the Pittsburgh Symphony. That performance was recorded and is available on the Exton label.
     Rusinek was awarded the grand prize in the International Clarinet Society competition, and was a prize winner in the Belgrade International clarinet competition. He has participated in numerous music festivals, including the Salt Bay and Portland Chamber Music Festivals, and Music In the Vineyards in Napa Valley. He returns regularly to the Grand Teton, Santa Fe Chamber and Marlboro music festivals. He has toured with the acclaimed “Musicians from Marlboro,” and was featured on the Sony label celebrating Marlboro’s 50th anniversary.
    In summer 2000, he performed as principal clarinet in the Super World Orchestra, an ensemble comprised of musicians from orchestras around the world. Dedicated to teaching, he has led master classes at some of the leading institutions around the world, including the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, the Colburn Music School, the Manhattan School of Music and the New World Symphony. He served on the faculty of the Canton International Summer Music Academy in Canton, China for its inaugural season, and returns often to play and teach in Tianjin and Beijing. He also returns frequently to conduct master classes and perform recitals in Mexico City. He served on the jury for the inaugural Jacques Lancelot International Clarinet Competition in Rouen, France. Rusinek is proud of his association with Selmer Clarinets and Rico Reeds.
Heinz Hall
PITTSBURGH SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA
BNY MELLON GRAND CLASSICS: A WALTZ TRADITION
MANFRED HONECK, conductor
MICHAEL RUSINEK, clarinet
DANCERS OF THE PITTSBURGH BALLET THEATRE SCHOOL
The Program
 Franz von Suppé                       Overture to Morning, Noon, and Night in Vienna
 Carl Michael Ziehrer                 Viennese Maiden Waltz, Opus 388
 Carl Maria Von Weber               Concerto No. 1 in F minor for Clarinet and Orchestra, Opus 73
                                                                       I. Allegro
                                                                       II. Adagio ma non troppo
                                                                       III. Rondo: Allegretto
                                                                       Mr. Rusinek
 Carl Michael Ziehrer                 Walk In Waltz, Opus 518
 Richard Strauss                          Suite from the Ballet Whipped Cream, Opus 70
                                                                       Dance of Coffee – Dreams Finale (Common Dance)
 Gioachino Rossini                      Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra(Edited by Jost Michaels)                                    Mr. Rusinek
Johann Strauss, Jr.                      New Pizzicato Polka, Opus 449
                                                                       Dancers of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School

 Max Schönherr                          Drive in the Prater Park

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Pisa Liqueur – An Indulgent Nutty Taste Sensation

Pisa Liqueur Photo Credit: Bill Rockwell


    Those familiar with Amaretto, the almond-flavored liqueur from Italy, should recognize the taste and visual similarity of Pisa, another Italian nut –based liqueur from the Tuscany region.
    The difference on the palate lies in the fact that the producer of Pisa also blends in hazelnuts (think Frangelico) and pistachios to recreate a more subtle flavor profile extended even more with a hint of orange peel. All these are blended so carefully that no one ingredient overpowers the others.
    Swirl this honey colored liqueur in your snifter and bombard your olfactory senses with sweet nutty-ness. Then watch as the viscous liquid slowly descends the sides of the glass forming prominent legs that defy gravity and linger.
    Perhaps not as sweet as its Amaretto cousin, Pisa caresses the mouth with a velvety, sensuality that warms as it’s swallowed – not with an unpleasant burn, but with the whisper of a hot summer breeze.
    The liqueur gets its name from the Tuscan city of Pisa, located in a region known for its nut production and famous for its leaning tower.  As a marketing tool, the liqueur bottle has the same lean or slant as the tower, something that might cause a hearty imbiber to rub his or her eyes for a second look. Yes, the bottle designers came up with an iconic look, one that stands out from its fellows on a bar. In this regard, Pisa might be thought of as taking a new “slant” on Amaretto.
Italian Coffee - Pisa in Coffee
     Bottled at 48 proof, Pisa can be drunk as an aperitif before meals or as a digestif afterwards.  It can be enjoyed in a brandy snifter at room temperature or in a cocktail glass over ice. I like it to flavor my coffee. Just remember to hold the sugar.

   Pisa should be heaven when poured over vanilla ice cream and can be added to whipping cream to top off a dessert. And did I mention its empathy for cheesecake, nut rolls, crème anglaise and pumpkin pie?     
    Pisa  is also versatile enough to serve as a cocktail ingredient. Hotmixology.com suggests making a Living the Dreamsickle by putting in a cocktail shaker with ice Pinnacle Orange Whip Vodka, Pisa Liqueur, espresso and heavy cream.. Shake, pour into a martini glass and garnish with an almond biscotti.

    Pisa sells for a suggested retail price of $23.00, $19.99 at Pennsylvania liquor stores.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015






    Quantum Theatre, known for its groundbreaking, peripatetic approach, presents the second in a season celebrating 25 years of making work in Pittsburgh: Chickens in the Yard.
    The company has welcomed the Hatch Arts Collective (director Adil Mansoor, writer Paul Kruse, and producer Nicole Shero) into the Quantum laboratory to create this innovative play, and is pleased to introduce them to its audience. Chickens in the Yard tells the story of a family through the eyes of their four chickens
     Set in Pittsburgh, it offers a Rubik’s Cube of struggling individuals and fragile couples, whose relationships gel into surprising strength. The play explores what a gay identity means for two people journeying from the families that raised them to the family they choose to create together.
    Javo Studios in Lawrenceville provides the coop, with designers Britton Mauk (scenic), Patrick Hayes (lighting), Jenn Gooch (costume), and David Bielewicz (sound). Starring: Laurie Klatscher, Siovhan Christensen, Joseph McGranaghan, and Alec Silberblatt, with original music performed live by Morgan Erina and Ginger Brooks Takahashi.
    Founded in 2012, Hatch Arts Collective is a multidisciplinary theater organization based in Pittsburgh, PA. Hatch gathers artist communities to create performance and media-based work. Chickens in the Yard premiered in June 2013. Hatch also produced two collaborative theater-making intensives, and Walldogs, an evening-length play which premiered in August 2014.

Who: Quantum Theatre, Hatch Arts Collective
What: Chickens in the Yard
The Gerri Kay New Voices Program
    Quantum honors a longtime board member, friend, and supporter by welcoming developing theatre artists once annually into the Quantum laboratory to create a work that furthers their artistry and careers while introducing them to Quantum’s aesthetic principles and generously-spirited audience.
When: November 20 – December 3, 2015 (Opening/Press Night: November 20). The 14
 performances run Tuesdays-Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays 7 pm. Matinee performances: 3pm on
 Nov. 22 and 29.
Where: Javo Studios (5137 Holmes Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201

    Tickets: $30-$40 ($18 student tickets available). Call Quantum Theatre 412-362-1713, or order online at www.quantumtheatre.com/chickens-in-the-yard/. Each evening includes complimentary bites and drinks.

SPECIAL NIGHTS...
Nov 20: Opening Night with a post-show champagne reception. 
Buy Tickets.
Nov 22: Post Show Q & A with the cast.
Buy Tickets.
Nov 25: Ladies Night, a ladies-only pre-show reception and viewing.
Buy Tickets.
Dec 3: Quantum Quaff, a pre-show wine-tasting.
Buy Tickets.
Dec 5: Quantum on the Couch, a post-show discussion with Psychoanalyst Dr. David Orbison Ph.D. in which the characters and play will be analyzed from a psychological perspective.
Buy Tickets.

Performances run November 20 - December 6: Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm; Sundays at 7pm, with two 3pm matinees on November 22 and 29.
LOCATION...
Chickens in the Yard is staged at Javo Studios in Lawrenceville: 5137 Holmes Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201.
PARKING:
In an effort to minimize our impact on residential parking, we encourage patrons to park on Stanton Avenue, and walk to the building's rear entrance on Kent Way.Map

DINNER PARTNERS:
CUREHip, upscale eatery. Contemporary, local Mediterranean cuisine.
5336 Butler Street | 412.252.2595

Alleheny Wine Mixer
Drinks & Small Plates
5326 Butler Street | 412.252.2337 
WHAT IS HATCH ARTS COLLECTIVE?
Hatch Arts Collective: Adil Mansoor, Nicole Shero, and Paul Kruse
Hatch Arts Collective: Adil Mansoor, Nicole Shero, and Paul Kruse
Founded in 2012, Hatch Arts Collective is a multidisciplinary theater organization based in Pittsburgh, PA. Hatch gathers artist communities to create performance and media-based work.

Hatch’s first production, Chickens in the Yard, premiered in June 2013. Hatch also produced two collaborative theater­-making intensives and Walldogs, an evening-length play which premiered in August 2014.

Up next: Driftless, set to premiere in August 2016 at the New Hazlett Theater. Driftless will deal with the very complex issue of fracking in Western Pennsylvania.
The Gerri Kay New Voices Program

"Gerri Kay was a great friend and mentor to me, and to Quantum. She challenged us... and made us believe we were up to the challenge. How lucky were we to be on the receiving end of Gerri's generosity of spirit and fierce belief in the power of artists? If we can give a little of that to others, it's like she giving us further gifts - because we're going to feel great about it, that our impact is multiplied." -- Karla Boos, Artistic Director 

Monday, November 16, 2015

"Sunset Baby" - An Empathetic Look into Lives of Hardened Survivors

Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Nina Photo Credit: Kristi Jan Hoover 
    There’s an abundance of sexual, interpersonal and philosophical tension permeating City Theatre’s latest production, "Sunset Baby," playwright Dominique Morrisseau’s intimate look into the lives of three people struggling with high aspirations and low incomes while living in a East New York City ghetto.
Nina, from the look of her, is still in her twenties and ravishingly beautiful. She supports herself by selling drugs and, with the help of her partner-in-crime (and lover), Damon, robbing those who fall under their sway. Dressed like a hooker in a mini skirt and revealing blouse, Nina’s a hardened African-American Medusa, seductive yet potently dangerous.
Damon, himself, is no run-of-the-mill street thug. Good-looking and physically imposing, he also has a brain that’s acutely able to finely articulate the political, social and economic factors that contribute to his race’s historical misadventures and societal inequities. And this he does with the pace and rhythm of a rapper in his dialogues with Nina, who herself is no slouch when it comes to discussing issues vital to them both as African-Americans.

Joniece Abbott-Pratt & J. Alphonse Nicholson as Nina & Damon Photo Credit Kristi Jan Hoover

Holed up in a depressingly bland studio apartment realistically realized by set designer, Tony Ferrieri, they share thoughts about their people’s past history and current conditions yet look forward to sometime in the future when they can break out into a newer and better life, perhaps in London, perhaps in some  cozy cottage fronted by the proverbial white picket fence and home to lots of children.
Tangible evidence of their plan for escape is a stash of paper bills hidden under the floorboards. More than halfway to their goal, they plan to make their move when the sum gets to $10,000.
Things get a bit messier with the arrival of former political activist, Kenyatta, Nina’s father, who abandoned her and her now famous activist mother, Ashanti X, when the FBI caught hold of his ideology  and started to make things difficult for him. His departure from the family when Nina was five led to her mother’seventual depression and ultimately her death as a crack addict. Or so Nina believes.

Keith Randolph Smith & Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Kenyatta Shakur & Nina Photo Credit Kristi Jan Hoover

    Harboring a built a up rage that’s not been vented through the intervening years, Nina takes umbrage to her father, who seeks reconciliation now that he’s mellowed with age. He’s also interested in a set of letters Ashanti X wrote him while he was in prison that were never sent but entrusted to Nina. Now worth a significant sum to some interested collector, the letters are as much coveted by Kenyatta as they are cherished by his daughter.
As Nina, named after singer/activist, Nina Simone, Joniece Abbott-Pratt maintains a fine balance between projecting an emotionally hard as nails exterior and having enough humanizing qualities to make you care about her. She can show a softer, slightly submissive side to Damon, but tightens up like a clam in her dealings with her father.
As Damon, J. Alphonse Nicholson at first, seems sincere in his relationship to Nina, but eventually shows more mercenary and dominating attitude, something that the strongly independent Nina doesn’t take too lightly.
Keith Randolph Smith’s Kenyatta is a bull-strong man who seems to have maintained much of his physical prowess but shows a lot of vulnerability when it comes to his daughter. Puzzling are his initial scenes behind a video camera whose blown-up, greatly-magnified images are projected onto the stage. Later, they make a lot of sense in the context of the play.
The drama’s ending is somewhat open-ended and vague, leaving to conjecture the fate of the characters. Just what became of two of them is put on hold in the final scene - Nina expectantly trying for a new and better life.
Director Jade King Carroll sets a fast-paced narrative so be prepared for some raw and real street talk as well as a good deal of enlightenment on the plight of a community and a people much of society knows very little about, even though they’ve been part of our social fabric for centuries.
"Sunset Baby" is at the City Theatre on Pittsburgh's South Side through Dec.13. Phone 412-431-2489 for tickets and scheduling.


Pick of the Week - A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER

Cast of "A Gentleman's Guide Photo Credit: Joan Marcus


    The Tony® Award winner for Best Musical, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER, will play the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh November 17th through November 22nd in its First National Tour, that launched in September 2015. Performance times are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m.; Sunday at 1:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER tells the uproarious story of Monty Navarro, a distant heir to a family fortune who sets out to jump the line of succession, by any means necessary. All the while, he’s got to juggle his mistress (she’s after more than just love), his fiancée (she’s his cousin but who’s keeping track?), and the constant threat of landing behind bars! Of course, it will all be worth it if he can slay his way to his inheritance… and be done in time for tea.
    The most celebrated musical of the 2013-14 Broadway season, A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER received ten 2014 Tony® Award nominations, eventually winning four awards: Best Musical, Direction of a Musical, Book of a Musical, and Best Costume Design. In addition, it won the Best Musical prizes from the Drama League, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle, and received a 2015 Grammy® Award nomination for Best Musical Show Album.
    A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER opened at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre to overwhelming critical acclaim in November 2013 where The New York Times raved “GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE will LIFT THE HEARTS of all those who’ve been pining for what sometimes seems A LOST ART FORM.” The Hollywood Reporter enthused GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE “Restores our faith in musical comedy!” and Time Magazine said “Just as I was about to give up on musicals, along comes A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER!”
     Tickets for A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER are on sale now and can be purchased at the Theater Square Box Office, 655 Penn Avenue and online at TrustArts.org/Broadway. To charge tickets by phone, call (412) 456-4800, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. and Saturday from Noon – 4:00 p.m.  Orders for groups of ten (10) or more may be placed by calling (412) 471-6930.


Scene from "A Gentleman's Guide" Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

    A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER is part of the 2015-16 PNC Broadway In Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Pittsburgh Symphony, and Broadway Across America. For more information about the PNC Broadway In Pittsburgh series, please call 412-456-6666 or visit www.TrustArts.org.   
    A GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO LOVE & MURDER features a book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music and lyrics by Steven Lutvak. Direction is by Darko Tresnjak, with choreography by Peggy Hickey. The design team includes Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design), Linda Cho (Costume Design), Philip S. Rosenberg (Lighting Design), Dan Moses Schreier (Sound Design), Aaron Rhyne (Projections Design), Brian Strumwasser (Make-Up Design), and Charles LaPointe (Wig Design). Orchestrations are by Jonathan Tunick and Vocal Arrangements are by Dianne Adams McDowell and Steven Lutvak. Paul Staroba serves as Music Director.

    For additional information on GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE, visit www.AGentlemansGuideBroadway.com.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

"A Servant to Two Masters" - A Gleeful Gallimaufry of Merriment

Cast of "A Servant of Two masters" Photo Credit: PittsburghPublic Theater
     Like a plot that sizzles with fast-moving puns, twists and turns through a labyrinth of comic narrative and sparkles with absurdist wisecrackery sprinkled with a generous dollop of slapstick? Oh, and did I mention a bit of lascivious ribaldry thrown in as an erotic tease?
"A Servant of Two Masters" in its original form may date back to 1746 when playwright Carlo Goldoni peppered his script with these potent elements - evidently genuine and time-proven crowd-pleasers. An updated revision by British writer, Lee Hall, seems to have passed on the Italian playwright’s antique comedy to the present generation, all the while keeping its freshness, bite and funnybone tingling humor intact.
Now getting a staging at the O’Reilly Theater, Hall’s play, which premiered in England 16 years ago, is a wild evening of amusing entertainment played with irresistible energy by a pack of impeccable actors.
Set in 1965 Venice, Italy, the play opens on an almost cartoonish black and white set by James Noone that represents the facade of an inn. Into this rather colorless backdrop pours a melange of characters dressed in brilliantly colorful and dazzling outfits by costumer, Amy Clark, each one contributing their own unique splash of visual pizzazz.
    There’s Pantaloon (Bill Buell), an aging curmudgeon who’s daughter, Clarice (Erin Lindsey Krom) is engaged to the brash Silvio (Patrick Cannon), a young man earnestly in love but sadly lacking in emotional maturity. Their impending betrothal is threatened by the arrival of Beatrice (Jessic Wortham) in the disguise of a man who’s seeking her lost lover, Florindo (David Whalen).
The man Beatrice is disguised as is her brother, killed in a duel by Florindo, who was once betrothed to Clarice. Beatrice’s plan is to collect Clarice’s dowry, then use it to run off with and marry Florindo.
    If all this gets a bit confusing, consider the possibilities for even more confusion on the part of the characters as Goldoni/Hall work their narrative magic throughout this 2-1/2 hour romp (including intermission) of comic mayhem.
 
Daina Michelle Griffith and Jimmy Kieffer
  But wait. The best is yet to come with the entrance of Truffaldino, an imposing hulk of a man, gentle in spirit, but with a definite taste for chicanery. As servant to Beatrice, it’s not long before he seizes the opportunity to serve another master simultaneously in the form of Florindo, Beatrice’s paramour. To make things even more deliciously complicated, both Beatrice and Florinda hole up at the same inn, run by the buffonish Brighella (played with delightful panache by Bob Walton).
    Note: Ingeniously, Noone’s set rotates on a track to serve as both the exterior and the interior of the inn.
    The keystone to successfully orchestrating this comedy of mistaken identities and impossible situations is Truffaldino, remarkably played by Jimmy Kieffer with a faultless sense of comic timing and a winning amiability despite his character’s mercenary propensities.
    A hulking jester with an large appetite for both food and the comely Smeraldina, Pantaloon’s sassy and saucy house maid, this Truffaldino  relies more on his quick wit than his imposing physique to juggle his way through  a sequence of impossible quandaries propelled by the impossible task of serving two masters simultaneously.
    His biggest moment of the evening, however, came not with his wily series of stratagems but with a lip-sync rendition of "O Solo Mio," which he belted out seemingly spontaneously with gleeful intensity.
    In the understated role of Smeraldina, Daina Michelle Griffith plays a delightful tart, flouncing her irresistible amorous charms in front of the bedazzled Truffaldino and, judging by the applause level at curtain call, winning her way into the hearts of the audience as well.
    Director Ted Pappas adds plenty of non-scripted comic alchemy of his own to the show, earmarking the characters with gestures, facial expressions and non-verbal hijinks that add even more to the overall levity.
    In short, the play is a "masterful" accomplishment, one sure to bring a chuckle or two from the belly of even the most irascible of sourpusses.
    Pittsburgh Public Theater’s "A Servant to Two Masters" is at the O’Reilly Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh through Dec. 6. For tickets phone 412-316-1600 or visit website www.ppt.org.

Friday, November 13, 2015

WELCOME THE RAIN: A Cabaret Evening with Rebecca Covert

Rebecca Covert


 At 8 p.m. on Friday, November 13 and Saturday, November 14, Rebecca Covert, vocalist, hits Carnegie Stage in a new solo cabaret that celebrates the hiccups and wrong turns that make our lives so beautifully and hopelessly flawed. The doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for students and artists.
    The show features jazz artist, Reni Monteverde, on piano and percussion.

About the Performers:
   
    Rebecca Covert currently performs in Pittsburgh as the featured house singer in the Off the Wall Theater’s cabaret series, which launched in February 2014. She and vocalist Anna Elder are the Indecent Divas, a cabaret act with sass and questionable class, and their first show debuted at Off the Wall in November 2014.
   


Rebecca’s first solo cabaret entitled “Lady in Flames” played at the University of Pittsburgh Studio Theater in July 2013. She was a featured soloist with the Eclectic Laboratory Chamber Orchestra (ELCO) and sings locally in a jazz & blues duo with guitarist Dan Burgun.
    Rebecca also performed as Goody Plenty in “Amish Burlesque,”  a parody musical featured at the Pittsburgh CLO Cabaret in Downtown Pittsburgh and, more recently, played Mama Rose in McKeesport Little Theater’s production of “Gypsy”.
  



Reni Monteverde


  Reni Monteverde, jazz pianist, gigs regularly at Riley’s Pour House in Carnegie and other live music venues around Pittsburgh. She studied for three years at the Fondazione Siena Jazz in Siena, Italy, under the instruction of Alessandro Giachero.
    Her graduation thesis on Astrology and Jazz accompanied two concerts – in Siena, Italy and Carnegie – featuring the UDOO Smart Theremin. Since returning to the States in 2014, she teaches music to children through the Carnegie Arts Initiative and is currently a first year PhD candidate in Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

    Tickets are available at the door and online at http://www.carnegiestage.com/rental/eventscabaret/
Venue: Carnegie Stage, 25 W. Main Street, Carnegie, PA 15106

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Quady Leads the Way for Making Quality Dessert Wines in California



    If you think you don't like dessert wines, you might want to open a bottle or two of Quady Winery's luscious wines made from the Muscat grape.  The upcoming holidays are a good time for newcomers to acquaint themselves with Quady's delicious selections that come with fanciful and intriguing  names like Essensia and Elysium.(Greek for heaven).

     Those already in the know about Quady's wonderful wines which can be enjoyed on their own or paired with everything from pumpkin pie and chocolate t, creme brulee, panna cotta and more might want a little reminder that the holiday season is just around the corner and a glass or two of Quady is a festive addition to any celebration.
A Bit of History

    Andrew and Laurel Quady left their home in Southern California in 1971 and moved to Davis, in the northern part of the state, where Andrew enrolled in enology courses at the University of California at Davis while Laurel studied accounting, a career path that eventually led to expertise in winery financial management.
 
    Following Andrew's graduation in 1973, Darryl Corti of Corti Brothers Gourmet Foods and Wine  asked him to make 200 cases of Zindandel Port in 1975. As word got out about the quality of his product, Quady Zinfandel  Port was soon distributed nationally.in 25 states Spurred on by his success, Andrew, in 1979, arranged for the planting of Portuguese Port varietals in the foothills east of Sacramento.

    A year later, a county farm adviser told him of a tract of Orange Muscat grapes growing nearby. He bought the grapes and produced Essensia, the essence of Orange Muscat. His delicious new sweet wine got a boost in 1981 when restaurant diva, Alice Waters, added Essensia to the wine list at her restaurant, Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

    After a grower of Black Musca tgrapes  heard of his successes, he offered to sell Quady his crop, which Andrew bought in 1983. While fermenting the grapes, the wine makers noticed the aroma of roses filling the winery and decided to call the aromatic addition to its inventory Elysium.

      In 1988, Quady decided to discontinue his Port label in deference to respect for the idea that geographic regions such as Champagne or Porto in Portugal should have the rights to the names as identifying monikers. As a result, he renames his port-style wine Starboard.

    In more recent years, a Moscato d'Asti style wine called Electra, a Red Electra - made from the Black Muscat grape, both a dry and a  sweet vermouth and a dry red table wine, Visao, made primarily from Tinta Roriz, a Portuguese Port varietal, were added to Quady's wine catalog.

    In 2009, the London-based International Wine and Spirits Competition, the largest wine competition in the world, named Quady Winery Top U.S. Producer.

Andrew Quady
    In his 40th vintage and 70th birth year, Andrew Quady reflects on his unique career – from Zinfandel Port to Vya Vermouth–with a lot of Muscat in between.

What do you love about the wine business? 
Working with nature to transform fruit into a product which people love. Also the people in this business, both customers, other winemakers, and the wine press.
        

How would you describe the style and philosophy of winemaking at Quady Winery?  
Our business is built on the development, production, and marketing of new wine styles especially suited to grapes from our region: the warm, dry climate of the San Joaquin Valley. This led us to emphasize Muscat varieties, particularly the formerly ignored Orange Muscat variety and the little appreciated Muscat Hamburg (Black Muscat) as well as Muscat Canelli.

What is the most exciting thing you’ve done in the wine business?  
Working with our long time Winemaker, Michael Blaylock, to develop the low alcohol frizzante Moscato style. This style of Muscat is enjoyed by people who like sweet beverages, juicy flavors, and lower alcohol levels. It was exciting to see the acceptance in our market, and in certain Asian markets, for these wines. We are a pioneer in this area, and these wines account for some 85% of our sales. 

Where do you see the vermouth category headed?   
We developed our Vya Vermouth with the idea of vermouth being an
interesting and delicious beverage on its own, not just as a mixer. As more and more people discover how good some vermouths taste by themselves, there will eventually be a larger market for vermouth on its own and in vermouth-based wine cocktails.

What is one of your favorite pairings with one of your wines?    
Blue cheeses with Elysium. I particularly like Roquefort cheese with this wine: the salty tang of cheese makes a great counterpoint to the luscious Black Muscat fruit in Elysium.


Who were your biggest supporters in the early years
Darryl Corti (Corti Brothers in Sacramento), The Duke of Bourbon (David Breitstein), Wallys (Steve Wallace), Alice Waters (Chez Panisse), Hugh Thatcher (San Francisco Wine Exchange), Vern Rollins (MV Wine Company), Pat Ellsworth, Mike Golick. Michael Druitt of Hallgarten in the U.K. The list goes on. I was lucky to start at the time that I did, when the wine industry was smaller in California. There was curiosity in niche wine styles and unheard of varietals.

What are your biggest markets and how has that changed?
Thanks to the San Francisco Wine Exchange, we had national distribution in 25 states by 1979 or so. The biggest markets were California, Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New York. We got into the export market fairly early. In the mid-1980s the U.K., Canada and the Netherlands were selling Essensia and Elysium. After we came out with Electra in 1990, we started selling to Taiwan. Korea opened up in 2007. When the Moscato boom started in the 2000s, we started selling more to the Midwest, downstate Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Ohio and Kansas. More recently, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Where is Quady Winery headed?       
Continual growth in the Moscato and vermouth segments; building our sales and wine-making teams.   Laurie and me stepping back a little to enjoy our families.
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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pittsburgh Opera continues its 77th season with a Mozart favorite - COSÌ FAN TUTTE

The Cast of Cosi Fan Tutti taken at Phipps Conservatory Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography


    Pittsburgh Opera continues its 77th season with a Mozart favorite - COSÌ FAN TUTTE, or the "School for Lovers."

    "Britain's Favorite Baritone," Sir Thomas Allen (the real-life inspiration for "Billy Elliot") not only directs, but plays the cynical philosopher Don Alfonso in this charming production. Combine a cast as talented as they are attractive with Mozart's brilliant score, and you have a sublime opera experience of poignant comedy.

    Set in the Italian seaside, the story centers around two couples and one wager - will they be faithful? Two young military officers are confident their girlfriends will remain true to them. Don Alfonso believes otherwise, and unleashes an inventive scheme to find out.

    COSÌ FAN TUTTE is the last of the three masterful collaborations between Mozart and librettist Lorenzo da Ponte (the other two were THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO and DON GIOVANNI). It premiered just a year before Mozart’s death .On stage November 7, 10, 13, and 15, it brings laughs and soul searching to the Benedum Center. Tickets start at $12.

Three facts about COSÌ FAN TUTTE

1. Known as “The School for Lovers”, the title, “Così fan tutte”, literally means "Thus do all [women]," and is often translated into English as "Women are like that".

2. Sir Thomas Allen, who grew up in a mining community in northern England where a career in the arts was “not highly looked upon,” was the inspiration for the famous character “Billy Elliott” in the namesake movie and play. Sir Thomas was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 and Knight Bachelor in 1999 for services to opera. Sir Thomas is also Chancellor of Durham University
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3. There are multiple versions of the ending. In Mozart’s original production, the ladies remain with their original boyfriends. However, some contemporary directors have them swap boyfriends, or have only one couple stay together, or have them both break up. (No spoiler alert for Pittsburgh Opera’s production…)

The story, in brief: Mozart's COSÌ FAN TUTTE takes place in Naples during the late 18th century
 Act I Two young officers, Ferrando and Guglielmo, boast about the beauty and virtue of their girlfriends, the sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella. Their older friend, the cynical Don Alfonso, declares that a woman’s constancy is like the phoenix - everyone talks about it but no one has ever seen it. He proposes a wager: if they’ll give him one day and do everything he asks, he will prove to them that the sisters are unfaithful, like all other women.

  

Men Plotting Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography


   Amused, the young men agree. Fiordiligi and Dorabella think of their lovers, imagining that they will soon be married. Alfonso’s plot begins when he arrives with terrible news: the young officers have been called away to their regiment. Ferrando and Guglielmo appear, apparently heartbroken, and the four make tearful farewells. The sisters’ maid Despina complains about how much work she has to do around the house. Dorabella vents her despair at her lover’s absence. Despina refuses to take her seriously: they should simply find new lovers, since men are unworthy of a woman’s fidelity. Fiordiligi and Dorabella are shocked.

 Alfonso bribes Despina to assist him, without revealing his plot. Ferrando and Guglielmo enter in disguise as foreigners, and declare thei radmiration for the ladies, each addressing the other’s girlfriend. The sisters reject their advances, Fiordiligi comparing her constancy to a rock in a storm. The men are confident of winning the bet. Ferrando expresses his love for Dorabella, and the two friends leave. As the sisters continue to lament the absence of their lovers, the “foreigners” return, pretending to have poisoned themselves in despair over their rejection.

    Despina and Alfonso go off to fetch help, leaving the two girls to care for the strangers. Despina reappears, disguised as a doctor, and pretends to treat the patients.When Ferrando andGuglielmo request kisses in order to fully recover, the sisters again reject them, but it is clear they’re beginning to show interest in the strangers.

    Act II
     Despina lectures her mistresses on how to handle men and the sisters agree that there can be no harm in a little flirtation. They decide on their partners, each picking the other’s suitor. Guglielmo, flirting with Dorabella, succeeds, but Ferrando has less luck with Fiordiligi. When he leaves, though, she struggles with her emotions.

    Ferrando is certain that they have won the wager. Guglielmo is happy to hear that Fiordiligi has been faithful to him, but when he shows his friend the portrait that Dorabella gave him, Ferrando is furious. Guglielmo, adopting Alfonso’s philosophy, blames it on the women. He asks Alfonso to pay him his half of the winnings, but Alfonso reminds him that the day is not yet over

    .Fiordiligi reproaches her sister for her behavior, but Dorabella replies that love is a thief who rewards those who obey him. Alone, Fiordiligi decides to join Guglielmo at the front, when suddenly Ferrando appears. He tries one last time to seduce her and succeeds. Guglielmo is furious, but Alfonso again declares that this is the way women are. A man who has been deceived can blame only himself.

Cast of "Cost Fan Tutti" Photo Credit: David Bachman Photography
   
 The sisters have agreed to marry the “foreigners.” Everything is ready and Alfonso arrives with the notary - Despina in another disguise. As Fiordiligi and Dorabella sign the contract, military music announces the return of their former lovers. In panic, they hide their intended husbands, who return as their real selves, first pretending surprise at their reception, then, when they discover the marriage contract, blaming the girls and threatening revenge. Finally, the men reveal their disguised identities and Fiordiligi and Dorabella ask forgiveness. Alfonso bids the lovers learn their lesson. Courtesy of Opera News, freely edited

Tickets and Group Discounts


    Tickets to all performances of COSÌ FAN TUTTE start at $12  All performances are at the Benedum Center, 7th Street and Penn Avenue, in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666, visit the Theatre Square Box Office, or visit www.pittsburghopera.org Group discounts are available. For discounted group tickets (6 or more), contact Randy Adams at 412-281-0912, x 213