Monday, February 16, 2015

Picks of the Week- Something for Every Taste

Asakir (Laurel Semerdjian) explains to her long-absent son Alwan (Resident Artist Alex DeSocio) how his father was killed in a blood feud with the Tahawis. Photo Credit: David Bachman
    Pittsburgh Opera continues its 76th season with a new production of young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz’s SUMEIDA’S SONG, starring the company’s Resident Artists. The fourth production of the 2014-15 Pittsburgh Opera season, SUMEIDA’S SONG is on stage at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters February 21, 24, 27 and March 1. Tickets start at $40.

Based on the play Song of Death by prolific and influential Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim, SUMEIDA’S SONG is 60 minutes of gripping family drama coming from the tragic collision of traditional and modern values in a peasant village in Upper Egypt. In the story, Alwan’s mother Asakir has waited 17 years to take vengeance on Alwan’s father’s murderer, in a long-standing blood feud. Her world falls apart when Alwan, returning to his village from Cairo with plans to bring education and clean water, declares that he will not kill anyone. Hysterical at his refusal, Alwan’s mother ultimately charges his cousin Sumeida with avenging the family name, and he sings a traditional song as a signal. 
The SUMEIDA’S SONG score blends in spiraling dance rhythms, special tunings, and plaintive melodic writing that recall Mohammed Fairouz’s Arabic heritage.

Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists again take the starring roles in the second opera of the season that is produced especially for the singers and directors in the company’s acclaimed training program. Laurel Semerdjian portrays Asakir, and Adelaide Boedecker is her sister Mabrouka, while Alex DeSocio is Alwan, and Adam Bonanni is Sumeida.

Tickets to SUMEIDA’S SONG start at $40, with all performances at Pittsburgh Opera Headquarters, in the Strip District. To purchase tickets, call 412-456-6666 or visit
Demented, Asakir (Laurel Semerdjian) goads her nephew Sumeida (Resident Artist Adam Bonanni) until he finally agrees to carry out her revenge. Photo Credit: David Bachman
   Tiempo Libre
Tiempo Libre Brings Its Timba-style of music to the Byham Theater on Wednesday Credit Elvis Suarez/ Glassworks MultiMedia

 Pittsburgh audiences will get a chance to groove to some Latino-style rhythms when Tiempo Libre brings its sophisticated mysic to the Byham, Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh for a 7:30 p.m. concert. Tickets are $35 and $45. Phone 412-456-6666.
    Tiempo Libre has become known worldwide for its joyous and sophisticated concerts of the Cuban style of music called timba – a high-energy combination of Latin jazz and the traditional style of Cuban music called "son." As Jorge Gómez, the band’s musical director and pianist puts it, their sound is "a mix of jazz with the flavor of Cuban music, like putting together Buena Vista Social Club and Chick Corea."
    To the members of the now Miami-based group Tiempo Libre, music isn’t just a way of life, it’s a way of experiencing living. They approach their concerts as Cuban music parties. Audience members may choose whether to be a guest who sits back and enjoys the sophisticated music performed by these conservatory-trained musicians or one who claps, dances and sings along to the band’s joyous sound.  There hasn't been a concert yet where people haven't danced in the aisles. Tiempo Libre’s goal is to serve as ambassadors to their Cuban musical heritage, while celebrating their new American experience.
    The Cuban government forbade its citizens to listen to American radio when the members of Tiempo Libre were growing up in Cuba.  But, like teenagers everywhere, that which was forbidden was what the members of Tiempo Libre most desired. The musicians fashioned antennas out of salvaged aluminum foil and clothes hangers and climbed up on their rooftops secretly at night to catch music from Miami airwaves.  This music fueled their dreams of living in America and ultimately gave them the strength to leave it all behind – families, friends, a country, a life – to pursue those dreams.
    Through Tiempo Libre’s most recent timba album, My Secret Radio, the seven musicians express the thrill of their secret rooftop radio sessions as well as the difficulties they faced starting from scratch in America, a culture so foreign and different from Cuba.
    Just as jazz has traveled from New Orleans to Chicago, New York and around the world, Tiempo Libre’s members see Cuban timba music as a living, breathing art form that continues to evolve over time. Tiempo Libre's sound honors the group's Cuban musical heritage, while incorporating their American experiences – funk, hip-hop, rap, jazz, ska and pop. Tiempo Libre’s members are pure timberos. They listen to timba, they play it, they dance it, they live it. And as Cubans now living in the U.S., they absorb the musical nutrients of this country and incorporate them into their sound.
    Today, having reunited in Miami, having formed the first all-Cuban timba group in the U.S., earned three Grammy nominations, performed on NPR, at The Hollywood Bowl, at Jazz at Lincoln Center, as well as on TV's The Tonight Show (with Joshua Bell) and Dancing with the Stars, Tiempo Libre's musicians are truly living the American dream.
    The group’s concert will feature music from its two Sony Masterworks releases, the Grammy-nominated Bach in Havana and the previously mentioned My Secret Radio.  Bach in Havana takes Bach as a starting point from which to explore a wide range of Cuban music forms and rhythms and features guest tracks with Yosvany Terry and Paquito D’Rivera. The album is a true reflection of the Tiempo Libre’s "double" lives studying classical music at Cuba’s premier Russian-style conservatories by day and by night meeting up to play the traditional music of Cuba.
    In addition to recording the duet "Para Tí" with virtuoso violinist Joshua Bell (featured on Bell’s album, At Home With Friends), Tiempo Libre’s musical director Jorge Gomez’ Cuban cha-cha-cha version of "Christmas Auld Lang Syne" for Gloria Estefan and Joshua Bell was featured on Bell’s Musical Gifts from Joshua Bell and Friends and on The Queen Latifah Show.
    Tiempo Libre recorded O’Reilly Street with flute player Sir James Galway, which includes an Afro-Cuban take on music from the jazz suites of Claude Bolling.  They bring Cuban music to new audiences by performing with leading orchestras, including the San Francisco and Houston Symphonies and the Cleveland Orchestra.
    There is not a moment the group takes for granted.  The group’s pianist and musical director Jorge Gómez, said "Every record we make, every concert we play seems like a gift. Each time we are about to walk on stage, I get a tingling sensation, that thrill that starts at the base of the spine and fills me with euphoria. It's that same thrill I felt up on that roof under the twinkling Havana stars, listening to my secret radio."
    To see and hear more of Tiempo Libre go to

Academy Award Nominated Short Film Scrrenings

Animated Short Film :The Dam Keeper" (Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi) USA Credit

 For a fun, entertaining Academy Award preview, check out the Nominated Short Subjects screening this weekend at the Olin Fine Arts Center on the campus of Washington and Jefferson College in Washington. Now in its fifth year, the screenings are held at 7:30 p.m. on two separate evenings.
    On Friday, Feb. 20, the Live Action short films get the nod with five different films from Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom, China, Isreal and France (Six countries because some co-produced the films). The following evening, Saturday, Feb 21, the Animated short films get a viewing on the Olin's large screen and in comfortable surroundings.
    The single ticket price of $12, ($10 for seniors and non W & J students), provides admission to both evening screenings. Phone 724-223-(OLIN) 6546.

Live Action Short Film Nominee "The Butter Lamp" (La Lampe au Buerre de Yak) Hu Wei and Julien Feret France and China/Tibetan

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