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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Grinning at the recent past

History is memory writ large, with as many authors as disagreements, as many recurrences as digressions. Like personal memory, the larger narratives of history are always forgetful and are telling for what they omit as well as what they include. The enigmatically titled . . .
Saturday, May 3, 2008

Old folks in concert

You might think the notion of a bunch of septuagenarians and octogenarians belting out cover versions of rock ’n’ roll tunes sounds hopelessly schmaltzy. You wouldn’t be alone. Stephen Walker, the director of Young@Heart, says he chuckled at the irony of his initial reaction. When his wife approached him with the idea of hearing a concert by the group, Walker recoiled at the prospect and told her, “That sounds awful.” “I had little interest in the concert,” Walker says. “I didn’t know what to expect. I thought it was a gimmick or it might be karaoke.”
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Classical Review

Vincenzo Bellini’s opera I Capuleti e i Montecchi (The Capulets and the Montagues) is the kind of repertory rarity that lifetime opera fans might never encounter. And for good reason. It is not one of the best Bellini scores, nor is it a shining example of Italian opera of its era. So why did Florentine Opera, which only produces three operas each season, feel the need to produce it? The Florentine production, which played for three performances last weekend, was titled Romeo and Juliet. However, the opera is not particularly based on Shakespeare, but rather on Italian novella sources.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Classical Review

The latest collaboration between Present Music and Danceworks was performed last weekend at the Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center. Six dances by five choreographers were performed to various works performed by the Present Music ensemble. Danceworks’ dancers vary in abilities and maturity. There was a general imbalance to the evening, with seasoned professional musicians playing evolved works for young dancers and choreographers not up to the level of the music making.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Theater Review

Despite offering a critique of what he called the “claptrap morality” of Victorian society, Wilkie Collins’ novels never failed to weave a thoroughly good yarn. The Milwaukee Rep’s production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Collins 1866 novel Armadale remains true to this spirit. It navigates its way around the novel’s convoluted plot and boldly lifts up the starched petticoats of English upper-crust to reveal sexual intrigue, suicide, deception, murder, medical malpractice and opium addiction teeming beneath the veneer of propriety—in short all the things which Collins longed to further illuminate—and presents them in the form of a highly entertaining and rather saucy play.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Theater Review

The UWM Department of Theatre closes its season with a production of Bertolt Brecht’s classic mid-century drama The Caucasian Chalk Circle. An ambitious project helmed by Raeleen McMillion, senior lecturer at UWM’s Theatre Department and Renaissance Theaterworks co-founder, this production of Brecht’s epic features a cast of over 50 actors in full costume inspired by the classical Chinese roots of the story.
Thursday, April 17, 2008

Kentucky Derby contenders

For anyone who cares deeply about horse racing, The First Saturday in May is not a cryptic calendar reference, but the year’s most anticipated red-letter day. It’s the annual running of the Kentucky Derby, only the first of American racing’s Triple Crown but more storied than any other equine contest. Directors John and Brad Hennegan set out the statistics at the start of their documentary, focused on the 2006 Derby. Of the 40,000 thoroughbred horses in the United States, 23,000 will make it onto a racetrack. Only 20 of them will bolt onto the track . . .
Monday, April 28, 2008

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux), by Ben Ratliff

John Coltrane took jazz as far as it ever reached before his death in 1967. He remains a touchstone for young musicians and the subject of many books. The latest, by New York Times jazz critic Ben Ratliff, is true to its name. The Story of a Sound isn’t a compendium of anecdotes about the saxophonist’s life, but a thoughtful . . .
Monday, April 28, 2008

Guitar Moods (Bean Hoy Music)

On the second release in the New World Blues series, the only numbers that sag are those where Milwaukee guitarist Mike Starling drifts into trite elevator music (“Pot O’Gold”) or fake Gypsy stuff (“Jinni”). These are more than compensated for by the many standout moments, including the spare rasp of “Above the Clouds . . .
Monday, April 28, 2008

Birds (Radium)

From the vanguard of Milwaukee's musical alchemy scene comes the latest brainchild of percussionist Jon Mueller and guitarist Chris Rosenau, a collaborative effort of playful droning and epic meanderings that bury the airy connotations of experimental music beneath fuzzy guitar attacks and resonating grit. Somewhat-restrained experimentation and just-enough indulgence allow all four tracks to take flight. A steady pulse brings each back to the ground . . .

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