Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
Heather Johnson, being fitted last summer for Mill City Opera's "The Barber of Seville."/photo by Courtney Perry.
Heather Johnson, who grew up in White Bear Lake, just got some nice props for her performance as Lizzie Borden in Boston Lyric Opera's production. Johnson was back in the Twin Cities last summer for Mill City Opera's "The Barber of Seville" and mentioned that she would be taking on the title role in the world premiere chamber version of the 1965 opera.
Writing in the February Opera News, critic Kalen Ratzlaff didn't have much good to say about the concept and staging from director Christopher Alden. "Cheap laughs" and "depictions of sophmorically 'edgy' sexual behavior," Ratzlaff wrote. However, the critic waxed on about the singers. "If only one could have lifted them up lock, stock and barrel and dropped them into a production worthy of their gifts."
"In the title role, mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson was fearless, channeling a seething fury worthy of Electra and singing with dramatic focus, power and control."
Johnson sang at Roseville High School and then studied with Dan Dressen at St. Olaf. She has lived in New York for 14 years. Next up, according to her web site is a short engagement of "La Cenerentola" at Intermountain Opera, in May.
Theater Latte Da's "Steerage Song," which was produced last fall, will tour the state because of a state arts board grant./photo by Michal Daniel.
The Minnesota State Arts Board has posted the winners of 2014 arts touring grants. The program allows groups and individuals to bring the arts to greater Minnesota. Forty-one grants were made, totaling just more than $1.7 million.
The jazz group, The New Standards, was awarded $93,000 to tour several cities throughout the state, including a holiday show in Rochester. VocalEssence will be granted $92,000 to tour southeast Minnesota and Theater Latte Da is authorized to use $88,000 to tour its original show, "Steerage Song," about the early 20th century immigrant experience.
The grants come with reporting requirements and certain levels of accountability. In the case of the Minnesota Orchestra, for example, the grant would only be paid if the organization has its musicians back at work for the September program in Bemidji. The Orchestra previously conducted a Common Chords tour to Grand Rapids in 2011, and in Willmar in 2012.
The full list is here.
Chastity Brown, performing at outgoing Mayor R.T. Rybak's "Un-auguration" at First Avenue, also will play at Mayor Betsy Hodges' inaugural party on Jan. 11. Photo by Ben Brewer, Special to the Star Tribune.
Saturday night's inaugural party for Betsy Hodges, the new mayor of Minneapolis, will feature music by Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus, Chastity Brown and her Band, Desdemona, Iron Boy Drum Circle, the Brass Messengers, and more. Theater of Public Policy is also on the entertainment lineup.
"One Minneapolis: A City in Verse" will be peformed by a small army of poets that includes: John Colburn & Sarah Fox, Juliet Patterson, Paula Cisewski, Ed Bok Lee, Kirk Washington Jr., Heid Erdrich, Andrea Jenkins, Bao Phi, Allison Broeren,Brian Beatty, Sun Yun Shin, Doug Wilhide and Nimo Farah.
The bash, which suggests a dress code of "Minneapolis chic," also inaugurates new and returning members of the Minneapolis City Council.
Some beloved local eateries will be working the food court, including Afro Deli, Wise Acre Eatery, Birchwood Cafe, Barbette, Red Stag Supperclub, Kyatchi, Manny's Steakhouse, Gandhi Mahal, Manny's Torta's, Sen Yai Sen Lek, Scott's Ice Cream, Glam Doll Donuts.
Photo of Hearne, Texas, street by Alec Soth.
The dreamy on-the-road partnership between photographer Alec Soth and writer Brad Zellar just wrapped another chapter. Chronicled in their self-styled newspaper, The LBM Dispatch, the two visit various parts of the country and attempt to capture that mix of geography, humanity and circumstance that creates regional character.
Though the results often seem serendipitous, they have an itinerary heading out, Zellar said. “We hate being in the van so we usually know where we’re going with some idea of why,” he said.
They’ve previously applied their particular documentary style to Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and upstate New York This time out the pair tackled the Texas Triangle, a more than 60,000-square mile swath that’s home to 70 percent of the state’s population. Among their stops were the site of JFK’s assassination on its 50th anniversary, the 16th execution of a Texas death-row prisoner in 2013, and a tatty shrine to the Virgin Mary erected by a farmer who claimed in a hand-lettered sign that she helped him get his tractor unstuck.
Throughout the trip, Zellar and Soth had looked in vain for that archetypal kind of town made immortal by “The Last Picture Show.” Toward the end, on the way back to Huntsville to cover the state’s 16th and last execution of the year, they stumbled onto tiny, desolate Hearne.
“It was at the exact epicenter of the Texas Triangle formed by San Antonio, Dallas and Houston,” Zellar said. “The light was perfect. There were no cars. Along six or seven blocks of this super-wide main street, everything was closed down but a drugstore. It was spooky, it was so abandoned. When we got back to the motel we found out it was one of the first towns that WalMart moved into.”
Unusually unprofitable itself, that WalMart was closed in 1990 and turned into a high school.
Like the LBM’s five previous editions, a print version of the collected stories and photos may be previewed and purchased at lbmdispatch.tumblr.com.
The duo have been attracting interest from far-flung corners, including the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog and the Russian version of Esquire magazine, which flew a stylist and three trunks of designer clothes from Moscow to Grand Junction, Colorado, for a fashion shoot photographed by Soth and featuring Zellar as the model. Brad was game for the job, despite momentary hesitation on how to pronounce “Givenchy.”
See below for one of the surreal images from that experience.
Brad Zellar channels Cary Grant in "North by Northwest" for a fashion shoot for Russian Esquire. Photo by Alec Soth.
An image from Sean Smuda's portfolio "Blueprints," recently acquired by Walker Art Center.
Sean Smuda, a Minneapolis photographer, multimedia artist and ubiquitous fixture on the cultural scene, once unwittingly insulted Walker Art Center associate curator Bart Ryan. But Ryan hasn’t held it against him. He recently acquired a portfolio of Smuda’s work, “Blueprints,” for the Walker’s collection.
“I’ve pestered various Walker curators over the years to stop by my studio, with no real expectations,” Smuda said, in his usual charmingly dry, affectless tone. “The first time I met Bart, he gave me a drink ticket at a Walker event, then I criticized a show I didn’t know he had just curated.”
“Blueprints” is a series of collages made from photographs of modes of transport from trains to hot-air balloons plane to a shopping cart -- against barren, fantastic landscapes, with excerpts of poems translated from many different languages embedded at the bottom.
Ryan said he was drawn to Smuda’s work for its “constellations of knowledge, the interplay of information, identity and geography.”
“I now feel completely justified for dropping out of art school,” Smuda said. See and read more about his work at http://seansmuda.com/mosaic.html
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