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SPCO makes changes to Britten Festival

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: May 16, 2014 - 2:25 PM

Violinist and conductor Thomas Zehetmair, an SPCO Artistic Partner, has withdrawn from three weeks of concerts marking the centenary of composer Benjamin Britten. Photo courtesy of SPCO.

The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has been scrambling this week after news that conductor Thomas Zehetmair was suffering from "exhaustion and fatigue." Zehetmair is under doctor's orders to withdraw from all travel and performing commitments until he recovers, said Stephen Sokolouski of the SPCO. 

Zehetmair was scheduled to lead concerts over the next three weekends to celebrate the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten.

The Britten festival begins Thursday at Temple Israel in Minneapolis, and will go on, but with changes to the program and players, as follows:

Britten: String Quartet No. 2 (Steven Copes, Kyu-Young Kim, Maiya Papach, James Wilson)
Britten: Lachrymae (Maiya Papach, viola and director)
Haydn: Symphony No. 101, "Clock" 

The new program, to be played Saturday at the St. Paul UCC and Sunday afternoon in Arden Hills, will be led by SPCO musicians. " Although it’s unfortunate that Thomas can’t be with us, we’re excited that our musicians are once again taking the lead on this weekend’s concerts, as the concerts that they have led this year have been some of the best of the season," said Sokolouski.

 Britten's chamber opera "The Turn of the Screw" remains on the program for weekend two, (May 23-24, at Ordway Center) with Jayce Ogren stepping in to replace Zehetmair as conductor.

The third weekend (May 29-30) has been changed, and includes no music of Britten. Instead, the SPCO will perform Stravinsky (Danses concertantes), Haydn (Cello Concerto No. 2, with Julie Albers, cellist) and Brahms (String Quintet No. 2), with SPCO musicians leading the orchestra.

Cody, Streep, Demme team up for "Ricky and the Flash"

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: May 7, 2014 - 11:42 AM

Photo: Dan Steinberg, AP

Diablo Cody's next feature arrives next summer with a top star and teriffic director attached. TriStar Productions will release "Ricky and the Flash" June 26, 2015. The comedy drama stars Meryl Streep as a woman who abandoned her family to find fast-lane fortune and fame as a rock star. Decades later she returns,trying to reconnect with her estranged kids, one of whom is navigating a rocky divorce. Jonathan Demme ("Stop Making Sense," "The Silence of the Lambs," "Philadelphia") directs.

Minnesota Opera co-commissions 'Cold Mountain'

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: May 6, 2014 - 4:46 PM

The 2003 movie version of "Cold Mountain" starred Jude Law, above, as a Confederate soldier turned deserter making his way home. The Minnesota Opera has co-commissioned an opera version of the best-selling Civil War saga.

The Minnesota Opera has co-commissioned an adaptation of the best-selling Civil War novel "Cold Mountain," with music by Pulitzer-winning composer Jennifer Higdon. The commission is the latest in a string of new operas with modern cultural roots that Minnesota Opera has been involved with over the last several years -- including "Doubt, "The Manchurian Candidate" and "The Shining" -- through its  $7-million New Works Initiative program.

The novel "Cold Mountain" by Charles Frazier won the 1997 National Book Award. It tells the story of a Confederate Army deserter making his way home through ravaged terrain toward the end of the war. It was made into a 2003 movie that was nominated for seven Academy awards.

Partners in the commission are The Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia. The opera will get its premiere in Santa Fe in the summer of 2015, marking the150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. It will be presented by the Minnesota Opera sometime in 2018.

Higdon, who won a Pulitzer and a Grammy for two separate concertos in 2010, will be joined by librettist Gene Scheer, who wrote the book for an opera version of "Moby Dick."

Jennifer Higdon. Photo by J. Henry Fair.

Game of Thrones, Spacey Style

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: April 29, 2014 - 11:06 AM

"Sin, death, and hell have set their marks on him." Kevin Spacey as Richard III.     Illustration: Jonathan Yeo.

Kevin Spacey thinks that this is the ideal time for modern audiences to catch up with Shakespeare’s 400-year-old villain, Richard III. In fact, he believes it so passionately that he self-financed “Now: In the Wings on a World Stage,” a film about his globe-trotting production of the classic tragedy.

“Now” is more than a recording of Spacey’s performance as the mad monarch with the crooked gait and twisted mind. It’s a backstage look at his first collaboration with director Sam Mendes since both won Academy Awards for their work on “American Beauty.”  The film screens for one night only, on Tuesday, April 29 at 7:00pm at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis. It’s also available as video on demand beginning May 2 at https://www.kevinspacey.com/nowthefilm/ .

“People are fascinated by characters that cross the line,” the “House of Cards” star said by phone from Los Angeles.  “Think of the way television was for a very long time. All the characters had to be likable and really good at their jobs and good family men. Suddenly in the last 15 years we’ve seen such remarkable antiheroes created. It’s been proved by the popularity of these shows that audiences dig complex characters and dark storylines.”

 Spacey hopes that “NOW,” with its intimate scenes of actors’ camaraderie and live performance, communicates to movie audiences some of the thrill he feels onstage.

“I’m a theater rat. If anyone has liked anything I’ve ever done in film, I learned it in the theater.  That is my craft,” said Spacey, who in 2003 left Hollywood to become artistic director of England’s Old Vic theater.  “People ask me, ‘Why did you move to London 10 years ago for this theater company? Why aren’t you making movies?’ Because people put too much value on fame and money.  Theater is the actor’s medium. That’s where we do what we do best.”

Replacements play Coachella

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: April 13, 2014 - 10:43 AM

Tommy Stinson, at left, and Paul Westerberg of the Replacements played outdoors beneath palm trees at the Coachella music festival April 11. Photo by Claude Peck

PALM SPRINGS, CA. -- For those of us, myself included, who remember weaving through icy Minneapolis streets to see the Replacements at the black-painted urban bus depot called First Avenue in the 1980s, the setting of their show last night was a stark contrast.

Twenty-three years after the band split up, and half a year after performing three reunion shows at RiotFest, the band played on the smaller of two outdoor stages at Coachella, the giant annual music fest located on a vast grassy polo grounds in Indio, California.The night was balmy, pot smoke perfumed the dry desert air and colored uplights bathed swaying palm trees in lurid glows of purple, red, green and citron. The total crowd was said to be about 75,000.

A giant spaceman hovered over normal-sized concertgoers at Coachella music festival in Indio, California. Photo by Claude Peck.

Despite 9 p.m. temperatures that remained in the mid-80s, Paul Westerberg came onstage in a white shirt with cufflinks, a bowtie and a sportcoat, looking more like a well-scrubbed algebra teacher on a parent conference night than the legendary lead singer of an influential post-punk band.

His bandmates included one other original Replacement, bassist Tommy Stinson, plus fast-and-furious drummer Josh Freese and perpetual-motion guitarist Dave Minehan.

Speaking of fast and furious, no-longer-young Westerberg unleashed tons of punky energy from the get-go, with three of the first four songs (“Takin’ a Ride,” “I’m in Trouble,” and “Hangin’ Downtown”) coming from their first album, 1981’s “Sorry Ma, Forgot to Take Out the Trash.” Westerberg let out a full-throated rocker howl in “Trouble.”

The Coachella show had 18 songs, including the two encore songs (“Alex Chilton” and “Bastards of Young,” which had the mixed-age crowd in full sing-along mode). Last fall’s RiotFest shows included about 24 songs.

Mid-set at Coachella, the band inserted “Nowhere Is My Home,” a B-side that had not been played at any of the RiotFest gigs. Another rarity, “Psychopharmacology,” showed up near the end of the set.

Westerberg, who eventually removed his tie and jacket, was in a chatty and gregarious, occasionally ornery mood. “We once made a record called ‘Stink,’ “ he said. “The new CD is called ‘Feculent.’”

Later, he announced to the throng, “I’m looking for a girl who’s never used the word ‘awesome.’ Still looking.”

Westerberg needed start-agains on a couple songs, including such anthems as “Androgynous” and “Achin’ to Be.”

The crowd for the Replacements concert, while not sparse, was quite a bit smaller than for Chromeo, Ellie Gouldling, AFI, Girl Talk and closer Outkast, all of which took place on the bigger Coachella stage. On Friday, other music at the Outdoor Theatre, where the Replacements played, included a cool sunset set by Neko Case, and sets by Broken Bells and the Knife.

Neko Case, at left, performed at Coachella on Friday. Photo by Claude Peck

I did not hear OutKast, but Janelle Monae was a guest at their reunion gig, and Prince reportedly was backstage, but did not appear. After not playing or recording together since 2006, OutKast’s Andre 3000 and Bigboi launched a 40-festival 2014 tour with their show at Coachella. Here's their Coachella set listSome reviewers found the set disappointing.

The Replacements play again at Coachella on April 18, and they have more festival dates this summer, including at Shaky Knees in Atlanta (May 10) and Forecastle in Louisville, Kentucky (July 20). To the dismay of hometown fans, a Twin Cities concert is not scheduled.

Other acts at Coachella this year include Arcade Fire, Beck, Lorde, Pet Shop Boys, Skrillex, Queens of the Stone Age, Foster the People and the Pixies.

The Replacements’ Coachella set list: Takin’ a Ride / I’m In Trouble / Favorite Thing / Hangin’ Downtown / Color Me Impressed  / Nowhere Is My Home / Tommy Gets His Tonsils Out / Achin’ to Be / Androgynous / Love Ya Till Friday / Left of the Dial / I’ll Be You / White and Lazy / Psychopharmacology / Alex Chilton / Cant’ Hardly Wait (encore) / Bastards of Young (encore)

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