Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On the Town!

This weekend I was  back 'On the Town' for the first time since my brain surgery two weeks ago. David and I started on Friday evening at the Lake Shore Cafe with fabulous Dixieland Jazz by JJ and the Jazz Masters, with their wonderful vocalist Gina Gibson. They were all on a high!


Then on Sunday afternoon we attended a spectacular presentation of Puccini's final opera Turandot at the Lyric Opera. David dropped me off at the door and went to park the car while I staggered in on my new cane.

A wonderful stage setting for the work by Chris Maravich. Sir Andrew Davis was the conductor.

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As Turandot, Amber Wagner had the high notes and the power demanded for the role but lacked nuance and often screamed out the  very highest notes.

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Stefano La Colla was Calaf. He, too, had the range and volume for the part and sang with ardor.

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The best singing of the evening was  by Maria Agresta as Liu. Her lovely voice was expressive and balanced from top to bottom.

The rest of the cast all sang well and the chorus was superb.

Whenever I hear this opera I think about my personal favorite Turandot, Lucilla Udovich, whom John and I met in Rome in 1982. She had had to leave the operatic stage because of constant back problems,  making it difficult for her to stand for any length of time. We asked her to sing for us when we visited her in her garden apartment. When I heard this  voluptuous voice I said to her 'Lucille, you must perform!' She answered 'But I can't stand to sing.' I said 'Then sing sitting down'. And a year or so later when she and her sister Annie came to the USA, that is exactly what we did: concerts with her seated. We did a number of concerts together and she did master classes for my students at Harvard and in New Jersey.

Our times together were a high point of my musical life. Here from You Tube are examples of how the role of Turandot should be sung. Franco Correlli isn't bad either!


To finish off my first weekend out, we saw Red Velvet at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. Written  by Lolita Chakrabarti, it is based on the life of Ira Aldridge, a black actor who was thrust into the role of Shakespeare's Othello when the noted actor Edmund Kean collapses on stage at Covent Garden in 1833 London.

Ira has made a name for himself in the provinces but has not appeared in London. He is also the first black man to perform the role of Othello, the Moor, in London.

His reviews are very racist and the play closes after three performances. However he goes on to have a great career playing works of the Bard throughout Europe for the rest of his life.

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As Ira, Dion Johnstone is very strong. A good actor with a large, resonant voice, he commands the stage. The other actors are equally good. Halina and Margaret Aldridge were played by Annie Purcell, J├╝rgen Hooper was Casimir and  Henry Forester, Terence and Bernard Ward were played by Roderick Peeples, Connie by Tiffany Renee Johnson, Betty Lovell by Bri Sudia,  Michael Hayden played Charles  Kean, Chaon Cross was Ellen Tree, and Greg Matthew
Anderson was Pierre LaPorte.

The play demonstrates the racism of the British just at the time England was voting to free the slaves in their colonies. Thirty years before out own civil war.