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Arts & Entertainment Preview - October 2000

Classical Music
B Y   A U S T I N   B A E R   &   N A N C Y   D A L V A


Choreographed Chaos


   Stephen Petronio

Whether dissolved into lyricism or seemingly seized by the demonic, Stephen Petronio appears dedicated to the idea that movement is self-sustaining. This is not to say that he is not musically ambitious (he is), or that his work does not teem with imagery (it does). Although he founded his own company in 1985 and thus is well into his second decade as a choreographer, Petronio tends still to be fondly regarded by many as a great performer. Dancing for Trisha Brown, to whose company he made a memorable and distinctive contribution from 1979 to 1986, he was wickedly intense, seductive, and pantherine. He retains this intensity, yet now he is at work creating pieces in which he is not a participant -- often a perilous point in the careers of gifted dancers turned choreographers. His marvelous recent dances have clear structures and intellectual underpinnings, but the work is visual, even visceral, reminding us that the eye is an organ of pleasure. This month you can see Petronio's new show, Strange Attractors, a two-part, evening-length dance based on chaos theory. It opens at The Joyce Theater, in New York (October 17-22; 212-242-0800), and then moves to the Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center (October 28; 757-437-7629). Subsequently the company will travel to London before beginning a U.S. tour that will include performances in Portland, Oregon; Pittsburgh; New York; and Washington, D.C. --N.D.


Deck the Hall


The 100-year-old  
Symphony Hall  

Something old, something new. It's business as usual at Boston's fabled Symphony Hall, but the mood this season is unusually festive, and justifiably so: numbered among the world's top acoustic marvels, the building has reached the venerable age of one hundred. As part of the celebration the 120-year-old Boston Symphony Orchestra is announcing an architectural master plan to upgrade the streetscape and social spaces. Look forward also to a pair of books on the Hall's history, and a ten-CD set of historic broadcasts documenting work by six music directors from the past eight decades. A "Centennial Weekend" (October 12-15) kicks off with a ball for the swells and culminates with an open house for all. Beethoven, the single composer whose name was chosen unanimously for inscription on the Symphony Hall proscenium a century ago, brackets this season. His towering Missa Solemnis, part of the inaugural concert of 1900, was the opening salvo in September, conducted by the BSO's music director, Seiji Ozawa. The complete piano concertos, with Alfred Brendel as soloist, will follow in April. In between, major commissions from John Corigliano (a symphony) and Tan Dun (a multimedia concerto written for Yo-Yo Ma), plus important American premieres of music by Osvaldo Golijov and Arvo Pärt, promise to open new horizons. For details call 617-266-1492 or visit www.bso.org. --A.B.


Return of the Troubadour


  Rekindling Il Trovatore

When comedy was king, Verdi's tragic Il Trovatore was an easy mark. The Marx Brothers had their fun with it in their slapstick classic A Night at the Opera, which even today strikes some people as the Platonic summation of the absurdities of not only Verdi but of opera itself. In a rare excursion into high culture Mad magazine also once rang its loony changes on the same theme. In the abstract the story may seem a knee-slapper -- a crazed gypsy tossing the wrong baby (her own) into a fire and then raising the "right" one (her mortal enemy's) as the instrument of her tardy revenge. But we mock what touches us, and Il Trovatore takes possession of an audience's imagination with a power that is useless to deny. For lack of a credible tenor, major companies have been avoiding the opera for what has begun to feel like forever. The title role requires a clarion-voiced warrior and lover capable of melancholy romance and fierce, macho passion. This season new contenders will be appearing in new productions at the Washington Opera (October 28-November 25; 202-295-2400) and at the Metropolitan Opera (December 7-April 5; 212-362-6000). The principal hopeful in Washington is Fabio Armiliato; on November 10 Bojidar Nikolov gets a shot. At the Met, Neil Shicoff will lead the way, with Armiliato deputizing in select performances. With luck, one or more of these brave fellows will succeed in fanning the sparks of Verdi's tragedy to full flame. --A.B.


Austin Baer is a writer based in New York.

Nancy Dalva's essays appear in the magazine 2wice.

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Photo Credits -- Stephen Petronio: Beatriz Schiller. Boston Symphony Orchestra: Stu Rosner. Il Trovatore: Ken Howard.
Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.

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