OUT ON THE BAYOU
FEBRUARY 4, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
SOCIETY FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS
Bringing tht World's But to Hoof loo
Arvo PART - Fratres (1980)
Ottorino RESPIGHI - Sonata (1916-1917)
Sergei PROKOFIEV - Sonata for Violin and
Piano, Op. 94bis (1944)
Maurice RAVEL - Tzigane rapsodie de concert (1924)
Wednesday, February 16, 2000
8:00 p.m., Jones Hall
For program notes visit our website at www.spahouston org
TALK 30 minutes prior to curtain
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Shakespeare's greatest hits
by D.L GROOVER
Sometimes, it just doesn't pay to be the
world's most famous dead dramatist, except
that Shakespeare luckily doesn't have to see
what contemporary playwrights do to his work.
Case in point: Joe Calarco's adaptation of
Shakespeare's most accessible play," Romeo and
Juliet," now titled SHAKESPEARE'S R&J.
The conceit in this version is that it's set to
tell the story of four male students in
parochial school. We know this because they
wear matching school uniforms, genuflect
before they begin, and recite by rote some catechism precepts and rules for living well.
What we don't know is why they do this, or
who they are in a poor introduction to the
Calarco doesn't give his new characters
any dialogue to let us know what's going on.
He doesn't even give them names, only numbers. The four slink into the room almost on
tiptoe, warily looking over their shoulders
and putting fingers up to their mouths to
shush each other, and then proceed to make
enough noise to be heard in a neighboring
diocese. There's much back-slapping and
youthful playing in this forced dumbshow,
but strangest of all, none of them seems concerned that this particular play might dredge
up sexual stirrings and forbidden feelings. To
say nothing about having to kiss a Juliet who
needs a shave.
Once you realize that Calarco's contemporary subtext is under-realized and haphazardly draped over the play like a wet shroud, a
remarkable thing occurs: Shakespeare takes
over, and we get a surprisingly splendid rendition of "Romeo and Juliet," albeit in zip
drive and reduced to a Greatest Hits. Nimbly
directed by Rob Bundy, the play survives and
generates real thrills and heat.
James Lee Burke makes an impetuous
Romeo, and is matched by the distinctive
clear-eyed Juliet of Dustin Ross, who rounds
out this maiden with new-found edges.
John Raymond Barker, a sharp-tongued
Mercutio and meddling Friar Lawrence, is least
successful as a surprisingly fey Lady Capulet.
Drake Simpson shines as the Nurse, imbuing her addled but loving speeches a special
depth that only a trusted member of the family could impart.
If you think glaciers move slowly, you
haven't heard the justly famous prelude to
Wagner's masterwork, TRISTAN UND
ISOLDE conducted by Maestro Christoph
Eschenbach. Furtwangler sounds like
Toscanini at this dirge pace. As those chromatic waves of sound lumbered through the
Wortham, I flashed forward to the end of this
production—sometime in 2003.
But once this impediment was hurdled,
this glorious opera—a musical hymn to sex—
turned out splendidly. Even the maestro fell
under Wagner's magic spell, conducting this
ultra-Romantic masterpiece with fiery passion, meticulous care, and loving speed.
"Tristan" is not for the faint of heart, nor the
novice. If it's not sung with conviction, if the
singers look like sideshow attractions .it
Drake Simpson and Dustin Ross in an all-male
adaptation of 'Romeo and Juliet' in
'Shakespeare's R&J' at Stages.
Barnum and Bailey (see the Metropolitan
Opera), if it lacks the magic-realism, it can fall
apart with a deadly thud, By all accounts,
HGO's rendition of Wagner's titanic opus
came very near perfection.
Visually stunning, this production,
designed by the artist David Hockney, is a
child's pop-up storybook realized in pulsating colors where psychedelic neon meets the
medieval: emerald next to orange, ruby next
to lapis. This hot scheme, complemented by
hallucinogenic lighting, perfectly captures the
seething, throbbing emotion in the music.
And what music they make! Renate Behle
is a powerful Isolde: haughty, spurned,
humiliated, then transfixed and ultimately
transfigured. Her dark lustrous voice, befitting her early days as a mezzo, wraps around
Wagner's soaring dramatics with flawless
diction, pitch and control.
Stig Andersen fills out the heroic Tristan
with great sense of character and intelligence.
He looks the warrior prince, but seems slightly overpowered by the tempestuous orchestra.
the veteran mezzo Horence Quivar with
her burnished seductive voice proves how
beautiful the role of Brangaene can sound,
and Carsten Stabell's sonorous bass and commanding presence as King Marke is regal dignity personified.
Any production of "T&l" is fairly rare,
especially one like HGO's with such outstanding musical caliber, so this production is
your chance to set sail
Stages Repertory Theatre
Through Feb 13
3201 Allen Parkway 9 Waugh
Tristan und Isolde
Houston Grand Opera
Wortham Theater Center
Through Feb. 11