In addition to numerous play openings at the region’s theaters (which we will be reporting on in coming days and weeks), this weekend features a diverse array of cultural events, including Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival at MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass.; the Boston Early Music Festival at the Mahaiwe in Great Barrington, Mass.; a musical theatre cabaret at PS21 in Chatham, N.Y.; the American premiere of a new staging of Romeo and Juliet at Jacob’s Pillow by a Swiss company; the annual Jazz Festival at Saratoga Performing Arts Center; and the opening of a unique gallery exhibition by Karin Stack, one of the region’s most fascinating visual artists.
The Boston Early Music Festival (BEMF), which the New York Times just called “consistently imaginative,” returns to the Berkshires with two opera productions at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center from Friday, June 24 through Monday, June 27. The four performances will include the fully-staged North American premiere production of Steffani’s Niobe, Regina di Tebe on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25 at 7 and an encore presentation the BEMF Chamber Opera Series production of the 1718 chamber version of Handel’s Acis and Galatea on Sunday, June 26 at 3:30 and Monday, June 27 at 7.
The operatic centerpiece of the 2011 Festival will be the North American premiere of Niobe, Regina di Tebe (Niobe, Queen of Thebes) by the Italian composer Agostino Steffani (1653–1728). Niobe will be led by three-time Grammy-nominated BEMF artistic co-directors Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs; along with stage director and set designer Gilbert Blin; costume designer Anna Watkins; choreographers Caroline Copeland and Carlos Fittante; and lighting designer Lenore Doxsee.
The internationally acclaimed cast will be led by soprano Amanda Forsythe in the title role of Niobe. She has performed in numerous BEMF opera productions and is a rising star who has garnered critical acclaim for her “lovely range of vocal colors, gorgeous top notes and terrific agility” (the Wall Street Journal). In the role of Anfione, Niobe’s husband, countertenor Philippe Jaroussky makes his North American stage début. He has established himself as one of the world’s greatest countertenors with a 2008 Echo Award for Best Singer and a profile in the New York Times Magazine among the growing number of accolades for his virtuosic coloratura and compelling dramatic interpretations.
Joining them will be the internationally-acclaimed 34-piece Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, the new BEMF Baroque Dance Ensemble, and members of the nationally renowned PALS Children’s Chorus. Flying effects will be provided by ZFX, Inc.
“The Grass is Green,” a solo exhibition by Williamstown, Mass., artist Karin Stack, opens Thursday, June 23, 2011, at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Gallery 51. The exhibition, which investigates the idealized, unnatural, fake landscape, remains on view through Sunday, July 24. An opening reception, free and open to the public, takes place on Thursday, June 23, 6 to 9 p.m.
Karin Stack’s artworks are investigations of landscape using a variety of modes and methods. She has one foot in historic tradition, one in new media, one in lies and deception.
In this recent body of work, she has created a suite of images that feature mashups of new and old: perfected photographic landscapes using fake materials, etchings with digital overprinting, an animation she built in 3D-modeling software, and collages and paintings based on that animation. In a statement about her work, Stack writes, “I find it natural to hybridize and move back and forth using all the techniques and possibilities that coexist, from historic technologies to current printing and digital tools. I’m also a bit phony, so this all suits me quite well.”
“The Grass is Green” opens in conjunction with the fourth-annual DownStreet Art, a city-wide celebration of the arts, which kicks off on Thursday, June 24, 6-9 p.m. with a massive block party. There will be gallery exhibition openings, street musicians and specials at local businesses. The event is free and open to the public.
MCLA Gallery 51 is at 51 Main St. in North Adams and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 413.664.8718.
Pianist Lincoln Mayorga and vocalist Nina Fine will perform a cabaret of theater music by Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim, and many of their contemporaries on Saturday, June 25 at 8 at PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century in Chatham, N.Y.
“The tone of the evening will be contemporary theatrical, rather than Golden Age Of American Musical Comedy,” explained Mayorga. “We’ll perform songs from musicals Bernstein and Sondheim wrote separately, and together such as West Side Story. Shows which Sondheim wrote without Bernstein include Sunday in the Park with George, A Little Night Music, Sweeney Todd, and Merrily We Roll Along, and Bernstein’s work with other collaborators includes On the Town, Candide, and Wonderful Town. We’ll also perform songs by Lerner and Loewe (the duo who composed My Fair Lady) as well as music by Richard Rodgers with both Hart and Hammerstein. I’ll also be playing some piano solos, including some pieces by Bernstein, to add variety between vocal numbers.”
This concert is a first for Fine and Mayorga as a duo. “Right now we’re rehearsing and discussing which songs fit the general mood,” said Mayorga.
PS21 is located at 2980 Route 66 just one mile outside the village of Chatham. Tickets to Cabaret with Nina and Lincoln are $20 general admission and $15 for PS21 members. For tickets or information about this event or any other at PS21, visit PS21: Performance Spaces for the 21st Century or call 518.392.6121.
On Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26, the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) marks its 34th year with a dynamic lineup of more than 20 acclaimed artists and ensembles on two stages, including five-time Grammy-winning R&B singer-songwriter Michael McDonald; the gritty gospel, soul and funk of Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings; Sing The Truth!, a tribute to the jazz and civil rights legacies of recently departed legends Miriam Makeba, Abbey Lincoln and Odetta, featuring vocalists Angelique Kidjo, Dianne Reeves and Lizz Wright; the Jack DeJohnette Group; A Night In Treme: The Musical Majesty of New Orleans, music inspired by the HBO series
Treme, with Mardi Gras Indian Chief and alto saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and special guests presenting the music and flavor of New Orleans; vocalist Dee Dee Bridgewater in a tribute to Billie Holiday; jazz bassist Ben Allison; cutting-edge jazz trio The Bad Plus, celebrating a decade together this season; and tenor and soprano saxophonist Marcus Strickland and his quartet, performing a distinctive blend of jazz, hip hop, soul and world music.
Switzerland’s acclaimed Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève returns to Jacob’s Pillow for the first time since its 2007 U.S. debut, Wednesday, June 22 through Sunday, June 26 in the Ted Shawn Theatre, with a world premiere of its new staging of Romeo and Juliet, created by French choreographer Joëlle Bouvier in a re-imagined contemporary ballet that breathes new life into the classic Shakespearean love story.
Joëlle Bouvier’s full-length Romeo and Juliet develops the historically classical tale of star-crossed lovers into a contemporary ballet. The company effortlessly combines intimate, organic movement with the more traditional partnering and narrative associated with Romeo and Juliet, resulting in “one of the most beautiful evenings in choreography in recent times” (Le Nouvel Observateur).