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Arts on the Horizon

By Rodger Skidmore

There are 31 days in March

     But, of course, you knew that – right? But did you know there are 24 operas being performed here in Sarasota this month? Admittedly, except for the most rabid opera buffs, that is a lot of opera. Well, the Sarasota Opera has made things a bit easier for you. They are only putting on five different operas and spreading repeat performances over 24 days. 

     While they did not have reality TV shows back in the 1700s and 1800s, actors were dropped into quite fanciful situations, with really good background music by those centuries’ top composers. The plots are a bit far-fetched – Man falls in love with woman, woman wants to kill man, man and woman consummate relationship – Two groups go to war, lots of killing goes on, people wind up happy – Gods don’t want man and woman to fall in love, tree frog helps them, they all wear pretty costumes – anyway, everyone is entertained.

     The opera on March 1st is Mozart’s The Magic Flute – not to be confused with La Flute Enchantée or Die Zauberflöte. Don’t be confused, they are all the same opera, just sung in different languages. Maybe a little confused, because the one being performed is actually Die Zauberflöte, sung in German – but not really confused because the supertitles (subtitles projected above the stage) are in English. No magic tree frog here, but there is a magic flute. On March 2nd is Verdi’s Nabucco. King Nabucco is the smiter-in-chief of Babylon, – yes, a lot of smiting goes on. He is struck by lightning and goes mad (This is called plot development and keeps things moving). The question is, is he a good mad king or a bad mad king? Only time will tell. On March 3rd Puccini’s Turandot continues its run. Turandot is a Chinese princess who hates men – so you know what happens. A double bill starts on March 9th. The first, Donizetti’s “Rita”, is about a man who comes back from the dead (spoiler alert – this is not about zombies) and complicates the lives of two others. The second, “Susanna’s Secret”, really stinks – in that it is all about the smell of tobacco – and how it complicates the lives of two others. Intrigued? Doubly intrigued? Then go see these two operas that are not often produced. Everything at www.Sarasotaopera.org.

Even more jazz than opera

     There are 48 jazz performances being put on during March’s Sarasota Jazz Festival and, as you know, 48 is double 24 – but who’s counting.

     What would be the best way to get you in the mood to listen to some good jazz? How about a free concert at Phillippi Estate Park at 4 p.m. on March 3rd? Or how about seeing something that no one has ever seen before – a workshop production of Jo Morello’s new play “Lil and Louis” being presented by some of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe players at their theater on March 4th, and 5th and at St. Paul Lutheran Church on the 10th. The show’s about Lil Hardin Armstrong, Louis Armstrong’s second wife, who was a powerhouse in her own right. On the 6th and 7th the film Round Midnight (a fictionalized composite of Lester Young and Bud Powell) will be playing at Burns Court cinema. So far we’ve gone from concert to play to film. There will be seven main stage concerts at the Hyatt Regency hotel on the 6th, 8th and 9th with a host of jazz greats (Houston Person, Randy Brecker, Dick Hyman, Bill Charlap, John Lamb, etc.) playing together. 

     An interesting mix and match of more intimate concerts will also be held at the Hyatt. Twelve different musicians and their groups will be giving two concerts each, spread over two different dates. You will be able to move from concert to concert hearing Blues, Latin, Classic and Contemporary jazz. Sit in on a jazz guitar set by Gene Bertoncini (Jazziz magazine chose one of his CDs as number one of the top 20 acoustic guitar CDs in 2004) – when Gene is finished, move to another stage to hear Tom Carabasi perform on the Latin Stage. When Tom is done, listen in on the soulful singing of Katt Hefner or the bluesy songs of Lauren Mitchell. Just soak in the jazz. 

     Want lots of jazz, but in a night club setting? There are a number of places playing jazz the night of the 7th, with different groups fronted by Al Hixon, Michael Ross at the 5 O’Clock Club, Billy Marcus and others. That night a jazz trolly (five actually) starting at the Van Wezel parking lot, will ferry you around to 12 different clubs so you can take in the sounds. Trollies run all evening, 5:30 till 10:30 p.m. A special treat that Sarasota jazz regulars know about will be performances at the Hyatt by the Bruno Family on Friday the 8th with Joe Bruno on trumpet, his son, Joe, jr. on bass, grandson Nick Bruno on drums and Nick’s mother on piano. Tons of information at Jazzclubsarasosta.org. Separate from the festival, Bill Buchman will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 2 p.m. on the 1st and the Jeff Rupert Quartet will be at the Court Cabaret at Florida Studio Theatre at 6:30 p.m. on the 11th.

Best, bester, bestest

     A few years back (still in the 21st Century so not really a long time ago) the British mystery, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, won the Whitbred prizes for Best Novel and for Book of the Year. Made into a play, it won seven Oliviers (British Tonys) in 2013, the most ever won by a play until then (a Harry Potter play won a couple more than that in 2017). The play closed in London later that year, but only because the ceiling of the theatre collapsed (yes, the show brought the house down). It soon re-opened and ran until 2017. The Broadway production picked up most of the “best” awards in 2015, including five Tonys. 

     The main character in The Incident About the Dog is not the dog, but the teenager who finds out about, and investigates, the dog’s mysterious death. That this 15-year-old has an autism spectrum condition means that we are dealing not just with the facts of the case but also with his perception of those facts, and of his parents’ and his school mentor’s perceptions of his perceptions. Sort of like nested Russian dolls. That the actor in the Sarasota production, Alexander Stuart, is also on the autism spectrum brings a bit of reality to his portrayal of young Christopher Boone. This Sarasota production is at Florida Studio Theatre’s Gompertz theater and runs thru March 29th.

     One of the nice things about buying tickets at Floridastudiotheatre.org or their box office, is that you can also pick up tickets for Cherry Docs, one of the Stage III productions appearing at their Bowne’s Lab venue thru March 17th. All Stage III productions advise “Warning – Adult Content” but, since we live in today’s world, we know about Adult Content. Still, it’s nice to watch a show that puts some of it all together.