By Rodger Skidmore
Seek and ye shall find
What does one do upon losing a cat? Some might say hooray and toss out the litter box and the little sifting tool that goes with it. Others would post pictures of the lost kitty on every phone pole between here and, well, The Secret World of Og. Then there are those intrepid souls who would actually travel into that secret world on their quest to recover their living, breathing ball of fur. An added incentive might be that their little brother Paul was with the cat, and that their parents might be a tad upset to find him missing as well.
Where is this strange land? Well, Og was first discovered by the Canadian Pierre Berton in 1961, who wrote about it in the book “The Secret World of Og.” Because he did not have his camera with him at the time, the illustrations in the book were done by his daughter Patsy, based upon his vivid descriptions as well as her own recollections, as she is the girl in the book who carries frogs in her pockets. This being the modern world, an animated TV series, a Hanna-Barbera TV special, a musical and an opera soon followed.
Snow, one of Canada’s secret treasures, never makes it down to Sarasota. However, The Secret World of Og is due to make its US premiere here on Saturday, November 12th, at a 1:30 p.m. matinee and 7:30 PM evening performance at the Sarasota Opera House. This is the Dean Burry version of Og, as he did the libretto and music for the opera. Stage direction is by Martha Collins with Jesse Martins conducting the premiere of his arrangement of Mr. Burry’s music.
It is not that the Ogs actually kidnapped Paul and the cat, it was more like a kind of borrowing. They do like to borrow and take whatever they find down to their kingdom underground. And to keep your interest up there are a number of different settings with differing musical themes from Cowboy to Pirate and on to James Bond. And if you find your youngster’s interest flagging (or yours), not to worry, it is an opera in one act. But if little green creatures that live underground in mushroom houses and often say “Og”, and sometimes “Og, og” and of course, the occasional “Og, og, og” turn them on, this is just the opera to start your young ones on a classical musical career. If you missed the performances of this opera in Toronto in 2010 and would wish to see it here, go to www.Sarasotaopera.org.
A bit hotter
It’s good to bring children’s opera down from Canada but Snowbirds come here for the heat, so performances with a theme from hotter climes may be in order. Who better to do so than Gloria Musicae, choral artists of Sarasota, with Viva España!, an afternoon exploration of sultry harmonies and sparkling rhythms being performed at 4:00 p.m. at the Siesta Key Chapel on November 6th. Garcia Lorca wrote a book of poems, Romancero Gitano (Gypsy Ballads), and seven of them were set to music by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, creating a sensuous and haunting mood. When Gloria Musicae’s Artistic Director Joe Holt was asked how many of them would be on the Viva España! concert he replied “Why, all seven of course.”
One of these poems, the 'Romance Sonámbulo' relates the tale of a gypsy smuggler who returns home and finds his wife has died from the despair of waiting for him. Of course this is told from his perspective, but she might actually have died from the dread of his return. Who really knows.
Additional songs are by Albéniz, de Falla, Villa-Lobos (Bachianas Brasileiras), Lara and Grever and continue this dark magic from Spain and South America. Jonathan Godfrey’s guitar backs both Nicole Smith and Jenny Kim-Godfrey’s lovely soprano voices as well as the entire choral.
On December 11th, when it will be even colder, Gloria Musicae will heat things up by performing a gospel version of Handel’s Messiah at the Sarasota Opera House, also at 4:00 p.m. To keep things authentic, Gloria Musicae will be joined by soloists from the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe and members of the Sarasota Orchestra.
It’s true that Germany can be a bit cool in winter, as can Brahms, so Gloria Musicae will perform Brahms: Beyond the Lullaby. This is the very cool but hot side of Brahms, where he wove lilting waltzes of love with vibrant gypsy songs. Brahms’ very lovely Liebeslieder Walzer and Zigeunerlieder get the full GM treatment at Faith Lutheran Church at 4:00 p.m. on January 22nd. Baritone Luis González will make his Gloria Musicae debut as conductor for the Liebeslieder Walzer part of the program. More information is available at www.gloriamusicae.org.
Hot off the press
That’s what the newsboys used to shout when the latest edition of a newspaper hit the street. With the rise of so many people getting their news on the internet and from TV, fewer and fewer papers are being printed. Add to that the increase in ebooks and you can see that printing presses are becoming passé. Nice to note; however, that while printing may be a dying art, the art part of printing is alive and doing well. So much so that it is a highlight at the Ringling College of Art and Design at the Letterpress and Book Arts Center on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Way, off N. Tamiami Trail. So that you can learn more about the artistic side of printing, there will be a hands-on demonstration of letterpress printing and die cutting at a Letterpress Luncheon (you bring your lunch and they supply the letterpress – and the sweet treats and aqua fresca as well) from 11:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2nd. Participating in the demonstration with Bridget Elmer, Coordinator of the Letterpress and Book Arts Center, will be Kathryn Hunter who runs the Blackbird Letterpress in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
An original wall installation and printed materials by Ms. Hunter will also be on display at the Basch Gallery, in the Ringling Academic Center (2699 Bradenton Road), that opens on November 3rd and runs through the 19th. The opening reception is from 5:00 – 7:00 PM on the 3rd in the gallery with a 6:00 PM Artist Talk at the Academic Center’s Auditorium. Ms. Hunter will also give a Gallery Talk at the Basch Gallery on November 1st between 11:30 AM and noon.
Another Letterpress Luncheon will be on Wednesday, December 7th. The topic will be Printing Digital Designs on the Letterpress. These sessions are planned for the first Wednesday of each month and will highlight a different letterpress printing technique. To RSVP for the luncheons (RSVPs are very nice) contact Bridget Elmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. On five Mondays between Nov. 7 and Dec. 5, Ms. Elmer is the instructor in a continuing studies workshop on Book Forms II – check it out.