Anyway, the travel show has gotten smaller, but is still dangerous as I get ideas. In some cases, I have no interest in a tour, but I use itineraries to get an idea of what I want to do when I go somewhere on my own. In other cases, there are places with poor enough infrastructure that having things organized makes sense. The bottom line is that (as usual) there are more things I want to do than there is time or money for.
Pro Musica Hebraica - Evgeny Kissin: I continue to go to the Pro Musica Hebraica concerts of Jewish classical music when I can, i.e. when I am in town. This edition was pianist Evgeny Kissin playing 20th century music and reciting Yiddish poetry. The first piece was Moyshe Milner's Farn opsheyd (Kleyne rapsodie) which I enjoyed. It had a definite Jewish feel to it, partly through the rhythms as well as the folk-tune like melody. That was followed by Ernest Bloch's Piano Sonata. Op. 40, which was the most familiar piece of the evening. Unfortunately, I remain lukewarm towards Bloch, whose music seems like generic modernism to me, with no particular Jewish flavor. The first half of the evening concluded with Kissin reciting several poems by Haim Nachman Bialik, with supertitled English translations. Kissin taught himself Yiddish, so I'm not surprised by the formal sound of his accent, which sounds too Germanic to me. (Bear in mind that I am a biased Litvak and understand little Yiddish myself, so my opinion may not matter. I think it is supposed to sound like my father and grandfather and this didn't.) At any rate, Bialik's poems were not really to my taste. My maternal grandfather was a big fan of Bialik, but of his Hebrew poetry, so I don't feel as disloyal as I otherwise might.
The second half started with Alexander Veprik's Sonata No. 2, which was pleasant enough, but not especially memorable. Then came several poems by I. L. Peretz. I particularly liked "The World is a Theater." It's obvious that Kissin is passionate about reciting these poems, but I thought the segment went on a bit too long. The evening ended with Alexander Krein's Suite dansee, op. 44, which was my favorite piece of the concert, with strong echoes of klezmer styling.
Overall, it was an interesting evening and it's good to support the ability to hear some of the more obscure works that got played, especially in the hands of as expressive a musician as Kissin.
Opera - Moby Dick: I'm not really an opera person, but I love Moby Dick, so I was curious as to how it would be transformed to the stage. There was a lot of spectacle involved, with a tilting stage and supernumaries climbing ladders and ropes and so on. What surprised me was how well Jake Heggie's music fit the action. Gene Scheer's libretto did take some liberties with the novel, but it had to in order to make sense. The performances were excellent and I want to especially call out Matthew Worth as Starbuck and Eric Greene as Queequeg. All in all, this was interesting and well worth seeing and made me more likely to go to the opera in the future.
Beaches: Back on more familiar ground, I went to see Beaches at Signature Theatre on Saturday. This is a brand new musical and is an adaptation of the novel and movie. The story involves the bond between two women, Cee Cee and Bertie, who meet as children in Atlantic City and continue their friendship through various crises, culminating in Bertie's untimely death. This could be maudlin, but there was so much humor (largely due to the brassy Cee Cee, excellently played by Alysha Umpress) that it avoided that trap. Not that it was free of tearjerker moments, but the tone was more balanced. There was also a tuneful score by David Austin (plus "The Wind Beneath My Wings" from the movie, thrown in surprisingly unobtrusively). There was even some amusing choreography in the form of a 1970's disco number. And I can't resist mentioning what great eye candy Matthew Scott provided. Damn, he looks amazing with a beard.
I have had mixed feelings over the years towards the new musicals that Signature puts on, but I want them to keep producing new musicals, and this was a good example of why.