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Archives: Oct. 2012


Christiane Libor is stunning and the storytelling gripping for Seattle Opera’s remount of Beethoven’s only opera “Fidelio”

Clifton Forbis (Florestan), Christiane Libor (Leonore), and Seattle Opera Chorus and Supernumeraries Photo © Elise Bakketun

It’s quite an experience to see the one and only opera by that master of sweeping musical thought: Beethoven’s “Fidelio.” It’s even better when the key role is played by a masterful soprano making her U.S. debut: Christiane Libor. Those two experiences outweigh any minor complaints of staging (and Beethoven’s own inability to write well for voice) to make Seattle Opera’s “Fidelio” – which just opened at McCaw Hall and continues through Oct. 27 – a musical treat you shouldn’t miss.

Of course, it’s not Libor alone who carries this opera, though as Leonore – a devoted wife who disguises herself as a male prison employee to rescue her husband Florestan from political imprisonment and death – the German soprano gives the role both strength and truly convincing emotion with a voice that flows like molten gold through Beethoven’s every register change, octave leap and endless phrase.

No, like any good production this “Fidelio” is strong on almost all sides. Read more »


Critic’s Picks: “Ramayana” at ACT, Seattle Art Museum’s “Elles,” Seattle Opera’s “Fidelio” and Fireworks at the Rialto

See the “Ramayana” live at ACT

ACT’s multi-discipline adaptation of the Hindu epic “The Ramayana” begins preview this week before opening next week. Featuring actors, dancers, music and puppetry the play tells the age-old South and South East Asian love story of the Hindu gods Rama and Sita. Previews 8 p.m. tonight and Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 14, 16,17; then opens 7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 through Nov. 12. From $37.50/$20 under-25/$15 students. Senior discounts. ACT, 700 Union St., Seattle. 206-292-7676, acttheatre.org

SAM hosts an “Elles” community night out

Seattle Art Museum is opening up the touring show “Elles: Women Artists from the Pompidou, Paris” free this Friday with a community night out event that includes local performances by the Chinese Community Drill Team, Pecha Kucha presenters, Skin Deep Dance, Northwest Girl Choir and Rain City Rock Camp for Girls. The Paris show of artists like Cindy Sherman and the Guerilla Girls is complemented by “Elles: SAM” from the museum’s collection. 6-9 p.m. tonight. Free. Seattle Art Museum, 1300 1st Ave., Seattle. 206-654-31000, seattleartmuseum.org Read more »


Live Paint gives parents a break, kids an artsy afternoon in Tacoma Hilltop studio

Parents – looking for a babysitting option for your kids that adds music, theater and art? Live Paint, which started in its Spaceworks Hilltop location earlier this year and is still going strong, is offering Saturday afternoon Parents’  Day Out workshops for kids every second Saturday from noon-4 p.m.

While parents relax elsewhere, kid-art whiz Cindy Arnold conjures a fabulously arty experience for littlies aged 4 and up, with arts, crafts, stories, theater, costumes and more in the refurbished space at 1314 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma. Dates are Oct. 13, Nov. 10 and Dec. 8. It’s $30 per

Read more »


Grit City Flicks bring T-town humor, rock and drama to the Tacoma Film Fest

Scene from "Tacoma's Rock-n-Roll Legends" at the Tacoma Film Fest. Courtesy image.

It’s Day Five of the 2012 Tacoma Film Fest, and finally I’ve hit a full house. The Grit City Flicks screened this afternoon at The Grand Cinema, and obviously what Tacomans love to see is films by Tacomans. But as usual the quality of the seven shorts – which screen again 6:30 p.m. Tuesday – varied wildly from must-sees to wish-you-hadn’ts.

Among the best was “Esrever,” a five-minute comedy by Bryan Johnson that’s just as good the second time as it was when it won the Audience Choice Award at the Grand’s 72 Hour Film Competition earlier this year. The concept – a self-infatuated film director who invents a new technique of filming movies backwards in order to play them in reverse – is made funnier by local actors, silly stunt scenes and the like.

Also well-made, “The One” (Jason Daniel) offers a behind-the-scenes version of video game avatars, with funny commentary and a big kick at the end.

“Tacoma’s Rock-n-Roll Legends,” meanwhile, is a 25-minute documentary by Randy Sparks that gives a primer on how the 1950s and ‘60s Tacoma garage rock scene bust out a national music identity and paved the way for 1990s grunge. Read more »


Joyful, uniting music at Northwest Sinfonietta’s historic “Cuban” concert in Rialto Theater, Tacoma

Jesús Carnero de la Teja conducts the Northwest Sinfonietta in the Cuban national anthem in the Rialto Theater Saturday night. Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti

It was a moment few could have predicted back in 1959 (or even more recently than Cuba’s revolution) – 800 Americans standing in honor while a Cuban conductor led American musicians through the Cuban national anthem, both countries’ flags flanking the stage. But that’s exactly what happened Saturday night at Tacoma’s Rialto Theater, and Friday night in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, and yesterday at Pioneer Park Pavilion, Puyallup, with all three venues seeing packed, enthusiastic houses for a first-ever concert of Cubans playing side by side with Americans in this country. The orchestra was, of course, the Northwest Sinfonietta, whose January Cuba tour sparked off the whole exchange, and who played with most of their usual panache and skill in a program of Beethoven and Lecuona.

In Tacoma, the music came after an official proclamation of “Northwest Sinfonietta Day” by Mayor Marilyn Strickland, and a welcome. Strickland conducted her way through the U.S. national anthem without mishap, and then Cuban violist Jesús Carnero de la Teja took the baton for the Cuban anthem. After three dances by Ernesto Lecuona, the “Cuban Gershwin,” which showed both Lecuona’s flair for ineffable orchestration and a sultry, dramatic flair from the musicians, Carnero again took the podium from director Christophe Chagnard to lead “Danzon Ragon” by Cuban pianist Andrés Alen. Under Carnero’s deft leadership, which also included some suave dancing and inviting the audience to clap along, the bossa nova featured a strong percussion section and smooth brass solos. The Cuban string players also got to lead their respective sections, which was a nice gesture.

And then hot Havana humidity gave way to Germanic Sturm-und-Drang, as Beethoven’s Symphony no. 9 began. Read more »


The Tacoma Film Festival winners, plus the poetic “Valley of Saints”

Gulzar Bhat at Dal Lake in "Valley of Saints." Courtesy image.

And the winners are…(drum roll)…The winners of each category in the Tacoma Film Festival were announced to an almost-full house at the Grand Cinema last night by filmmaker Warren Etheredge. Six of the seven winners will be screened again on Wednesday at the Grand, with a screening of the seventh later today.

Best Feature Documentary was “Lemon,” a powerful, tightly-edited telling of how three-time felon Lemon Anderson clawed his way back out of the ‘hood via spoken word poetry. “Lemon” will screen at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 10.

Best Regional Film was “Brightwood,” a 19-minute coming-of-age story beautifully shot on the San Juan islands. It will screen at 6:15 p.m. today at the Grand.

Best Narrative Feature was “Dead Man’s Burden,” a post-Civil War drama about rough justice with gorgeous wide-landscape cinematography. It screens at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Best Narrative Short was the black-humor-filled “Curfew”; while Best Documentary Short was “Odysseus’ Gambit” about a Cambodian American park chess player and Best Animated Film was the short “Thumb Snatchers from the Moon Cocoon,” a mock-horror flick on a Texas cow ranch. All the winning shorts will screen 4:15 p.m. Wednesday. Read more »


“Out on a Limb” shows Tacoma Film Festival’s strength (fascinating local film) and weakness (sparse audiences, lack of atmosphere)

The 2012 Tacoma Film Festival’s been up and running for three days now, but the first film I got to see was “Out on a Limb” by Northwest director Kevin Heutink. Screened Saturday morning in the cool grayness of Tacoma Art Museum’s lecture room, it wasn’t exactly the epitome of funky festival fun – an audience of ten, a 10-minute delay glitch and a room where the screen light is reflected off the shiny hard floor. Yet the film was a great example of what makes TFF shine: fascinating local stories told skillfully.

Heutink’s story of David Csaky, Seattle’s famous “Squirrelman” who hit national news when he was evicted from the treehouse he’d built for himself on east Lake Union a few years ago, raises more than the obvious issues of how we deal with our homeless population and how they cope with their own situations. Flipping between interviews with reluctantly-impressed neighbors, gawking tourists, sympathetic journalists and Csaky himself, Heutink probes into just why a treehouse touches us so deeply as humans.  From quotes (treehouse guru Pete Nelson’s psychoanalysis of trees as prehistoric security) to unabashedly admiring shots of the house itself to the down-home rawness of the folksy guitar score, Heutink connects the dots between civilization and the human need for nature. Read more »


“Sound South User’s Guide” goes from Kickstarter to physical reality at King’s in Tacoma tomorrow, Orca in Olympia on Tuesday

From an artsy Tacoma idea to a $22,700 Kickstarter project, the “South Sound User’s Guide” is now a flesh-and-blood book (well, paper-and-glue, anyhow) and local supporters are celebrating with launches at Kings Books tomorrow. An Olympia launch will happen Tuesday night at Orca books. The book offers an intimate, locals’-eye perspective to the South Sound, going through its various neighborhoods and locations with tips on eating, recreation, shopping and the arts, accompanied by the pen-and-ink Tolkien-esque illustrations of Tacoma artist and former gallerist Sean Alexander.

Why a tourist guide to the South Sound? Firstly, because there wasn’t one, said editor Ken Miller, the book’s mastermind, back when he was first asking the community for advance financial support on kickstarter.com, the online project fundraising site. It’s also due to the natural beauty of the place, says Ron Swarner in the book’s foreword.

But, he goes on, the real reason is that “there’s a pioneering spirit that draws us all here.” You can see that pioneering spirit in action tomorrow afternoon from 2 p.m. at King’s, as Miller, Alexander and all the local writers who contributed to the book get together with the folks who backed them. The book will be available for claiming (if you backed at that level on Kickstarter) or purchase. Drinks and nibbles will be provided.

As art, the Guide is cute enough you’ll want to buy it just to look at it. Read more »