REVIEW: Dallas Opera’s ‘La Boheme’

Posted on 19 Mar 2015 at 1:28pm
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‘La Boheme’ survived, and even thrived, with a last-second replacement. (Photo by Karen Almond for Dallas Opera)

The fourth opera in Dallas Opera’s season, Puccini’s timeless tale of tragic love La Boheme, is one of the most popular in the standard repertoire: There’s nary a singer out there who doesn’t know the score from heart. That’s a good thing, since before Wednesday night’s performance, lead tenor Bryan Hymel (who plays Rodolfo) had fallen ill and was replaced by Dimitri Pittas, who apparently arrived in Dallas from New York just hours before curtain.

If there was panic backstage, it wasn’t apparent from the seats of the Winspear, which presented an engaging performance overall.

The four-act opera revolves around four artists in Paris. Rodolfo, a poet, and painter Marcello (portrayed with passion and sensitivity by baritone Jonathan Beyer) struggle to stay warm in their freezing Paris apartment on Christmas Eve. They are joined by their friends, philosopher Colline (fine bass Alexander Vinogradov) and Schaunard (charmingly portrayed by baritone Steven LaBrie). Schaunard the musician has just returned from an odd but well-paying gig and has the cash to treat them to a night of fun.

Most leave for a festive dinner at Café Momus, but Rodolfo stays behind to finish his writing when he meets Mimi (soprano Ana Maria Martinez), a fragile neighbor whose candle has blown out. In classic operatic fashion, they fall instantly in love, yielding three of the most beautiful arias in Italian opera. But as we all know, the course of true love does not run smoothly.

Puccini’s music is iconic, but the weaker singer in the duo is Martinez. Her warbling voice distracted from the gorgeous “ Si. Mi chiamano Mimi,”  whereas Pittas’ “Che gelida manina” and “O soave fanciulla” are first-rate.

After Rodolfo and Mimi join the others at Café Momus, the group enjoys a fine meal until Marcello’s former love, the flamboyant Musetta (in a fine dress from the late costume designer Peter J. Hall), arrives on the scene with her rich older lover. Musetta (very strong DO debut from soprano Davinia Rodriguez) notices Marcello ignoring her, so she decides to serenade strangers about her beauty “Quando me’n vo” to get his attention. She succeeds, and they reunite.

In the beginning of the final act, the dark looming threat of Mimi’s demise is lifted up by a lively duel with breadsticks among the four friends.  Musetta then brings a very ill Mimi to the flat, and everyone scrambles to sell what they can to help pay for Mimi’s medical care. Colline shines in his farewell to his old coat “Vecchia zimarra, senti.” But this story does not end happily, and the slow final curtain adds to the drama.

Conductor Riccardo Frizza and director Peter Kazaras make competent, if not memorable, DO debuts (the stage work especially was listless). The lighting design by Thomas C. Hase was effective, particularly in the final act. It’s not their best work, but this revival of a Dallas Opera production still has the chops as a quintessential night at the opera.

Runs through March 29 at the Winspear Opera House with a simulcast at AT&T Stadium March 21.

— Alicia Chang

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Del Shores will launch all-new show at the Rose Room in April

Posted on 19 Mar 2015 at 10:01am

creditPaulBoulonoptionwaistup300dDel Shores aways remembers his texas roots — it’s why he’s forever coming back to Dallas with his one-man comedy shows. His newest one will launch here (at the Rose Room, natch) on April 17. Called Del Shores: SINgularly Sordid, in it he discusses life post divorce at getting back into date scene in the age of Tinder, Grindr and Scruff, as well as letters from haters and dishy Hollywood stories.

And it won’t be his only trip here. He’ll begin filming A Very Sordid Wedding as soon as he can, which will be shot in and around Dallas and prominently feature the Rose Room.

Tickets to SINgularly Sordid are available here ($10 standing room, $20 seated, $30 VIP).

 

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WATCH: Michael Sam shake it with a funky debut on ‘DWTS’

Posted on 18 Mar 2015 at 5:04pm

PETA MURGATROYD, MICHAEL SAMAthletes often do well on Dancing with the Stars because they are physical beings who know how to control their bodies. But a gay athlete? Well, you knew Michael Sam would be a standout on the 20th season premiere of the show, and he was. Catch that ass during the funky cha-cha he does with Peta Murgatroyd to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. Whoa!

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Andrew Rannells: The gay interview

Posted on 18 Mar 2015 at 8:07am

AndrewRannells3As the out Tony nominee ends his fourth season on Girls, he talks co-stars, sex scenes and what it would take to get him back on Broadway.

Andrew Rannells won’t soon be living down the handjob he gave to a boy in a bathroom. Thanks to Lena Dunham and the other writers turning out sharp social commentary and anecdotal writing for this current installment of HBO’s Girls, now finishing up its fourth season, the theater-turned-TV star didn’t just speed-race his way through a handy — he’s danced, de-clothed and continued to lambast the fogey fashions of Dunham’s Hannah. And god bless him for it.

— Chris Azzopardi

Dallas Voice: So, Andrew, what’s up with Marnie getting all the sexy sex scenes on GirlsAndrew Rannells: I know! She gets to do all sorts of crazy shit this year and poor Elijah just gets an awkward handjob in the bathroom. We’ll see if we can’t fix that.

I like seeing the gender roles being subverted, though. Most people would expect to see the gay guy getting rimmed, not Marnie.  That is true. Lena’s pushing boundaries all over the place!

How did you end up with a bigger role on the show, especially this season?  Well, I was really excited: Last season was the first season that I got to be a full-fledged regular on Girls. They’ve always done such an amazing job of making me feel like a full part of that team, but last year was the first season that I really got to just be devoted strictly to them. In the past, during the first season, I was still doing The Book of Mormon, so with the second season, I only got to do half of it. And then we started The New Normal, and then after The New Normal ended I got to do the back end of the third season. They’ve always been so welcoming, and I’m just thrilled to be a full-time cast member over there.

I mean, literally, I don’t think it was even 20 minutes after they had made the announcement that The New Normal was canceled that I got phone calls — one from [executive producer] Jenni Konner, one from [executive producer] Judd Apatow and one from Lena Dunham — all saying, “Please come back and join us.” Even though they had started prep for their season, they worked me in very quickly. Again, I’m so grateful to them and so touched that they include me. I feel really at home with that group.

Which of the Girls characters would you most likely hang out with in real life?  Lena and I actually hang out a fair amount, and Allison [Williams] and I hang out a fair amount as well. Particularly during this past year, [Allison and I have] kept in very close contact over our hiatus, which is great. Character-wise, I feel like it might be a Marnie situation, I think. I know that she’s a little high-strung, but, particularly now with her new sexual awakening, I feel like she would be a fun girl to hang out with.

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What’s brewing: D&G, Kathy G

Posted on 16 Mar 2015 at 10:19am

dolcegabbanacampaign5Geez, what a weekend of gay drama. (Come to think of it, that’s pretty much every weekend.) TBRU concluded yesterday after causing the Growlr app to implode, but even before that, the gay world was abuzz about two big happenings.

First came word early Friday morning that Kathy Griffin was stepping away from hosting Fashion Police after barely two months on the job. This comes right on the heels of Kelly Osbourne quitting in a huff when she disagreed with a barb lobbed by Giuliana Rancic. Of course, what Giuliana said was tame compared to Joan’s one-liners. It seems like the show is imploding. Maybe it’s time to pull the plug.

Speaking of imploding fashion, gay style mavens Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana — who used to be a couple but now just run a multi-billion-dollar empire — got in hot acqua over the weekend for attacking not just same-sex marriage (they have been on record for disparaging that for years), but the rightness of gay families to raise children. “We oppose gay adoptions,” the Catholic Italians told a European news mag. “The only family is the traditional one.” (They went a lot further, attacking all forms of medically-assisted fertilization.)

Sir Elton John wasted no time shooting back, urging his followers on InstaGram to boycott D&G products — which, let’s face it, will be a challenge for a lot of label-conscious gays. But while I’m not personally a big fan of boycotts, this is one I can passively endorse: Screw these self-hating gays for going out of their way to alienate their base supporters.

Of course, D&G shot back at Sir Elton on Twitter, with Gabbana calling the singer a “fascist.” Hmmm… that’s the Italian calling the kettle Mussolini.

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Donald Fowler’s long-brewing Jack the Ripper musical, ‘Creep,’ will bow in Oct.

Posted on 16 Mar 2015 at 1:35am

Fowler CreepIt’s been almost exactly five years since out Dallas actor Donald Fowler went behind the scenes to share a passion of his with audiences: Creating an original musical. In March 2010, Fowler debuted an in-the-works musical, Creep, at the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival. I thought it showed great promise at the time, and over the years, I’ve asked Donald if there are any developments I can report. “Soon… hopefully” was his most frequent response.

Well, I don’t think five years is “soon,” but better late than never. Just as this year’s OOTL fest ended yesterday, came word that a revamped version of Creep  — a fantasia about Jack the Ripper, full of foggy Victorian London streets and introspective ballads (the subtitle is The Very , Very Sad and Unfortunately True and Completely Fabricated Tale of Jack the Ripper) — would be fully produced … the season opener, in fact, of WaterTower Theatre’s 2015-16 season. I was at an announcement party Sunday night where Fowler’s team performed two of the new numbers for the show. And given the arc — Fowler wrote the book, music and lyrics starting more than 10 years ago — it’s truly been borne of blood … and expect plenty of blood when it debuts Oct. 5, following a gala preview on Oct. 4. Until then, a fundraising group, called the 2015 Producers’ Circle, has been established to raise a minimum of $75,000 to supplement the cost of mounting a new production. Already about $25,000 has been raised.

WTT will announce its complete season on May 26.

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Cocktail Friday: Irish Champagne Cocktail

Posted on 13 Mar 2015 at 1:17pm

IMG_9898St. Patrick’s Day is Tuesday, so to get you in the spirit of Ireland, we reproduced this whiskey-based potable, concocted recently at Smoke for a whiskey-tasting. And of course, it should be Irish whiskey.

Making it: Combine Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, yellow chartreuse and ginger liqueur with a dash of Peychaud’s Bitters. Shake and pour into a champagne flute. Add champagne. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

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Mmmmmm…. Pi

Posted on 13 Mar 2015 at 8:20am

497978399450752495Saturday is all about pi  … not the delicious fruity treat, but the mathematical symbol that expresses the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter. As you may recall from geometry class, the shorthand is 3.14, but the number in fact is infinite, never repeating. And its first 10 digits are 3.141592653 — or 3.14.15, 09:26:53. That happens twice on Saturday: at 9:26 and 53 seconds on March 14, 2015, a.m. and p.m. So how should you celebrate? I suggest with a pieces of pie … and this time I do mean the fruity treat. Or watch the awesome film Life of Pi.

Math nerds, foodies and movie fans unite!

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Gay director Richard Glatzer dead

Posted on 12 Mar 2015 at 5:47pm

Richard Glatzer, the former gay adult filmmaker and partner and husband of Wash Westmoreland who co-directed Julianne Moore in her Oscar-winning role in Still Alice, died yesterday. He was 63. Moore mentioned both in her acceptance speech. We ran an interview with Westmoreland about Glatzer a few months ago, which you can read here.

Glatzer was diagnosed in ALS a few years ago, and the disease progressed quickly. Most people with ALS — also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease — die within a few year years. An exception is physicist Stephen Hawking, who has survived more than 40 with the disease. Interestingly, the biopic about Hawking, The Theory of Everything, won Eddie Redmayne an Oscar for best actor the same night Moore took best actress.

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REVIEW: ‘Bull’

Posted on 12 Mar 2015 at 8:53am
Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Alex Ross, Jeremy Schwartz with Natalie Young, Ian Ferguson (Photo by Karen Almond)

Thomas (Ian Ferguson), a schlubby British salesman, fidgets nervously in a stark room. Across from him, Isobel (Natalie Young) sits coolly, dressed elegantly and moving with the stealth of a panther. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” she asks Thomas. He thought this was his good suit. Maybe she’s screwing with him. Then Tony (Alex Ross) walks in. “Why didn’t you wear your good suit?” he asks. And from there, the dominoes fall.

Bull, a play by Cock playwright Mike Bartlett, takes its name in equal measure from the bullshit that yuppie business types toss around each other and the bullying that takes place of Thomas, unrelentingly, for an hour. These aren’t playground taunts and gimme-your-milk-money strong-arm tactics; they are acts of outright warfare where words are weapons and victory requires scorching the earth of your adversary. It’s medieval, primal … and completely contemporary.

It’s also gimmicky, though not necessarily in a bad way. It’s easy to make people squirm uncomfortably while watching someone, if not self-destruct, then at least contribute to his own demise through poor decision-making. Just have the characters be unrelenting, the protagonist (? — Thomas is hardly a hero) do the exact wrong thing at each moment. It’s patent audience manipulation, but it does serve a purpose: Just how far will human nature take us? Does compassion ever kick in?

But an even better point raised by this production, directed by Christie Vela and performed through the weekend at the Wyly courtesy Second Thought Theatre, is whether Thomas deserves our sympathies. Awful as it is to say, Thomas projects his weaknesses and allows himself to be victimized by them. You wanna slap him and yell, “Stop being a doormat!” But maybe he can’t help it — maybe he is destined to be forever walked upon. After a while, his whiny lack of survival techniques begins to make you see the point advanced Isobel, Tony and later their bloviating boss Carter (Jeremy Schwartz): If you can’t swim with the sharks, you’d better get out of the water or relent to a life as chum.

Of course, as much of a weakling as Thomas is, the cruel mindgames Tony and Isobel relentlessly inflict upon him — from a homoerotic exercise calculated to emasculate him to bitchy snipes that burrow under his skin — take them to the point where they reject their own humanity. You begin to see this as some elaborate twist on the TV show The Apprentice (Bartlett even mentions the show, which, I wouldn’t be surprised, was his inspiration for writing the play). What they do becomes a form of torture. They are cold-blooded.

Still, the play is better than Mamet’s equally divisive and outrageous Oleanna, in part because the issues seem more present. And the fact the cast delivers all the animus with such steely-eyed makes it all the more shocking. It’s not the kind on play to see on a date, but do it. What, are you afraid you little pussy? Huh … punk?!

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