CD review: Jason Mraz, ‘Yes!’

Editor’s note: We’ll have an interview with Jason Mraz in the paper next week, but before then we thought we’d share this review of his latest album, which he’ll be in Dallas in support of Sept. 2 and 3. 

MRAZHere to make you feel better about your life: Jason Mraz, the Oprah of white-boy balladry. He’s got your “remedy,” and it’s called Yes!, an album of life-affirming mantras expressed simply by song name: “Rise, “You Can Rely On Me,” “Shine,” and so on. It’s true, Mraz is Mraz-ing us with his lovey-dovies, which is just what he’s been doing since he dropped the reggae and wordplay.

When “Lucky” and “I’m Yours” sent him and his fedora into superstardom, he wasn’t about to go back to his scrappy hipster ways (though didn’t you just love him then?). Because if anyone can sell you the warm and fuzzies, it’s the “geek in pink” — the same hopeless romantic who gives them to you when you’re slow dancing at a wedding. “Love Someone” fits that sensitive-guy-with-a-guitar role, but so does most of the album: “Best Friend” is another ode to a confidante, “3 Things” is self-help in list form and “Out of My Hands” imparts a let-it-go moral.

What’s most telling about his career at this juncture is that he’s covering a Boyz II Men song (his a cappella take on “It’s Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” is actually quite lovely). For maximum swoon effect, the adult-contemporary fluff of Yes! — recorded with girl group Raining Jane, who will be Mraz’s special guests at his Dallas concerts Sept. 2 and 3 — is full of honeyed acoustics and sentiments as subtle as one of those inspirational chain emails you get from your grandma.  Yeah, that. (2.5 stars)

— Chris Azzopardi

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DMA begins sale of David Sedaris tickets

SedarisYou know how arts organizations are always encouraging you to become a season subscriber for all the great benefits? Well, here’s a prime example of why it really does pay to do that.

Starting right now, the Dallas Museum of Art has on sale tickets to hear David Sedaris talk pretty via its Arts & Letters Live series at the Winspear Opera House on Nov. 11. Tickets don’t go on sale to the general public until Aug. 12. Now, you may think, “That’s only two weeks; the Winspear holds 2,300 people. I can wait.” But you’d probably be wrong. Or at least disadvantaged.

I know from experience how quickly Sedaris’ readings sell, and how hard tickets can be to come by. You really will benefit getting them early, and you can join for as little as $100 (which comes with free parking at the museum and is 80 percent tax deductible). Click the link or call 214-922-1247 to join and get the code. Tickets start at $25.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Tori Amos: The gay interview

Tori1“Lighting, sweetie, lighting!” is Tori Amos’ theatrical retort to my compliment about how she’s still looking as radiant as she did at the launch of her career more than three decades ago. Now 50, and with her acclaimed 14th album, Unrepentant Geraldines, she’s facing age head-on. Candor isn’t unusual for the composer; from rape to religion and even her MILF status, she’s approached a bevy of topics too controversial for most artists.

That same directness extended to our recent conversation, prior to her appearance in Dallas on July 29 at the Winspear Opera House in support of the album, during which Amos chatted with our Chris Azzopardi about the LGBT influence on “Promise,” a duet with her daughter; being the muse for the big Frozen ballad; and the gay fans who share their “traumatic experiences” with her.

Dallas Voice:  How did your last several projects — Midwinter Graces, Night of Hunters and Gold Dust — reenergize the contemporary songwriting heard on Unrepentant GeraldinesAmos: All of them fit into giving me fresh perspective. Starting with Midwinter Graces, I was thrown into the deep end, studying carols from the last few hundred years and just immersing myself in a different genre. It’s almost as if it became a baton hand-off, from Midwinter Graces to Night of Hunters and Gold Dust, back and forth with The Light Princess [a musical written by Amos], which was floating between all these projects, because she’s been in development for five years. All of them were giving inspiration to the other. Each one was giving some kind of spark.

The spark linking all of those works is very evident.  They’re very interconnected, and The Light Princess cast recording — I’m producing that for Mercury Universal — will be out globally in early 2015, and we’re making the record on the tour, so [Unrepentant Geraldines] will be affecting that. They all gift each other something. I don’t always know what it is when it’s happening; you just get energy from one that propels another.

There is a freshness, a new perspective [on the new CD] that I was able to bring to contemporary writing because of all these other projects that had shown me different possibilities in structure and different possibilities in line. In that way, I feel like I’ve been rejuvenated by these other projects. When these songs were coming, they were coming not for me to make a record; they were just coming so that I could process what I was going through. And I didn’t share them with anybody. They were for my own private notebook.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Opera announces 6-show season

KM Stairs

Kevin Moriarty, DTC’s artistic director, will cross Flora Street to direct the season opener for the Dallas Opera, ‘The Marriage of Figaro.’

After several seasons of belt-tightening that reduced the number of fully staged operas from the usual five or six to three and then four, the 2014–15 season roars back with six productions — five classics of the canon and a world premiere for its 58th year.

The season, labeled Heights of Passion, launches (as usual) in October with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro — conducted by the DO’s new music director, Emmauel Villaume and directed by Dallas Theater Center artistic director Kevin Moriarty — followed by Richard Strauss’ Salome. The season continues the following spring in rapid succession with the remaining four productions:  Catalani’s La Wally (Act IV) on a double bill with the world premiere one-act opera Everest by composer Joby Talbot and librettist Gene Scheer, then the ever-popular La Boheme by Puccini and concluding with Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta.

Moriarty returns to opera with Figaro, having helmed the one-act The Lighthouse in a limited run in March 2012. Salome will be directed by lesbian stage director Francesca Zambello, whom we profiled here in 2010. Villaume will team with gay German stage director Christian Rath for the final production of the season, the rarely-seen Tchaikovsky piece Iolanta.

Here’s the full lineup:

The Marriage of Figaro, Oct. 24, 26 (matinee), 29, Nov. 1, 7 and 9 (matinee).

Salome, Oct. 30, Nov. 2 (matinee), 5, 8 and 16.

La Wally (Act IV) and Everest, Jan. 30, Feb. 1 (matinee), 4, and 7, 2015.

La Boheme, March 13, 15 (matinee), 18, 21, 27 and 29 (matinee).

Iolanta, April 10, 12 (matinee), 15 and 18.

New company subscribers can purchase subscriptions starting June 1; packages for all six productions start at $76. Single tickets will go on sale around July, and will start at $19. All performances will be at the Winspear Opera House. Learn more at DallasOpera.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: Joan Rivers at the Winspear

AWJ Joan HLR

“It’s great to put a face to a voice,” Joan Rivers told me when I met her after her show last night at the Winspear (I’m pictured, from left, with her her and Voice contributor Howard Lewis Russell). “Phone interviews are hard, but you were a good one.”

Even if she hadn’t paid me a compliment, it would have been easy to say nice things about Joan’s 65-minute act, where she stays in constant motion and talks even faster. (After the set was over, Howard and I were exhausted from laughing; only then did we realize Joan never so much as took a sip of water the entire time.) At 79, she’s an unstoppable force, going to far as to do a sight gag involving climbing on top of a piano — what septuagenarians do you know that still do physical comedy?!?!

But that’s Rivers, who famously never slows down — not in her career, and not onstage. The jokes were more rapid-fire than a sub-machine gun: Some induced groans from audience members uncomfortable with jokes about pedophilia (read: Michael Jackson) and how Chaz Bono needed liposuction more than a new penis. But, as Joan says, if you don’t get some walkouts, you’re not doing your job right.

Of course, she embraced “my gays” — her shout-out to them (“Where are you?”) resulted in a roar and nearly the entire front two rows standing up and hollering. “I love my gays — my one great disappointment is my grandson is not gay,” she joked. “Who else is going to say to me, ‘Really, you knew Judy Garland?!’” Still, she said, gays don’t like two kinds of jokes: Those that poke fun at Princess Di and at Barbra Streisand. She did jokes about both.

And she was right: The gays were out in force. The line at the men’s room before the show looped around the lobby. “Why is the line here longer than at the ladies’ room?” wondered one man aloud. “Because,” I said, “Joan Rivers has turned the Winspear into Dallas’ largest floating gay bar.” “Oh, right,” he agreed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Overtures: Notes on the classical scene

Van Cliburn - pianist  1960Gregory Sullivan Isaacs and I have prepared this rundown of the upcoming month in classical music news.

The biggest news in local classical music is, of course, international news: The death this week of gay maestro Van Cliburn. More than even his virtuosity on the piano, his sponsorship of the Cliburn competition and performance series made him not just a force for nurturing creativity, but a magnificent asset to local culture. His impact, and his loss, cannot be overstated.

You might, then, choose to honor him by checking out one of these who benefited from his largesse. Yeol Eum Son will perform a piano recital on March 12 under the Cliburn at the Bass banner. She took the Cliburn competition 2009 silver medal and second prize in the recent Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow. Many critics call her one of the best pianists alive. Her program has lots of fireworks and Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Show at 7 :30 p.m.

The Soundings series at the Nasher is always fascinating. On March 8, the program features two cellists, one surprisingly doubling on a piccolo, and a pianist who also plays the harpsichord. No hint on what they will play, but history says that it should be excellent. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

Chamber music fans have two concerts. On March 10, in the new City Performance Hall, Chamber Music International presents pianist Chih-Yi Chen and violinist Clara-Jumi Kang in sonatas by Beethoven and Mozart and what they call  “showpieces TBA.” (Curtain at 7:30 p.m.) On March 11, Dallas Chamber Music brings the outstanding Artemis String Quartet to SMU’s Caruth Auditorium at 8 p.m. In the 1990s, they won all the major competitions and their appearance should draw a full house.

Symphonic music is surprisingly scarce this month. The Dallas Symphony continues its performances of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony tonight and tomorrow at 8 p.m. and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Meyerson. Musical director Jaap van Zweden shines in these sprawling works so this should be a moving experience.

Music director Miguel Harth-Bedoya leads the Fort Worth Symphony in the popular Sibelius Second Symphony March 15–17. If he minds his manners and doesn’t blow your ears out, it should be a fine performance. The young violinist Stefan Jackiw joins him playing a warhorse. Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy. All performances are at Bass Hall.

Looking ahead to April, get your tickets for Puccini’s Turandot, presented in all its splendor at the Winspear Opera House by the Dallas Opera. It is doubtful that there is anyone who hasn’t heard the big aria, “Nessun Dorma,” sung by everyone  from Aretha Franklin to reality TV competitors. Out baritone Jonathan Beyer takes on the role of Ping. (Look for an interview with him in an upcoming issue of Dallas Voice.) Performance are April 5, 7, 10, 13, 19 and 21. Not to be missed.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

For ‘Holidaze’ creator Neil Goldberg, life is but a Cirque Dream

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, Neil Goldberg was incredibly famous in corporate America … and virtually unknown to the public at large. He wasn’t a CEO or banker or lawyer; he specialized in parties. Huge, lavish soirees that were common … at least until the Dot-Com bubble burst and belt-tightening became the order of the day.

Goldberg still stages huge events for private clients, but for more than a decade he has become more famous as the man behind Cirque Dreams, a theatrical enterprise that puts on lavish spectacles in shows across the globe. His signature Christmas show, Holidaze, plays at the Winspear through Sunday.

The journey from party planner to impresario isn’t such a big one — especially not considering where he started. Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish family, Goldberg stood out from an early age. Rather than showing an interest in becoming a physician or businessman like his brothers, Neil was the gay one who wanted to be a scenic designer. He did that for years, from window designs to stage productions. A theatrical spirit is in his blood.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

The most important thing you need to know this weekend is that there are only a few chances left to see On the Eve, and all shows are currently sold out. So if you can’t get on the waiting list, look for a reprise of this show next year. In other theater news, there are still numerous holiday-themed plays to choose from (A Christmas Carol, It’s a Wonderful Life, Mother Goose, Bur-Less-Q Nutcracker, Cirque Dreams: Holidaze opening Tuesday at the Winspear), as well as a real Nutcracker over in Fort Worth.

The Turtle Creek Chorale continues its concert season, with another performance of Comfort & Joy in McKinney and the new show, Naughty & Nice, opening Thursday at the new City Performance Hall. You can also check out the CPH earlier, with the Women’s Chorus of Dallas doing their holiday show, Believe, there on Saturday.

On Wednesday, the Cathedral of Hope gets a jump-start on Christmas as well with their “Travelers’ Silent Night,” a worship service for congregants who won’t be in town on Dec. 24.

And of course there’s sad news, as well: Monica Greene is no longer owner of her eponymous restaurant at the ilume, which seems to be shuttered for the time being.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Come see me at the Winspear tonight for ‘Jekyll & Hyde’

What, exactly, is gay about Jekyll & Hyde? You can find out tonight at 7 p.m. I’m continuing my chat series at Hamon Hall inside the Winspear prior to tonight’s performance of the show. It’s only about 15 minutes, and I talk about the show from a queer perspective. Best of all: You get a complimentary glass of wine and the best parking by arriving early! (You can come to the chat even if you don’t have a ticket for the show, though you can always get one and stay.) See you there!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

BREAKING NEWS: Lill stepping down from Arts District post

Veletta Forsythe Lill, the former Dallas City Council Member who since 2009 has been the executive director of the Downtown Arts District, spearheading development there since the opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, is stepping down, effective Nov. 1.

The move was timed in part because the City Performance Hall, which has spent the last week celebrating a week-long opening gala, was the last piece in the puzzle for the Arts District.

“I have spent 15 years on the frontlines of change. With the final opening celebrations this fall and a blueprint for the future of commercial development I believe the time is right to pass the torch to a new generation.”

Among her accomplishments was lobbying for rules that would allow food trucks in the Arts District, making it a more desirable location not just during evening performances but during the day and weekends.

Lill, a long-time friend of the gay community (she’s pictured here posing for the NOH8 campaign opposing Prop 8′s anti-gay movement in California), Lill served on City Council  for eight years.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones