Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

That Was Easy

February 08, 2010

Herbert Blomstedt and the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Photo: mine 2010

Rest assured, while OWA has been out of commission over last weekend, I have not been hiding under a rock. I was actually out and about at several points over the weekend most notably attending the most recent L.A. Philharmonic performance under the direction of Herbert Blomstedt. He’s not flashy and has neither curly hair nor a twinkle in his eye, but he does know what he’s doing. He can take a program as uninspired as this one, which consisted of Haydn’s Symphony No. 101 and Beethoven’s 7th, and make it exciting. The Haydn was splendid and clear without too much fuss. The Beethoven meanwhile was thoroughly enjoyable if a bit overly rhythmic at the expense of broader lines in the score. But this is quibbling. It was a great, unassuming show without the need for big new ideas.

Alexandra Silber as Julie Jordan in Carousel
Photo: Reprise 2010

Speaking of the tried and true, I also got over to the UCLA campus for Reprise’s closing performances of Carousel. The bare bones staging under Michael Michetti’s direction was decidedly meager looking. This isn’t a bad strategy, particularly in tough economic times, but if you go this route you’ve got to have performances that are better than good. And some of them were. Particularly Alexandra Silber as Julie Jordan, a role she has played to acclaim in London and elsewhere. She was both engaging and believable in a part highly reliant on outmoded cultural mores. Her singing was fantastic as well. The rest of the cast was good but often seemed cramped in the small area left for them at the front of the stage even without scenery or many props. Robert Patteri’s Billy Bigelow was a bit too pretty and worldly for my liking. It really wasn’t too much of a stretch to see why Julie might fall for him here. But in this day and age, Carousel is tough material to pull off with its ghost-story melodrama, and Michetti and Reprise should be congratulated for concocting something as coherent as this production. It certainly could have been a much less pleasant weekend.

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Also liked the Bloomstedt concert, and in exactly the way you mention. In reading Ginell's Casual Friday review on-line(twice the length of the written version on Monday), it seems like he heard a very different performance. Wish the local reviewers would attend more than one performance occasionally to hear the change from the Opening Night to the final performance. Additional time really improves things.
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