Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Music News, Concert Reviews

'Of Mice and Men' opera is pure Americana

SARASOTA — It's a man's world. In Carlisle Floyd's Of Mice and Men, all the characters are men, except for one, and she doesn't have a name, but is simply called Curley's Wife.

Adapted from the John Steinbeck novel and play, Floyd's opera is true to that grim tale from the American West, full of the aching loneliness of men with no place to call home, or even much reason to live, trundling from one dead-end Depression era ranch job to the next.

Tenor Michael Hendrick and baritone Sean Anderson star as Lennie Small and George Milton, respectively, in the Sarasota Opera production that opened Saturday night, and it's hard to imagine these iconic outcasts portrayed any better. When they yearn for their own "small, shingled house on two acres of land," it expresses an essential American dream in deeply moving fashion.

The two give sensitive expression to male bonding, with Anderson finding unexpected vulnerability in the blustery George. As the hulking Lennie, Hendrick combines child-like tenderness and scary violence in superbly nuanced singing.

Soprano Chelsea Basler plays the aforementioned woman without a name, though she has a substantial role as the ranch boss' unsatisfied wife with dreams of her own of becoming a movie star, avidly leaning into the coloratura ornamentation that makes her such a vocal contrast to the rest of the manly cast.

In smaller parts, Matthew Hanscom shines as the sympathetic Slim, who laments that "ranch hands die alone." Andrew Gangestad's Candy delivers a powerful condemnation of Curley's Wife. Jon Jurgens is suitably despicable as the wife-beating Curley. A well-behaved dog named Pede inevitably steals his scene in the bunkhouse.

Floyd's score — he also wrote the libretto — is a prime specimen of musical Americana in the spacious Copland style, and the orchestral interludes contain evocative suggestions of Hollywood soundtracks for classic Westerns like The Searchers or High Noon. There are some dissonant strings reminiscent of the Bernard Herrmann score for Psycho. The homespun harmonica at the end is a rare misstep.

With Of Mice and Men, conductor David Neely and director Michael Unger have put on their third American classic for Sarasota Opera, after Vanessa last year and The Crucible in 2011. They make a good tandem, as all three productions have been highlights of their seasons.

Strangely, given such success, the company's 2013-14 schedule doesn't have an American work. Instead it includes Die Fledermaus and The Little Sweep, a youth opera by Benjamin Britten, in the fall; and then two Verdi works — Il Trovatore and JerusalemThe Barber of Seville and a foray into Wagner with The Flying Dutchman in the winter.

Floyd, 86, looking natty in a double-breasted blazer, took a bow after Saturday's performance of Of Mice and Men. Trivia note: Anton Coppola, longtime music director of Opera Tampa, now retired, conducted the 1970 premiere of the opera in Seattle.

Master Chorale in Miami

Singers from the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay board a chartered bus this morning bound for Miami, where they are singing in three performances of Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony with the Cleveland Orchestra. It's a feather in the cap of artistic director James K. Bass and the chorus, who were invited (and are being paid) to perform by the legendary orchestra as part of its winter residency at the Adrienne Arsht Center. About 120 singers from the Master Chorale join about 80 from the Master Chorale of South Florida for the Beethoven opus in concerts Thursday, Friday and Saturday, conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero. The Master Chorale also is singing a pre-performance program of a cappella works by Mendelssohn, Rheinberger, Rachmaninoff and Eric Whitacre Friday and Saturday. Information: arshtcenter.org.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

Comments
Fleetwood Mac coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Fleetwood Mac coming to Amalie Arena in Tampa

Before Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham came to Ruth Eckerd Hall last fall, Buckingham said Fleetwood Mac was mapping out a tour for 2018 and beyond. And he fully expected to be a part of it."Fleetwood Mac is absolutely a dysfunctional family, ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

This week’s best concerts: Flo Rida, Queens of the Stone Age, Bay 2 Beach Festival and more

ROCK ROYALTY: Queens of the Stone AgeWhen Queens of the Stone Age singer Josh Homme got in trouble recently for kicking a photographer at a show, local fans might have seen it coming. During a gig here in 2014, a fan got up on stage and tried to gree...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Review: Yanni returns to ‘Acropolis’ for a passionate night at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

Review: Yanni returns to ‘Acropolis’ for a passionate night at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater

I have to confess: I was not prepared to see Yanni walk on stage Tuesday night at Ruth Eckerd Hall.I mean, of course I knew he would be there. It was a Yanni concert, after all. Can't throw a Yanni concert without Yanni.But if you've seen photos of Y...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Hernando Symphony Orchestra ends season with ‘Kaleidoscope’ concert

Hernando Symphony Orchestra ends season with ‘Kaleidoscope’ concert

BROOKSVILLE — Some are full of bluster and bravado, while others are sentimental and romantic.And when the Hernando Symphony Orchestra closes out its season this weekend with its Kaleidoscope concert, audiences will witness the wide range of talents ...
Published: 04/24/18
SoundBytes: Tracy Morgan, Nipsey Hussle, Jimmie Vaughan and more

SoundBytes: Tracy Morgan, Nipsey Hussle, Jimmie Vaughan and more

— Tracy Morgan is coming to the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. He'll perform there on Nov. 2. Tickets are $49.50 and up. Click here.— Former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley is returning to the Capitol Theatre on Nov. 9. Tickets are $35 and up....
Published: 04/23/18
Janelle Monae coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Janelle Monae coming to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg

Janelle Monae's Dirty Computer, which drops this Friday, is one of most music watchers' most anticipated albums of 2018.Looks like the R&B star will follow it with one of the year's most anticipated tours.Monae's Dirty Computer Tour will take her to ...
Published: 04/23/18
J Balvin coming to the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

J Balvin coming to the USF Sun Dome in Tampa

J Balvin just had himself a mighty fine Coachella.On Saturday, he popped out on stage with Beyonce to perform their hit single Mi Gente. And on Sunday, he showed up for Cardi B's set to perform I Like It with Bad Bunny.Pretty soon, Tampa can get a ta...
Published: 04/23/18
Janet Jackson coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

Janet Jackson coming to the MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre in Tampa

A mere three years after her last trip to Tampa, Janet Jackson is on her way back.The pop icon announced a new slate of tour dates for her State of the World Tour, which has been dormant since December, and Tampa's one two Florida cities (the other i...
Published: 04/23/18
Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks addiction, ditching the band’s ‘Christian’ label, moving back to St. Pete and more

Underoath’s Spencer Chamberlain talks addiction, ditching the band’s ‘Christian’ label, moving back to St. Pete and more

HGTV fanatic that he is, Spencer Chamberlain sees a metaphor for his band in the ever-evolving St. Petersburg skyline."When you go downtown and you look at the ONE, that used to be a dirt parking lot," said the singer, referring to a 41-story condo t...
Published: 04/23/18
Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

Review: Kenny Chesney goes big all night in Trip Around the Sun Tour opener at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium

You could drop all kinds of stats trying to size up Kenny Chesney's Trip Around the Sun Tour, which launched its 2018 run at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium Saturday night.There's the end zone-swallowing stage, 180 tons thick and half a skyscraper high...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18