Friday, June 22, 2018
Stage

Review: Florida Orchestra and Simone Porter thrill with Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto

TAMPA — There is no warmup, no throat clearing, in Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. The orchestra plays a measure and a half of articulated chords, and the violinist dives right into the heart of things.

As Simone Porter performed it Friday night with the Florida Orchestra at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa, her resolve was unmistakable. I will tell you my story, she seemed to say. It will be a story both heroic and sad, noble and poignant. And all this, through the Romantic expressiveness of her playing, she made clear in just the first musical sentences.

It was a thrilling performance. Porter displayed an emotional depth that might seem surprising in someone so young. (She is 19, and from Seattle.) None of it was forced or mannered, just a channeling of the passionate possibilities of Mendelssohn's music.

Her technique, too, was something to behold. Besides the shaping of musical phrases, the violinist must navigate bravura passages of rapid fingering, double stops and exquisite ornamentation. The second movement, which is slightly slower, requires a pure and inviting tone that Porter translated into keening desire.

The start of the third movement is just as arresting as the first, with violin and flute taking off together in quick and fanciful flight. It can leave you breathless. What came through, however, was not difficulty, just unfettered joy. The audience enthusiastically and unanimously leapt to its feet at the end.

Shostakovich's Ninth Symphony composed the second half of the program. Written in the summer of 1945, between the Allied victory in Europe and the final capitulation of Japan, it too is full of sweeping emotion. Of course, there is a rollicking sense of victory at the beginning, full of movement and playfulness. At one point, a full battery of brass provides a martial mien.

But there also is a haunting clarinet duet in the sad waltz of the second movement, along with deep and ominous strings. And after a quick and sparkling scherzo, the music returns to a mood bleak as death. It's as if the scars of war cannot be forgotten no matter the outcome.

Shostakovich, who kept his artistic independence despite the strictures of Soviet control, is a master of irony. And the final movement, a mixture of merriment and danse macabre, is unsettling in its ambiguity. Different listeners hear different messages. My interpretation is that even in war's victory, the fate of man remains unresolved.

It's a complex work, and guest conductor Josep Caballé Domenech elucidated it capably.

Haydn's Symphony No. 96, which began the evening, was a disappointment — at least to my ear. We've had a generation of fresh interpretations of Haydn, the 18th century master of form, contrast and surprise. This was not one of them. The introduction was ponderous, not prescient; the ritards at the end of phrases were precious instead of profound. And the minuet of the third movement was one for heavy feet.

Comments
On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

On stage this week: Freefall Theatre’s ‘The Musical of Musicals,’ Jay Pharoah

SENDUP: MUSICAL OF MUSICALSFive composers, a talented cast, choreography by Cheryl Lee and music directed by Michael Raabe — that’s Freefall Theatre’s recipe for a laugh-filled, season-ending summer musical, appropriately titled The Musical of Musica...
Published: 06/20/18
Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

Jobsite’s ‘Dancing at Lughnasa’ should be more gripping than it is

TAMPA — The virtues of Dancing at Lughnasa, with which Jobsite Theater closes its season, are many. This drama by the celebrated Brian Friel opened in 1990 to much acclaim. It captures a family’s joys and sadnesses, and the quickness with which one s...
Published: 06/19/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/15/18
Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

Irish boxer brings his dream to St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — In his vision for this weekend, Connor Coyle is standing in the ring at the Coliseum, and the referee is raising his gloved fist.He’s got a National Boxing Association middleweight championship belt around his waist, the first of sev...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

Why this ballet dancer is skipping college in favor of her own St. Petersburg Ballet Conservatory

GULFPORT — Brianna Melton is as serious a ballet student as they come.By her junior year at St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, she had already spent four summers training with ballet companies across the country and had narrow...
Published: 06/14/18
What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

What’s on stage: The Illusionists, ‘Dancing at Lughnasa,’ G. David Howard

OPENING: DANCING AT LUGHNASAIrish playwright Brian Friel, who died in 2015 at 86, won’t be traveling anymore. But I’ll bet he packed a tidy suitcase. Dancing at Lughnasa, Jobsite Theater’s season closer, manages to address a lot of issues: race, reli...
Published: 06/13/18
Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall tees up comedy, romance and Kristin Chenoweth for 2018-19 Broadway season

Ruth Eckerd Hall rolls out a new lineup of musicals for its 2018-19 season, a mix of comedy, favorite musicals and romance."For the last 35 years, Broadway has always been a staple at Ruth Eckerd Hall," chief executive officer Zev Buffman said in a p...
Published: 06/12/18
A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

A tense night at the Tony Awards ends in euphoria for Largo doctor Jeffrey Grove

Dr. Jeffrey Grove sat three-quarters of the way back from the stage at Radio City Music Hall, waiting for his moment. The Largo physician made the trip with family to New York for Sunday’s Tony Awards, where he hoped to see his investment in O...
Published: 06/11/18
Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

Neal Boyd, ‘America’s Got Talent’ winner, dies at 42

SIKESTON, Mo. — Neal Boyd, an opera singer who won America’s Got Talent and dabbled in Missouri politics, has died. Scott County Coroner Scott Amick says Boyd died around 6 p.m. Sunday at his mother’s house in Sikeston. He was 42. Amick says Boyd had...
Published: 06/11/18
Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Parkland drama teens bring down the house with stirring performance at Tony Awards

Members of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s drama team stole the show at the 72nd Annual Tony Awards Sunday night.The performance brought the crowd— many of whom were wiping tears from their eyes— to its collective feet at the Radio City Music ...
Published: 06/11/18