Sym­phony per­for­mance a land­mark of sorts

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - STAGE - By Jon W. Sparks Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

Robert Moody will lead the Mem­phis Sym­phony Or­ches­tra this week­end for its Mas­ter­works con­certs, and it’s some­what of a mile­stone: “This is my fi­nal time to come with the ti­tle ‘guest con­duc­tor.’”

It’s not so much the end of an era as a pre­lude to a new one. The mae­stro as­sumes the du­ties of prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor start­ing next sea­son as MSO mu­sic di­rec­tor Mei-ann Chen fin­ishes her ten­ure here this sea­son.

Moody has been a fre­quent guest at the podium of the MSO since 2006. He’s look­ing for­ward to his per­ma­nent du­ties as mae­stro next fall, but for now, he’s rel­ish­ing the two con­certs com­ing up this week­end, which in­clude three stan­dards — Ravel’s “Bolero,” Bern­stein’s Sym­phonic Dances from “West Side Story,” Tchaikovsky’s “Romeo and Juliet” — as well as Bates’ “Desert Trans­port.”

Ma­son Bates may not be the most fa­mil­iar name, but he was re­cently named com­poser-in­res­i­dence of the Kennedy Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts and is said to be the se­cond-most-per­formed liv­ing com­poser in the United States af­ter John Adams. He also has a friend­ship with Moody that fig­ures into “Desert Trans­port.”

“It’s one of my com­mis­sions,” Moody says. “Ma­son and I were of­fered a pri­vate he­li­copter ride across the state of Ari­zona, and the piece came out of that.” The work starts with the or­ches­tra mak­ing the sounds of a he­li­copter’s blades be­gin­ning to turn. You even­tu­ally hear it ris­ing up and mu­si­cally vis­it­ing var­i­ous places. Wo­ven into the piece is a record­ing of a Pima tribal song that Bates got per­mis­sion to use, and it gives a mys­ti­cal el­e­ment to the com­po­si­tion. Moody premiered the piece in 2011 with the Ari­zona Mu­sic Fes­ti­val Or­ches­tra.

As it hap­pens, “Bolero” was part of the first con­cert per­formed by the MSO at the Cannon Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, in part for its pop­u­lar­ity and in part to show off the hall’s abil­ity to han­dle very quiet sounds as well as thun­der­ous blasts. “‘Bolero’ is the pin­na­cle of pulling out all the stops,” Moody says, “and show­cas­ing the or­ches­tra mov­ing from in­stru­ment to in­stru­ment with the same theme. Some say it was a bet Ravel took to see if he could do one theme for 16 min­utes with the in­ces­sant, se­duc­tive rhythms of the per­cus­sion that never stops. It’s such a good, sul­try, sexy piece.”

Bern­stein’s Sym­phonic Dances com­prise some of the most im­por­tant mu­sic of the 20th cen­tury, Moody says. “He gives us a tone poem, what Richard Strauss did with the ‘Rosenkava­lier’ suite. We hear great mu­sic and themes we know and are of our cul­ture per­formed in such a vir­tu­osic way.”

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is a bril­liant over­ture fan­tasy that was never fully fleshed out with an opera,” Moody says. “So it’s a tone poem as well, telling a story with­out words. In my score, I’ve pen­ciled in from be­gin­ning to end where I think events from Shake­speare’s story hap­pen, whether the du­els or love scenes or mar­riage or their deaths.”

7:30 p.m. Satur­day at The Cannon Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts, 255 N. Main St., and 2:30 p.m. Sun­day at the Ger­man­town Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, 1801 Ex­eter Road. Tick­ets for Cannon Cen­ter: $15$85, stu­dents $5 ; for GPAC: $50, stu­dents $5 (GPAC). Info: mem­phissym­phony.org and 901-537-2525.

GET­TING UN­DER THE SKIN

Voices of the South is pre­sent­ing the re­gional pre­miere of a ter­rific work by Louisville play­wright Diana Grisanti. “River City” takes on themes of race, com­mu­nity and fam­ily with vigor and clar­ity.

The story starts with Mary, a mixed-race new­ly­wed ex­pect­ing a child with her Latino boyfriend, Javier. Her father has just died, and she’s go­ing over the very few things he left be­hind, caus­ing her to re­al­ize how lit­tle she knew of him. This be­gins a jour­ney to find out more about him, and through some deftly staged time travel, we get a glimpse of his time be­ing raised as an or­phan at a Catholic school and the things that shaped his life.

The cast does a su­perb job of giv­ing the story nu­ance and force. Phil Dar­ius Wal­lace is, as al­ways, elec­tri­fy­ing to watch. As Mary, Noby Ed­wards is spot-on as a woman try­ing to jug­gle an am­bi­tious hus­band who wants to move, an im­pend­ing fam­ily and her in­sa­tiable need to find out more about her fam­ily. An­nie Fr­eres is glo­ri­ous as a shrewd nun and later as Mary’s mother. Di­rec­tor Alice Berry’s as­sured hand pro­vides a pow­er­ful ex­pe­ri­ence in the in­ti­mate Theatresouth space.

Through Feb. 28 at Theatresouth, 1000 S. Cooper. Show­times: 8 p.m. Fri­days and In­com­ing prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor Robert Moody leads the Mem­phis Sym­phony Or­ches­tra in this week­end’s First Ten­nessee Mas­ter­works.

Satur­days, 4 p.m. Sun­days. Tick­ets: $17$23. Info: 901-726-0800 and voic­e­soft­he­south.org.

A LIFE OF DIS­AP­POINT­MENT

With “Moth­ers and Sons,” Theatre Mem­phis puts an­other thought­ful work on its Next Stage, where it of­ten takes on se­ri­ous, well-crafted plays.

This one, by pro­lific play­wright Ter­rence Mcnally, looks at grief. Katharine, sour on life, shows up at the posh Man­hat­tan apart­ment of her late son’s for­mer lover, Cal. Katharine’s son died years be­fore of com­pli­ca­tions from AIDS. Cal grieved and even­tu­ally met Will, whom he mar­ried. They now live a com­fort­able life with their young son, but Katharine has ar­rived with­out any par­tic­u­lar pur­pose ex­cept to vent about gays, loss and frus­tra­tion.

It’s a char­ac­ter study of a woman who still thinks ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is a choice, who loved her son but hated his life­style, who blames ev­ery­one for him not hav­ing the life he should have ex­pe­ri­enced . The story doesn’t go much fur­ther and ends vaguely with per­haps a hope that all in­volved might at least see how the oth­ers feel.

What’s in­trigu­ing is the in­ter­play among char­ac­ters, with sharp ex­changes and ver­bal wound­ing that erupt in be­tween the oc­ca­sional gen­teel mo­ments. Vet­eran di­rec­tor Jerry Chip­man has an ex­cel­lent touch here for the nu­ances of tone and move­ment. The cast is splen­did, with Karen Ma­son Riss cast­ing Katharine’s bit­ter­ness all about the apart­ment with keen asper­ity. Greg Alexan­der is a well-etched Cal, re­flec­tive, “Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land”: Pre­sented by Stage Door Pro­duc­tions. Shows at 7 p.m. Fri­day-satur­day, 2:30 p.m. Sun­day and 7 p.m. Thurs­day. Other shows: 7 p.m. Feb. 26-27 and 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at The Sal­va­tion Army Kroc Cen­ter, 800 East Park­way S. All per­for­mances are “pay-what-you-can.” 901-7298029. stage­doormem­phis.org “Good Boys and True”: At an ex­clu­sive prep school, gold­en­boy se­nior and cap­tain of the foot­ball team Bran­don Hardy is Ivy League-bound and has his life plan set. Then, an ex­plicit sex tape is found on cam­pus, which be­gins a city­wide scan­dal. As events un­fold, an equally dis­turb­ing pos­si­bil­ity emerges — the real rea­son the tape was leaked in the first place. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Fri­day-satur­day and Thurs­day. Other shows: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26-27 and 2 p.m. Feb. 28 in Mccoy Theatre at Rhodes Col­lege, 2000 North Park­way. $10 gen­eral ad­mis­sion, $7 se­nior cit­i­zens (65+), $2 Rhodes stu­dents, $5 all other stu­dents (col­lege/high school). 901-843-3839. rhodes.edu Con­tra-tiempo: Agua Fu­riosa: Dance per­for­mance, 6:30 p.m. Fri­day at the Or­pheum, 203 S. Main. Tick­ets: $5-$30. Call 901525-3000. or­pheum-mem­phis.com “The Other Place”: Drama. Shows at 8 p.m. Fri­day-satur­day ($35) and 2 p.m. Sun­day ($30) at Cir­cuit Play­house, 51 S. Cooper. Tick­ets: $22 se­nior cit­i­zens, stu­dents, mil­i­tary with ID, $10 ages 17 and un­der. Ad­vi­sory: adult lan­guage and adult sit­u­a­tions. Call 901-726-4656. play­house­on­thesquare.org

con­flict-averse but de­ter­mined not to let Katharine run over him. Chase Brother plays his hus­band, who has less tol­er­ance for their vis­i­tor, and Holden Guibao plays the son.

Through Feb. 28 at Theatre Mem­phis’ Next Stage, 630 Perkins Ext. Show­times: 7:30 p.m. Thurs­days, 8 p.m. Fri­days and Satur­days, 2 p.m. Sun­days. Tick­ets: $25; $15 stu­dents. Info: 901-682-8323 and the­atremem­phis.org.

COUR­TESY VOICES OF THE SOUTH

Cameron Yates (from left), Phil Dar­ius Wal­lace and An­nie Fr­eres in “River City,” pre­sented by Voices of the South.

COUR­TESY MEM­PHIS SYM­PHONY OR­CHES­TRA

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