August is certainly the right word for this past weekend

Sam Black

 Pantalone and Columbina knowing what they want. Photo Credit: Sam Black
Pantalone and Columbina knowing what they want. Photo Credit: Sam Black
Marie Antoinette’s final moment before losing her head. Photo Credit: Sam Black
Marie Antoinette’s final moment before losing her head. Photo Credit: Sam Black

The first full weekend of August was booked with enough activities for most of a summer in an average community. This, however, is Duluth, which is considerably above average, as all of us who live here know full well.
For starters, the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center
(DECC) was celebrating its 50th birthday/anniversary. There was an open house on Saturday afternoon, and a sold-out musical event Saturday night featuring The Beach Boys and The Temptations, in their 2016 manifestation. They were involved in that first few weeks of the DECC back in 1966, though I was certainly not around Duluth at the time.
On the west side of Duluth, the Spirit Valley Days parade and festival was also in motion. At the same time, it was a beautiful Duluth summer weekend, and many folks headed out to the lake cabins to enjoy the blue sky and cool water. These were many of the events which I did NOT participate in this past weekend.

Final of the LSCO was as diverse as expected

The 30th annual season of the Lake Superior Chamber Orchestra concluded last Thursday at Mitchell Auditorium on the Scholastica campus. Music Director Warren Friesen programmed three orchestral pieces and one pantomime that W.A. Mozart left incomplete. Composers by the names of Theodore Gouvy, Tina Davidson, and Erwin Schulhoff are not common to the concert venues in Duluth, or many other places on a regular basis. That’s what Friesen likes to bring home.
For my tastes, the ‘Celestial Turnings’ by Tina Davidson needs to be replayed several times in the next month. So many layers of strings, setting a mood, and watching/listening to the creation of the universe unfold within the span of about twenty minutes.
The modern completion of the score to the Mozart pantomime based on an old story about Pantalone and Columbine was rather boring, while the skit itself was quite entertaining. The story unfolded, and the lovely maiden knew the partner she wanted. As usual, there was inadequate money for a transaction. After some changes of clothes, and behind the scene exchanges of purses of coin, the clown won his lady, and the old doctor had to be content with simply being old. Thanks to Jean Sramek for bringing this story to the stage, and Ann Gumpper for creating costumes and modest scenery to make up for the lacklustre background music.

Very powerful retelling of the denial of reality

Next, we attended the performance of Marie Antoinette, a new play by David Adjmi, by the Renegade Theater Company. Chelsea Campbell as Marie and Alex Schroeder as a complex Sheep carried the evening. Cory Anderson was appropriately useless as Louis XVI, and, of course, by the end of the play, most everyone had lost their heads. This 2012 play about the clash of reality and fantasy in the 1780s in France was stimulating. So much about this 21st century is imbued with fantasy; one can only wonder when reality will assert its startling will power again.

Powerful performance of a gifted man unable to control his life

The highlight of my weekend was the production of Nine, at the Underground stage of The Duluth Playhouse. Adam Sippola staged and starred in this futile, abusive, autobiography. Guido Contini has been a successful film-maker, now turning 40-ish, and completely at a loss to organize the disastrous path he has generated. His abuses with women are countless and ultimately meaningless. They are burying him alive under the conflicting attempts at relationship.
All that means, is that this is a plot similar to 90% of operas, and some very fine music made the evening magnificent. Lisa Holman, Louisa Scorich, Maddison Nachtsheim, Lauren Burton, Nicole Sippola, Ellie Martin, and Sam Buytaert were all outstanding musically. The score by Maury Yeston was certainly a dazzling variety of music and mood for the evening.
Fortunately, this show runs at the Underground Thursday - Saturdays through August 20. Forget the plot, enjoy the costumes and the music, and treat yourself to a rare example of superb musical drama from some of Duluth’s best actor musicians.