Lawrance Bernabo, for the News Tribune
For once the snowflakes were bigger and falling faster outside the DECC's Symphony Hall than they were during the enchanting Central Park scene in the Minnesota Ballet's production of "The Nutcracker" on Friday night. Otherwise the festive crowd eagerly checked off all of the elements that make Tchaikovsky's masterpiece a great Northland holiday tradition.
It might not be as high on the list of annual holiday traditions as "A Christmas Carol," "White Christmas," or "The Nutcracker," but David Sedaris' "The Santaland Diaries" has been carving out its own strange, little seasonal niche. Thursday night at the sold-out Underground, Luke Moravec brought the one-elf, one-act version of the humorist's holiday tale to the Northland. After three weeks in New York City, Dave, an unemployed 33-year-old man who dreams of being Victoria Buchanan's best bud on "One Life to Live," sinks so low that he applies for a job as a full-time elf.
At one point during the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra's "White Christmas" pop concert on Saturday afternoon, conductor Dirk Meyer checked in with the audience to see how high our holiday spirits were on a scale of 1 to 10. Meyer promised to work on getting the few 5s up with those at 7, 8 and beyond. Musically the program was essentially divided into sacred and secular halves, beginning "Around the World at Christmas Time," a medley of traditional songs beginning with "O Tannebaum" and ending with a particularly stirring "Go Tell It On the Mountain."
For its last production on the Depot's main stage, the Duluth Playhouse not only selected a timeless holiday classic, they also came up with the first original script to grace that stage in almost 20 years. "A Christmas Carol" opened Thursday night to an audience eager to applaud.
Even the coiffures of the two oldest Dashwood sisters speak to their disparate natures: Elinor's is simple and sensible; Marianne's overly ornate, right down to the twin ringlets that frame her pretty face. In Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility," it quickly becomes clear that Elinor (Katherine Grotte) feels way too little while her sister Marianne (Jemma Provance) feels way too much. By the end of the charming period play that opened at the College of St. Scholastica on Friday night, the girls will channel Goldilocks, get things just right, and live happily ever after.
Better late than never. The first time I saw Salvatore Aiello's utterly charming "Clowns and Others" three years ago, I immediately wanted to see it again. So when artistic executive director Robert Gardner made it the title piece for the Minnesota Ballet's season opener at Symphony Hall on Friday night, I would finally get my chance. But the really impressive thing about this amazing night of dance was that it included two other pieces equally as mesmerizing.
Lyric Opera of the North unveiled their transformation of Johann Sebastian Bach's "St. John Passion" from oratorio into opera Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Middle School auditorium. The intimacy and acoustics of the venue served both the singers and the musicians, making for a most unique experience. Conductor Dirk Meyer helmed a 21-piece orchestra, comprised mostly of strings, with a quintet of woodwinds and the organ you tend to think of being a prerequisite for performing Bach.
WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. In the first class in Media & Society each semester we consider which dystopian novel successfully predicted the world in which we now live: George Orwell's "1984" or Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World." The academic consensus favors Huxley, that the truth has not been replaced by lies but rather buried under a barrage of irrelevance.
Erin Aldridge was providing a dazzling display of artistry as she worked through the intricacies of Tchaikovsky's challenging Violin Concerto in D Major Saturday night at Symphony Hall. As conductor Dirk Meyer brought the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra to a vibrant crescendo, Aldridge ended her last note with a majestic flourish of her bow. The audience immediately burst into applause and soon rose to its feet for a thundering ovation.
Lately being a weatherman does not help you know which way the wind blows. Hurricane Harvey was a 3 that became a 4. Irma kept bouncing back between a 4 and a 5. "Rumors," the side-splitting Neil Simon farce directed by Julie Ahasay that opened at the Duluth Playhouse on Thursday night, follows a similar pattern. It starts off as a tropical depression, gathers strength, hits you with a powerful stream of comedy, and just when you think you are safely in the eye of the hurricane the audience is devastated by a category 5 comic monologue.