Tag Archives: Portland Opera

Night at the opera with Large Smelly Boy

A night at the opera at Keller Auditorium/LaValle Linn

By Laura Grimes

“It’s three hours long!” the Small Large Smelly Boy repeated what he had overheard in a low, urgent voice.

It was minutes before curtain at Portland Opera’s Pagliacci/Carmina Burana on Thursday night. I immediately shuffled the pages in the program to confirm it. He was dead right.

This was no small matter, and I could sense the growing unease we both felt. I already knew he was calculating the clock in his head, not only fretting about a long performance where he wasn’t sure what to expect but also what time he would get to bed on a school night.

He gets sleepy mid-evening, puts himself to bed and gets up on his own bright and early in the morning. He doesn’t like after-school activities because they get in the way of his homework. He long ago gave up on me getting him to school because he knows I cut it close. Instead, he shows up 45 minutes before the tardy bell and hangs with his friends. He is never late and is always orderly.

I, on the other hand, fight sleep like a toddler, except every morning. I’m not sure how he came to be my child (and I’m sure he often wonders the same thing), but because of him I totally believe that story about the Virgin Mary.

Continue reading Night at the opera with Large Smelly Boy

Pickles and Pagliacci: Two posts in one

Pickles with a bite of spice -- make an offer I can't refuse!

By Laura Grimes

The pickles as social vehicle experiment is working! (Read what it’s all about here.) So far, the bartering offers include (some serious, some not so much):

  • Sauerkraut
  • Pesto plus a 2009 WillaKenzie pinot gris
  • Elk meat
  • Cream cheese braid
  • $57.32 (perhaps not so serious, but I know the intent is true, because we split one of these jars of pickles for lunch recently on a hot summer day when we had nothing else to eat and had to dig out slices with our fingers)
  • Designer labels for jars (also perhaps not so serious, but a little arm-twisting might work)
  • “Ring of Fire” peppers with an 80K hotness (I still have no idea what this is, but my guess is an extreme distance running race after eating the peppers, which still sound painful)
  • Kickass ginger molasses cookies (also sound painful, but in a good way)
  • Apple pie I
  • Apple pie II
  • Henry James novel

The pickle show hits the road next week to pick up the kickass ginger molasses cookies. It involves a coffee date.

I’m researching how to ship fragile jars with amber liquid. The hot peppers that require running a long distance are being shipped from Idaho from someone I haven’t been in touch with much for more than 30 years. In return, I need to send pickles to a place on Wild Goose Way.

Other rendezvous are in the works.

It’s not too late to make an offer. Hurry while supplies last.

And, George, I saw that! We’re going to have to slice our cucumbers differently next year and call them Bartering Chips.


Pagliacci/Carmina Burana continues tonight and Saturday at Portland Opera. The Small Large Smelly Boy and I will be there and we have a fun post planned. Stay tuned!

Don’t look back: Here comes Orphee

Portland Opera didn’t exactly go to Hell and back to make its first commercial recording. Or maybe it did.

Can it really have been only last November that Philip Glass‘s opera Orphee, based on Jean Cocteau‘s celebrated 1949 film version of the myth about the man who lost his love by looking back at her as he guided her out of the Underworld, was the talk of Puddletown? When perhaps the world’s most famous living serious composer was in town, taking in rehearsals of the opera company’s revival of his 1993 musical drama?

Courtesy Portland OperaGlass decided he liked the Portland cast so much that it should be recorded, leading to a double first: Portland Opera’s first-ever commercial recording, and the first full recording of Orphee, part of a Cocteau trilogy by Glass that also includes La Belle et la Bete and Les Enfants Terribles.

Now it’s here. Today, Portland Opera’s Julia Sheridan sent out word that the two-disc set, released on the Glass-centric Orange Mountain Music label, has hit the shelves. You can buy it online at the opera company’s Web site, or at its box office south of OMSI, and soon, we imagine, at all the usual places.

Portland Opera’s version of Orphee, in a production that originated at Glimmerglass Opera in Upstate New York, was terrific, and fellow Scatterers may recall that we covered it like a Methodist missionary desperately throwing wet blankets over the sunbathers at a nude beach. Here is the outcome of our group interview with Glass, which came before Mr. Scatter blogged live from the Keller Auditorium on opening night: the results of that act of impertinent bravado are here, here, here, and here. A little later, Mr. Scatter offered empirical evidence of why his fellow blogger Storm Large was besieged by autograph hounds and he was not.

Time to slip that CD into your stereo and raise a Glass in a toast. Just don’t look over your shoulder.

Where there’s a wit, there’s a way

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter has been thinking about wit lately, partly because he’s been rereading Jane Austen‘s novel Emma and partly because, as regular Scatterers know, he attended the opera last Friday evening to see and hear Rossini‘s splendidly whimsical opera buffa The Barber of Seville.

Portrait of Jane Austen, Evert A. Duyckinick. Wikimedia CommonsBoth works, as the globe-trotting Mrs. Scatter has pointed out, made their debuts in 1816, which was technically part of the 19th century. But both feel more like products of the 18th century (as the Edwardian years seem an extension of the 19th century, which could be said to have ended in 1914).

Certainly Rossini’s opera, with its libretto by Cesare Sterbini adapted from a 1775 comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, is fully in the spirit of the Age of Reason, embellished by a happy nod back to the 17th century theatrical glories of English Restoration comedy and the French satires of Moliere. And Austen’s class comedies seem slung somewhere between classic Enlightenment intellectual balance (Haydn, Swift, Mozart, Gibbon, Pope) and the surge of Romanticism that would engulf the 19th century (Beethoven, Byron, Mary Shelley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, on down to Wagner).

emmaAusten’s comedies may be the most precise and practical romances ever written. Obsessed with the often foolishly claustrophobic concerns of a narrow slice of self-satisfied society, they’re also worldly. Within the confines of that small society she discovers a measured universe of human possibility, from the perfidious to the noble. And she does it with one of the slyest, keenest raised eyebrows in all of literature.

Entering Austen’s world takes a certain amount of patience (it spins at the speed of a barouche carriage, not a supersonic transport; you must make peace with its rhythm) and some very smart people simply never make the transition. “Why do you like Miss Austen so very much?” Charlotte Bronte queried the philosopher and critic (and George Eliot’s live-in lover) G.H. Lewes in a letter from 1848. “I am puzzled on that point … I should hardly like to live with her ladies and gentlemen, in their elegant but confined houses … Miss Austen is only shrewd and observant.”

Continue reading Where there’s a wit, there’s a way

Epilogue: Scattering live from the opera

By Laura Grimes

Portland Opera's The Barber of Seville

Mrs. Scatter’s final thoughts and look back — and a chance to add what she missed before:

Forget coherence. Forget cohesion. Stutter and start is the only way to blog live about the opera. People talk and joke and all that is part of the cheerful scene, but forget trying to put two words together that make sense on the computer screen.

To read our meandering live blogs about the opera:

Mr. Scatter’s.

Mrs. Scatter’s.

Though it’s nice to make sense, frankly it’s icing on the cake when it happens because the whole point really is that it’s brilliant marketing on the part of the opera. It costs them a little staff time to arrange (but what’s a few e-mails), some flier bills describing the blogs and the people  (which call us “prominent local bloggers” — elbow elbow), a bag of nuts (Mr. Scatter calls them salty), and a few glasses of wine (blog lubricant). So, really, for peanuts they get a buzz going in different directions among different people. Brilliant. You put on a show and you want people to see it. That’s just smart business.

Continue reading Epilogue: Scattering live from the opera

Friday night live: Mrs. Scatter gets a curl

By Laura Grimes

Mrs. Scatter is considerably fond of facial hair, and Mr. Scatter’s beard in particular, so she’s concerned what type of shave he has in mind. Let’s hope it’s the farcical kind because we’re blogging in tandem tonight about The Barber of Seville. That’s right, folks …

Live from Portland Opera, it’s Scattering Night!

We’ll be updating our posts as the night goes on, so check back, scroll down and see what’s new!


Two hours until Curtain Time: This is a test photo from The Wimpy Camera:

Mr. Scatter in his home office

In the meantime, I’ve been boning up:

  • This is the second barber show in two nights for the Scatter Family. On Thursday night, they ventured to see Sweeney Todd at Grant High School.
  • The Barber of Seville by Gioachino Rossini premiered in 1816 … the same year  Jane Austen’s Emma was published.
  • Jennifer Rivera, who plays Rosina, has a kick-in-the-pants blog, and the videos are not to be missed.
  • Bob Kingston, who gives the pre-performance talks at Portland Opera, shared this podcast from LA Opera.
  • The blog at Portland Opera by Operaman, otherwise known as Stephen Llewellyn, is personable and insightful about opera in general.
  • And, thanks to Operaman, that’s where I found my most useful resource, though stink if I can get it to embed:

Warner Bros. presents \”Barber of Seville\”


The wine has arrived, the personal nuts, the pretzels, the cookies …

Continue reading Friday night live: Mrs. Scatter gets a curl

Friday night live: Mr. Scatter gets a shave

By Bob Hicks

Mr. Scatter is all lathered up in the lobby of Keller Auditorium, and Mrs. Scatter is at his side, underneath one of those big-bubble hairdrying doohickies. Each of us is posting live on opening night of Portland Opera’s “The Barber of Seville.” We’ll be updating our respective posts as time allows, so if you read them early, check back: There’ll be more.

"The Barber of Seville." Photo: Cory Weaver/Portland Opera


Famous barbers in history:

Sal “The Barber” Maglie, star pitcher for the Giants, Indians and Dodgers in the 1940s and ’50s, so nicknamed for his eagerness to brush back hitters with high inside fastballs in the vicinity of the jaw and neck. In baseball parlance, he gave ’em a close shave with a little chin music.

Benjamin Barker, a skilled bladesman from Fleet Street in London, who, after being frightfully wronged by a corrupt judge, took to a life of crime as the infamous “demon barber” Sweeney Todd, casually slitting his customers’ throats so his accomplice, Mrs. Lovett, could grind ’em up and pop ’em into meat pies.

Samuel Barber, American composer of works including Knoxville: Summer of 1915. In photographs he appears graciously clean-shaven.

— Figaro, the clever schemer of Seville, whose comic adventures among the rich and dissolute are celebrated in two of our greatest operas, Rossini’s 1816 The Barber of Seville and Mozart’s 1786 The Marriage of Figaro. A little confusingly, Marriage is a sequel to Barber, even though it premiered 30 years earlier. The mixup straightens out once you realize that both operas were based on even earlier plays by Pierre Beaumarchais.

It’s The Barber of Seville that brings us to the lobby of the Keller Auditorium tonight, where Portland Opera has invited us to blog on our impressions of the opening night performance of its new production.

Who are we?

— Mrs. Scatter, aka Laura Grimes, co-conspirator of this very blog, who is entering her own version of the evening’s events in another post right here at Art Scatter. I’ll be fascinated to read it once I’ve finished my own. Can this marriage be shaved?

— Brandi Parisi, morning host at All Classical Radio 89.9FM, and no doubt intimately familiar with the territory. She’ll be posting on All Classical’s Facebook page.

— Mike Russell, writer, cartoonist and proprietor of the brilliant CulturePulp, who’ll be creating a cartoon report on his evening at the opera.

— Mr. Scatter, aka me, Bob Hicks.


Continue reading Friday night live: Mr. Scatter gets a shave

Snark escapes; Scatters chase barber

By Bob Hicks

Henry Holiday, Plate 9 from "The Hunting of the Snark"; "Fit the Seventh: The Banker's Fate." Wikimedia Commons

The Snark eluded Mr. Scatter. No matter. It was a sporting chase, and no doubt will be continued at the rising of another moon. Some of you may recall our earlier mention of Mr. Scatter’s recent benighted journey into the hinterlands on this odd quest.

Fortunately he has returned to the safe haven of Puddletown just in time to prepare for his next adventure: On Friday he and Mrs. Scatter will be blogging live from Keller Auditorium on opening night of Portland Opera‘s The Barber of Seville. Think of this dynamic duo as the Ferrante & Teicher of the journalistic keyboards, or the Nick and Nora Charles of musical sleuthing.

Daniel Belcher as Figaro and Jennifer Rivera as Rosina. Photo: Portland Opera/Cory WeaverThis four-hand feat, by the way, will come just before Mrs. Scatter’s departure on her own quest, this one to far London town on the trail of Tates ancient and modern, the Victoria and Albert, perhaps a groundling ticket to the Globe, and persistent rumors of dining opportunities beyond steak and kidney pie. It’s a reward well-earned over the past ninemonth; wish her godspeed. She’ll be in the convivial company of her brother the Philosopher King, master baker of bivalves.

But first things first. The Barber of Seville is Gioachino Rossini‘s 1816 comic masterpiece, based on an earlier comedy by Beaumarchais, who in turn seems to have been influenced by the satiric wit of Moliere. You know it, if for no other reason, from that stupendous Looney Tunes encounter between Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. (You know another big Rossini operatic hit, William Tell, from the theme to The Lone Ranger.)

What happens, besides all that wonderful music? Here’s how Portland Opera describes the setup: “Let’s see if we can get this straight. The lovely, young Rosina is the ward of Dr. Bartolo, a comic old geezer who wants to marry her, but she’d rather marry Count Almaviva, who really wants to marry her too, but he can’t even see her because Bartolo’s always there, so what’s a guy to do?”

Bring in the barber, of course. Mr. Scatter notes with some reluctance that certain persons consider him to have robbed the marital cradle in his successful wooing of the young Mrs. Scatter. Mr. Scatter does not wish to be identified with Dr. Bartolo. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions.

Mr. and Mrs. Scatter will be joined Friday night by at least one other blogger, the immensely talented and amiable Mike Russell, lord and master of CulturePulp. He not only writes well, he draws well, and he’ll be — get this — cartoon blogging on the Barber. We could be outdone, if not undone.


Illustrations, from top:

— Henry Holiday’s original illustration for Lewis Carroll’s “The Hunting of the Snark,” originally 1876, this edition 1931. This is from the nonsense poem’s “Fit the Seventh: The Banker’s Fate,” in which The Banker is attacked by a Bandersnatch, and goes insane. According to unverified reports, the Bandersnatch has been tentatively identified as one Ben Bernanke.

— This is not a portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Scatter, who remain curiously camera-shy. It is a picture of Daniel Belcher as Figaro and Jennifer Rivera as Rosina in “The Barber of Seville.” Photo: Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

Trouble in Tahiti: Witness for the persecution

Jose Rubio as Sam and Daryl Freedman as Dinah in "Trouble in Tahiti."  Photo: Portland Opera/Cory Weaver

Counsel, call your next witness.

Your honor, Leonard Bernstein calls Claudio Monteverdi to the stand. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Mr. and Mrs. Scatter went to the opera over the weekend, where Bernstein’s 1952 Trouble in Tahiti followed Monteverdi’s Il Ballo delle Ingrate (The Dance of the Ungrateful Women) from 1608 and Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda (The Battle of Tancredi & Clorinda) from 1624, and it got Mr. S to thinking about observers. It was pretty hard not to. There they were, he observed, skulking about the stage: gray, grotesque, kind of creepy, very sad. Tormented souls stuck somewhere between the passions of the flesh and the soul-sucking chill of the Underworld.

Claudio Monteverdi, circa 1597, by an anonymous artist, (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford). Thought to be the earliest known image of Monteverdi, at about age 30, painted when he was still at the Gonzaga Court in Mantua. Wikimedia CommonsWitnesses — those “I alone am escaped to tell you” chroniclers of catastrophe and adventure — are crucial figures in the world of the imagination. From the cautioning choruses of Greek tragedies to Melville’s wide-eyed sailor Ishmael, we’re used to the idea of the witness as a cornerstone of civilized life.

What really happened? Who saw it? How can we determine the truth? What does it mean?

 Leonard Bernstein, conductor and musical director of New York City Symphony, 1945. Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection. Fred Palumbo, World Telegram staff photographerFrom the lofty perch of the present we stand as witnesses to time, looking back on history, rewriting it as we gain new reports from the trenches and rethink what we’ve already seen. We judge, revise, rejudge: In the courtroom of culture, the jury never rests.

But what if the past looks forward and witnesses us? What does it see? What can it mean?

That’s what happens in Portland Opera‘s new production of these three short works, which span roughly three and a half centuries in their composition and many more — back to the cavortings of the classical Greek gods — in their subject matter. Stage director Nicholas Muni, whose last visit here resulted in a hair-raisingly good version of Benjamin Britten‘s The Turn of the Screw, has linked these seemingly alien pieces audaciously in time and space, rendering them chapters in a neverending story of misbegotten love. And those gray grotesque observers are the key.

David Stabler and Mr. Mead have filed insightful reviews (with very different conclusions), and Mr. Scatter does not wish to add a formal review to territory they’ve covered well. But he does want to think a little about those witnesses.

Continue reading Trouble in Tahiti: Witness for the persecution

The dirty little secret behind the dirty little secret martinis

Dirty little secret martini/Wikimedia CommonsI have a dirty little secret. It’s so dirty I don’t even add commas between adjectives.

It starts out innocently enough. I poke around the fridge and come across a jar with a few floaty thingies and a bunch of brine. And I realize the fridge is full of jars with a few floaty thingies and a bunch of brine. And then I determine to do something about it.

“Honey, are you thirsty?”


“We have too many floaty thingies.”

Mr. Scatter gives me that look through his eyebrows. He mildly shakes his head.

“We have a problem here!” I get a little defensive. I’m a bit sensitive about My Issue and I’m looking for some sympathy. Mr. Scatter knows I have a dreadful disability. Making fun of such an acute condition is not humane.

Continue reading The dirty little secret behind the dirty little secret martinis