by Michael Caruso
Two local musical ensembles have been awarded challenge grants from the Knight Foundation. Both The Crossing and the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra are among this year’s winners, with Black Pearl being honored for the second year in a row.
“The Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra is honored to once again receive this prestigious award from the Knight Foundation,” said Jeri Lynne Johnson of West Mt. Airy, founder and conductor of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra. “The $50,000 award will go towards creating a Black Pearl POPS! concert series. Using music and artists from the Afro, Latino and Arab pop genres, this series puts a world music series spin on the traditional symphonic pops concert. This series will further Black Pearl’s mission to use classical music to connect countries, cultures and communities in Philadelphia.”
Johnson is also the conductor of the Trowbridge Chamber Orchestra, the advanced instrumental ensemble of Settlement Music School, where she works with the most talented instrumentalists from throughout Settlement’s six branches in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Donald Nally is the founder and conductor of The Crossing, a chamber choir that specializes in new music. Also a West Mt. Airy resident, Nally is the interim music director of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, where The Crossing regularly performs.
Nally will lead the first installment in The Crossing’s “Month of Moderns” at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at Chestnut Hill Presbyterian Church, 8855 Germantown Ave. The program includes local composer Curt Cacioppo’s “Cantata of the Angels” (Vermillion Vespers), set to the poetry of Luigi Cerantola.
For ticket information, visit www.crossingchoir.com.
The Pennsylvania Ballet opened its production of “Peter Pan” this past weekend in the Academy of Music. The presentation is a company premiere for the East Falls-based troupe. It continues through Sunday, May 13.
Sometimes it takes substandard material to prove the quality of a performer. For example, “Butterfield-8” is the worst movie Elizabeth Taylor ever made, but it proves without question that she was not only the most beautiful woman of her era but one of Hollywood’s finest actresses. The screenplay and direction were abysmal, but her performance was radiant, fully worthy of the first of her three Academy Awards.
The same can be written about the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of “Peter Pan.” Trey McIntyre’s choreography is dreadful. There’s very little actual dancing. It’s mostly pantomime, but the mime is so garbled that you wouldn’t know the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up from the ballet unless you already knew it from J.M. Barrie’s original novel and its subsequent incarnations. With the exception of the nearly eliminated Tinkerbell, all the major characters are there, including the crocodile. The narrative reasons for their being there is another matter altogether. It’s just a pity the crocodile didn’t swallow the choreographer instead of Captain Hook, who was merely following his destiny as a pirate. At least that would have been balletic justice and dramatically satisfying.
And yet, the production “Peter Pan” is receiving by Pennsylvania Ballet was excellent. The chief strength of Sunday afternoon’s performance was the portrayal given the title role by Amir Yogev. He made the most of his opportunities to dance, he made a mighty effort to make sense of the mime, and he flew across the stage of the Academy of Music with fearless abandon and infectious exuberance, soaring to incredible heights yet landing as though he really were lighter than air. Yogev was devilish and touching. Lauren Fadeley was a lovely Wendy. Her dancing was both elegant and energetic, and she also strove effectively to overcome the insufficiencies of McIntyre’s pantomime.
For ticket information, visit www.paballet.org or call 215-893-1999.
Charles Dutoit launched the final leg of his tenure as chief conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra with a pair of concerts in the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall Friday and Saturday nights. The man who should have been chosen to succeed the departing Riccardo Muti in 1992 led a program comprised of Mozart’s (Paris) “Symphony No. 31 in D major,” Saint-Saens’ “Violin Concerto No. 3 in B minor,” Debussy’s symphonic fragments from “The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian” and Scriabin’s “The Poem of Ecstasy” (Symphony No. 4). Saturday evening’s audience virtually packed the house and gave the popular Dutoit several standing ovations over the course of the concert.
Dutoit and the Philadelphians caught the intense elegance and eloquent lyricism of all three of the Mozart movements. The opening Allegro assai bristled with excitement, the Andante sang with intimacy, and the closing Allegro danced with rhythmic vitality. The playing of the entire ensemble was admirable, especially from the orchestra’s fabled string section. Dutoit is one conductor who can summon up memories of the late Eugene Ormandy’s famous “Philadelphia Sound” with the flick of a baton.