The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Mark Klett didn’t go to college for photography. Taking pictures was a nice hobby, a thing to do on the side. But science — specifically geology — was how he expected to make his living.
Nearly four decades later, he comes to The Art Museum at the University of Kentucky as part of its Robert C. May Photography Endowment Lecture Series.
Klett might have been a little surprised that he ended up with a career in photography, but his subject matter isn’t surprising at all.
When he started graduate school in photography at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, N.Y., Klett says, “I didn’t know what the art of photography was about, what the field was all about, the current dialogues or the art of photography. I didn’t think much about landscape photography. I really thought it was boring.”
But in the summertime, he worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, which took him to Montana and Wyoming and got him thinking about landscapes.
What he came to understand was that landscape photography was not just about aiming his lens at a rock or a tree. It was choices about light and perspective that separated snapshots from photographs.
“I tell my students all the time that landscape photography would seem to be a sort of neutral subject, and that’s why I found it boring, initially — a rock and a tree and this and that and so what?,” Klett says. “But then I learned that photographs were actually the result of someone’s decision-making, and that they had a purpose, and that they were reflections of an opinion, and they were a little more like editorial statements. That’s when it got interesting to me.”
One of his first serious forays was essentially trying to see through the eyes and lenses of some of the original masters of landscape photography, notably Ansel Adams.
The project was to study iconic photos of the American West, in many cases figure out what they were and where they were taken, and replicate them.
The Lexington Opera Society has announced the judges for this year’s Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, which will 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 19 at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall.
Celebrated baritone Sherrill Milnes returns to the panel, having served in 2001, when he was also worked with students in the UK Opera Theatre production of W.A. Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which features two celebrated baritone roles. In addition to judging the competition, the first step to possibly singing in the national rounds on the Metropolitan Opera stage in New York, Milnes will conduct a master class at 2 p.m. Nov. 20 in Memorial Hall.
Joining him as a judge will be Johanna Meier, a Wagnerian soprano who was the first American to sing the role of Isolde in Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at Wagner’s home stage at the Bayreuth Festival, and comprimario tenor Anthony Laciura, who gave many performances with the New Orleans Opera and more than 800 performances with the Met. He also appears in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire as Eddie Kessler, Nucky’s “Man Friday.”
To most of us, fall arts means getting out in the crisp weather to attend shows and visit galleries at the time of year when creativity seems to be bursting forth like the colors on autumn leaves.
And live is generally the best way to experience the arts.
But PBS is making a decent case for staying in, or at least DVRing its Fall Arts Festival, which continues tonight, Oct. 28, with Great Performances’ presentation of the Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp showing nationally at 9 p.m. and here in Central Kentucky at 10 p.m. on KET and 8 p.m. Weds., Nov. 2, on KET2 (there are also DVR-friendly showings at 2 a.m. Oct. 29 and 4 a.m. Oct. 31). The season as a whole is diverse with operetta, rock ‘n’ roll, theater, even bluegrass next week with Steve Martin’s Give Me the Banjo.
Two things I really like about this are it shows PBS getting on a more consistent schedule with arts programming and the programs are moving around the nation. I cannot quantify this, but in the past, public television arts programs have often seemed a bit more haphazard in their timing, and if you weren’t paying attention, it was easy to miss things. Even if it is on a night a lot of us are out at arts events, at least we have a time we know we can look for these shows. And though we have seen more in recent years from cities such as Los Angeles and Washington in recent years, it is nice to see this televised festival so self-consciously not New York-centric.
Of course, it is also great to have network-quality production values focused on the arts, as tonight’s ballet program shows. I have only had time to preview a bit of the Miami City program, but it looks and sounds spectacular, with a program of diverse icons with George Balanchine and Twyla Tharp.
At its best, this series can inspire us to go out and see what’s happening in our own cities.
Sounds like a Christmas play, right?
The theater describes St. Nicholas as, “the misadventures of a theatre critic from Dublin who follows a beguiling young woman to London where he is unexpectedly drawn into a coven of vampires. Equal parts haunting and hilarious, St. Nicholas is a perfect example of great Irish storytelling by one of the top playwrights of our time.”
It is also storytelling by the author of AGL’s next Main Stage production, The Seafarer, which runs Dec. 1-11.
Presenting St. Nicholas is visiting artist Jerome Davis, artistic director of Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh, N.C. Davis has also directed or performed at Trinity Rep in Providence, R.I.; the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival; and New York’s Avalon Rep, 29th Street Rep, New Dramatists, Soho Rep, the Barrow Group and Columbia University.
There are only three performances: 8 p.m. Oct. 28, 29 and 2 p.m. Oct. 30.
Also offering up spooky theater this weekend is Lexington Children’s Theatre with The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe and SummerFest with a revival of its production of The Rocky Horror Show at Buster’s Billiards and Backroom Oct. 30 and 31.
The Change for Art involves area artists taking old city parking meters and turning them into works of art that still collect money, now to support art.
At 6 p.m., John Darko’s meter will be revealed at the Kentucky Theatre and he will discuss the piece.
Described as a meter about math, mystery and chaos, Darko wrote in an email, “My work is driven by an obsession with the ancient mystery which lies at the heart of human existence. I hope to provide a counterpoint to the barrage of trivia which constitutes our information-based society and give others the opportunity to experience wordless wonder and quiet curiosity.”
Darko’s meter will bring the total number of meters to four, with others located at Whitaker Bank Ballpark, Good Foods Market and Cafe, and Buster’s Billiards and Backroom. To date, the meters have raised $5,500 through individuals and collections from the meters.
Change for Art founder Robbie Morgan, who is also the campaign manager for LexArts, wrote that the project’s, “overall goal is to raise $10,000 to support the ‘Artist Opportunity Fund’ so that we can distribute small project grants to working artists. That portion of the program will be open to musicians, writers, theatre artists and so on. We want to see the end of the term ‘starving artist’ and see financially solvent artists who contribute to the community culturally and economically.”
The project is looking for sponsors and locations for 2012. Contact Change for Art at email@example.com.
If you were planning to head out to Red Barn Radio tonight (Oct. 26) to catch Lester Ray Sears & the Tennessee Border Band, there’s been a change of plans.
Red Barn producer Ed Commons says a health issue in the band forced it to cancel and Sears and band will be rescheduled for a later date.
Stepping in will be local favorites Howard’s Creek featuring singer and guitarist Russ Farmer, mandolin player and vocalist Ron Mobley, bassist and vocalist Terri Powell, dobro player Ted Critchfield, fiddler and vocalist Joanna Binford, and banjo player and vocalist John Mattingly.
When the classical music gods were selecting artists who would have enough cachet to do whatever they wanted, thankfully one of the ones they blessed was Yo-Yo Ma.
Yes, Ma certainly has a substantial catalog of benchmark recordings of the standard cello repertoire. But his greatest contribution to modern music has been genre-blending, culture-highlighting music like his Silk Road Project and Appalachian albums with violinist Mark O’Connor and bassist Edgar Meyer. Ma and Meyer are together again, this time with bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan and mandolin superstar Chris Thile for The Goat Rodeo Sessions.
The artists have been fond of highlighting the definitions of “goat rodeo” as situations where everything has to go right for things to work – i.e., this project was an artistic highwire act. Well, yes and no. Yes, genre blends can be risky – give violinist Nigel Kennedy’s unfortunate new release The Four Elements a listen, or don’t.
But here, we are talking about Ma, Meyer and Thile, who have virtually unblemished collaborative records, and Duncan, whose career in bluegrass and country has included work with Mark Knopfler, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant and has been named fiddle player of the year by the Academy of Country Music five times.
These guys are good, and they’re really good – lo, great – together.
For many listeners who come to Goat Rodeo through Ma’s classical celebrity, Duncan will be the real discovery.
He gets his own spotlight as the glue of sorts on the lead-off track on the album, Attaboy, an progressively intricate swirl of reels that lets everyone show off their instruments and their virtuosity. It’s instant affirmation that this mix will work, but it hardly sits still. Quarter Chicken Dark is a funkier expression of the quartet, and then it switches up with Duncan taking over the mandolin and Thile on Guitar for Helping Hand. The album also features Meyer on piano (Franz and the Eagle), Meyer and Thile on gamba on Here and Heaven, one of two vocal duets with Thile and Crooked Still frontwoman Aoife O’Donovan that also features Duncan on fretless banjo – yes, banjo on Sony Classical. Ma moves through the original tunes playing whatever is needed from rhythmic anchor to melodic lead.
The stylistic mix of bluegrass and classical yields a more easygoing sound than either genre on its own. The real beauty is no apparent self-consciousness that this group is creating a new mix. The Goat Rodeo Sessions simply demonstrates that great musicianship is great musicianship, regardless of the label.
Central Kentucky Christian music fans, it seems, can pretty much lock the second Saturday of March onto their calendars for Winter Jam.
Skillet will lead the Winter Jam 2012 tour into the home of the Cats on March 10 with Sanctus Real, former Newsboys frontman Peter Furler, Kari Jobe, Building 429 and Group 1 Crew. This means that all that pyro we’re used to seeing out at the Icthus Festival will now be contained inside the arena.
I have this distinct memory of the last time Skillet was on the Winter Jam tour in 2008. It was the first time I took photos at Winter Jam, and no one warned me about those flame throwers at the front of the stage, so when the first ones went off I was feeling a bit … uh … toasty.
Anyway, Skillet in the arena. Should be a good time. As always, tickets are $10 and they are only available at the door. Earlier this year, Winter Jam 2011 attracted 16,431 people to Rupp.
Cameron Crowe is a terrific filmmaker and a great rock ‘n’ roll journalist.
Those skills come together in Pearl Jam Twenty, a flawed but enlightening chronicle of one of the 1990s most enduring bands. The film premiered Friday night on KET as part of PBS’ Fall Arts Festival and has another showing at 8 p.m. Weds., Oct. 26, on KET2 and then a couple late-night DVR-special showings in December.
This is by no means an objective view of the band.
The film opens with Crowe moving to Seattle and befriending guitarist Stone Gossard and bassist Jeff Ament. That put him in a position to document the very early roots of the band in another act Ament and Gossard thought would be their ticket to success: Mother Love Bone. The minute we see charismatic frontman Andrew Wood, who seems to have a bit of an alt-David Lee Roth vibe, we know his story will not end well.
Soon after his death from a heroin overdose, Ament and Gossard meet singer Eddie Vedder, and the Pearl Jam success story quickly takes off, and then bumps along for nearly a decade.
Pearl Jam Twenty is at its best taking us back to the emergence of the 1990s grunge movement led by Pearl Jam and Nirvana and giving viewers insight into some of its music and formative moments, like the night Vedder witnessed concert security personnel’s rough handling of an audience member and how it brought him out of his shell. That sets the tone for the band’s enduring rebellious posture including its opposition to Ticketmaster and shunning of the media.
See the show: Romeo et Juliette is the first broadcast on the iHigh Alltech Arts Network. Click here to see the performance reviewed. Click here for the live stream of the 2 p.m. Oct. 23 performance.
Photo gallery: The Oct. 23 and 28 cast of Romeo et Juliette.
Romeo is this young guy who wants to hang out with his pals and has a thing for the prettiest girl in town.
Juliette is that girl, and she wants to embrace all the passion and joy she can in the springtime of her life, especially if it’s in the arms of a dreamboat like Romeo.
It’s too bad their fine romance runs headlong into a family feud that may only be rivaled by the Hatfields and the McCoys.
William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a very well-known, well-worn story that is so familiar it’s easy to look right through it.
The first time I saw Charles Gounod’s operatic take on the play, the production did just that. It was very stylish, sumptuously sung and so emotionally vacant I remember just looking at my companion when the curtain fell and saying “let’s get some coffee.”
Romeo et Juliette or any other manifestation of the story should not leave an audience that indifferent.
Director Stephanie Sundine’s production for the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre sure doesn’t.
Thanks in large part to her stars, Gregory Turay and Julie LaDouceur, the story is infused by an emotion familiar to many of us: That passion of first real love that truly does make parting such sweet sorrow. From their first flirtatious glances and laughs to their last moments in each other’s arms, Turay and LaDouceur let the audience know this love means everything to their characters and the chance they could be together in death is more appealing than living without each other.
They are helped along by Gounod’s gorgeous music and the libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre that puts the focus on the love story.
And in Turay, LaDouceur and the rest of the cast, UK and Sundine have people that can really sing this stuff.
Turay has never sounded better on a Lexington stage as he has matured into a smooth, rich tenor voice ideally suited to a romantic lead like this. And he is beautifully paired with LaDouceur, their four duets blending with passionate clarity.
Juliette isn’t just listed in the program first to be polite. As substantive as Romeo’s part is, this is Juliette’s opera, and LaDouceur nailed every highlight including the coquettish Je jeux vivre and harrowing Amour, ranime mon courage, aka The Poison Aria. Lexington audiences have seen LaDouceur grow the last couple years as she earned a masters at UK. Now in the doctoral program, she has established herself as the leading lady of UK Opera Theatre. Let’s enjoy her while we can.
This production is double cast, and Turay and LaDouceur will perform again Oct. 29. The other cast, featuring Manuel Castillo and Rachel Sterrenberg in the title roles, performs Oct. 23 and 28.
This production also highlights UK Opera Theatre’s current depth with strong showings throughout the principal cast, particulary Reginald Smith Jr. as Capulet, more clueless than menacing as he is in the play, and Michael Preacely helping give substance to Romeo’s status as one of the guys playing the best friend, Mercutio.
As Tybalt, Luther Lewis III highlights the story’s dramatic turn between carefree youth and really bad blood, coming across as a gregarious guy in his first scene until the sight of Romeo flips a switch, and he is filled with a hate and rage as unreasonable and unyielding as Romeo and Juliette’s love.
It’s another facet of this production that says this is a case of youthful passions gone tragically awry.
The drama plays out on Richard Kagey’s marvelously simple set that shifts from balcony, to church to tomb and other formations with a minimum of prop changes.
Saturday night’s opening night performance had an event-like air, pretty much packing out the Lexington Opera House.
It was the sort of opening night deserved by this production that succeeds where it is so easy to fail.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich