Two smoldering jazz operas, back to back - The Buffalo News

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Two smoldering jazz operas, back to back

“Barroom Brawls” is a title sure to grab attention. And Buffalo Opera Unlimited, the intrepid company led by Tim Kennedy, is collaborating with LehrerDance for what promises to be something smoldering and special.

At 710 Main Theatre, the company presents a double bill – two one-act operas that both involve tragedy in a bar. One is “Blue Monday,” a rarely performed jazz opera by George Gershwin, with text by Buddy DeSylva, a co-founder of Capitol Records. The “vaudeville opera,” as Gershwin called it, was in the revue “George White’s Scandals of 1922” and was later renamed “135th Street.” Bandleader Paul Whiteman, conducting the premiere, was impressed enough that he commissioned “Rhapsody in Blue.”

The other jazz opera is the premiere of “The Fall of Stag Lee,” by Buffalonian Darryl Glenn Nettles. Stag Lee, or Stagger Lee, is the villain in a ballad that has been sung in various versions by everyone from Mississippi John Hurt to the Grateful Dead. The song is loosely based on a real story, of a man who shot another man in a St. Louis saloon at the turn of the last century. Nettles has studied with Heinz Rehfuss and William Warfield, drawing on jazz traditions for his reimagining of this seamy legend.

Performances are at 8 p.m. Friday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $30 general, $25 for students and seniors; patron seats on Friday are $50 and include a reception. Call 847-1410.

– Mary Kunz Goldman

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