MEETING THE TWAIN
The longest-running show in America is quintessentially American. It has been going on for more than 40 years: Hal Holbrook's version of Mark Twain, the one-man performance that identifies the celebrated actor more than any other stage or movie role. Holbrook brings "Mark Twain Tonight" back to Buffalo to the Rockwell Performing Arts Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. After so many years and thousands of performances Holbrook continues to add new information, to subtract discounted information, and edit and shape all his Twain material into a two-hour show. The performance also marks the opening of Rockwell's new season under its new director, Randy L. Mayes. For the center, located in Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall across Elmwood Avenue from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Mayes has programmed -- besides Holbrook -- a contemporary folk trio, the Chenielle Sisters, Feb. 28; Hazelle Goodman, a comedienne and lead actress in Woody Allen's new movie, "Deconstructing Harry," March 7; and jazzman Joshua Redman, May 3. "I've been here only five weeks, so we got a late start," he said. "But I think our audiences will be pleased with these events. Next year we will be able to expand the season."
-- Terry Doran
The season's second attraction on the Slee/Visiting Artist Series will be the Oberlin Trio, performing in Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo North Campus at 8 p.m. next Friday. The ensemble was founded in 1982 when two winners of coveted Naumberg Awards sat down with the cellist of the New Hungarian Quartet to play chamber music just for their own delectation, and found such a strong chemistry that they became a professional touring trio. The members are violinist Stephen Clapp, of the Juilliard School faculty, and cellist Andor Toth and pianist Joseph Schwartz, both of the Oberlin Conservatory faculty. Their performances have been called "expressive, seamless" and "an extraordinary combination of passion and precision." For Buffalo chamber music lovers, next Friday they will roll out a program consisting of the little-known but superb "Phantasie in C minor" by Frank Bridge, the well-known Mozart Trio in C Major, K 548, Vincent Persichetti's Serenade No. 3 and the darkly beautiful, classically proportioned Brahms Trio in C minor, Op. 101.
-- Herman Trotter
In a traditional 18th century setting, with lavish costumes and sets, Opera Hamilton is preparing to present four performances of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." Aside from the glorious music, "Don Giovanni" achieves what Opera Hamilton's Artistic Director Daniel Lipton calls "a rare balance between stark drama and slapstick humor." The four performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday, Thursday and Oct. 25 in the Great Hall of Hamilton Place, and at 8 p.m. Nov. 1 in the Circle-in-the-Square in Kitchener-Waterloo.
Welsh baritone Jason Howard, well-remembered from his portrayal of Escamillo in Opera Hamilton's April production of "Carmen," will sing the title role, with his servant/errand boy Leporello played by Canadian bass Desmond Byrne. Two other Canadians handle critical roles, soprano Joanne Kolomyjec as Donna Anna, switching Donna Elvira which she sang in Opera Hamilton's 1991 "Don Giovanni," and tenor Benjamin Butterfield as Don Ottavio, most recently heard in last season's "Cosi fan tutte" as Ferrando. Soprano Eva Zseller will be Donna Elvira and soprano Sally Dibblee the peasant bride Zerlina.
Directing the production will be the highly regarded Ken Cazan, whose 1995 "Un Ballo in Maschera" and 1991 "Faust" were big hits with the Opera Hamilton audiences. Daniel Lipton, of course, will conduct. In the pit will be the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, alternating productions with the New Hamilton Orchestra under a new arrangement wherein Opera Hamilton and Kitchener-Waterloo Opera are amalgamating under Opera Ontario.
-- Herman Trotter