If you’re looking for the apex of the term “operatic,” Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca” is the answer. Minus the stereotypical soprano in Viking helmet, the tale of cruelty, murder and suicide has all the elements of intense tragedy we envision for the art form.
Fitting then it is Mobile Opera’s new presentation for a cautious return to “normal” endeavors. Another reason is it plays into Mobile Opera General and Artistic Director Scott Wright’s sensibilities.
“This is one of my favorites. It’s hard to think of anything more dramatic,” Wright said.
Set in war-torn Italy, playwright Victorien Sardou’s original play showed the depths to which a merciless noble sank in extracting his lusty desires from an opera singer. Her love for another man proved a leverage point. Puccini found the play perfect material.
“I see in this ‘Tosca’ the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music,” the composer wrote to his publisher.
Maria Fasciano embodies the titular role. Wright said when he first saw her perform in Memphis, Tennessee, years back, she struck him as “the ideal image” for Tosca.
Tenor James Chamberlain will finally hit a Mobile stage after COVID-19 canceled his star turn in March 2020. The depraved Baron Scarpia — Wright: “the top villain of all time” — will be brought to life by Alexander Henderson.
Wright lauded the chorus as well as the orchestral work by conductor Bernard McDonald and concertmaster Enen Yu. All costumes were created by the opera’s guild of seamstresses.
This will feature the largest set the company has built in The Temple Downtown (351 St. Francis St.). The Friday, March 25, curtain is at 7:30 p.m. The Sunday, March 27, matinee is at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $45-$30 and $10 for students. They are available online at mobileopera.org or by calling 251-432-6772.
Playhouse explores The Bard’s darkness
You still have one weekend to catch youthful actors pondering the philosophical depths of existentialism and mortality as Playhouse in the Park (4851 Museum Drive) stages Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” on March 18, 19 and 20. The pensive and murderous play has elicited raves from attendees at its first weekend.
Friday and Saturday curtain is at 7:30 p.m. Sunday matinee is at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are $18 and available at playhouseinthepark.org or at the box office prior to the performance.
Jazz society revives with Lone Star soul master
After several pandemic-related stops and starts, the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) will mark spring’s renewal with some rejuvenation of its own. Determined to emerge triumphantly, MOJO is blooming anew on March 28, 6:30 p.m., with the jubilant sounds of a trio featuring Texas-based organist Red Young.
Beginning piano at age 3, his first classical recital was five years later. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force Band, he toured with Lloyd Price. His collaborations and tours with luminaries like Freddy Fender, Noel Redding, Sonny and Cher, Joan Armatrading, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt and others testify to his bona fides.
Young’s friendship with Mobile guitarist Rick Hirsch solidified when both musicians backed Armatrading. Their connection is what lured the Lone Star ivory tickler to Mobile not long back.
If you caught Young’s organ trio at Callaghan’s, you’re familiar with his blues-tinged take on soul jazz. Occupying a niche somewhere between Ray Charles and Art Blakey, he boasts a whirling, hard-swinging approach akin to Jack McDuff. It keeps your brain fascinated, your feet moving and your heart full.
Most striking might be Young’s determination to hoist his hefty Hammond B-3 organ up a short flight of stairs and into Club 601 at The Elks (601 State St.), MOJO’s longtime base of operations. It might prove the only time drummer Jimmy Roebuck doesn’t have the most demanding load-in and load-out among his bandmates. Young’s old Air Force Band buddy, saxophonist Bob Maksymkow of Pensacola, will join the pair.
Young and company will play The Peoples Room of Mobile (78 St. Francis St.), 8-10 p.m. on the Friday before the MOJO show. Those tickets are $25.
MOJO’s show will be the roomiest Azalea City venue thus far for Young. Entrance is $15, $10 for MOJO members. A cash bar and limited food service will be available.
For more info, go to mojojazz.org.
Mobile has seemed culturally threadbare without MOJO’s monthly pop-up jazz club. By his old friend’s account, Young is just the guy for its return.
Per Hirsch, “Red turns every room he plays into a jazz club.”
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