Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Day 336-Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra-Hector Berlioz's Damnation of Faust- Musical Powerhouse of Good and Evil

I have experienced the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) in the past but never such a larger than life  production as  Hector Berlioz's  Damnation of Faust.   Manfred Honceck conducted 4 opera soloists, 170 choir members and the 98 piece Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.  It was a  musical powerhouse performance of good and evil.  

One of PSO largest productions with 270 artist on stage

This four part production was a combustion of operatic arias sung in French (with English subtitles) and jockeying periods of only the PSO. At times the symphony sounded breezy and light, and at other times, fiery and frantic.  The Mendelson Choir of Pittsburgh occasionally added dramatic waves and The Pittsburgh Youth Chorus sprinkled in pure sounds during the conclusion.

Music, opera and choir  came together to tell, as Berlioz’s described it, a “dramatic legend”. In the story, the protagonist, Faust (tenor, Charles Castronovo) is in a state of despair and contemplates ending his life. The devil, Mephistopheles (bass-baritone, Luca Pisaroni) enters and  promises him pleasure and fortune and introduces Faust to Marguerite (mezzo soprano, Tara Erraught). They fall in love. There is some passion in between but the climax occurs  when Faust is tricked into selling his soul to the devil in order to save his love from prison. This triggers Faust’s descension into hell. Marguerite, who on the other hand repents from her sin, ascends to Heaven.

Even without the story narrative or the aria’s lyrics, I enjoyed the contrasts in the composition portraying  good and evil  and joy and sorrow. The symphony opened with a breezy sweet flow of piccolos and flutes with  the added choir “Tra La La”.  Later, deeper  sounding solo cellos and then violins produced a  melancholic wave. The symphony  mimicked  the story with interesting injections of bells and other sounds, especially brass. It was an evening filled with  musical contrasts as opposite as  heaven and hell.

This show punched with potent vocals.  Charles Castronovo, as Faust, had a magnetic effect as a smooth tenor. Luca Pisaroni, as the devil, was a mesmerizing bass-baritone and Tara Erraught, as Marguerite, was a powerful mezzo soprano that filled the theater.

 The anticipated ending  was one of my favorite moments. Faust is dragged to hell as the symphony takes a wild ride with brass, drums, and fiery strings. It all crescendos with a unified female choir scream and ends with the choir bass “Oh Dread”. In contrast, the symphony lightened,  harps were added, and the choir sang “Praise Hosanna” with the angelic sounds of young voices as Marguerite entered Heaven.

Damnation of Faust was a spectacular dramatic night where diverse genres emulated the sounds of temptation and redemption. It was night where good and evil took flight with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

(I will definitely keep the PSO in my empty-nest tool box for enjoyable dramatic musical experiences and more.  For more of what is next for the PSO go to )

Spiritual Reflection

For you are the children of your father the Devil...  There is no truth in him.When he lies, it is consistent with his character for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44)

Other Sources


Thursday, March 7, 2019

March Preview

A Doll’s House Part 2- Pittsburgh Public Theater- March 7, 2019 to April 7, 2019-O’Reilly Theater

 A Doll's House Part 2 is an imagined sequel to the classic 1879 play  A Doll's House, written by Henrick Isben. Isben ended his play with Nora, slamming the door as she left her overbearing husband and three children. This was a gutsy and groundbreaking move for a character in the 1800’s.

In Lucas Hnath's 2017 play,  A Doll House Part 2,  Nora  returns knocking on the door 15 years later. She asks her husband for a divorce and  confronts her daughter and nanny. It’s period comedy about a timeless subject- marriage. I can’t wait to see if, living on her own, Nora  made any steps towards reaching self-actualization (or her personal best).

(Join me for this dramatic comedy, A Doll's House Part 2 from March 7 to April 7, 2019 at the O'Reilly Theater. For tickets go to

Midnight Radio-Wizard of Oz-Bricolage Theater-March 28-April 14, 2019

Midnight Radio recreates  The Wizard of Oz  in a 1940 radio show broadcast format complete with commercials and sound effects. You are part of the studio audience with a behind the scene view of  the inventive ways in which objects and voices are used to create a mental image of the story. It’s a window into the age of story telling radio of  the 1940’s.

There also is a free happy hour 30 minute before every show with  pre-show activities. 

(Join me for Midnight Radio’s The Wizard of Oz at Bricolage Theater and be part of the 1940’s radio studio audience on March 28-April 14, 2019.  Tickets are $35.00 for adults and $25.00 for students. Opening night, March 28, 2019,  is Pay What You Like Night! and  you can reserve your seat for $5.00. For tickets go to or call 412 471-0999.)

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Day 335- North American Tour of The Phantom of the Opera --Enjoy the Music of the Night

The Phantom of  the Opera is a breathtaking visual and musical love story. It is one of my all-time favorite musicals. I saw the show in the 90’s and recall that is was “pure perfection” with a larger than life set that mirrored the spectacular musical score.  The North American Tour  with new set designs, choreography and special effects  brings back the drama of the  “Music of the Night ."

Many of  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s compositions from this show have been revisited by symphonies and numerous accomplished voices (Think of Me,  The Phantom of the Opera, All I Ask of You ). When this music is combined with the dramatic story, it’s an explosive musical evening like no other.  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Day 334 Magician Eric Jones at the New Liberty Magic- Now You See It Now You Don’t-It’s Impossible!

 Eric Jones kicks off the opening of Liberty Magic, a new space dedicated to the art of magic. Jones  was a top 12 semi-finalist on the television show America’s Got Talent where his sleight of hand illusions repeatedly mesmerized viewers and the judges earning the descriptions: “Brilliant” (Simon Cowell), a “Superhero” (Mel B.) and “Mindblowing” (Heidi Klum). I was excited to experience the Impossible “now you see it now you don’t” tricks of Eric Jones up close in this new intimate theater.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Day 333 Pittsburgh Public Theater- Shakespeare’s The Tempest- The Modern and Fantasy Worlds Collide

The Tempest, thought to be one of Shakespeare’s last plays, is the tapestry for Pittsburgh Public Theater’s new Artistic Director, Marya Sea Kaminski’s  directorial debut. With an all-female cast and injecting a modern battle with breast cancer, Kaminski gives this 1600’s tale of  Prospero’s journey on a magical island  a new facelift.  Although I subscribe to the group that is not “Shakespeare savvy”, I was excited to experience Kaminski’s inventive collision of the modern world with the magical world in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Day 322 The Great Gatsby-Pittsburgh Ballet -A Cinematic Drama Through Dance

The Great Gatsby is one of my all-time favorite love stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald that takes place during the roaring 1920’s. The book was the  subject of two grand movies. In 1973 Robert Redford  portrayed Gatsby and Mia Farrow was Daisy, his love obsession. In 2013 it was remade with  Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s a tale about a tragic love affair between married Daisy and the wealthy and mysterious Gatsby. The  Pittsburgh Ballet kicked off  it’s 50th Year Anniversary with this revised production of The Great Gatsby performed to a newly commissioned original score played by the PBT Orchestra.  I was excited to see the dance interpretation of this cinematic drama of passion, betrayal and obsessive love.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Day 321-A Concert at the Hard Rock Cafe-The Prince Project- Party Like it’s “1999”

When we hear music that was popular during our youth, we are transported back to that time remembering our past antics and the fun.  In the 80’s, I along with most of my girlfriends, had a crush on Prince after the release of the album (yes I said album) and the movie “Purple Rain”.  I never had the chance to see this pop rock virtuoso live. That is why I was excited to experience the Prince and the Revolution tribute band,  The Prince Project, recently at the Hard Rock Cafe. The Prince Project, transported the Hard Rock Cafe back to the 1980’s where this  sold out dancing crowd  seemed to be partying like it was “1999”. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

February Events

Magician Eric Jones in Impossible at Liberty Magic-February 6 through March 17, 2019

The magician, Eric Jones with the show Impossible kicks off the opening of Liberty Magic, a new space dedicated to the art of magic. Eric Jones was a semi-finalist on the television show, America's Got’s Talent. He brings his sleight of hand illusions to this intimate 70 seat venue.  

Join me for an intimate night of magic from February 6 to March 17, 2019 at Liberty Magic (811 Liberty Ave). For tickets go to

Blog to here

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Day 320- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New Musical- The Golden Ticket to Pure Imagination

My blog inspiration book, Everything I Need to Know I learned From a Little Golden Book reminds us to “use your imagination”. That is just what Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The New Musical  reminds you to do. The story takes you to a world of imagination when Charlie Bucket and his grandfather find the golden ticket to tour the eccentric Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The musical captures the essence of this iconic story about the innocents of having the child-like ability to dream, imagine and create.   

Monday, January 21, 2019

Day 318 You’re the Next Contestant, Come on Down to the CLO Cabaret's Game On - an Interactive Game Show Musical Comedy

Growing up my family were game show enthusiasts. The daytime TV of my childhood was riddled with shows, Password, Match Game, Let’s Make a Deal, The Price is Right and more.  We played along dreaming of winning the big prize. The CLO premier show, Game On captures the spirit of the game in a musical comedy where you are the studio audience and maybe the next contestant.