October 9th, 2014

Wauwatosa Historical Society 2014 Tour of Homes

On Saturday morning, October 4th, we went to the Washington Highlands neighborhood of Wauwatosa for the Historical Society's annual Tour of Homes. This year's theme was "The Tudors of Washington Highlands," and six homes were open to be visited.

Washington Highlands is a classy neighborhood, with many large and handsome houses, and we were very interested in this tour. The homes that we could visit were all very elegant and well maintained, and fascinating to see. The most splendid home on the tour was the one at 1651 Alta Vista Avenue, a six-bedroom house with many elegant details, and a lovely view from the Heights overlooking West Washington Boulevard.

The organizers and docents did a good job managing the many attendees through the homes. Thanks to the people who shared their homes for this interesting tour!

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Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, Fall Highland Gathering

Saturday evening, October 4th, we went to Klemmer's Banquet Center on Oklahoma Avenue in West Allis, for the Ceilidh portion of the day's program, hosted by the Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, which also included Scottish solo piping and drumming competitions, and a haggis dinner.

We got to the hall about 6:30PM, with the Ceildh in progress. Two pipers were playing a duet that was quite beautiful and intricate. They were followed by Ceol Cairde, a local Celtic band. The evening alternated short sets by Ceol Cairde with pieces by various pipe groups, including the Milwaukee Scottish Pipe Band, Billy Mitchell Scottish Pipe Band, Chicago Celtic Pipe Band, and the Greater Midwest Pipe Band, with dances by the Caledonian Scottish Dancers. We found this was a very nice event, since it gave us a chance to hear the bands play music other than the usual marching pieces you hear at parades or festivals.

The event was rather lightly attended, which is rather a pity. We must watch to see if it reoccurs next year and drum up (so to speak) some more friends to go.

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Skylight Music Theater, “Cinderella,”

On Sunday afternoon, October 6th, we went to the Broadway Theatre Center to see the Skylight’s production of “Cinderella,” (“La Cenerentola”), by Gioachino Rossini, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

We’re often leery of “updated” productions, but the Skylight had good success with their “Mad Men” inspired version of “Cosi Fan Tutti,” so we were optimistic about this show, and not disappointed.

During the overture, we see the stepsisters, Clorinda (Erin Sura) and Tisbe (Kristen DiNonno), stepping out for a night on the town. Then, “selfies” from their night out show them getting progressively drunker and more disheveled. When the curtain comes up, they are sprawled unconscious in their boudoir, which looks like the aftermath of a neon-colored closet explosion. (Clothing designer Cesar Gallindo created the costumes for the performance, which were very effective and beautiful, although the stepsisters, in particular, have awful taste--.)

Cinderella (Sishel Claverie) enters to tidy up, which includes emptying the sisters’ noisome ashtrays. (We thought this was a clever way to preserve the “ash girl” motif.) Constant smoking is just one of Clorinda and Tisbe’s bad habits, which include foolishness, vanity, and selfishness. The English libretto by Amand Holden does a good job of showing that the sisters, who are quite attractive women, have their ugliness on the inside.

When we meet their father, “Don Magnifico,” (Andy Papas), it’s apparent that the apples didn’t fall far from the tree. Papas is very funny portraying the paterfamilias as gross, lazy, and greedy.

When Rossini agreed to adapt the story of Cinderella for the opera, he did so on the condition that there would be no supernatural elements, so there are no fairy godmothers, pumpkin coaches (or singing mice--). Instead, Cinderella’s benefactor is Prince Ramiro’s tutor, Alidoro (LaMarcus Miller).

Alidoro acts as advance scout for the Prince’s wife-hunting expedition. Disguised as a beggar, he goes house to house, looking for young women who are good and kind as well as beautiful. He finds one in Cinderella, who gives him bread and coffee in spite of the sister’s orders. When Ramiro (Luke Grooms) arrives, also disguised, this time as his valet, Dandini (Dimitrie Lazich), the supposed real advance man for the Prince, he is irresistibly attracted by Cinderella’s eyes.

Alidoro provides Cinderella a gown and gets her to the ball, where the Prince falls in love with her. Instead of the glass slipper, she gives him one of a pair of bracelets, which he can use as a clue to find her. The remainder of the story plays out in the familiar fashion, with much comic outrage on the part of Don Magnifico and his daughters when the Prince declares his intention to marry the girl they disown and claim is only a servant. Cinderella demonstrates her goodness for all by forbidding the Prince to punish them, and expressing her forgiveness.

All the singers were in good voice, and both sang and acted well, and they and the chorus adeptly executed the often wonderfully funny stage directions by Jill Anna Ponasik. The “red carpet” scene arriving at the Prince’s palace was a tour de force for stage direction, costume design, and quick-changing chorus members. The orchestra, under the direction of Viswa Subbaraman rendered Rossini’s score faultlessly and in excellent support of the singers.

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