LA OPERA presents VERDI’S “IL TROVATORE” — finally I saw, I heard, I loved, and I must kick it up to HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, but this is the final performance! Do yourself a favor. Take a chance, even if you think opera is not your cuppa tea. Trust me, it is! And this one is a home run, out of the park. If you’re not going to take advantage of something like this you may as well move back to Omaha, Cheyenne, Natchez or Albuquerque. (However, in NM, you can drive up to the famed Santa Fe Opera, in a spectacular outdoor setting.)
The long-delayed new season is bookended by Verdi, ending with “Aida” next May. LAO Music Director (since 2006) James Conlon lives and breathes the Italian master, having conducted his 500th Verdi opera last year. It shows: the orchestra was as vibrant, dramatic, rich and expressive as I’ve ever heard them. The entire company had to deal with pandemic restrictions, and then had to build the set from scratch in 10 days because the one they had shipped from Europe was still anchored offshore at a jammed-up LA Harbor.
But that’s showbiz, and sometimes adversity morphs into triumph. The cast, as joyfully represented by Director Francisco Negrin at curtain call, seemed completely thrilled to finally be able to perform again, and the audience showed long love and respect. All told, this may be one you never forget.
It’s a ghost story! The fantastic, dark, dramatically lit movable set reflects it perfectly. The acting was thrilling, the singing magnificent, and the choruses, the choruses! The famous “Anvil Chorus” is brief and came up early, but it was only one of many gems. (Congrats to Grant Gershon.) The two leads were unforgettable, superb Chinese soprano Guanqun Yu and Missouri dramatic tenor Limmie Pulliam, along with rich-toned Texas mezzo Raehann Bryce-Davis. Knock you out! Sun 2 p.m., Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, DTLA, $23-292.
BLUES DUO — that’s not their name, I guess they don’t have one (each also plays in other bands), but that shouldn’t matter to you because this slide guitar-harmonica vocal duo are stone cold blues masters in every way, with as full a sound as you could wish for, and ain’t that enough? They are the real deal. What a great way to wrap up the week. Every Sun 3-5 p.m., parking lot adjacent to Ashland Hill restaurant on Main Street, free.
EM THE MASTER — why would you put skepticism in people’s minds before they even get to the door, by proclaiming yourself “The Master”? Maybe, it’s worth it if you know you can back it up, and that becomes part of the image, the legend. It’s a show biz/rock and roll tradition, but one attempted by only the most confident.
EM does back it up and does it all, like no one you’ve seen in years or maybe ever, up close in a local blues bar not an arena, and for 10 bucks. She sings, she dances, she has dancers, they all jump up on the bar (watch those drinks!), practically spilling the show out the door onto Fourth Street. She crawls across the stage and across the floor like a reptile, gripping the mic and never missing a musical beat, she doesn’t play the piano, she attacks it, she uses her voice as an instrument in creative ways to transform each number. She aggressively leads a killer band, her energy is nonstop and seemingly limitless, she can sell a song, rockers and ballads, vocally and with her smart, seductive arrangements. She writes terrific songs perfect for her act, and she may remind you some of a more energetic Lady Gaga. In her spare time she co-authored a book with Gaga that made the NY Times best-seller list. I’m either lyin’ or crazy or you’re crazy for not catching this sensation while she’s here. Every Tues 9:30 p.m., Harvelle’s, DTSM, $10.
A note about Harvelle’s: I just noticed that the above-lauded blues duo played Harvelle’s back in 2019. You know, when the world was still on its axis. Not surprised. Jason does such an outstanding job of booking this venerable 90-year-old club, a truly amazing variety with something for everyone but always on a really high level for such a small venue, working with longtime owner Cevin, and Damian gets a hand in it occasionally too while making sure the entire operation runs smoothly. Even the doormen are way cool. It is your ideal friendly local dive. Damian and Jason landed here after their much-loved bar Liquid Kitty was sold out from under them, are now co-owners with Cevin, and it is a team effort that gives us, smack in the middle of our downtown, one of the best venues in the city.
TONIGHT! HAMILTON — Haven’t seen it yet, but I think I can only go wrong by not recommending it, from what I’ve heard and read. Tonight, Fri, Sat, Tues, Wed, next Thurs 8 p.m., Sun 1 p.m., 6:30 p.m., also Sat 2 p.m., all performances at Pantages Theater, Hollywood, $49-3000+, depending on date/time.
LA PHIL with DUDAMEL returns to Disney Hall! — Homecoming Gala and Benefit , a world premier, songs, a Tchaikovsky and a Mahler movement, Sat 7 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $99-285.
THEATRICUM BOTANICUM presents “THE LAST, BEST SMALL TOWN” — this moving, timely original with themes of racism, small town life, youthful rebellion, tradition — set in a small town that both nurtures and stultifies. Great acting, but you could say that about everything TB does. This is a world class company. Sat 4 p.m.
SHAKESPEARE’S “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” — one of the best “AMND” I can recall. Loved the inventive physical comedy, and these fairies are show stealers; who could not be charmed by their little chirping sounds? Sun 4 p.m.
SHAKESPEARE’S “JULIUS CAESAR” — historically informative, makes ancient political drama seem contemporary. All politics are local politics, right? Every word shimmers, due to the delivery and acting of the TB thespians. Christopher W. Jones stood out as conflicted bad guy Brutus, as did Willow Geer as Portia, with special linguistic laurels to Melora Marshall as Cassius, who was just made for this role, even though it is a man’s part. She pulls you straight in, to the moment. Sun 7:30 p.m.
All performances TB, Topanga Canyon, $10-60.
LIBRARY GIRL 12TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW —”Be Still And Know You Are, A Tribute to Stephen John Kalinich,” and Happy Birthday, young poetry lady, that’s a long time to be serving up some of LA’s best spoken word (and music) month after month, and it looks like you made it through the pandemic, though a couple of scheduled performers withdrew last minute with qualms about performing indoors just yet but never mind that, we will always find plenty in your line-up to provoke hibernating thoughts or a smile on a resistant face, Sun 6 p.m. for famous gorditos and , 7 p.m. show, Ruskin Group Theater, SM Airport, $15.
DUDAMEL conducts STRAUSS, Schoenberg’s “Transfigured Night,” next Thurs 7 p.m., Walt Disney Concert Hall, DTLA, $71-227.
COMING ATTRACTIONS: DUDAMEL conducts STRAUSS (see above), 10/15-17, DUDAMEL conducts MAHLER’S 4TH, 10/21-24, all performances Disney Hall, DTLA.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com