The Louisville Orchestra’s catchy theme for this season, “Music Makes a City” (a nod to Owsley Brown III’s successful documentary on the orchestra’s early years), has cities as the focus of each set of concerts. Vienna is the happy choice for the early fall, and two upcoming performances, contrasting in nature, will demonstrate the startling range and beauty of music that European city has produced. On Thursday, Oct. 28, at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m., Jorge Mester will direct a sumptuous choice of late-Romantic works, starting with Brahms’ Tragic Overture, continuing with the wonderfully melodic and noble Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn (which in my youth was always called the St. Anthony Chorale) and ending with Mahler’s spellbinding Fourth Symphony. People have said for years that a 71-piece orchestra is too big for Louisville, but it is concerts of this majesty that make the opposite case.
The lighter side of Viennese music, and especially the waltz music of Johann Strauss Jr. and family, will be featured soon thereafter — under the ebullient baton of Bob Bernhardt — on Thursday, Nov. 4, at 6:30 p.m. in the Brown Theatre and two days later at 7:30 p.m. in the Ogle Center in New Albany. Only fools underrate Johann and friends. A great conductor, long deceased, told me once that among the hardest things to conduct is a Strauss waltz. You might think anyone can count to three, but finding the balance between a too-strict tempo (which leads to rigidity) and too much fluidity (which makes for schmaltz) is a hard call. Trust Maestro B. to get it right, and prove again that there is such a thing as great light music. For Louisville concerts, call 587-8681; for the Ogle call (812) 941-2525.
Wine, Women and Dance
There are numerous reasons to see the Kentucky Opera’s L’Elisir d’Amore (The Love Potion) and just as many to catch the Louisville Ballet’s Oct. 22-23 production, though it will take skillful juggling of the calendar, as they are coeval (a funny word, which you might think means “equally wicked” but actually means contemporaneous). In the opera’s case (Brown Theatre, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m. and Oct. 24 at 2 p.m.), the best argument is the main-stage debut of an excellent young Louisville soprano, Emily Allbrink, who caught the eye two summers ago singing for the MET’s Maestro Levine, and now takes the lovely, lyrical role of Adina. Donizetti’s melodic fun-fest is about a plump Italian with a drink problem. (Or so it seemed when Pavarotti played the role of the lovesick Nemorino, as he did for decades). On the dance side, the attraction is three one-act ballets spanning the 19th-21st centuries, packaged as “Director’s Choice” — meaning they are selected by Bruce Simpson, who has shown a good eye for the new and challenging. For ballet tickets call 583-2623 and for the opera call 584-4500.
One of my deepest professional regrets is that my plan to have a production at the Kentucky Opera directed by the great exponent of the theater of the absurd, Charles Ludlam, fell through when he told me over lunch in New York in the mid-’80s that he would be dead from AIDS by the time the production was to come off. So there is a poignancy, mixed with the prospect of great hilarity, as I look forward to his masterly The Mystery of Irma Vep, playing at Actors Theatre Oct. 5 to 30 (584-1205).
Photo: "Music Makes a City"