ARTURO TOSCANINI PHILHARMONIC
"They are perfect, though they are Italian," a newspaper in Lake Como says of the Symphonica Toscanini. The Rome-based orchestra is being marketed as the Arturo Toscanini Philharmonic for its first American tour, which comes to Southern California next month. Composed of young, primarily Italian soloists, the orchestra recently appointed as its music director the technically dazzling Lorin Maazel, above, (who is also music director of the New York Philharmonic and head of a new opera house in Valencia, Spain), and it has timed its 13-city tour to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the death of Toscanini, the legendary Italian conductor. The tour comes to the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa for programs Jan. 25 and 26.
Leos Janacek was neither a woman nor a violinist/vocalist. And he was certainly no pop star in his lifetime, as is Iva Bittova in Slovakia and her native Czech Republic. But Janacek might be were he to be reinvented for the 21st century. Like Janacek, Bittova -- who lives in Brno, Janacek's hometown -- takes her inspiration from Moravian folk music and from the bopping cadences of the Czech language. A singer, songwriter and fiddle player, she gives her music's folk and gypsy roots a decidedly contemporary air, part pop and part avant-garde. Lately she's teamed up with the like-minded if culturally distant Bang on a Can All-Stars, with whom she'll be appearing on a UCLA Live program on Jan. 20 shared with the simpatico Kronos Quartet.
You might be relieved to learn that Patti LuPone will not play the tuba in a new Los Angeles Opera production of Kurt Weill's "Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny." But that doesn't mean she is off the hook -- nor is the audience. British director John Doyle -- creator of a celebrated "Sweeney Todd" on Broadway last year and the current new production of another dazzling Sondheim show, "Company," in which the singers and musicians in the band are one and the same -- will make his opera directing debut with this production, running Feb. 10 to March 4 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. And surely he has something offbeat up his sleeve for LuPone and Audra McDonald, who will also be taking a break from Broadway to join the company's most intriguing project of the season.
-- Mark Swed