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Ghost makes the underworld seem so pleasant

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Ghost3Papa Emeritus II by Rich Frollini Coda PhotographyAnd the winner for "Band That Looks Least like it Sounds" goes to ... Ghost.

The Swedish group dresses for a black mass with five Nameless Ghouls and an evil pope, Papa Emeritus II, but rather than sounding like a Darkthrone or a Mayhem, Ghost sounds like they were weaned on Blue Oyster Cult records, with their smooth vocals and melodic synched guitars.

The band, which played Stage AE on Good Friday, does add the touch of piped-in choral vocals in the "Carmina Burana" vein and Latin lyrics praising Lucifer.

It's a thrill when the lights go down and they emerge in full regalia, before their stained-glass cathedral backdrop, with "Infestissumam Per Aspera," the orchestral lead track from their second and latest album.

Even with black hoods and masks covering their faces, the musicianship is tight and Papa, who creeps around the stage with ceremonial gestures, is a gifted singer -- although you could hear multiple voices and he was the only one who appeared to be singing.

The problem with Ghost is that several songs in, the thrill fades and the energy starts to lag. A couple times, the musicians gathered center stage to jam but they don't move around much and Papa's interaction with the crowd is basically along the line of "Good evening. How are you feeling, Pittsburgh?" in a funny accent.

They broke up the set with their darkly plodding cover of "Here Comes the Sun" and later washed Roky Erickson's "If You Have Ghosts" in melody. I couldn't help but think about Kiss concerts, though, where you're sitting there going, "I can wait till Gene does ... "

ghostsetYou want Ghost to breathe fire (although you can't do that in a club) or spit blood or burn incense or sacrifice a crowd member or something evil. Maybe they should hire Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper or Marilyn Manson as their horror-prop consultant.

Ghost4Even with a sing-along climax of "Come together, together as one/come together for Lucifer's son," Ghost makes the underworld seem so darn pleasant.

 

 

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Direction in Philip Glass's "Orphee"

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

I had a great conversation today with Sam Helfrich, the stage director of the Pittsburgh Opera production of Philip Glass's "Orphee." Mr. Helfrich is no stranger to Pittsburgh. He directed a staged production of Handel's "Messiah" with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 2011, as well as two operas ("Eugene Onegin" and "The Turn of the Screw") and an American scenes concert with Pittsburgh Opera.

"Orphee" uses as its source material the Jean Cocteau film of the same name, itself inspired by the Greek myth Orpheus. The libretto is hewn directly from the film's French script. Mr. Helfrich described the movie as "breathtakingly beautiful," and he has seen it roughly 20 times. Still, when crafting the direction for this production – first staged at Glimmerglass in 2007 – he said he didn't want it to be at all like the film.

"The language of film is so different from the language of opera or theater in general," he said.

Cocteau's version, he pointed out, is very much of its time. Released in 1950, it drips with post-war imagery. For example, dress suits worn by the film's judges wear hints at those worn at the Nuremberg trials, and a bombed-out city is reminiscent of Europe's urban ruins.

"We didn't want the opera to be a museum piece," he said.
The film, he said, also emphasizes Orphee's artistic neurosis and individual struggles. Mr. Helfrich believes the opera (and consequently, his interpretation) more strongly emphasizes the relationships between characters – in particular, the difficult marriage between Orphee and Eurydice.

Orphee, a poet, is pulled between his desires for creativity and immortality and the love, security and family life that Eurydice offers. Interestingly, Mr. Helfrich drew on other films – such as "Scenes from a Marriage" and "The Anniversary Party" – to explore marriage for the production.

Another device that is critical to the production (for the sake of both plot and metaphor) is the mirrors through which the characters travel in both the film and opera.
"We took the idea of reflection and doubling and incorporated that into every aspect of the design," he said.

Those are just a few of the concepts that inspire the direction. In any case, he hopes that audience members will come into the theater "with no expectations." Intrigued? Check out the Pittsburgh Opera production yourself, running April 26 to May 4 at the Benedum Center. Tickets and additional information at www.pittsburghopera.org. Check out the Post-Gazette next week for Robert Croan's opera preview.

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It's official: Foxcatcher at Cannes Film Festival

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .

 

Road trip anyone? secondfoxcatcher

It’s official. The world will get its first look at “Foxcatcher” at the Cannes Film Festival. The lineup is being announced today and the movie shot in Western Pennsylvania is on the list.

“Foxcatcher” stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave and Anthony Michael Hall.

Bennett Miller directs a screenplay by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye about a real-life chemical fortune heir who went to prison for killing an Olympic gold medalist and wrestler.

In January 1996, John du Pont shot and killed David Schultz, a 1984 gold medal winner who came to live and train at the state-of-the-art Foxcatcher National Training Center that du Pont had built on his 800-acre property in Newtown Square, Pa. Wilpen Hall in Sewickley Heights was the stand-in for Foxcatcher Farms during 2012 filming.

 

 

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Ed Piskor's 'Hip Hop Family Tree' nominated for two Eisner Awards

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

2014PiskorEisnerNom

edpiskorPG0416PG"Hip Hop Family Tree," the roots-of-the genre series by Munhall-based comic-book artist/writer Ed Piskor (right), has been nominated for two Will Eisner Awards: best reality-based work and best lettering.

Winners of the annual awards, considered the Oscars of the comics world and named for the pioneering comics creator and graphic novelist Will Eisner, will be revealed at a July 25 ceremony during Comic-Con International in San Diego.

"Hip Hop Family Tree" (Fantagraphics) a New York Times graphic books best-seller, tells of the early days of hip hop and the charismatic artists who shaped it, such as DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, with Russell Simmons, Debbie Harry and Keith Haring among the names making appearances along the way.

For a full list of 2014 nominees, visit the Comic-Con website's Eisner section.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Volcano Dogs has echoes of Eviction

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

volcanodogsThree-fifths of Eviction will take the stage at the 31st Street Pub (Strip) Friday with the debut of Volcano Dogs, but don’t expect that same thrash-metal sound from the ’80s.

“Eviction was metal with some punk tossed in,” says bassist Ted Williams. “Volcano Dogs has some of that but we are definitely not thrash or metal or punk. This band is a mixture of all the music we grew up on, listened to and played in our various bands: metal, hard rock, punk, ’70s rock, Swedish rock scene, you name it. I think there is everything from AC/DC to the Dead Boys to the Hellacopters, Motorhead, the Stones, you name it.”

Volcano Dogs reunites Williams with guitarist Rob Tabachka and drummer Ron Reidell, and adds frontman Bruce Lentz from horror-rock band Forbidden 5.

“After Eviction broke up, we all went in some direction — some band, some life, the typical, ya know,” Williams says.

He and Tabachka formed Pilsner, and Tabachka also went on to play in Silver Tongue Devil and Kabuki Thunder.

Recently, the moment arrived for the trio to start working together again.

“Ron, who had focused on family life, went and bought a new drum kit,” Williams says. “Rob had a handful of riffs and played them to me and we started to just get a feel of maybe the time was right to try something. Rob brought up bringing in Bruce to try out writing some lyrics and it just started to come together from there.”

evictionpicEvictionThe three Eviction guys hadn’t played together since 1990, but Williams says, “We locked right in like it was 1989 again!”

With seemingly every band on Earth having reunited at some point, will Eviction ever bite?

“Maybe someday. We do have a vinyl LP release of the re-mastered ‘Who Will Win’ demo coming in late spring,” Williams says.

Also on the bill Friday at 10 p.m. are Thunder Vest and Del Rios.

 

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