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Pittsburgh Opera receives grant from Pennsylvania

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Happy Fourth of July! The holiday weekend brought welcome news to Pittsburgh Opera, which has received a hefty grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The Strip District company was awarded a $350,000 state grant to support its 2016-17 season, which includes the world premiere of Daniel Sonenberg's "The Summer King." The opera centers on the life of former Negro Leagues star Josh Gibson, who spent most of his career in Pittsburgh.

Democratic Rep. Adam Ravenstahl of Allegheny County announced the grant, which was approved by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, on Friday. 

"Funding for the grants stems from the Pennsylvania Gaming Economic Development and Tourism Fund Program, which was established to fund community and economic development projects in Allegheny County through revenue generated from all casinos," according to a press release.

The company generally receives some funding — about $165,000 — from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, but Friday's announcement marked the first time it received this particular grant, general director Christopher Hahn said. Producing a world premiere adds to the already steep sticker price of the operatic art form, so the company made this request specifically for "The Summer King," he said.

"The costs of this season are a larger because of the world premiere," Mr. Hahn said. "We're very grateful indeed, and it allows us to expand into our outreach to the sporting community and the African-American community in ways we wouldn't previously be able to do."

Performances of "The Summer King" take place April 29-May 7, 2017, at the Benedum Center.

"The grant provides vital funding for the opera company's four mainstage productions on tap this fall and next spring," Mr. Ravenstahl said in the release. "It helps pay for everything from center rentals and wardrobe to paying the highly skilled professionals — conductors, orchestra, stage crews — who make the season so highly anticipated." 

 

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Kenny Chesney needs to say something to the fans

Written by Scott Mervis on .

 

KennyChesneyHaley Nelson/Post-Gazette photo

 

 

This is an unpopular opinion among many Pittsburghers and virtually all of my Facebook friends, but I really like Kenny Chesney.

Do I think he’s the greatest musical artist of his generation? No, but he’s a quality entertainer with one of those warm baritone country voices, and he’s an athlete on stage, pouring every ounce of energy into the show. He works out constantly to stay in shape to do it. And, unlike a lot of other performers these days, once the fans are in the venue, he commands their full attention. For casual fans who just came for the party, they sure seem to know every word. 

On a more personal level, I’ve interviewed thousands of musicians and will say that he is one of the most down-to-earth. There is no pretense to Kenny Chesney, whatsoever. Rather than having a publicist link you in, he’ll call you directly and just say “Hey Scott, this is Kenny” and for the next 15 or 20 minutes, he’s all there -- warm, friendly, personable.

He doesn’t strike me as a wild-in-the-parking-lot kind of guy (although he did ride off on that police horse in Buffalo 16 years ago -- remember that?), but his 20-something fans who pour in from rural and suburban areas across the tri-state certainly turn it into a crazy annual holiday.

chesney-concert-trash-07022016Andrew Goldstein photoOn Saturday night, once again, they left an epic mess in the parking lot, and after the show, as pickup trucks crushed bottles and cans to get out, sending shrapnel flying, it was dangerous to be anywhere in the vicinity. I pity anyone who had to get through there in flip-flops.

Chesney has been reluctant to play the schoolmarm on social media -- what musician wants to scold fans? -- but a little well-placed tweet or Facebook public service message saying "Hey, this is Kenny, spread the love, not the garbage" would go a long way.

In the wake of the Chesney show mess in 2013, Luke Bryan did it on Twitter a year later.

As for the city, 2013 was a lesson learned. Crews got to the mess right away and, amazingly, had it cleaned up by the morning.

20160703ng-Clean3-2Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette photo

 

 

 

 

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Mind Cure store will be become Cruel Noise

Written by Scott Mervis on .

Michael-SeamansMichael SeamansOn Aug. 1, Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill will become Cruel Noise Records, under new ownership.


Michael Seamans, who has minded the store at 3138 Dobson St. for six years, has decided to take a break from the day-to-day retail grind and work on his punk documentary and on his Mind Cure label, which has issued releases by the likes of the Bats, Eviction and the S/cks.


Taking over the space will be John Villegas, who plays multiple roles in the underground music scene.


Seamans released this statement:


I am excited to announce that as of August 1st Mind Cure Records is changing. John Villegas, who has been putting out, promoting and writing about underground music for years will be taking over the store as his own and run it under the name Cruel Noise Records. I can’t imagine a better person to step behind the counter and take the reins. John is already a cornerstone of both the Underground music and Polish Hill communities and I have no doubt that he will do a lot with what was started under the Mind Cure banner and make it his own.


To be clear I am not retiring from records, I will still be buying and selling used records and record collections independently but I need some time to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of a store and regroup.


Mind Cure Records the label will continue and the Pittsburgh Punk documentary ‘Give us a Chance’ will be finished this year. The Mind Cure Annex location inside the Commonwealth Press store in Mt. Lebanon will continue on under their watch to ensure that Washington Road’s music needs are met.


Thanks to everybody who has come through the store and supported me and Mind Cure over the years - please continue to do so for John and Cruel Noise as he continues to use this space to promote and sell the finest in Underground music.


We will continue with regular hours until July 18th and then close to allow John time to get the store set up to open for business on Tuesday August 2nd.  It has been a great 6 years at 3138 Dobson St and I couldn’t have done it without the help of a lot of people and the community on Polish Hill.


If you have any questions or have records to sell you can still reach me at (412) 500-6756 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Nonstop treats for the senses take flight with Cirque du Soleil's 'Toruk'

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

FanningFlowers

There was so much eye candy at Cirque du Soleil's "Toruk: The First Flight," it was hard to know where to look first -- especially when I had a role to play.

The new show at Consol Energy Center is subtitled "Inspired by James Cameron's 'Avatar,' " including the land-sky-sea environments and blue humanoid Na'vi denizens of the planet Pandora -- the setting for "Toruk" and for the No. 1 global box-office film of all time ("Star Wars: The Force Awakens" is No. 1 in the USA).

The arena-sized show invites patrons to download the "Toruk: The First Flight" app and check in, which takes a few minutes. (Suggestion: grab the app before you arrive; doing it 5 minutes before the start of the show was an distraction.) The app will then send you messages to have your phone handy and then ask you to point your screen toward the stage

TreeI have to admit, it was weird having my cell phone taken over to display color or glaring eyes that then became part of the effects in a scene, adding to the depth of the production (at Consol, "Toruk" used the floor of the arena, one short side and everything in between (the top two tiers of seats were blacked out, adding to the perception of an enormity of scale). 

I found the anticipation and participation of using the app somewhat distracting, and I was annoyed when I got a reminder about visiting the merchandise kiosk during intermission. But it was a new experience on top of experiencing a new show. It would definitely have been more fun if I had downloaded the app and known more about how it worked in advance.

The show itself was less circus and more story than previous Cirque shows I've been to, which I rather liked. The performers combined dance moves, aerial artistry and amazing acrobatic skill as part of a trio's quest to save Pandora's Tree of Souls. 

With a narrator to guide us (everyone else spoke Na'vi), the story unfolded amid a kaleidoscope of color and ever-changing environments. Highlights included "War Horse"-style creature puppets and ginormous fanning flowers. The waterless waves and volcano climbers were among the more stunning effects that involved projections, and the Toruk title creature took the prize for coolest puppet among many. 

"Toruk: The First Flight" might seem like sensory overload, but is there such a thing as too much eye candy?

Remaining showtimes: 7:30 p.m. through Friday; 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 1 and 5 p.m. next Sunday; www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk, www.ticketmaster.com or 1-800-653-8000.

 

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Zachary Quinto, good Pittsburgh son

Written by Sharon Eberson on .

With "Star Trek: Beyond" set to release July 22, Zachary Quinto has been a man about town -- including his hometown, apparently. The Green Tree native accompanied his mom on a shopping trip and posted evidence on his Instagram account.QuintoInstagram

 A couple of weeks ago, he was seen challenging his "Star Trek" castmate Zoe Saldana (Spock vs. Uhuru) on the Spike network show "Lip Sync Battle" (see below). He'll also be seen in the upcoming "Snowden" as lawyer/journalist Glenn Greenwald. 

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