Thursday, January 31, 2013

Music Preview: 'Fiorello!' at Encores!; Kirchschlager and Bostridge at Lincoln Center

Encores! presents Fiorello!
January 30-February 3, 2013
New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, New York, NY

Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge
February 3, 2013
Alice Tully Hall, 65th Street and Broadway, New York, NY

Rutigliano (center) as Fiorello! (photo: Joan Marcus)
When Encores! began in 1994, the first musical resuscitated was Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s Fiorello!, the immensely entertaining show about New York City’s legendary mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. Now, Encores! begins its 20th anniversary season with seven performances (through February 3) of that very same musical, starring Kate Baldwin, Shuler Hensley, Erin Dilly, Emily Skinner and, in the title role, Danny Rutigliano.

Between rehearsals, veteran Broadway performer Rutigliano recently discussed starring as Hizzoner in Fiorello! and how Encores! has changed over the past couple of decades.

Kevin Filipski: This is your fifth Encores! show. As a veteran, describe how different it is now from then: more performances and fancier stagings compared to concert versions with everyone flipping through their books.
Danny Rutigliano: I started back in the early days of Encores! I did One Touch of Venus with Melissa Errico, The New Moon directed by Fiorello! director Gary Griffin, Kismet with Brian Stokes Mitchell and Marin Mazzie, and Bells Are Ringing with Kelli O’Hara. It’s definitely gotten bigger each time. Back then it was so bare-boned: it was all about the music. So what we’re doing now is making it simple, not elaborate and exorbitant—it suggests the physical production but with fully staged blocking and musical numbers. It’s getting back to what we’re about—Encores! is a very unique treasure. Kismet was more elaborate—and in Bells, Kelli was so inspiring, she tackled the lead as if she’d been doing it 8 times a week for months. The bar has been set higher—the performances have a level of expectation.

KF: How does it feel bringing back this show?
DR: Fiorello! is a great show—it’s a Pulitzer Prize winner, let’s not forget that. The characters and the story are so rich: he was so fascinating, he was celebrated about being a great 3-term mayor, but the show ends when he is first elected. That’s how full his life and career were. The score is so terrific, it’s got many great tunes, so this is utter bliss for me, a role that I’ve wanted to play. It’s also timely about politics and how history repeats itself. And this is a terrific cast—Erin and Kate are fabulous. Encores! always puts together the best talent in town, it’s a little jewel that it isn’t so little—in the acting community everybody wants to do one of these shows.

Bostridge and Kirchschlager perform Wolf
When Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge take the stage for their duo recital at Alice Tully Hall on Sunday, February 3, they will not be singing anything by such obvious candidates as Schubert or Schumann or Brahms, instead devoting their program exclusively to the exceptionally artful lieder of Austrian composer Hugo Wolf.

Specifically, the talented pair will perform 34 selections from Wolf’s voluminous and wide-ranging Spanisches leiderbuch (Spanish Songbook), with the stylish pianist Julius Drake accompanying them. Although he is considered one of the master songwriters (to my mind, he’s right up there with Gabriel Faure, with whom he shares the elegance and refinement that separate them from the pack), Wolf isn’t programmed as often as he should be.

Similarly, since the lovely Austrian mezzo and lanky British tenor don’t perform often enough in New York—Kirchschlager has especially been scarcely seen and heard on local stages, at least when compared to other top-flight female singers—this concert should be a must-attend for those who appreciate such musical artistry.

Encores! presents Fiorello!

Angelika Kirchschlager and Ian Bostridge

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