Surely there are opera fans out there, closeted or otherwise; if so, this news will undoubtedly turn that Pagliacci frown upside down.
New York's famous Metropolitan Opera will be hosting "Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD," a series of six live, high-definition broadcasts at movie theaters across North America designed to broaden the public appeal of opera and benefit those opera aficionados who are unable to visit the Met. The series kicks off Dec. 30 at the Regal Stonecrest 22 at Piper Glen with a matinee performance of the Met's new, 100-minute, English-language version of Mozart's The Magic Flute, directed by Julie Taymor and conducted by Met Music Director James Levine. The following operas will be shown: Bellini's I Puritani on Jan. 6, the premier of The First Emperor by Tan Dun and author Ha Jin (featuring Placido Domingo) on Jan. 13, Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin (featuring Renee Fleming) on Feb. 24, Rossini's The Barber of Seville on March 24, and Puccini's Il Trittico on April 28. Ticket prices are $18.00 for adults and $15.00 for children. More information on tickets and theaters at all participating locations is available at www.metoperafamily.org/hdlive.
Once, the cello was practically a rock & roll novelty act. The instrument may have provided the beating heart of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby," and iconoclasts like Eno, Nick Drake, and John Cale occasionally featured it, but by and large the cello was a visitor in the rock & roll world.
Not anymore, though. From the drums-and-cello duo Talkdemonic and chamber textures of Rachel's, to the country-inflected sounds of Alejandro Escovedo and Norfolk & Western, and the gypsy-flavored songs of Nick Cave, Tom Waits and the Decemberists, the cello has become a beloved accent for many rock acts. But for Melora Creager and her group Rasputina, the cello isn't an accent -- everything else is.
Formed in 1992, Rasputina was the brainchild of Creager, who took up the instrument at the age of nine. Creager formed the all-female cello trio after guest spots with 4AD bands like Ultra Vivid Scene, the Pixies and the Throwing Muses, later holding the cello seat on Nirvana's final tour in 1994.
"I always got a really strong response to the cello, though I knew no one could hear it over the guitars," Creager says. "So I thought if you could actually hear the cello, if there were no guitars, just cellos, you'd get a really good response."
Creager recruited fellow cellists Julie Kent and Agnieszka Rybska, and the band's unique brand of gothic chamber pop earned its debut, Thanks for the Ether, a Sony release in 1996. The record was chock-full of dark tales inspired by tragic figures and events from history, including the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911, the doomed Donner Party, and reclusive billionaire weirdo Howard Hughes. That's a formula Creager and her current colleagues -- cellist Zoe Keating and drummer Jonathon TeBeest -- have followed since, including 2004's exploration of Louisiana and Creole history, Frustration Plantation, and their as-yet-untitled new studio disc due out in early 2007.
But writing rock for the cello is no simple task. For one thing, you can't play chords on one cello. But you can with three, and from there the instrument's inherent versatility comes into play, which is how Rasputina can tap into Zeppelin, Bill Monroe or Dvorak.
"Writing for the cello isn't like sculpting marble, where you're taking away," Creager says, "it's more like clay, where you're adding layers."
Rasputina plays the Visulite; Dec. 14; 9 p.m.; $12 advance, $14 door; www.visulite.com.
Stocking Stuffers: Look for these shows featuring local acts to provide an antidote to the holidaze: Latin rockers La Rúa open the farewell tour of Bacilos at the Neighborhood Theatre Thursday, Dec. 7; the same night singer-songwriter Rick Spreitzer opens for Kevin Gordon at the Evening Muse ... Matthews' emo-rockers This Waking Moment open for Harvard, Farewell and Philmont at Tremont on Saturday, Dec. 9 ... indie-punkers Red State rip it up at the Milestone on Dec. 12, opening for Planes Mistaken for Stars, the North Atlantic and Idea of Beauty ... 2013 Wolves opens for the stoner sludge of Drag City's Pearls and Brass on Dec. 14, also at the Milestone ... On Saturday, Dec. 16, you can begin the evening at 8 p.m. at the Evening Muse with solo sets from three of the city's better songwriters: Vance Carlisle (The Houstons, the Gold Coast), Joey Stephens (Pyramid) and Taylor Burton -- which will leave you just enough time to get to the Visulite for the Alternative Champs' modern rock extravaganza and freak-show at 10 p.m. ... The Noises 10 play the Visulite Friday, Dec. 22 ... There's a double-bill at the Evening Muse that night as well, featuring the all-female harmonies of the Near Misses and the twang-y stylings of the New Familiars, playing the late show ...