Ringing in 2015

From the Eugene Opera to Portland’s The Ensemble

Angela Theis is Adina in Eugene Opera’s The Elixir of Love
Angela Theis is Adina in Eugene Opera’s The Elixir of Love

New Year’s Eve has always been my least favorite holiday, with the commercially contrived Valentine’s Day a close second. Instead of celebrating gratitude or sacrifice or renewal or even zombies, it’s become pretty much an excuse to go out and get hammered and maybe ruin someone else’s life by driving intoxicated for a nightcap.

So it’s a treat to see attractive alternatives available for Eugeneans who want to immerse themselves in the arts instead of just alcohol. Next Wednesday, Dec. 31, the Eugene Opera New Year’s Eve celebration offers a bit of bubbly both onstage and off, with Donizetti’s fizzy 1832 comedy, The Elixir of Love. This operatic work tells the story of Ochocinco, oops, I mean Nemorino, played by tenor Chad Johnson, who tries to fulfill his lust for the abundantly endowed (financially, that is) and polyamorous Adina, played by soprano Angela Theis. Numorino has the help of a spurious potion (the 18th-century equivalent of MDMA) that allegedly will make him irresistible to women, supplied by the huckster Dr. Dulcimara, played by Metropolitan Opera baritone Marco Nisticò.

Antics and reversals ensue, and the real aphrodisiac is revealed to be something more noble (as well as something less so — money) than a magic cocktail. There’s also a matinee performance Jan. 4, giving you time to recuperate from any hangovers provoked by overindulgence in other elixirs, including perhaps the bubbly provided at the Opera’s NYE post-concert champagne reception (separate ticket and reservations required) at Perugino. The lobby will also feature strolling accordionist Sergei Teleshev of Trio Voronezh performing before the show and during intermission.

Opera isn’t Eugene’s only welcome recurring holiday offering. The Oregon Mozart Players’ annual Candlelight Baroque concerts light up First Christian Church (11th & Oak Street) the nights of Friday, Dec. 19, and Saturday, Dec. 20, followed by post-concert receptions with mulled cider. The chamber orchestra will play a glowing program featuring one of J.S Bach’s mighty orchestral suites and one of his ever-enchanting “Brandenburg Concertos,” a dazzling double cello concerto by Vivaldi and a stirring symphony by one of Bach’s innumerable offspring, the underrated Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach.

There’s more Bach performed by Julia Brown at the noon Friday, Dec. 19, Advent organ recital at First United Methodist Church — a half hour of respite from holiday obligations, in return for a freewill donation to FOOD for Lane County.

Finally, if your blood sugar is soaring from a surfeit of Christmas’ endlessly repeated Greatest Carol Hits, Hallelujah choruses and Nutcrackers, the cure arrives Saturday, Dec. 27, when one of Portland’s finest vocal ensembles, The Ensemble, brings together some of the big city’s finest singers, drawn from its top choirs like Cappella Romana, Resonance Ensemble and others, to sing a delectable selection of a cappella Christmas music from the last century, including several fine works written by living composers. Along with music by 20th-century French master Maurice Duruflé and British composer Kenneth Leighton, the concert at Central Lutheran Church (18th and Potter) features seasonal compositions by active American composers Frank La Rocca and Frank Ferko, and a world-premiere carol arrangement from Minnesota composer Linda Kachelmeier that will make you wonder why we don’t hear more such beautiful modern seasonal sounds even at this most traditional of times. Just before the new year dawns, The Ensemble’s highly recommended concert is a lovely way to celebrate musical renewal.

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