+ Orchestra’s Leif Bjaland takes a bow
Goodbyes are never easy, especially when they involve violins and sobering operas by Richard Wagner.
Maestro Leif Bjaland will end his 15-year tenure with the Sarasota Orchestra next week with a handful of farewell concerts that include the prelude to Wagner’s “Die Meistersinger,” Schumann’s “Symphony No. 2 and Grieg’s “Piano Concerto.”
The performances, which will feature guest pianist Orion Weiss, will run Feb. 16 to Feb. 19, at Neel Performing Arts Hall and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
Bjaland announced his resignation last year after auditioning to be the music director of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic. (The job went to a 37-year-old Spanish conductor.)
To help the orchestra position itself for the transition, Bjaland stayed on for much of this season, sharing podium time with Associate Conductor Dirk Meyer and several guest conductors.
Now that the maestro’s send-off is finally here, the time has come to ask him the most obvious of softball questions.
What will he miss most about the job?
“That’s easy,” Bjaland says. “The musicians.”
OK. No surprise there. How about restaurant-wise? Surely there’s a Sarasota establishment that Bjaland will be sad to leave behind.
“Definitely Morton’s,” says the maestro. “I probably ate more than half of my meals at Morton’s. I know all the girls at the deli (counter). I’m going to miss them terribly.”
+ Chorus of the Keys concert will have a certain ‘Twain’
Sarasota Chorus of the Keys is taking its Dixieland concert theme to a whole new level, thanks to the addition of a Mark Twain impersonator.
Bradenton-based Twain doppelganger, Rod Rawlings, will bring even more authenticity to the organization’s 62nd annual show —“Musical Voyage to Dixieland,” a program that features a selection of songs from the South, including “Swanee,” Riverboat Days,” “Darkness on the Delta” and “Shenandoah.”
The show begins at 2:30 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at the Riverview Performing Arts Center. For more information, call 484-7589 or visit chorusofthekeys.org.
+ Sayer brings her finger pickin’ back to Sarasota
Banjo buffs rejoice! Cynthia Sayer is back! The New York City-based banjoist is in town this weekend to visit her parents, Bert and Barbara Sayer. Lucky for us, she’s added a concert to her to-do list.
A longtime member of Woody Allen’s Manhattan jazz band, Sayer is a rock star in the four-string banjo world. She was recently the subject of a PBS documentary and many of her collaborators are A-list jazz musicians (Bucky Pizzarelli, anyone?)
She’s generated a fan base in Sarasota here as well, selling out concerts at The Players Theatre two years in a row.
This time she’s strumming at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center — within walking distance of her parents’ new condo.
When I caught up with Sayer last month to see what she’s been up to, she said she was gearing up to play in Switzerland with her band, Sparks Fly, and is in the process of recording a new CD (“Joy Ride”) with Bruce Springsteen’s accordion player, Charlie Giordano.
It’ll be out this summer. In the meantime, check out her show. It’s at 2 p.m. Feb. 12, at GPAC.
‘Carmen’: Sarasota Opera’s production of “Carmen” is causing a stir before it’s even opened. According to one of the supers on the set, mezzo soprano Fredrika Brillembourg is awesome as the opera’s favorite hedonistic gypsy with a temper. The production kicks off the winter opera season and the company’s opening night gala, Feb. 11, at the Ritz Carlton. The show runs Feb. 11 through March 24. For tickets, call 366-8450 or visit sarasotaopera.org.
‘Next Fall’: Florida Studio Theatre continues its streak of presenting love stories with unusual twists as the curtain opens on Geoffrey Nauffts’ “Next Fall.” Nominated for a 2010 Tony Award, the play raises powerful questions about love and faith as it follows the highs and lows of a gay couple at odds over their religious differences. The play runs now though March 25, in the Keating Theatre. For tickets, call 366-9000 or visit floridastudiotheatre.org.
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