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Ending 2013 with a Bang

Sinfonia, strings, jazz and opera ring in the New Year
Soprano Leah Partridge stars in Eugene Opera’s La Traviata
Soprano Leah Partridge stars in Eugene Opera’s La Traviata

Baroque music and candlelight make a fine combination. On Thursday (12/20) and Friday (12/21), the Oregon Mozart Players’ annual Candlelight Baroque concert returns to the ideally intimate setting of First Christian Church. This year’s program features some of the finest music of the Baroque era: J.S. Bach’s ever-popular Cantata No. 51, “Exult in God in Every Land”; a suite from Henry Purcell’s magnificent short opera Dido and Aeneas; another popular seasonal perennial, Corelli’s “Christmas Cantata”; a tasty sinfonia by the great Italian Baroque composer Alessandro Scarlatti, whose music was unfortunately eclipsed by that of his son, Domenico; and an oboe concerto by Tomaso Albinoni, another wonderful Baroque composer whose lively concertos have been overshadowed by a piece attributed to him that he didn’t even write — the famous Adagio in G minor is based on some of his music but actually written surreptitiously by an Italian musicologist in the 1950s. John Jantzi will play that anachronistic adagio; the whole program boasts some of the city’s top classical players including trumpeter Dave Bender, violinist Kathryn Lucktenberg and more.

Another great Northwest violinist, Darol Anger, leads the Cascadia All-Stars — a group of Oregon-native string players — on Dec. 22 at WOW Hall for the American acoustic music holiday celebration “Keep-It-In-The-Family Holiday Show.” Anger, a stalwart of Turtle Island String Quartet, Psychograss, David Grisman’s band, Republic of Strings and more, always puts together interesting bands and shows, and this one features cello, banjo, fiddles, mandolin and more. 

Another Oregon star who has risen to national prominence, jazz singer Halie Loren, returns home from a long stretch of international touring for two shows at The Jazz Station on Dec. 20. Her quartet featuring pianist Matt Treder, bassist Mark Schneider and drummer Brian West will play seasonal songs from around the world and their usual supple jazz.

The holiday season is a time of generosity, and on Saturday, Dec. 28, at Tsunami Books, you can support a good cause: saving our WPA-built historic Civic Stadium from demolition and for a new role as a community recreation and sports resource. The all-day party includes a performance of jazz and Beatles tunes reimagined by contemporary classical musicians and Cherry Blossom Musical Arts founders Nancy Wood, Paul Safar and The Love Truffle, with Sean Brennan and Michael Hatgis.

I don’t know about you, but New Year’s is my least favorite holiday. It always happens at a crummy time of year in Oregon, for some reason, and it seems to celebrate getting soused and not much else. I’ve had more fun staying home to watch The Twilight Zone and Marx Brothers marathons with my mom than swilling champagne and dodging drunk drivers. This year, though, Eugene Opera offers a splendid alternative: a new production of Verdi’s ever-popular opera La Traviata. Music Director Andrew Bisantz conducts and Metropolitan Opera soprano Leah Partridge stars as the doomed “fallen woman” Violetta in her company debut. It’s worth braving the elements and the carousers to catch New Year’s Eve’s opening night, but you can do both and have time for the hangover to clear before the other two performances Jan. 3 and 5.