How is it the Oregon Symphony is only now making its first appearance up the road in Seattle’s Benaroya Hall?
Whatever the reason, the delay has been worth it. Music director and conductor Carlos Kalmar is bringing both a strong program — including Schubert’s beautiful “Unfinished” Symphony, Ravel’s fantastic “La valse” and Narong Prangcharoen’s mystical “Phenomenon: The Mysterious and Explained” — plus a fascinating guest artist along with the Oregon Symphony on Friday.
The Seattle audience will get a preview — less than a week before a similar Carnegie Hall performance — of Portland-based singer Storm Large and an orchestra taking on an English-language version of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” a 1933 “sung ballet” collaboration written by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht.
The New York show, part of the annual Spring for Music festival, will star Large. But Kalmar’s original plan to take the Oregon Symphony back east with her fell apart. Instead, Large will now sing at Carnegie with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
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Despite his disappointment, Kalmar is enthusiastic about working with Large, a multifaceted artist who gained national attention on the CBS reality show “Rock Star: Supernova,” wrote a best-selling memoir (“Crazy Enough”) that earned both an Oregon Book Award and a “Book of the Week” endorsement on Oprah.com, and currently shares lead vocal duties in the phenomenally popular Portland group Pink Martini.
“Storm is just so much fun,” Kalmar says. “She and Kurt Weill are quite a match.”
First performed in Paris, “The Seven Deadly Sins” was directed and choreographed by George Balanchine and starred Weill’s wife, Lotte Lenya, and ballerina Tilly Losch. The cycle features seven scenes about two sisters — a singer and a dancer — seeking their fortunes in big American cities, with each city linked, rather randomly, to a major sin.
Large is mystified how Weill and Brecht, who hadn’t been to America by 1933, could associate Boston with lust.
“I’m born and raised in Boston, and there is absolutely nothing lusty about Boston unless you’re talking about the Red Sox,” she says.
“People get impassioned about that.”
Kalmar and Large will present a version of “Sins” that requires only the singer on stage. The dancer’s presence is implied.
“It’s always been questionable as to whether the dancer was a figment of the singer’s imagination,” says Large. “I’m performing it as if I am observing myself, keeping my eyes on the prize — getting money — while my sister is trying to keep on the straight and narrow.”
A case study in pure drive, Large described in “Crazy Enough” a childhood spent largely without her mentally ill mother. Her young adulthood was wrapped in low self-esteem and drug addiction until singing with a band turned on a light.
At 43, Large still sings hard rock with her own band, is a sensuous cabaret star with Pink Martini, has earned raves for her work in Portland theater and is thinking about her next book.
“My trajectory has been unconventional, unpredictable,” she says. “I believed I was going to be the female Dave Grohl, but it just didn’t happen that way. Now I’m singing at Carnegie Hall, which is not something I ever expected.”
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org