Tired of tricks? Treats just not doing it for you any more? Maybe you need to inject your Halloween weekend with some seriously scary stuff: the arts.
Whether it’s a dangerously crazy soprano, a giant skeleton puppet, or the Phantom of the Opera playing the organ right there in front of you, art and music give scary a whole new depth and breadth. And luckily for South Sounders, there are five great choices this year for giving your Halloween a bit of a culture shock.
THE ‘PHANTOM’ LIVE AT UPS
We all know the scene: The masked Phantom of the Opera whisks aside his daunting black cloak, sits down at his subterranean organ and thunders out some Bach. Well, this year he’ll be playing live, right in front of you, at the University of Puget Sound’s Kilworth Memorial Chapel. Or rather, he’ll be playing the piano, while his female sidekick plays the organ.
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The Phantom in question is concert pianist Duane Hulbert, a UPS faculty member who in the 1990s came up with a live musical score for the 1929 version of the nearly-silent film “The Phantom of the Opera,” starring Lon Chaney. The audience at Hulbert’s first performance at Tacoma’s Blue Mouse cinema was impressed enough to demand a complete replay, and since then Hulbert has also performed it at The Evergreen State College.
Now, he brings it to the pale white Kilworth Chapel, which has the huge advantage of actually having an organ. So while Hulbert accompanies the action on piano with a mixture of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Grieg, organ student Sarah Stone will thunder out Bach when the screen Phantom sits down at his own organ, deep under the Paris Opera House.
It’s obvious that Hulbert relishes the slightly cheesy melodrama of accompanying silent film, much in the way that theater organists did a century ago. He’s picked out some obvious choices — Bach’s dramatic “Toccata and Fugue” in D minor for the Phantom’s unmasking, Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” for the love scenes with Christine, Léon Bollman’s “Suite Gothique” for other sinister moments — and some inside jokes for musicians, like Liszt’s “Dante” sonata for the Phantom’s more devilish deeds, and Grieg’s “Morning” when he wakes up.
But musicians in the audience also will appreciate the suspense of hearing Hulbert improvise on the familiar pieces to keep up with the film’s split-second timing.
“You have to practice (with the film) but it doesn’t work exactly as planned,” he explains. “That’s tricky when you have people in the audience who know those pieces!”
Hulbert will be wearing a modified Phantom costume (he’ll take the mask off so he can read the music) and Stone will emulate Christine, with concert dress and a red rose. The audience is encouraged to come in any costume they like. Part of the proceeds will help fund UPS’s Kids Can Do mentoring program.
The event begins at 8 p.m. Friday (Oct. 31) at UPS’s Kilworth Memorial Chapel, North 19th and Warner streets, Tacoma. Tickets are $15 general admission; $10 for seniors, students, military, UPS community; and free for UPS students (limited seating). 253-879-3100, tickets.pugetsound.edu
“DON GIOVANNI” – THE SEDUCTIVE PSYCHOPATH (PLUS SOME SCARY TRAFFIC)
Graveyard scenes, murder, vengeful zombie statues, fire, brimstone and a seductive psychopath — if you want scary, “Don Giovanni” has it all. The Mozart classic now on at Seattle Opera isn’t just a harmless tale of a lusty guy who seduces women (aka Don Juan). It’s about the horrifying depths of a man whose violent desire leads him to rape and kill, and whose charisma allows him to get away with it. That is, until one of his victims comes back to life as a towering gray statue oozing mist in a graveyard, following him home and — well, we won’t spoil the plot for you. Suffice it to say that the Seattle Opera production, in between gorgeously refined arias and rousing crowd scenes, has enough fake flames and dry ice to turn the McCaw Hall stage into the biggest haunted house you’ve ever seen.
And Don Giovanni himself? In the A-cast, French baritone Nicolas Cavallier brings out the seducer’s seamy, violent side with a smooth, powerful voice (not to mention a dandy costume of tight black leather pants and flowing purple shirts). Like any good villain, he’s got enough likeability to suck you in. And along the way, you’ll hear some of the best opera ever written — you’ll never get that with “Nightmare on Elm Street.” Just be warned: The traffic along the Mercer corridor is truly terrifying, thanks to ongoing construction. Allow plenty of extra time to get there.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 31) and Saturday at McCaw Hall at the Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle. Tickets start at $25. 800-426-1619, seattleopera.org
“THE MAGIC FLUTE”— MISCHIEVOUS SPIRITS AND A CRAZY SOPRANO QUEEN
Maybe it’s coincidence, but here in Tacoma this weekend there’s another Mozart opera featuring a seriously scary character: “The Magic Flute,” performed by Tacoma Opera in the Rialto Theater. If you think this one’s all about a soppy prince and princess finding each other with the help of a silly bird-catcher, mischievous spirits and some strange Masonic rituals, think again. The central mover and shaker is the Queen of the Night, who flips between loving mother and screaming sorceress at the drop of a baton while singing freakishly high notes.
“For many years I did not like her and hated the way she treated her daughter,” says coloratura soprano Alexandra Picard, who’ll sing the Queen for Tacoma’s production. “She was so cruel, so heartless, so confusing, and yet so powerful and charming. I didn’t want to play her, even though … I do love hitting those high Fs!”
There’s also the small matter of the way the Queen — who both protects and imprisons her daughter Pamina — is cast by Mozart and his librettist as extreme, unpredictable and evil, while the male leader Sarastro is calm, wise and good, enabling Prince Tamino to free his princess. It’s enough to scare any feminist, with or without Halloween.
After 10 years of singing the character, though, Picard came up with a psychoanalytic solution: the Queen of the Night has both narcissistic and borderline personality disorders, explaining her terrifying mood changes, her charm, her need for control, her unhinged rage and manic impulsivity.
“Her first aria is very sweet and charming, trying to pull Tamino in in a very complex way,” explains Picard. “You fall for her, which makes her second aria all the more disturbing. Because she flips.”
That second aria, where the Queen vows to unleash hellish vengeance on Sarastro via her own unwilling daughter, is one of the most unearthly to listen to, with runs and arpeggios leading to high Cs and Fs at the very extreme of what’s humanly possible.
Meanwhile, the entire setting of the opera has been transformed by Tacoma Opera from European forest to the Pacific Northwest, placing the story within Northwest Salish traditions like the impish Tsaitko “wild people” and including several Puyallup tribal members. Set design is new, by Northwest artist Doug Granum, with costumes by Elizabeth Wislar.
It’s the first time that Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” has been produced in the United States with a unified Native American theme, says director Noel Koran.
Meanwhile, Picard will be enjoying her character (and those high notes) thoroughly.
“I really like her now,” she says. “She’s a fantastic mythological creature. But she’s somebody that can break you and break your spirit. That’s what’s really scary about it.”
SIXTH AVENUE DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
While Halloween technically celebrates the eve of All Hallows day — all the “holies,” or saints — the day that follows in the Christian calendar is All Souls day, when one celebrates all souls who have died. In Mexico, that’s known as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and the festival has evolved from Aztec times into a celebration of life, with artistic traditions from music to sculpture to parades. Tacoma’s Sixth Avenue district has seen Dia de los Muertos festivals come and go, but this year the party is back Saturday, featuring puppets, masks, music, dance, food and drink — the ultimate party for the dead.
“A lot of people unfamiliar with Dia de los Muertos think it’s a morbid thing,” says Christina Wheeler, a local business owner involved in the festival’s organization this year. “But it’s a celebration of life, and of the time you spent with your loved ones that are no longer with us.”
How to do that artistically? Well, for the last month, the Sixth Avenue folks have been hosting papier-maché mask-making workshops at Epworth LeSourd church, in preparation for a 6 p.m. parade like those seen in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest. Parade-goers can either wear skull-shaped masks (often decorated to honor specific people) or get their faces made up at the festival’s indoor space (2712 Sixth Ave.) in the traditional black and white. Others will carry giant papier-maché skeleton puppets or luminary lanterns, and there’ll be mariachi music. Inside, vendors will sell Mexican-inspired crafts, with a Mexican buffet from La Guadalajara; ceremonies also include a blessing and Tree of Life (where notes to passed loved ones can be hung); there’ll also be a costumed Aztec dance by Ceatl Tonalli and salsa from 8:15 p.m.
The festival is all-ages, though there’s also a beer tent out the back.
The free festival runs 4-10 p.m. Saturday, with the parade at 6 p.m., at 2712 Sixth Ave., Tacoma. on6thave.com
TAM’S DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
The Dia de los Muertos celebration continues Sunday at Tacoma Art Museum, where local artists and community collaborate to produce themed visual art in addition to music, dance and food. The museum’s annual festival, now 10 years old, is one of its most popular events, and happens in partnership with the Mexican consulate in Seattle, Centro Latino and Projecto MoLE.
Among the visual offerings: the traditional tapete, a vivid painting of skeletons and flowers in colored sand created on the lobby floor by artist Fulgencio Lazo; more than 20 ofrendas (memorial altars) created upstairs by community members and decorated with fresh marigolds; an exhibition of prints by Stadium High School students; and the chance to decorate sugar skulls and make tissue paper flowers in the art studio.
There also will be dance performances by Danza Quetzalcoatl and Bailadores de Bronce, music by Mariachi Lucero, and Mexican food and drink in the café. The film “Calling Home the Dead” will also be screened.
The free festival runs 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday at the museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org