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Top arts & entertainment stories of '07

| Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008

The top arts and entertainment stories of 2007:


Art Exhibitions

1. "Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass," May 12-Feb. 24, at Phipps Conservatory. Known for his flamboyant colors, monumental sculptures and outdoor displays, world renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly and his crew filled Phipps with a spectacular exhibit designed exclusively for the conservatory. The exhibition is the keystone of Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!

2. "12th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration," Sept. 30-Dec. 20, at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. An exhibition of 111 botanical artworks by 64 artists from 14 countries, this triennial exhibition brought together the work of the world's best botanical artists.

3. "Revolution, Ritual, and Remembrance: The Art of Haiti," Jan. 25-March 17, at University Art Gallery, University of Pittsburgh. More than 60 paintings, decorative flags, and sculptures featuring the rich history and contemporary life of the nation of Haiti proved there is much more to Haitian art than just pretty colors.

4. "Art of the American West," April 28-May 5, at the Duquesne Club. This overwhelmingly thorough exhibition of Western art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries brought together works by some of the giants in the field, including recognized masters Frederic Remington, Charles Russell, George Catlin, Albert Bierstadt, and Henry Raschen.

5. "Allure of Japanese Glass," May 4-Sept. 16, at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. Part of Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!, this exhibition featured pieces by 17 established and emerging Japanese glass artists who work in a full range of glass art making methods and techniques.

6. "Personal Jesus," June 1-Sept. 2, at The Andy Warhol Museum. Focusing specifically on the religiously inspired works of Keith Haring and Andy Warhol, this groundbreaking exhibition uncovered the spirituality of two American Pop artists through their respective works.

7. "Made in Pennsylvania," June 23-Oct. 14, at the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. Presenting important examples of fraktur, salt-glazed stoneware, tanware, textiles, and painted furniture, this extremely thorough exhibition brought together for the first time almost 400 significant examples of historically important folk art from our region.

8. "India: New Installations, Part I & II," April 15 -Jan. 20, at the Mattress Factory. An exhibition of works by 10 artists from India selected for a year-long installation brought India's best installation artists to Pittsburgh for an unprecedented survey of contemporary Indian art.

9. "Drawn In," Jan. 26-Aug. 31, at August Wilson Center's Gallery. A group show featuring works by African and African American architects from Ghana, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States, this exhibition brought to light how architects can and do respond to issues of race, identity and culture.

10. "Gritty Brits: New London Architecture," Jan. 20-June 3, at Heinz Architectural Center, Carnegie Museum of Art. Featuring the work of six fledgling English architecture firms focused on urban renewal, this exhibition showed how today's architects are responding to the diverse needs of clients in often overlooked parts of London.

-- Kurt Shaw


BOOKS

1. "Dead Boys": Richard Lange. This stunning debut collection of short stories features outcasts and forgotten souls, men on the fringe, nearing oblivion but hanging on by dirt-encrusted fingernails. Lange's realism and ability to find empathy for these characters is a stunning achievement.

2. "On Chesil Beach": Ian McEwan. The story is seemingly slight -- a couple unable to consummate their marriage on their honeymoon -- and the book is a mere 208 pages. But McEwan packs every paragraph, every sentence, with portent and meaning.

3. "The Yiddish Policemen's Union": Michael Chabon. As in "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," Chabon takes chances that would thwart mortal writers. His fictional Jewish community in Alaska is stunning in execution, and the story nearly equals that of "Kavalier."

4. "A Peculiar Grace": Jeffrey Lent. An intimate portrayal of heartbreak and family by the author of "Lost Nation."

5. "Surveillance": Jonathan Raban. In Seattle, post 9/11, a single mother and her daughter desperately try to make sense of their lives as the world falls apart.

6. "Lost City Radio": Daniel Alarcon. A radio personality reaches out to the lost in a nameless South American country in this poignant novel about civil war and disenfranchisement.

7. "Tearing Down the Wall of Sound: The Rise and Fall of Phil Spector": Mick Brown. One of the most enigmatic figures in popular music is the subject of this insightful, entertaining biography.

8. "The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman He Loved": Judith Freeman. Freeman's exploration of one of America's most influential writers is part detective novel, part ghost story in this lovely homage.

9. "Last Night at the Lobster": Stewart O'Nan. As a Red Lobster faces its last day of operation, its manager tries to maintain his dignity. O'Nan perfectly depicts the hardships and pride of those who work in restaurants.

10. "Darkmans": Nicola Barker. Despite being more than 800 pages, Barker's novel is a breezy, charming and sometimes frightening read about a contemporary town haunted by a 14th-century court jester. Barker is a fearless writer whose penchant for taking chances rewards the careful reader.

-- Staff


Classical Performances

1. "Symphonie fantastique": Pittsburgh Symphony principal guest conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier and the orchestra click with Gallic temperament, disciplined virtuosity and emotional intensity, Sept. 28.

2. "By Heart": Germany's Zehetmair Quartet dispenses with music stands and plays with wide dynamic and emotional range, presented by Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society, Nov. 7.

3. Academy of Ancient Music: Richard Egarr leads his London-based band in a new, vibrant standard in performance of baroque music, presented by the Renaissance and Baroque Society, April 29.

4. "Billy Budd": Pittsburgh Opera's lavish production of Benjamin Britten's masterpiece features a brilliant cast, excellent conducting and powerful staging, May 6-13.

5. The Piano Trios of Johannes Brahms: The music is performed with intelligence and ferocious intensity by pianist David Allen Wehr, violinist Andres Cardenes and cellist Anne Martindale Williams at Duquesne University's Brahms on the Bluff series, Oct. 30.

6. "Concierto de Aranjuez": Guitarist Pepe Romero gives a haunting performance without amplification, but with ultra-sensitive support from guest conductor Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos and the Pittsburgh Symphony. March 16-18.

7. Edward Elgar's Cello Concerto: Pittsburgh Symphony principal cellist Anne Martindale Williams projects the introspective heart of the piece with emotional and technical mastery, with guest conductor Leonard Slatkin, Dec. 7-9.

8. Pittsburgh Chamber Orchestra: Compelling performances of less-familiar pieces make rankings irrelevant at this fall concert, Oct. 25.

9. Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society: Consistently exquisite playing by the Pacific Quartet is capped by Franz Schubert's String Quintet, with extra cellist Paul Katz, March 28.

10. Johann Hummel's Trumpet Concerto: Pittsburgh Symphony principal trumpet George Vosburgh's light sweetness and blazing speed are equally valuable in this performance, conducted by Arild Remmereit, Feb. 1-3.

-- Mark Kanny


CONCERTS

Notable concerts for 2007 in chronological order:

Rod Stewart , Feb. 17, Mellon Arena

Justin Timberlake , March 19, Mellon Arena

Christina Aguilera , April 14, Mellon Arena

Fall Out Boy , May 22, Post-Gazette Pavilion

Kenny Chesney , June 9, Heinz Field

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill , July 17, Mellon Arena

Wilco , Oct. 19, A.J. Palumbo Center

Stevie Wonder , Nov. 9, Mellon Arena

Keith Urban , Gary Allen, Nov. 11, Mellon Arena

Bruce Springsteen , Nov. 14, Mellon Arena

-- Staff


Dance Performances

1. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre revives three pieces by the legendary choreographer in its "Balanchine Festival," brilliantly serving the sweep and depth of his imagination, April 20-22.

2. "Glow," by Chunky Move, provides a hypnotic combination of live dance and computer-generated graphics to explore a single character's sense of confinement and breaking free, presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council as part of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's Australia Festival, Nov. 15-16.

3. Dance Alloy Theater takes a stimulating, witty look at individuality and relationships in "... A different drummer," Dec. 7-10.

4. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre gets right in the groove for Dwight Rhoden's "Smoke 'n Roses" with strong musical performances by vocalist Etta Cox and a jazz combo, March 15-18.

5. Attack Theater provides a rush of high-energy narrative dance in "Games of Steel" to its own hard-rockin' and artistic band, April 27 -30.

-- Mark Kanny


MOVIES

1. "No Country for Old Men": The Coen Brothers' best film since "Fargo" quietly explores an evil that defies explanation and encourages introspection.

2. "Bourne Ultimatum": This third installment of the Jason Bourne series blew away every summer blockbuster pretender this year, and bested a slew of so-called prestige films. It's a thriller not afraid to show its brains.

3. "Michael Clayton": George Clooney is a "fixer" for an unscrupulous New York City law firm, who begins to develop a conscience, which makes him a problem for his employers.

4. "Rescue Dawn": One of the best actors working, Christian Bale stars as a downed Vietnam War pilot who survives a POW camp and escapes through the jungle. His growing glee as he plots his breakout stands in counterpoint to the brutal conditions.

5. "Eastern Promises": Thoughtful, tense and not a moment to spare in this expertly crafted Russian mob drama starring Viggo Mortensen.

6. "Away from Her": This tender story about the effects of Alzheimer's on a relationship has an award-winning performance from Julie Christie.

7. "Waitress": A pregnant waitress whose pies inspire undying loyalty figures out what to do with her life in a simple, funny, realistic and well-played film directed by the late Adrienne Shelly.

8. "The Namesake": The story of Indian immigrants and their born-in-America son showed passion, sadness, regret and redemption without a hint of self-consciousness or manipulation.

9. "Knocked Up": Raunchy, dirty laughs in a film whose characters really do like each other and want to do the right thing.

10. "3:10 to Yuma": The best Western to hit the screen since "Unforgiven" has Christian Bale and Russell Crowe going head to head.

-- Staff


THEATER

1. "The Lieutenant of Inishmore": Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre triumphed with its production of Martin McDonagh's blood-spattered yet laugh-out-loud funny satire denouncing zealotry and terrorism.

2."Le Grand Meaulnes": In staging this nostalgic French classic, Quantum Theatre created a near-perfect remembrance of things past.

3. "La Tempete": The Montreal-based company 4-D Arts catapulted Shakespeare's "The Tempest" into the 21st century with electronic wizardry.

4. "Cabaret": Pittsburgh Public Theater pulled out all the stops for its production that gleamed as darkly and sharply as polished obsidian.

5. "The Frogs": Point Park University's Conservatory Theatre Company brought this seldom-seen Stephen Sondheim musical to vivid and entertaining life.

6. "Disney's High School Musical": Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's peppy, colorful and upbeat production should create a whole new generation of musical theater fans.

7. "Intimate Apparel": Lynn Nottage used clothing and fabric as a symbolic medium to explore, through her characters, dreams, disappointments, ambitions and skewed perceptions.

8. "Stuff Happens": In Pittsburgh Irish & Classical Theatre's production of David Hare political play, David Whalen's President Bush, Larry John Meyers' Dick Cheney and Richard McMillan's Donald Rumsfeld made the action immediate and engrossing.

9. "My Fair Lady": This PNC Broadway Across America -- Pittsburgh's presentation moved quickly and elegantly through a succession of gloriously detailed locations embellished by stunning costumes.

10. "Bug": Staged by barebones productions, Tracy Lett's provocative thrill ride of a drama was both hypnotic and disturbing.

-- Alice T. Carter


2007 CHRONOLOGY

JANUARY

Jan. 18: Pittsburgh Musical Theater debuts the first locally produced professional production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats" in a two week run at the Byham Theater. In July, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera follows with its own production of the musical at the Benedum Center.

Jan. 23: Manfred Honeck becomes Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director designate, to start in September 2008.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 15: Pittsburgh's Urban Redevelopment Authority purchases the Garden Theatre for $1.1 million, ending a decade-long legal battle with owner.

MARCH

March 15: Property owner and entrepreneur Francois Bitz closes Dowe's on 9th in a financial dispute with club owner Al Dowe. Downtown's only jazz club remains closed.

March 22: Pittsburgh Opera announces it will move from its headquarters across Penn. Ave. from the Benedum Center to make way for Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's RiverParc development.

March 31: Michael Hollinger's play "Opus," which City Theatre Company produced in association with the Arden Theatre Company in Philadelphia, receives a citation and $7,500 cash prize from the 2006 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association.

APRIL

April 19: Pittsburgh Public Theater produces the world premiere of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens' musical "The Glorious Ones" at the O'Reilly Theater, Downtown. In October, the musical has its Off-Broadway opening at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.

April 19: Live Nation cancels concerts scheduled at Sandcastle, which was to take the place of the Chevy Amphitheatre at Station Square.

April 25: For the first time since 1985, Pittsburgh is voted the Most Liveable City by Rand McNally's "Places Rated Almanac." Author David Savageau researched 379 metropolitan areas in the United States. Each city was ranked in nine categories.

MAY

May 1: Pitt graduate and Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Chabon publishes "The Yiddish Policemen's Union."

May 12: Phipps Conservatory opens "Chihuly at Phipps: Gardens & Glass," a spectacular exhibition of glass art by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly of Seattle. The exhibit kicks off Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!, a year-long celebration involving more than 65 organizations.

May 14: Market Square shuts down as filming begins for "The Kill Point," starring Donnie Wahlberg and John Leguizamo. It is the first TV show to be set and filmed entirely in Pittsburgh. The series debuts July 22 on SPIKE-TV.

May 15: "Radio Golf," a play by late Hill District native August Wilson', receives a Tony nomination for best play. Set in the Hill District, the play is the final installment of his 10-play decade-by-decade chronicle of the African-American experience in the United States during the 20th Century.

May 30: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission dedicates an historical marker in front of the Hill District dwelling where playwright August Wilson grew up at 1727 Bedford Ave.

JUNE

June 1: The musical portion of the Three Rivers Arts festival gets off on the wrong foot at its new location, the Stanwix Triangle. Robert Randolph, the headlining act, can't get a flight to Pittsburgh due to storms in New Jersey and the show is canceled.

June 5: World-renowned French lighting artist Lucette de Rugy transforms six Downtown buildings into spectacular works of art as part of the first Pittsburgh Festival of Lights, the largest lighting installation of its kind in the United States.

June 7: Nearly 2,000 glass artists from around the country converge Downtown for the Glass Arts Society's 37th annual conference.

June 14: Leonard Slatkin becomes Pittsburgh Symphony principal guest conductor designate, to start in September 2008.

June 14: Quantum Theatre opens the world premier of Dan Jemmett's "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid" at the Garden Theatre on the North Side. For many audience members, the production offers them the first look inside the once elegant neighborhood movie house.

JULY

July 15: Butler native Bret Michaels, the sexy frontman of the glam-rock band Poison, kicks off his own reality dating show called "Rock of Love with Bret Michaels." The VH1 show aired weekly through the end of September.

AUGUST

Aug. 12: Pittsburgh Symphony begins orchestra training program for African-American musicians.

Aug. 25: After a year's absence, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival returns for a six weekend run in South Huntingdon with a new owner.

Aug. 26: A state historical marker for the childhood home of jazz drummer Art Blakey is unveiled at a Highland Park concert before being installed at the property in the Hill District.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 8: City of Asylum/Pittsburgh's jazz-poetry event headquartered on Sampsonia Way in the North Side adds readings at four public gardens. New York City Saxophonist Oliver Lake is joined by his World Saxophone Quartet for an outdoor concert that jams the alley.

Sept 17: Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra performs "A Glittering Return" concert at Carnegie Music Hall, Oakland, where the Pittsburg Orchestra debuted in 1896.

Sept. 30: The American Society of Botanical Artists holds its 13th Annual Meeting and Conference in Pittsburgh in conjunction with the opening of the 12th International Exhibition of Botanical Art & Illustration at the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, an exhibition of 111 botanical artworks by 64 artists from 14 countries

OCTOBER

Oct. 8: "Bodies...The Exhibition" a dramatic and controversial deconstruction of the human anatomy, opens at the Carnegie Science Center. It features 15 Chinese cadavers and 200 internal organs and partial specimens.

Oct. 10: Pittsburgh Cultural Trust begins its Australia Festival showcasing contemporary Australian culture with 40 events in a six-week period.

Oct 11: Pittsburgh Opera announces its new home will be a former Westinghouse Electric building at 2425 Liberty Ave., Strip District.

Oct. 12: The 16th Street Bridge is closed for the shooting of "Adventureland." The film is also shot in Kennywood Park and other locations through early November. It's directed by "Superbad" director and Carnegie Mellon University grad Greg Mottola.

Oct. 18: A groundbreaking ceremony for the $39.5 million multidisciplinary August Wilson Center for African American Culture takes place at Liberty and Forbes avenues, Downtown.

Oct 24: Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra announces that it is in the black for its 2006-07 season.

Oct 26: Pittsburgh Symphony artistic advisor Sir Andrew Davis resigns abruptly.

Oct 29: Pittsburgh Opera general director Mark Weinstein agrees to become executive director of the Washington, D.C., National Opera, effective Feb. 1.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 8: The Pittsburgh Historic Review Commission votes unanimously to designate the Garden Theatre in the North Side a historic landmark.

Nov. 14: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band play at the Mellon Arena, with local fave Joe Grushecky making an appearance

Nov. 21: "Dinosaurs in Their Time," a $36 million upgrade to the dinosaur hall at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, opens to the public.

Nov. 28: The bicycle-pedestrian section of the Hot Metal Bridge opens. linking Hazelwood to the South Side. It is the closest river crossing to Pittsburgh in a bike trail that eventually will like this city and Washington, D.C.

DECEMBER

Dec. 5: Pittsburgh Symphony announces $5.5 million grant from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation to support international touring.

Dec. 11: Frommer's travel guide names Pittsburgh one of 13 international destinations to visit in 2008.


THE YEAR IN QUOTES

"In years to come, this trail is going to be the heart of tourism in the area, Not rafting. Not skiing. The trail."

Pamela Kruse, owner of the Firefly Grill in Ohiopyle, Fayette County, talking about the Great Allegheny Passage, the bicycle trail from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md.


"People want to hear the clamor. "They want to hear about the community."

Carole A. Clifford, a A Coldwell Banker real-estate broker, talking about the interest in Downtown living.


"We're hoping to get people to forget about some bad whiskey experience in college."

Max Miller, organizer of the intial Pittsburgh Whiskey Festival.


"Somebody quipped years ago that Pittsburgh scores no home runs, but makes no errors."

David Savageau, author and researcher on how Pittsburgh's mostly average ratings on climate and cost of living and other categories made it the No. 1 Most Liveable City in America.


"They're real bodies, but I don't find it creepy. It's not repulsive. It's not a horror movie."

Eric Turnbaugh, science teacher in grades 6 to 8 at Mother of Sorrows School in Greensburg, during a preview of "Bodies...the Exhibition" at the Carnegie Science Center.

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