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Cirque De La Season 

By Michael Gill

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Sunday, November 30

The holidays represent a whole bunch of things, from nostalgia to spirituality to all kinds of excess, and the Cleveland Pops manages to put it all together in its annual Christmas concert. You've got your "Winter" concerto from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, performed by concertmaster David Russell. You've got your guest vocalist, Susan Hesse, serving up sultry and nostalgic pop songs. You've got your sing-along Christmas-song set, your visit from Santa Claus, and even some puppies and kitties on display, available for adoption from local shelters. What distinguishes this from any other show in town, however, is that they've also got a circus in the form of performers from Cirque de la Symphonie, a traveling outfit that hooks up with orchestras and performs feats of gravity-defying skill. An aerial silk artist will perform to the "Arabian Dance" from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. A juggler will perform to Rossini's "Fantastic Toy Shop." It's all that with sugar on it at 3 p.m. at PlayhouseSquare's Palace Theatre. Tickets: $10 to $35. Call 216.241.6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

TWISTED INTERPRETATIONS OF THE HOLIDAYS

Hannah Verbeuren and Kerry Lange have taken to organizing art shows around themes, and so it was inevitable that they would take up the holidays. But while most of the arts and entertainment world is indulging our collective holiday sweet tooth, they're going for the bitter and the salty with a show at the Low Life Gallery (16001 Waterloo Rd., North Collinwood) called Twisted Interpretations of the Holidays. Verbeuren and Lange offer the show "in the name of our profound love/hate relationship with the season." (Low Life is the same gallery that received a letter from Councilman Mike Polensek back in September complaining about a piece by artist Staci McNasty called "Black Pussy," which featured a doll that had a black kitty-cat head attached to its nethers.) In addition to the organizers, artists featured in Twisted Interpretations include Amanda Davidson, Chris Kulscar, Ed Boyle, Gabriel Van Horn, K. Stewart, MalPractice U.J. and Mik Mackey. The show opens with a reception from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Go to myspace.com/lowlifecleveland.

CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA

Acclaimed violinist Christian Tetzlaff's busy season includes a host of recital and concerto performances with major U.S. orchestras, in repertoire that spans centuries and styles - from baroque all-Bach recitals, to the Romantic Brahms Violin Concerto (with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra at Carnegie Hall), to the North American premiere of Mark Anthony Turnage's Violin Concerto "Mambo, Blues and Tarantella," with the Toronto Symphony. This week at Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave.), he goes back to the moment when he got serious about music. After making his concert debut performing the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 at the age of 14, he left traditional schooling behind to pursue the instrument as a career. He performs the Beethoven piece with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Paavo J...rvi this weekend. Boasting larger musical ideas, and more serious than the showy violin concertos that came earlier, the concerto has one of those unforgettably rhythmic melodies in its final movement, which will send you out of the concert hall humming. Also on the program is Erkki-Sven TŸŸr's "Aditus," and Stravinski's "Petrushka" and Scherzo ˆ la russe. Performances are at 8 tonight and tomorrow, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $31 to $110. Call 216.231.1111 or go to clevelandorchestra.com.

A POLISH CHRISTMAS

The Lira Ensemble does Poland proud with its program A Polish Christmas, which rolls into PlayhouseSquare's State Theatre for one performance at 7:30 tonight. The program begins with a dose of high culture via composers Frédéric Chopin, Stanislaw Moniuszko, Henryk Wieniawski and Witold Lutoslawski, while the second half revels in folk songs and dances from the mountains and countryside. The Lira ensemble, which is headquartered and serves as artist-in-residence at Chicago's Loyola University, includes a choir, dance company and orchestra, all dedicated to promoting Polish culture. Tickets: $30 to $55. Call 216.241.6000 or go to playhousesquare.org.

CLEVELAND COLLECTS

The Cleveland Artists Foundation collects historic art from the region, filling a niche that the Cleveland Museum of Art has not. Here you can find Northeast Ohio's visual heritage, anchored by the Cleveland School. The current show, called Cleveland Collects, gives CAF's members a chance to show off what has caught their eye: Members exhibit works from their own collections, which include both the historic and contemporary, placing living artists in the context of their forbearers. So you can see work by Joseph O'Sickey, William Sommer, William Eastman and Viktor Schreckengost alongside a new generation, pieces by Audra Skuodas and Chris Pekoc. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. CAF is at Beck Center for the Arts, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood. Call 216.227.9507 or go to clevelandartists.org.

ODDY FESTIVAL

The Oddy Festival's December project, a package of short plays called The End, sounds downright hallucinatory. Matt Greenfield's "The Last Satyr" is inspired by historic events in 533 AD, the date of the last recorded theatrical performance in Rome, before actors gave up the stage to gladiators and other forms of combat. Greenfield says his script is also inspired by historic events in 2008, which we hope doesn't mean that the story - in which a playwright-director tries to convince his bawdy, drunken crew of goat-men and a new lead actress to give theater one last go - is too autobiographical. Also on the program is Stuart Hoffman's "A Flock of Seagulls," (which allegedly stars a bucket full of bananas), Steve Maistros' "Downward- Facing Burt" (in which Burt's wife practices yoga while Burt practices dying) and Maistros' "Foreclosure Christmas." Greenfield warns of some adult content, including "carpet f-bombing and copious pelvic thrusting." Performances are at 8 tonight and Wednesday, December 17 at Heights Arts Studio (2340 Lee Rd., Cleveland Heights). Tickets: $10. Call 216.926.8641 or e-mail oddyfest@gmail.com.

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