A Jam-Packed Week of Classical Music Events You Shouldn't Miss

There’s lots to highlight this week, and a number of organizations have scoffed at triskaidekaphobia and piled up events on Friday the 13th. That’s actually a lucky thing for classical music fans. Choices are good.

Oberlin Opera Theater will present four performances of English composer Benjamin Britten’s 1946 opera The Rape of Lucretia this week in Hall Auditorium on the Oberlin College campus. Directed by Jonathon Field, with Oberlin’s excellent Contemporary Music Ensemble led by Timothy Weiss in the orchestra pit, the double-cast show opens on Wednesday, November 11, then plays on Friday the 13th, Saturday the 14th, and Sunday the 15th (all at 8:00 pm except Sunday, which begins at 2:00 pm).

Britten and his librettist Ronald Duncan drew on André Obey’s play Le viol de Lucrèce, works by Livy and Ovid, and William Shakespeare’s poem The Rape of Lucrece in crafting the story of an actual incident in early Roman history, but with some interesting twists. Set in Etruscan Rome around 500 BCE, the story centers on Lucretia, the wife of a general, who is driven to despair and suicide after being raped by a prince. In Duncan and Britten’s take on the tale, this ancient pagan tragedy is viewed through the eyes of two Christian choruses, one male and one female. In Field’s production, those two choruses are in conflict. There’s another theme lurking just under the surface: the marginalization of the victims of World War II during a struggle against tyranny that parallels Lucretia’s own tragedy. There’s a lot to unpack in this production, and Oberlin has planned several lectures and panel discussions this week, some based on ancient art in the Allen Museum’s collection. See the ClevelandClassical.com concert listings for details about the add-on events, and reserve your tickets here.

Speaking of ancient art, one of the most famous medieval epic poems will come to vivid life as singer/storyteller Benjamin Bagby presents Beowulf, the medieval legend under the auspices of Apollo’s Fire on November 13, 14, and 17 in venues in Cleveland and Akron. To the accompaniment of his poet’s harp and with the help of modern English supertitles, Bagby, who founded the European medieval music ensemble Sequentia, will recite in Old English a big chunk of the Anglo-Saxon tale of the Danish warrior who slew both Grendel and the monster’s horrific mother. It’s nothing like anything you’ve ever heard before, and Bagby’s telling of the tale will certainly be far more hair-raising than the excerpts you read in school. Performances are on Friday, November 13 at 8:00 pm at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland Hts., Saturday, November 14 at 8:00 pm in Reinberger Chamber Hall at Severance Hall, and on Tuesday, November 17 at First Methodist Church in Akron. Apollo’s Fire is handling the tickets: reserve here.

Crossover violinist Gabriel Bolkosky will return to his native Cleveland on Friday, November 13 to play music by Astor Piazzolla and Miles Davis with his classical and jazz buddies on the Tri-C Presents series at Metro Campus Auditorium. One of the founders of the Oblivion Project, Bolkosky will solo in his own arrangements of Piazzolla’s L’histoire du Tango and The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires backed up by piano, then piano and string quartet. Then he’ll join saxophonist Andrew Bishop, bassist Marion Hayden, pianist Tad Weed, and pianist Peter Siers in excerpts from Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain, the famous Third Stream album released in 1960. Piazzolla and Davis stretched the boundaries of tango and jazz well beyond the traditional, stirring up more than a little controversy along the way. Tickets for the 8:00 pm show can be ordered online.

FiveOne Experimental Orchestra, aka 51XO, will continue its 7th season of new music concerts with “Sacrum Silentium” (“Sacred Silence”) on Friday, November 13 at 8:00 pm at Disciples Christian Church, 3663 Mayfield Rd. in Cleveland. Under the arches of the church’s vaulted sanctuary, the ensemble promises a listening experience that’s “utterly invigorating and compellingly contemplative.” On the menu are Jordan Nobles’ Simulacrum, David Crowell’s Like A Machine (commissioned by 51XO), John Thompson’s Fine. Awful. Whatever. Great. (a world premiere), Jeremy Allen’s Broccoli September, Michael Bratt’s Atari Punk (commissioned by 51XO), and Arvo Pärt’s Pari Intervallo. There’s no charge for this performance, but freewill offerings are welcome.

The four-month-long Violins of Hope Cleveland project will feature Klezmer music on Sunday, November 15 at 7:00 pm when the duo Di Tsvey — Steven Greenman, violin, and Pete Rushefsky, tsimbalom — performs at Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple, 23737 Fairmount Blvd. in Beachwood. Greenman and Rushefsky will play traditional and original Klezmer music that celebrates the historical role of the violin in East European Jewish culture. The playlist includes “baroque-inspired Jewish pieces that were performed for important life-cycle events, lively dance tunes, and meditative Hasidic spiritual melodies.” The free concert will begin with a 30-minute lecture about the history of Klezmer music.

Check out a complete two-week calendar of classical music events here.