When Ellie and I went to the opera at Proctors last week, we found that “La Traviata” by the Hubbard Hall Opera Theater was the perfect date night for Valentine’s Day.
HHOT made the most of Proctors GE Theatre, projecting etchings of street scenes and ornate rooms onto the towering screen behind the platform stage in lieu of sets, plus super-titles so those not fluent in Italian could follow the action without a dictionary. Oh, yeah, and tweets by cast members, in character, to fill in the blanks in the plot.
About the plot: Where would opera, or 19th century melodrama in general, be without tuberculosis? Try to imagine “La Boheme” (or “Rent”) with Epstein-Barr? Or “Anna Karenina” with COPD? Or how about adding ED to one of these classics?
But this opera experience — a very good one — was less about plot than about fine voices (Rachele Schmiege and Christopher Lucier as the leads) operated skillfully without diluting the acting, or vice versa; the power of a 22-piece live ensemble in conveying Verdi’s delicious orchestral colors; and the integration of an ancient style with new media. At first, the tweeting seemed gimmicky and distracting — too self-consciously post-modern, like that David Bowie song in “A Knight’s Tale.” Then, the content became more important than how it was delivered, and it was all right.
Livingston Taylor is so self-contained that he flies his own airplane to gigs, and he may always have played here solo, never with a band. Until Friday, that is, when he teams up with The College of Saint Rose Orchestra at the college’s Massry Center (1002 Madison Ave., Albany).
Emerging from brother James’ big shadow has challenged both Liv and sister Kate (recently here, opening for Albert Lee), and in a good way. Breaks between albums have stretched for all three Taylors, but the quality of Livingston’s work has stayed right up there. His “Last Alaska Moon” album (released in 2010, his 17th since 1970) features first-class collaborators and, as always with all three, first-class songs.
How will they sound with an orchestra? Find out at the Massry Center on Friday. Show time is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25. Phone 337-4871 or visit www.massrycenter.org.
Tegan and Sara
Siblings don’t get any closer than Tegan and Sara, identical twins (born in 1980 in Calgary) who make music under that name and with supporting players on Friday at Upstate Concert Hall (1208 Rt. 146, Clifton Park). Their seven albums — “Heartthrob” dropped last month — tours opening for Neil Young, the Pretenders, Ryan Adams, Jack Johnson, the Black Keys and more; and collaborating with just about everybody has built a big buzz for the talented twins.
Tegan and Sara play on Friday at 8 p.m. at Upstate Concert Hall. Doors open at 7 p.m.; Holly Miranda opens. Tickets are $22.50 in advance, $25 on Friday. Phone 371-0012 or visit www.upstateconcerthall.com.
Whitehorse demonstrates another kind of closeness on Sunday at Valentine’s (17 New Scotland Ave., Albany), that of life and musical partners Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland.
Canadians, like Tegan and Sara, Whitehorse is among the best of a big current crop of new/fresh female-male duos including:
• She & Him (Zooey Deschanel & M. Ward; most famous of this trend-let, they’ll tour this summer).
• The Bird and the Bee (Inara George and Greg Kurstin; their Hall & Oates songs album is just so cool).
• Beach House (Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally; catch their newish “Bloom” if you haven’t already).
• Swan Dive (Molly Felder and Bill DeMain; it’s too long (2009) since their last album “Mayfair”)
• David Wax Museum (David Wax and Suz Slezak; they opened for Tift Merritt at the Linda recently)
• Not to mention the more established she and him duos Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, David Robison and Kelly Willis, Mike & Ruthy (opened for the Wiyos at The Egg last week); our own Chris Shaw and Bridget Ball; Robin and Linda Williams — but we digress.
Whitehorse goes for romance, and they get it: Their new second album is “The Fate of the World Depends on this Kiss,” and they portray love as a Valentine, a battlefield, a test kitchen, a cuddle, a crucible and a cupcake. Whitehorse plays downstairs at Valentine’s on Sunday; Matt and the Bad Ideas open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10. Phone 432-6572 or visit www.valentinesalbany.com.
The Wood Brothers
The Wood Brothers (Chris is bassist with Medeski Martin & Wood, and Oliver is a blues guitarist and singer) join sibling voices and honed-together instrumental chops on Friday at The Egg. It’s blues, more than anything else; but these brothers have a solid grip on all the kinds of music they’ve played, separately and together: folk, jazz and rock. The young Northampton singer-songwriter Jamie Kent opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are $24. Phone 473-1845 or visit www.theegg.org.
Bethany & Rufus
Bethany & Rufus bring their new Roots Quartet on Saturday to the Eighth Step at Proctors GE Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady). This couple/duo — guitarist-singer Bethany Yarrow (daughter of Peter) and cellist Rufus Cappadocia — added Haitian drummer Bonga Jean-Baptiste, Moroccan oud and cajon player Brahim Fribgane and dancers Sheila Anozier and Belinda Becker to create a kinetic world-music combo. Show time is 7:30. Tickets are $22 in advance, $24 at the door. Phone 434-1703 or 346-6204 or visit www.eighthstep.org or www.proctors.org.
All by himself, without siblings or partners, Sean Rowe plays Saturday at Caffe Lena (47 Phila St., Saratoga Springs) in a brief home stand between European and U.S. tours promoting his superbly accomplished album “The Shark and the Salesman.” His voice is big enough for two or more brothers, but it all comes out of just one guy.
Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door. Phone 583-0022 or visit www.caffelena.org.
It’s a weekend of Seans at the Caffe: Irish troubadour Sean Tyrrell plays Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 at the door.
The Black Francis show at Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) that was postponed from last week by the snowstorm is back on Sunday at 8 p.m. with Reid Paley opening. Tickets are $25. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
Club Helsinki’s weekend begins with the John Corbett Band tonight at 8 p.m. Best known for starring in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and recurring roles on “Northern Exposure” and “Sex and the City,” Corbett has also made music all his life. His self-named debut album hit 42 on the Country Albums chart. Show time is 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]