Friday, July 13, 2007

Calle 13

Tour T-shirts? Meh. Reggaeton duo Calle 13 should be peddling lozenges at its gigs. A half-capacity 9:30 club greeted the Latin Grammy-winning duo Wednesday with the kind of throat-mangling screams you might hear at a sold-out arena. The Puerto Rican pair, René Pérez (a.k.a. Residente) and Eduardo Cabra (Visitante), answered the high-decibel welcome with an exhilarating set of percussive romps -- proof positive that they're the best reggaeton act in the business.

Just don't call them reggaeton. The duo balk at the tag -- which is kind of like Gilbert Arenas not wanting to be called a basketball player. Matching quirkiness with ferocity, their performance showed what exciting heights the genre is capable of. The duo performed with an eight-piece ensemble -- including a horn section and a percussion troupe -- evoking Colombian cumbia, Jamaican dub-reggae, even classic D.C. go-go with a few descending bass guitar slides. The night's best material felt expansive, even when it was tethered to reggaeton's monolithic boom- brap cadence.

And while the beats were unflappable, the show's energy still rode on the shoulders of lead rapper Residente. He transfixed the crowd with his rowdy charisma and his hairdo (it looked like a map of the I-495-295 interchange had been shaved into his fade). He ripped through a revved-up version of "Atrévete-te-te" (roughly translated "Get Wild-d-d") and bounded through the newer single "Cumbia de Los Aburridos" ("Cumbia of the Bored"). Basking in the shrieks of fans, Calle 13 seemed anything but.

-- Chris Richards

Shallaway: 'Ann & Séamus'

On Wednesday at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage, the Newfoundland choral ensemble Shallaway presented the U.S. premiere of "Ann and Séamus" -- a remarkable, luminous chamber opera by Stephen Hatfield based on Kevin Major's 2003 poem. The work commemorates the extraordinary bravery of a single family that rescued nearly 200 shipwrecked passengers off a remote corner of Isle aux Morts, and 17-year-old Ann's subsequent struggle with her love for one of the survivors. The opera does not really explore the reasons for Ann's crucial choice at the end, but the remarkable part is that after only 50 minutes it made us really care.

Shallaway, which fields six choirs of students aged 7 to 18, inculcates awareness of the cultural heritage of Newfoundland and Labrador. "Ann and Séamus," commissioned by the chorus, advances that objective most endearingly. The music is challenging but was carefully tailored to the still-developing voices that carried it. With no low voices, the continuous high tessitura wore on the listener, but Hatfield used as much textural variety as possible. The jigs, reels and shanties were artfully interwoven with slower arias, duets and ensembles that charmed the ear.

The staging, by Jillian Keiley, was superb in every respect. Using nothing but scarves for props, the enthusiastic cast depicted fish (alive and filleted), reefs, furniture, water (stormy and calm), vessels (large and small) and other animals. The shipwreck and rescue scenes were a tour de force of stagecraft and design, almost more ballet than opera, and the young performers nailed them. Allison Nicholas as Ann displayed a sweet, clear soprano, and Allison Malone as the dog often upstaged everyone else.

-- Robert Battey

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