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This is not your father’s opera. Shangri-La, described as an “avant-garde chamber opera,” tackles issues more likely to crop up in a New York Times Magazine exposé than in a standard opera libretto: the sex-tourism industry in Thailand, the context of poverty in which it flourishes, and the societal dysfunctions—including the high incidence of HIV infection—attendant to the trade. The Magic Flute this ain’t.

The story, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, presents a multitude of voices, from Thai women employed as prostitutes, tourists living out their ethically questionable fantasies, members of the legal community, and “a metaphysical detective.”

The unusual subject matter receives a similarly unconventional musical setting courtesy of composer Susie Ibarra (pictured), who works jazz, blues and Thai folk music into a variegated fabric incorporating numerous personalities and divergent cultures.

Shangri-La will be performed in the Yulman Theatre at Union College (Union Street, Schenectady) today (Thursday, Feb. 3). Admission for the 7:30 PM performance is free. For more information, call 388-6131.

The Louisiana Project

A statement of purpose from artist Carrie Mae Weems: “The focus of my work is to describe simply and directly those aspects of American culture in need of deeper illumination.”

Such is Weems’ latest show, which opens this weekend at the Hyde. Commissioned by Tulane University’s Newcomb Art Gallery, The Louisiana Project is a commemoration of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. What Weems does, through photography and video, is “unearth the ‘tiny footnotes’ to this event and its consequences.” (Pictured: Untitled, Iris print, 2003.)

As Phil Oppenheim wrote in Art Papers, “Weems wants to tease out the hidden histories of Louisiana, which led her to Mardi Gras, a theatricalized condensation of a web of relationships between white and black, rich and poor, elites and the masses.”

The Louisiana Project opens this Sunday (Feb. 6) at the Hyde Collection’s Charles R. Wood Gallery (161 Warren St., Glens Falls), and continues through April 10. The exhibit is sponsored by Metroland. Next Saturday, Feb. 12, Carrie Mae Weems will offer a visual presentation on her work at 5:30 PM in the museum’s Helen Froehlich Auditorium. Admittance to this event is free. For more information, call 792-1761 or visit

An Evening of Brahms

A gang of University at Albany music faculty, including Ann-Marie Barker Schwartz (violin), Findlay Cockrell (piano), Frances Pallozzi Wittmann (mezzo-soprano), Nathaniel Parke (cello) and Victoria von Arx (piano) will join together for a program of works by that lovable old German, Johannes Brahms.

OK, we don’t know if Brahms himself was lovable—the lovely ladies of the brothels he liked to frequent are as dead as he is—but his music is rich and rewarding to experience. The program for Saturday evening’s concert (in UAlbany’s warm, intimate Recital Hall) will include the Liebeslieder Waltzes, the Schumann Variations for piano duo, Two Songs With Viola, the Cello Sonata in F major and the Violin Scherzo.

There are special musical guests, too, including baritone Richard Mazzaferro, tenor Rand Reeves and soprano Joan Wick-Pelletier.

The All-Brahms concert will be held Saturday (Feb. 5) at 8 PM at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center Recital Hall (1400 Washington Ave., Albany). Tickets are $8 general admission and $4 for students. For more information, call 442-3997.

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