What Happens In Las Vegas, Happens Everywhere!

What Happens In Las Vegas, Happens Everywhere!

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Gambling, drinking, and lust: the Las Vegas Philharmonic ended its 2004-2005 season with musical works reflecting our city’s three core values..

On the Town is a 1944 Broadway musical (and later a movie) whose songs were written by legendary American composer Leonard Bernstein. The Philharmonic opened with three dance tunes from this story of three sailors looking for action while on liberty in New York. Lively, jazzy, and stylish, the songs perfectly embody the vibrant energy of the great city. On the other hand, the plot sounds like most bachelor parties right here in Vegas.

Poker, anyone? In 1936 Igor Stravinsky wrote Jeu de Cartes (“the card game”). In this beautifully orchestrated “ballet in three deals,” the queens do a flirtatious dance and the pompous joker makes recurring mischief before being ultimately defeated by a royal flush. As in Samuel Barber’s tone poem about Prometheus, the music describes a scene and action, but while Stravinsky’s music makes for great listening, I often couldn’t tell the queen from the joker. Remind me to stay out of the casinos around here.

Bejeezus: n. 1. a spirit of calm and safety existing within most humans and just waiting to be scared out.

If you’ve heard the first part of Carmina Burana on classical radio stations or in movie soundtracks, you’ve probably also heard it replayed in your worst nightmares. “Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi,” is the apocalyptic opening that cries out, “Monstrous fate . . . you plot against me by trickery, so that my naked back is exposed to your lashes.” Imagine those words belted out in Latin by a chorus of almost one hundred people from the Las Vegas Master Singers and Las Vegas Philharmonic Chorus, backed by the orchestra with five booming tympani drums. When “Fortuna” ended, I was still too riveted to snicker at the audience member who broke the inter-movement silence by exclaiming, “Wow!”

It may not surprise you to learn that the lyrics of Carl Orff’s 1936 masterwork are taken from poems written in a Bavarian monastery in the Middle Ages. (The title means “Songs of the Benediktbeuren.”) The twist is that the poems — written mostly in Latin, with bits of Old German and Old French — are satirical and quite pagan, and they deal mostly with themes of gambling, drinking, and springtime lust. Some dreams are the same all over.

Carmina continues with “Primo Vere.” It is a song of spring, but the somber tone suggests that the monks are expecting to be smitten by a vengeful God for even thinking about those young women with fresh tan lines. Fortunately the mood soon brightens, with the sonorous baritone of guest vocalist Anton Belov carrying melodiously over a string accompaniment: “. . . and the bright fields laugh with flowers.” By the end of the section, the music is happy to the point of silliness, and the final words are “I’d still prefer instead, to have the Queen of England lying in my bed.” Still sound like monks’ poetry? I hope the queen was much younger then.

“I am the abbott of Cuckoominster!” Belov sings whimsically in a section called “In the Tavern.” However, the most musically stunning part is a lament sung in very high, tight notes by guest tenor Matthew Garrett, accompanied by flutes suggesting waterfowl: “The lake was my home, and I was beautiful — when I was a swan. Oh, misery! How black I am and thoroughly roasted!” Given that this is a tavern song, thoroughly toasted may be more accurate.

The next section, “The Court of Love,” features the surprisingly rich voice of guest soprano Suzan Hanson: “There was a girl, who looked like a rose; her face shone, her mouth blossomed. Ah!” There’s a lot of playful back-and-forth between soloists and chorus in this section, and the entire work is structured in repeating blocks that give it a wonderful rhythmic quality. An exuberant finale (“abundant Venus!”) deceives the listener, leaving him unprepared for the sudden reprise of the nightmarish “Fortuna” section at the end: “Lament with me, all of you, for fortune strikes down the strong man!”

What a buzzkill.

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Rob LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Editor – Read Jetsetters Magazine at To book travel visit at and for Beach Resorts visit Beach Booker at

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Robert LaGrone, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at

Robert LaGrone