Pittsburgh Opera’s ‘The Summer King’ Continues; Jazz Keyboardist Kevin Howard Plays August Wilson Center (Fri., 5/5/17)


1) Pittsburgh Opera is staging the first world premiere in its 78-year history, and it is an opera about one of the city’s legendary baseball stars. The Summer King is based on the life of Josh Gibson, who during the 1930s and ‘40s played for both of the area’s prominent Negro Leagues teams, the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords. Gibson, a catcher and prodigious hitter, is now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame and is rated one the game’s greatest players ever. He also had a tumultuous and ultimately tragic life: he traveled out of the country at times to play in Mexico and the Caribbean; hoped to break baseball’s color line by being invited to join a Major League team (but was not); and died young—of a stroke, at age 35—in 1947, the year Jackie Robinson broke the color line with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Portland, Maine-based composer Daniel Sonenberg, an avid baseball fan, has collaborated with librettist Daniel Nester to write The Summer King. It’s an opera of epic scope that sets out to capture the drama and discord of Gibson’s times as well as the high and low points of his star-crossed career. 8 p.m. Pre-opera talk from 7 to 7:30 p.m. Continues through May 7. Benedum Center, 237 7th St., Cultural District. (MV)

2) Kevin Howard—a contemporary jazz keyboardist and Pittsburgh native—is one of the top jazz performers in the Pittsburgh region. He has toured with the legendary Ronnie Laws, and has also played with Najee and the amazing guitarist and Pittsburgh native George Benson. Howard has released four CDs including Random Groove, Collage, Special Edition, which features special guest saxophonist Marion Meadows and guitarist Rohn Lawrence, and 2015’s Travels. Ease into your weekend with some cool jazz from a top artist. 7 p.m. Free. August Wilson Center, 980 Liberty Ave., Cultural District. 

3)  Unblurred: First Fridays on Penn features a variety of visual and performing arts at galleries, clubs, and restaurants along Penn Avenue (4800-5500) in the Garfield, Bloomfield, and Friendship neighborhoods. 6 – 10 p.m. Most events are free.

4) The Pirates take on the Milwaukee Brewers on one of the prettiest patches of grass in the ‘Burgh tonight at 7:05 p.m. It’s a Zambelli’s Fireworks Night too. The Pirates continue in the second game of their three game home series tomorrow against the Brewers. PNC Park, 115 Federal St., North Shore.

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Rick Handler

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