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Rogovoy Report For January 22, 2016

This weekend’s cultural highlights in our region include a couple of roots music concerts, an opera workshop, a regional premiere, and a reading by one of my favorite authors.

Birds of Chicago, the roots-music collective headed by husband-and-wife team JT Nero and Allison Russell that garnered many new fans with their compelling performance at last September’s FreshGrass Festival, returns to Club B10 at MASS MoCA in North Adams on Saturday at 8pm, when they will offer a preview of their upcoming album, “Real Midnight,” due for release on February 19. Birds of Chicago’s music seamlessly spans genres, drawing on the soulful balladry of the gospel tradition while simultaneously embracing deep grooves of country and soul. At times the focus is on the scaled-back pairing of Nero and Russell, and at other points the band swells to a full cast of musicians. At the heart of the genre-defying sound remain Nero and Russell’s powerful vocals.

Jazzy roots-duo Calumette performs in the Barn Space at Race Brook Lodge in Sheffield tonight at 8pm. The duo, composed of West Texas native Hale May and Swiss guitarist Antoine Salem, performs a soulful blend of country, folk, blues, Gypsy swing, jazz and gospel. The music should appeal to fans of Norah Jones, Melody Gardot, Diana Krall, Rebecca Martin and Madeleine Peyroux.

The Williams Opera Workshop, under the direction of Erin Nafziger and Keith Kibler, will perform works by Mozart, Weill, and Humperdinck in Chapin Hall on the Williams College campus on Tuesday at 7 pm. The event is free and open to the public. From Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro,” the singers, recruited from the ranks of talented Williams music students as well as faculty, perform the finale to Act II accompanied by a student-led orchestra. Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” receives a semi-staged performance of Act III, scene III. The ensemble also performs “Ice Cream Sextet,” from Kurt Weill’s opera “Street Scene.”

Author Mary Gaitskill reads from her terrific new novel, “The Mare,” at Cocoon Theatre on Monday, January 25, at 7 pm. Gaitskill’s critically acclaimed novel is about a faculty wife, in a Hudson Valley community very much like that surrounding Vassar or Bard college, who fosters a Dominican girl from Brooklyn. It’s a gripping tale of love, fear, addiction, and socioeconomic culture clash, written with Gaitskill’s sharp, perceptive wit and breathtaking language, with a narrative strategy that has the tale told in turn by all the main characters. It’s a true tour de force, and one of my favorite new books.

In addition to Gaitskill’s reading, the evening will including original music written and performed by Peg Simone designed especially for Gaitskill. Also, in keeping with the book’s title and one of its essential plot points, the evening will feature fine art equine photography by Juliet Harrison. Additionally, Andres and Marguerite San Millan will present a dance to one of Gaitskill’s readings, making this quite the multimedia extravaganza.

Seth Rogovoy is editor of Berkshire Daily and the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com