Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain and Edgar Meyer
Memorial Hall, UNC Campus—Just as all basketball players are compared to Michael Jordan, all banjo players are compared to Béla Fleck, and for good reason: The human mind can't keep up with how quickly he plays, how cleanly he plays and how musically he plays, and with what seeming ease he does it all. His level of technicality is scary and might be a source of futile anger for listeners, but the emotion and understanding of his music sets the world right. Fleck can do whatever he wants, so it's fortunate he wants to surround himself with similarly gifted musicians and experiment with the bounds of the banjo. (And, hey, we'll be honest, sometimes those experiments have been a little, well, wanky.) But Edgar Meyer is a supreme Fleck accomplice. A double bassist too virtuosic for the classical world alone, he's collaborated with Fleck for a quarter century, and the two have pushed each other without mercy to completely satisfying results, garnering a couple of Grammys along the way.
Touring as a child prodigy in the '60s, Ustad—a title signifying his musical mastery—Zakir Hussain is the so-called untested one here, though the tabla player has collaborated with stateside musicians like John McLaughlin and Mickey Hart. Commissioned to compose a triple concerto that premiered in 2006, Fleck and Meyer wanted Hussain as their third.
But how does it all work out? Spectacularly. The continuously flowing sense of time in Indian classical music gives Fleck and Meyer the space to improvise in new ways, hypnotizing without sounding jammy. Ringing banjo is occasionally reminiscent of sitar, and the collaboration is another diversion and triumph for Fleck. UNC students can get in for $10, but it's $45-$100 for everyone else. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.carolinaperformingarts.org or call 919-843-3333. —Andrew Ritchey
Regal North Hills and Regal Brier Creek—Opera fans (you know who you are): Did you know you can watch the Met in the comfort of multiplex stadium seating in the near Raleigh suburbs? Continuing The Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series, Tosca opens the 2009-10 season. The opera premiered at the Met a few weeks ago and prompted booing from the majority of the audience. The ire seemed directed at Luc Bondy's production team, which displaced Franco Zeffirelli's much-loved, 24-year-old ornate scenery with a minimalist set. The story concerns a singer, a painter and the chief of police caught in a twisted triangle. Karita Mattila performs the title role, with Marcelo Álvarez and George Gagnidze lending their voices to the male leads. James Levine directs the orchestra. For more information, visit www.metopera.org. —Sarah Ewald
Rialto Theatre—This is pretty much the saddest dog movie ever made. Vittorio De Sica's neorealist classic is a painfully relevant echo of our own times in its depiction of a retired civil servant (Carlo Battisti) desperately trying to keep the small room he cannot afford. As he falls into more and more desperate circumstances, his love for his tiny dog is the only thing that keeps him alive, and that relationship becomes threatened in more than one way. Cast with nonprofessional actors, Umberto D. is widely considered one of the greatest films ever made, and its depiction of postwar Italy is enhanced by its naturalistic style. The screening is part of the Cinema Inc. 2009-10 season; it starts at 7 p.m. Admission is by season subscription ($20 for 12 films), with prorated memberships available. For more information, call 919-787-7611 or www.cinema-inc.org. —Zack Smith