by Valerian Ruminski. Compact Disk. Nickel City Opera, PO Box 2616, Buffalo, New York 14240-2616.
Book Review by Michael Basinski
BUKOWSKI BUKOWSKI BUKOWSKI. That’s the hook. Welcome to this review, which is about The Ave Opera Theatre’s presentation of Opera Meets Skid Row, which is based upon Charles Bukowski’s skid row facination, preoccupation with classical music. Damn. It was an easy thing to match the two - but it takes/took some form of insight and guts. But here it is. Valerian Ruminski (a bass - as in singer) is the star. He does the opera parts of this presentation or collage of Bukowski like character speaking poems - (spoke by Bob Kravitz) and classic opera singin. I have no measure or expertise to say where Ruminski fits in the world of singers or opera. So I have only my own instinct. I am not an opera fan. But I find myself drawn to this production because it is good, you can listen to it without being pissed, yeah - listen-able, not overbearing or arrogant and not heavy with the high sniff art fluff stuff. Ruminski, for my money, does a fantastic job - he sings Brahms and Henry Purcell and tosses in Old Man River by Jerome Kern. These then punctuated with spoken word by Kravitz. Then, the last section about 1/3 of the CD are a batch of Bukowski Songs by composer Persis Anne Vehar - also sung by Ruminski. So you have the essential Bukowski energy meshed with musical compositional genius and belted out operatically by the brilliant Ruminski and you have a tribute that that is an homage that is solid work towering about the others. Well worth the time to listen again and again. You have Ruminski, Bukowski and Buffalo, New York (the city of no illusions!) What more? Well you have Persis Anne Vehar and William Hicks on piano and an audience responding to this live performance. What more? Well, you have product that stands unique among the Bukowski memoirs and products floating around because it is an independent work! What more? It is totally accessible to the ear of the street, Bukowski ear, your ear. Listen, friends, you have your Christmas money. You have all those empty bottles waiting to be cashed in. You have the change you found under the cushions on the couch, the quarters under the bed. Get it together. I can only imagine the Buk listening to this one until it is tissue thin. What a wonderful knit - Bukowski/real opera. Wow.