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'Mamma Mia!'

ABBA's Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus had no idea they were writing the score for a musical when they wrote such 1970s pop hits as "Dancing Queen," "Take a Chance on Me" and "The Name of the Game." But five years ago, playwright Catherine Johnson wove two dozen ABBA songs into a narrative about the efforts of a bride-to-be to learn her father's identity. The result was the hit musical Mamma Mia!, which opens a three-week run at the Hippodrome Theatre Tuesday.

Sara Kramer portrays the bride; Lauren Mufson plays her mother, Donna; and E. Faye Butler (familiar to Baltimore audiences from her performances in Dinah Was and Ain't Misbehavin' at Center Stage) and Lori Haley Fox take the roles of the former members of Donna's all-girl rock band. Direction is by Phyllida Lloyd.

Show times at the Hippodrome, 12 N. Eutaw St., are 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 6:30 p.m. Sundays, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. Sundays, through May 30. Tickets are $34-$79. Call 410-481-SEAT.

-- J. Wynn Rousuck


The best-known operatic female in the public consciousness may wear a horned helmet and caterwaul at the top of her lungs, but the Spanish gypsy with hands on her hips and the ability to melt men with a single glance runs a close second. Her name is Carmen, and she's great company.

The Baltimore Opera Company's comfortable, traditional production of Bizet's Carmen provides solid aural and visual entertainment. Milena Kitic sings the title role with assurance and style, qualities that also emanate in a big way from conductor Alberto Veronesi.

Performances at the Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave., are at 8:15 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday (with Angela Horn as Carmen), 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $37 to $129. Call 410-727-6000.

Symphony With a Twist

One of the most affecting orchestral compositions of the past 25 years is John Corigliano's Symphony No. 1, his wrenching response to the toll of AIDS. Filled with reflections on the composer's friends lost to the disease, this 1990 score makes a universal statement of mourning, rage and love. But, like all great works, it also stands solidly as pure music. Its clarity of structure, brilliant orchestration and richness of melodic material create an extraordinary effect.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform Corigliano's masterwork on a bill with Beethoven's Emperor Concerto (featuring super-pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet). Keith Lockhart, the buoyant conductor of the Boston Pops, will be on the podium for this Symphony With a Twist event.

The BSO performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, 1212 Cathedral St. Tickets are $27 to $75. Call 410-783-8000.

-- Tim Smith

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