Beth Hart comes across as the type of woman who, if you tried to pick her up at a bar, would drink you under the table and beat you at pool, telling dirty jokes the whole time. She has guts, swagger and ovaries. No wonder she was selected for the title role in her self-penned tribute to Janis Joplin, a musical titled Love, Janis. It's a stretch to say she will erase Joplin's memory, but there's enough substance to Hart's delivery to make it believable.

Though the Los Angeles native's songwriting isn't equal to her singing, Hart belts out her tunes with the kind of rasp Sheryl Crow wishes she had. Hart's voice is the immediate attraction. It sounds like it comes from a dark, dirty roadhouse. Too bad the songs sound like they come from a sanitary, well-lit Starbucks. Hart's second album, the aptly titled Screaming for My Supper, comes across as mainstream, rootsy and classic-rockish, even with all the experimental production. The piano-heavy single, "L.A. Song," is much lighter and melodramatic than the rest of the record.

Still, Hart is the kind of performer whose live shows outweigh her records.(David Simutis)

Beth Hart opens for Jonny Lang Thursday, January 20, at the Aerial Theater at Bayou Place, 520 Texas Avenue. For more information, call (713)629-3700.

LàAmico Fritzand Gianni Schicchi -- When book lovers lost interest in tales about knights and kings and began lusting for intrigues about down-to-earth people, composers concocted squalid melodramas about gypsies and plain old working-class folk. Amazingly enough, these fantasias have stood the test of time, and a couple are now on view at Opera in the Heights.

In Pietro Mascagni's flimsily plotted love story L'Amico Fritz, a wealthy Alsatian landowner who's convinced he'll never marry loses a bet with his rabbi friend and forfeits a choice vineyard. Even though Giuseppe Verdi called it the worst libretto he'd ever read, the music can't be beat. Giacomo Puccini's wry comedy Gianni Schicchi is about the low-born title character, who goes along with a greedy family's scheme to rewrite a rich relative's will so the Catholic Church won't get all the money. Of course, Schicchi takes all the loot for himself. Set in medieval Florence, Schicchi has Puccini's usual musical elegance. Taken together, the two operas offer no shortage of laughs. (Cynthia Greenwood)

Opera in the Heights presents LàAmico Fritz and Gianni Schicchi, both one -- act shows directed by artistic director William Weibel, at Lambert Hall, 1703 Heights Boulevard, January 13 through January 22. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 and $25. For more information call (713)861-5303.

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Cynthia Greenwood
David Simutis