Classical Music and Dance
Tom Strini looks ahead to big things happening in Milwaukee music and dance this spring.
You might want to start here to fill out that spring music and dance card. My picks, in rough chronological order:
Edo, Perlman and the MSO Spring: We saw Milwaukee Symphony music director Edo de Waart just once in the fall, but he’ll conduct eight spring programs. The MSO spring also includes the glamor of a visit from Itzhak Perlman, the world’s most famous violinist, in a one-night special on Wednesday, Jan. 16. Among the most intriguing de Waart programs: An all-Rachmaninoff evening with spectacular pianist Joyce Yang March 1-3; a reprise of Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle, the surprise blockbuster hit of the 2009-10 season, complete with the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures; and March 22-23 concerts featuring Ilana Setapen, the MSO’s brilliant young associate concertmaster, in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2. Also on that program: The Swingle Singers (remember them?) in Berio’s Sinfonia for Eight Voices and Orchestra.
Skylight Music Theatre’s Edith Piaf Onstage: Leslie Fitzwater has done versions of this one-woman show after legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf for years. Fitzwater’s intensity as a singer and stage presence rivals Piaf’s. Fitzwater was supposed to do Piaf at the Skylight last season, but a bout with cancer dictated postponement. Fitzwater, one of Milwaukee’s greatest performers over three decades, is back. She will celebrate the mid-century star on the big stage at the Broadway Theatre Center Jan. 25-Feb. 10.
Milwaukee Ballet Genesis International Choreography Competition: The biennial competition is always an exciting time at the ballet company. Michael Pink invites three choreographers, chosen largely on the basis of video submissions, to come to Milwaukee to create new works on the company. Each gets the same number of dancers, the same time limit and the same rehearsal time. Judges pick the winner, and the audience has a vote, too. The venue, the Pabst Theater, adds to the intimacy of the event and the electricity of competition. This year’s finalists: Lauren Edson, James Gregg, Gabrielle Lamb. A lot of good dance and dancing has come out of this competition, which typically packs the Pabst. Feb. 7-10.
Present Music’s Judgment of Midas: Present Music’s decades-long, very fruitful relationship with Memphis-based composer Kamran Ince will likely come to a climax in the premiere of Ince’s first opera, with a libretto by Miriam Seidel. Jill Anna Ponasik and Milwaukee Opera Theatre are collaborating with Kevin Stalheim’s group, which is also part of UWM’s Year of the Arts. They will give a concert reading of the opera April 12-13 at UWM’s Helene Zelazo Center.
Danceworks, Milwaukee Opera Theatre and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra, Façade: These three groups got together to mount Astor Piazzolla’s Maria de Buenos Aires, the most impressive and ambitious failure of the 2o11-12 season. These are smart, talented people, and I’m interested to see how they do the second time around, this time with a legendary work from 1920s Britain. William Walton wrote the music and Frederick Aston choreographed Façade, after poems by Edith Sitwell. English companies have kept it alive, but it’s never done in America. A fascinating project – and they’ll do it at the vast Milwaukee Theatre, April 25-27.
The Florentine Opera, Albert Herring: Florentine general director William Florescu and conductor Christopher Larkin will lead this production of Benjamin Britten’s comedy of small-town manners and mores. Last spring, the two of them scored a major creative success with a Baroque double bill, beautifully and economically staged at intimate Vogel Hall of the Marcus Center. That Baroque show and, we hope, Albert Herring, show the new-look, innovative Florentine Opera in its most flattering light. March 8-17.
Milwaukee Choral Artists Grand Finale: Sharon Hansen founded the Milwaukee Choral Artists 15 years ago. This fall, Hansen announced that this season would be the last for MCA, a small choir comprising some of Milwaukee’s best singers (including Leslie Fitzwater — see above). The musicianship of this group is the equal of any in the world, and the programming has been consistently fascinating. This last concert, set for April 13 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, will feature a commissioned premiere by Ola Gjeilo. It will also be one of the great emotional occasions of the season.
Wild Space Dance, Sight Readings, May, various dates and locations: Debra Loewen and company have become ever more inventive and expert with their site-specific endeavors. They’re holding Sight Readings close to the vest just now. I don’t know any more about it that you do. But I just have a feeling that this one will be special.
Milwaukee Ballet, Swan Lake: I wasn’t so enamored of Michael Pink’s take on the Petipa/Ivanov classic a few years back. But I’m very curious about what he’ll do when he revisits it this season. I’m also curious about the casting. Pink will split the Odette and Odile roles, partly to showcase more of the company’s splendid and varied women. Who will they be? May 16-19, Uihlein Hall.
Skylight Porgy and Bess: Bill Theisen, outgoing artistic director of the Skylight Music Theatre, chose to end his long and eventful tenure there with a big and challenging project. The Gershwins’ 1935 opera, with its unwieldy narrative and disparate musical styles, is very difficult to mount successfully. It also carries a lot of racial baggage. I can’t wait to see how Theisen handles this piece in a relatively small theater with a very small orchestra. May 17-June 9.