Classical Music and Opera This Fall: Programs, Premieres and More09/05/2023
This is a season of transition for two of New York’s most important arts institutions. Opening with Jake Heggie’s “Dead Man Walking,” from 2000, the Metropolitan Opera will see whether fewer titles and more contemporary works (including “X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X” and “Florencia en el Amazonas”) help solve its financial problems. And Jaap van Zweden, the New York Philharmonic’s music director since 2018, starts his final year in the position with help from Yo-Yo Ma, Steve Reich and Schubert. Grand orchestras like the Chicago Symphony and Staatskapelle Berlin at Carnegie Hall; the Emerson String Quartet’s farewell; and premieres by Kate Soper and Ted Hearne are among the other highlights coming this fall.
‘MADAMA BUTTERFLY’ Boston Lyric Opera’s “The Butterfly Process,” an exploration of Puccini’s opera and the experiences of Japanese Americans, culminates in a new production directed by Phil Chan at Emerson Colonial Theater in Boston (through Sept. 24). And Matthew Ozawa’s staging for Detroit Opera aims to be a corrective to stereotypes about Japanese women and culture (Oct. 7-15).
PERELMAN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER Manhattan’s latest performance space opens with programs that include the wide-ranging series “Refuge,” presented by Trinity Church Wall Street (Sept. 19-23), and an appearance by the pianist Mahani Teave, among the only professional classical musicians from Easter Island and an ambassador for both her home and her instrument (Sept. 28).
DEATH OF CLASSICAL The impresario Andrew Ousley’s bleakly winking concert series, performed in crypts and catacombs, includes the Calidore Quartet, which will present Beethoven’s Op. 130 with its original finale: the towering “Grosse Fuge” (Sept. 20-22 at Green-Wood Cemetery). Among the events at the Church of the Intercession are the American premiere of Lowell Liebermann’s “Three Dances From Frankenstein” for piano, performed by Maxim Lando (Oct. 10-11); an accordion version of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, performed by Hanzhi Wang (Oct. 24); and David Lang’s Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio “The Little Match Girl Passion” (Dec. 8-12).
FESTIVAL O23 Opera Philadelphia’s season-opening festival returns, characteristically condensed and varied. On offer are Verdi’s “Simon Boccanegra,” starring Quinn Kelsey, Ana María Martinez and Christian Van Horn; the premiere of Rene Orth and Hannah Moscovitch’s “10 Days in a Madhouse”; and the local premiere of the brilliant tenor Karim Sulayman’s staged pastiche “Unholy Wars.” (Sept. 21-Oct. 1, various theaters in Philadelphia)
JOHN ZORN Performances to celebrate this indispensable musician’s 70th birthday have already begun, and continue with a pair of programs of his skill-stretching works at the Miller Theater at Columbia University: a mixed bill on Sept. 21, featuring the JACK Quartet and additional artists; and an evening of song, on Nov. 16, again with the JACK players, alongside the fearless soprano Barbara Hannigan.
MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA The conductor Thomas Sondergard made his debut with this ensemble in 2021 by leading Strauss’s “Ein Heldenleben.” Now, he officially arrives as music director with more Strauss: “Don Juan” and “An Alpine Symphony” as bookends for Mozart’s Oboe Concerto, featuring Nathan Hughes, the orchestra’s new principal oboe. (Sept. 21-23, Orchestra Hall, Minneapolis)
‘DOPPELGÄNGER’ The star tenor Jonas Kaufmann makes a now-rare appearance in New York with Claus Guth’s immense staging of Schubert’s song collection “Schwanengesang,” alongside Schubert piano music and new elements by Mathis Nitschke, inside the drill hall of the Park Avenue Armory (Sept. 22-28). The Armory’s classical season continues with performances by Sandbox Percussion (Oct. 1 and 3) and the mezzo-soprano Kate Lindsey (Oct. 16 and 17.)
‘DEAD MAN WALKING’ Opening the Metropolitan Opera’s season is this 2000 work, featuring Jake Heggie’s poignant, plain-spoken music and an acute libretto by Terrence McNally, based on Sister Helen Prejean’s memoir about her ministry to a convict on death row. Ivo van Hove directs; Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts; the mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, an experienced Sister Helen, stars. (Opens Sept. 26 at the Metropolitan Opera)
NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC OPENING GALA There is no surer star of orchestral galas than Yo-Yo Ma, who will play Dvorak’s evergreen Cello Concerto at David Geffen Hall amid other chestnuts (Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture and Tchaikovsky’s “Capriccio Italien”) to kick off Jaap van Zweden’s final season as the Philharmonic’s music director (Sept. 27).
VERDI AT THE MET Before a new production of “La Forza del Destino” opens at the Metropolitan Opera in February, the company presents three concert performances of Verdi’s Requiem at the end of September as well as a revival of “Nabucco” (opening Sept. 28). Most interesting, though, is “Un Ballo in Maschera” (opening Oct. 20), starring Charles Castronovo, Elena Stikhina and Quinn Kelsey.
‘THE ELEMENTS’ Two days after Yo-Yo Ma opens the season, the Philharmonic hosts one of the few soloists who rivals him as an audience draw, the violinist Joshua Bell, in the American premiere of a new suite of pieces by Jake Heggie, Jennifer Higdon, Edgar Meyer, Jessie Montgomery and Kevin Puts; Copland’s Third Symphony rounds out a very American program. (Sept. 29-Oct. 1, David Geffen Hall)
MUSIC BEFORE 1800 This long-running series’s latest installment, built around French works, begins with Juilliard415 performing Rameau theater music, including “Castor et Pollux” and “Dardanus” (Oct. 1 at Corpus Christi Church). Next comes a program inspired by the sounds of Versailles (Oct. 29), then early music performed by Tenet Vocal Artists (Nov. 19). Tenet’s own season begins earlier with “Angels and Queens,” an evening of music by Purcell and his contemporaries. (Oct. 21, St. Luke in the Fields)
CARNEGIE HALL OPENING NIGHT Riccardo Muti’s term as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is over — yet, without a replacement named, he is still the ensemble’s de facto leader, and will bring it to Carnegie for a two-night stand to open the hall’s season (Oct. 4-5). The first performance features Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto (with Leonidas Kavakos) and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures From an Exhibition”; the second, works by Strauss, Mendelssohn and Philip Glass.
GEORGE LEWIS This composer and scholar, also the artistic director of the International Contemporary Ensemble, presents recent works performed by ensemble and featuring texts by writers including Fred Moten (Oct. 5 at Roulette). The International Contemporary Ensemble’s season continues with performances at the Japan Society, in collaboration with the artist Tomomi Adachi, that explore the music of John Cage (Oct. 21, Nov. 16 and Dec. 7; as well as an Afromodernism-themed program of premieres by Courtney Bryan and Adegoke Steve Colson (Nov. 1 at Merkin Hall); and the American premiere of Lewis’s “Blombos Workshop,” from 2020, at the Park Avenue Armory (Dec. 18).
STEVE REICH The Philharmonic gets one of this eminent composer’s rare premieres: “Jacob’s Ladder,” a 15-minute work in Hebrew drawn from Genesis, for chamber ensemble and a small group of singers (here, Synergy Vocals). Among the luxe accompaniments: Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony and the thoughtful pianist Leif Ove Andsnes as soloist in Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. (Oct. 5-7, David Geffen Hall)
MIRGA GRAZINYTE-TYLA A couple of years ago, this young conductor was much talked about as a potential music director at major American orchestras, but she seems content for the moment to freelance — including this much anticipated Philharmonic debut. The program includes a piece by Raminta Serksnyte, Grazinyte-Tyla’s fellow Lithuanian; selections from Sibelius’s suite “Four Legends From the Kalevala”; and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, with the dependably exciting Daniil Trifonov, who on Dec. 12 brings to Carnegie Hall a recital culminating in Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata. (Oct. 11-14, David Geffen Hall)
‘THE HUNT’ Kate Soper’s opera “The Romance of the Rose,” a casualty of pandemic delays that finally premiered earlier this year, freely adapted a 13th-century poem. She returns to medieval legend for her latest stage work, in which three self-accompanied singers recount a tale of three virgins passing the time as they await the sight of a unicorn, and as danger increases. Knowing Soper, that premise is merely a fraction of the preoccupations and innovations she has in store. (Oct. 12, Miller Theater at Columbia University)
PEOPLES’ SYMPHONY CONCERTS This local bastion of affordable concerts begins its season — the lineup includes appearances by Ruckus, Paul Lewis and Jeremy Denk — with Quatuor Danel performing works by Schubert, Weinberg and Mendelssohn. (Oct. 15, the Town Hall)
ORPHEUS CHAMBER ORCHESTRA The saxophonist Branford Marsalis builds on his decades-long relationship with Orpheus by opening the ensemble’s season with an expansive program in which he features as soloist in Debussy’s Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra, Ibert’s Concertino da Camera and Javier Diaz’s arrangement of Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.” (Oct. 14, Carnegie Hall)
THE CROSSING The country’s most interesting choral ensemble, a constant generator of new work, combines forces with the Ragazze Quartet for the premiere of David T. Little’s “Sin-Eater: A Ritual Grotesque” (Oct. 14 and 15 at Penn Live Arts, Philadelphia). Later in the season, the group presents another premiere, David Lang’s a cappella “Poor Hymnal” (Dec. 15, Penn Live Arts; and Dec. 17, the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia).
GATEWAYS MUSIC FESTIVAL This sprawling, peripatetic event, associated with the Eastman School of Music, is designed to spotlight classical musicians of African descent. The New York City portion begins Oct. 19 with a performance by the Gateways Brass Collective at the Abyssinian Baptist Church. Shows, talks and more continue through Oct. 22, culminating in a Gateways Chamber Players concert at Zankel Hall. The lineup is at gatewaysmusicfestival.org.
CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER A string ensemble drawn from the society’s enviable roster of regular players, including a bevy of rising talents, opens the season on Oct. 17 with a concert of works by Elgar, Bartok, Grieg, Walker and Britten. A few days later, Oct. 21-22, comes a more poignant string celebration: the farewell performances, after 44 seasons, of the Emerson Quartet. The appropriately wrenching program features two of the chamber repertory’s highlights, Beethoven’s Op. 130 Quartet, complete with “Grosse Fuge” finale, and Schubert’s String Quintet, with the Emerson joined by its former cellist, David Finckel. (Alice Tully Hall)
YEFIM BRONFMAN A close friend of the Philharmonic with a sprawling repertory, this pianist presents the New York premiere of a concerto by Elena Firsova. The program, conducted by David Robertson, also includes Brahms’s too-little-played Serenade No. 1 and a small celebration of Gyorgy Ligeti’s centennial, including the American premiere of his “Mifiso la sodo” (its title a Hungarian play on words) and his “Concert Romanesc.” (Oct. 19-21, David Geffen Hall)
‘INTELLIGENCE’ “Dead Man Walking” isn’t Jake Heggie’s only major opening of the season; arguably bigger is the premiere of his latest theater work, inspired by the true story of a Civil War spy ring. Featuring a libretto by Gene Scheer and a staging by the choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, it stars the mezzo-sopranos Jamie Barton and J’Nai Bridges, as well as the soprano Janai Brugger. (Oct. 20-Nov. 3, Houston Grand Opera)
SPHINX VIRTUOSI The premier house ensemble of the Sphinx Organization, devoted to increasing diversity in classical music, makes its annual trip to Carnegie Hall for an evening of characteristically varied programming, including works by Quenton Blache, Andrea Casarrubios, Xavier Foley, Abel Selaocoe, Villa-Lobos and Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson. (Oct. 20, Carnegie Hall)
‘ISRAEL IN EGYPT’ A recent performance of “Solomon” at Carnegie Hall was a reminder of the sumptuous power of Handel’s English oratorios, his concert-format works — loosely plotted, often biblically inspired — that made choruses the stars. The Philharmonic rarely programs these pieces (with the obvious exception of the perennial “Messiah,” conducted this year in mid-December by Fabio Biondi), so “Israel in Egypt” should be a treat. On the podium, Jeannette Sorrell makes her subscription debut with the orchestra, leading the choir of Apollo’s Fire, her Cleveland-based ensemble. (Oct. 25-26, David Geffen Hall)
ENGLISH BAROQUE SOLOISTS Alongside its sister group, the Monteverdi Choir, this superb ensemble comes to Carnegie Hall for two of the repertory’s richest works: Bach’s Mass in B minor (Oct. 25) and Handel’s “L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato.” (Oct. 26). (Carnegie Hall)
‘DOROTHEA’ The composer Ted Hearne’s maximalist, collagelike music tends to be strongly political in theme. He’s in a different, more internal mode in this song cycle to texts by the poet Dorothea Lasky, for which Hearne and the vocalist and electronic artist Eliza Bagg will be joined by a crack contemporary ensemble. (Oct. 27, Zankel Hall)
‘GROUNDED’ Jeanine Tesori, a stylistically nimble composer for both Broadway and opera, presents this new, Met-bound work, based on the play by George Brant about a fighter pilot grappling with the effects of virtual warfare. In an unfortunate coincidence, it is part of a Washington National Opera season sponsored by General Dynamics, the military contractor. (Oct. 28-Nov. 13, the Kennedy Center, Washington)
LEA DESANDRE AND THOMAS DUNFORD These two artists — Desandre, a clarinet-mellow mezzo-soprano who can burst with agility, and Dunford, an eloquent lutenist — are among the brightest lights of a young generation of early-music specialists. In Weill Recital Hall, ideally intimate for this repertory, they perform “Lettera Amorosa,” a program of love-focused Baroque works by Monteverdi, Frescobaldi and Handel, alongside names like Tarquinio Merula (his songs exquisite) and Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (a specialist in music for lute). (Nov. 2, Weill Recital Hall)
KRONOS QUARTET It is hard to believe this tirelessly contemporary ensemble is 50. The group celebrates the anniversary at Carnegie Hall with a host of friends (including Laurie Anderson, Wu Man and So Percussion, which has its own Carnegie date on Dec. 2) and a program including works by Michael Gordon, Gabriella Smith and Terry Riley (a new 50-player jam version of “Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector”). (Nov. 3, Carnegie Hall)
‘X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X’ This 1986 biopic-style opera was a family affair, with a score by Anthony Davis and a libretto by his cousin, Thulani, after a story by his brother, Christopher. Its music is a mixture of punchy modernism and lyrical lushness, with stretches of choral incantation; Will Liverman stars as Malcolm. In their company debuts, Kazem Abdullah conducts and Robert O’Hara (“Slave Play”) directs the Afrofuturism-inspired staging. (Opens Nov. 3 at the Metropolitan Opera)
CALIFORNIA FESTIVAL The inaugural edition of this event is all about the numbers: 95 organizations, 110 composers, 117 works from the past five years. If the scale seems dizzying, it at least matches the size and diversity of California. The state has long had centers of contemporary music dotting its coast, and its major orchestras — the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the San Diego Symphony — are coming together for the first time. (Nov. 3-19; more information at cafestival.org)
AMERICAN COMPOSERS ORCHESTRA This hardworking new-music ensemble, conducted by Vimbayi Kaziboni, brings a program of premieres to Zankel Hall: works by Augusta Read Thomas, George Lewis, Jack Hughes, Guillermo Klein and Nina C. Young. (Nov. 9, Zankel Hall)
‘JENUFA’ Two reigning sopranos from two generations come together in Chicago for Janacek’s shattering opera about shame, betrayal and forgiveness: Lise Davidsen in the title role and Nina Stemme as the Kostelnicka. Jakub Hrusa conducts Claus Guth’s production from the Royal Opera in London. (Nov. 12-26, Lyric Opera of Chicago)
‘FLORENCIA EN EL AMAZONAS’ Infused with the spirit of magical realism, Daniel Catán’s 1996 opera has an opera diva as its main character, à la “Tosca” or “Bel Canto.” It’s not subtle stuff, but it has ample lush lyricism for the riveting soprano Ailyn Pérez and the Met’s music director, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, to sink their teeth into; Mary Zimmerman, purveyor of fantastical whimsy, directs. (Opens Nov. 16 at the Metropolitan Opera)
‘HAMLET’ Louis Langrée’s final season as music director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra overlaps with his new job as the leader of the Opéra Comique in Paris, so naturally he will conduct a new touring production from the Comique, Ambroise Thomas’s “Hamlet,” when it comes to Cincinnati. Cyril Teste’s staging will feature a hybrid of the two institutions, with the May Festival Chorus performing alongside opera stars, including the baritone Stéphane Degout in the title role. (Nov. 17 and 19 at Music Hall, Cincinnati)
JULIA PERRY’S ‘STABAT MATER’ Returning to the Philharmonic after a successful debut in 2021, the conductor Dima Slobodeniouk leads the mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges in Julia Perry’s “Stabat Mater.” A Ligeti mini-fest continues with “Atmosphères,” made famous by its inclusion in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and the program ends with an audience pleaser: Holst’s “The Planets.” (Nov. 22-25, David Geffen Hall)
JUAN DIEGO FLÓREZ This dashing tenor made his name dispatching the coloratura curlicues of Rossini, whose works will be featured on this recital at Carnegie Hall (rescheduled from January). The program also includes songs and arias, some well known and some rarely performed, by Gluck, Donizetti, Verdi, Gounod, Puccini and others, with the pianist Vincenzo Scalera. (Nov. 29, Carnegie Hall)
STAATSKAPELLE BERLIN When this orchestra and its longtime chief conductor, Daniel Barenboim, last appeared at Carnegie Hall, in 2017, it was an epic nine-performance stand that paired Mozart and Bruckner. A lot has happened since then — including, in January, Barenboim stepping down as chief because of health problems. So his return with the ensemble will be poignant: just two nights, and the four symphonies of Brahms, a composer Barenboim performed as a pianist in this space in 1962. (Nov. 30-Dec. 1, Carnegie Hall)
‘TANNHÄUSER’ The Austrian tenor Andreas Schager has a major career in Europe, but has appeared at the Met in only three performances as Siegfried, in 2019. He returns to Wagner in the title role of “Tannhäuser”; Otto Schenk’s decades-old production is one of the house’s last remaining vestiges of classic, treasurably overstuffed naturalism. An excellent cast is rounded out by Elza van den Heever, Ekaterina Gubanova, Georg Zeppenfeld and, in a much anticipated Met debut, Christian Gerhaher; Donald Runnicles conducts. (Opens Nov. 30 at the Metropolitan Opera)
METLIVEARTS The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s performance series features a residency by the Catalyst Quartet, as well as an installment of “Sight and Sound,” which pairs visual art and music. The Orchestra Now’s program of Copland’s “Statements” and “Billy the Kid” are matched with pieces from the exhibition “Art for the Millions: American Culture and Politics in the 1930s”; Leon Botstein conducts. (Dec. 3, the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium)
ASHLEY BATHGATE AND MANTRA PERCUSSION Among the highlights at National Sawdust this fall is the premiere of Matt McBane’s “Topography,” for the cellist Ashley Bathgate and the members of the sextet Mantra Percussion. Presented with WNYC’s “New Sounds,” it is a sequel to the oceanic “Bathymetry,” from last year. (Dec. 6, National Sawdust)
CONRAD TAO Rachmaninoff’s 150th birthday year gets creative treatment from this pianist in “Rachmaninoff Songbook,” a recital program that traces a line, from the composer’s piano solos and the Cello Sonata (with Oliver Herbert), to standards like “Take the A Train,” as well as songs by Harold Arlen and Stephen Sondheim. (Dec. 6, 92NY)
ORCHESTRA OF ST. LUKE’S Bernard Labadie, this ensemble’s music director, leads its players and singers from La Chapelle de Québec in Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio,” a bit of counterprogramming during “Messiah” season. Soloists include the contralto Avery Amereau and the baritone Joshua Hopkins. (Dec. 7, Carnegie Hall)
‘THE MAGIC FLUTE’ It has not escaped notice that in this experimental, pared-down season, featuring fewer titles than usual, the Met, famous for the scope of its repertory, is not performing any operas by Strauss. And the only Mozart is this abridged, English-language “Flute,” aimed at families during the holiday season — in Julie Taymor’s production, filled with puppets and Lucite. (Opens Dec. 8 at the Metropolitan Opera)
TALLIS SCHOLARS This beloved group is a staple of the New York classical season, and its next appearance is special, coming as part of its 50th anniversary tour. Led by Peter Phillips, the ensemble will perform a Christmas program that presents the Nativity from the perspective of the shepherds at the manger. (Dec. 9, the Miller Theater at Columbia University)
THE ENGLISH CONCERT Having dipped last season into the English oratorios as part of its series of Handel works in concert at Carnegie Hall, this ensemble returns to his full-blown Italian operas with “Rodelinda,” well known in recent years at the Metropolitan Opera under the baton of Harry Bicket, who will also lead it here. The cast is excellent: Lucy Crowe, Iestyn Davies, Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, Eric Ferring, Christine Rice and Brandon Cedel. (Dec. 10, Carnegie Hall)
‘CARMEN’ Bizet’s beloved opera gives a stage director her Met debut on New Year’s Eve, exactly 14 years after the premiere of the company’s last “Carmen.” Carrie Cracknell will update the action to the present-day world of human trafficking. Aigul Akhmetshina and Piotr Beczala star, alongside Angel Blue and Kyle Ketelsen, with Daniele Rustioni on the podium. (Opens Dec. 31 at the Metropolitan Opera)
Joshua Barone is the assistant classical music and dance editor on the Culture Desk and a contributing classical music critic. More about Joshua Barone
Zachary Woolfe became The Times’s classical music critic in 2022, after serving as classical music editor since 2015. Prior to joining The Times, he was the opera critic of the New York Observer. More about Zachary Woolfe
Source: Read Full Article