Critic’s Choice for 2019-20

Fri Sep 06, 2019 at 11:15 am
By Edward Reichel
Isabel Leonard performs with the Utah Symphony January 10-11, 2020. Photo: Fay Fox

Cagney. Pioneer Theatre Company. September 20-October 5.  

Pioneer Theatre Company opens its season with Cagney, a new musical about James Cagney, the legendary song-and-dance man turned acclaimed film star. The story chronicles Cagney’s career from vaudeville performer to Hollywood tough guy. The show makes an extended stop in Salt Lake City on its way to Broadway and features Robert Creighton in the title role.  

“No Tenors Allowed.” Thomas Hampson, baritone; Luca Pisaroni, bass-baritone. Brigham Young University. October 1.

Performing together since 2010, veteran baritone Thomas Hampson and his son-in-law, bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni, bring their show, “No Tenors Allowed,” to Brigham Young University. The program will have the duo performing selections from opera, including Donizettti’s  Don Pasquale and Mozart’s Don Giovanni, along with Broadway show tunes and popular songs.

“Balanchine’s Ballets Russes.” Ballet West. October 25-November 2

Ballet West celebrates the 110th anniversary of the founding of Serge Diaghilev’s groundbreaking Ballets Russes with a triple bill focusing on the choreography of a very young George Balanchine, in his earliest collaborations with the famed company. The program features Stravinsky’s The Song of the Nightingale, in a reconstruction of the original production, and the same composer’s Apollo, which will include the rarely performed original childhood scene and the final ascent to Mount Olympus. Rounding out the program will be Prokofiev’s Prodigal

Itzhak Perlman, violinist. Brigham Young University Philharmonic/Kory Katseanes. Brigham Young University. January 9, 2020.

Grammy and Emmy Award winning violinist Itzhak Perlman makes a rare visit to Utah, and his first to Brigham Young University, when he joins the school’s orchestra in a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday. Also on the program are Dvorak’s Carnival Overture and Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry

“Isabel Leonard Sings Mozart.” Utah Symphony/Bernard Labadie. Abravanel Hall. January 10-11.

Canadian conductor Bernard Labadie makes a welcome return to the Utah Symphony, this time teaming up with American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard, who will sing a set of Mozart operas arias, as well as the composer’s concert aria Exsultate, jubilate. The orchestra will also play Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, “Italian.”

Nicole Heaston performs the title role in Massenet’s “Thaïs” with the Utah Opera, May 9-17.

“Fierce Grace.” NOVA Chamber Music Series. February 16.

Since Jason Hardink stepped down as NOVA’s music director two years ago, the series has been under a revolving door of guest music directors. Last season it was the Utah Symphony’s concertmaster Madeline Adkins. This season, the Utah State University-based Fry Street Quartet are the curators. One of the works they’ve chosen to present is Fierce Grace, a song cycle based on the life of the first woman elected to Congress, Jeanette Rankin. Music is by Kitty Brazelton, Laura Kaminsky, Laura Karpman and Ellen Reid, with a libretto by Kimberly Reed. Also on the program are John Halle’s Amen Choruses and Brigham Young University composer Christian Asplund’s One Eternal

Dover and Escher Quartets. Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City. Libby Gardner Concert Hall. February 20.

The Dover and Escher Quartets have combined forces frequently over the years to play the small but important octet repertoire. The two groups will be stopping in Salt Lake City with a program that has two giants in this genre, the Mendelssohn Octet in E flat major and the Enescu Octet in C major. They’ll also play the short Two Pieces for String Octet, op. 11, by Shostakovich.

“Beethoven 2020: Symphony No. 5.” Augustin Hadelich, violinist; Utah Symphony/Thierry Fischer. May 1-2.

German violinist Augustin Hadelich returns to the Utah Symphony to play one of the major 20th century works for violin and orchestra, Dutilleux’s L’arbre des songes. He’ll also play Beethoven’s Romance No. 1, and music director Thierry Fischer will round out the evening with two movements from Messiaen’s Des canyons aux étoiles, inspired by the composer’s visit to Utah in the early 1970s.

Massenet: Thaïs. Utah Opera. Capitol Theatre. May 9-17.

Massenet’s 1894 opera Thaïs is finally making its Utah Opera debut next May to close out the company’s season. Taking place in Egypt under Roman rule, the opera is a mix of religion ad eroticism on its tale of a holy man, Athanaël, who tries to convert a courtesan, Thaïs, to Christianity only to fall hopelessly in love with her. The cast includes soprano Nicole Heaston as Thaïs and baritone Troy Cook as Athanaël.

“80th Anniversary Gala with Joshua Bell.” Joshua Bell, violinist; Utah Symphony/Conner Gray Covington. Abravanel Hall. May 16.

Violin superstar Joshua Bell helps the Utah Symphony celebrate its 80th anniversary with a special event gala featuring him playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto. The orchestra, under associate conductor Conner Gray Covington, will also perform “The Moldau” from Smetana’s Ma Vlast and “The Emperor Waltzes” by Johann Strauss, Jr.

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