Don't Miss List
Editors Note: We've asked Houston arts leaders and CultureMap contributors to pick the jewels from Houston's upcoming arts season — the events that they don't plan to miss. Here's what's on contributor Theodore Bale's don't miss list:
This autumn I’m looking forward to collaborations. In the upcoming season in Houston, presenters are getting together with other presenters to bring some of the finest work to our city. Choreographers are working with lighting designers and visual artists. Directors and conductors are collaborating with composers, taking on work from the classical period as well as a contemporary “classic.”
I’m thrilled that Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and DiverseWorks ArtSpace are joining forces for their first co-production, which premieres Sept. 15-17 at DiverseWorks. This seems to me a match made in heaven.
Thanks to the two adventurous organization’s efforts, New York choreographer/writer Jack Ferver is working with New York visual artist Marc Swanson (whose work is currently on display upstairs and downstairs at CAMH) on Two Alike, described as “a meditative and visceral performance tracking the journey from rural upbringings to a furious adulthood in an urban landscape.” My intuition tells me that I’m going to relate easily to that theme, and a friend on Facebook who knows Ferver well says “he is never afraid to be outrageous,” so I am even more intrigued.
Powder Your Face will be the second opera this year that references a blow job. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, and this isn’t to diminish the musical seriousness of the work.
All you have to say is “experimental” and I’m interested, and I just can’t wait to see what Ferver does inside Swanson’s set design, which promises to be unusual.
Last year around this time, I considered NobleMotion Dance’s powerful KinkyKool Fan Blowing Hard as the most significant work to emerge from the local dance community. Certain dances are like brilliant ruptures, and this one was without doubt the biggest of 2010. It’s the kind of piece that smacks you in the face, and you like it.
I was also completely taken with the company’s elegant Photo Box D, based on a light installation and set of cues by the talented Jeremy Choate. So it’s with great anticipation that I imagine what Splitting Night, an entire evening of collaborative pieces by NobleMotion Dance and Choate, will offer on Aug. 26 through Sept. 3 at Barnevelder Movement/Arts Complex. Choreographers Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble don’t seem to look at Choate as someone who simply lights their movement, they see him as an equal, and I find that refreshing. The company’s press release invites viewers to “enter a world where light and dance bend reality.”
I know it will be sophisticated, dangerous, and dreamy, in the manner the company has already demonstrated in its first year in Houston.
The biggest opera news for me this autumn is Opera Vista’s November production at Zilkha Hall of Powder Her Face, a sort-of chamber opera from 1995 by young British composer Thomas Adés. The glamorous Cassandra Aaron Black will sing the lead role of the “Dirty” Duchess Margaret of Argyll, who apparently scandalized Britain in 1963 during divorce proceedings.
It’s an adult work, to say the least. In fact, it will be the second opera this year that references a blow job (Chairman Mao got a smoothie in the third act of Nixon in China at the Met in February; you gotta love that Peter Sellars). Not that there’s anything wrong with that, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, and this isn’t to diminish the musical seriousness of the work.
Conductor and OV artistic director and founder Viswa Subbaraman says it’s the most difficult opera his company has attempted, and that’s saying a lot. He describes the score as “somewhere in between atonality and Paris subway tango.” If you want to study up before the show, you can catch Olga Zhuravel in the lead role on YouTube, my latest obsession. And I’m sure that Opera Vista is going to do something very intriguing as regards the staging.
I’ll be watching and writing about the entire Houston Grand Opera season, of course, but the production I am particularly eager to see is Jürgen Flimm and Robert Israel’s version of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio, which runs Oct. 28 through Nov. 13 at the Brown Theater in the Wortham. With Karita Mattila as Leonore and Simon O’Neill as Florestan, this promises to be a thrilling evening.
“The symphonic brilliance of the orchestral score is matched by heroic vocal writing in this story of a wife’s selfless and courageous love,” say HGO’s website. Alright, I won’t disagree with that, but I like the late composer Morton Feldman’s remark about Ludwig even more. “In Beethoven,” he remarked, “you have the whole of the Napoleonic ideal.”
Feldman understood that Beethoven reflected the entire mood of his age, and sometimes I want to revel in that mood. Flimm and Israel have re-contextualized the “triumph over evil” theme within the context of a contemporary police state. The production comes to Houston from The Metropolitan Opera.
I wouldn’t think of missing The Tiger Lillies at the Wortham on Nov. 4, presented by Society for the Performing Arts and DiverseWorks Art Space. I first heard this peculiar ensemble of musicians at a dance performance in Montréal by Holy Body Tattoo, and I never forget their unique sound, which I would describe as post-vaudeville, neo-carnival.
Thankfully SPA and DW are bringing the group on its “The Gutter and Stars” tour, which features new and classic songs from this talented troupe. It’s an evening you’ll never forget.
When I’m not watching opera and dance or listening to music, I’ll retreat to the solemn splendor of The Menil Collection for Seeing Stars: Visionary Drawings from the Collection, which opens on Sept. 23. The show includes, among other, some of the strange and wonderful work of “outsider” artist Henry Darger.