Critic’s Choice

Wed Sep 21, 2016 at 10:10 am
By Steven Brown

Jake Heggie’s opera, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” based on the Frank Capra movie, will have its world premiere December 2 at Houston Grand Opera. Photo: Ellen Appel

Matthias Goerne at Dallas Symphony, Oct. 6-9, 2016

The intense German baritone launches a stint as the Dallas Symphony’s artist-in-residence with Johannes Brahms’ A German Requiem, in performances led by Jaap van Zweden, the orchestra’s New York Philharmonic-bound music director. Goerne will rejoin the orchestra as Christus in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion March 31-April 2, 2017, and he will return for a recital May 30.

Jake Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life at Houston Grand Opera, Dec. 2-17, 2016

Houston Grand Opera premieres Jake Heggie’s setting of the Christmas classic from Hollywood, the latest in HGO’s series of holiday-opera commissions. It’s a Wonderful Life, with libretto by Gene Scheer, will feature William Burden in the James Stewart role of George Bailey, and the cast will also include Andrea Carroll as Mary Hatch Bailey and Anthony Dean Griffey as Uncle Billy. Two veteran proponents of Heggie’s operas — conductor Patrick Summers and stage director Leonard Foglia — are in

John Adams’ Nixon in China at Houston Grand Opera, Jan. 20-18, 2017

Houston Grand Opera, which premiered Nixon in China in 1987, celebrates the 30th anniversary by presenting the work’s first Houston performances since then. Conductor Robert Spano leads a cast that includes Scott Hendricks as Nixon, Chad Shelton as Mao Tse-Tung, Andriana Chuchman as Pat Nixon and Tracy Dahl as Chiang Ch’ing, aka Madame Mao. The production is by stage director James Robinson and designer Allen Moyer.

Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 5, Dallas Symphony, Feb. 10-12, 2017

The Dallas Symphony premieres the Pulitzer- and Grammy-winner’s Symphony No. 5, commissioned in partnership with the Nashville Symphony and Aspen Music. Jaap van Zweden will conduct. (To help pave the way for the premiere, van Zweden and his orchestra will perform Rouse’s Rapture on Oct. 13-16.)

Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will give the world premiere of Christopher Rouse;s Symphony No. 5 xxx.

Jaap van Zweden and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra will give the world premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 5 February 10, 2017.

Christoph Eschenbach at Houston Symphony, March 3-5, 2017

The Houston Symphony won international recognition during Christoph Eschenbach’s 1988-1999 stint as music director, and the orchestra still looks fondly on its former leader. He returns to conduct works of a composer central to his repertoire: Anton Bruckner’s Te Deum and Symphony No. 1.

Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma at Dallas Opera, April 21-May 7, 2017

Dallas Opera will fill a longtime gap in its repertoire by staging its first production of Norma. Elza van den Heever will give her first U.S. performances of the title role, and the other principals will be Yonghoon Lee as Pollione, Nicole Car as Adalgisa and Christian Van Horn as Oroveso. Emanuel Villaume, the company’s music director, will conduct in a John Conklin production.

Gabriela Lena Frank’s Requiem, Houston Symphony, May 5-7, 2017

Peruvian-American Gabriela Lena Frank, the Houston Symphony’s composer-in-residence — and previously that of several other U.S. orchestras — will draw on her South American heritage in her new Requiem, a Houston Symphony commission. Traditional Meso-American texts and new contributions by Pulitzer Prize-winner Nilo Cruz will punctuate the familiar Latin words. Andres Orozco-Estrada, the orchestra’s music director, will conduct.

Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, May 25-June 10

Thirty eager young pianists will converge on Fort Worth for the Cliburn contest’s 15th edition. Pianist-composer Marc-Andre Hamelin is creating the commissioned work, and he will also serve on the jury — the first time the Cliburn’s composer will do double duty. The Brentano String Quartet will take part in the semifinals, and the Fort Worth Symphony will play in the semifinals and finals, led respectively by Nicholas McGegan and Leonard Slatkin.

Edward Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius, Dallas Symphony, May 26-27

The Dallas Symphony offers choral-music buffs and Anglophiles a treat with its first-ever performances of The Dream of Gerontius, Elgar’s oratorio evoking a man’s death and his soul’s redemption. Paul Groves will portray Gerontius, Alice Coote the Angel and John Relyea the Priest, and Jaap van Zweden will conduct.

Steven Brown is a Houston-based writer who has covered classical music since the 1980s. He is the former music critic of the Houston Chronicle, Charlotte Observer and Orlando Sentinel.

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