Critic Picks for 2022-23

Mon Sep 12, 2022 at 1:37 pm
By Steven Brown & Richard Sylvester Oliver
Ethel Smythe’s The Wreckers will be presented by Houston Grand Opera October 26-November 11. Photo: SummerScape Festival, Bard College

Music of Bach, Shostakovich and Penderecki. Garrick Ohlsson, pianist; Apollon Musagète Quartet. Chamber Music Houston. October 11.

While Garrick Ohlsson has devoted his past few Houston visits to Beethoven and Chopin, the veteran pianist boasts much broader musical affinities. His full-bodied piano tone should equip him well to bring out the brooding and wryness of Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, which he’ll perform with the Apollon Musagète Quartet in a concert for Chamber Music Houston. Penderecki’s Quartet No. 3, “Leaves from an Unwritten Diary,” and excerpts from Bach’s The Art of Fugue make up the rest of the program. (SB)

Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1. Jeremy Denk, pianist. DACAMERA. October 17-18.

Jeremy Denk’s recording of—and copious writing about—Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations helped make his name. DACAMERA brings him to Houston for another deep dive into Bach’s music, playing Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier in a single program. (SB)

Ethel Smyth: The Wreckers. Houston Grand Opera. October 26-November 11.

The overture to The Wreckers turns up occasionally in concert, but HGO bills this as the opera’s first full-scale production by a major U.S. company. Premiered in 1906, Smyth’s drama takes audiences to a seaside village where the residents trick passing ships into running aground, then steal the cargo and kill the crews—claiming all the while that they’re doing God’s will. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke stars as Thirza, driven by love and conscience to oppose the brutality she sees around her. (SB)

Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel. The Dallas Opera/Emmanuel Villaume. October 28 – November 5.

As part of The Dallas Opera’s 65th Anniversary season, Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1893 opera Hansel & Gretel serves as the second mainstage offering. This larger-than-life production reimagines the original Brothers Grimm fairytale in vibrant technicolor and flamboyant puppetry. Countertenor Kangmin Justin Kim and rising star Elena Villalón take the stage in the title roles, with musical direction by Emmanuel Villaume. (RSO)

Verdi: Requiem: Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Luisi. November 10-13.

This fall, music director Fabio Luisi fulfills his lingering aspiration of conducting Verdi’s Requiem with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. A powerhouse lineup of vocal soloists joins with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Chorus on this monumental work that showcases some of Verdi’s most serene and virtuosic writing. (RSO)

Fabio Luisi will conduct the Dallas Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in Verdi’s Requiem November 10-13. Photo: DSO/Sylvia Elzafon

Handel: Rodelinda. American Baroque Opera Co. February 4-5, 2023.

True to their mission of presenting intimately staged productions of well-known and obscure Baroque-era opera, American Baroque Opera Co. includes Handel’s Rodelinda as part of its 2022-2023 season, which they’ve coined “Mighty Women”. Rodelinda is the story of the Queen of Milan whose husband was defeated and exiled by a neighboring Duke. Believing her husband to be dead, she must protect herself, her son, and her crown from the men who usurped her husband’s throne. Under artistic director and cellist Eric Taeyang Mun, ABOC features local musicians and vocalists, with inventive stage settings in unconventional venues. (RSO)

Songs of the Earth Festival. Houston Symphony/Juraj Valčuha. February 10-12 and 17-19.

As part of his first season as the Houston Symphony’s music director, Slovak native Juraj Valčuha has assembled a two-weekend festival celebrating cultural cross-pollination between East and West. (SB)

Mahler’s philosophical Das Lied von der Erde soloists will feature mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and tenor Clay Hilley, who recently stepped in to play Siegfried in the Bayreuth Festival’s new Ring. In a nod to the fact that Mahler based Das Lied on Chinese poems, Valčuha will pair it with Itinerary of an Illusion by Chinese-French composer Qigang Chen. The main work later in the month is Debussy’s La Mer, which will be complemented by Toru Takemitsu’s Quotation of Dream and Toshio Hosokawa’s Autumn Wind. (SB)

SHAMS: A Portrait of Our World. Verdigris Ensemble/Sabha Aminikia. April 14-16.

After over two years of development, Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble and San Francisco-based composer Sabha Aminikia will present the world premiere of SHAMS—a bold confluence of choral music, visual art, ancient poetry, and emerging technologies. As the first musical setting of 13th-century poet and mystic Rumi’s writings in the original Farsi, this ten-movement songbook will combine eastern classical techniques with innovative western vocal and instrumental stylings. (RSO)

A Night at the Ballet: Music of Humperdinck, Griffes, Ravel, Nabors, and Stravinsky. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano/Texas Ballet Theater/Ben Stevenson. April 21-23.

The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra joins with the Texas Ballet Theater in an interdisciplinary collaboration that marries tantalizing music with choreography by Ben Stevenson. As part of his inaugural season as FWSO music director, Robert Spano will lead the orchestra through sumptuous music by Humperdinck, Griffes, Ravel and Stravinsky, alongside the world premiere of Brian Raphael Nabors’ Of Earth & Sky: Tales from the (RSO)

Music of Beethoven. Mercury/Antoine Plante. May 20.

Houston’s period-instrument orchestra harkens back to its Beethoven symphony cycle of a few years back by reprising the Seventh, and the dynamic score should take full advantage of the orchestra’s nimbleness. Stepping off the beaten Beethoven path, the group also will play excerpts from his ballet The Creatures of Prometheus. (SB)

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