Critic’s Choice 2023-24

Fri Sep 22, 2023 at 11:04 am
By Steven Brown
The Houston Chamber Choir will perform music of the English Renaissance on November 11.

Blanchard: Suite from Fire Shut Up in My Bones. Terence Blanchard E-Collective, Turtle Island Quartet and singers. November 9 in Austin, November 10 in Houston.

In the wake of the Metropolitan Opera’s history-making production, the composer himself leads multimedia performances of scenes from Fire Shut Up in My Bones featuring his jazz ensemble and guests. for Austin, for Houston.

Works by Byrd, Weelkes, Morley, Gibbons and Tallis. Houston Chamber Choir. November 11. 

The Houston Chamber Choir looks back to the English Renaissance as it commemorates the 400th anniversary of William Byrd’s death, putting his music alongside that of his celebrated contemporaries. Members of the University of Houston Chamber Choir will join in for a rare performance of the sonorous, 40-voice Spem in Alium by Byrd’s teacher, Thomas Tallis.

Zemlinsky: The Mermaid. Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra/Robert Spano. November 17-19.

Looking for a change of pace? Alexander von Zemlinsky, a younger contemporary of Mahler and Richard Strauss, poured late-Romantic lushness into this 45-minute tone-poem based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, featuring Swiss pianist Andreas Haefliger, rounds out the program.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 11, The Year 1905 and Violin Concerto No. 1. Houston Symphony/Andrés Orozco-Estrada. December 1-3.

Led by then-director Leopold Stokowski, the Houston Symphony gave Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 11 its U.S. premiere in 1958. The group returns to the elegiac score—a memorial to Russians massacred by czarist soldiers—under former music director Andrés Orozco-Estrada, the leader of commanding Shostakovich performances during his time at the helm. The Violin Concerto No. 1 will spotlight Augustin Hadelich, who revels in such meaty fare.

Russell Thomas tackles the title role in Wagner’s Parsifal at Houston Grand Opera, opening January 19, 2024.

Wagner: Parsifal. Houston Grand Opera. January 19-February 4. 

After a pandemic-induced delay, HGO stages Wagner’s drama of the knights of the Holy Grail for the company’s first time since 1992. Russell Thomas, who brings a lyrical turn to hefty tenor roles, will portray the “innocent fool” Parsifal, and Wagnerian veteran Christine Goerke will play the temptress Kundry.

Schmidt: The Book with Seven Seals. Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Fabio Luisi. March 1-3, 2024.

Despite his prominence in early 1900s Vienna, Franz Schmidt is neglected today, and Fabio Luisi evidently is on a mission to correct that. After showcasing Schmidt’s Symphony No. 4 in 2022, Luisi marshals the Dallas Symphony, its chorus and a handful of solo singers—one representing the voice of God, no less—in this blockbuster cantata based on Revelation.

Gounod: Romeo and Juliet. Dallas Opera. March 1-9.

After treating the Metropolitan Opera and other leading companies to her youthful, silvery tone, soprano Golda Schultz makes her Dallas Opera debut as Juliet in Gounod’s melody-filled setting of Shakespeare. Tenor Long Long, now breaking into the world’s top companies, plays Romeo.

Works by Rameau, Mozart, Mendelssohn and Beethoven. Daniil Trifonov. March 18 in Dallas, March 22 in Houston. 

In his most recenet appearance with the Houston Symphony, the ever-individual Daniil Trifonov refreshed Tchaikovsky’s well-worn Piano Concerto No. 1, bringing it dash, lyricism and electricity while freeing it from bombast. The recital program for his next swing through Texas will call for more such sleight-of-hand when Trifonov tackles Beethoven’s blockbuster “Hammerklavier” sonata, which tests the boundary between power and pounding. and

Wagner: Das Rheingold and Die Walküre. Dallas Symphony Orchestra/Fabio Luisi. May 1-5.

After the Dallas Opera whetted Wagnerians’ appetite with a standalone staging of Das Rheingold last winter, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra treats them to the entire Ring of the Nibelung in concert, performing the first two dramas in May and the entire cycle next fall. The commanding baritone Mark Delavan heads the cast as Wotan, the god struggling to save his empire.

Fabio Luisi leads the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in concert performances of Wagner’s Das Rheingold and Die Walküre May 1-5.

Handel: Amadigi di Gaula. Ars Lyrica. May 24-25.

Houston’s baroque ensemble will close its season with a work that will be a discovery for virtually everyone: Amadigi di Gaula, one of Handel’s so-called “magic” operas. The title character has to overcome a sorceress’ trickery and a rival’s competition to win the hand of his beloved, and Handel tells the story through his trademark lyricism and vocal fireworks.

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