Beethoven, Bach and birthdays galore Upcoming season of classical shows offers many reasons to celebrate
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Welcome to a fresh new arts season — and a much more “normal” lineup of classical concerts than we’ve witnessed since COVID-19 first shuttered the world in March 2020.
This is also a banner year with an astonishing number of our local arts organizations celebrating major milestone birthdays. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra turns 75, while the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra marks 50 years, as does Manitoba Opera. The venerable Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir is turning 100, while the Winnipeg Singers are going strong at 50.
So let’s get this yearlong birthday bash started with a sneak peek at concerts that have caught my eye from now until the snow flies.
Listed (mostly) in chronological order:
1. The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra opens its 2022/23 season with Brandon-born superstar violinist James Ehnes on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The multi-award-winning artist performs Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61. The (A)bsolute Concert, led by maestro Daniel Raiskin, also features Mahler’s Adagietto. For tickets or further info, see wso.ca.
2. If you still need more Ehnes — and frankly, who wouldn’t ? — the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society also welcomes the musician to its stage for a gala opening concert on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). The intimate chamber program — performed by Gwen Hoebig, violin; Karl Stobbe, viola; Yuri Hooker, cello; and David Moroz, piano — features works by Dohnanyi, Brahms and Dvorak, with more details here: wcms.mb.ca.
3. Manitoba Chamber Orchestra opens its season with the critically acclaimed Bruno sisters, Yolanda (violin) and Carmen (cello), on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Westminster United Church. The musical sibs will treat listeners to Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin, Cello and Strings, with the program led by MCO music director Anne Manson Visit: themco.ca.
4. Neither rain, nor sleet… well, actually, a “surprise” spring blizzard did upend the massed choir grand finale intended to cap the inaugural Winnipeg Baroque Festival last April. Canzona, helmed by Kathleen Allan, joins forces with Polycoro (John Wiens) and Dead of Winter (formerly Camerata Nova; Andrew Balfour) for the eagerly anticipated performance of J.S. Bach’s St. John’s Passion at the Crescent Arts Centre (a.k.a. Crescent Fort Rouge United Church) on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 7:30 p.m. Choose your link: deadofwinter.ca; polycoro.ca or canzona.ca.
5. Groundswell presents the Manitoba debut of Juno-nominated Standing Wave on Tuesday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m., also at the WAG. The avant-garde chamber-music group based in Vancouver performs an eclectic program, including concert curator Gordon Fitzell’s Deus ex Machina: The Nine Lives of Schrödinger’s Cat. Check out gswell.ca.
6. The Women’s Musical Club of Winnipeg — blowing out a whopping 128 candles on its own birthday cake this year — features Brazilian mezzo-soprano Camila Montefusco, lauded for her “passionate and riveting performances,” in its first offering at the WAG on Sunday, Oct. 30, at 2 p.m. See wmcwpg.ca.
7. Good things come to those who wait. At long last, Manitoba Opera presents Rossini’s La Cenerentola, a reimagining of classic fairy tale Cinderella postponed from last season owing to COVID-19, now finally getting its Manitoba première on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 7:30 pm. The light-hearted confection, hailed as one of the composer’s greatest operatic achievements, showcases Winnipeg-based soprano Lizzy Hoyt, who moonlights as an equally accomplished Celtic multi-instrumentalist, in the title role. For more particulars, see mbopera.ca.
8. The Winnipeg Singers celebrate the season with Lessons and Carols at the Crescent Arts Centre on Sunday, Dec. 4, at 3 p.m. The uplifting program led by Yuri Klaz explores how to take lessons from the ancient Christmas story to make our modern-day world a better place, featuring works by Canadian composers Andrew Balfour and Steven Chatman, among others. See more here: winnipegsingers.com.
9. Virtuosi Concerts presents a “hand-crafted” holiday recital program, Vinok: The Ukrainian Wreath, guest curated by world-renowned Canadian-Ukrainian soprano Andriana Chuchman. The evening celebrating Ukrainian music, from traditional carols to more contemporary fare, is slated for Saturday, Dec.10, at 7:30 p.m. at St. Andrew’s River Heights United Church. The Winnipeg-based singer will be joined by Grammy-winning pianist Craig Terry, and the goosebump-inducing Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus raising their own voices in solidarity and song. See: virtuosiconcerts.ca.
10. Last but not least, the Winnipeg Philharmonic, also led by Klaz, ushers in its second century with Christmas With the Phil at the St. Boniface Cathedral on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. — the exact date as its inaugural concert in 1922 — bringing its glorious first century of music-making full circle. Information at thephil.ca.
There you have it, with a much greater bounty of concerts (some groups still pending) this year to pick and choose from in our “New Normal” arts world. Enjoy the feast and support live (or livestreamed) music — it matters more than ever.