As temperatures begin cooling down in New Orleans, the classical music scene is just heating up. Organizations throughout New Orleans are offering a diversity of symphonic, chamber, choral, and opera programs this fall, presenting, in addition to the standard repertoire, works by contemporary composers and unjustly overlooked 20th century classics. Here’s a look at what’s on tap this autumn.
Thursday, September 15, the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra kicks off a new season, which they are calling “Fantastic Voyage,” and it is designed to take audiences all over the world without them having to leave their seats—like a Soviet factory at work (Alexander Mosolov’s Iron Foundry) or on a sea voyage to Luxor (Camille Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5, “Egyptian”). For audiences who weren’t able to find a seat last season due to limited capacity at the Orpheum Theater, the LPO has now added second “encore” concerts for multiple programs.
The LPO presents their opening program at the Orpheum Theater tonight (Sept. 15) and again on Saturday (Sept. 17). Maestro Carlos Miguel Prieto will lead the orchestra in John Adams’ orchestral fanfare Short Ride in a Fast Machine and Hector Berlioz’s pictorial Symphonie Fantastique. Guest pianist Lilya Zilberstein is the featured soloist for the Saint-Saëns concerto.
Other highlights of the LPO’s autumn offerings include a double bill of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1, “Afro-American” and Roberto Sierra’s Concerto for Saxophones (Oct. 21). The latter work was commissioned for saxophonist James Carter, who will be performing the piece with the orchestra under the baton of guest conductor Thomas Wilkins. On November 20, the LPO continues its blossoming chamber music series with a program of compositions by Felix Mendelssohn, Kevin Puts, and Michael Torke. NOVA Chorale and Loyola Chorale will join the LPO for Johannes Brahms’ monumental A German Requiem and the LPO debut of Samuel Barber’s Prayers of Kierkegaard (Oct. 28 & 29). For more information, visit the LPO website or call (504) 523-6530.
Over 60 years since its inaugural season, New Orleans Friends of Music continues to bring first-class concerts to the city by showcasing a who’s who of internationally acclaimed musicians and ensembles. Their new season gets underway September 27 with a solo recital from Grammy Award-winning pianist Garrick Ohlsson with works by Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, and Manuel de Falla. Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients Calder Quartet will make their New Orleans debut next (Oct. 26), followed by the return of Finckel-Han-Setzer Trio, who will perform a triad of Beethoven pieces for piano, violin, and cello (Nov. 28). All shows this fall will be at Dixon Hall (33 Audubon Blvd) on Tulane University’s campus. More information can be found on the Friends of Music website.
The New Orleans Opera Association opens its season at Mahalia Jackson Theater on October 7 and 9 with a production of the Mozart classic, Don Giovanni, starring Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch in the titular role. Joining the worldwide celebrations paying tribute to Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of his death, NOOA will be also stage Giuseppe Verdi’s opera version of Macbeth (Nov. 11 & 13). Visit the NOOA webpage for more details on these productions.
On October 23, Symphony Chorus of New Orleans will join the New Orleans Gay Men’s Chorus and Delgado Community College Concert Choir for a performance of Tyler’s Suite. The touring nine-piece choral movement is dedicated to the memory of Tyler Clementi, the 18-year-old college freshman who committed suicide in 2010 after his roommate secretly filmed him being intimate with another man and posted pictures online. Penned by nine contemporary composers, including John Corigliano and Stephen Schwartz, Tyler’s Suite was written to help spread the word about bullying and create a culture of kindness in Clementi’s honor. More information about SCNO and their new season is available on their website.
The Marigny Opera Ballet will be showcasing an impressive pool of local talent with a season-opening premiere of “Giselle Deslondes” on November 18. The full-length, two-act ballet set in the Faubourg Marigny in 1930 features a newly commissioned orchestral score by acclaimed local composer Tucker Fuller.
In addition to providing a performance space for the company, the Marigny Opera House hosts a number of concerts, including Crescent Chamber Artists. The vocal ensemble will perform songs by contemporary composers Simon Sargon and Benjamin C.S. Boyle as well as a song cycle by UNO graduate Jonathan Gibson (Sept. 24). Schola Cantorum of New Orleans will be performing traditional and contemporary choral music, including another new work by Tucker Fuller as part of the Marigny Opera House’s Sunday Musical Meditations (Oct. 2). For tickets and more information, visit the Marigny Opera House website.
Early music ensemble New Orleans Musica da Camera will begin their 51st season with a series of four concerts made up of pieces they have enjoyed playing the most over the past 50 years. The Sunday afternoon performances will take place in four different locations throughout the area from September 25 to October 16. Visit their website for more details.
Highlights of the Musical Arts Society of New Orleans’ fall schedule are recitals with celebrated Czech classical guitarist Pavel Steidl (Oct. 23) and internationally renowned Israeli pianist Inon Barnatan for their annual gala fundraiser. Visit the MASNO website or call (504) 899-4826 for more information.
While the embarrassment of riches offered by classical organizations this fall starts here, new concerts and events will continue popping up as the weeks and months progress. It a city that lends itself to this much talent, it’s always best to keep one’s eyes and ears open.