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Basilica Hudson

CEWM

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Season Preview 2017: As Always, Our Cup Runneth Over

When it comes time to compile this annual season preview, there’s a lot of counting involved. We aim for ten selections from the categories of theater, music and dance, but there’s always some juggling as the list gets longer and one category perhaps loses an item so another can stretch. There’s always too much to fit.

Another number that’s come up is five — this is my fifth year writing this preview, with help, of course, from the RI elves who always spot some great events I missed. Some obvious choices, like James Taylor over July 4 weekend, don’t always need to be noted if there’s a smaller event more likely to be missed that could use the attention. This is not a fully comprehensive guide to summer, of course; elsewhere on the site you’ll find news on the latest culinary options, visual arts and everything else that makes up the rich tapestry of this region. 

It’s always a privilege to act as an initial taster of the buffet on offer, and to help you navigate the season. As each item is added to the list, I take a moment to imagine the event itself happening. But you can do that one better, by heading out, taking in a show and letting us know how it went. ‘Tis the season!  —Jeremy D. Goodwin

Music

Mary Ann McSweeney Quartet
May 13
Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield

Jazz has always been an ecumenical art form. With this concert, presented by Berkshires Jazz, the Brooklyn-based musician gives the local premiere of an original program that works with the traditional Portuguese folk form, the fado. McSweeney plays bass and her band includes guitarist Jason Ennis, Todd Reynolds on violin, Conor Meehan on drums and an appearance by vocalist Natalia Bernal. This should be an interesting exploration of musical influences both old and new.

Sean Rowe
May 18
Club Helsinki in Hudson

Photo: Matt Dayak

Sean Rowe is a man with a big voice, a big beard, and a big talent. But his woodsy look is very far from a pose — his website declares him a singer/songwriter/forager, and we have no doubt he’d be our first pick in a wood-chopping competition. We’ve had the pleasure of seeing him blow away a room of people at The Lantern in Pittsfield during a Word X Word festival, and do the same at an outdoor stage at Solid Sound one year. His intensity scales well. The native of Troy, New York released his latest album in April and is on a tour that takes him across the country and to Europe, but this Helsinki date should be a warm homecoming. Even without a wood stove.

Close Encounters With Music: Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman
June 10
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington

We’re always interested to go on whatever historical/musicological journey Close Encounters artistic director Yehuda Hanani cues up for us. This program offers a welcome earful of pieces by great female composers, some more famous than others — among them Clara Schumann, Fannie Mendelssohn, Germaine Tailleferre, Maria Theresia von Paradis, Ethel Smyth, Lili Boulanger, Amy Beach, Marianna Martinez, and Augusta Holmès. And those historical pieces will be complemented by a “quilt” of newly commissioned short pieces conceived as musical portraits of luminaries like Emma Lazarus and Sojourner Truth, plus a selection from Patricia Leonard’s opera based on the famous correspondence between Abigail Adams and her husband John, the president. Remember the ladies, indeed!

Solid Sound Festival
June 23–25
MASS MoCA in North Adams

It’s a little hard to believe this is only the fifth time Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival will turn North Adams into the literate alt-rock capital of the nation for a few days. The Chicago-based band launched this exciting experiment in 2010, and it has become one of the indelible cultural events of the region. Between twin sets by Wilco, appearances by their many side projects and other bands, and the creative partnership of MASS MoCA, this is one of the great rock festival experiences that I’ve ever sampled. From pop-up sets in the galleries to art installations by Wilco members to ample free water and WiFi, this is a laid-back festival experience designed to please both artist and patron.

Aston Magna: Music for Forbidden Dances
June 16 at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson
June 17 at Saint James Place in Great Barrington

This festival doesn’t always make the biggest splash, but in its 45th season it continues to be a real force to be reckoned with. What began as informal musicales at the Great Barrington estate from which the festival now takes its name has become a trusted institution. Music lovers who have a sweet tooth (or is it sweet ear?) for what’s known in the classical world as early music have long known they can hear top-shelf renditions of Baroque music, madrigals and other delicacies. But you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy such great stuff, especially as found in artistic director Daniel Stepner’s thoughtful curation. This program kicks off the season with dance music like the Spanish saraband, the Baroque chaconne, and the good old tango, featuring featuring Hector del Curto, bandoneon player. Talk about golden oldies.

Photos: Maurice Jerry Beznos and Jason Bell

Schubert’s Summer Journey w/Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax
July 6 & 20; August 3, 8, 17 & 23
Tanglewood in Lenox

The creative partnership between Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma is a fascinating one, from their much-loved performances and recordings of Beethoven’s sonatas for cello and piano (which they performed, in toto, at Tanglewood two summers ago) to this latest project, a six-concert series curated by Ax. The fascinating series of programs focuses on Schubert’s final works, but finds room for a world premiere by violinist/composer Colin Jacobsen, a veteran of Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. It should be a fascinating journey. You aren’t positively required to catch all six concerts, I suppose…but it wouldn’t hurt.

Photo: Amy Grantham

Graham Nash
July 11
Infinity Hall in Norfolk

If you’re planning on catching Stephen Stills and Judy Collins at the Mahaiwe, it’s just poor manners to miss this show, no? This concert will kick off a tour behind Nash’s latest album “This Path Tonight,” which was released last year after a 14-year recording hiatus. It’s a big time of change for Nash, who ended his 38-year marriage and over from Hawaii to New York. He also published a memoir in 2013 — which unfortunately prompted a nasty rift with onetime bandmate David Crosby — so it’s safe to say this honey-voiced artist has been looking both backward and forward lately. For someone who’s inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for two separate bands (Crosby, Stills and Nash plus The Hollies), this seems like a fascinating time to hear what he’s up to now.

Lincoln Mayorga: Chopin and Candlelight
July 16
PS21 in Chatham

Here’s another nice juxtaposition of music and source material. Pianist Lincoln Mayorga has had a fascinating career, from The Standells’ “Dirty Water” to helping with Phil Ochs with the baroque protest pop of his later period to a flourishing career as concert pianist. For this concert, the Columbia County resident will play a series of Chopin’s piano preludes, with actor Nancy Rothman reading from the letters of his lover Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, also known as George Sand. And it does appear that some candles will be expected as well, though the illumination this evening should come in forms both literal and metaphorical.

Tanglewood Takes Flight: A Celebration of Birds and Music with Mass Audubon
July 27–30
Tanglewood & Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary

A visit to Tanglewood always makes for a mixture of music and nature, and sometimes — particularly on a Sunday afternoon — there are some birds in The Shed who are very eager to join in with the sounds coming from onstage. But the combination of musicology and ornithology is flying even further with this program, which spans Mass Audobon’s Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary and Tanglewood across four days of performances. You can mix and match, enjoying an early morning bird walk at Pleasant Valley before enjoying an on-site recital by pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard of selections from Messiaen’s “Catalogue of the Birds,” before catching Aimard at Ozawa Hall playing the composer’s “Oiseaux exotiques.” With all this commingling of real-life and art, we should be glad they’re not also adding any Hitchcock to Film Night.

Dimitrij,” by Antonin Dvořák with the American Symphony Orchestra
July 28–August 6
Bard SummerScape in Annandale-on-Hudson

The annual opera selection at Bard SummerScape has become a foundation of many people’s summer concerts schedules in the RI region. This year, Antonín Dvořák’s 1882 opera Dimitrij, a defining element of Czech concert repertory, will do the honors. Though a smash on the home front, this epic piece wasn’t performed in the US until a Carnegie Hall appearance in 1984. It should prove to be fertile material for the team at Bard to dig into. Title character Dimitrij is erroneously thought to be the son of Ivan the Terrible, and Dvořák’s opera follows a story of political upheaval and intrigue. Acclaimed director Anne Bogart directs this new production, and music director Leon Botstein conducts his American Symphony Orchestra.

Photo: Hilary Scott

Boston Symphony Orchestra with guests
August 5
Tanglewood in Lenox

We had the chance to see the Mendelssohn portion of this program at Boston’s Symphony Hall, and it’s a thoroughly charming piece that is sure to thrive in the open air of The Shed. Bill Barclay, onetime wunderkind of Shakespeare & Company who nowadays wows as music director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, conceives of the composer’s music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a semi-staged adaptation that proposes the creatively fevered artist at work. Boston-based actors Carson Elrod, Karen MacDonald and Will Lyman (whose voice you know as the indelible narrator of PBS’s “Frontline”) will bring some midsummer magic to the stage… and oh, by the way, Garrick Ohlsson will also be there along with the BSO to perform Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. If you miss this one, you’re likely to wake up the next morning feeling like an ass.

Stephen Stills and Judy Collins
August 21
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington

Baby Boomer trivia masters (and their children…like me) all know that the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” was inspired by Judy Collins, whom Stephen Stills had dated.  So it’ll be a pleasure to catch this inspired pairing in the intimate environs of the Mahaiwe. They’ll dip into each other’s catalogs and combine their singular musical visions for an evening of unforgettable duets…one would imagine. Past tours have included such delicacies as Collins leading lead vocal and acoustic guitar duties on “Helplessly Hoping,” with Stills accompanying on piano. Pretty sweet.

Shanghai String Quartet
September 2 & 3
Music Mountain in Lakeville

This season’s calendar at this Lakeville jewel includes the expected list of top-notch chamber music, as well as a generous selection of jazz and vocal artists. But the season culminates with this visit, featuring Chinese-born pianist Qing Jiang. Her life changed at age 17 when she gave her American debut and was offered a full college scholarship backstage afterward. Her progress as a musician and a scholar hasn’t slowed since, and on the second evening she joins Shanghai String Quartet for two Beethoven string quartets and the Brahms Piano Quartet in G Major. But for the first concert, the quartet presents one of its signature pieces, member violinist Yi-Wen Jiang’s arrangement of several Chinese folk songs… plus some Mendelssohn and Brahms. A fascinating program.


Theater

Really
May 7
WAM Theatre at No. Six Depot in West Stockbridge

WAM Theatre’s main season happens in the colder months, but it’s a good idea to catch up with what they have cooking with informal readings throughout the year. This is a fascinating play by Jackie Sibblies Drury, a great young talent on the scene. This reading marks director Alice Reagan’s WAM debut and features a three-person cast probing questions about the nature of love and of photography, and how well you can really know someone. It only requires the slightest nudge to find a reason to visit No. Six Depot anyway, so this should be a night in the gallery there not to miss.

Minor Character: Six Translations of Uncle Vanya at the Same Time
June 9–25
Sharon Playhouse

Ready for some more remixed Chekhov? This one is a mashup of six different English-language translations of “Uncle Vanya,” including some output from Google Translate. This inventive production by Brooklyn theater troupe New Saloon features multiple actors portraying each character, in what it calls an “athletic attempt to say one true thing.” It played earlier this year at Public Theater’s super-buzzy Under the Radar festival, and now make a welcome appearance in Sharon. Dah, this could be a sleeper favorite of the season.

Ragtime
June 21–July 15
Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield

The big, MainStage musical at Barrington Stage has long-ago earned its place as a highlight of the summer season. This year, we get two! Things get going with Tony Award-winning Ragtime, based on E.L. Doctorow’s popular novel about American assimilation… a hot topic in America right now. A story set in the early 20th century intermingling the stories of African Americans, monied whites and Jewish immigrants, has proved a perennial favorite. This production is directed by the multitalented Joe Calarco, resident director and director of new works at New York’s Signature Theatre.

Cymbeline
July 4–August 6
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox

How rarely produced is Shakespeare’s Cymbeline? This will be the first time Shakespeare & Company has produced it on its main stage. More significantly, it’s the only Shakespeare play still standing that Tina Packer hasn’t directed. Until now. One of The Bard’s late-period “romances,” the play is based on legends from ancient Britain and involves forbidden romance, poison and mistaken identities. It’ll be fascinating to see Packer take it on, here in the 40th season of the company she founded way back when at The Mount… and completing her tour of the canon, to boot! What a momentous achievement for an interpreter of Shakespeare who has proven herself every inch a queen.

Skeleton Crew
July 13–23
Chester Theatre

The concluding part of playwright Dominique Morisseau’s August Wilson-inspired Detroit Trilogy, this play takes place in the break room of an auto factory that looks to be teetering on the edge of collapse. Amid a blizzard of cheap, post-election think pieces, here’s a fresh and raw look at the face of economic dislocation in America. This is its New England premiere, ahead of a Boston production scheduled for next winter. Morisseau is an important voice, and it’s great to see Chester taking this one on. This production is directed by Awoye Timpo, who served as associate director this year for the first Broadway production of August Wilson’s Jitney —a show that featured Berkshire favorite John Douglas Thompson, by the way, whose duties in Julius Caesar at the Delacorte Theater in the Park are keeping him busy this summer.

At Home At the Zoo (Zoo story)
July 19–August 26
Berkshire Theatre Group in Stockbridge

We look to Berkshire Theatre Group for authoritative interpretations of the classics of American theater, so we look with eagerness to this fascinating juxtaposition of two Edward Albee plays, following the death of the great playwright last fall. This program combines Albee’s 1959 classic “The Zoo Story” with the prequel he wrote nearly 50 years later, “Homelife.” Both plays look at loneliness and the various forms of human connection, as pertaining to both marriage and friendship. Eric Hill directs fellow BTG stalwarts David Adkins and Tara Franklin, plus Joey Collins, who earned a best actor nomination at the inaugural Berkshire Theatre Awards last year for his performance in BTG’s “The Homecoming.”

The Clean House
July 19–29
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Sarah Ruhl has proven to be one of the more inventive and interesting playwrights working today. The Clean House put her on the map in a big way when it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Ruhl may still be waiting for that Pulitzer hardware, but it’s telling that WTF’s forward-looking artistic director Mandy Greenfield has programmed this title amid a season that’s otherwise swimming in premieres. Tony Award nominee Jessica Hecht (A View From The Bridge) leads a sparkling cast that also includes fellow Tony nominee Jayne Atkinson (familiar lately for her role on TV’s House of Cards) and Priscilla Lopez, veteran of Company, A Chorus Line and In The Heights on Broadway. Rebecca Aichman is helming, fresh from directing Marissa Tomei in Ruhl’s latest play, How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, which is playing Off Broadway currently.

Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow Moscow
July 26–August 6
Williamstown Theatre Festival

Creative mash-ups of Chekhov are all the rage, and have been for a few years so. So here comes this world premiere, a contemporary adaptation of the Russian master’s melancholy epic Three Sisters by playwright/actor Halley Feiffer, who has had fun with inherited classics of the theater before: Her play, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, was a hit in New York last year. The cast for Moscow… includes red-hot Tony Award nominee Micah Stock, who was lately seen in last year’s revival of The Front Page. This has all the makings of a quirky favorite headed straight for New York, so catch it here while you can, comrade.

Company
August 10–September 2
Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield

Artistic director Julianne Boyd leads this take on the Stephen Sondheim favorite that gave us “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Being Alive.” The story of Robert, a perpetually single New Yorker looking for love amid a cluster of couples, challenged Broadway expectations a bit when it debuted in 1970, but now seems like the template for many cosmopolitan relationship stories that have come in its wake. With Boyd at the helm, this is sure to get lots of attention. Sondheim groupies will flock, so be sure to get set up with tickets before this runaway hit leaves the station.

The Wharton Comedies
August 17–September 10
Shakespeare & Company in Lenox

This twofer puts the spotlight on Shakespeare & Company’s very popular side line as perhaps the world’s leading presenter of Edith Wharton’s writings for the stage, typically adapted (as here) by Company co-founder Dennis Krausnick. These two satires, “Roman Fever” and “The Fullness of Life,” are directed by longtime S&Co. favorite Normi Noel. They feature the dashing David Joseph and two women about whose Wharton performances you could write a book: Corinna May and Diane Prusha. This is one of those performances that will have the hardcore fans salivating while also making plenty of new friends. It’s perhaps best paired with a tour of The Mount, just down the road.

Dance

Carolyn Dorfman Dance
June 3
Kaatsbaan International Dance Center in Tivoli

The New Jersey-based company presents a varied program, based in part on its proud proclamation of itself as a multi-ethnic troupe. It includes a new work by Dorfman called “Traces,” described as capturing “the richness and depth of the multi-ethnic artists.” Company favorite “Sextet” is on the bill as well, plus the world premiere of a piece by principal dancer As-Soon Kim, who worked with composer Greg Wall to interpolate traditional Korean drumming with electronics in the score. Kim says it explores her roots spanning the continents of Europe, Asia and North America. 

Jonah Bokaer Choreography
June 15–17
Basilica Hudson

Between appearances at Basilica Hudson, Jacobs’s Pillow and the Glass House in New Canaan, we’ve had the enjoyment of seeing Jonah Bokaer hone his approach and try out exciting new ideas over the past several seasons. This third visit to Basilica’s Main Hall features a performance of Bokaer’s 2013 trio piece “Occupant,” which he created with longtime collaborator Daniel Arsham. (The two caused a sensation two years ago with “Rules of the Game,” created with Pharrell Williams.) Pharrell isn’t a part of this piece, but it’ll still make you happy. Basilica Hudson indeed has a roof, but you should feel free to clap along as if it doesn’t. This performance should be memorable on its own, but it’s also a warmup to Bokaer’s appearances at the Pillow on June 21 through 25. 

Photo: PeiCheck Productions

Pilobolus Dance Theater
June 21–23
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket

This is the 85th anniversary season at the Pillow, and you can be forgiven if your impulse is to just camp out in the Becket woods all season and turn up there daily. The full schedule deserves a close look, but among the highlights should be this visit by Pilobolus Dance Theater, presenting a brand new commission composed expressly for the outdoor stage that hosts the free Inside/Out Performance Series. Pilobolus is a forward-thinking troupe that went ahead and became an institution too. It’ll be great to see what they’ve cooked up for this beautiful venue, one of the Berkshires’ iconic performance spaces. You can be forgiven if you feel like stretching out and kicking off your shoes.

Photo: Hilary Scott

Mark Morris Dance Group: “Lou 100: In Honor of the Divine Mr. Harrison
June 28 & 29
Tanglewood in Lenox

We’re delighted to see this annual visit by Mark Morris return to the Tanglewood calendar. And best of all, though it triggers many pleasant memories, this is no nostalgia trip. The conceptually honed program features four pieces set to the music of Lou Harrison, including a world premiere dance piece— “Numerator,” featuring a “varied trio” for violin, piano and percussion. This program celebrates the centenary of the birth of the outspoken microtonal composer beloved by Morris (among others); Harrison died in 2003. Expect the music to be played by the cream of the Tanglewood Music Fellows.

Photo: Paul Kolnick

New York City Ballet MOVES
June 30–July 2
Bard SummerScape in Annandale-on-Hudson

This grab bag shapes up to be a moveable feast, with a select group of NYC Ballet principal dancers, soloists and corps de ballet members performing classics of the company’s repertoire, both old and new. The centerpiece is Jerome Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering,” accompanied by the work of Chopin played by live musicians. The program offers a sort of highly condensed choreographic history of the iconic company, filled out with the legendary George Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant” (set to the music of Igor Stravinsky) and “In Creases” (featuring music by Philip Glass), the first piece created for the company by 20-something prodigy Justin Peck, who became its second-ever resident choreographer in 2014. Talk about on point!

Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

Jessica Lang Dance
July 5–9
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket

The Long Island City-based troupe is bringing an interesting program to the Pillow, starting with a Pillow commission making its world premiere. The program also includes “Thousand Yard Stare,” a piece set to Beethoven that looks at the pride and loss experiences by those who serve in the military, and the east coast premiere of “Lyric Pieces,” which is set to the short piano music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and features, we’re told, “striking set design” by Stephanie Forsythe and Todd MacAllen’s Vancouver-based design company.

Photo: Wm Johnston

Eiko Otake
July 22
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket

We perk up when we hear about a “site specific” work of art, especially if it happens to be a dance piece. Ostensibly commissioned in honor of the Pillow’s big anniversary, this one-time appearance by the Japanese-born artist is part of her ongoing series of solo dances created for specific public places, including train stations and libraries. This dance, called “A Body at the Pillow,” is scheduled to occur on the Pillow’s grounds, with no more-specific info available yet. We don’t know if audiences will have to move around to follow the action, but it never hurts to wear some sensible shoes just in case.

Parsons Dance
August 4 & 5
PS21 in Chatham

This is the 12th season we’re lucky enough to receive a visit from this renowned troupe, who will be in residence at PS21 for two weeks leading up to these performances, developing new work in the creatively rejuvenating environs of the RI region. (Don’t miss two open rehearsals during this residency, on July 20 and 27.) Before they make it up to Chatham, they’ll wrap up a lengthy residency at New York’s Joyce Theatre and an extensive tour of Italy, among other international engagements. The program for Parsons’ performances isn’t available yet, but the work of David Parsons and cohorts is seldom less than revelatory.

Photo: Adrienne Bryant

The Principles of Uncertainty
August 23– 27
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket

This evening-length work by choreographer John Heginbotham and author/illustrator Maria Kalman was developed across several residencies at the Pillow and now makes its world premiere. A true multidisciplinary exercise, it’s set to an original score by Colin Jacobsen of Brooklyn Rider and The Knights; the latter group will perform it live. There has been a healthy relationship between the Pillow and members of Brooklyn Rider’s expanding circle in recent seasons, and we love seeing great artists work at the intersection of dance, visual design and progressive new-music.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/17/17 at 03:27 PM • Permalink