Last weekend we saw “Elemeno Pea” at the Mixed Blood. It wasn’t a full house, but it was a healthy house for a contemporary play at a small West Bank theater on a Sunday afternoon. On Monday night, more than 200 people showed up at the Cedar to hear a Norwegian musician play instruments carved from ice. On Tuesday, the Orpheum sold out for the Joffrey Ballet, which danced to live music; led by Mark Russell Smith, the University of Minnesota Symphony Orchestra overflowed the pit into the side aisles. Who knows how many more arts-related events took place in Minneapolis over those three days? Small wonder the Minneapolis arts economy ranks sixth in the nation, according to the Minneapolis Creative Vitality Index Report 2013.
More findings from the report: The city’s creative sector contributes more than $700 million to the city’s economy each year. It provides nearly 5 percent of all jobs in the city. Creative sector revenues are roughly 70 percent the size of the city’s sports sector revenues. Twenty-one percent of Minnesota’s creative workers are in Minneapolis; more than 12,000 are concentrated in the 55402 ZIP code.
And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming: the orchestra lockouts. At the SPCO, management and musicians have been talking all week and may be talking now, if you’re reading this on Friday. No such luck at the Minnesota Orchestra. While CEO Michael Henson held a Thursday briefing for “vital stakeholders” (aka donors), the musicians asked to be included but the meeting remained closed. Henson is being pummeled by the press these days. On Wednesday, after reading Doug Grow’s article in MinnPost, New Yorker writer (and former Twin Cities resident) Russell Platt had this to say:
[Q]uiet progress seems to be happening in the talks between the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s management and musicians’ union, helpfully nudged along by Chris Coleman, the St. Paul mayor. In Minneapolis, where the grander Minnesota Orchestra is based, however, the mood is darker — and Michael Henson, the Minnesota Orchestral Association’s C.E.O., seems determined to put his foot in it. In a note to his board, he not only poured cold water on the special, one-time concert with which the musicians, and their lauded conductor, Osmo Vänskä, celebrated their Grammy nomination, but also noted stingingly that “the City of Minneapolis does not provide any funding to the Minnesota Orchestra.” Literally correct, but substantively untrue, as Doug Grow points out, since the city “worked mightily to push for a $14 million state bond” to help finance the much-needed renovations to Orchestra Hall and deferred other public-works projects to give the orchestra more breathing room.
Things are bad, folks: Kyu-Young Kim, the SPCO’s principal second violinist, has decamped for the New York Philharmonic, and Peter McGuire, a Minnesota Orchestra first violinist, has left to become second concertmaster of Zurich’s Tonhalle Orchestra, a group that will probably be in business as long as there’s an “S” in Switzerland. These developments testify to the high level of Twin Cities talent. Last fall, the conventional wisdom was that the SPCO would fold, and that the Minnesota Orchestra would thrive, because, well, they’re bigger and have more money. That doesn’t seem so clear now.
A week before, in a blog post titled “Musicians flee Minnesota, one as far as Switzerland,” Norman Lebrecht wrote, “Michael Henson and his board continue, against all logic, to defend their lockout.” New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, who has famously praised the Minnesota Orchestra as sounding like “the greatest orchestra in the world,” recently noted, “The management and board in Minnesota need to think long and hard about what they are doing.”
Vänskä will give a concert in Duluth on Tuesday, March 10 – on the clarinet, not at the podium. He’ll be joined by Minnesota Orchestra principal violist Thomas Turner and pianist Susan Billmeyer. The program will include music by Finnish composer Kaleva Aho and works by Elliot Carter, Mozart and Schumann. 7:30 p.m., Mitchell Auditorium, The College of St. Scholastica. FMI and tickets. This Saturday, March 2, SPCO flutist Alicia McQuerrey will be the featured soloist at the Mall of America when more than 100 flute players gather in the Rotunda for a spontaneous performance of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” 6 p.m., free.
On Monday, the first two winners of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History were announced, and one has Minnesota ties. Dan O’Brien’s “The Body of an American” was commissioned in 2009 by the Playwrights’ Center and the McKnight Foundation. The play tells the story of war reporter Paul Watson, whose 1993 photograph of a dead U.S. soldier being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu earned him a Pulitzer Prize but left him tormented by guilt and depression. O’Brien will receive $50,000 and will work with the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning at Columbia University to create a website of educational tools to complement the play’s subject matter.
Mark Russell Smith, who led the University Symphony at the Orpheum earlier this week, has been named artistic director of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies (GTCYS) effective June 2013. Smith previously held conducting positions with the SPCO, Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Phoenix Symphony. He is artistic director of orchestral studies at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music and music director of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra in Davenport, Iowa. The appointment comes after a nationwide search,
The artists have been chosen for this year’s Community Supported Art (CSA), a program similar to Community Supported Agriculture (also CSA) except you’re buying food for the soul and spirit. They are visual artist Mary Bergs, printmaker Elisabeth Cunningham, photographer Horacio Devoto, visual artist Anne George, visual artist Katie Hargrave, theater artists Jason Overby and Telsche Thiessen, visual artist Haley Prochnow, ceramicist Ginny Sims, and visual arts and musical collaborative Take Acre (Rich Barlow, Jaron Childs, Charles Gillette and Davu Seru). Member shares go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 3. Mark your calendar or email Andy Sturdevant (email@example.com) if you’d like to be added to the email reminder list.
March 1 (tonight): Reception for “Life Not So Black and White” at Flow Art Space. This group art exhibition featuring 50+ Interact artists, all people with disabilities. The Minneapolis-based nonprofit Interact was the first (and remains the only) visual and performing arts organization in the world for artists with disabilities that is creating full-time at the professional level. 6 p.m. – 9 p.m. at Flow’s new home in Lowertown’s Northern Warehouse, 308 Prince St., Suite 218, St. Paul; 612-564-FLOW (3569). Exhibition ends March 9.
March 1: “Women of Red House Records” at the O’Shaughnessy. Not many seats remain for this all-acoustic concert featuring songwriter Lucy Kaplansky, vocalist Heather Masse (The Wailin’ Jennys) and folksinger Claudia Schmidt. It’s the 30th anniversary of Red House, the Grammy-winning St. Paul record label, and a fine start to Women’s History Month. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets.
March 1-7: Carl Franzén’s “personal Fringe Show,” various locations. Singer/songwriter Franzén (fran-zane) takes his show on the road, performing for seven days straight in Minnetonka, Hudson, St. Paul, Minneapolis, Northfield, St. Paul, and Delano. You could follow him around. FMI.
March 1-3: “Beyond Ballroom Dance Company: Dinner for Seven” at the Cowles. When seven friends gather for a dinner party, the night unfolds as a story told in dance: ballroom, Latin, swing and more. Rivalries, jealousies, and hijinks emerge. So you’re not just watching great moves and choreography, you’re also experiencing theater. This is BBDC’s 10th anniversary year, and “Dinner for Seven” is their most popular show. Think “Dancing with the Stars” with a plot. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. FMI and tickets.
March 2-10: “Hamlet” at the Minnesota Opera. Toto, we’re not in 13th-century Denmark anymore. Thaddeus Strassberger’s staging of Ambroise Thomas’s five-act French grand opera, composed in 1868, places Shakespeare’s story in a 1950s-era totalitarian regime complete with jackboots, pistols and raised-fist salutes. It’s sheer spectacle, with a big chorus, fabulous set, terrific singing by baritone Brian Mulligan as the melancholy Dane and colatura soprano Marie-Eve Munger as Ophelia (her mad scene is a hair-raiser), and one of those wham-bam endings that make perfect sense only in opera. Christopher Franklin, who was just here for “Doubt,” conducts. FMI and tickets.
March 2-23: “How to Swear like a Minnesotan” at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater. Comedian Joseph Scrimshaw shares jokes and stories about his youth in Brainerd and North Minneapolis, tales of hipster Paul Bunyan, erotic Betty Crocker fan fiction, and more. A “risqué hot dish of Minnesota nice, nasty, neurotic, and everything in between.” Sounds like fun. FMI and tickets.
March 5, 12, 19, and 26: Insights 2013 Design Lecture Series at the Walker. Leading designers from around the world (Berlin, Amsterdam, LA) share the thinking, methods, and processes behind their work. This year, each designer has been commissioned to create a project specific to the Walker. We’re kind of in love with Job Wouters, aka Letman, “a practitioner of the lost art of psychedelic and delicious penmanship.” 7 p.m. all four Tuesdays. FMI and tickets.
March 7: Arts Advocacy Day at the Capitol. More than 700 arts advocates from around the state will converge on the Capital to encourage legislatures to stay the course on the Legacy Amendment. (Last year, some legislators suggested that Legacy funds be used to build a stadium.) The day begins with a public rally at 8:30 a.m. in the Minnesota History Center, where The New Standards will lead the crowd in singing “America the Beautiful.” This annual event is organized by Minnesota Citizens for the Arts. Register here. Can’t go in person but want to be heard? Send a message to your legislators. Get help here.
March 10-11: Charles Lloyd Sky Trio at the Dakota. Jazz saxophonist Lloyd’s performances are cerebral, transcendent, passionate and spiritual. His Sky Trio includes Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. At the Dakota, he’ll feature a special guest, pianist Gerald Clayton. Any chance to see Lloyd is not to be missed. He turns 75 on March 15, so plan to sing “Happy Birthday.” Sets at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. FMI and tickets.
March 13-17: the 8th Twin Cities Arab Film Festival at the Heights and the Walker. Award-winners and Minnesota premieres from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco, and Palestine. All non-English dialogue is subtitled. Promo video here. FMI (let’s get that website up and running, shall we?). Passes and tickets.
April 11-28: the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. Save 10 percent on a gold or silver pass if you buy it by March 15. Purchase here or call 612-331-7563.
May 15: Rodriguez at the Fitzgerald. The lost-and-found American folk musician is the subject of “Searching for Sugar Man,” which won Best Documentary Feature last Sunday at the Oscars. Tickets go on sale at noon today (Friday, March 1) at the Fitzgerald Theater box office and through Ticketmaster.