Tonight and Saturday, the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra will play three concerts at the Ted Mann Concert Hall – their self-produced fall season as the lockout enters its second year with no end in sight. At first, two concerts were scheduled, but a third was added after the musicians announced that Osmo Vänskä, who resigned as music director Tuesday, would conduct the concerts as a “thank you and farewell to the community and audience that have supported classical music so passionately.” Demand exploded. Tickets to the third concert, to be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Ted Mann Concert Hall, went on sale this morning at 8 a.m. They include special $15 tickets for students. If you go, bring lots of tissue, because there will not be a dry eye in the house. FMI and tickets. UPDATE: The third concert sold out almost immediately. The final concert at 8 p.m. Saturday will be broadcast live by Classical MPR. Tune in or listen to the live stream at classicalmpr.org.
The concerts at the Ted Mann will feature pianist Emanuel Ax, who was originally scheduled to launch the 2013-14 subscription season tonight with the musicians and Vänskä at the newly renovated Orchestra Hall.
Reactions to Vänskä’s resignation ranged from shock to dismay, anger and sadness. At the Star Tribune, columnist Jon Tevlin threw up his hands and wondered, “Orchestra, government: Is everything just breaking bad?” The New Yorker’s music critic Alex Ross wrote in his blog, The Rest Is Noise: “That the Minnesota Orchestra Association has allowed this conductor to depart strikes me as a management failure of historic proportions.” Chicago-based arts consultant Drew McManus wrote in his blog, Adaptistration: “The artistic entity known as the Minnesota Orchestra no longer exists.”
MinnPost’s Doug Grow wrote, “Blame whomever you want, but it seems that the wreck of the elite Minnesota Orchestra is now complete.” In his own letter of resignation, which followed Vänskä’s later that same day, Pulitzer Prize winner Aaron Jay Kernis, founder and director of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute, laid it out: “I admit total bafflement and dismay at what has been done to allow the dismemberment of this superb orchestra at the height of its powers. … In all of this, the audience of music-lovers, who most appreciate the orchestra’s extraordinary gifts have been forgotten and their voices disregarded.”
Orchestrate Excellence, a community group of audience members heroically trying to walk the middle path between the two warring sides, issued a statement saying, in part: “While we have experienced a significant ending, it is important to remember that this is not the end. A contract must still be negotiated, musicians must play, and the community must have its orchestra.” Yes to the last two musts, maybe about the first. Lawrence Perelman, managing director of Semantix Creative Group, believes the musicians should also resign, then immediately form their own self-governing orchestra. “Make history by setting an example for other orchestras to follow,” he urged in the Star Tribune, “and end the labor-management paradigm that leads to these kinds of disputes.” Perelman’s admittedly radical plan sounds like a clarion call on a golden trumpet.
Stanislaw Skrowaczewski turned 90 in Tokyo yesterday. He was there to lead a concert by the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra, where he is honorary conductor laureate. We hope he didn’t spend too much time thinking about the epic fail of the Minnesota Orchestra board and musicians to reach an agreement. If he thought at all about Orchestra Hall, perhaps he looked back at the opening of the original in 1974, when the maestro christened his dream with a performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D-minor.
We haven’t yet seen the renovated Orchestra Hall, but we did get a peek last week into the transformation of Northrop (they call it a “revitalization”) on the University of Minnesota campus. Inside the performance hall, now filled with a thicket of scaffolding, the massive balcony, which once ended somewhere in Iowa, has been replaced by three balconies, bringing 80 percent of the seating to within 100 feet of the stage. The number of seats has been reduced from 4,850 to 2,800. The proscenium arch is being restored; the massive chandelier is in storage, awaiting a new home (does anyone have a four-story entryway?). There’s room for Northrop’s 1932 Aeolian-Skinner organ and its nearly 7,000 pipes, once the money is found to restore it (does anyone have a few million dollars?).
A second, comparatively tiny, state-of-the-art digital theater has been tucked behind the third balcony, above Memorial Hall and the new atriums. Spaces have been created for the University Honors Program, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Innovation by Design. Other additions include a café, coffee bar, cushy Founder’s Room, rehearsal space, offices, dressing rooms, loading docks, a pass-through behind the stage (so dancers no longer have to run downstairs, through the basement, and up the stairs on the other side), new ticket offices (although the old one, a brass-and-glass jewel box, will remain in Memorial Hall), new elevators, and bathrooms. Lots of bathrooms. Supposedly we’ll be able to leave our seats during intermission, powder our noses, and still have time to make our way back. Northrop is scheduled to reopen on April 4, 2014.
The Minnesota Opera has received a $100,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst foundation to help fund its education and outreach programs. Hearst Foundation grants are highly competitive and only fund cultural institutions that offer “meaningful programs in the arts.” The Opera’s Community Education Programs serve more than 20,000 youth and adults each season. Its Senior Outreach Initiative, a pilot program in creative aging for seniors 62+ and caregivers, will begin sometime in 2014.
The Singers, the Minnesota-based choral group founded in 2004, has announced its first-ever executive director. Aaron Wulff has been an arts manager in choral music and dance for the past 12 years, most recently serving as executive director of the Rose Ensemble. The Singers has premiered and commissioned over 50 new works by composers including Stephen Paulus, Abbie Betinis, and Craig Carnahan.
At the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul, “Good People,” David Lindsay-Abaire’s play about the class divide, has proved so popular that an additional matinee performance has been added for Saturday at 2 p.m. Joel Sass directs ; James Denton (“Desperate Housewives”) and Virginia Burke star. The play closes Sunday. Catch it while you can. FMI and tickets.
Smart, sassy, and always au courant, The Theater of Public Policy has announced its fall 2013 season. T2P2 is a civic affairs-inspired improv comedy show. Every Monday night in October and November at HUGE Theater in Uptown, the show’s host interviews a leading policy maker or thinker on a big issue of the day, after which the improvisers use that conversation as a jumping-off point for long-form improv comedy. In the second half of the show, the guest answers questions from the audience, and the show wraps up with more unscripted comedy. Trust us, it’s funny. Also revealing. And you’ll actually learn something. You’ll laugh and think, like you do when you watch Jon Stewart or “The Colbert Report.” Topics this season include guns, gay marriage, medical marijuana, mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, Internet comment trolls, and climate change. T2P2’s guest on Nov. 11: outgoing Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak. FMI.
Mark your calendar now and start planning what to wear. The night before the opening of its newest exhibit, “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” the Minnesota History Center is holding, what else, a cocktail party. Pose for a gangster mug shot, dance to live Dixieland jazz with the Southside Aces, learn the Charleston and the Shimmy, sample local beers from Summit and Lucid, learn how to make cocktails from pros, and visit the cash bar. Bootlegger’s Ball Preview Party, 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8. 345 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul. $30/$25. FMI. Register online here.
Our picks for the weekend
Tonight (Friday, Oct. 4): Jerome Emerging Artists Exhibition at MCAD. New work by Susannah Bielak, Amanda Hankerson, Michael Joyt, Melissa Loop, and Lauren Roche, all recipients of the 2012-13 Jerome Foundation Fellowships for Emerging Artists. Artist reception 6-8 p.m., 2501 Stevens Ave., Minneapolis. On Wednesday, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m., Daily Planet arts writer and editor Jay Gabler will moderate a panel discussion with the artists.
Friday and Saturday: Atlantis Quartet CD Release at the Artists’ Quarter. “Expansion,” the fourth album from the Minnesota modern jazz quartet, is a knockout. From the start, this group of four strong, passionate players has had its own distinct sound, something some bands take years to develop. And they just keep getting better. We’ve been listening to their recordings all along and everything seems to click on this one: energy, emotion, expression, maturity, and moments of luminous beauty. Zacc Harris (electric guitar), Brandon Wozniak (tenor sax), Chris Bates (bass), and Pete Hennig (drums). 9 p.m. both nights, $12 at the door. 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul, in the basement of the historic Hamm Bldg.
Friday-Sunday: St. Paul Art Crawl. Now in its 20th year, this highly anticipated event features 300 St. Paul artists showing and selling original artwork at 24 locations throughout the city, most in Lowertown. Start with a kickoff party at the Minnesota Museum of American Art from 4:30-6 p.m. Pick up a passport at any Crawl location, get it stamped as you go, and submit it for a chance at winning one of many prizes. Tour lofts and condos in the Rossmor and Cosmopolitan buildings, eat at food trucks, buy art. Friday 6-10 p.m., Saturday 12-8 p.m., Sunday 12-5 p.m. FMI and resources (catalog, map, parking and bus information).
Friday-Sunday: Robert Briscoe & Friends Fall Pottery Sale. Now in its 24th year, award-winning potter Briscoe’s fall sale is one of those journeys pottery lovers make annually and reverently. This year’s guests include Jo Severson, Jason Trebs and Matthew Krousey. Pots you can live with, use, give and simply enjoy. Friday 12-7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. 2785 Stark Road, Harris, MN.
Saturday: Ladyslipper at the Library. The classical music ensemble Ladyslipper specializes in spirited interpretations of lesser-known works from the 17th century to the 20th. Their 2013-14 concert season begins with a pair of Saturday morning concerts at area libraries. This Saturday at 11 a.m., find them at the Pierre Bottineau Library, 55 Broadway St. NE. Next Saturday, Oct. 12, at 10:30 a.m., they’re at the East Lake Library, 2727 E. Lake St., Minneapolis. Directed by mezzo-soprano Sahar Hassan, with guest artist Phil Rukavina on lute, the program includes music by Purcell, Blow, Ecles, Lambert and Viset. All concerts are free. FMI.
Sunday: Choral Showcase at Central Lutheran Church. The principal chorus of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2004, the Minnesota Chorale has been badly hurt by the lockout. But “our work goes on, no matter what,” the Chorale bravely says. Founded in 1972, the Chorale is part of an aural banquet that will also feature performances by Kantorei, National Lutheran Choir, Oratorio Society of MN, The Singers and VocalEssence. Free-will offering. 4 p.m., 333 S. 12th St., Minneapolis.
Monday: Opening night of T2P2’s fall 2013 season (see above). Tonight’s topic: “States’ Rights! Or … American Civil War 2.0?” Dale Carpenter, American legal commentator and Earl R. Larson Professor of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law at the U of M, is in the hot seat. 6:30 p.m., 3037 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis. $5.