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Silent MOA board; ‘Snowplow Named Desire’ extended; ‘Art of Birds’ at the Bell

Where, oh where is our orchestra going? Since the board meeting on Feb. 28, during which, according to a statement issued afterward, “the board came to a very strong agreement on leadership,” we’ve heard nothing from the MOA about that agreement and what it means. We’re reminded of the lockout, when weeks of silence were followed by more weeks of silence and time just ticked away. Will former music director Osmo Vänskä return? In what capacity? As music director or principal guest conductor? Will current president and CEO Michael Henson stay on? The fact that Henson is unpopular with the musicians and much of the public does not seem to faze the board. Keep in mind that while the lockout has ended, the hall has reopened and the musicians are back at work, the board has remained largely the same.

Meanwhile, audience members are shouting at each other before concerts (“Bring back Osmo!” “Shut up!”), Vänskä continues to book guest conducting gigs elsewhere (he’ll be in South Africa in December) and ticket sales are apparently so disappointing that the Orchestra on Tuesday began offering Groupons – deeply discounted tickets to upcoming concerts. (As of this writing, you can still get $100 seats to the March 20 concert by trumpeter Chris Botti for $25. The Minnesota Orchestra does not perform on this program. Groupons to two Minnesota Orchestra concerts were previously available for $10 but sold out quickly.) Also on Tuesday, the Orchestra announced a “24-hour fill the row sale” – three Minnesota Orchestra concerts for $99. That offer has now ended.

Members of the Save Our Symphony Minnesota leadership group have met twice with two unnamed MOA board members since Feb. 28. Most recently, they shared a graphic called “MOA’s Fork in the Road” listing their predictions of what seems likely to happen if Vänskä returns and Henson leaves vs. the opposite. They are urging the board to make a decision prior to the Grammy celebration concerts on March 27-29, during which Vänskä will lead the Sibelius symphonies 1 and 4. If matters are still up in the air by then, how awkward will that be? What will happen when Osmo comes to Orchestra Hall? Who from MOA leadership will join him on stage and congratulate him and the orchestra for winning the Grammy? What if no one does? In either case, how will the audience react? 

On a lighter note, a deadpan Vänskä recently sat down with cellist Nick Canellakis for a hilarious spoof interview during which Canellakis asked, “Is Osmo short for anything?” and reminded him, in a friendly and helpful sort of way, that unemployment in America is very high right now. Wait ’til you hear Canellakis’ take on Vänskä’s forthcoming return as guest conductor.

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As always, admission to this year’s Art in Bloom at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is free. Tickets to special events surrounding the annual riot of flowers and art are not, and some look too good to miss. Like the lecture and demonstration on Thursday, May 1, by Laura Dowling, chief floral designer for the White House. Happening May 1-4, Art in Bloom will feature more than 150 floral displays inspired by works of art in the museum’s collection. Event tickets are on sale now.

Courtesy of the Bell Museum
Carolina parakeets

If you saw the first part of the Bell Museum’s exhibition “Audubon and the Art of Birds,” and especially if you didn’t, the second half is now on display: nearly 50 new works of art by Audubon and other artists, including representations of the now-extinct Carolina parakeet. Among the other artists in the show are Mark Catesby, Walton Ford, Francois Levaillant and Roger Tory Peterson. The centerpiece is the rare double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s “Birds of America,” a collection of hand-colored engravings donated to the Bell in 1928. Through June 8. FMI. Beaks up, birders: On Wednesday, April 2, noted author and illustrator David Allen Sibley will be at the Bell to celebrate the release of the second edition of “The Sibley Guide to Birds.” 7 p.m. Tickets ($30-$43) include a copy of the book. The National Audubon Society dubbed the first edition “comprehensive, erudite, magnificent,” and this one is even bigger and better.

If you’re near the Minneapolis Central Library between now and April 11, stop by the Cargill Hall Gallery to see “Viva City,” a juried art show of work by Minneapolis Public Schools high-school students. Now in its 20th year, the annual exhibition features two- and three-dimensional works – drawings, paintings, ceramics, grapic design and fiber art – by students in participating schools. Students are eligible for awards from the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, Highpoint Center for Printmaking, MCAD, MIA, Utrecht Art Supplies, and the U of M. Gallery hours are the same as the library’s. FMI.

After 20 years of making people dance and smile and generally feel good about life, Dan Newton’s Café Accordion Orchestra will make its debut appearance on Garrison Keillor’s radio show “A Prairie Home Companion.” Listen this Saturday from 5-7. All we can say is – what took you so long, GK? After hearing these fine musicians on the air, you may have the irresistible urge to see them live, and your first chance is Sunday at the Dakota, which happens to be a Foodie Night – no cover for music. 7-9 p.m. FMI.

Minnesota Opera’s loss is the Santa Fe Opera’s gain. Daniel Zillmann, communications manager at Minnesota Opera, has accepted a position as director of press and public relations in Santa Fe beginning May 1. If you’re an opera lover/goer/ticket holder, you may not know Zillman, but if you’re an arts journalist, a blogger, part of the Black Hat comic art collective, a singer with the Minnesota Chorale, or a member of Tempo, Minnesota Opera’s young professionals organization, you’re familiar with his boundless enthusiasm for opera, and his expertise. One of our last Zillman sightings was at Minnesota Opera’s “Macbeth,” where he wore a kilt. He made our job easier, and for that we’re grateful. We’ll miss him a lot.

Not that we want to hear the word “snow” ever again – at least, not until November – but Brave New Workshop’s “A Snowplow Named Desire: Love in Minnesota” has proved so popular that its run has been extended through April 12. In new sketches and songs, the BNW cast explores the comical, often ridiculous side of love, sex and relationships of all kinds. Luckily, love is always in season. FMI and tickets ($25-$30).

Plan ahead: Sally Rousse, co-founder of the James Sewell Ballet, turns 50 this month. The company is celebrating with “A Sally Jubilee,” a gala dinner and free public performance. Rousse received a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers in 2001, was named Artist of the Year in 2010 by City Pages, and won a Sage Award for Outstanding Performer in 2013. At the free performance, former James Sewell Ballet favorites Penelope Freeh and Christian Burns, among others, will perform works choreographed by and about Rousse, who will also dance. 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 30, at the Cowles. Reservations here.

Our picks for the weekend

Opens tonight at Northern Clay Center: “Mythology Meets Archetype.” Not all pottery is mugs and teapots. In this exhibition of compelling, often haunting works, ceramic artists from the United States, London and Australia explore personal, cultural and religious myths and symbols: gods and mothers, selves and demons. Reception from 6-8 p.m. Through April 27.  

Courtesy of Northern Clay Center
Vipoo Srivilasa, The Country I Missed, 2013, porcelain and mix media material, collaboration with Thai and Chinese volunteers.

Tonight through Sunday at Intermedia Arts: Pangea World Theater presents “Rowzaneh – A Sufi Project.” An evening of music, film, movement, storytelling and poetry inspired by the principles and teachings of Sufism in modern life. With artists Aida Shahghasemi, Santanu Chatterjee and Dipankar Mukherjee. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 34:30 p.m. Sunday. FMI and tickets ($10-$12).

Tonight through March 22 at Nimbus Theatre: Savage Umbrella Theatre Presents “Rapture.” What if a tenth of the world’s population suddenly, quietly vanished? Not (sorry) conservative Christians, but (kind of the opposite) artists? Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light,” figures into this quirky yet intriguing idea for a play, which deals with issues including why art matters, what “real” art is, and the value of art and artists. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($12-$20 sliding scale; pay what you can at the door). Arrive early or stay late to view the pop-up gallery of work by local visual artists on display in the lobby.

Photo by Megan Visel
Mary Cutler as Evelyn and Carl Schoenborn as Thomas Kinkade in Savage Umbrella Theatre’s “Rapture.”

Tonight at the Lowertown Lofts Co-op in St. Paul: “Lowertown Classics #2.” For fans of classical music in obscure spaces. Go to 255 Kellogg Blvd., enter through the back alley, and follow the door signs. Then hear Trio Improv Is and Do (Maja Radovanlija, guitar; Scott Currie, saxophone; Ben Klein, tuba) perform improvised music, followed by guitarist Eva Beneke and classics of the Spanish guitar repertoire, then selections from Claude Bolling’s “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano” played by flutist Bethany Gonella, pianist Ted Godbout, bassist Eric Solberg and percussionist Scotty Horey. Donation at the door. 8 p.m. The concert will be followed by a wine reception in one of the lofts.

Saturday at the movies: Massenet’s tragic opera “Werther,” starring the great German tenor Jonas Kaufmann. Part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, the performance at the Met in New York City will be transmitted live to big screens across the U.S. In the Cities, you can see it at the Showplace Icon in St. Louis Park, the Eden Prairie 18, and the Oakdale in St. Paul. It’s also playing at theaters in Mankato, Rochester and other locations. Starts at 11:55 a.m. CST. FMI and tickets. (Pssst: April 5, “La Bohème.”)

Opens Saturday and Sunday at the History Theatre in St. Paul: “Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried” and “Lonely Soldiers: Women at War in Iraq.” The History Theatre is ambitiously presenting two plays at the same time from now through April 6. Based on Tim O’Brien’s National Book Award-winning account of his experiences in Vietnam, adapted for the stage by Jim Stowell, “The Things They Carried” is a one-man show featuring Stephen D. Ambrose. FMI and tickets ($32-$40). Directed by Austene Van, Helen Benedict’s “Lonely Soldiers” is based on the real words of eight battle-tested women warriors. FMI and tickets ($32-$40). Both are recommended for ages 16 and up.

Saturday at St. Clement’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul: Hymnathon. As a fundraiser for an upcoming tribute to Durham, England, where they’ve been invited to sing for a week in September, the choir at St. Clement’s will sing the first verses of all 720 hymns in the Episcopal hymnal. Six organists will take turns accompanying the singers. The public is invited to stop by and sing along, to pledge a set amount of money per hymn, and/or to request a special verse, descant, accompaniment or hymn dedication. Food, beverages, throat lozenges and cough syrup will be available. The estimated time for singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” (Hymn 720) is 5:30 p.m. The event begins at 7 a.m. Pledge forms are available on site.

Sunday at SubText Books in St. Paul, a double-header: Neal Karlen reads from (deep breath) “Slouching Toward Fargo: A Two-Year Saga of Sinners and St. Paul Saints at the Bottom of the Bush Leagues with Bill Murray, Darryl Strawberry, Dakota Sadie and Me” and John Ostergaard reads from “The Devil’s Snake Curve,” an alternative American history in which colonialism, jingoism, capitalism and faith are represented by baseball. How are Japanese internment camps like the Yankees? Walmart like the Kansas City Royals?  You’ll have to ask Ostergaard. 1 p.m. Free and open to the public.

Sunday at Hopkins High School: JazzMN Orchestra Presents New York Voices. Minnesota’s premier big band brings the Voices’ close-knit harmonies and swinging charts to their 15th anniversary season. The Grammy-winning Voices spent years with the Count Basie Orchestra before going out on their own. Big Band fans, to miss this would be silly. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($34/$38, $15 student rush).

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