When Mischa Santora, former associate conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, took a new position as music director of the Boston Ballet, it meant leaving Minneapolis, his home for many years. But he maintains close ties here. Not only did he keep his job as artistic director for MacPhail’s Spotlight Series, he added another: artistic director of the Minnesota Bach Ensemble.
Santora will be in Minneapolis this week for three performances.
On Thursday at the Basilica, he’ll lead a Spotlight Series program called “Reverberations.” Designed to show off the acoustic of the grandiose space, the whole concert will be performed on just three instruments: the Basilica’s organ, French horn and human voice. The musicians will be Christopher Stroh, the Basilica’s organist, and MacPhail faculty members Mike Alexander (horn) and Dennis Petersen (tenor).
The evening will begin in the Basilica’s nave with Dupré’s “Cortege et Litanie” for solo organ, followed by two Messiaen pieces, one for solo horn (played from the gallery) and the other for organ. “Then we’ll move to the back of the church, behind the altar,” Santora explained during a Monday phone call. “This will be a progressive concert.”
The music will continue with the world premiere of Santora’s “Songs for a Cavernous Space,” performed on organ, horn and voice, with Petersen singing poems by Rilke and W.S. Merwin. Until now, most of Santora’s composing has been for theatrical productions and soundtracks. This performance will turn the spotlight on him.
The concert will end with Arvo Pärt’s “Annum per annum” and a trilogy of songs by Aaron Copland, Olive Dungan and Leonard Bernstein.
On Sunday and Monday at MacPhail, in a program called “Emperors & Tyrants,” the Minnesota Bach Ensemble will give concert performances of Handel’s “Giulio Cesare in Egitto” (Julius Caesar in Egypt). Not the whole thing (over 4½ hours) but excerpts. “It’s Handel at his very best,” Santora said.
Wait … better than “Messiah”?
“ ‘Messiah’ is a wonderful piece, but I think his operas are by far his greatest compositions. Hands down. They’re a unique mixture of German depth and Italianate sensuality. ‘Cesare’ is stunning, and hard to do well. It’s exciting, very relevant, and as bloody as anything. It’s one of the operas that features a severed head. It’s in the opening scene. It’s the opposite of ‘Salome,’ where you get the head at the end.”
In all seriousness: “To me, ‘Cesare’ is the equivalent of a Caravaggio painting. It’s sensual, dynamic, bloody, cruel, and deeply emotional. It’s everything. It captures the essence of the High Baroque.”
The cast will include soprano Linh Kauffman as Cleopatra, mezzo-soprano Nerea Berraondo as Cesare, mezzo-soprano Christina Christensen as Sesto and narrator Jacob Miller.
“Reverberations” will take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Basilica of St. Mary. FMI and tickets ($12 adults, $5 MacPhail students). Call 612-767-5250. “Emperors & Tyrants” has performances Sunday, Feb. 16, at 3 p.m. and Monday, Feb. 17, at 7 p.m. in MacPhail’s Antonello Hall. FMI and tickets ($30 adults, $10 students).
Tonight (Wednesday, Feb. 12) at the Walker: Walker Dialogue: Bong Joon Ho with Scott Foundas. This has been sold out for ages, but the Walker has full bragging rights for booking the South Korean filmmaker back when no one dreamed he would make history by winning the Oscars for Best Picture, Director and Original Screenplay. Will he bring at least one of the golden statuettes to show off? Will the Walker rent spotlights for the occasion? Will there be a mob scene in the lobby outside the Walker Cinema? There will be an in-person waitlist one hour before the event. Good luck with that. 8 p.m. FMI. And P.S.: “Snowpiercer” is streaming on Netflix and may finally get the attention it deserves.
Tonight in Concordia’s Buetow Music Center Auditorium: The Bach Society of Minnesota: Vivaldi’s “Motezuma.” For those of you who have been screaming for more Baroque opera (and we know you’re out there), this is your week in heaven. Before Minnesota Bach Ensemble performs “Guilio Cesaro in Egitto” in concertante (see above), you can also experience a semi-staged version of Vivaldi’s lost masterpiece (recently revived) loosely based on the life of Aztec ruler Montezuma. It’s currently on a seven-city, nine-concert tour that began in Montréal, home of Bach Ensemble Artistic Director Matthias Maute, and ends in Washington, D.C. A collaboration with Ensemble Caprice of Montreal and Early Music Seattle, it features soloists from Canada, the U.S., Mexico and Spain including Marduk Salam in the title role, Nerea Berraondo and Pedro Juan Fonseca. One Montreal reviewer called it “colossal … a resounding success.” 7:30 p.m. 300 Hamline Ave. N., St. Paul. FMI and tickets ($30/$25 seniors/$5 students; kids under 12 free).
Tonight at the Film Society’s St. Anthony Main Theatre 3: “After Parkland.” Pay no attention to other people who are crying. You’ll be crying, too. Filmmakers Emily Taguchi and Jake Leffermen got close to students and families whose lives were forever changed by the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen people died and a nationwide student movement was born. The film includes interviews, verité footage and personal videos. This will be a one-night nationwide screening. 7 p.m. FMI including trailer and tickets ($12/6/5).
Thursday at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts at Open Book: Reception for “My Mighty Journey.” Winner of the 2020 Minnesota Book Artist Award, this handmade book is 4 ½ feet wide. It took five years and 14 artists to create. Written by John Coy, with illustrations by Gaylord Schanilec, it’s the story of the past 12,000 years of Minnesota, told from the perspective of St. Anthony Falls. The exhibition will also include selected artwork from the book. 6 p.m.; artist talk at 7 p.m. In the Target Performance Hall. Free. The exhibition closes March 22.
Thursday through Saturday at Pillsbury House Theatre: Week 1 of “Renegade-ism: Artists on the Edge.” For three weekends, Pillsbury House Theatre will open its doors to new works by local independent artists. This weekend, Monkeybear’s Harmolodic Workshop will present “Crucial Excursions.” Stories told in textiles, puppetry and music will follow characters including the Quilter, the Vinyl Collector, the Musician, and the Grandmother as they search for creativity, inspiration, purpose, or something unknown even to them. Led by artistic director Chamindika Wanduragala, Monkeybear supports Native/POC in learning and performing contemporary puppetry. Thursday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets (pick-your-price; regular price $25).
Starts Friday at the Cowles: Collide Theatrical: “Romeo and Juliet.” Hello, Valentine’s Day! It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but if it’s yours, make this your special night out. Collide’s mission is to create original Broadway-style jazz dance musicals, and their high-energy, technically stellar performances are great fun to watch. In “Romeo and Juliet,” real-life engaged couple Renee Guittar and Rush Benson are the star-crossed lovers, and vocalist Katie Gearty headlines the live musicians. Shakespeare’s tale is recast as a modern love story told in several dance styles. The score – contemporary and pop hits – is played by a string quartet. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($33-39). Ends Sunday, Feb. 23.