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Summer at Orchestra Hall’s theme will be ‘The Beethoven Influence’

ALSO: “Face to Face: Hmong Women’s Experiences” at Park Square; pianist Daniil Trifonov at the Ordway; and more.

Jon Kimura Parker
With new Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker in the lead, the inaugural Summer at Orchestra Hall will have a theme, “The Beethoven Influence.”
Photo by Tony Nelson

Auf Wiedersehen, Sommerfest and Viennese waltzes. Hey there, Summer at Orchestra Hall and a spectrum of concerts, events and surprises.

Finally shedding the “Sommerfest” name “opens up so many possibilities for new annual themes and a very broad collection of music to celebrate,” Minnesota Orchestra President and CEO Michelle Miller Burns said in a statement. “Sommerfest” has been a fixture since 1980, when the orchestra’s summer festival was founded by Leonard Slatkin.

With new Creative Partner Jon Kimura Parker in the lead, the inaugural Summer at Orchestra Hall will have a theme, “The Beethoven Influence.” The theme has been broken down into four parts, one for each week of the festival: Nature, Rebellion, Destiny, Unity. Parker wanted “to explore Beethoven’s own inspirations, as well as how he inspired other people, artists and causes. This inevitably has led us into some really exciting partnerships with artists who will riff on Beethoven to create new works this summer.”

And how. On Friday, July 17 (opening night of Week One), a performance of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” will feature a film depicting nature in Minneapolis by the experimental art collective Free Black Dirt. On Friday, July 24 (Week Two), South Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s “Mannequin” will be dramatized by 10-foot-tall puppets from In the Heart of the Beast.

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On Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31 (Week Three), the six-member collaborative dance ensemble BRKFST will perform an original work to Beethoven’s “Grosse fuge,” bringing in breakdance, martial arts and contemporary dance. On Saturday, Aug. 1, the orchestra and The Moving Company will premiere “The Artist’s Influence,” a play-with-music featuring Nathan Keepers and Steven Epp, directed by Dominique Serrand.

Fifteen concerts are scheduled over four weekends, most featuring the Minnesota Orchestra in the hall or chamber ensembles in the Target Atrium. Six conductors will take the stage, including three women.

Free Black Dirt
Courtesy of Orchestra Hall
On Friday, July 17, a performance of Beethoven’s “Pastorale” will feature a film depicting nature in Minneapolis by the experimental art collective Free Black Dirt.
Parker will appear often at the piano: for Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata (which he played 27 years ago at Sommerfest) and “Emperor” Concerto; leading his own quintet (with Stewart Copeland, former drummer of The Police) in a nontraditional performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”; in a relaxed family concert; in the return of the Grand Piano Spectacular (four pianists on four pianos), a beloved Sommerfest tradition; and as soloist in Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto.

Parker will also host the orchestra’s first free outdoor performance on Peavey Plaza in more than a decade. Mark your calendar for that one: Saturday, July 18, 7:30 p.m. As the orchestra concludes Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” church bells will ring out across Minneapolis. This thrilling event will be part of the 12-hour International Day of Music, with performances on multiple stages in and around Orchestra Hall, including one programmed by the Cedar Cultural Center.

With Peavey Plaza finally renovated and reopened – that happened last July, midway through the Latin America-flavored Sommerfest – the orchestra will take full advantage of that space and its own roomy lobby during the summer season. “Sounds and Bites” will feature food vendors and free music before and after all concerts, a regular Thursday evening happy hour performance in the Target Atrium, and a pop-up Night Market on Fridays and Saturdays. The lobby will include art installations and pre- and post-concert experiences that explore the weekly themes: Nature, Rebellion, Destiny, Unity. All outdoor, happy hour and lobby entertainments are open to the public. The only ticketed events are performances in the hall and Candlelight Chamber Music concerts in the Target Atrium.

Courtesy of Orchestra Hall
On Thursday and Friday, July 30 and 31, the six-member collaborative dance ensemble BRKFST will perform an original work to Beethoven’s “Grosse fuge.”
Wait – will there be a movies and music event? Yes. On Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8 and 9, Sarah Hicks will lead the orchestra in a performance of “Fantasia.”

Summer at Orchestra Hall runs from July 17 to Aug. 9. View the complete schedule and order tickets here or call 612-371-5656/800-292-4141.

‘My Fair Lady’: See it or don’t?

Five performances remain of this show’s brief run at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. See it or don’t? That depends.

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On the plus side: The new Lincoln Center revival, directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher, earned 10 Tony nominations and widespread critical acclaim. The production, in a word, is gorgeous. The sets are incredible. Henry Higgins’ house is a rotating, two-story, stuffed-to-the-rafters marvel with a spiral staircase, even (briefly) a bathroom. The costumes are exquisite. And the score is filled with classic, hummable songs. In the touring cast, Shereen Ahmed as Eliza and Laird Mackintosh as Higgins are both excellent, and as Eliza learns to speak properly, her voice becomes more luminous and liquid.

On the minus side: The book and lyrics date from 1956. Lines that used to be funny just aren’t anymore. It is not OK to call a woman “so deliciously low – so horribly dirty” or to suggest that “if you have any trouble with her, give her a few licks of the strap.” This language, these attitudes and assumptions are painful to hear. It’s hard to believe people once laughed, and not that long ago.

My Fair Lady
Photo by Joan Marcus
Shavey Brown, Mark Aldrich, Shereen Ahmed, William Michals and Colin Anderson in The Lincoln Center Theater Production of Lerner & Loewe’s "My Fair Lady."
On the plus side: Sher, like other smart directors dealt misogynistic scripts, has found ways to elevate Eliza and give her agency. She may be a poor Cockney flower girl, but she recognizes opportunity when she sees it, and she makes the most of it. Higgins’ language is abusive and his attitude abhorrent, but Eliza knows her own worth. And although she earlier sings about “someone’s head resting on my knee … who takes good care of me,” she’s clearly capable of taking care of herself. And better equipped than she was before she met Henry Higgins and Colonel Pickering. Eliza offers to pay Higgins for his phonetics lessons. He won’t take her money, so she takes his insults and arrogance. That’s how she pays.

On the minus side: It’s still a terrible story. Two wealthy men bet they can turn a poor woman into someone who dupes other wealthy people into thinking she’s a duchess. In fact, they think she’s a princess – from Hungary! But what do we do these days with terrible stories told to wonderful music? (We’re looking at you, Mozart.) Do we throw them all out and erase history? Or do we illuminate the dark corners, put them in context and understand that’s not who we are now?

“My Fair Lady” continues through Sunday, March 8. FMI and tickets ($40-155).

The picks

Opens tonight (Friday, March 6) at Park Square Theatre: “Face to Face: Hmong Women’s Experiences.” Five local Hmong women share their own stories in a theatrical, emotional performance. Co-written and co-directed by Sara Zatz of New York’s Ping Chong + Company, which specializes in community-specific, interview-based events, and Twin Cities theater artist Katie Ka Vang. 7:30 p.m. on the Boss stage. FMI and tickets ($16-30). Closes March 15.

Opens tonight at the Lab: Pangea World Theater: “Sueño (Dream).” Adapted from the 17th-century morality play “Life Is But a Dream” by Pedro Calderón de la Barca, translated from the Spanish by Obie-winning playwright José Rivera into witty, contemporary language, “Sueño” poses questions like “What are humans?” “What is honor?” and “If life is a dream, who is dreaming us?” Directed by Leslie Ishii. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($18 advance, $22 door). Closes March 22.

Sunday at Macalester Plymouth United Church: Fourth Annual Unity through Music Concert. A benefit for the ACLU of Minnesota, created by Jean Carey, a specialist in repairing woodwinds. This year’s version, “Jazz for Justice,” features the Peter Kogan Quintet. 3 p.m. FMI and tickets ($30/$10 students).

Monday at Bryant-Lake Bowl and Theater: The Theater of Public Policy: The Census. Laugh and learn. T2P2, the comedy improv troupe fueled by facts and grounded in our community, starts its spring season with a topic that affects us all: the census. The guests will be Susan Brower, Minnesota’s State Demographer, and Mónica Hurtado of Voices for Racial Justice. Doors at 6 p.m., show at 7. FMI and tickets ($12 advance, $15 door).

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Tuesday at the Ordway: Daniil Trifonov. The New York Times called him “one of the most awesome pianists of our time.” The young Russian pianist everyone is talking about turned 30 yesterday. Less than a week ago, he played the same Bach program at the Kennedy Center he’ll bring to the Ordway next week. Here’s what the Washington Post had to say: “a glimpse of the divine … ecstatic visions … unabashed pianistic prowess … food for the soul.” Got tickets? There might be a few left. 7:30 p.m. FMI and tickets ($36-75).

Tuesday at Scott Country Library – Prior Lake: Club Book: Brad Taylor. The author of the New York Times best-selling Pike Logan series, Taylor served more than 20 years in the U.S. Army, including a stint with Delta Force. He’s out with the 14th Pike Logan tale, “Hunter Killer,” in which the elite Taskforce finds itself in the unfamiliar role of the hunted. 7 p.m. FMI. Free. Can’t make it? A podcast will be available in a few days.