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Chopin Society to present five formidable young pianists; a new director for MCA

ALSO: Out of the Box Opera presents: “Night at the Opera/Night on the Town”; Anderson Center at Tower View’s 25th Anniversary celebration in Red Wing; and more.

composite photo of performers in the chopin society's season
Eric Lu, Kate Liu, Evren Ozel, Rafal Blechacz and Zlata Chochieva
Photos: Ben Ealovega, Jiyang Chen, Geneva Lewis, Felix Broede and Andrej Grilc

The Frederic Chopin Society has been a jewel on the Twin Cities arts scene since its founding in 1984 by fans of the passionate Polish composer and pianist. The St. Paul-based organization that performs in Macalester’s HGA-designed Mairs Concert Hall made it through most of its 2019-20 season before COVID’s unwanted arrival; the final concert of that season, March 29th’s date with esteemed Hungarian pianist Dénes Várjon, was canceled. The society announced a scaled-back 2020-21 in July but had to shelve that. Two of the scheduled artists, Eric Lu and Kate Liu, will appear in its 2021-22 season, announced earlier this week.

So will piano prodigy Evren Ozel, who was originally set to perform in September 2020, just before leaving to compete in the International Chopin Piano Competition in Poland. Ozel, a Minneapolis native, is the son of the Chopin Society’s founding artistic director, Tadeusz Majewski. The competition was postponed to 2021 because COVID; Ozel’s performance here was canceled.

Fast forward a year. On Sept. 12, 2021, Ozel will play a special pre-Chopin-Society-season concert co-sponsored by Schubert Club, and then he’ll leave for the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Which, by the way, has only been won once by an American in its nearly 100-year history. Garrick Ohlsson took the top prize in 1970.

Ozel also won first place at Schubert Club’s Bruce P. Carlson Scholarship Competition in 2021.

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The official 38th Chopin Society season will begin Jan. 23, 2022, with Eric Lu, winner of the First Prize and Gold Medal at the Leeds International Piano Competition in 2018 – and, in 2015, a prize-winning finalist at that year’s International Chopin Competition. (He played here on his way there.) On Feb. 27, 2022, Kate Liu, who won the Bronze Medal and the Audience Prize at the 2015 International Chopin Competition, will perform.

March 27 will bring Rafal Blechacz, winner of the Gold Medal at the 2005 International Chopin Competition, plus all of the prizes in the individual “Best Performance” categories. He first performed for the Chopin Society in 2010-11. The season will end May 8 with Zlata Chochieva, a Moscow native now living in Berlin who spent her lockdown year livestreaming and working on a new CD, released in early 2021. Chochieva will also be a returnee to the series; she first played here in 2017-18.

All concerts will be at 3 p.m. on Sundays. FMI.

MCA has a new ED

photo of sarah fossen
Sarah Fossen
Minnesota Citizens for the Arts has a new executive director. Sarah Fossen, most recently director of marketing experience for Rosedale Center, has been credited with attracting younger shoppers and national attention to a shopping mall in a time when many are struggling. She will take over Sheila Smith’s former position on Aug. 1.

At Rosedale, Fossen worked to reinvent traditional retail marketing and create social equity. Before Rosedale, she served in marketing leadership roles at the City of St. Paul and Capital City Partnership (now Greater MSP), worked for Augsburg University and ran her own marketing communications firm. She’s a Minnesota native with degrees in PR/Marketing and Art from Concordia College-Moorhead.

MCA is a statewide arts advocacy organization that organizes the arts community to lobby the Minnesota State Legislature and Congress. Its highest profile event is the annual Arts Advocacy Day at the State Capitol – virtual in 2020 and 2021, but back (we hope) in full swing in 2022. MCA’s mission is to ensure opportunity for all Minnesotans to have access to and involvement in the arts. Its biggest success to date came with passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008, which put dedicated funding for the arts into Minnesota’s Constitution for 25 years. It also developed Creative Minnesota, which gathers and analyzes hard data on the arts to use for advocacy, education and policymaking. MCA is considered the strongest arts advocacy group in the United States.

“I’ve worked in government, retail, private sector, nonprofit and higher education, and I’ve owned my own business,” Fossen said in a statement. “Now I’m looking forward to merging those experiences to continue to accelerate the reach and influence of the organization.”

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The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

phot of musicians in travis anderson trio
Courtesy of the artists
The Travis Anderson Trio
V Thursday, July 22, 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Jazz Festival: Jazz Fest Live: The Travis Anderson Trio. With Anderson on piano, Steve Pikal on bass and Nathan Norman on drums, this high-energy trio plays everything from Oscar Peterson to Chopin. On Thursday, streaming live from the Dakota’s stage, they’ll play a range of standards Peterson was famous for. Free with registration. P.S. These Jazz Fest Live nights are wildly popular, with enthusiastic chats.

V Thursday, July 22, 7:30 p.m.: An Opera Theatre: “We Out: The Air We Breathe.” Founded by Kelly Turpin, AOT focuses on art for social justice. Its latest offering combines music, film, poetry, visual art and conversation to explore environmental racism and the climate justice movement. Composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate’s vocal chamber piece “Found Again,” with words by United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, will be followed by a roundtable discussion with environmental experts. Performers include Victoria Vargas, Alex Nishibun, Corissa Bussian, Mark Billy and Rei Tanaka, with Kristina Boerger conducting. Premieres July 22 at 7:30 p.m., on demand through Aug. 2. On AOT’s website and Facebook page. Free; suggested donation $15 if able.

L Friday and Saturday, July 23-24, 7 and 8:30 p.m.: Canopy by Hilton: Out of the Box Opera: “Night at the Opera/Night on the Town.” Led by David Lefkowich, OOTB is known for its unconventional and site-specific approaches to the opera experience. So far, it has presented sold-out Diva Cage Matches (aria competitions) in the Uppercut Gym, musical mash-ups at the Weisman and a version of Handel’s “Acis and Galatea” all over the Pillsbury A-Mill. Its latest escapade is two nights of arias and scenes chosen to fit the Canopy’s wood-beamed atrium and open public spaces. With soprano Siena Forest, tenor David Walton, baritone Nicholas Davis and pianist Carson Rose Schneider. No tickets required. A dinner reservation at the Canopy’s Umbra Restaurant will guarantee you a reserved seat, but you can also watch and listen from the hotel’s lounge and lobby.

photo of a brick tower set amid trees
Courtesy of the Anderson Center
The Anderson Center
L Saturday, July 24, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.: Anderson Center at Tower View 25th Anniversary. There may be no better place in Minnesota to celebrate the arts this Saturday than Red Wing. Led by Executive and Artistic Director Stephanie Rogers, the former estate of Dr. Alexander P. Anderson, inventor of Quaker Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, is a national registered historic landmark that supports and showcases artists from around the world. Organized as a festive open house, the day will be filled with live music (Jillian Rae, Chastity Brown), literary readings (Teo Rivera-Dundas, Joyce Sutphen), all-day activities and demonstrations by painters, ceramicists, sculptors, a printmaker, a glassblower, a photographer and more, along with food vendors, an art exhibition and tours. Admission is $5 for the general public, free for Anderson Center members and youth under 18. The Anderson Center is located on the western edge of Red Wing at 163 Tower View Drive.