Among the countless shows lost to COVID-19 was the return of Peter Rothstein’s exquisite “La Bohème.” Puccini’s opera reduced to its beating heart, it has a small cast, no chorus, and a band of only five instruments: accordion, piano, guitar, violin, clarinet. Yet it’s more than enough to make you feel the pathos and predicament of struggling young artists and the ache of love. Heightening the sense of peril, Rothstein set his staging during the Nazi occupation of Paris.
First produced in 2005, when Theater Latté Da was in Loring Park, this production hasn’t been seen since a brief return in 2007. March 14, 2020, would have been its big comeback. Then the doors closed and the lights went out.
“La Bohème” was originally part of Latté Da’s 2019-20 season, which also included a spectacular “Chicago” and a haunting “Bernardo Alba.” It never announced a 2020-21 season. Instead, it turned inward, developing new work for musical theater through a program called “Next Up” and spotlighting more than 40 artists sharing songs and stories in “The Ghostlight Series,” an often touching run of virtual cabarets still available on the website.
The 2021-22 season, announced today, brings forward three productions from 2019-20, adds a new area premiere and ends with the annual Next Festival of new work, an incubator for several fully staged works over the years.
For two nights in November (Nov. 13-14), “Puttin’ on the Ritz: A Re-opening Celebration” will toast Latté Da’s return to the historic Ritz, its home in Northeast, with songs from the upcoming season, a look into new works that were part of “Next Up” and favorites from past productions.
From Nov. 26-Jan. 2, 2022, the powerful “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” will feature the Minneapolis-based cast who starred in the national broadcast on PBS in 2020 and the Drama Desk Award-winning Off-Broadway run.
Jan. 20-Feb. 27, 2022, is reserved for “La Bohème.” Performed in Italian with English titles projected above the stage, directed by Rothstein, it will feature Corissa Bussian, Siena Forest, Darrius Morton and David Walton.
March 30-May 8 will see the area premiere of “Jelly’s Last Jam,” the multiple Tony- and Drama Desk Award-winning musical with book by George C. Wolfe and music by Jelly Roll Morton. Latté Da’s Associate Artistic Director Kelli Foster Warder will direct and Sanford Moore will be music supervisor. Andre Shoals will be featured.
From June 8-July 12, “Twelve Angry Men,” based on the teleplay by Reginald Rose, will have its world premiere. Rothstein will direct this new American musical set in a small New York City jury room on “the hottest day of the year.” With Charlie Clark, Bradley Greenwald, T. Mychael Rambo and Jon-Michael Reese.
Next up, summer 2022’s Next Festival of all new works.
And the lights will be back on at the Ritz.
Season tickets are on sale now to current season ticketholders. They will go on sale to the general public Aug. 9. Three-show packages start at $90. Buy online or call the box office at 612-339-3003.
To hear that sound again: The full Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall
We had plans but they changed. So late last Saturday morning, we bought a pair of tickets in Balcony C at the rear of Orchestra Hall for the Minnesota Orchestra’s Summer Opening concert that night.
Ours weren’t the only plans that had changed. Russian conductor Dima Slobodeniouk was originally scheduled to conduct the weekend’s concerts; his travel arrangements were canceled by COVID. Music Director Osmo Vänskä thought he had the summer off; he stepped in with a week’s notice and saved the day.
The program began with Hector Berlioz’s festive “Le Corsaire” Overture (a rousing tribute to the life of a pirate), continued with Florence Price’s beautiful Piano Concerto (a first for soloist Jon Kimura Parker and the Minnesota Orchestra) and ended with Richard Strauss’ famous tone poem “Death and Transfiguration.” The whole concert lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, with chairs and a Steinway being moved around between selections, and Parker, the orchestra’s creative partner for summer programming, welcoming us and telling us a bit about what we were about to hear. Parker is very good at talking to an audience, knowledgeable and warm and efficient.
Midway through the concert, during the break between the Price and the Strauss, Parker asked Vänskä how he had come up to speed so quickly. Vänskä said matter-of-factly that he had conducted two of the three pieces earlier in his career (one in 1982!) and the third was by a composer he knew from conducting another work with the “same musical language.” Well, that explained it.
We had seen the orchestra on June 11, its first time performing before an in-person audience, but this night was different. There were more people in the house; capacity had been increased from 25% to 50%, and while the hall still wasn’t full, it was fuller, and you could feel it. There were more people on the stage. For the first time since March 13, 2020, when guest conductor Juanjo Mena led the musicians and soloist Kirill Gerstein in a now-historic concert played to an empty hall and broadcast on Classical MPR, the full complement of the orchestra was on stage. The horns were in a gleaming row at the back. Two harps were required for the Strauss. The strings were seated close enough together to share music stands.
We hadn’t been in the same room with a full orchestra since February 2020. There’s really nothing like it. The sound doesn’t come from headphones or speakers, it comes from all around you. It fills every corner of the space you’re in. Even when it gets impossibly soft and quiet, you can hear it. When it suddenly gets loud – thanks a lot, Richard Strauss, for those timpani crashes – you jump in your seat. It’s almost always an emotional journey. It’s immensely satisfying.
Last Friday, the orchestra announced a full season of ambitious music making. “Two words,” Parker quipped. “Sub. Scribe.”
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
L Wednesday through Saturday, July 21-24: 2021 Minneapolis Aquatennial. With all of the postponements, cancellations and disappointment we’ve experienced over the past several months, can we count on Aquatennial showing up? We really need a parade and fireworks. The calendar is full of summer-in-the-city events: lawn games at Peavey Plaza, the Torchlight Parade, a piano performance at IDS Center by Nachito Herrera, the River Rats Water Ski Show, baseball at Target Field, an open house at Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock and Dam, a Jonny Pops Ice Cream Social, and those reliably jaw-dropping Target Fireworks. To name a few. Did you know that our Target Fireworks are one of the top five annual fireworks displays in the nation?
L Thursday, July 22: Walker Art Center, 7-9 p.m.: July Green Roof Poetry. Tarik Dobbs is an Arab American queer writer and author of the chapbook “Dancing on the Tarmac.” Michael Kleber-Diggs is the author of the 2021 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize winning “Worldly Things,” published by Milkweed Editions. Gretchen Marquette is the author of “May Day,” a Minnesota Book Award finalist published by Graywolf. Lara Mimosa Montes is the author of “Thresholes,” published by Coffee House, and “The Somnambulist.”
V Thursday July 22, 12 noon: Minneapolis Institute of Art: The Dance of Shiva: A Performance by Aparna Ramaswamy. Watch Ragamala’s co-artistic director dance to celebrate Mia’s recently conserved and reinstalled sculpture of Shiva Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance. The first sculpture from India in Mia’s collection, it represents the rhythm of the cosmos. Read more about it here. This pre-recorded video premiere will be followed by a conversation with Ramaswamy and Pujan Gandhi, Mia’s assistant curator of South and Southeast Asian art. Free with registration.
L Friday, July 23 6-8 p.m.: Gibbs Farm: Minnesota Sinfonia: Family Lighter Side Concert. Music from Broadway and the movies, with tangos, waltzes, marches and more. The music starts at 7 but you’re welcome to bring a picnic and arrive as early as 6 p.m. Bring your own seating (picnic blankets, lawn chairs) and set up your seating 6 feet from other family groups. Limited picnic tables. Free with registration. Gibbs Farm is part of the Ramsey County Historical Society.