Welcome to the 09/10 Season!posted on September 14th, 2009 by Jedediah Wheeler
While conceding that responses to entertainment differ wildly from person to person, I’m going to boldly assert that, in my judgment, the 09/10 season of Peak Performances is the most playful and therefore the most entertaining season offered since MSU’s Alexander Kasser Theater opened in October 2004. For a taste of what’s to come, watch the clip below:
We had a stellar start this past Saturday: the Shanghai Quartet and special guests from the Tokyo String Quartet performed a rousing, emotionally complex evening of Brahms, Beethoven, and Dvorák. Up next, Looking for Josephine re-creates the saucy Folies Bergère revue that made Josephine Baker a star in 1920s Paris. In October, Fête de Louisiane! turns the Kasser into a dance party, as the newest generation of Louisiana-based artists play the latest in Zydeco and Cajun music. Then, with UNCIVIL WARS (November), director/choreographer David Gordon channels Bertolt Brecht and spotlights the music hall compositions of Hanns Eisler, whose subversive work was banned in Nazi Germany. Gordon follows up this piece of sharp political satire with an absolutely joyful musical theater novelty based on Isaac Bashevis Singer’s play Shlemiel the First (January). And unless laughing out loud is too self-conscience an act, Doug Elkins & Friends promise a delightful Fräulein Maria (March), an irreverent dance send-up of the Rogers and Hammerstein classic The Sound of Music, set to the original score of the Julie Andrews film.
Part of the Peak Performances mission is to bring to your attention extraordinary artists whose originality doesn’t fit any mold. October ‘09 features Marino Formenti, an irrepressible piano virtuoso whose performance of a musical dialogue between works by Czech composer György Kurtág and a wide range of seminal composers is a showcase of Formenti’s dazzling understanding of both his instrument and the richness of compositions created for it. Paul O’Dette, a master of the lute, plays the music of Renaissance maestro John Dowland with incomparable beauty. Neither the lute nor Dowland are prime entries in today’s grand concert halls; yet Dowland was the Sinatra of Renaissance England! Margaret Jenkins, a pioneer of new dance from San Francisco, kicks off a slam-dunk dance season with Other Suns (A Trilogy), her company’s trans-Pacific collaboration with China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company, featuring original music performed live by Paul Dresher and his ensemble.
Dance continues in the winter and spring with Los Angeles-based Lula Washington Dance Theatre and UK choreographers Wayne McGregor and Charlotte Vincent. To celebrate her company’s 30th anniversary, Lula Washington looks both forward and back with a vibrant program that includes the world premiere of a new work, WWW.CONNECTIONS.2010, as well as high-energy pieces from the company’s repertoire (January). McGregor’s company, Random Dance, brings ENTITY (February), the hottest dance work I’ve ever seen! Vincent and her company return like gangbusters with a double bill that includes a reprise of Broken Chords (a smash hit in our 07/08 season) and the North American premiere of If We Go On, a new piece co-commissioned by Peak Performances (April).
Rounding out our musical offerings, Kronos Quartet (February) dives headfirst into multi-ethnic compositions, and Miguel Zenón (February) extends the musicality of the saxophone by exploring his Puerto Rican musical heritage. The season concludes with a boom from Dublin’s Crash Ensemble (May), conducted by the profoundly talented Alan Pierson and featuring a rare stateside appearance by Ireland’s leading Sean-nos singer, Iarla Ó Lionáird.
We believe in the capacity of both the artist and the audience to excel. Despite the woeful economy and the global prognosis for disorder, these times are more creative than ever before.
The Peak Season is upon you!
Jedediah Wheeler is Executive Director of Arts & Cultural Programming at Montclair State University.