Music Beat: Get ready for a busy music scene this season

  • By Peter Jacobi H-T Columnist Aug 28, 2016Alejandro Gomez Guillen

It begins. After a very sleepy month of August, the Bloomington musical events series for 2016-17 gets under way. We will have music!

As usual, the season calendar contains gifts for everyone., whether you like early music or contemporary, music for orchestra or wind ensemble, for chorus or chamber group, for percussion or strings, for opera or dance, for musicals or jazz And the more you like, the richer is the opportunity for you to be entertained or inspired.

The orchestral season starts early, on Sept. 7, with an Indiana University Philharmonic concert, led by Arthur Fagen who, following the retirement of David Effron, becomes the Jacobs School’s senior faculty conductor, and a highly respected one. Maestro Fagen has long proved himself a master of both the symphonic and operatic repertoire. On this occasion, he focuses on music from the operas of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. His vocalists are a faculty veteran, baritone Wolfgang Brendel, and a faculty newcomer, soprano Jane Dutton.

On Dec. 7, the Philharmonic also closes the late summer to early winter portion of the season, this time with a guest on the podium, Federico Cortese, an Italian who currently serves as music director of the Boston Youth Orchestra and New England String Ensemble, as well as conductor of the Harvard Radcliffe Orchestra. Cortese is but one of several guests signed to lead IU orchestral ensembles between now and December, some repeaters and some first timers.

Off campus, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra opens its season led by a new artistic director, Alejandro Gomez Guillen, a young man with a long list of impressive credentials. He’ll be on the podium October 1 for “Happily Ever After?,” a program about and of opera, prepared in collaboration with Reimagining Opera for Kids, a local outfit that has been serving up inviting programs for children. A Thanksgiving week holiday program is also in the works for the orchestra, by now an event of tradition.

Speaking of opera, IU Opera Theater in mid-September gives us Gaetano Donizetti’s delicious comedy, “The Daughter of the Regiment,” last staged here in 1984; then in mid-October the local premiere of “Florencia en el Amazonas” (“Florencia in the Amazon”) by Mexican composer Daniel Catan; then, in early November, Giacomo Puccini’s widely-loved tearjerker, “Madama Butterfly.” Catan’s opera, premiered in 1996, relates the story of an opera singer returning to her homeland to perform in the Manaus opera house, deep in the Brazilian jungle, hoping also to find her lost love, a man she left behind a couple of decades ago.

For IU Ballet Theater, two productions are on the calendar: the Fall Ballet (as September changes over to October) and the always-awaited holiday delight, “The Nutcracker” (first week of December). The Fall Ballet program, titled “As Time Goes By,” includes works of George Balanchine (“Divertimento No. 15”) and Twyla Tharp (“As Time Goes By”), along with a world premiere, a piece by Sasha Janes, associate artistic director of the Charlotte Ballet.

For jazz fans, there are not only the Monday evening concerts in the Musical Arts Center but, on October 15, a concert at the IU Auditorium featuring Chris Botti, the celebrated trumpeter and IU alum. For fans of the guitar, there’s the Indiana International Guitar Festival in late October.

Choral music will be much in evidence. The Bloomington Chamber Singers have planned two programs for the fall: an evening of German romantic part songs by Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Brahms on October 22 and “A Dickens Christmas,” described as a multimedia holiday concert inspired by Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on December 3. Both sound promising but, regrettably, there’s no “Messiah” Sing-Along this year.

Voces Novae, the community choir, lovingly led by Susan Swaney, marks its 20th anniversary. Its project for the fall is a program celebrating the centenary of Indiana’s state parks. The chosen venue is Spring Mill State Park (September 24-25).

Quarryland Men’s Ch

orus, marking its 15th season, offers two performances of “Celebrate Traditions,” its holiday concert, on December 17 and 18.

There are choices on the IU campus, too, including a concert September 27 by NOTUS, the Contemporary Vocal Ensemble (“Stand Before the Sunrise: Music to Examine Our Privilege” is the provocative title) and an Oratorio Chorus and Concert Orchestra performance of Francis Poulenc’s “Gloria “ and William Walton’s “Belshazzar’s Feast” on November 16. The Singing Hoosiers introduce their season October 15 and continue it with the annual “Chimes of Christmas” in December.

The on campus wind ensembles resume their always busy schedule of performances and, off campus, the Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble, now ten years old, offers “American Portraits,” a program of American music, on November 7.

The Bloomington Bach Cantata Project continues. Organist Janette Fishell presents a two-program series featuring the complete organ works of Cesar Franck (one October 3, the other at a later date). Lutenist Nigel North, on October 16, begins a six-concert series devoted to “Bach on the Lute. “

The Baroque Orchestra performs several times, as does the I

U New Music Ensemble, it with a guest composer featured on each program. There’ll be chamber recitals devoted to music of Schubert and Brahms. And if you’re fond of musicals: a 20th anniversary national tour of “Rent” is launched at the IU Auditorium (September 12-14); IU Theater presents “Jesus Christ Superstar” (November 4-12), and Cardinal Stage revives “Oliver!” (December 16-31).

Contact Peter Jacobi at pjacobi@heraldt.com.