Fall classical music preview: 'Silent Night' at the Ordway

  • Article by: LARRY FUCHSBERG , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 12, 2011 - 9:55 AM
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"Silent Night"

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Nov. 12-20: 'Silent Night' at Ordway Center

Traditionalists, relax: Mozart & Co. aren't leaving town. But nothing bespeaks a healthy musical culture so much as a lively new-music scene, and the scene this fall, with its passel of premieres, is the liveliest in years. The season's premier premiere is arguably "Silent Night," by composer Kevin Puts (in his first operatic outing) and librettist Mark Campbell. Based on a 2005 film, the work dramatizes the so-called "Christmas truce" of 1914, when soldiers from three armies dug in on World War I's Western Front briefly suspended the grim work of killing each other, meeting in no man's land to break bread, play football and sing carols. (Opera being opera, there's also a love story.) Can a compelling evening in the theater be shaped from these materials? Minnesota Opera's production, directed by Eric Simonson, should supply the answer.
  • 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12, 15, 17 and 19, 2 p.m. Nov. 20. Ordway Center, 345 Washington St., St. Paul. $20-$200. 612-333-6669 or www.mnopera.org
  • Oct. 2 at Weisman Art Museum

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Having already launched its season with a world premiere by just-turned-30 Nico Muhly, what can the SPCO do for an encore? Plenty. In the next month alone, it will proffer Magnus Lindberg's 2006 Violin Concerto, with soloist Simone Lamsma (Sept. 16-17), works by Anna Clyne and Earl Kim (Sept. 23 and 25), an all-American program on the adventurous Engine 408 series (Sept. 29, Oct. 1) and meaty miniatures by György Kurtag, played by pianist Jonathan Biss (Sept. 30, Oct. 2, 6, 7 and 8).

Minnesota Orchestra

What's the plural of Paulus? To kick off its 109th season -- its last in the unrenovated Orchestra Hall-- the orchestra turns not only to Minnesota composer Stephen Paulus but also to his jazz-trumpet-playing, Brooklyn-dwelling son, Greg. "TimePiece," their first joint opus, melds classical, improvisatory and electronic elements; the premiere will feature the younger Paulus, a quartet of eminent local jazzers and, to ice the cake, a few clarinet licks from conductor Osmo Vänskä.

  • 7:30 p.m. Sept. 29. 8 p.m. Sept. 30-Oct. 1
  • Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls
  • $26-$84
  • 612-371-5656, or minnesotaorchestra.org

Music in the Park Series

Since its founding in 1979, this series has been a haven for the new. That tradition continues with this season's inaugural concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, highlighted by a "preview performance" of a still-untitled work by the remarkable Osvaldo Golijov, whose 1992 "Yiddishbbuk," also written for the quartet, garnered two Grammy nominations. Haydn and Dvorak contribute the bookends.

  • 4 p.m. Oct. 16
  • St. Anthony Park United Church of Christ, 2129 Commonwealth Av., St. Paul
  • $24
  • 651-292-3268, or www.schubert.org

Ensemble 61

The latest arrival on the Twin Cities' new-music scene made an auspicious debut in May. The group promises wine and hors d'oeuvres at "Breaking Ground," its inviting season opener/fundraiser; on the program are works by American maverick Frederic Rzewski and steel pan virtuoso Andy Akiho, as well as arrangements of Radiohead songs.

  • 8 p.m. Sept. 17. Studio Z, 275 E. 4th St., Suite 200, St. Paul
  • $25
  • 651-357-0297, or www.ensemble61.com

Zeitgeist

Zeitgesit has long been Minnesota's most consistent purveyor of the new, and its "Fall Musical Harvest" (which neatly coincides with the St. Paul Art Crawl) also addresses multiple appetites, offering "dishes prepared from the bounty of the St. Paul Farmers Market" along with music by banjo-picking Paul Elwood, the ubiquitous Nico Muhly and St. Cloud's Scott Miller -- the premiere of "Forth and Back," with smashing soprano Carrie Henneman Shaw.

Corey Dargel

Corey Dargel, a thirtysomething Brooklynite, might or might not strike you as a "classical" musician. But listen to his witty, worldly songs of affection and disaffection, and the question seems moot. With violinist Todd Reynolds and the Twin Cities' own Ensemble 61, the Texas-born, Oberlin-trained Dargel will perform songs from his cycles "Every Day Is the Same Day" and "13 Near-Death Experiences."

  • 8 p.m. Nov. 9-10
  • SPCO Center, 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul
  • $22 (Walker members $18)
  • 612-375-7600 or www.walkerart.org

VocalEssence

VocalEssence opens its season with two works for massed chorus and orchestra that it co-commissioned. Greek mythology is the subject of William Bolcom's "Prometheus," portraying the Greek god who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Michael Daugherty's "Mount Rushmore" explores American mythology, setting the words of four great U.S. presidents. They are joined by Magnum Chorum, the Singers, St. Olaf College Manitou Singers and Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra. --William Randall Beard

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