Minnesota Orchestra season has a lighter side

  • Article by: GRAYDON ROYCE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 28, 2014 - 10:47 AM

Four concerts for families are included, along with a newly titled pops program and the popular Sommerfest.

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First look at the New Orchestra Hall.

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The Minnesota Orchestra announced four family-friendly concerts in addition to a “Live at Orchestra Hall” series and the first Sommerfest at Orchestra Hall since 2011.

The “Live” program replaces what was formerly known as the pops season.

Highlights of that series include singers Matthew Morrison of TV’s “Glee” and Bobby McFerrin, trumpeters Chris Botti and Doc Severinsen and comedian Bill Cosby.

Andrew Litton returns as Sommerfest artistic director for a program heavy on piano and featuring Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” as the semi-staged opera that traditionally concludes the festival.

The Friends & Family concerts are new to the orchestra, with funding support from Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra (formerly known as WAMSO). Those under 17 are admitted free with the purchase of an adult ticket.

Shows and dates

The series begins March 2 with pop-culture selections that include Richard Strauss’ “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”

On April 27, Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” will be featured in a concert led by associate conductor Courtney Lewis. Canadian singer and violinist Chris McKhool brings his quartet to Minneapolis on May 11. Lewis leads a performance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf,” with actors from the old Theatre de la Jeune Lune on July 20.

Sarah Hicks, pops conductor since 2009, is the principal conductor of “Live at Orchestra Hall.” She leads the orchestra in Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” while the film is presented, Feb. 28-March 1.

Botti comes in March 20-21, and Hicks conducts a program with Morrison on April 5.

Severinsen follows on April 12-13. McFerrin, a frequent visitor to the Twin Cities, appears April 19.

“Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II,” a sequel to a popular 2012 show, features animated Warner Bros. characters May 23-24. Hicks conducts “Pixar in Concert,” with excerpts from “Toy Story,” “The Incredibles” and “Up” on June 21-22.

Cosby performs at 2 and 8 p.m. on May 31. “The Midtown Men” with singers from the Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys” joining the orchestra, is set for June 20.

Details about Sommerfest, which hasn’t been held at Orchestra Hall since 2011, remain sparse. The traditional launch on July 5 features a program of American music.

Litton conducts Rachmaninoff and Brahms July 10-11, with Natasha Paremski playing the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3. She plays Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 on July 12.

Lewis conducts Mozart and Rachmaninoff on July 18, with a Broadway-themed show the next night.

Litton conducts from the piano when the orchestra plays Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” on July 25.

“Die Fledermaus,” the 1874 operetta by the younger Strauss, is on July 26.

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