Sept. 22-30 at Ordway Center

Sophisticates may look down their noses, but Verdi's "Nabucco," which opens Minnesota Opera's 50th season, changed the face of Europe: Its great chorus of Hebrew slaves, "Va, pensiero," became the unofficial anthem of the nascent Italian nation (and was sung spontaneously by mourners at the composer's funeral). Designed and directed by operatic newsmaker Thaddeus Strassberger, the new production features acclaimed bass-baritone John Relyea as Zaccaria, the Hebrews' high priest; Michael Christie (above), newly installed as the company's music director, conducts.

5th and Washington Sts., St. Paul, 612-333-6669 or mnopera.org.

St. Paul Chamber Orchestra:

Rare is the season schedule as stimulating as the SPCO's -- a judicious mix of today's music with fresh takes on old friends. In the former category: a reprise (Sept. 28-29) of Maria Schneider's "Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories," commissioned by the SPCO in 2008, and the world premiere (Nov. 15-17) of a work by Turin-born Nicola Campogrande under Roberto Abbado's astute baton. In the latter category: artistic partners Christian Zacharias and Edo de Waart converge on Brahms' expansive Piano Concerto No. 2 (Sept. 14-15), and Danish conductor Thomas Dausgaard, lauded for his chamber-orchestra-scaled recordings of the Beethoven symphonies, assays that composer's electrifying Seventh (Oct. 5-6). The early-starting SPCO has September largely to itself; it's a splendid moment to investigate the orchestra's new, well-nigh-irresistible $5-per-month membership arrangement.

Ordway Center, 5th and Washington Sts., St. Paul, and neighborhood locations, 651-292-1144 or thespco.org.

Chopin Society: The season opener is twice a homecoming. It celebrates the series' return to its traditional digs at Macalester College's Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center (now admirably renovated) and the return of the extraordinary Simone Dinnerstein, an iconoclastic Brooklynite whose self-produced CD of Bach's "Goldberg" Variations whisked her to an idiosyncratic stardom. Her savory program will comprise the first two of Bach's partitas, Schumann's "Kinderszenen," morsels of Chopin and Brahms, and Daniel Felsenfeld's "Cohen" Variations, which grew from an arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne."

3 p.m. Oct. 7, 1600 Grand Av., St. Paul, 612-822-0123, or chopinsocietymn.org.

VocalEssence presents "An Evening in Havana," the first-ever United States appearance of the Cuba-based choral group Schola Cantorum Coralina. Conducted by Alina Orraca, the ensemble has toured extensively. Its singers perform a blend of classical and Latin-infused choral music.

Nov. 10 & 11, House of Hope Presbyterian Church, 797 Summit Av., St. Paul, 612-371-5656, or vocalessence.org.

Zeitgeist: For a guided tour of the Twin Cities' flourishing new-music scene, nothing beats Zeitgeist's annual New Music Cabaret, now in its fourth year. In a cooperative spirit our politicians would do well to emulate, 10 local groups will offer three-plus hours of edgily eclectic fare daily for four consecutive days, all in cozy Studio Z; headliners include Atlantis Quartet (10 p.m. Nov. 15), Ensemble 61 (7 p.m. Nov. 16), Gao Hong & Butterfly (10 p.m. Nov. 17) and Carei Thomas & Friends (5 p.m. Nov. 18).

Nov. 15-18, Studio Z, 275 E. 4th St., Suite 200, St. Paul, zeitgeistnewmusic.com.