Best of 2017 – Classical/Dance

Salt Marsh Opera's production of Gianni Schicchi

Best of 2017 – Classical/Dance

This year I focused most of my going out energy on events that I could review for the following week’s newsletters: art exhibits, movies, and plays. That means that I didn’t get out to nearly as much classical performance or dance as I did last year. On top of that, 17 of the 39 performance events I recommended took place just in just three months: February, March, and July. On a related note, if you’ve ever wanted to write about local performance stuff and aren’t actively invested in promoting your own thing, drop a line! I could use the help.

Some positive notes that are way too scattered to be considered a definitive best-of list or anything:

  • Fall River choir Sine Nomine did a wintry Brahms Requiem that I missed in Providence but caught the following night in New Bedford. It was the only choral performance I saw all year but I did enjoy it.
  • I also enjoyed Parallel Corridors / Maps of Space, an improvisational dance conceived by Lila Hurwitz in collaboration with Shura Baryshnikov, Heidi Henderson and Cathy Nicoli. That happened as part of the Grids exhibit at Periphery Space this spring.
  • FirstWorks gave us a dance twofer in February: Rennie Harris (yay) and Paul Taylor (not yay). Harris’ was a lot of fun and a lot of eye candy, though Taylor’s bizarre world premiere was goofy and off-putting.
  • Some good news on the classical front: Community MusicWorks turned 20 while the Music Mansion rebooted its contemporary music programming, giving the historic mansion a much needed publicity boost.
  • For slightly edgier programming, I really liked the Tuesday night programming at Loie Fuller, which ran the gamut from chamber music to drony rock.
  • For Take Magazine I profiled Providence composers Kirsten Volness in February and James Falzone in April.
  • It was nice to see the Rhode Island Philharmonic do their Summer Pops show in Roger Williams Park, though all of that had to do with the setting and very little of that had to do with the Philharmonic, whose grouchy conductor seemed put off by the presence of toddlers dancing in front of the performance. (Dude, you’re doing a free show in the park! Calm down.)
  • Overall I recommended 19 classical and contemporary classical events, 4 choral performances, 10 dance events, 4 operas (2 of which were Met simulcasts at the Showcase), and 2 larger events that sort of defied categorization.

You can’t see them all
I missed so much. I only heard good things about the Festival of South African Dance at Rhode Island College. The fact that we live in an opera desert was ameliorated slightly by Connecticut’s Salt Marsh Opera Company crossing state lines to perform Gianni Schicchi [pictured] in Westerly. Along the same lines, Amber Vistein’s chamber opera Man Will Not Outlive The Weather (at Brown University) also sounded pretty intriguing.

Let’s pretend it never happened
The year’s biggest event – sorry, the year’s biggest non-event – was the sudden rise and spectacular collapse of the Newport Contemporary Music Series, a badly timed and woefully organized mess in which a feverishly ambitious young man envisioned a festival, somehow convinced Andre Previn and Philip Glass to attach their names to it, and then watched it all crumble from the auditorium of Portsmouth High School, leaving a fantastic Boston Globe story and a lot of unpaid musicians. Salon later called it the Fyre Festival of classical music.