Baltimore Symphony to showcase 'revolutionary women' during 2011-12 season
"Revolutionary women," including Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman, will be showcased during the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's 2011-2012 season, which also packs in music by some relatively revolutionary men, too.
BSO music director Marin Alsop, something of a revolutionary herself in a profession still dominated by males, will lead the orchestra in performances of Arthur Honegger’s rarely encountered 1935 oratorio “Jeanne d’Arc au Boucher” (“Joan of Arc at the Stake”) in November.
“The impetus for this is that 2012 is thought to be the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc,” Alsop said. “She fascinates me in a number of ways. It seemed to be the perfect time to program the Honegger work, which is such a cool piece.”
The oratorio, which will involve the Morgan State University Choir, Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and Peabody Children’s Chorus, will also be presented at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Later in the season, the French visionary will again receive attention in a program that combines a showing of Carl Dreyer’s highly valued 1928 silent film “The Passion of Joan of Arc” with the performance of a contemporary score by Richard Einhorn, “Voices of Light.”
That program will be featured on the BSO’s visit to Oregon and California in March 2012, the orchestra’s first domestic tour since 2000. The trip will include a three-day residency at the University of California, Berkeley.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to promote the terrific orchestra we have,” Alsop said, “and to be ambassadors of our region to another part of the U.S.”
With Joan of Arc as a centerpiece for the season, “I then tried to build my programs from there, focusing not just on women’s issues, but issues of oppression and justice,” Alsop said, “and focusing on women in roles as creators or soloists.”
The struggles and aspirations of Harriet Tubman inspired “Chuphshah! Harriet's Drive to Canaan,” an orchestral work by Baltimore-based composer James Lee III that will receive its world premiere in September.
Next season will also see the BSO’s first performance of a 1990 work by Scottish composer James MacMillan, “The Confession of Isobel Gowdie,” which refers to a 17th-century Scottish woman who admitted to being a witch and was apparently burned at the stake (something of a subtext for the season).
Music composed by women is on the lineup, including Jennifer Higdon's 2010 Grammy Award-winning Percussion Concerto and a piece that could serve as the season’s motto: Joan Tower's “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman.”
Alsop will tackle several hefty works from the standard repertoire, including
Mahler's Symphony No. 2, which will open the season. She'll be on the podium for Prokofiev's Fifth, Tchaikovsky's Fifth and Sixth ("Pathetique") and Shostakovich's Seventh ("Leningrad"), as well as such evergreens as Strauss' "Also sprach Zarathustra," Ravel's "Bolero" and Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring."
Speaking of standards, Beethoven's Ninth will be back yet again, conducted by Mario Venzago on a program with Bruckner's "Te Deum." Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2, which was played just a few weeks ago on a BSO program by Yuja Wang, will be back, too, this time with Andre Watts as soloist.
Other popular pieces resurfacing include Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet," Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," Stravinsky's "Firebird" Suite, Copland's "Appalachian Spring," Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun" and "La Mer," Gershwin's "An American in Paris."
Balancing that hit parade will be such items as Symphony No. 4 ("From Mission San Juan Bautista") by Baltimore-based Kevin Puts.
Several names familiar to BSO audiences will be on the guest roster: violinists Hilary Hahn (for the annual gala), Itzhak Perlman (he'll conduct, too), Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianist Leon Fleisher (in Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand); conductors Gunther Herbig, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Jun Markl, Vasily Petrenko, Louis Langree. Among those making their BSO debuts next season will be pianist Olga Kern.
The BSO SuperPops season finds principal pops conductor Jack Everly leading programs devoted to, among other things, the music of Gershwin, Elton John (with vocalist Michael Cavanaugh),and the team of Schonberg-Boublil responsible for "Les Miserables" and "Miss Saigon."
The BSO's summer season for 2010 will offer a Beatles tribute band, music of John Williams and more Gershwin.
One thing missing from next season is the Holiday Spectacular with its popular tap-dancing Santas.
“We decided to take a break after six years,” said BSO president and CEO Paul Meecham. “We just weren’t getting the level of attendance we needed.”
Instead, the orchestra will present “Holiday Cirque de la Symphonie,” a version of the program with aerialists and jugglers that was a hit for the BSO last year.
FILE PHOTO OF 'VISIONS OF LIGHT'