Car racing and barbecue may have gotten a head start around here, but dont forget Beethoven. Or War Horse. Or Nutcracker. Or Madonna or Justin Bieber.
From theaters and museums dotting uptown to storefront venues tucked into neighborhoods, Charlotte offers much more than the stereotypical Carolina culture.
The Charlotte Symphony will not only start its season with Beethoven but end with him. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is spotlighting Alberto Giacometti, the Swiss artist whose slender sculptures have made headlines by commanding fat prices. Opera Carolina will fit out Mozarts fairy tale The Magic Flute with sets and costumes by Japanese artist Jun Kaneko. If you want something with U.S. roots, The Red Badge of Courage will be reborn at Childrens Theatre of Charlotte as a hip-hop musical.
Speaking of Americana: Some cultural groups are taking a cue from the Democratic National Convention and mounting shows that look at the history and culture of the country that the revved-up politicians hope to lead.
The Mint Museum Uptown one of a cluster of arts venues on South Tryon Street is featuring the works of Thornton Dial, an Alabama artist whose works are inspired by the society around us. The Mint is also showcasing jewelry belonging to former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who turned personal style into patriotic statements. Across the street from the Mint, the Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture is exhibiting America I AM, which contains scores of artifacts illustrating blacks contributions to American life.
Soon after the Democrats clear out of town, Charlottes cultural season will begin in earnest. The citys museums and professional performing groups had to tighten their belts during the recession, as did many of us, but theyre still here.
Besides playing traditional classical and pops concerts, the Charlotte Symphony is revamping the concert experience through its KnightSounds series, which often mixes music and multimedia. N.C. Dance Theatre, headed by two former standouts of the New York City Ballet, ranges from the annual Nutcracker to creations by its own choreographers.
Opera Carolina fills its casts with artists who perform with companies across the United States and Europe. Blumenthal Performing Arts, which runs a handful of uptown theaters, brings in music and theater acts headed by a string of touring Broadway shows each season. This years list includes the World War II saga War Horse, the ever-popular Les Miserables and Wicked, and the movie spinoffs Sister Act and Catch Me If You Can.
Offering a switch from the Broadway blockbusters, Charlottes theater groups usually operate on more of an up-close-and-personal scale. Actors Theatre of Charlotte will include a pair of Tony Award-winning dramas: God of Carnage, about two couples thrown together by a disagreement between their children, and Red, which depicts the 20th-century painter Mark Rothko as he tries to create a masterpiece. Theatre Charlotte will range this season from the cozy Fiddler on the Roof to the confrontational Whos Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Charlottes cultural groups havent forgotten their hometowns roots. Alongside the exhibitions that the Levine Museum of the New South brings in and out, theres a permanent one on Charlottes history. The citys trajectory comes across in the shows title: From Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers.
Homegrown bands and up-and-comers from anywhere find showcases in clubs and small theaters such as the Evening Muse and Neighborhood Theater in NoDa or the Tremont Music Hall in South End. If any of them makes it big, as the Avett Brothers from Concord have done, they may ultimately perform at the Time Warner Cable Arena or Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, which host the stars.
The arenas schedule includes country singer Carrie Underwood and pop icon Madonna in November, with Justin Bieber coming along in January. Verizon Amphitheatre brings pop singer Kelly Clarkson and country star Brad Paisley within days of one another in November. Paisleys opening act will be American Idol winner Scotty McCreery another example of homegrown Carolinas culture.