Charlotte has two arts audiences that constantly demand attention.
One embraces convention, familiarity, beloved “classics” – whether that noun implies long-standing masterpieces or merely things that have acquired the patina of age. The other requires variety, freshness, newer directions and ideas.
There’s good news for 2016-17: Both groups get what they want, often in the same season at the same venue, in a year unusual around here for its breadth.
[Find where you’re going on our interactive map. You can check the calendar by discipline, too: classical music (plus pops, jazz and more); dance; theater; literary events; pop music; and visual arts.]
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If the noun “Broadway” summons iconic images of “Cabaret,” “Jersey Boys” and “Rent,” Blumenthal Performing Arts will accommodate you. If you want to see musicals that aren’t so enshrined in history, Tony-winners “Fun Home” and “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” will be your meat.
The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra will play things we’ve heard countless times – Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, Brahms’ First Symphony – plus things we’ve seldom or never heard: pieces by György Ligeti and Peter Maxwell Davies, plus the world premiere of a percussion concerto by Leonard Mark Lewis.
If you can’t image dance devoid of tutus, Charlotte Ballet supplies “The Nutcracker” (with fresh sets and costumes) and “Sleeping Beauty.” If you prefer works created since Teddy Roosevelt entered the Oval Office, try Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16” and Sasha Janes’ “Wuthering Heights.”
And Opera Carolina continues its Puccini cycle with the seldom-seen “Girl of the Golden West” – which the company has never done in its 68-year history – yet also mounts Verdi’s “La Traviata” for the 10th time in the same span.
Theatre Charlotte has perfected this programming. It opens and closes with musicals from the last two decades, “Saturday Night Fever” and “Memphis.” In between come the evergreen “A Christmas Carol” and three plays that have been around for a total of 173 years.
The tango between the well-known and the little-known goes on every year in Charlotte – and, of course, in larger cities, though bigger population bases make survival easier for risk-takers.
A Mecklenburg organization may devote itself specifically to newer work, as Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte has done for more than a quarter-century, yet existence here usually depends on a delicate balance. (Of course, every play may be new to the target audience at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, if not to parents.)
So adventurous playgoers and concertgoers must look harder and dig deeper to find stuff that intrigues them. Early music, for instance, virtually never gets a hearing on big stages, but Carolina Pro Musica has kept it alive for nearly 40 years.
Drama groups such as On Q, Queen City Theatre and Three Bone Theatre have all become regular tenants of Duke Energy Theater at Spirit Square – an intimate, if not hugely comfortable, place to see a show – and offer works nobody else will be likely to do.
And though calendars in this 2016-17 arts preview include only organizations that announce full seasons in advance, groups that produce one show at a time or hop from venue to venue pop up all year long. Residents who say “There’s nothing to do in Charlotte” – or even “There’s nothing new in Charlotte” – just haven’t bothered to find out.