Every time I prepare this preview guide for the arts season, I wish I were rich and retired.
Rich because I’d indulge every whim, from seeing the immortal Audra McDonald and Chita Rivera in the same month (next February, courtesy of Blumenthal Performing Arts) to attending musicals ranging from “Jesus Christ Superstar” to “101 Dalmatians.” (And I’d make donations to organizations large and small, because they all need dough in this economy.)
Retired because I’d be binge-watching – not TV shows but chamber music concerts and art exhibits and dance, mainstream and experimental.
Not that you need to be rich, actually. The cheapest tickets for big arts events remain within range of most budgets: $19 for Opera Carolina, $19 for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, $25 for Charlotte Ballet, $20 for touring shows in the PNC Broadway Lights Series. (And most shows offer student rush tickets.)
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But you do need to stay alert. Many groups fly below the radar, partly because small ones don’t have people committed full-time to marketing and publicity. You have to meet companies such as Citizens of the Universe or Kinetic Works or venerable Carolina Pro Musica halfway, because they can get lost in the cultural hubbub.
People sometimes ask me what I’m most looking forward to in a season, and I always answer the same way: new things. Not world premieres necessarily, but stuff Charlotteans can’t often see or hear.
An example: I want to know what the Charlotte Symphony’s much-improved brass section will do with Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben,” which the orchestra has done just once before in the last 30 years. I want to see Charlotte Ballet import Mark Godden’s “Angels in the Architecture” for the first time.
Opera Carolina will tackle Giuseppe Verdi’s first hit, “Nabucco,” for the second time in its 66 seasons. Charlotte Concerts will bring us Grammy-winning saxophonist Branford Marsalis, but not as a jazzman: He’ll play baroque concertos with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia.
We’ll get new work from Caroline Calouche (a semi-aerial dance version of “Carmina Burana”) and Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte (Diana Grisanti’s “River City,” which is running through Sept. 20). Fresh visual exhibits include “Connecting the World: The Panama Canal at 100,” in which the Mint Museum Uptown will show American artists’ views of the canal, and “British Invasion,” where Bechtler Museum of Modern Art features pieces by Henry Moore, Ben Nicholson, Dame Barbara Hepworth and others.
Of course, I’ll take my own advice and poke around in corners of the repertoire, from a Davidson College appearance by Marinus Ensemble (playing Piazzolla and Ravel) to a double bill of August Wilson’s dramas (On Q’s “Seven Guitars” and CPCC Theatre’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone”). Assuming, of course, that my wallet and stamina hold out.