Even a newcomer would guess a city our size had a ballet company that did “The Nutcracker,” a symphony that held a holiday concert with a title such as “Magic of Christmas” and a venue where touring shows on the order of “Hamilton” come and go. (We do, we do, and we do.) Yet there’s more to Charlotte culture than the obvious. If you’ve landed in the Queen City recently and are starting from scratch, these events will give you the flavor of the performing arts.
Sept. 14-Oct. 17: “Mainframe”
Check out “Mainframe,” the third juried exhibition organized by the Young Affiliates of the Mint (YAM), an organization you might want to get involved in as either a newbie or aficionado. This exhibition explores an accessible topic – technology – with a number of complicated, yet engaging, interactive works. Yes, there are even paintings about (sometimes made with) technology in this show! Sure, you have to enter the exhibition through the Mint Museum, but if you are worried about a stuffy scene you won’t find it here, especially in the Museum’s unfinished, raw fifth-floor space. – LN
Sept. 20 (McColl) and Nov. 30 (Goodyear):
Meet-the-artist events, particularly in open studio settings, give you a chance not only to talk with them but to get an inside look at their creative processes. These events usually have a social feel (read: not intimidating), since artists won’t be presenting lectures or formal talks about their work at this time. It’s an opportunity to look at artwork, some in process, and ask questions. Goodyear Arts typically has artists in residence from this community (Nov. 30 is a showcase for its October/November artists), while McColl Center for Art + Innovation hosts residencies for both local artists and those from outside the area, including many who are nationally recognized (Sept. 20 will let you meet five fall residents and see a new exhibition of alumni artists as well). – LN
Sept. 28-Oct. 21: “Matilda The Musical”
You don’t have to be or bring a child to enjoy work at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, and this song-and-dance version of Roald Dahl’s book provides the proof. It earned 12 Tony nominations and ran more than 1500 performances on Broadway, telling the story of a plucky little genius who defeats her tyrannical headmistress. CTC, one of the city’s two fully professional theaters along with Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, often adapts smaller works (such as “Last Stop on Market Street,” the production that follows this one). But the company likes to open with a pull-out-the-stops musical that tests its designers.
Nov. 2-3: Charlotte Symphony
Guest conductor Roberto Abbado leads Luciano Berio’s “Return to Madrid,” Mendelssohn’s Fourth Symphony (“Italian”) and Paganini’s First Violin Concerto (Sergej Krylov, soloist). The Charlotte Symphony has begun to introduce relatively new works to conservative Charlotte audiences, so this is a typical lineup now: a less mainstream short piece, a cornerstone of the symphonic literature and a great but less frequently played concerto. In fact, the Classical season will have a work that local audiences don’t know well on every program, from Beethoven’s overture to “The Ruins of Athens” to Eric Whitacre’s “Deep Field.”
Oct. 11-13: Fall Works
Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free,” a new piece set to Leonard Bernstein’s music by Sasha Janes, Medhi Walerski’s “Petite Cérémonie.” Charlotte Ballet’s offerings have become more diverse under artistic director Hope Muir, and this program is typical: A classic by a genius, a premiere by talented resident choreographer Janes, and an import from Europe that local audiences have never seen.
Though the company will also revive “Peter Pan” and “The Nutcracker” this year, Muir’s dancers have begun to perform more and more work that’s new here: A doubleheader of premieres built around Shakespearean themes follows in January.
Dec. 26-29: “The Hip-Hop Nutcracker”
The Queen City has at least four versions of the “Nutcracker” every year: An opulent one by Charlotte Ballet, one by CharlotteYouth Ballet that combines imported leads with locally trained young dancers, Caroline Calouche & Co.’s aerial abridgement set in the 21st century, and this one. (I saw it for the first time last year and wished I hadn’t waited.) Blumenthal Performing Arts has made a Knight Theatre holiday tradition of this version, which moves Tchaikovsky’s story to modern New York City and adds an onstage electric violinist and mixes by a live DJ. In a different way, it provides just as much pleasure.
Jan. 9: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
The city occasionally gets a visit from a long-famous, internationally acclaimed group or performer, and Charlotte Concerts usually brings in one or two a year. Besides pianist Emanuel Ax on Oct. 18, we’ll get the world’s best-known conductor-free orchestra, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. Orpheus will play with Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, who was named 2019 Artist of the Year by the International Classical Music Awards. Not that this group limits itself to classics: The season includes the Havana Cuba All-Stars playing jazz and a live orchestra accompanying a screening of “The Pink Panther.”
March 19-24: “Dear Evan Hansen”
Blumenthal Performing Arts now imports the touring version of every show to win a Tony for best musical, and 2019 will yield two of them: This year’s winner, “The Band’s Visit” (Aug. 6-25) and the winner from last year, a piece scored by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The title character is a high schooler whose new popularity depends upon his alleged closeness to a classmate who committed suicide. (If you can’t get enough Pasek and Paul, by the way, you’ll be glad to know their breakthrough musical – a stage version of the beloved film “A Christmas Story” – arrives Dec. 4-9.)
May 9, 11, 12: Peter Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin”
Opera lovers weaned on Verdi and Puccini will get a surprise this year: All of Opera Carolina’s mainstage operas are in French (Donizetti’s “La Fille Du Regiment” and Bizet’s “Carmen”) or Russian (“Onegin”). In the last, the baritone title character spurns a naïve woman’s adoration and has cause to regret it, but the soprano and tenor get most of the gorgeous, heart-on-the-sleeve melodies. Supertitles make everything clear, whatever the sung language may be, and you’re supporting local musicians: Almost all soloists come from out of town, but the chorus and Charlotte Symphony players in the pit live here.
June 6-29: “Fun Home”
Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, now comfortably settled into its new space at Queens University, will do a Tony-winning musical of its own: Jeannine Tesori and Lisa Kron’s tale about a lesbian growing up amid a baffled family in a Pennsylvania funeral home, taken from Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir. Even more daringly, in March, ATC will team with Children’s Theatre in an extraordinary joint world premiere of two connected plays by Steven Dietz: “The Great Beyond” at ATC and “The Ghost of Splinter Cove” at CTC. The two take place in the same house on the same night, with young people downstairs and adults overhead.
This story is part of an Observer underwriting project with the Thrive Campaign for the Arts, supporting arts journalism in Charlotte.