The wealth of performance talent in and around New Orleans is on full display this month, with curtains rising on dozens of area stages. Local symphony, opera and ballet organizations are in full swing and area theaters have a bounty of fine drama and music on tap.

The even better news is the coming months will be no less rich in opportunities for local audiences. Performing arts organizations have compiled one of their most exciting seasons in years, including appearances by many local and national stars.
The following is a sampling of what classical music, dance and theater organizations are offering this season, including our “hot picks” from their schedules. Check their Web sites or call their box offices now, so you won’t miss a chance to savor the season’s best.

Contemporary Arts Center.
Modern multidisciplinary arts and cultural programming hold sway at the CAC, from experimental visual arts, photography and sculpture to cutting-edge theatre, music and dance. Popular attractions this season will range from a modern opera, “Mikel Rouse’s Music for Minorities,” to GTA Road Theater’s black comedy entitled Start Up, to December’s “Holiday Sing-A-Long” with Harry Shearer and Judith Owen.

Hot picks. Big River (Nov. 6), a special presentation with New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, at NOCCA|Riverfront. Featuring Ellis Marsalis (piano), Don Vappie (banjo), Jeremy Davenport (vocals), Peter Martin (piano), Herlin Riley (drums), Reginald Veal (bass) and Victor Goines (saxophone).
“Fiesta Latina” (Nov. 10), an annual music and arts festival celebrating Latino and Hispanic culture, co-presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation.
Contemporary Arts Center, 900 Camp St., 528-3800, www.cacno.org.

Delta Festival Ballet.
Louisiana’s largest resident, professional dance company, with its own ballet school and a junior company, provides local, talented dancers opportunities for intensive study and performing experience. Under Artistic Director Joseph Giacobbe, the company performs often with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and is the official ballet company for the New Orleans Opera.
Hot pick. Nutcracker (Dec. 21-23), at Tulane’s Dixon Hall. Delta Festival’s presentation of the classic is an annual hit with audiences young and old.
Delta Festival Ballet, 3531 Severn Ave., Ste. 304A, Metairie, 888-0931, www.deltafestivalballet.com.

Jefferson Performing Arts Society. A culturally diverse arts organization that produces grand opera, musical, comedic and dramatic theatre, symphonic and choral concerts and many programs for young people, JPAS also tours its productions to communities throughout the region. The organization operates from three venues: Jefferson Performing Arts Center on the East Bank and Westwego Performing Arts Theatre and Teatro Wego! Dinner Theater on the West Bank.

Hot picks. La Traviata (Nov. 10-11), Verdi’s most romantic opera comes to Jefferson Performing Arts Center, with Massimo Pezzutti directing.
The Great American Trailer Park Musical (Feb. 15-March 9, 2008), at Westwego Performing Arts Theatre, directed by Sean Patterson, is an “unashamedly vulgar” comic fable about women in a Florida trailer park and their no-account men.
Flanagan’s Wake (Feb. 22-March 9, 2008), at Teatro Wego! Mark Czoske directs as friends of dearly departed Flanagan mourn him in this hilarious audience-interactive show.
Jefferson Performing Arts Center, 400 Phlox St., Metairie, 885-2000
Westwego Performing Arts Theatre, 177-A Sala Ave., Westwego
Teatro WEGO! Dinner Theater, 177 Sala Ave., Westwego,371-3330,  www.jpas.org.

Le Chat Noir Cabaret Theater. A hub for entertainment in the city’s arts district, Le Chat Noir is an intimate 125-seat theater that has become the premiere venue for cabaret-type performance. Under the management of owner Barbara Motley, Le Chat regularly presents local and national stars. This month: Anais St. John (Nov. 2-11) and The New Orleans Bingo! Show (Nov. 16-17).

Hot picks. “Karen Akers: Simply Styne” (Nov. 23-Dec. 2). Singer Akers brings her new cabaret show to New Orleans, featuring the catalogue of composer Jules Styne. (Including, “Time After Time,” “ I Fall In Love Too Easily,” “ Let Me Entertain You.”) 
“Noel and Gert” (Feb. 22-March 9 2008). Performing treasures Ricky Graham and Liz Argus team up for the first time on the songs of Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in what’s sure to be a witty, stylish affair.
Le Chat Noir Cabaret Theater, 715 St. Charles Ave., 581-5812, cabaretlechatnoir.com.

Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré. Under the artistic direction of Sonny Borey, Le Petit is celebrating its 91st season as it remains a mainstay of local theater entertainment. Le Petit has provided a starting ground for many famed performers, including Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis, Patricia Clarkson, Bryan Batt and Gabrielle Porter. A major renovation of the historic French Quarter theater wrapped up recently. This month Le Petit presents Purlie (Nov. 23-Dec. 16), directed by Tommye Myrick, followed in February by Where the Girls Were, directed by Carl Walker.

Hot picks.
Sandman, A Dog’s Tale (April 11-May 4, 2008), a world premier, pre-Broadway tryout of a new family musical written by Dog & Pony Theatre’s John Grimsley and world-renowned dog trainer Bill Berloni, featuring original music by Joel Paley and Marvin Laird.
Cabaret (June 2008), the wildly popular musical that became one of the biggest musical film hits in history; directed by Derek Franklin and Sonny Borey.
Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré, 616 St. Peter St., 522-2081, www.lepetittheatre.com.

Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The “symphony that could” continues to show its pluck with a full schedule that includes challenging classics along with more casual fare. Under Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto, the LPO performs in several venues, including Tulane’s McAlister Auditorium and Dixon Hall, First Baptist Church and Loyola’s Roussel Hall. French masterworks by Debussy, Ravel and Saint-Saëns are on tap for Nov. 9-10.

Hot picks. “Piazzolla with Quint” (Dec. 8), featuring Philippe Quint (violin).
“Nadja Plays Barber” (March 7, 2008), featuring violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Box office: 1010 Common St., Ste. 2120, 523-6530, www.lpomusic.com.

New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) A premiere presenting and service organization, NOBA’s Main Stage season annually features world-class dance companies and artists in performances ranging from classical to contemporary, usually at Tulane’s Dixon Hall. Coming Nov. 30-Dec. 1: Complexions Contemporary Ballet brings a superstar lineup of principal dancers from the nation’s top companies.
Hot pick. “Tango Fire” (Feb. 8-9, 2008), by Estampas Potenas, under the artistic direction of Carolina Sole. Direct from Buenos Aires, one of Argentina’s hottest dance troupes presents the sultry sexiness of the Tango in a sizzling performance.
“River North Chicago Dance Company” (Feb. 29-March 1, 2008). The jazz dance company’s local debut will be co-presented by The NOCCA Institute at NOCCA’s Lupin Hall.
New Orleans Ballet Association, One Lee Circle, 522-0996, www.nobadance.com.

New Orleans Opera Association.
General and Artistic Director Robert Lyall continues to draw high-quality productions and top performers to the city. New this year is a Sunday family matinee package (subscriptions let children attend free). Puccini’s Il Trittico – with the composer’s three one-act masterpieces re-set in New Orleans locales – is on stage Nov. 16-18, and the ever-popular Rigoletto is on tap in March.

Hot picks. “New Year’s Eve with the Opera” (Dec. 31). Louisiana native and Metropolitan Opera tenor Paul Groves [read more about Groves in this month’s Persona, pg. 20] joins in hosting a galaxy of international stars for a gala performance accompanied by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the New Orleans Opera Chorus (at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, includes dinner and champagne).

West Side Story (April 18-20, 2008), Leonard Bernstein’s exhilarating musical comes to the operatic stage (McAlister Auditorium), starring New Orleanian Sarah Jane McMahon as Maria.
New Orleans Opera Association, Box office: 1010 Common St., Ste. 1820, 529-3000, (800) 881-4459, www.neworleansopera.org.

Southern Repertory Theater. Under the artistic direction of Ryan Rilette, Southern Rep has built a solid reputation for high-quality performances of American works, with emphasis on new plays. On stage through Nov. 18 is the 2005 Broadway hit and Tony award winner Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley. Carl Walker directs the local presentation, which is being co-produced with All Kinds of Theatre. Coming soon: The Clean House by Sarah Ruhl.

Hot pick. Macbeth at the Gates (Jan. 3-20, 2008), by Michael Lovett. Acclaimed stage, television and film actor Roy Marsden will direct the story of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth vying with one another to escape from hell. Produced by Dem Boys LLC.
Southern Rep Theater, 333 Canal Place, 3rd floor, 522-6545, www.southernrep.com.

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