Dramatic spirit – could that be what keeps some stages shining bright even as the curtain falls on others?
Two stalwarts of the local performance scene remain dark at this writing. Cabaret theater proprietor Barbara Motley closed the doors of Le Chat Noir after years of offering top-notch entertainment in one of the city's loveliest club spaces. And venerable Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carré also remains shuttered.
The losses smacked the theater community, but the blow was far from fatal. For one thing, Le Petit appears headed for a return to business, through a partnership with the Dickie Brennan Restaurant Group. Brennan plans to invest millions in debt repayment and renovations that would improve the theater space and convert other parts of the French Quarter building into a restaurant.
The future of Le Chat is less clear, as the building that houses it is up for sale.
But meanwhile, renewal of older spaces is under way. The grand Saenger Theater has returned to life through a $48 million renovation boosted by the state's Live Performance Tax Credit Program. That incentive also is fueling a makeover of the neighboring Joy Theater movie house into a performance space.
Through it all, theater and performing arts organizations continue doing what they always do – pulling out the stops to put their best on stage and deliver high-quality entertainment for local audiences. Thank you all, and please, carry on!
Kathy Finn, editor
Drama on the fringe
Does the idea of a full week of nonstop theater seem like a dream? Wake up to the annual New Orleans Fringe Theater Festival, coming in November. Wild, weird and fresh original theater of all types will play out during a five-day period in neighborhoods around the city. Dozens of performing groups will offer hundreds of shows, a Free-For-All Tent and an eccentric parade. Check their website for details of the festival, scheduled Nov. 16-20.
Intrigue, passion and Turandot
Men desire her; they would die for her, but three riddles stand in the way. The New Orleans Opera Association presents a special staging of Giacomo Puccini's final masterpiece on Oct. 15. The legendary fable of the blood-thirsty princess Turandot unfolds in stunning beauty courtesy of soprano Lise Lindstrom, considered the premier Turandot of our time.
The opera takes up Verdi next with the tragic tale of a mistaken love triangle, "A Masked Ball," Nov. 18 and 20. The local staging of the story of conspiracy and secrecy concludes at a Mardi Gras ball, with powerful arias and thrilling ensembles along the way. See the majestic staging at Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts.
Got a yen for opera with stripped-down staging? Discover the fun of Opera on Tap, with fine young local and regional singers presenting casual, 90-minute concerts of opera and Broadway. Check out New Orleans Opera's website for scheduled performances at The Inn on Bourbon, The Rusty Nail, Abita Brew Pub and Pontchartrain Vineyards.
LPO pushes the envelope
Beethoven, Brahms and Schumann symphonies are no surprise coming from the polished, 67-member Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, but the new season also includes rarely heard 20th-century masterworks by Olivier Messiaen, Silvestre Revueltas and Arnold Schoenberg. Audiences will enjoy Mahler, of course, along with three symphonies of Russian master Dmitri Shostakovich.
The skill and artistry of the musician-managed orchestra helps it draw from the finest soloists on the planet. Pianist Jeffrey Biegel will premiere a new concerto by American composer Ellen Taafe Swillich in October; violinist Vadim Gluzman returns to perform Prokofiev in November; and violinist Yossif Ivanov plays Mozart in January.
All of that comes before spring rolls in with a magnificent performance of Brahms by violinist Joshua Bell. Sprinkled among the classics concerts will be educational performances, young people's concerts and special holiday performances. See LPO's website for complete details.
Artistic excellence and physical prowess will combine in stunning performances this season as New Orleans Ballet Association presents a host of breathtaking dancers. Mark Morris Dance Group is up on Oct. 22 with dazzling modern dance selections, and November brings the extraordinary Drew Jacoby and Rubinald Pronk. The elite contemporary dance duo, known for their razor-sharp technique and stunning physical beauty, promise a sensational performance.
As the new year dawns, watch for a fantastical presentation that combines Chinese opera, Eastern philosophy, traditional and contemporary art and dance by Shen Wei Dance Arts. The visionary choreographer is known for dazzling imagery and staging. Providing a pleasing artistic contrast will be an early March performance by the Stephen Petronio Company, pairing virtuosic movement with hot musicians and edgy fashions.
Visit NOBA's website for the full-season line-up at Mahalia Jackson Theater and other local stages.