symphony of dazzling performances on tap

Classical performance stages around the city are lighting up in one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.

The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra – not only a star in its own right but the musical foundation for other local performance organizations – has mounted an impressive schedule of concerts with appearances by stellar soloists.

On tap this month, following Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 and a performance by gifted young violinist Augustin Hadelich, the LPO presents Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony,” featuring the orchestra’s own Mollie Pate (Oct. 21). An especially melodious treat follows on Oct. 29, when acclaimed pianist Sarkis Baltaian joins the orchestra for a casual classics concert entitled “Beautiful Blue Danube,” including selections by Brahms, Johann Strauss, Richard Strauss and Georges Enesco.

The impressive talents and growing strength of the musician-owned orchestra have helped draw a string of additional big-name soloists this season. The Romero Guitar Quartet joins the LPO in January for a program of Spanish-themed music; flutist James Galway returns to premiere a work he commissioned; and New Orleans native and legendary jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard returns to perform a new work.

The fact that ”more and more artists want to play with the LPO” signals the organization’s growing stature, says Artistic Director Carlos Miguel Prieto. He says the orchestra, now in its 20th season, is playing “at a very high level,” and that recordings with some of the featured soloists lie ahead this year.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans Opera, too, is readying a magical season. Now in its 69th year, the opera launches the season on Oct. 15 and 17 with “Porgy and Bess,” at Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts. The performances celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Gershwin work’s premiere, and will feature Alvy Powell and Lisa Daltirus in the title roles.

November brings Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” to the local stage. New Orleanian Sarah Jane McMahon returns to sing the role of Pamina, and the LPO’s Patti Adams shines as solo piccoloist.

Rounding out the season are Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” in January, featuring the New Orleans Opera Ballet, and in April, the Verdi favorite “Il Trovatore,” with Mark Rucker and Mary Elizabeth Williams.

The opera’s executive and artistic director, Robert Lyall, recently reported that season ticket sales are running ahead of last year, and he expects excitement will continue to build through the opera’s opening night.

Between other performances, the Mahalia Jackson Theater stage will welcome back an array of amazingly talented dancers during the 40th anniversary season of the New Orleans Ballet Association. Six distinctive companies highlight the line-up, beginning Oct. 22-23 with the theatrical production “Botanica” by the ever-popular MOMIX, presenting grand-scale puppets, projections and props that create a surreal fantasyland on stage.

In November NOBA joins with New Orleans Center for Creative Arts and Tulane University to present the international Alwin Nikolais Centennial at NOCCA. The production will feature the world premiere of a reconstruction of Nikolais’ famous “Temple.”

The celebrated LINES Ballet returns to the city in January, and February brings back the amazing Trey McIntyre Project, once again to perform alongside the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Closing out the season are Parsons Dance, in April, and Corella Ballet Castilla y León, a new classical ballet company from Spain that will launch its inaugural U.S. tour here in May.

All in all, it’s a classical season packed with talent, big-name stars and local musicians and performers whose stature within national and international ranks continues its steady climb.

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