Review: Yoel Levi makes exhilarating return to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

Yoel Levi returned to Atlanta Wednesday night to guest conduct the orchestra he once led. (Photos by Jeff Roffman) MARCH 13, 2020 Concert seasons are planned far in advance and when the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra announced that violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman would be playing Max Bruch’s most famous violin concerto at Symphony Hall on March 11, 2020, it wasn’t long before the event was sold out. It’s hard to plan for something like a coronavirus pandemic, though. When Perlman canceled a day in advance due to travel precautions, there was really only one violinist who would be an acceptable pinch hitter: Pinchas Zukerman. Zukerman’s…

ArtsATL Review: The Atlanta Opera hits the right notes with charming “Porgy and Bess”

Jermaine Smith as Sportin’ Life and Talise Trevigne as Bess are part of a standout cast in The Atlanta Opera’s “Porgy and Bess.” (Photos by Rafterman Photography) MARCH 10, 2020 Travel on SC Highway 171 south from Charleston for about eight miles and you’ll arrive at Folly Beach, a simple seaside town with a lighthouse on one end and plucky surfers dotting the water along the coast. You can get fresh shrimp at Crosby’s or fish on the pier all afternoon long. This was George Gershwin’s beach in 1934, when he spent a summer collaborating with writer DuBose Heyward to…

ArtsATL Review: Under the baton of Søndergård, ASO charts new and provocative waters

Guest conductor Thomas Søndergård returned for the second straight week to lead the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. (Photos by Jeff Roffman) FEBRUARY 28, 2020 When solar winds convey charged particles from the sun, they collide with gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere and create a natural wonder, the Aurora Borealis. These dancing lights in the sky, milky-white apparitions sometimes tinged with hues of pink or green, are usually reserved for the pleasure of people in Scandinavia. Yet, every once in a while, those in the United States will get a glimpse of the Northern Lights too. On Thursday night, Danish maestro Thomas Søndergård…

Review: ASO guest conductor Karina Canellakis delivers delicious surprise twist

Guest conductor Karina Canellakis led the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra with grace and skill Thursday night, receiving at least three curtain calls. (Photos by Jeff Roffman) JANUARY 31, 2020 Robert Spano announced exactly two years ago that he’ll soon step down as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s music director.The New York Times calls him the man who made the ASO “a force to be reckoned with in contemporary American music,” and his departure spells opportunity for a new talent able to conduct, fundraise and inspire.Guest conductor Karina Canellakis, one of many candidates in the running to replace Spano, stepped to the podium Thursday to lead a program that included…

Review: The Atlanta Opera’s “Salome” haunts with its grotesque beauty

Snellville native Jennifer Holloway (right) brings dimension to the controversial character of Salome. (Photos by Rafterman Photography) JANUARY 28, 2020 “Two souls with but one nasty thought; two pens that drool as one” wrote New York critic W.J. Henderson in 1907, finding Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss well matched when it came to the play and, soon after, the opera version of Salome. Despite Salome’s salacious subject matter — or perhaps because of it — the opera has endured. It’s Wilde’s twisted imagining of the circumstances surrounding the beheading of John the Baptist (a.k.a. Jochanaan) while imprisoned by Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee, circa…

In the January 2020 Issue of Opera News Online: Review of Frida

IN CELEBRATION OF ITS FORTIETH anniversary season, Atlanta Opera kicked off its Discoveries series with Robert Xavier Rodriguez’s Frida at the newly-minted Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center (seen Oct. 5). Frida had its premiere at Philadelphia’s Atlanta Music Festival in 1991 and was named by TheNew York Times as “Best Opera/Musical of 1991,” but subsequent performances in the U.S. were few and far between. The work re-emerged in 2015 at Michigan Opera Theatre, revitalized by Frida Kahlo’s increase in popularity as a cultural icon over the last decade or so. The surreal production starring soprano Catalina Cuervo (Frida Kahlo) and bass-baritone Ricardo Herrera (Diego Rivera) has now…

Review: Atlanta Symphony, pianist Jorge Orsorio put on a riveting performance

The ASO’s performance of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” was a tour de force. (Photos by Jeff Roffman) JANUARY 10, 2020 Numerous works have been derived from William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. It’s the timeless and provocative story of two star-crossed lovers in Verona, unable to overcome the powerful divide between their families. “Heavy and light, bright and dark, hot and cold,” it seemed for a time that Sergei Prokofiev’s ballet, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s tale, was ill-fated as well. Composed in 1936, it was deemed impossible to choreograph and production of the work was denied on three separate occasions —…

ArtsATL.org Year in Review: Classical music and Atlanta Symphony’s search for its next leader

DECEMBER 26, 2019 It’s a period of transition for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as it launches a high-profile search for music director Robert Spano’s successor and considers several of this season’s guest conductors as his potential replacement. The year also marked several stellar productions by The Atlanta Opera and recitals at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts. Since the search for the ASO’s new music director — its chief conductor and artistic leader — has begun in earnest, and Spano is set to step down at the end of the 2020–21 season, let’s discuss which guest conductors merit consideration.…

In the December 2019 Issue of Opera News: Review of AO’s La Cenerentola

GIOACHINO ROSSINI’S LA CENERENTOLA was last seen in Atlanta in 2008, when the inimitable Jennifer Larmore starred as Angelina. Like Cinderella’s transformation before the ball, the Atlanta Opera has experienced a metamorphosis in the interim, offering contemporary works alongside the warhorses, hiring rousing singers, and mounting eye-catching productions. Now celebrating its fortieth season, the Atlanta Opera opened the mainstage at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on November 2, offering the Joan Font-Joan Guillén production of La Cenerentola, which premiered in Houston in 2007. But the production was lacking in musical alchemy and led one to wonder whether the magic was all just…

ArtsATL Review: Atlanta Symphony and Runnicles summon pathos of Shostakovich

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster David Coucheron played strong lines on the Shostakovich piece. (Photo courtesy Atlanta Symphony Orchestra) NOVEMBER 12, 2019 Despite the claim of composer Dmitri Shostakovich that his final symphony contained no extra-musical meaning, doubt remains. Post-glasnost realizations make it more likely that his Symphony No. 15, which premiered in 1972, encompasses programmatic significance camouflaged by a masterful composer then at the height of his creative powers. On Saturday evening, Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performed Shostakovich’s distilled work — riddled with musical allusions and quotations, musical monograms and codes — alongside Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, featuring…