Find a complete list of classical music and opera in Seattle this spring on our Things To Do calendar.
NOW THROUGH MARCH 11
In this opera of romantic tragedy full of original music inspired by Slavic folk songs, celebrated Czech composer Leoš Janáček weaves a story of isolation, provincial oppression, true love, and familial dysfunction. It is relatively rare to come across a full production of Janáček's opera, which NPR described as having one of the most subtle of all villains: "In his dark drama Katya Kabanova, Leos Janácek gives us one of the most unusual and contemptible villains in any opera, and one of the most disturbing, as well: the sort of person who can live among us, quietly and without anyone objecting. She's a little old lady, a respected citizen and the mother of a grown son. She also thinks that her own way of judging what's moral, and what's not, is the only way—and that anyone who disagrees, even those closest to her, must pay a terrible price. And the people around her? They look the other way. They can't condemn her intolerance without re-examining their own." Just thinking about her gives me chills. This is a rare treat, and a dive into respectability politics (oh, so relevant). It's an all-new production by Australian director Patrick Nolan. JEN GRAVES
Modern Ensemble with Guest Conductor Stephen Drury
Renowned New England Conservatory pianist and conductor Stephen Drury will lead the University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble in works by his past collaborators John Zorn (Cobra and more), Christian Wolff, and John Cage.
Considered one of contemporary African music’s most intriguing newcomers, Dobet Gnahoré sings in seven languages, backed by a Pan-African band. Her powerful vocals and diverse music composition move from genre to genre with a freedom to grow into new territories.
Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II
For many of us, Richard Wagner’s music entered our consciousness when, in Bugs Bunny’s “What's Opera, Doc?” we heard Elmer Fudd sing “Kill the wabbit, Kill the wabbit” to Ride of the Valkyries. And when Bugs Bunny hears Fudd calling for the death of his kind, he pokes his long-eared head out of a hole, looks at the the camera, and says, with the kind of sadness that is funny because it’s almost real: “Kill the rabbit?” They do not make cartoons like that anymore. Cartoons that bring the highest parts of Western culture right down to the big belly of low culture laughter. CHARLES MUDEDE
Award-winning British concert guitarist Michael Partington has been lauded by Classical Guitar Magazine for his "lyricism, intensity and clear technical command," and will showcase such abilities in the recital hall at Benaroya.
MARCH 5-JUNE 10
Salish Sea Early Music Festival
Christ Episcopal Church hosts the 2017 season of the Salish Sea Early Music Festival, which will include programs by violinist Ingrid Matthews, fortepiano player Henrey Lebedinksy, baroque guitarist John Schneiderman, and more.
We Are All Here Culminating Performance
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Symphony, and Path with Art—an organization that facilitates art projects between teaching artists and those experiencing homelessness—teamed up to create this multimedia performance. Back in 2016, students transformed art into poetry, and then transformed that poetry back into art in the form of giant poetic banners. Later on, during a 16-week course, orchestra members in the symphony collaborated with other PWA students to create an original composition based on those poems and banners. All of that work comes together in "We Are All Here" a show that displays Seattle's considerable local artistic and implicitly demands its citizens view those who struggle with housing as neighbors, not just numbers. RICH SMITH
Award-winning Canadian period instrument ensemble Tafelmusik, referred to by Gramophone Magazine as "one of the world’s top baroque orchestras," will present their latest production, J.S. Bach: The Circle of Creation, which melds text, music, and video projection in an exploration of the world of the artisans who assisted Bach in realizing his major works.
Early Music Underground: Erin Go Baroque
The Early Music Underground House Band with fiddler and Irish whistle player Michael Albert and champion Scottish fiddler Brandon Vance will host a night of celebrating Irish and Scottish baroque and traditional music in honor of St. Patrick's Day. Admission includes a complimentary house beer or glass of wine.
Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony
Immerse yourself in spring with the sweetly fragrant music of Claude Debussy and the famous "Pastoral" Symphony of Beethoven, an ode to nature and the myths of Arcadia. There will also be a performance of a new violin concerto by composer Aaron Jay Kernis, commissioned by the Seattle Symphony for James Ehnes.
A Woman's World
Seattle Women's Chorus will sing a poignant sampler of music by a diverse spread of powerful and influential women, featuring the premiere of a new song suite by Eric Lane Barnes that dramatizes the accomplishments of women like Susan B. Anthony, Margaret Cho, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and many more.
Global Rhythms: Rahim al Haj
Rahim al Hal picked up the oud as a child and transferred his youthful interest into a globally renowned proficiency; he is now considered one of the finest oud players in the world.
MARCH 23 & 25
Beethoven Symphony No. 5
After two years of exploring Beethoven’s symphonies and concertos, Seattle Symphony conductor Ludovic Morlot will finally perform his interpretation of Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony, with Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 2 as a final course for the evening.
You know this one! This is the one that goes dun-dun-dun-DUNNNNNNNNNN! Music director Ludovic Morlot has been running through Beethoven's symphonies for the last two years, and he's saved the most familiar—and most dramatic?—for last. If you haven't made it down to Benaroya to watch the SSO do its thang, then let this "Untuxed" edition be your gateway performance. The musicians aren't wearing their finest, so you don't have to either, and tickets are even cheaper than they'd otherwise be. RICH SMITH
A New World: Intimate Music From FINAL FANTASY
A New World: Intimate Music from Final Fantasy, with selections from throughout the game series, will be performed for the first time in Seattle, featuring the New World Players chamber ensemble, piano soloist Benyamin Nuss, and Grammy-winning conductor Arnie Roth.
King's College Choir
Representing the great British choral tradition, King's College Choir, directed by Stephen Cleobury, derives much of its fame from performing old world classics broadcast to millions each year.
Art For Arts' Sake
Northwest Sinfonietta seeks to create an all-new concert experience with Art for Arts' Sake, in partnership with Spectrum Dance Theater and the Museum of Glass, in a performative exploration of the commonalities between these mediums. Included in the program will be the world premiere of "Hot Shop," a new work by Sinfonietta violist and local composer Heather Bentley.
Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience with Ramin Djawadi
Fulfill your most intense fantasy needs (chill out, not that) with a live interactive Game of Thrones concert experience. Series composer Ramin Djawadi will lead choirs and a full orchestra in explorations of dramatic musical moments from the show with visuals intended to bring all Seven Kingdoms to life.
Born This Way
Seattle Men's Chorus will tackle social issues with Born This Way, two performances of pop favorites and music that rejoices in the stories of a diverse generation of LGBTQIA youth, with the world premiere of a song from transgender composer Mari Esabel Valverde.
Max Raabe & Palast Orchester
Dashing baritone Max Raabe resuscitates songs and musical styles of past eras, and will be joined by Palast Orchester, a group he formed with fellow music students at the Berlin University of the Arts, in performances of classic pieces by legends like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin.
Resonance: A Celebration of Black American Composers
I hope I won’t have to explain who Scott Joplin is, but I ran into an intelligent, cultured person this week who had never heard of Jimmy Webb. So, Scott Joplin (1868–1917) wrote brilliant ragtime compositions, which is sometimes entirely unfairly cataloged as corny old-time music. And he wrote two ragtime operas, to boot (alas, only one survives). Every other composer on the bill still breathes: George Walker, Alvin Singleton, Stranger-praised sometimes-local composer Hanna Benn, and performance artist C. Davida Ingram. This event should be worthy start-to-finish, although rely on Ingram, who rarely uses the same approach or the same (mixed) media twice, to furnish an ambitious, thrill-ride wild card. ANDREW HAMLIN
APRIL 13 & 15
Rachmaninov Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini
Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini bounces back and forth between two modes: stately lyricism and virtuosic tornado time. Thrilling battles between the piano and the orchestra resolve into deep sighs, the formerly opposing forces breathing together in shared moments of tranquility. Soloist Stephen Hough, Limelight Magazine's International Artist of the Year 2016, has been touring on this material for a while and so brings to this feisty melody an intimate familiarity with the ins and outs of all its variations. RICH SMITH
Records, Pancakes, & Bach
A Bach concerto in the OtB lobby first thing Sunday morning might appeal to the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed early birds among us, but it may sound a bit ambitious to those waking after a long Saturday night of "self care." That's the genius of the marimba. The instrument softens Bach's hard edges, making his songs sound like chill sunrises. Erin Jorgensen, master marimbist and chillest of the chill, plays the Baroque composer's most famous suites and serves up some mighty fine pancakes alongside. It's a bold, beautiful way to brunch. RICH SMITH
Jóhann Jóhannsson with American Contemporary Music Ensemble
Iceland-bred and Berlin-based composer Jóhann Jóhannsson has been cranking out solo composition albums since 2002, with an Oscar win for his score of the Stephen Hawking story The Theory of Everything. His compositions for theater, dance, and film are varied and eclectic, which he'll showcase with the American contemporary Music Ensemble this evening.
Leif Ove Andsnes & Marc-André Hamelin In Recital
Two prolific pianists, Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin, reawaken the rhythms and harmonies of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, with additional program features of Mozart and Debussy pieces, and Stravinsky’s neoclassical Concerto for Two Pianos as a counterpoint to the main event.
The endlessly fascinating late-night [untitled] series continues in the sparkling lobby, where people crowd on the floor, on the chairs, on the stairs, on the balconies—anywhere to hear performances of unexpected music. On the program this time are the twisted worlds of American cultural icons Andy Warhol and Thelonius Monk, and the ways their work in pop art and jazz were entwined in a larger social narrative across the country.
Dido and Aeneas – Henry Purcell
Late 17th century composer Henry Purcell synthesized favored elements of contemporary English, French, and Italian music to create what are considered the first enduring English operas. Dido was Purcell's only entirely musical opera, and will be performed by Pacific MusicWorks' orchestra and soloists with the University of Washington Chamber Singers.
The Magic Flute
Unfairly considered to be a beginner's opera, The Magic Flute is truly a unique masterpiece of Mozart's, blending myth and fantasy to convey the message that love truly conquers all — a relevant message certainly for his time and ours. Follow along with the journey of a prince and his sidekick as they are tasked with rescuing the Queen of the Night’s daughter from a group of possibly dangerous priests, armed only with enchanted musical instruments (namely the magic flute). The opera is in German with English subtitles, but don't let that deter you from its language-surpassing beauty.
Seattle Music Exchange Project
Acclaimed pianist Angelo Rondello hosts the opening of Seattle Music Exchange Program’s inaugural season of programming, which highlights composers of Seattle and its sister cities in an effort to bring local music to audiences at home and abroad through broadcasting concerts, artist residencies, and educational programs. Rondello will perform works by Seattle composers Samuel Jones, Peter Vukmirovic Stevens, Angelique Poteat, Adam Haws, and Benjamin Salman, in addition to leading the audience on a musical tour of Seattle’s sister cities in Japan, Italy, Norway, and Hungary.
Tanya Tagaq, an Inuk throat singer who uses orchestral arrangements and solo harmonizing to create a unique and disturbing sonic majesty all her own, presents new work from her upcoming album Retribution, and will be joined in her efforts by vocal chameleon Christine Duncan, drummer Jean Martin, and violinist Jesse Zubot.
Seattle Symphony will perform their annual Celebrate Asia concert, which celebrates the artistic traditions of Seattle’s Asian communities. This year's concert features film music by famous Japanese and Indian composers including Grammy and Academy Award winner A.R. Rahman.
When you first listen to Emel Mathlouthi, who has been called "the Voice of the Tunisian Revolution" for the strong protest songs she wrote during Arab Spring, you might experience the music as powerful but generally sappy arena pop. Like an Arabic Celine Dion or something. I happen to love that kind of stuff, but if you don't, just give "Kelmti Horra" (my word is free) a few minutes to get going and you'll find yourself floating in the middle of the room. It's the song she sang to inspire Tunisians protesting on the Avenue Habib Bourguiba, and it's incredible. RICH SMITH
What could be a mind-blowing battle royale between world-renowned pianists is actually a delightful event to raise money for children's music education, as ten performers astride a baby grand apiece play selections from every genre.
Seattle Rock Orchestra Performs the Beatles
Seattle Rock Orchestra perform rock and pop filtered through an orchestral lens, and they'll attack the broad discography of the Beatles this Mother's Day.
This program presents two bridges. The first is pioneering vocalist and composer Gabriel Kahane's 'Crane Palimpsest,' an orchestra-pop take on Hart Crane's great long poem about the Brooklyn Bridge, The Bridge. The second is Mozart's stunning Requiem, the deathbed Mass, which is of course a bridge between life and death. Get ready for the Seattle Choral Company's "Confutatis." Shit's going to be alternately apocalyptic and angelic all night. Voca me. RICH SMITH
JUNE 1 & 3
Ravel's Magical Opera
Enjoy a semi-staged performance of Ravel’s one-act opera L’enfant et les sortilèges ("The Child and the Spells"), with text provided by famed French novelist Colette and Ravel’s original score, supplemented by elements of ragtime, jazz, and lush 18th century dance moments.
The Rite of Spring
Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring caused everybody in the audience to flip out and pour into the streets of Paris when it first debuted in 1913, not only because Sergei Diaghilev's very weird accompanying ballet depicted a young girl dancing herself to death (an alarmingly common COD in Russian and German folklore), but because no one had ever heard music like that before. Tonally ambitious, inquisitive, impressionistic, challenging. For this program, the symphony pairs this groundbreaking Russian composer with Sergei Rachmaninov, who stood his ground and kept producing more traditional work, such as his Symphony No. 3, well into the 20th century. RICH SMITH
What is it about choral music that makes me feel like a ball of sound-light is breaking out of my chest, piercing my loneliness with the pure power of its melodic force? Why does a soprano's voice seem to clean the air of impurities? How do I explain the visceral thrill I experience when I hear a tenor's high F note ripple through a soprano's steel-beam E as the whole chorus joins for the first time in the Voices of Ascension's version of Josquin des Prez's "Ave Maria"? The overflowing tenor, the power of all four vocal ranges straining to sing the Latin word for "solemn" in the most joyous, melodic way possible, seems to acknowledge the intensity of the struggle to enjoy life despite the fact that every ounce of joy obscures a pound of pain. I'm not religious, I don't read Latin, I didn't grow up with a love of group singing, but, for some reason, as an adult, whenever I hear classical choral music, my senses feel sharpened and soothed at the same time. When I confessed my newfound love of choral music to one of my friends, she told me about the Compline Service at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, a performance she occasionally attends, which happens every Sunday evening. We went together one Sunday—admittedly a little stoned—and lay out on a blanket near the altar (a surprising but common practice among regulars) and looked up at the spare concrete walls. My friend and I got there around 9 p.m., and at precisely 9:30 p.m. the all-male chorus shuffled into the room quietly, their robes ruffling behind them, and opened their books and began to sing. In that moment I discovered the singular pleasure of imagining the sound waves of interwoven human voices soaring up the timber pillars that support the church's vaulted ceilings and bouncing around the reredos and the rose window as all that glass blushed pink, then orange, and then dark blue as the sun sank behind the Olympics. It was the first time I'd ever accessed the spiritual by way of some religious practice. Something about the combination of the architecture, the fellowship, and the music gave me a little peek into the ineffable. RICH SMITH