In this new era of digital interactivity, it’s tricky to know how to program a season for an art form that’s centuries old. For the 2015-16 performing arts season, Tacoma’s classical music and Broadway groups have taken different approaches. Some have asked audiences to choose, others are taking innovative directions thanks to new leaders, and still others are walking a middle line between the brave and the certain. The one thing they all have in common? Subscriptions are now on sale.
Here’s a roundup to help you make a decision.
Tacoma Opera: This is one of the companies that’s letting its audience choose the program. Responding to a call for audience favorite suggestions, the opera has scheduled three standard repertoire gems that are nevertheless new for the company in recent years: “Don Giovanni,” Mozart’s tale of the ultimate seducer who meets his doom in style (October-November); “Die Fledermaus,” the operetta by Johann Strauss II full of disguises, trickery and romantic Viennese waltzes (February); and “The Threepenny Opera,” the 1928 Brecht-Weill collaboration that turned opera into a dramatic socialist critique (April-May). All three are fresh ground: “Don Giovanni” hasn’t been done since 2001; “Die Fledermaus” was last performed in 1991; and “The Threepenny Opera” is completely new — one of the things requested by audiences, along with the classics. 253-627-7789, tacomaopera.com.
Tacoma Symphony: Meanwhile, the symphony is following new director Sarah Ioannides’ debut year with superstar soloists, new programs and exciting expansions. They’re expanding the classics series from four to five concerts, including one in the Rialto Theater and two at Chapel Hill Presbyterian in Gig Harbor. The new fifth concert sees the annual a cappella chorus event becoming a program with full orchestra and chorus, featuring the “Water Passion After St. Matthew” by Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun — a work that pays homage both to J.S. Bach and Peking Opera (March). Other pieces in the season include Tchaikovsky’s rarely-performed (and difficult) Piano Concerto No. 2, played by superstar soloist Andreas Boyde, and Prokofiev’s “Russian Overture” and Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in an all-Russian season opener (October); Mendelssohn’s “Reformation” symphony (November); the usual “Messiah” and “Sounds of the Season” concerts (December); a romantic Debussy-and-Beethoven landscape program featuring Seattle Symphony principal harp Valerie Muzzolini Gordon (February); a pops concert of Django Reinhardt with a local gypsy jazz band including former Northwest Sinfonietta conductor Christophe Chagnard, and a season finale featuring Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” and guitar king Pepe Romero playing Rodrigo’s beloved “Concerto de Aranjuez.” 253-272-7264, tacomasymphony.org.
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Northwest Sinfonietta: It, too, is breaking completely new ground with the first full season of its new artistic partner model, where partner conductors David Lockington, Eric Jacobsen and Joseph Swensen rotate concerts with some out-of-the-box programming. Lockington opens the season by leading Copland, Mozart and Beethoven (October); Jacobsen will lead a Feldman-Golijov-Verdi-Schubert mix (November) and a Ravel-Strauss program with an unexpected guest narrator (May). Lockington returns with Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Musica Celestis” and Haydn’s “Mass in Time of War” with the Seattle Choral Company and soloists (March). And Swensen leads the Brahms Violin Concerto from the soloist stand, plus Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 (April). Concerts continue in Seattle, Tacoma and Puyallup. 888-356-6040, northwestsinfonietta.org.
The Second City Chamber Series: It continues its pattern of inviting local soloists — Cindy Renander, clarinet (January) and Julian Schwarz, cello (February), and ensembles of Choral Arts (October), Puget Sound String Quartet (November) and more — to offer a wide range of chamber music that this year expands to jazz-influenced classical, thanks to saxophonist Kareem Kandi (April). Venues include the Great Hall at Annie Wright School and First Lutheran Church in Tacoma. 253-572-8863, scchamberseries.org.
Tacoma Concert Band: The band has not yet announced its 2015-16 season, tacomaconcertband.org.
Broadway Center for the Performing Arts: It continues to present a diverse mix of music, dance and theater. The season begins in September with a Queen redo and comedian Lewis Black, and goes on to feature acts such as Audra McDonald (October), stunt dogs (November), Seattle Men’s Chorus (December), Paula Poundstone (January), Black Violin (February), Hawaii’s Kahulanui (March) and “Saturday Night Fever” (April). 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org.