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Critic's picks for the 2019-2020 music season.

From new collaborations to renowned conductors, there's a great deal to look forward to this music season.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. September 18, 2019
  • Arts + Culture
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It seems the music season begins earlier every year in Sarasota, and the 2019-20 season actually started Sept 12 with the Sarasota Orchestras first Chamber Soirée at Holley Hall.

It’s a big season for the orchestra, filled with well-known guest conductors, such as JoAnn Falletta (Buffalo Philharmonic), Keith Lockhart (Boston Pops), Ludovic Morlot (Seattle Symphony) and at least six or seven others. Since the orchestra is in the middle of a conductor search, and one of these guests could easily be the next music director, this is an especially exciting time for concertgoers. And there is still the seemingly unending search for a site for a new home for the orchestra — which only adds suspense and a bit of tension — to all the musical happenings.

The Orchestra’s Pops Series will feature Sarasota’s Maria Wirries on March 6-7.  For the past season, Maria has been with the national touring company of “Dear Evan Hansen,” a Broadway Tony-award winner in 2017.

Also starting up in September is ensembleNEWSRQ, which is beginning its fourth year of concerts on Sept. 30, with four more programs throughout the season.  This group performs  the best of current music with the best of performers from across the country.

Key Chorale enters the fall programming mix in October with “American Roots - The Gospel Era,” aided by singers from  the Westcoast Black Theater Troupe, and continues with concerts throughout the season.  Key Chorale also gives us its 10th anniversary production of “Cirque des Voix,” that successful pairing of circus and choral arts under the big top.

The Artist Series Concerts of Sarasota once again offers up a wide mixture of performers and venues ranging from  Russian Renaissance Players to the Glenn Miller Sound, making many stops along the way.  Not to be outdone by “Piano Grand - I-III,” this year the concert is “Piano Grand IV: the Holiday Edition,” on Dec. 8 at the Sarasota Opera House.  Artist Series Concerts continues to offer “New Faces and New Stars” with an increasing emphasis on new and younger performers.

By November the season is really beginning to  speed up with the Orchestra’s Masterworks Series at Van Wezel and the opening of “Rigoletto,” the fall production of the Sarasota Opera, which also features the Sarasota Orchestra in the pit.  Sarasota Youth Opera will present two performances of “Brundibár,” which was given with great success a few years back.

Joseph Holt’s Choral Artists of Sarasota opens its season on Nov. 16 at First Church downtown with “One World, Many Voices,” but the season highlight on April 19 will be the World Premiere of James Grant’s “Listen to the Earth,” celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.  In case you missed it the first time around, the Choral Artists, Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Sarasota Young Voices will present two performances of “Carmina Burana” at the Venice Institute for Performing Arts on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23.

Highlight of the 75th season of the Sarasota Concert Association is most certainly the appearance of the Chicago Symphony with conductor Riccardo Muti on Feb. 12. Other artists appearing in their Great Performers Series include the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Musicians from Marlboro.

The 61st Season of the Sarasota Opera opens on Feb. 8 with Puccini’s “La bohème,” just about everyone’s favorite opera, which continues for a total of 13 performances during the season.  Other operas are Gounod’s “Romeo & Juliet,” after a long absence, Donizetti’s delightful “Elixir of Love,” with Sarasota native Adelaide Boedecker as Adina, and Catalani’s “La Wally,” which hasn’t been performed in this country since 1989 — which is when it was last performed by the Sarasota Opera. 

I’m sure few people realize that for three months each year, Sarasota is home to not one but two full symphony orchestras: our own Sarasota Orchestra, and the Sarasota Opera Orchestra, which is assembled from players all over the United States.  I doubt any other city our size can boast of one excellent orchestra, much less two — but we have them in Sarasota during the season.

I fully believe that during the season, at least on a per capita basis, Sarasota’s music and arts scene is certainly as busy as the one in New York City.



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