As Austin’s population swells and economic indicators signal a robust market, local performing arts organizations are offering increasingly diverse shows, concerts and events. There’s also an effort being made to increase patronage from underserved communities, with more family-friendly programming, discount ticket opportunities and outreach efforts. Austin-based artists are ubiquitous on season calendars, as well, another good sign of civic bridge-building.
Upcoming productions promise moving experiences for audiences, particularly the fare on offer from some of the city’s more prominent outfits, Austin Opera, Austin Symphony Orchestra, Ballet Austin, Long Center and Texas Performing Arts.
Surveying the fall season, the Long Center, “Austin’s creative home,” bolted out of the gates Sept. 4-6 with Ballet Austin’s “Hamlet.” One of Artistic Director Stephen Mills’ signature works, “Hamlet,” is a stunning, lush and emotionally driven contemporary ballet, based on the classic Shakespearean story. On Sept. 13, the renowned artistic ambassador for Mexico, the Folkloric Ballet of Mexico, appeared in Dell Hall. The group has brought the aesthetic manifestations most profoundly rooted in Mexican folklore to audiences for generations. Other highlights include Austin Shakespeare’s “Sunday in the Park with George” Sept. 24-27 and Tapestry Dance Company’s premiere, “In Your Shoes,” which was held Oct. 1-11 in the Rollins Studio Theatre.
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club’s “Adios Tour” transported the audiences to the heart of Havana’s clubs and dancehalls Oct. 18, in Dell Hall. The formidable 13-piece band is the genuine article, featuring legends of Cuban music and stars of the “Buena Vista Social Club” film and World Circuit’s much acclaimed Cuban albums. “Spirit of India: Bollywood Masala Orchestra & Dancers,” Oct. 21 at the Long Center, invites patrons to explore the lush and exotic land of India. Taking a new step toward the authentic taste, richness and excitement of Indian live music and dance, Rahis Bharti, one of India’s greatest musical figures, and the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and dancers, will guide a lavish musical journey from Rajasthan to Mumbai.
The winter holiday season will be stellar at the Long Center with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – the Musical,” on Nov. 27-29 in Dell Hall. The beloved TV classic soars off the screen and onto the stage, with favorite characters including Santa and Mrs. Claus, Hermey the Elf, the Abominable Snow Monster, Clarice, Yukon Cornelius and, of course, Rudolph. Tapestry Dance’s “Of Mice and Music: A Jazz Nutcracker,” is Dec. 10-20, and features an original score and live jazz music. Ballet Austin’s “Nutcracker,” Dec. 5-23 at the Long Center, is the quintessential Austin Christmas experience, with Stephen Mills’ take on the timeless tale showcasing a cast of hundreds.
Austin’s oldest performing arts group, the Austin Symphony Orchestra, begins its 105th season on Sept. 18-19. The ASO will offer programming that includes a series of eight Masterworks concerts, a Halloween Children’s concert, holiday events, a Texas Young Composers Concert, and the Sarah & Ernest Butler Pops Series, from Sept. through June, 2016. ASO opens the Masterworks season at the Long Center with pianist André Watts performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor. The evening also features Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 in E Minor and recent Pulitzer Prize winner, Kevin Puts’“… this noble company.” On Oct. 16-17, Maestro Peter Bay conducts Glazunov’s “The Seasons: Autumn,” and Brahms’s Symphony No. 3 in F Major, with violinist In Mo Yang performing Saint-Saën’s Violin Concerto No. 3 in B Minor. On Nov. 20-21, the Symphony teams with Austin’s Grammy winners, Conspirare, for an all choral program including Ravel’s “Daphnis et Chloé.” Also on the program is Poulenc’s Gloria featuring soprano, Mela Dailey.
ASO’s Sarah & Ernest Butler Pops Series once again presents the best in symphonic pops entertainment, with Warner Bros. presents “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II” on Oct. 24, with classic Looney Tunes projected on the big screen while the Symphony performs their exhilarating, original Carl Stalling scores live. On Dec. 29-30, Austin Symphony brings the best of Sinatra to the Palmer Events Center with “My Sinatra,” starring Cary Hoffman. The Long Center’s Dell Hall is the site of Austin Symphony’s annual Halloween Children’s Concert on Oct. 27. The exciting concert features frightfully fun symphonic music that is stimulating for young eyes and ears (ages 2-10). The Symphony presents its Christmas tradition, Handel’s “Messiah,” accompanied by Chorus Austin, on Dec. 1 at Hyde Park Baptist Church. Both a holiday classic and a city favorite, the night of musical magic promises to comfort through its familiarity and joy of rediscovery.
Austin Opera’s season opening gala concert, Sept. 26 at the Long Center, spotlights rising dramatic soprano, Heidi Melton, joined by Rachele Gilmore, Liz Cass and principal conductor, Richard Buckley, performing selections from beloved operas by Wagner and Strauss. Famous for its triumphal march and soaring arias, Verdi’s grand opera, “Aida,” is performed Nov. 7, 12, 15 at the Long Center. Joined by the Austin Opera Chorus and the Austin Opera Orchestra, the opera is a tour de force of choral scenes, dance, massive sets, and vocal power with some of Verdi’s greatest music. Issachah Savage and Karen Slack will make their Austin Opera debuts in the beloved story of ill-fated love and betrayal.
Texas Performing Arts continues to be a cultural leader in the University of Texas and Central Texas community, presenting interdisciplinary performances that bring together the world’s most innovative and talented artists. Kicking-off the season is Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer Billy Childs paying homage to the great singer-songwriter, Laura Nyro, Sept. 10 at Bass Concert Hall. Twyla Tharp celebrates her 50th anniversary as a choreographer, taking 12 dancers on a national tour (including an Oct. 20 Austin stop) to debut new works set to music by Bach, Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein, and John Zorn.
“Frankenstein (1931) with the UT Wind Ensemble” is on Austin’s Halloween season’s must-see list, with a 70-minute score orchestrated for wind ensemble and performed by UT’s renowned wind ensemble with a screening of the 1931 film starring Boris Karloff, Oct. 29, at Bass Concert Hall. Ukulele wizard Jake Shimabukuro, appearing Nov. 21, at the same locale, has been declared a musical “hero” by Rolling Stone and earned comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis.
An Austin new-music favorite, eighth blackbird, returns for another on-campus residency. The centerpiece of their Nov. 13 program at McCullough Theatre features “Murder Ballades,” a work by composer Bryce Dessner, best known for his work as the guitarist for the indie rock band The National. Latin Grammy-nominee, La Santa Cecilia, exemplifies the modern-day creative hybrid of Latin culture rock and world music. The group draws inspiration from all over the world, using Pan-American rhythms from cumbia, bossa nova, rhumba, bolero, tango, jazz, rock, and klezmer music. They headline an evening of world music, Dec. 3 at Bass Concert Hall, with an opening set by Yuna, a charismatic young singer-songwriter from Malaysia who is the first artist from her homeland to break into the American market.