Mahler’s 9th, Seraphic Fire’s 10th, and much more on tap in a busy music season

By David Fleshler


Patrick Dupre Quigley will open Seraphic Fire's 10th anniversary season in October.

The 2011-12 concert season will see the debuts of new music directors at two of South Florida’s major classical organizations. It will bring a parade of celebrity musicians, including Placido Domingo for a one-night zarzuela performance, violinists Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman and Hilary Hahn, and pianists Stephen Hough, Garrick Ohlsson and Hélène Grimaud. And Michael Tilson Thomas will continue his Mahler cycle with the New World Symphony, performing the composer’s Symphony No. 9.

Perhaps most significantly, Seraphic Fire ( will mark its 10th anniversary with a round of performances that showcase its vast range, adding venues in Boca Raton and Miami to its usual performance sites. The choir will perform a masterpiece of the choral repertoire, Bach’s B Minor Mass, accompanied by its in-house orchestra, the Firebird Chamber Orchestra (Feb. 10-12). It will perform two of those theatrical, high-concept works for which it has become known, building one around the work of Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria (Oct. 19-23) and another around the music of Tudor England (March 14-18). The choir will also perform an all-new version of its popular candle-lit Christmas concerts (Dec. 7-20). Current and former members of Seraphic Fire will join together to celebrate the ensemble’s 10th anniversary for a series of concerts from Jan. 11-15, with performances of works by young composers from whom it had previously commissioned works. Added to the choir’s usual performance locations will be St. Jude Melkite Catholic Church in Miami and St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton.

The Cleveland Orchestra (, which last season served up a timid menu that included Bolero, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and other broadly popular works, will perform a more laudable mix of new pieces, classics and underplayed works from the past. Among the major works are Shostakovich’s rarely heard Symphony No. 6 (Jan. 27-28) and pieces by two living composers, Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra with soprano Dawn Upshaw (March 2-3), and the young American composer Sean Shepherd’s Wanderlust, performed last season by the New World Symphony (Jan. 27-28).

The orchestra will also perform several repertoire staples, including the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Yefim Bronfman (Jan. 27-28), Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (March 23-24), Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 (March 2-3), Respighi’s Pines of Rome (March 23-24) and Grieg’s Piano Concerto with soloist Gabriela Montero (March 23-24). The orchestra’s music director Franz Welser-Möst will conduct just one of the three programs, with one conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero, principal guest conductor for the Miami residency, and the other by Nicola Luisotti, music director of the San Francisco Opera.


Ramon Tebar launches his first season as music director of Florida Grand Opera with Puccini's "La Rondine," opening Jan. 21.

Florida Grand Opera ( is looking forward to an eventful season, highlighted by Domingo’s appearance on the stage of the Arsht Center. He will sing the role of Vidal Hernando for one night in the Nov. 15 performance of Federico Moreno Torroba’s Luisa Fernanda as part of a gala fund-raising event (regular-cast performances will run Nov. 12-Dec. 3),  FGO will give its first-ever performance of Puccini’s La Rondine (Jan. 21-Feb. 4), with Miami soprano Elizabeth Caballero. The company will showcase the young Fort Lauderdale-born soprano Nadine Sierra as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, (Jan. 28-Feb. 18) a casting decision reached after FGO’s general director Robert Heuer heard Sierra in recital last season in the Sunday Afternoons of Music series.

And most important, this will be FGO’s first season under the leadership of new music director Ramon Tebar, who fills the spot left open since Stewart Robertson’s departure in 2009. Tebar, a native of Valencia, Spain, served four years as assistant conductor of the Palm Beach Opera under music director Bruno Aprea. In the past two FGO seasons, he led fine performances of Lucia di Lammermoor and Turandot. This season he will lead only La Rondine. Rounding out the season will be Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (April 21-May 12).


Nicole Cabell will sing the role of Juliette in Palm Beach Opera's "Romeo et Juliette," beginning Feb. 24.

Palm Beach Opera ( will mark its 50th anniversary with three of opera’s most popular masterpieces, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (Dec. 16-18), Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette (Feb. 24-26) and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (March 23-25). Appearing in the role of Juliette will be the highly regarded young American soprano Nicole Cabell, who has sung leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Royal Opera and whose 2007 solo recording won several awards. The company will also give a celebrity-studded 50th anniversary concert Jan. 20 and 22, with Sherrill Milnes as master of ceremonies and scenes from La Traviata, Die Fledermaus, La Boheme, Carmen, Aïda and other works, Featured singers include soprano Ruth Ann Swenson, mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves and baritone Daniel Sutin. But the 50th anniversary celebration will be shadowed by a sharp cutback just announced by the company, as it drops its Monday matinees due to low attendance, a major cut for a company that gives just four performances of each opera in the season.

Festival Miami (, which offers more than a month of classical, jazz and Latin music at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, will open Sept. 30 with a free talk by the American composer, conductor and horn player Gunther Schuller. The festival will continue the next day with the official opening night, featuring the Frost Symphony Orchestra and horn player Richard Todd in a performance of Schuller’s Horn Concerto No. 1 (Oct. 1). Highlights include Schuller conducting his own and others’ works (Oct. 2), a performance of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 by Claire Huangci (Oct. 9), a free concert by the United States Marine Band (Oct. 14) at the BankUnited Center and an all-Liszt recital by Jerome Lowenthal, chairman of the piano department at Juilliard (Oct. 22).


Esa-Pekka Salonen will make his New World Symphony debut April 7, conducting the orchestra in his own music and that of Stravinsky.

The New World Symphony ( will spend its first full season in its new high-tech performing arts center in Miami Beach, which opened last season. The orchestra will take advantage of its new space with a series of non-traditional concert formats, such as short Discovery concerts and mini-events designed to attract casual strollers in the Lincoln Road nightlife district. And it will broadcast 16 concerts on its outdoor projection wall, allowing people in the adjacent city park to hear the orchestra for free.

But the ensemble will maintain its emphasis on strong traditional programming and first-rate guest conductors and performers. Among guest conductors will be Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, in Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (Dec. 10-11); Osmo Vänskä, music director of the Minnesota Orchestra, in Nielsen’s Symphony No. 4 (March 31-April 1); Esa-Pekka Salonen, former music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, leading the orchestra in his own work Nyx and Stravinsky’s complete Firebird (April 7); and Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with soloist Hélène Grimaud (April 13-14). Soloists will include the soprano Christine Brewer in Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder (Oct. 29), James Ehnes in the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Jan. 7-8) and Gil Shaham in the Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2 (Feb. 17-18).

The orchestra will put on a semi-staged performance of Bartók’s opera Bluebeard’s Castle (April 27-28). And in what is likely to be a highlight of the season, Michael Tilson Thomas, the New World’s artistic director, will continue his Mahler cycle with a performance of the composer’s Symphony No. 9.


Violinist Hilary Hahn will perform a recital at the Broward Center Nov. 6 with pianist Valentina Lisitsa.

South Florida’s three big performing arts centers will each mount a classical series. Particularly strong is the one at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in West Palm Beach (, which will offer a parade of first-class orchestras, conductors, soloists and chamber ensembles.

The Cleveland Orchestra under music director Franz Welser-Möst will come to Kravis to play the Shostakovich Symphony No. 6 and Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 with soloist Yefim Bronfman (Jan. 25). The Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä will perform Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and the Sibelius Violin Concerto with soloist Midori (March 11). Richard Stoltzman will perform Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with the New York Chamber Soloists (March 27). A new quintet by Miami native and Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, co-commissioned by the Kravis Center, will be performed by the Kalichstein Laredo Robinson Trio, augmented by the violist Michael Tree and double bass player Harold Robinson (Feb. 28). Other performers include the Emerson Quartet in a program of Haydn, Bartók and Beethoven (Dec. 6), the Royal Philharmonic with conductor and violin soloist Pinchas Zukerman (Jan. 4-5), the violinist Joshua Bell in recital (Jan. 31), the pianist Garrick Ohlsson in the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 and Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4 with the Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra (Feb. 8-9) and violinist Itzhak Perlman in recital (March 6).

The Broward Center for the Performing ( is also offering a strong series. The American violinist Hilary Hahn will give a recital, joined by a first-rate accompanist in the pianist Valentina Lisitsa (Nov. 6). The Royal Philharmonic and Zukerman will also make an appearance here, with the Brahms Symphony No. 4 and Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 (Jan. 3). Also scheduled is a recital by the mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves (March 16) and a performance by the San Francisco-based male vocal ensemble Chanticleer (April 18).

The Arsht Center for the Performing Arts ( will offer a procession of famous soloists, performing in recital and with various orchestras. Itzhak Perlman, a perennial visitor to South Florida, will perform a chamber concert with alumni of the Perlman Music Program (Nov. 17). The French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will perform Liszt’s Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Tchaikowski St. Petersburg State Orchestra (Feb. 1). The pianist Garrick Ohlsson will play the Chopin Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Wroclaw Symphony Orchestra (Feb. 10). Violinist Midori will play the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä, in a concert that will also include Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (March 10). Ending the series will be a recital by the acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang (May 17).

Pianist Stephen Hough will perform for Friends of Chamber Music on Feb. 19.

South Florida’s chamber music presenters will bring in a mix of young and established musicians. Friends of Chamber Music of Miami ( will add Florida International University and the Colony Theater in Miami Beach to its usual venue at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall. Julian Kreeger, president of the organization, is a piano aficionado, and this year’s lineup offers a procession of keyboard virtuosos, including Nikolai Lugansky (Nov. 13), Anton Kuerti (Dec. 5), Cyprien Katsaris (Feb. 13) and Stephen Hough (Feb. 19). Among the other performers are the Kalichstein Laredo Robinson Trio and violist Michael Tree (Jan. 9), Ysaÿe String Quartet (Feb. 28),  clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein, cellist William De Rosa (March 28), the Ehnes String Quartet (April 25) and flutist Paula Robison and pianist Ken Noda (April 4).

Doreen Marx’s Sunday Afternoons of Music ( will present soprano Caballero in recital (Dec. 18), a concert likely to be packed with the singer’s local fans. The young violinist Ray Chen, a protégé of Aaron Rosand, will perform Dec. 10. Other performers include the cellist David Finckel of the Emerson String Quartet, with his wife pianist Wu Han (Jan. 7), the Miro String Quartet (Feb. 12), pianist Simon Trpceski (Feb. 25) and violinist Sergei Krylov (May 19).

Also, the Miami Bach Society ( will open its season Oct. 16 with viola da gambist Jordi Savall appearing at New World Center.

In addition to Seraphic Fire celebrating its tenth anniversary, the Master Chorale of South Florida is welcoming a new artistic director. Taking over leadership of the Master Chorale of South Florida ( is Karen Kennedy, former associate professor and director of choral activities at Towson University in suburban Baltimore. Kennedy, who will also serve as director of choral activities at the University of Miami, will lead two concert programs. She will lead the chorus and the Miami Symphony Orchestra in Christmas concerts in Coral Gables, Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton that will include the Bach Magnificat, Corelli Christmas Concerto and other works (Nov. 18-20). And she will direct the chorus and the Boca Raton Symphonia in a concert called “Royal Flush: Music, For, By and About Royalty” that will include Mozart’s Coronation Mass, Handel’s The King Shall Rejoice, Britten’s Gloriana and a work composed for the recent British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, John Rutter’s This is the Day that the Lord Has Made (April 20-22).

Three South Florida orchestras will offer world premieres this year, as well as heavy doses of traditional concert works.

The Miami Symphony Orchestra ( will open its season with the world premiere of The Beatles Guide to the Orchestra by the young Miami composer and trumpet player Sam Hyken (Oct. 23). The season will include a concert of Brazilian music (Dec. 10-11), Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 and Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (March 31-April 1), an evening of opera arias (April 20-22) and a performance of Beethoven’s infrequently heard Triple Concerto (May 11).

Symphony of the Americas (  will perform the world premiere of a work by Latin Grammy Award-winner Eduardo Magallanes (Oct. 18). And the orchestra will offer several concerto performances by young soloists, including a concert pairing 16-year-old Conrad Tao in the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2 with 17-year-old Anna Litvinenko playing the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 (Jan. 24) and another featuring the 9-year-old Austrian prodigy Elisso Gogibedaschwilli in the Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 (Feb. 28).

The Boca Raton Symphonia ( will play the world premiere of Marshall Turkin’s Five Brief Essays on One Theme (Jan. 15) and offer a mix of violin and piano soloists, including Itzhak Perlman’s protégé Areta Zhulla in the Barber Violin Concerto (Feb. 5) and Boca Symphonia principal conductor and pianist Philippe Entremont and Sebastian Knaur in Mozart’s Double Piano Concerto in E-flat major, K. 365 (March 18).

Miami Lyric Opera (, which presents small-scale performances at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach, puts on operas throughout the year rather than just during the traditional season. The company plans a free performance of Arrieta’s opera Marina Nov. 5. After that, with dates yet to be determined, are Puccini’s Tosca, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly and Rossini’s Barber of Seville.

Miami City Ballet, which performs at the Arsht, Broward and Kravis performing arts centers, will produce a world premiere by Royal Ballet choreographer Liam Scarlett (Jan. 6-Feb. 5). The company ( will perform two full-length classics of the repertoire, Giselle (Feb. 17-March 11) and Coppélia (March 23-April 15). Miami City Ballet will perform shorter works by Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp and Christopher Wheeldon (Oct. 21-Dec. 11). And over the Christmas holiday it will perform Balanchine’s production of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (Dec. 15-24).

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