The last time we talked to supreme Broadway artist Stephen Sondheim

In the occasion of Zach Theatre‘s first fully staged musical by Stephen Sondheim, “Sunday in the Park with George,” which opens May 30, we republish this Nov. 8, 2009 story that includes my interview with great man himself. 

Stephen Sondheim in 1976. AP

Stephen Sondheim, the creative force behind 18 major musicals, might be the greatest artist Broadway has ever produced.

Consider his music, lyrics and theatrical collaborations over the past 50 years. He transformed the way words go with music during the musical’s so-called Golden Age (“West Side Story,” “Gypsy”). He later fused music and lyrics into darker material (“Company,” “Follies” “A Little Night Music”), which led to his mature theatrical masterpieces (“Sweeney Todd,” “Into the Woods,” “Sunday in the Park with George”) and even his lesser gems (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Assassins”).

Critics believe his work will survive centuries, if not millennia.

“Sondheim – more than any other composer or lyricist – has given us music and theater that is memorable, challenging, intelligent and inventive, yet emotionally and intellectually satisfying,” says Rick Pender, editor of the Sondheim Quarterly, a national magazine devoted to its namesake. “I do not see this kind of multifaceted genius in any other Broadway artist.”

Sondheim is not so sure about his legacy.

“I wouldn’t make any pronouncements,” he said recently in a rare telephone interview. “Who knows if musicals will be done? Who does the musicals from 100 years ago? They are ridiculous. The songs are good. Not the musicals. You want to listen to an Irving Berlin tune, but not see an Irving Berlin show.”

(“Annie Get Your Gun” might be an exception.)

Thursday, the nine-time Tony Award winner – who also earned an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize – will make his first Austin appearance. He will extend a cycle of public conversations started two years ago with The New York Times opinion writer and former theater critic Frank Rich. At the Long Center, his colloquy partner will be Austin Chronicle arts editor Robert Faires.

Local musical aficionados can hardly wait for the verbal exchange.

“Sondheim represents everything that is good about American musical theater,” says Austin director Michael McKelvey, who recently staged an award-winning “Sweeney Todd.” “He is always original and thought-provoking, a composer with a grasp of all that Western music can deliver.”

Born in 1930 in New York City, Sondheim wrote his first musical as a student whose schoolmates included the son of lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The elder artist had collaborated with composers such as Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers to produce classics like “Show Boat,” “Oklahoma!” and “South Pacific.” In one of the happy coincidences of theatrical history, Hammerstein became a sort of surrogate father and oversaw the development of Sondheim’s tender aesthetic.

Although he studied music seriously, it was Sondheim’s lyrics that first drew the attention of Broadway professionals. And, in the postwar period, words made an emphatic point. Hammerstein had already linked the songs closely to the action, so that audiences actually paid attention to them.

“The next big change came with the rock revolution,” Sondheim says. “People started listening to lyrics. Nobody really listened to Cole Porter’s lyrics, except the clever, comic ones. After the pop revolution, people had a lot to say: There was anger and passion – (expletive) the establishment. Before that, lyrics were generally anodyne: ‘I love you darling,’ and all that. I’m oversimplifying, but “”

Sondheim’s lyrics were so adept, so clever, so crucial to each show’s emotional progress, he was recognized as a singular wordsmith.

“I am continually in awe of the multiple emotional layers and thoughtfulness of Sondheim’s work,” says Zach Theatre director Dave Steakley. “The recent spate of stripped-down productions, fewer orchestrations and chorus members, have revealed new truths for his fans and have become new, meaningful works on their own, instead of feeling lesser.”

More than 60 years after penning his first lyrics, Sondheim has collected them in a two-volume book that will include recollections and commentary.

“There are a lot of lyrics and a lot of comment,” jokes Sondheim, one of the few theater artists elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Reviewing thousands of lyrical lines – all stored in the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center – were there any surprises?

“Honestly no,” he says. “Every now and then, I would glow with pride and delight, or wince with shame and embarrassment. But I’m a slow writer. I worked on these things meticulously, so there are not a lot of surprises left. I really know every word.”

Although he had been writing musicals for 25 years, Sondheim did not make his mark as a composer until 1970, with a string of grown-up hits: “Company,” “Follies” and “A Little Night Music.”

“My first exposure to the fully formed Sondheim was when I bought the original cast album of ‘Follies’ in the 1970s,” says Long Center managing director Paul Beutel. “The raw yet soaring emotion of songs like ‘Too Many Mornings’ and ‘Losing My Mind’ – so perfectly captured in music and lyrics – just wiped me out.”

Although musical devotees call these “Sondheim shows,” the artist always emphasizes his collaborations with writers and directors (Harold Prince, James Lapine, etc.) and, especially, his prized orchestrator, Jonathan Tunick, whose full-

orchestra sound undergirds Tim Burton’s movie adaptation of “Sweeney Todd.”

“He is a most generous man, a mentor who is always ready to lend his support – creative, emotional and intellectual – to the work of others,” Sondheim Quarterly’s Pender says.

Recently, two of Sondheim’s collaborators, George Furth and Larry Gelbart, died.

“George was an actor,” Sondheim says. “Music meant nothing to him. So writing with him was interesting. That’s one reason the songs don’t always fit into the script. They are commentary; raisins in the cake. But George’s dialogue is extremely brilliant. It’s dialogic.”

Gelbart, his collaborator in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” adapting the Roman comedies of Plautus, understood music, he says.

“In ‘Forum,’ the songs are respites from the farce,” Sondheim says. “And ‘Forum’ is a very tight farce. The songs are breathing places. Otherwise the comedy would be relentless.”

One reason Sondheim’s shows – almost never big profit machines – are regularly revived is they provide peerless opportunities for performers.

“Sondheim’s work demands that a performer be equally gifted as an actor and as a singer,” says director Steakley. “Sondheim’s melodies and harmonies, as well as the speed of his complicated lyrics in passages of songs, are rigorous for a singer to master. Equal to this is the emotional investment and honesty required to convey his character’s multilayered states of being.”

Patti LuPone, Angela Lansbury, Mandy Patinkin, Bernadette Peters, Raul Esparza, Audra McDonald and Elaine Stritch are among the prime Sondheim interpreters. One of Sondheim’s special muses, Lansbury, was in one of his early musicals, and she’s slated to play aged Madame Armfedlt in the upcoming Broadway revival of “A Little Night Music.” British director Trevor Nunn’s restaging of “Night Music,” transferred from London to New York, is simpler than earlier versions.

“The tone is Chekhovian,” Sondheim says. “That’s implicit in the piece anyway. It’s about shadows. But it’s still a comedy, done with chamber music in a chamber style.”

One musical that made a definite impression in high school and college drama departments is “Merrily We Roll Along,” which deals with the fraying of youthful ideals in a tale told backward. Yet it lasted only 17 performances in its first Broadway run. Later, Sondheim and Furth tinkered with it, and Lapine revived it on the road.

“We are satisfied with it now,” Sondheim says. “The problem – and this was true in the source Kaufman and Hart play – the lead is an unsympathetic character you get to like. James dug into it a little more, without softening it. Just helping audiences out. It may never satisfy them. People are turned off by unsympathetic characters. I like them, when something interesting happens to them.”

Although he was pleased with the movie version of “Sweeney Todd” – and he’s in negotiations for films of “Follies” and “Into the Woods” – he’s not ready to make generalizations about the return of the movie musical, or the success of youth-oriented shows like “Glee” and the “High School Musical” movies.

“Mine are not that kind of musical,” he says. “They are not as freewheeling, when the stories are just excuses for the numbers.”

Sondheim is also uncomfortable talking about his legacy, though he would include the composing teams of John Kander and Fred Ebb (“Cabaret,” “Chicago”), as well as Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (“Fiddler on the Roof,” “She Loves Me”), as ones that will tend to endure beyond our time.

A notorious perfectionist, Sondheim, at 79, can look back with some pleasure on his work.

“Every now and then I see something of mine and say ‘that was good,’ he says. “It takes a long to not to be neurotic about it. Usually, I see only what’s wrong. Now I accept what’s good.”

Critics name finalists for 2018 Austin arts awards

It’s time. The Austin Critics Table Awards nominations came out this morning.

Buzz Moran at the Critics Table Awards at Cap City Comedy Club in 2008. That’s a decade ago! Michael Barnes/AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The gathered minds invented new categories, both under the heading of Theater: Periphery Company, recognizing the theatrical body of work by companies outside of Austin proper, and Improvised Production, recognizing mainstage projects by area improv troupes.

That puts the number of official categories this year at 29 (7 theater, 5 design, 5 dance, 6 classical music, 6 visual arts). Critics also promise at least 11 special citations.

RELATED: 2018 Austin Arts Hall of Fame honorees.

The ceremony is 7 p.m. June 4 at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. Admission is free. The public is welcome.

Logo for Austin Critics Table Award. By Michael Crampton for American-Statesman

AUSTIN CRITICS TABLE NOMINATIONS 2018

THEATER

Production

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, ZACH Theatre

Enron, UT Austin Department of Theatre & Dance

Henry IV, The Hidden Room Theatre

Pocatello, Street Corner Arts

Ragtime, Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

The Repentance of Saint Joan, Paper Chairs

The Wolves, Hyde Park Theatre

Direction

Jason Phelps, The Brothers Size

Rudy Ramirez, The Revolutionists/Storm Still/Wild Horses/The Way She Spoke: A Docu-Mythologia

kt shorb, Scheherazade

Dave Steakley, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Benjamin Summers, Pocatello

Dustin Wills, Catalina de Erauso

Hannah Wolf, Enron

David Mark Cohen New Play Award

Catalina de Erauso, Elizabeth Doss

Fixing Troilus and Cressida, Kirk Lynn

The Repentance of Saint Joan, Patrick Shaw

Scheherazade, Scheherazade ensemble

The Secretary, Kyle John Schmidt

A Shoe Story, Allen Robertson & Damon Brown

Wild Horses, Allison Gregory

Performance by an Individual

John Christopher, The Brothers Size/Fixing Troilus and Cressida

Crystal Bird Caviel, The Moors/Fixing Troilus and Cressida

Chanel, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill

Jennifer Coy Jennings, Wild Horses

Sarah Danko, The Effect/Grounded

Sam Domino, Prodigal Son

Judd Farris, Henry IV/The Repentance of Saint Joan

Joseph Garlock, The Immigrant

Bill Karnovsky, Yankee Tavern

Katie Kohler, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Robert Matney, Henry IV

Amber Quick, Pocatello/The Secretary

Performance by an Ensemble

A Chorus Line, Texas State University Department of Theatre and Dance

Catalina de Erauso, Paper Chairs

Enron, UT Austin Department of Theatre & Dance

Pocatello, Street Corner Arts

The Seafarer, City Theatre

Vampyress, Vortex Repertory Company

The Wolves, Hyde Park Theatre

Periphery Company

Gaslight Baker Theatre, Lockhart

Georgetown Palace Theatre, Georgetown

Fredericksburg Theater Company, Fredericksburg

Way Off Broadway Community Players, Leander

Wimberley Players, Wimberley

Improvised Production

The 48-Hour Improv Marathon: Hour 48, The Hideout Theatre

Broad Ambition, Girls Girls Girls

Deja Noir, ColdTowne Theater

The Kindness of Strangers, The Hideout Theatre

Latinauts: The Wrath of Juan, Prima Doñas

Orphans!, The Hideout Theatre

Speak No More, Golden

2018 Critics Table Awards June 4 jpg

DESIGN

Set

Stephanie Busing, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Chris Conard/Zac Thomas, Pocatello

Magdalena Jarkowiec, “In Here”

Lisa Laratta, Catalina de Erauso/The Repentance of Saint Joan

Roxy Mojica, Enron

Desiderio Roybal, The Father

Lino Toyos, The Drowsy Chaperone

Costume

Emily Cawood, “Fellow Travelers”/“Klein Blue (The Void)”

Jennifer Rose Davis, The Revolutionists

Cait Graham, Enron

E.L. Hohn, Catalina de Erauso

Buffy Manners, Shakespeare in Love

Cheryl Painter, The Moors

Barbara Pope, The Drowsy Chaperone

Lighting

Rachel Atkinson, Scheherazade/Twentyeight/Catalina de Erauso/The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time/con flama

Natalie George, 11:11:10/11:11:11/A Study in Release/Romeo and Juliet/There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe

Sarah EC Maines, In the Heights

Steven Myers, “Fellow Travelers”/”Murmuration”/“Klein Blue/The Void”

Stephen Pruitt, Parade/Juana: First (I) Dream/Glacier/Diet Fizz Radio/Bartholomew Swims

Alex Soto/Ilios Lighting, Belonging, Part One

Tony Tucci, Exit Wounds

Sound

Lowell Bartholomee, Grounded

Robert S. Fisher, The Moors/Wakey Wakey

William Meadows, Belonging, Part One

Robert Pierson & Dustin Wills, Catalina de Erauso

Drew Silverman, “A Meditation”

Jesse Wilson, with Brandon Guerra, John Clark Gable, and KIVI, Diet Fizz Radio

Digital

Lowell Bartholomee, The Effect/Wakey Wakey/The Repentance of Saint Joan/Grounded

Ashton Bennett Murphy, “Mirror”

Eliot Gray Fisher, “In the Ether”

Robert Mallin, Enron

DANCE

Concert

A Study in Release, The Illusory Impressions Project

Fall for Dance, Dance Repertory Theatre

First (I) Dream, A’lante Flamenco

Masters of Dance, Ballet Austin

Midsummer Offerings, Performa/Dance

Parade, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

(Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson/Fusebox Festival

Short Work

“Finale,” Jennifer Sherburn

“Four Mortal Men,” Ballet Austin

“In Here,” Magdalena Jarkowiec/Fusebox Festival

“In the Ether,” Dance Repertory Theatre

“Murmuration,” Ballet Austin II

“Overseas Phone Call, 1987,” Magdalena Jarkowiec/Performa/Dance

“When,” Dance Repertory Theatre

Choreographer

Charles O. Anderson, (Re)current Unrest

Kathy Dunn Hamrick, Parade/Glacier

Rennie Harris, “Resurrection”

Jennifer Hart, “Fellow Travelers”/“Murmuration”

Taryn Lavery & Alex Miller, with Hailley Laurèn, Amy Myers, and Lucy Wilson, Diet Fizz Radio

Ray Eliot Schwartz, “Otras Puertas/Otras Rumbos”

Jennifer Sherburn, “Lapse”/”Finale”

Dancer

Charles O. Anderson, “(Re)current Unrest pt. 3: Clapback”

Ellen Bartel, “Attic”

Alexa Capareda, “Diet Fizz Radio”/”Overseas Phone Call, 1987”/”In Here”

Anika Jones, Belonging, Part One

Anuradha Naimpally, “Krishna the Divine Lover”

Rosalyn Nasky, “Come In!!!”/”Pod”/There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe

Kelsey Oliver, “Overseas Phone Call, 1987”/”In Here”

Oren Porterfield, “Fellow Travelers”

Emily Rushing, “Flicker.Burn.Repeat”

Jun Shen, Belonging, Part One

Ensemble

Exit Wounds/Masters of Dance, Ballet Austin

“Fellow Travelers,” Performa/Dance

“Otras Puertas/Otras Rumbos,” Fall for Dance

Parade, Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company

(Re)current Unrest, Charles O. Anderson/Fusebox Festival

“Resurrection,” Dance Repertory Theatre

There’s No Such Thing as a Single Stripe, ensemble

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Concert/Opera

Bach: Mass in B Minor, Panoramic Voices

Carmen, Austin Opera

La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling, LOLA

Feast of Voices, Austin Symphony Orchestra with Chorus Austin

Southwest Voices, Chorus Austin

La Traviata, Austin Opera

Unclouded Day, Conspirare

Chamber Performance

Invoke, Beerthoven/Golden Hornet Smackdown IV

Golden Hornet Young Composers Concert, Golden Hornet

i/we, Austin Classical Guitar

It’s About Time: Companions, Texas Early Music Project

The Lavuta Project, Austin Chamber Music Festival

Virgo Veritas, Austin Chamber Music Center

Original Composition/Score

A Study in Release, Catherine Davis

Crone – for Chamber Orchestra, Samuel Lipman

i/we, Joseph V. Williams II

“Songs of Remembrance and Resistance,” Kevin March

Singer

Ryland Angel, Passio/It’s About Time: Companions

Cayla Cardiff, An Early Christmas/It’s About Time: Companions

Liz Cass, La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling

Marina Costa-Jackson, La Traviata

Carolyn Hoehle, La Clemenza di Tito: A Retelling

Gitanjali Mathur, It’s About Time: Companions

Sandra Piques Eddy, Carmen

Heather Phillips, Carmen

Chad Shelton, Carmen

Jenifer Thyssen, An Early Christmas/It’s About Time: Companions/Complaints Through the Ages

Veronica Williams, “Songs of Remembrance and Resistance”

Ensemble

Aeolus Quartet, Virgo Veritas

Invoke, Beerthoven/Golden Hornet Smackdown IV

Tetractys, Golden Hornet Young Composers Concert

Instrumentalist

Bruce Colson, It’s About Time: Companions

Ian Davidson, Feast of Voices

Artina McCain, Black Composers Concert: The Black Female Composer

Carla McElhaney, Revel Classical Band at Beerthoven

Marcus McGuff, An Early Christmas

Ebonee Thomas, Black Composers Concert: The Black Female Composer

Bruce Williams, Feast of Voices

VISUAL ART

Solo Gallery Exhibition

“Anthony B. Creeden: Cacti and Semaphore,” GrayDuck Gallery

“Bucky Miller: Grackle Actions,” Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum

“Claude van Lingen: Timekeeper,” Co-Lab Projects

“Larry Bamburg: BurlsHoovesandShells on a Pedestal of Conglomerates,” UT Visual Arts Center

“Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons: Notes on Sugar,” Christian-Green Gallery

“Rachel Stuckey: Good Days and Bad Days on the Internet,” Women & Their Work

“Raul Gonzalez: Doing Work,” GrayDuck Gallery

Group Gallery Exhibition

“Collectors Show,” GrayDuck Gallery

“Good Mourning Tis of Thee,” Co-Lab Projects

“In depth: a group show,” Davis Gallery

“Refigured: Radical Realism,” Dougherty Arts Center

“Staycation 2: What in the World?” Mass Gallery

“xoxo,” Museum of Human Achievement

“Yo soy aqui / I am here,” ICOSA

Museum Exhibition

“Rodney McMillian: Against a Civic Death,” The Contemporary Austin

“Line Form Color,” Blanton Museum of Art

“The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip,” Blanton Museum of Art

“Vaudeville,” Ransom Center

“Wangechi Mutu,” The Contemporary Austin

Independent Project

2017 Texas Biennial

Cage Match Project Gallery

The Museum of Pocket Art

Outsider Fest

Gallery, Body of Work

Co-Lab Projects

Dimension Gallery

GrayDuck gallery

Mass Gallery

Museum of Human Achievement

Artist

Jennifer Balkan

Elizabeth Chiles

Michael Anthony Garcia

Revi Meicler

Barry Stone

 

We salute $43 million Bloomberg arts gifts, Austin Opera, Austin Art League and more

As reported in the New York Times, Bloomberg Philanthropies is putting $43 million into small and midsize arts group in seven new cities, including Austin.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“We wanted to reach cities that we thought had a really strong mix in the way they were serving up arts and culture,” Kate Levin, who oversees arts programs for Bloomberg, told the Times.

The other cities new to the project are Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Already, the program has given $65 million to smaller groups in New York, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

By invitation, the arts groups are offered unrestricted support up to 10 percent of their budgets along with management training.

We’ll update this report when names of the local arts groups are revealed.

Austin Opera

Notes on Austin Opera‘s recent production of “La Traviata.”

• Just as with Austin Symphony‘s concert that included Beethoven‘s Fifth, the opera company can fill a house with a favorite. Yes, just as patron Robert Nash said as he passed me going in, this was something like my 5,000th “La Traviata,” but who is counting? I like a full, enthusiastic house and a fresh interpretation of a classic.

• Every “La Traviata” is about Violetta, the fallen woman who finds love, abandons it in sacrifice, then dies. Yet everything about this production at the Long Center for the Performing arts centered expressly on Marina Costa-Jackson, who could fill an sporting arena with her charisma, her nuanced acting and her gorgeously tawny voice. She now moves up to spot No. 2 after Patricia Racette on my list of favorite Violettas.

RELATED: How Austin Opera got its groove back.

• Every conductor from here on out must be considered a candidate for the position of Austin Opera artistic director. That’s not the official line, but it’s customary. What can we say about Steven White, who conducts around the world including at the Metropolitan Opera in New York? Judged by this one show, his sound is clean, unassuming and solidly in support of the artistic whole.

• While we loved the whirlwinds of activity elicited by stage director David Lefkowich, as well as the simplicity of his intimate scenes, we were of two minds about the costumes, sets and lights. The first act was appropriately suggestive of a bordello with a hint of luxury, each subsequent scene looked more and more bleak, less and less polished.

• Alfredo is, by nature, a pallid character. And that’s the way tenor Scott Quinn played him from beginning to end. Even during scenes of rage or regret. Germont, on the other hand, offers a mature range of responses. Although he looked young for the role of Alfredo’s father, Michael Chioldi proved forceful, then dignified, although he was less convincing as he warmed to Violetta.

Austin Art League

They have been meeting for more than 100 years. The Austin Art League started regularly examining and discussing art in social settings in 1909. They continue to do so.

Apoorva Jain, Lulu Flores and Laura Bauman during the Art League Luncheon at Tarry House. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

During a light luncheon at Tarry House, a private club in Tarrytown on a former estate that belonged the Reed family, they covered a multitude of subjects, but got down to business handing out scholarships to Austin Community College art students Apoorva Jain and Laura Bauman. A third recipient of the $1,500 grants was not present.

They can do so because, a few years ago the group sold a collection of art that they owned, but had been closeted at the Austin History Center for decades. That secret stash brought in $200,000, part of a story I want to tell in full.

In the custom of legacy women’s clubs, members have at times been identified only by their husbands’ names, at other times by their given first names and married last names. Looking over a list of first 100 or so presidents, I spied some social celebrities right off: Mrs. Walter E. Long, Mrs. Harry Bickler, Mrs. T.P. Whitis, Mrs. R.L. Batts, Mrs. T.S. Painter, Mrs. Z.T. Scott, Mrs. Fred. S. Nagle, Mrs. Austin Phelps, Mrs. Martha Deatherage, Mrs. G. Felder Thornhill III, Mrs. D.J. Sibley, Jr. and Mrs. Frank Starr Niendorff.

Leonard Lehrer

We did not know accomplished artist, teacher and administrator Leonard Lehrer, but he spent his last years in the Austin area. He died on May 8.

Leonard Lehrer

Lehrer was a founding trustee and current honorary member of the International Print Center New York and emeritus professor of art from New York University, among other titles. His art was the subject of 48 solo exhibitions and multiple group shows. His work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Gallery, Corcoran Gallery, Library of Congress as well as other museums and private collections.

Lehrer studied at the Philadelphia College of Art and the University of Pennsylvania. He taught at or led programs at the Philadelphia College of Art, University of New Mexico, University of Texas at San Antonio, Arizona State University, Columbia College Chicago and New York University. His last position was a director of the printmaking convergence program at the University of Texas.

A celebration of his life will be held at 3 p.m. June 2 at Thurman’s Mansion in Driftwood.

David Bowie tribute and a concert of freedom songs among shows coming up

You already know which Broadway musicals are coming to Austin’s Bass Concert Hall next season — yes, including “Hamilton” — but unless you attended the onstage party last night, you don’t know about the rest of the Texas Performing Arts season.

Related: Broadway smash”Hamilton” part of 2018-2019 season.

‘Amarillo’ from Teatro Linea de Sombra. Contributed by Sophie Garcia

The University of Texas presenting group’s director, Kathy Panoff, who reports that subscriptions for the Broadway in Austin series are unsurprisingly strong, cheerfully introduced the dance, classical, world and other Essential Series selections to several dozen fans. Then she introduced Stephanie Rothenberg, a member of the Broadway cast of “Anastasia,” who sang two numbers from the show. Reminder: Among the name producers for this stage version of the animated movie are local backers Marc and Carolyn Seriff.

(I wondered if the Austin group flew in talented Rothenberg and indeed they had, just for two songs. She’s a “swing” member of the New York cast, which means she can take over several parts, including the title role, but also could fly away for the night.)

Without any further delay …

2018-2019 Texas Performing Arts Season

Voca People. Contributed by Trambarin Yan

Sept. 12: Voca People. An a cappella group from Israel completely reconfigures popular hits.

Sept. 14: Reduced Shakespeare Company. The original creators of “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged) (Revised)” bring back the hilarious work that made them famous.

Sept. 21: Fred Hersch Trio. Ten-time Grammy nominated pianist brings the real jazz deal.

Sept. 28: Taylor Mac. Extravagant drag performer messes with the audiences during “A 24-Decade History of Popular Music (Abridged).”

Oct. 5: Yekwon Sunwoo. UT likes to book the top talent from the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition and this is the 2017 winner.

Ragamala Dance Company performs “Written in Water.” Contributed by Bruce Palmer

Oct. 18: Ragamala Dance Company. It’s hard to believe this is the first major Indian dance troupe to play Bass, but I’m pretty sure that’s what Panoff said. They’ll perform “Written in Water.”

Nov. 1: “Blackstar: An Orchestral Tribute to David Bowie.” Lots of excitement about this take on the great man.

Nov. 8: Jordi Savall. Early music promoter returns to Austin, this time with a global vision in “The Routes of Slavery.”

Nov. 9: Pavel Urkiza and Congri Ensemble. The Cuban guitarist and composer interprets classic Cuban songs in “The Root of the Root.”

Drag performer Taylor Mac digs into the history of music. Contributed

Nov. 13: Circa. Australian contemporary circus troupe presents “Humans.”

Nov. 14-Dec. 2. “The Merchant of Venice.” There’s usually one or two selections from UT’s department of theater and dance in the bill; this season it’s a take on Shakespeare.

Nov. 16: “Private Peaceful.” Verdant Productions and Pemberley produced this staging of Michael Morpurgo’s book on World War I, directed and adapted for the stage by Simon Reade.

Jan. 30: Michelle Dorrance Dance. Trust UT to bring in the best of the dance world; this tap troupe introduces “ETM: Double Down.”

Feb. 5: Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet. This sliver of the storied orchestra was founded in 1988.

Terence Blanchard collaborates with Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Company. Contributed by Henry Adebonojo

Feb. 8: “Songs of Freedom.” Drummer Ulysses Owns, Jr. leads a group interpreting Joni Mitchell, Abbey Lincoln and Nina Simone as part of the center’s series on protest arts.

March 27: “A Thousand Thoughts.” The Kronos Quartet team with Oscar-nominaed filmmaker Sam Green for this live documentary.

April 11: “Caravan: A Revolution on the Road.” A collaboration between Terence Blanchard E-Collective and Rennie Harris Puremovement Dance Company with projections and installations by Andrew Scott.

April 13: UT Jazz Orchestra with Joe Lovano. American saxophonist joins the college ensemble as part of the Butler School of Music’s Longhorn Jazz Festival.

April 11: Trey McLaughlin and Sounds of Zamar. They saved the blessing for last with this Georgia-based gospel group.

Austin Symphony picks 8 for Texas Young Composers Prize

Each year, the Austin Symphony holds the well-regarded Butler Texas Young Composers Competition. The best pieces can be heard during the Texas Young Composers Concert, to take place on June 16 at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in the big house, Dell Hall.

This year’s winners attend high schools and universities the Austin, Dallas and Houston areas. Seattle-based Ars Nova Music will publish the top five winners at arsnovamusic.com. Austin super-donors Sarah and Ernest Butler gave the $1.2 million to establish the endowment that pays for the prizes.

Peter Bay reveals decisive new season for Austin Symphony

RELATED: Previous Butler winner part of symphony’s decisive new season.

2018 Butler Texas Young Composers Competition

First Prize: Harrison Collins, “Ecstatic,” $3,000 scholarship; Little Elm High School (Little Elm)

Second Prize: Ayden Machajewski, “Nexus,” $2,500 scholarship; Round Rock High School (Round Rock)

Third Prize: Tanner Walterman, “Insidious,” $2,000 scholarship; Vista Ridge High School (Cedar Park)

Fourth Prize: David Schuler, “Uncharted Seas,” $1,500 scholarship; Rouse High School (Leander)

Fifth Prize: Catherine Hoelscher, “Memories of a Summer Evening,” $1,000 scholarship; Klein Oak High School (Houston)

Other winners

Ethan Dintzner, “Concerto in Db,” $500 scholarship; Westlake High School (Austin)

Julian Falco, “Prism Skyline,” $500 scholarship; Friendswood High School (Houston)

Amy Gravell, “In This Moment,” $500 scholarship; Texas State University (San Marcos)

For now, Austin Opera opts to go without an artistic director

After firing Artistic Director Richard Buckley for alleged misconduct, Austin Opera has opted to go without a leader in that position for the 2018-2019 season.

ALSO SEE: Richard Buckley fired from Austin Opera.

Instead, General Director and CEO Annie Burridge has appointed Tim Myers, most recently artistic and music director of North Carolina Opera, as the Austin outfit’s artistic advisor.

Myers, who has overseen world premieres at top spots such as Houston Grand Opera, will also conduct in Austin the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Silent Night,” based on the 2005 film “Joyeux Noël,” which reimagines the famous Christmas Eve truce during World War I. Hometown hero Kevin Puts wrote the music.

The European Premiere of Kevin Puts’ ‘Silent Night’ at the Wexford Opera Festival. Contributed

SEE THE SEASON: How Austin Opera got its groove back.

Austin Opera has drafted two other conductors to lead the more traditional operas. Steven White, whose credits span the North American continent, will take over the baton for “La Traviata,” which concludes this season, and “Otello” next season. Peter Bay, music director for the Austin Symphony, comes to the rescue next season for “La Bohème.”

A fifth opera, “Soldier Songs,” by David T. Little, will mix video, rock, opera and theater to tell the stories of veterans of five wars as part of the nontraditional Opera ATX efforts, first tried at the Paramount Theatre.

“We are honored to have Timothy, Steven, and Peter contribute their extraordinary talent to our company,” says Burridge. “In the coming months we will share our plans to select our next permanent artistic leader, and we look forward to engaging our audience and musicians in that process.”

Memorial concert planned for music school founder Margaret Perry

UPDATE: Admirers of Margaret Perry have announced “A Life in Music: The Margaret Perry Memorial Concert” for 11 a.m. May 25 at St. Martin’s Lutheran Church at 606 W. 15th Street.

MPerryTeachingEmail
Margaret Perry with students at the Armstrong Community Music School. Contributed

Perry died on April 5. She asked for a concert rather than another kind of memorial service; also no photos or speeches. The event, of course, is free and open to the public, and folks will gather for a light lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the concert.

Perry chose the music and the musicians, who include:

Participating Artists:

Shelley Auer

Brett Barnes

Liz Cass

Jessa Cohen

Phil Davidson

Matthew Hinsley

Nora Karakousoglou

Sonja Larson

Paul Matthews

Carla McElhaney

Rick Rowley

Julia Taylor

Participating Organizations:

Austin Chamber Music Center

Austin Classical Guitar

La Follia

Texas Early Music Project

We Are the Chorus

Tanner Walterman

Karen White

ORIGINAL OBIT: Margaret Perry, founder of Austin’s Armstrong Community Music School, died Thursday morning of pancreatic cancer at age 66.

“A phenomenal loss,” said Austin philanthropy leader Mary Herr Tally. “This one hurts.”

In October 2017, Perry stepped down as director of the school, formerly associated with Austin Opera and named for humanitarian James Armstrong, who died last year, after learning of her diagnosis.

RELATED: Benefactor James James Armstrong has died.

“Margaret was an amazing person who took the school to heights James and I never imagined,” said Larry Connelly, Armstrong’s surviving husband. “James was always so proud to have his name associated with such a great organization.”

“Her imprint will be forever on the Armstrong Community Music School, the staff that followed her vision wholeheartedly, and the faculty that shared her mission of service and excellence,” said Rachel McInturff, the director of the school’s finance and administration. “Her wisdom guided many. Her laughter uplifted all. She will be deeply missed.”

Perry originally trained as a harpsichordist and played with various baroque music groups. She served for several years as pianist for Houston Ballet. Although she taught piano privately for decades, she was know to the larger arts community as a lecturer and arts educator. Often when she led the education efforts at Austin Opera, she helped explain the shows before each performance.

Perry served on numerous boards of directors before and after the founding of the Armstrong School in 2000. At the time, it was the only American community music school established by an opera company. She won numerous honors and was inducted into the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2012.

Jeff and Gail Kodosky, Laura Walterman, Austin Gleeson and other benefactors have established the Margaret Perry Endowment Fund which has already attracted $200,000 and is managed by the Austin Community Foundation.

A memorial concert at a time to be determined will feature music only, no speeches or photos, followed by a reception.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

Austin Symphony posts decisive new season

As Austin Symphony reveals its new season, Music Director Peter Bay talks about a decisive change in direction.

Peter Bay reveals decisive new season for Austin Symphony

“We are just going to play the pieces we ought to play,” Bay said over soup at Zax restaurant. “We got pigeon-holed into season-long themes. Now we will tie each individual concert together by a theme with variations.”

At times in past, Symphony seasons have seemed a bit tentative while trying to please key backers. Not this time out. Among the themed concerts in 2018-2019 season is an evening devoted to rarely performed works by women composers.

“They all would have had great careers,” Bay says of Clara Schumann, Lili Boulanger and Fanny Mendelsson,” if being a composer was considered a career for women back then.”

Also on that program is a piece by Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Higdon.

The Symphony will salute the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, perhaps America’s greatest composer, with music from three of his Broadway shows as well as Divertimento for Orchestra.

It will also bring back nonagenarian pianist Leon Fleisher, who for a time lost the use of his right hand, and served as a mentor for Bay as a conductor.

“I owe him a lot,” Bays says. “He helped get my career started.”

The 2017 Texas Young Composers winner by Paul Novak, “On Buoyancy,” will advance to the Masterworks series.

“This is a first,” Bay says. “It deserved to be on the subscription program.”

Given all the tragedies in the news, the Symphony will return to another somber Requiem, this one by Johannes Brahms. Also, protean Robert Faires will reprise part of his one-actor “Henry V” for a Shakespearean program.

A dozen or so of the Masterworks selections are new to the Symphony, which has been keeping records since 1911, although spottily during a couple of decades.

ALSO READ: Archive of programs shine light on Symphony — and city’s — history.

The Austin Symphony’s 2018-2019 season contains some surprises.

And now for the complete 2018-2019 season:

MASTERWORKS I: SEPTEMBER 14/15, 2018

“The Mighty Russians Part III” Season Opener

Lise de la Salle, piano

Glazunov: Carnaval Overture, op. 45

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 1in F-sharp minor, Op. 1

Tchaikovsky: Manfred Symphony, Op. 58

MASTERWORKS II: OCTOBER 19/20, 2018

“Happy Birthday, Lenny!”

Bernstein/Harmon: Suite from Candide

Bernstein: Divertimento for Orchestra

Bernstein: Selections from On the Town

Bernstein: Symphonic Dances from West Side Story

MASTERWORKS III: NOVEMBER 30/DECEMBER 1, 2018

“Tale of Two Titans”

Orli Shaham, piano

Paul Novak: On Buoyancy (2017 Texas Young Composers winner)

Schumann: Symphony No. 4 in D minor, Op. 120

Brahms: Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 83

MASTERWORKS IV: JANUARY 11/12, 2019

“Variation Voyage”

Leon Fleisher, piano

Ives/Schuman: Variations on “America”

Dvořák: Symphonic Variations on the Theme “I am a fiddler” for orchestra, Op. 78

Franck: Symphonic Variations, FWV 46

Britten: Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, Op. 34

MASTERWORKS V: FEBRUARY 22/23, 2019

“Brahms’ Requiem”

Conspirare Symphonic Choir

Heather Phillips, soprano

Paul Tipton, baritone

Brahms: Variations on the St. Antoni Chorale, Op. 56a

(Craig Hella Johnson, conductor for Variations)

Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45

MASTERWORKS VI: MARCH 22/23, 2019

“Creative Expressions” Celebrating Women Composers

Time for Three (Nicolas Kendall, violin; Charles Yang, violin; Ranaan Meyer, double bass)

Michelle Schumann, piano

F. Mendelssohn: Overture in C Major

Boulanger: D’un matin de printemps

C.W. Schumann: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7

Kaprálová: Suita rustica, Op. 19

Higdon: Concerto 4-3

MASTERWORKS VII: APRIL 12/13, 2019

“Champions of Austria”

William Hagen, violin

Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4

Bruckner: Symphony No. 9 in D minor

MASTERWORKS VIII: MAY 17/18, 2019

“A Shakespearean Evening”

Robert Faires, actor

Chorus Austin

Berlioz: Excerpts from Roméo et Juliette, Op. 17

Walton: Henry V: A Shakespeare Scenario

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER POPS SERIES

POPS I: OCTOBER 27, 2018; Dell Hall

“Wizard of Oz” – Film with Orchestra

POPS II: DECEMBER 29/30, 2018; Palmer Events Center

Ella & Louis

With Byron Stripling & Carmen Bradford

POPS III: FEBRUARY 9, 2019; Dell Hall

“Singin’ in the Rain” – Film with Orchestra

POPS IV: MAY 31/JUNE 1, 2019; Palmer Events Center

The Broadway Soprano

Lisa Vroman

SPECIAL EVENTS

OCTOBER 28, 2018; AISD Performing Arts Center

Halloween Children’s Concert

DECEMBER 4, 2018; Hyde Baptist Church

Handel’s Messiah

TBD

SARAH AND ERNEST BUTLER TEXAS YOUNG COMPOSERS CONCERT

DECEMBER 2019; Austin area

Christmas in the Community

JUNE – AUGUST 2019; Hartman Concert Park

Hartman Concerts in the Park

JULY 4, 2019; Vic Mathias Shores

H-E-B Austin Symphony July 4th Concert & Fireworks

 

Your input needed for Texas Medal of Arts Awards

Since 2001, the Texas Cultural Trust, an advocacy group, has been honoring our state’s luminaries through the Texas Medal of Arts. The laurels are bestowed every other year at one of the most glamorous galas in Texas. The most recent one in 2017 at Bass Concert Hall was a blow-out.

John Paul and Eloise DeJoria win a 2017 Texas Medal of Arts Award for their corporate philanthropy with Patron and Paul Mitchell. Contributed.

RELATED: What the arts mean to great Texas artists and patrons.

Now the Trust wants your input.

Send your nominations in by April 5, 2018 for the February 2019 edition of the honors. Categories include architecture, arts education, arts patron (corporate, foundation or individual), dance, design, film, lifetime achievement, literary arts, media/multimedia, music, television, theater and visual arts.

RELATED: Soaking up the glamour of Texas Medal of Arts.

For a complete list of past honorees, go here. The 2017 winners included Eloise and John Paul DeJoria with Paul Mitchell/Patron, Kris Kristofferson, Lynn Wyatt, Lauren Anderson, Yolanda Adams, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Tobin Endowmen, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Leo Villareal, Frank Welch, John Phillip Santos, Scott Pelley and Kenny Rogers.

A record 38 Austin area high school musicals up for awards

A record 38 area schools won nominations for the 2018 Greater Austin High School Musical Theatre Awards, which return to the Long Center for the Performing Arts on April 18.

If you haven’t already heard, this is one of the most entertaining — if overlong — evenings of the season. Not only are songs from nominated shows performed, the nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress sing medleys, and the Long Center Select Ensemble adds its polished skills to still more show tunes. Can there be to many?

RELATED: All rise for Austin high school musicals!

The celebrity emcee this year will be Tyler Mount, who created Playbill’s “The Tyler Mount Vlog.” A graduate of St. Edward’s University and alumnus of Summer Stock Austin at the Long Center, Mount also has performed and produced on Broadway.

RELATED: Look who won the 2017 Austin high school musical awards.

More than 4,000 students participated in the 38 nominated shows.

2018 HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL AWARDS NOMINATIONS

Best Production

Akins High School—Hairspray

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Best Direction

Akins High School—Hairspray

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Ensemble

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

East View High School—Damn Yankees

Jack C. Hays High School—The Mystery of Edwin Drood

Leander High School—The Addams Family

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Jacob Hensey—Austin High School

Hunter Anderson—Bastrop High School

Evan Vines—Cedar Park High School

Justin Florie—Elgin High School

Brough Cosgrove & Ben Miller—Jack C. Hays High School

Keaton Brandt—McNeil High School

Keaton Pugh—Rouse High School

Nicholas Topfer—St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Stone Mountain—St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sydney LePage—Austin High School

Abigail Holtfort—Cedar Park High School

Katie Haberman—Dripping Springs High School

Erin Swearingen—Jack C. Hays High School

Maddy Sparkes—James Bowie High School

Helena Laing—McCallum Fine Arts Academy

Heidi Wilding—Round Rock High School

Brooke Silverstein—St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

Brittany Young—Vandegrift High School

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Jack White—Cedar Ridge High School

Preston Willis—Dripping Springs High School

Anthony Collins—Lanier High School

Jordan Williams—Leander High School

Zane Sanchez—Liberty Hill High School

Cooper Ward—Round Rock High School

Elliot Esquivel—Rouse High School

Andrew Yow—St. Stephen’s Episcopal School

Ryan Mills—Vista Ridge High School

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Quinn Skarnulis—Anderson High School

Jessica Marcano—Cedar Ridge High School

Emily Warkentin—Dripping Springs High School

Taylor Cooper—Jack C. Hays High School

Riley Sugrue—James Bowie High School

Zoe Gonzalez—Lake Travis High School

Caroline Holmes—Leander High School

Christine Ashbaugh—Marble Falls High School

Lexi Wood—Round Rock High School

Best Featured Performer

Sadie Seddon-Stettler—Anderson High School

Shawn Patterson—Cedar Creek High School

Emily Pesina—Del Valle High School

Cassie Martin—Dripping Springs High School

Noah Wood—East View High School

Krista Hollins—Lanier High School

Sean Hall—LBJ/LASA High School

Jared Brown—Lehman High School

Lucas Boyles—Rouse High School

Catherine Hipolito—Stony Point High School

Darrin Redford—Tom Glenn High School

William Sheriff—Vista Ridge High School

Best Orchestra

Akins High School—Hairspray

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

LBJ/LASA High School­—9 to 5 The Musical

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

McNeil High School—The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Scenic Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

Austin High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Del Valle High School—The Addams Family

Elgin High School—Seussical

Lanier High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Leander High School—The Addams Family

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

Best Musical Direction

Cedar Ridge High School—Grease

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Costume Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

David Crockett High School—Heathers (High School Edition)

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Lehman High School—Pippin

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago

Vista Ridge High School—Monty Python’s Spamalot

Best Lighting Design

Akins High School—Hairspray

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

Hendrickson High School—Heathers (High School Edition)

Lake Travis High School—The Wedding Singer

Lanier High School—Avenue Q School Edition

Marble Falls High School—Guys and Dolls

McCallum Fine Arts Academy—West Side Story

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

Best Technical Execution

Bastrop High School—Little Shop of Horrors

Dripping Springs High School—The Addams Family

East View High School—Damn Yankees

James Bowie High School—Mary Poppins

Round Rock High School—Guys and Dolls

Rouse High School—Shrek the Musical

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School—Catch Me If You Can

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School—Chicago