From showstoppers to symphonies, Krannert lineup is a treat for the senses
URBANA — As usual, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts over its next season will bring big-name artists such as Rosanne Cash, Wynton Marsalis, Renee Fleming and Cassandra Wilson.
It also will showcase lesser-known artists whom center director Mike Ross and his staff hope people explore. Among those acts are:
— Organist Cameron Carpenter, a showman who's said to ruffle the feathers of the stodgy organ establishment. "This guy — he's a wild thing," Ross said. "I think you're going to love him."
— The Nile Project, musicians who together compose new songs drawn from the river basin's diverse musical traditions and instruments. The Nile Project is fertile for collaborations campus- and community-wide, Ross said.
— And Sphinx Virtuosi, a chamber orchestra of young African-American musicians who combat classical-music stereotypes. The acclaimed Catalyst Quartet is made up of four Sphinx principal players.
"Sphinx has been getting such great recognition for the beautiful work they've been doing for quite a while," Ross said.
The first-rate Sphinx Chamber Orchestra performed in 2008 at Krannert, with the Harlem Quartet.
The 2014-15 season will offer a lot more, of course in dance, theater, multimedia presentations, music — and a CultureTalk with local favorite performer Deke Weaver and nationally known environmental writer Barry Lopez.
The two will offer audiences a chance to reflect on the environment. Krannert Center audiences will also have the option to reflect over another serious topic: the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.
Ross said a campuswide committee will launch a website about the centenary, and there likely will be several more events related to WWI.
Here are three major ones at Krannert Center:
— Illinois Theatre, the producing arm of the University of Illinois Department of Theatre, will present a new musical production of "Oh What a Lovely War," originally created in 1963 by Joan Littlewood and her company at the Theatre Royal, London, in response to a growing interest in uncovering the truths about the "Great War."
— Cantus — a nine-member male a cappella group — and the Minneapolis-based Theater Latt Da will present "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914," a dramatization of Christmas Eve 1914, when German and Allied troops on the Western Front laid down their arms to fraternize, sing and otherwise celebrate the holiday. The theatrical narrative is drawn from letters and war documents.
— The venerable Kronos Quartet will return to Krannert, this time with "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918," a new multimedia work featuring a score by Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and film work by Bill Morrison.
Morrison's "The Great Flood," a pastiche of film images from the 1927 Mississippi River floods, was shown at the 2011 Ellnora Guitar Festival at Krannert Center.
Another war-related event next season will look at the contemporary military: "BASETRACK" is a multimedia performance based on the real words of U.S. Marines and their families, plus photographs and video from journalists who were embedded with the Marines in Afghanistan.
The "BASETRACK" text was adapted by Jason Grote, a playwright and screenwriter who has worked on TV series such as "Mad Men" and "Smash."
If war is too serious a topic for you, don't worry.
Krannert Center re-affirms its commitment to classical music, bringing here next season, among other ensembles and soloists, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the St. Louis Symphony, the State Symphony of Mexico — and violinist Gil Shaham, who was born in Urbana and went on to achieve international fame in classical music circles.
Krannert also will amp the energy physically, with the return of Circus Oz, the acrobatic daredevils from Down Under, and the National Acrobats of the People's Republic of China. And, of course, dance groups such as MOMIX, Susan Marshall & Company, Tango Buenos Aires — plus the UI dance department.
And expect physicality with Day of the Drum, featuring local percussionists. Leading the charge: the famed taiko drumming troupe Kodo from Japan, who will perform during an evening concert.
And on a lighter note, Deana Martin and Her Quintet will present "Tribute to Dean Martin (her father) and Frank Sinatra." This event should attract fans of the "Rat Pack."
Ross also is excited about the perennial Krannert Center visiting artist Mark Morris Dance Group. In early May, the company will present "Acis and Galatea," with live music by Sinfonia da Camera and the Baroque Artists of Champaign-Urbana — and costumes by fashion designer/TV celeb Isaac Mizrahi.
Morris' 20th dance opera to date, the piece is described as a bold new interpretation of Handel's "Acis and Galatea."
"We are cocommissioners on it, with support from the Andrew Mellon Foundation," Ross said. "It's Mark's newest major project, a large-scale work that just premiered at University of California-Berkeley. That should be a real highlight of the season."
The schedule so far
12 Opening Night Party with Mariachi Sol de Mxico, Tiempo Libre, Samba Soul and others.
13 Rosanne Cash: "The River & the Thread." Cash recently was nominated for the 2014 Americana Music Association Awards for artist, album and song of the year. Her album, "The River & The Thread," celebrates the Deep South and her father Johnny Cash's legacy.
14 St. Louis Symphony
23 Susan Marshall & Company: "Play/Pause" (dance)
26 The Pygmalion Festival
27 Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis
30 Sinfonia da Camera: Rush Hour — "Youthful Impressions"
2-3 Isango Ensemble: "The Magic Flute" (Impempe Yomlingo). This South African troupe re-imagines classics from the Western canon; it was featured in the movie "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha," shown at the 2006 Ebertfest.
2-4 7-12 "Polaroid Stories" Presented by Illinois Theatre and inspired by tales from Ovid's "Metamorphoses," the piece explores the dangers street kids face when mythmaking collides with reality.
07 Sphinx Virtuosi with Catalyst Quartet
11 Chicago Symphony Orchestra
16-18 23-26 "The Skin of Our Teeth" Illinois Theatre presents the 1943 Pulitzer Prize winner for drama, by Thornton Wilder.
17 Sinfonia da Camera: A Richard Strauss Celebration
18 "Broadway Smash" featuring Todd Ellison and Friends. Ellison is a Tony Award-winning musical director and conductor.
22 National Acrobats of the People's Republic of China: Cirque Peking
22-25 Blind Summit Theatre: "The Table" The puppet company that created the 60-foot Lord Voldemort for the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony reinvents ancient Japanese puppetry, with the Sex Pistols as an influence.
25 C-U Symphony Orchestra: "Voyages"
29 The Senegal St. Joseph Gospel Choir
30 Jupiter String Quartet with James Dunham, viola
04 Apollo's Fire Baroque Orchestra: The Monteverdi Vespers of 1610
6-9 "The Elixir of Love" Lyric Theatre @ Illinois presents the Gaetano Donizetti opera telling of a romance between a peasant and a landowner.
6-8 November Dance, presented by the UI dance department.
08 Sinfonia da Camera: Menahem and Mozart
09 Concert Artists Guild Winner: Lysander Piano Trio
11-16 "Oh What a Lovely War," presented by Illinois Theatre
18 CultureTalk: Barry Lopez and Deke Weaver
20 Damine Kabuki
02 Cantus and Theater Latt Da: "All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914"
4-7 The Nutcracker, by the C-U Ballet
05 Sinfonia da Camera: Messiah and Mendelssohn
11 C-U Symphony Orchestra: The CUSO Holiday Concert
20-21 Russian National Ballet Theatre: "Chopiniana/Romeo and Juliet," "The Sleeping Beauty" and "Cinderella," respectively
24 Ryan Truesdell Presents: The Gil Evans Project
29 Ragamala Dance with Rudresh Mahanthappa: "Song of the Jasmine"
31 C-U Symphony Orchestra: "Musical Revolutionaries"
05 Tango Buenos Aires
5-7 February Dance, presented by the UI dance department
08 Cleveland Quartet Award Winner: Ariel Quartet
10 Jupiter String Quartet
12-14 Circus Oz: "But Wait...There's More"
13 Sinfonia da Camera: "El Fuego del Amor"
14 Rene Fleming, soprano
17-22 The Sullivan Project, a new play in development, chosen and directed by Illinois Theatre Professor Daniel Sullivan
18 Step Afrika! (dance)
26-28 The Hot Sardines: "Speakeasy Nights." The New York-based jazz ensemble presents early jazz, with a stride pianist and French vocalist.
26-28 "The Merry Widow." Lyric Theatre @ Illinois presents the France Lehar opera.
28 State Symphony Orchestra of Mxico
01 "The Merry Widow"
5-7 12-15 "'Tis Pity She's a Whore," Illinois Theatre presents and updates the 400-year-old play by John Ford.
06 C-U Symphony Orchestra: "Music of the Heartland"
06 The Nile Project: "Music of the Nile"
08 Young Concert Artists Winner: Yun-Chin Zhou, piano
10 Kronos Quartet: "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918"
12 Cassandra Wilson: "Coming Forth By Day: A Celebration of Billie Holiday"
12-14 Studiodance I, dance by UI dance students
13 Sinfonia da Camera: "A Chamber Music Potpourri"
14 Day of the Drum, all day, with Kodo One Earth Tour: "Mystery," in the evening
19 Cameron Carpenter, organ
7 Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center: The Passionate Piano Quartets
9-11 14-19 "Not About Nightingales," Illinois Theatre presents the Tennessee Williams play inspired by a 1938 story of prisoner abuse that ended with the death of four inmates.
14 Jupiter String Quartet with Jon Manasse, clarinet
15-16 MOMIX: "Alchemia," dance.
17 Sinfonia da Camera: "Romanticism and Beyond"
18 Deana Martin and Her Quintet: Tribute to Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra
23 Gil Shaham: The Bach Project
23-25-26 "Into the Woods," the Stephen Sondheim musical, presented by Lyric Theatre @ Illinois
25 C-U Symphony Orchestra: "The Triumph of Music"
1-2 Mark Morris Dance Group: "Acis and Galatea"
3 Krannert Center Debut Artist
— Programs and artists are subject to change
If you're planning
— Krannert Center will release on July 24 more details of the 2014-15 season. Go to krannertcenter.com.
— Ticket prices vary; tickets go on sale starting at 10 a.m. Aug. 16.
— The season opens Sept. 12 with a Latin-flavor Opening Night Party.
— Phone: 217-333-6280