Top 10 Dance and Classical Music Wonders of 2008
Chronicle Arts Editor Robert Faires recaps 2008 in dance and classical music
1) Cult of Color: Call to Color (Ballet Austin) The dense, deeply personal mythology of visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock, developed largely in two dimensions, exploded into a third via this vibrant, color-drenched collaboration with Graham Reynolds, who crafted a thrillingly animated score, and Stephen Mills, who stretched his choreographic muscles in new, compelling ways.
2) Verdi: Messa da Requiem (Conspirare, Victoria Bach Festival Orchestra and Chorus, and Texas State University Chorale) Craig Hella Johnson and Conspirare christened the Long Center with the company of voices in stunning fashion: leading a massed vocal ensemble that delivered the sound of Judgment Day. Breathtaking.
3) The Bat (Austin Lyric Opera) Viennese Champagne swapped for a tangy margarita. ALO's reinvention of Strauss' Die Fledermaus toasted Austin (and occasionally roasted it) with wit, affection, enthusiasm, and style.
4) Music of John Adams (UT New Music Ensemble) A vigorous tribute to the composer that affirmed not only his music's hypnotic power but its playfulness, its emotional depth, and its enduring greatness.
5) Long Center Gala Opening Concert (Long Center for the Performing Arts) A night for the ages, lit by Austin stars (Graham Reynolds, Anton Nel) and a majestic finale – 200 voices joined on Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow" – that still echoes within me.
6) Blue Rhapsody (Austin Chamber Music Center) On Gershwin's original setting for Rhapsody in Blue, a midsized ensemble and blazing Michelle Schumann on piano brought this work from the skyscraper spires back to street level: a jazzy, thrilling urban odyssey.
7) Woman's Work: Reconstructions of Self (Andee Scott at Fuse Box Festival) With solo commissions by five choreographers in distant places, the nimble, gifted Scott held the world in her body and held us riveted.
8) Nobody Likes a Show-Off. Well, Maybe Just This Once (Austin Chamber Music Center) Pure, dizzying virtuosity from violinist Sonja Braaten and cellist Martha Baldwin of Cleveland and our own Schumann again tackling Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Beethoven.
9) Home/Christmas at the Carillon (Conspirare) Our world-class choir proving twice more it can create the most sumptuous sounds with any kind of music, the latter with exquisitely poignant aid from Eliza Gilkyson.
10) "Soudain L'Hiver Dernier" (Winter's Tryst, American Repertory Ensemble) In a typically stellar ARE program, this gem shone most radiantly: a haunting dance duet with ARE Artistic Director David Justin and Ramon Thielen movingly supporting each other.