Spring Arts Preview
by David Fellerath
When spring arrives in Raleigh this year, the warming sun and glistening dew will cast a refreshing spell on a city that may be getting a new start. After a year in which the arts became intertwined with politics under the glare of national news and international boycotts, thanks to an unpopular law that targeted minorities, the Governor’s Mansion on North Blount Street has a new occupant, one who’s vowed to undo the legislation that has brought unwanted ignominy
to the state.
For the local arts scene, things have both changed and remained the same. It’s hard to tell if the paucity of out-of-state stars booked for the city’s stages is merely seasonal, or tied to a widespread if hardly universal aversion to performing in North Carolina. But Raleigh artists and arts presenters, meanwhile, haven’t gone anywhere. We will make our own art here, and by the looks of the season’s offerings, we have performers of tremendous gifts. Supporting them is more vital than ever.
Festivals, Parades + More
St. Patrick’s Day is on a Friday this year, so those with any sense will stay far, far away from the downtown watering holes. Why not stay home with your Guinness and Jameson’s, order up The Quiet Man on your streaming service of choice, and stay away from the amateur Irish? For a more tranquil, family-friendly observance of the green holiday, celebrate during the annual Raleigh St. Patrick’s Day parade, which will be on the preceding Saturday, March 11th. Expect lots of step dancing and bagpipes, courtesy of local dance schools and performers like the NC State University Pipes and Drums.
You won’t find any green beer here, but on March 19th, in time for Passover, the Cary community is invited to the Jewish Cultural Festival. Learn about the roots of this most important holiday, including the stories of Moses, maror, and matzah. Local rabbis will give presentations on Jewish history and religious practice, and children can make unleavened bread in the “Matzah Factory” and enjoy the songs of entertainer Joanie Leeds. Local food vendors will be on hand for what promises to be an educational and tasty occasion at the Cary Arts Center. Presented by the Town of Cary, Chabad of Cary, Beth Shalom, and the Raleigh-Cary Jewish Community Center, the free event runs from 3-6pm. townofcary.org
Did you miss the Beer and Bacon Festival last year at Koka Booth Amphitheatre? Never fear: It returns this spring, on April 8th. Tickets start at $39. beerandbacon.com
On April 23, come celebrate the artistic accomplishments of Cary’s schoolchildren. In a special event co-sponsored by the North Carolina Symphony, the Cary Music & Arts festival features performances by band, chorus, and visual arts students from
southwestern Wake County schools.
The free event (suggested donation of $5) begins at 4pm. boothamphitheatre.com
There’s no better way for the arts-and-crafts-collecting set to enjoy the Cary sunshine than to get out to the Spring Daze festival in Fred G. Bond Park, Cary’s 310-acre urban park. With more than 170 North Carolina artisans in attendance, plus food vendors aplenty, this will be a fine interlude between spring and summer. The April 29th event runs from 9am-5pm. townofcary.org
One of the most exciting musical happenings this spring occurs in the world music category, and it takes place on the campus of NC State University. Called The Nile Project, it is an ambitious feat of ethnomusicology, curation, and Afropop rhythms. Founded in 2011 by Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero, this project aims to bring together the music of the many cultures that exist along the 4,200-mile-long river. The resulting 2015 US tour was such a success that they are back for a second go-round. This time, the musicians are kicking off their tour with a week-long residency at NCSU. There are numerous events on the calendar, starting with a ticketed concert at Stewart Theatre on March 15th, and closing with a free on-campus concert on March 21st. In between, there are workshops, films and lectures, which all have a strong focus on water quality and access, in addition to cultural patrimony. live.arts.ncsu.edu
In the rock clubs of Raleigh, one notable show occurs March 31st, when The Flaming Lips take the stage at The Ritz Raleigh. Has it really been six years since lead singer Wayne Coyne rolled around in a space bubble on top of the City Plaza crowd at the Hopscotch Music Festival? ritzraleigh.com
A big change is at hand for the NC Opera, as conductor and artistic director Timothy Myers announced in February that he would step down this September. So, if this year is his last hurrah, there’s some work worth celebrating on the schedule. From February 25th-March 5th, there’s a fully staged production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater. Then, at the end of April in the big room of Memorial Auditorium, there will be two performances only of Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. In between these shows, on March 28th, rising star tenor Michael Fabiano performs an evening of opera standards in Fletcher. Fabiano, who has played leads in such prestigious houses as the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera and Covent Garden, will play a program that includes Puccini, Verdi, Liszt, Massenet, Strauss, Cilea, Tosti and Duparc. ncopera.org
The NC Symphony goes big this spring, most notably with three performances of Beethoven’s Ninth from April 20th-22nd, all at Meymandi Concert Hall. The North Carolina Master Chorale will be on hand for the vocal portions, supporting guest soloists Rebecca Evans, Reginald Smith, Jr., Anthony Dean Griffey and Paula Murrihy. Grant Llewellyn conducts. But the Symphony won’t be only about past masters in traditional spaces. It is continuing to present contemporary composers in contemporary spaces, such as CAM Raleigh. On March 25th, Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Unremembered, a 13-part song cycle, highlights a program that will feature vocalists Padma Newsome, DM Stith, Shara Nova (of My Brightest Diamond), and violinist Carolina Shaw. Back at Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts, other notable events include two nights with Ben Vereen doing standards (March 17th-18th) and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem (April 7th-8th). ncsymphony.org
In April, Burning Coal tackles a personality whose life contains an important Raleigh footnote. The play is Marco Ramirez’s The Royale, which premiered in Los Angeles in 2013 and had subsequent mountings in London and New York. The story concerns an early 20th-century boxer named Jay Jackson who becomes the first African-American heavyweight champion. If this sounds like Jack Johnson to you, you may also know that Johnson died in a car crash on US 1 in Franklinton, 25 miles north of Raleigh. The critically acclaimed play receives its North Carolina premiere, running April 6th-23rd. Avis Hatcher-Puzzo directs. burningcoal.org
At NC State’s Stewart Theatre, for one night only, the Aquila Theatre will present The Trojan War: Our Warrior Chorus. The production, which features combat veterans in the cast, will present an adaptation of ancient myths, filtered through the lens of modern warfare. According to the promotional materials, viewers can expect “the clash of gods and heroes, the rage of Achilles, the suicide of Ajax, the fall of Troy and the rise of Rome.” live.arts.ncsu.edu
The longtime family theater stalwart Raleigh Little Theatre has two children’s shows this spring: When She Had Wings, a mystical tale of a girl who dreams of flying, and the Roald Dahl adaptation James and the Giant Peach. The former runs March 17th-April 2nd, and the latter April 21st-30th. On March 25th, support this theater by attending its fundraiser, Divas!, an evening of song and dance featuring an array of community performers. And don’t miss the opportunity to purchase a raffle ticket for a chance to win two tickets to a New York performance of Hamilton. raleighlittletheatre.org
Theatre in the Park’s big spring show is the oldie but goodie On Golden Pond. No word on the casting of the roles that went to Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda in the 1981 movie, but this show runs April 7th-23rd. theatreinthepark.com
Broadway Series South and NC Theatre’s sole offering in March and April is a week-long run of Jesus Christ Superstar. Felicitously timed with Easter week, this show can’t help but pack a hallelujah in the expanses of Raleigh Memorial Auditorium from April 11th-16th. nctheatre.com
The big news lately at the North Carolina Museum of Art has been the opening of its fine outdoor space, known as the Ann and Jim Goodnight Museum Park. While that will continue to draw visitors, surely some will be enticed inside the galleries by an exciting show of Renaissance art that opens March 4th, titled Glory of Venice: Renaissance Paintings 1470-1520. Although seemingly narrow in scope, such a tight lens is a good way to get a handle on a sprawling historical period. There will be approximately 50 works, including altarpieces, secular and devotional paintings, and portraits. Twenty of the works are on loan from Venice’s Gallerie dell’Accademia. And there are masterpieces, too – notably Bellini’s The Annunciation. This show, curated by the Denver Museum of Art, has a relatively brief run, closing June 18th. It’s separately ticketed, with a maximum price set at $18.
Elsewhere in the NCMA galleries on Blue Ridge Road, the Ansel Adams exhibit, which opened Feb. 4th and will be ticketed with the Venice show when they run concurrently, continues through May 7th. This show features 48 prints by America’s best-loved Western lensman, and will include his famous images from Yosemite National Park and other locations. And on April 8th, a show of Mississippi author Eudora Welty’s photographs opens. Featuring 18 photos that the author, who died in 2001, shot in the 1930s and ‘40s, the exhibit will show Welty operating in a Depression mode that is reminiscent of Dorothea Lange, Helen Levitt and Walker Evans. ncartmuseum.org
Over at CAM Raleigh, the key spring opening is a show of recent work by Leonardo Drew, a Brooklyn-based African-American conceptual and assemblage artist whose work utilizes natural materials. This show opens First Friday, March 3rd, and closes June 4th. camraleigh.org
A year ago, the Carolina Ballet joined the worldwide celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a number of original, Bard-themed works. This spring, the ballet turns to a couple of the best-loved celebrations of vernal happiness. The spring centerpiece runs through 11 performances at Fletcher Opera Theater, and it’s called Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Choreographed by Robert Weiss, this work returns by popular demand just three years after its sold-out premiere run. In late April, the ballet goes big in Memorial Auditorium with five performances in four days of Rhapsody in Blue, inspired by the Gershwin masterpiece of the same title, which company choreographer Zalman Raffael calls the “unofficial anthem from the American canon”. The Carolina Ballet’s version is a reprise of its 2011 premiere in the Fletcher space. carolinaballet.com
The study of race as a science has a long, complex, and not infrequently evil history. Kudos, then, to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences for opening an exhibit devoted to this most charged of American topics. RACE: Are We So Different, which opens April 22nd and runs through the summer, is a nationally touring exhibition that examines its subject through three lenses: race as an idea, the experience of living with race, and the modern scientific challenge to its foundations. The show includes “interactive exhibit components, artifacts, iconic objects, compelling and historical photographs, multimedia presentations, attractive graphic displays, and thought-provoking questions.” This exhibit will be free of charge, although it’s somewhat telling of our lowered expectations as a society that this popular, publicly funded, 138-year-old nonprofit institution describes this decision as an “unprecedented public service to the people of North Carolina.” naturalsciences.org
The United States spent a relatively short amount of time engaged in the Great War of 1914-1918, but it was a pivotal experience, politically and culturally. This spring, the NC Museum of History opens an exhibit to mark the centennial of America’s entry into the war, with a focus on the contributions and sacrifices of North Carolinians. The 6,500-square-foot exhibition will feature approximately 500 artifacts, photographs, a trench diorama, and “video re-enactments that feature European and North Carolina soldiers and citizens to relate the stories of ordinary men and women from North Carolina who provided extraordinary service to their country 100 years ago.” The exhibit opens April 8th with a public commemoration that includes a wreath-laying ceremony at the North Carolina Veterans Memorial on the State Capitol grounds. ncmuseumofhistory.org