Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for February 2019:
Many top touring acts headline various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include three blockbuster nights by Quebec pop star Marie-Mai at the Bell Centre (Feb. 14-15-16), and British classical crossover soprano Sarah Brightman at Place Bell (Feb. 9).
Concerts by Cher and Rihanna songwriter LP (Feb. 11 and 14), Kurt Vile and the Violators (Feb. 15), British goth legend Peter Murphy 40 years of Bauhaus (Feb. 16), Beirut (Feb. 18), Canadian rockers Arkells (Feb. 19) and California rapper Vince Staples (Feb. 28) all take place at MTELUS.
West African world-music legend Sekouba Diabaté – widely known as Sékouba Bambino – is one of Africa’s most prolific Mandinka singers and griots, in the tradition of his “big brothers” Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keïta. Nuits d’Afrique presents Sékouba Bambino and his band at Le National on Feb. 16.
Feb. 16 is a big music night in Montreal: in addition to concerts by Sékouba Bambino and Peter Murphy of Bauhaus, folk and pop icon Buffy Sainte-Marie – my top pick of the month – headlines the Corona Theatre on Feb. 16, her first Montreal concert since 2009.
The beloved 77-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter (pictured at top) has written pop standards that have been sung and recorded by the likes of Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Donovan and Elvis Presley, she wrote the anti-war anthem Universal Soldier, and is the only Indigenous woman to win an Academy Award, not to mention she spent five years on Sesame Street. The woman is a musical monument and this rare concert promises to be one for the ages.
Local shows of note: Legendary Montreal alto/baritone saxophonist Dave Turner & the Earthtones headlines Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill on Feb. 2, while the Jamaica Association of Montreal hosts Soul Deep – Bob Marley Tribute with a live band, on Feb. 9. And Bloodshot Bill launches his new album Come Get Your Love Right Now (Goner Records) at L’Escogriffe on Feb. 22.
In his 13th year at the helm of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, which is marking its 85th season, Maestro Kent Nagano conducts the orchestra and renowned Montreal contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux –a regular performer at the Met – in The Rite of Spring, which has become one of the OSM’s signature classics, Feb. 24 at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.
The OSM also presents Don Juan Symphonique, the symphonic French-language adaptation of Felix Gray’s popular musical Don Juan, at the Maison symphonique for six performances, Feb. 12 to 16, as part of the Montréal en Lumière Festival.
The McGill Chamber Orchestra’s 79th season continues with Tchaikovsky and Tétreault at the Salle Bourgie concert hall on Feb. 18, starring internationally-acclaimed 25-year-old Montreal cellist Stéphane Tétreault who was just 12 years old when he performed with the MCO for the first time. Tétreault is a huge talent with a big career ahead of him.
The Opéra de Montréal winds down its run of the gay-themed Champion – composed by American jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer-winning librettist Michael Cristofer – with a final performance on Feb. 2 at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier. Described as “jazz meets opera in the boxing ring,” Champion tells the true story of one of the greatest boxers of the 20th century, Welterweight prizefighting champion Emile Griffith, a bisexual man who accidentally killed his opponent Benny Paret in the ring after Paret infuriated Griffith by touching his buttocks and making homophobic remarks at the weigh-in.
Griffith is portrayed beautifully by towering lyric bass Arthur Woodley who recently told me, “Every time I go onstage playing that role, I’m in. It really does happen. It’s not about you anymore, it’s about him, his life and what he had to go through. It’s such an honour to do this role.”
Meanwhile, Opera McGill showcases the outstanding professional-calibre work of McGill University students, and will present three performances of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) at the Monument National, February 1 to 3.
ART AND MUSEUMS
The Kent Monkman – Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience exhibition at the McCord Museum showcases the return of the internationally-acclaimed Cree artist who was the McCord’s artist-in-residence in 2013.
“My gay identity is usually at the forefront of my work – I never shy away from it,” Monkman told me at the time, and that is also true of this exhibition, which features the artist’s spiritual alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, a silent witness to key moments in the history of the First Peoples.
Monkman’s paintings depict the devastating effects of colonialism on the Indigenous peoples of Canada.
The Monkman exhibition runs from Feb. 8 to May 5.
Over at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition Of Individuals and Places: Photographs from the Lazare Collection brings together some 100 photographs by major Canadian and international artists, from Montréal collector Jack Lazare’s prized photography collection. Photographers here include Edward Burtynsky, Astrid Kruse Jensen, Isaac Julien and the legendary and influential Julia Margaret Cameron. Of Individuals and Places runs at the MMFA to April 28.
Acclaimed Jamaican-Canadian artist Michael Chambers’ superb photo exhibition Shadows to Silver / Nuance continues at the avant-garde arts centre Never Apart until April 6. Check out the 1997 doc about Chambers below.
Montreal’s award-winning Tableau D’Hôte Theatre marks the 50th anniversary of the Sir George Williams Computer Riot, the largest student uprising in Canadian history, with the much-anticipated world-premiere of the play Blackout which continues at the D.B. Clark Theatre until Feb. 10, during Black History Month.
The play tells the story of students who occupied the computer centre on the 9th floor of the Hall Building of Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University) to protest the university’s mismanagement of a racism complaint lodged by West-Indian students against their biology professor in 1969. Riot police were called in when an agreement to end the occupation fell through, resulting in widespread damage, a mysterious fire, and more than 100 arrests.
Over at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical chronicles the singer-songwriter’s remarkable rise to stardom, from being part of a hit songwriting team with her husband Gerry Goffin, to her relationship with fellow writers and best friends Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann, to becoming one of the most successful solo acts in popular music history. Along the way, she wrote the soundtrack to a generation, including (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.
This touring production stars Sarah Bockel as Carole King – Bockel also understudied Tony-winning Jessie Mueller as King on Broadway – and actor Jacob Heimer who plays Barry Mann on this tour.
“It was intimidating when I knew he was in the audience, and he was really wonderful once I got to meet him,” Heimer told me recently. “There is a weight to playing somebody who is real, and I take that very seriously. Barry’s character in the play is the comic relief in many ways, and I try to make that as real as possible. I don’t want it to look like a caricature, and Barry said many nice things about my portrayal.”
The Tony and Grammy-winning Broadway jukebox musical headlines Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for eight performances, Feb. 12 to 17.
Centaur Theatre’s 50th season continues with the Stratford Festival hit and Governor General Award-nominated play The Last Wife by Canadian playwright and Shaw Festival’s Associate Artistic Director Kate Hennig. Montreal-born actor and Shaw veteran Diana Donnelly plays Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife who adeptly negotiated her rise through the halls of power. The Last Wife runs from Feb. 12 to March 3.
Over at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, Montreal native Rick Miller stars in BOOM X which picks up where his smash hit show BOOM left off – at Woodstock in August of ’69. Rick time travels by way of multimedia up to 1995, weaving together the history, politics and pop culture of the era he grew up in. Some classic characters reappear (Elvis gets fat, Lennon gets shot and Reagan gets elected) as Gen X-ers navigate the tangled legacy of the baby boom.
BOOM X runs Feb. 14 to March 10.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal host the Polish National Ballet who will perform the timeless Swan Lake at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, for seven performances, from Feb. 21 to March 2.
Montreal’s top dance series Danse Danse continues their 2018-2019 season with British dancer / choreographer Akram Khan’s XENOS which features five live musicians and Akram Khan at the height of his artistic powers.
Akram has brought together a stellar creative team: along with dramaturg Ruth Little and acclaimed Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill, he teams up with German designer Mirella Weingarten, award-winning lighting designer Michael Hulls, costume designer Kimie Nakano and composer Vincenzo Lamagna.
Akram will star in four performances at Theatre Maisonneuve, Feb. 13 to 16. XENOS also marks his final performances as a dancer in a full-length piece.
Nuits d’Afrique presents renowned flamenco dancers Soledad Barrio, Antonio ‘El Chupete’ Rodriguez and Marina Elana in Noche Flamenca at Le Gesu concert hall for three performances, Feb. 1 to 3.
Academy Award-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film ROMA – about a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City – has been hailed by critics worldwide, and is nominated for the 2019 Oscar for Best Foreign Language film as well as Best Film.
This must-see film is screening daily at Montreal’s gorgeous new 54-seat, state-of-the-art Cinéma Moderne (we are talking 4K + Dolby Atmos immersive sound screenings) in Mile End until Feb. 27. Highly recommend you book your tickets in advance online, and choose a screening with either English or French subtitles.
Cinema du Parc will screen this year’s 2019 Oscar Nominated Live Action Short Films – including two short films from Quebec, FAUVE by Jérémy Comte and MARGUERITE by Marianne Farley – beginning on Feb. 8, ahead of the Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 24.
The superb Cinema Politica Concordia series presents First Voices: An Evening of Indigenous Cinema Featuring Warrior Women + Shorts, Feb. 4 in the Concordia University Hall Building Auditorium. This promises to be a riveting evening of Indigenous cinema with filmmakers in attendance, beginning at 7 pm. Admission: Suggested donation of $5-10.
Cinema Politica Concordia will then screen the Happy Birthday Marsha and Obscurro Barocco double bill on Feb. 18 at 7 pm. These two films bring the history of revolutionary trans activists to the big screen: iconic transgender artist and activist Marsha Johnson, and iconic transgender figure Luana Muniz in Rio de Janeiro.
LGBTQ audiences will enjoy the 1th annual edition of the Massmadi Montréal Afro-Caribbean Film and Art Festival, which runs from Feb. 21 to March 2. For full festival programming, visit massimadi.ca.
Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, Feb 11 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Shelley-Anne Noel, Jason Selman, Blossom Thom, Elena Stoodley and Natcha Odonnat, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
Over at La Petite Librairie D&Q in Mile End on Feb. 10 at 11 am, The Queerest Little Ledo and La Petite Librairie D&Q present the 5th Edition of Rainbow Story Hour, a special bi-monthly reading hour with favourite local LGBTQ+ drag queens, comedians, advocates, performers and celebrities. The readers taking part in this edition are poet and storyteller Kama La Mackerel, drag king Charli Deville and myself, journalist Richard “Bugs” Burnett. Children of all ages welcome, and admission is free.
Bestselling author Ann-Marie MacDonald will read from her novel-in-progress, set in the late nineteenth century, on a mysterious Scottish moor, and within the crumbling confines of an ancient baronial manor, in the Centaur Theatre gallery on Feb. 18 at 7:30 pm. Free admission.
And the Violet Hour Book Club, a reading group devoted to modern and classic works of LGBTQ literature, will discuss Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin at their next meeting at Never Apart, Feb. 9 at 12:30 pm.
The Blue Man Group headline Theatre St-Denis for five performances, from Feb. 15 to 17.
Montreal burlesque legend Velma Candyass presents her monthly Candyass Cabaret at the historic Café Cleopatra on the Main, Feb. 15 at 9 pm. The MC for this February Follies edition is another burlesque legend, the always brassy and entertaining Sasha Van Bonbon.
Check out the complete schedule for Black History Month at www.moishistoiredesnoirs.com.