Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for January 2018:
The live music scene kicks off the year a little quietly as Montrealers avoid the deep freeze and try to save a few bucks after the holiday season.
Some of the bigger names headed to town are The Killers (Place Bell on January 6), American heavy metal band Black Label Society (MTELUS on January 8), Big Wreck (Corona Theatre on January 20) and U.K.-born, Montreal-raised Sass Jordan will raise the roof at L’Astral on January 26.
The last time I interviewed Sass some years ago – she is a great interview and storyteller – she talked to me about singing in a travelling revue called – wait for it – The Voices of Classic Rock, singing alongside such veterans as Spencer Davis, John Cafferty and Glenn Hughes. Said Sass, “We used to call the show ‘The Voices of Massive Cock’ because it was all men!”
The 12th edition of Igloofest kicks off on January 18 with headliner DJ, record producer and Montreal homeboy Kaytranada (a.k.a. Louis Kevin Celestin), back home after tour dates in New Zealand and Australia. Another highlight will be techno ambassador and Montreal musical legend Misstress Barbara who will spin on January 27.
In a redesigned location at Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port, Igloofest is expected to draw more than 120,000 revellers (check out the official 2017 Igloofest photo up top). The festival has booked DJs from around the globe over nine bright, fun-filled nights – each Thursday, Friday and Saturday through February 3. For more information, click here.
Any tips for festivalgoers attending Igloofest?
Festival programming coordinator Patrick Meloche told me, “Igloofest is all about good boots and socks. Everything else matters too, but if your body is warm and your feet are freezing or wet, you are done for.”
The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal welcomes guest conductor Juanjo Mena and acclaimed British pianist Paul Lewis – making his Montreal debut – for three Beethoven and Tchaikovsky concerts on January 17 and 18 at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.
The Opéra de Montréal presents the Canadian premiere of the much-anticipated opera JFK by American composer David T. Little and Canadian librettist Royce Vavrek. Praise for this opera—jointly commissioned by the Fort Worth Opera, the American Lyric Theater and the OdeM—has been unanimous. The opera explores the inner lives of John F. Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline in the 12 hours before Kennedy’s assassination. JFK plays at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier on January 27 and 30, and February 1 and 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Opera McGill showcases the outstanding professional-calibre work of McGill University students, and will present three performances of Donizetti’s classic opera Lucia di Lammermoor, January 26-27-28 at the Monument National.
ART AND MUSEUMS
The popular exhibition Passion: Hockey is an entertaining look at the fascinating world of our national winter sport, and also marks the centenary of the National Hockey League and the 125th anniversary of the Stanley Cup.
The Pointe-à-Callière museum exhibition features over 500 items, including Jacques Plante’s famous goalie mask, Hayley Wickenheiser’s skates, Maurice Richard’s and Vincent Damphousse’s Hall of Fame and Stanley Cup rings, a wax statue of Maurice Richard on loan from the Grévin Montréal wax museum, plus more than 1,200 hockey trading cards!
Passion: Hockey runs at Pointe-à-Callière, the Montréal Archaeology and History Complex, until March 11.
Over at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, it is the last month to check out their blockbuster Once upon a time… The Western exhibition which winds down on February 4.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody who was already a legend of the American Old West when he founded the internationally-famed Buffalo Bill’s Wild West travelling show in 1883, and which visited Montreal in August 1885. He and Sioux chief Sitting Bull posed for Montreal photographer William Notman for what has arguably become the most famous photo of the myth of the American Wild West – and it was taken in Montreal.
Notman’s iconic photo is one of over 400 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, artefacts, film stills and excerpts in the exhibition which offers a new interpretation of the Western film genre by examining its links to the visual arts (painting, sculpture, photography) from the middle of the 19th century to today. The exhibition deals with prejudices against First Nations peoples that the art therein helped to perpetuate.
Montréal’s venerable Centaur Theatre presents its 21st annual Wildside Festival from January 4 to 13, showcasing Canadian productions, plus Centaur’s Best of the Fest pick from last summer’s Montreal Fringe Festival.
This year’s line-up features Best of the Fest pick The Morning After The Life Before which explores marriage equality in Ireland; Idiot, part dance show, part rock concert and part hallucination inspired by rock icon Iggy Pop; Let’s Try This Standing is the autobiographical story of Gillian Clark, who survived being hit by an SUV; Pluck’d chronicles a queer, non-binary anarchist who returns home to their Chinese immigrant family; and Tragic Queens follows the capricious and passionate power games of three time-travelers stuck in a perpetual state of girlhood.
The festival also presents some of Montreal’s best and brightest sketch, stand-up and improv artists at Off-Side (free admission) on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Black Theatre Workshop and the Segal Theatre present the Shaw Festival’s acclaimed production in association with Obsidian Theatre of South African literary legend Athol Fugard’s play “Master Harold”…and the boys, which is set in South Africa in 1950 during apartheid, and tells the story of 17-year-old Harold who demands deference from his two Black servants. The play was initially banned in South Africa but has since become an enduring, modern classic that continues to speak to inequality and injustice. Master Harold runs from January 21 to February 11.
Meanwhile, the Centaur Theatre presents the world-premiere production of playwright Pascale Rafie’s The Baklawa Recipe which tells the tale of Lebanese immigrant mothers and their first-generation Canadian daughters dealing with the challenges of living between two worlds. The play runs from January 23 to February 18.
Montreal’s top dance series, Danse Danse, continues its superb 2017-2018 season with The Eternal Tides, performed by Legend Lin Dance Theater of Taiwan. Taiwanese choreographer Lin Lee-Chen’s spectacular show celebrates poetry in dance and features 20 dancers, two musicians and a singer onstage. The Eternal Tides plays at Théâtre Maisonneuve from January 24 to 27 at 8 pm nightly.
Over at The Wilder building, the Agora de la Danse presents celebrated choreographer George Stamos’ new live installation Recurrent Measures which features six dancers playing with the limits of physical movement, opening themselves up to new perceptions of time and motion. There are four performances, from January 24 to 27. The installation is one of three shows in the Résistances Plurielles series, which also presents Icône Pop and Instant Community.
FILM AND TV
The third season of RuPaul’s Drag Race: All-Stars premieres on VH-1 on January 25. Faves returning for another drag battle royal include Trixie Mattell, Chi Chi DeVayne, Aja and BenDeLaCreme.
Over at the Cineplex Forum, the first play from the Classic Spring Theatre Company’s Oscar Wilde Season, A Woman of No Importance, will be captured live for cinemas from the Vaudeville Theatre in London’s West End, January 18 at 7 pm. Olivier award-winner Eve Best (A Moon for the Misbegotten and Hedda Gabler) and BAFTA-nominated actress Anne Reid (Last Tango in Halifax) star in this new classically-staged production of Oscar Wilde’s comedy directed by Dominic Dromgoole, former Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe.
A week later, also at the Cineplex Forum (January 25 at 7 pm), the acclaimed documentary film David Hockney at the Royal Academy of Arts will screen once as part of the Cineplex Events In The Gallery series. Director Phil Grabsky got intimate and in-depth interviews with Hockney, considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and Britain’s most popular living artist, was an important contributor to the pop art movement of the 1960s, and is a contemporary of Andy Warhol.
That same night (January 25) at Psychic City, Montreal stand-up comic Tranna Wintour presents her popular monthly Trannavision. Says Tranna, “We screen a wonderfully awful movie and the funniest people in the city provide live commentary on the film as we all watch it together.” Hilarity ensues. This month’s film is the Whoopi Goldberg classic Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit! This event always sells out, so advance email reservations are highly recommended: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info, click here.
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, January 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Their readers include award-winning authors and beginning writers. This month the readers will be Cora Siré, Gloria Macher and Marie-Celie Agnant, and keynote guest Dannabang Kuwabong. The usual open-mic session will be given over to a Q&A with the writers. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
After being named Stand Up Comedian of the Year in 2016 at the Just for Laughs Festival, Sebastian Maniscalco returns to Montreal with his new tour, Stay Hungry, for four shows at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, on January 5 and 6.
Last but not least, a couple of really fun monthly shows at the historic Cleopatra’s showbar on The Main:
The big-hearted and always funny Montreal drag troup House of Laureen hosts the fourth annual King of Kingz drag king competition at Cleo’s on January 13 at 10 pm. As always, the show is offered on a Pay What You Can basis with a suggested donation of $10.
Also at Cleo’s, the Candyass Club Cabaret on January 19 stars drag king Nat King Pole, burlesque performers Damiana Dolce, Roxie Hardon, Lili Lolipop, Trixie Cups, Martin le Strecheur, professional Oriental dancer Diane Labelle and Montreal burlesque legend Velma Candyass. Showtime: 10 pm. Admission: $10.
Happy New Year!