Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for June 2017:
CLASSICAL MUSIC & OPERA
One of the finest operatic singers of his generation, tenor John Mac Master co-stars in the McGill Chamber Orchestra’s much-anticipated June 6 production of Carmina Burana, a scenic cantata composed by Carl Orff in 1935 and 1936, based on 24 poems from the medieval collection Carmina Burana.
Mac Master began his storied showbiz career in Montreal and the West Island singing in 1970s rock ‘n’ roll bar bands.
“My longest-lasting band was called Jade, and we played Top 40 hits like Taking Care of Business and December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” says Mac Master, who was the band’s charismatic, long-haired lead singer. “We played bars like the John Bull Pub downtown and roadhouses on the lakeshore.”
Mac Master went on to conquer the opera world, performing with New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the London Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Volksoper and Opéra national de Paris. He even played Ubaldo Piangi in The Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. After an illustrious international career, Mac Master was recently appointed Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs in the Schulich School of Music at McGill University. His appearance with Maestro Boris Brott and the MCO should be nothing less than electric, at the Maison Symphonique on June 6.
Meanwhile, the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal will perform a June 29 free concert in Pierrefonds, to help uplift the victims of the Montreal-area floods in May.
“As musicians, we can’t rebuild homes, but we do hope this small gesture of solidarity and friendship towards Montrealers will contribute to the spirit of cooperation following the floods this spring,” says OSM musical director Kent Nagano.
The free concert will be held at the Pierrrefonds–Roxboro borough hall at 13665 Pierrefonds Blvd. (two blocks east of St-Jean Blvd.) on June 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Fresh from their crowd-pleasing blockbuster 2016 French-language adaptation of Mary Poppins, Juste Pour Rire presents their new French-language adaptation of the smash Broadway musical Footloose, which opens at Théatre St-Denis on June 14 and continues until (so far) July 30.
Over at the gorgeous DB Clarke Theatre, the superb Lyric Theatre Singers present four performances of their all-new Hello Broadway show from June 15 to 17, featuring 40 performers backed by five musicians directed by Bob Bachelor and Cathy Burns. Audiences will hear numbers from Hamilton, Avenue Q, Grease, A Chorus Line, Funny Girl, Chicago, Gypsy and more.
Meanwhile, Les FrancoFolies de Montréal presents the remount of Michel Tremblay and François Dompierre’s musical Demain matin, Montréal m’attend at the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde from June 13 to 25, ahead of its TNM 2017/2018 season opening run in September.
The much-anticipated production’s music director and arranger is none other than Montreal pianist Chris Barillaro, who also sang the theme song for our popular Montreal arts and entertainment website Curtains Up.
Barillaro has found much success in Montreal’s English theatre scene, and it is heartening to see his spectacular success in the French theatre scene. I have long thought his talent is bigger than this city. But while Barillaro loves attending Broadway shows, he once told me, “It was never my dream as a child to go to Broadway. I only saw my first musicals when I was 15. I was pretty late to the whole thing. I also love working here. Montreal’s been very good to me.”
Bravo, Chris! Et MERDE!
The 27th annual Montreal Fringe Festival is now underway with many French and English-language productions, until June 18. Three productions have caught my eye:
Kaleidoscope Theatre Montreal (of Captain Aurora fame) returns with the critically-acclaimed Memento Mori – A Support Group for the Dead, written and directed by the incredibly talented Trevor Barrette.
Boy About Town Productions (whose 2013 musical Holy Tranity! ranks as one of the Top 5 all-time Montreal Fringe box-office hits) returns with playwright Puelo Deir’s one-man show Old Fat and Fucked! Now What?
And one of my all-time fave drag queens, Uma Gahd of the House of Laureen, returns to the Fringe with her one-drag show Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me, Gahd.
Also, do not miss the Montreal Fringe’s marquee event, drag icon Mado Lamotte’s 17th annual Drag Race, on Saturday, June 17 at 4 pm in the Fringe Park. Free admission. Returning jury members this year are Montreal drag legend Nana De Grèce, drag aficionado Kevin McCoy (of Les Brasseurs RJ) and myself.
This year’s Fringe festival spokesperson is Montreal singer-songwriter-producer Paul Cargnello, whose entertaining videoclip for his terrific funk song Get Into The Fringe features classic footage from festivals past, notably Mado’s raunchy drag races!
I recently said on CJAD Radio that 2017 is fast becoming Montreal’s Summer of Voguing, thanks in no small part to dancer / choreographer Gerard Reyes, who has been teaching voguing classes in Montreal since March, and made his Festival TransAmériques debut with his terrific solo show The Principle of Pleasure, which I attended on opening night and enjoyed immensely.
Reyes one-man show continues until June 4, and in all the FTA presents 27 dance and theatre shows in 20 different cultural venues until June 8. Reyes is also curating the free uber-queer In+Out party at the FTA party HQ on June 7 at 10:30 pm.
Meanwhile, voguing and ball culture will be on full display at Elle Barbara and Twysted Mugler’s War of the Elements Vogue Ball at Sala Rossa on June 3.
Ball culture, the house system and the ballroom community originated in Harlem some 50 years ago, and voguing evolved in the late 1980s out of the Harlem ballroom scene. Voguing, of course, crossed over to the mainstream with Jennie Livingston’s 1990 doc Paris is Burning and Madonna’s 1990 hit song Vogue. The Montreal scene has not been this active since the mid-1990s when Divers/Cite organized its annual World Ball for Unity.
War of the Elements Vogue Ball will feature such houses as House of Amazon, House of Constantine, House of Ebony, House of Lanvin, House of Monroe and House of Mugler. Categories include Butch Queen in Drag Realness vs. Butch Realness; Butch Queen Realness; Femme Queen vs. Transman Realness; Vogue; and Runway.
Admission is a very reasonable $15.
ART AND MUSEUMS
La Balade de la Paix / An Open-Air Museum will stretch along a one kilometre-long span of Sherbrooke Street for five months, from June 5 to October 29. Organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the McCord Museum, La Balade de la Paix is a major public art exhibition celebrating Montréal’s 375th anniversary, the 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and the 150th anniversary of Canada. Along the route, 42 photographs will be displayed on the front and back of 21 gigantic stelae. Renowned contemporary Montreal photographers have travelled the world to capture images inspired by the Expo 67 values of openness, peace and diversity. Also on display are 29 monumental sculptures and installations from world-renowned Canadian and foreign artists, from Alexander Calder to Keith Haring.
FILM AND TV
If you see just one movie this summer, make it Wonder Woman, starring Gal Gadot, which is shaping up to be a mega-blockbuster hit with fans and critics alike.
Other must-see shows include Franz Ferdinand (June 3) and Banks (June 5), both at Metropolis; The Jacksons at the Olympia Theatre on June 11, the same night that Toto headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier; and Tears for Fears (June 22), also at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier.
The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal begins on June 28. Their big indoor show this month is the high-wattage triple bill (pictured at top) of Buddy Guy – who no less than Eric Clapton says is the “best living guitarist in the world” – harp legend Charlie Musselwhite, and the meanest guitar player in Canada, the great Steve Hill with Matt Anderson, June 30 at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier.
The jazz fest continues until July 8. More FIJM listings here next month. Meanwhile, for all festival info, visit montrealjazzfest.com.
Notable shows by locals this month include the Carolyn Fe Blues Collective at the downtown House of Jazz (June 10), the same NOLA-style venue where audiences will find Montreal’s Queen of Soul, Michelle Sweeney (June 6-9-16-20-23-27).
Over at Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, do not miss Montreal’s Queen of the Blues Dawn Tyler Watson, who won top prize at the 2017 International Blues Challenge finals in Memphis (June 10), fierce soul diva Ria Reece (June 15) and hip hop soul singer Sarah MK (June 22).
Other local must-sees: supersonic soul singer Sylvie Desgroseilliers launches her new Women in Soul concert on June 17 at Le Balcon; mind-blowing funkateer Fredy V and his kickass band The Foundation perform their tribute to Prince, June 7 at Le Bleury-Bar a Vinyl (showtime is 10 pm, but show up early because this small, intimate nightclub should be packed!); and local RnB heroes The Brooks and their lead singer, soul legend Alan Prater, headline the NOLA-style Diese Onze jazz club every Wednesday night. Of note: The Brooks’ June 28 edition will be their special tribute to Prince, with guest vocalists Kim Richardson and Marie-Christine Dépestre.
The Quebec Writers Federation presents its 2017 Mentorship Reading Event featuring readings by emerging writers with introductions by their mentors, at the Comedy Nest on June 4 at 2 pm.
Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas and Maguy Métellus co-host Kola Readings /Lectures Kola, 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, June 12 at 7 pm. For details, call 514-846-0049 or visit hnigelthomas.org.
I rarely plug club nights, but A Night at Studio 54 ft. Jellybean Benitez, jojoflores & Cesar at L’Atelier d’Argentine on Crescent Street on June 8 looks like F1 Grand Prix week Eurotrash fun: organizers will recreate the magic of Studio 54 with NYC DJ Jellybean Benitez who famously dated Madonna, and produced or remixed many of the Material Girl’s hits in the early ‘80s. Hosts & co-DJs are man-about-town Josh Silver, Montreal DJ legend Jojo Flores and DJ Cesar Czr.