Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for May 2017:
CLASSICAL MUSIC & OPERA
The prolific Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal presents many must-see shows at the Maison Symphonique: The OSM’s Grammy-winning music director, Maestro Kent Nagano, will conduct the orchestra in Bernstein: From West Side Story to A Quiet Place (Leonard Bernstein was one of Nagano’s personal mentors) on May 17 and 18, as well as in Shostakovich’s Final Symphony, on May 24 and 25.
Then Nagano and the OSM will close their 2016-2017 season by joining forces with world-renowned multimedia entertainment studio Moment Factory to create a new work entitled Symphony for Montréal on May 31 and June 1 and 2, to celebrate the 375th anniversary of Montréal.
Over at the Orchestre Métropolitain, Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin – the Montréal homeboy who will become music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York beginning in 2020 – conducts a concert at the Maison symphonique de Montréal with Canadian harpist Valérie Milot on May 14.
The Opéra de Montréal close their triumphant 2016-2017 season with Puccini’s much-loved opera La Bohème at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from May 20 to 27.
The Segal Centre for Performing Arts presents the Tony-winning jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet, inspired by the true story of the night four music icons – Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins – came together at Sun Records studios in Memphis on Dec. 4, 1956, for one of the greatest impromptu recording jam sessions in history.
Songs include Blue Suede Shoes, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line and Hound Dog. Directed by the Segal’s Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin, the Montreal premiere of Million Dollar Quartet runs runs to May 14 at the Segal before moving to the Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts for six additional performances, from May 17 to May 21.
Over at the Centaur Theatre, I attended opening night of the Quebec premiere of the acclaimed Canadian comedy Bed and Breakfast, a lighthearted play about two gay men (played by Mark Crawford and Paul Dunn) who move from urban Toronto to a tiny tourist town to convert the family residence into a B&B. Playing dozens of male and female characters – from narrow-minded rednecks to awkward high school boys – prejudice tests the couple’s resolve, with some unexpected comical plot twists. Bed and Breakfast is a lighthearted comedy with some poignant moments, and runs until May 21.
The Festival TransAmériques presents 27 dance and theatre shows from Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Grenoble, Lausanne, Lisbon, Paris, Quebec City, Seville, Tokyo, Vancouver and Wrocław, from May 25 to June 8. The programming this year features nine world premieres and 11 North American premieres, including Antoine et Cléopâtre – an ancient tale of passionate love – directed by Lisbon theatre sensation Tiago Rodrigues of the Teatro Nacional D. Maria II. This production runs May 27 to 29 at the Cinquième Salle of Place des Arts.
An international icon of the contemporary dance scene, Flemish choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker presents her 2001 masterpiece Rain, set to the driving music of Steve Reich. Presented by Montreal’s top dance series Danse Danse, Rain plays at Theatre Maisonneuve from May 4 to 6 at 8 pm nightly.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal presents a contemporary ballet triple bill by Jiří Kylián and Stephan Thoss – Falling Angels, Evening Songs and Searching for Home – at Theatre Maisonneuve, from May 25 to June 3 at 8 pm nightly.
Also, the annual Benefit Gala of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal takes place on May 13 at Uniprix Stadium, and includes a welcome cocktail, a dinner and dance, an excerpt from a ballet show, and draws for scores of attractive prizes. Tickets begin at $600.
ART AND MUSEUMS
The blockbuster exhibition Chagall: Colour and Music at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts features some 500 works and documents – paintings, collages, watercolours, sculptures, stained glass windows and ceramics – which show how the aesthetic and artistic world of famed Russian-French artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) is imbued with music. The exhibition includes his creations for the stage, notably 40 rarely-seen costumes and sets for the ballets and operas Aleko (1942), The Firebird (1945), Daphnis et Chloé (1958) and The Magic Flute (1967). No less than famed art critic Robert Hughes called Chagall “the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century.” Chagall: Colour and Music continues until June 11.
As Montreal celebrates the 50th anniversary of Expo 67, the most successful World’s Fair of the 20th century, Montreal museums have programmed blockbuster exhibitions championing the legacy of Expo 67, including Expo 67 – A World of Dreams at the Stewart Museum.
Fashion was also central to Expo 67, where the uniform of the hostesses at the UK Pavilion became a huge sensation: the then-new miniskirt style popularized by Mary Quant. Today, cutting-edge fashion in Montréal and Canada at the time are explored in the McCord Museum’s Fashioning Expo 67 exhibition.
More Expo 67-related exhibitions will open in June. We’ll have all those details for you here next month.
There are also several must-see exhibitions at Montreal art galleries in May:
Galerie Got Montréal (50 Rue Saint-Paul West in Old Montreal) presents the first Quebec exhibition of famed Scottish Life magazine photographer Harry Benson CBE. See more than 50 of Benson’s best-known photographs from his 60-year-career, including a photograph of French President Charles de Gaulle taken during the notorious speech he delivered from the balcony of Montreal City Hall, where he cried, “Vive le Québec libre!” The exhibition runs until May 28. Free admission.
Festival Accès Asie presents The Smile of Afghanistan exhibition of recent work by Iranian photographer Hamed Tabein who wants to portray Afghanistan in a new light, and not of war and suffering. Tabein’s photos reveal the hope of a people hard at work reconstructing their country, and of the happiness that prevails despite their difficulties. The exhibition runs at the GESÙ – Centre de créativité (1200 Rue Bleury) from May 5 to June 10. Free admission.
Over at the Never Apart centre in Mile Ex (7049 Rue Saint Urbain), there are six new exhibitions, notably Two-Spirit Sur-Thrivance and the Art of Interrupting Narratives featuring the great Kent Monkman. This multidisciplinary environment explores lived experiences of gender fluidity and sexualities as they intersect with Indigenous bodies, spiritualities, communities, relationships, land, and water “in this place called Canada. ‘Two-Spirit’ is markedly different than ‘LGBTQ.’’
Also at Never Apart, Our Legacy & Going Out by Montreal lesbian publication Lez Spread The Word explores the history of Montreal’s lesbian scene.
All six Never Apart exhibitions run to June 25. Free admission.
Last but not least, the Images and Power: Black Women exhibition presented by CELAT UQAM at Concordia University chronicles an unprecedented dialogue between the work of two young Québécois artists of Haitian origin, Sydney Agnant and Maliciouz, and a series of portraits commissioned by Congolese women and taken by photographer Simon Mukunday in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, beginning in the 1980s.
Images and Power: Black Women focuses on the political and social power of images and, more specifically, on the dynamics generated by the portrayal of Black women by Black women. Runs at the Curating and Public Scholarship Lab (CaPSL) at Concordia University’s J.W. McConnell Building (1400 Maisonneuve Blvd W., 6th floor, room LB 671.00) from May 1 to 10. Free admission.
FILM AND TV
The ICI ARTV reality TV series Ils de Jour, Elles de Nuit, starring six of Montreal’s most popular drag queens – Tracy Trash, Barbada de Barbades, Rita Baga, Gabry-Elle, Lady Poonana and Lady Boom Boom – is good trashy fun. Two more new episodes to air in May, Friday evenings at 7:30 pm.
Other must-see shows include British punk legends The Damned at Club Soda on May 23 (postponed from May 2), the same venue legendary American singer-songwriter Garland Jeffreys headlines on May 5; iconic British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck – criss-crossing the globe on his 50th Anniversary Tour – headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on May 6; The Black Lips play Theatre Le National in the Village, on May 9; Hollerado plays at La Sala Rossa on The Main, on May 11; punk legend CJ Ramone of The Ramones headlines Foufounes Electriques on May 14; Swedish neoclassical metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen plays at the Corona Theatre on May 16, the same night out Brooklyn rapper Young M.A – who has gone from viral sensation to rising star in the past year – plays the Olympia Theatre; Jason Mraz plays Theatre St-Denis on May 18; Norah Jones returns to Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on May 28; local favourite Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds will raise the roof at Metropolis on May 29; and kickass “blues broad” Bonnie Raitt (pictured up top) headlines the Olympia Theatre on May 31.
Montreal’s hugely popular Confabulation storytelling series returns to Mainline Theatre – the home of indie theatre in Montreal – for its seventh anniversary show on May 6 at 8 pm. The theme for this edition is “Big dreams.”
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, May 8 at 7 pm. For details, call 514-846-0049 or visit hnigelthomas.org.
The queer Violet Hour readings series returns to gay-male-strip joint Stock Bar in the Village for The Violet Hour: Dirty Spring Book Tour on May 23, featuring four out-of-town writers with new books, including Marcus McCann (Shut Up Slow Down Let Go Breathe) and Michael V Smith (Bad Ideas). Showtime: 6:30 pm. Free admission.
Canadian actor and comedian Mary Walsh will discuss her debut novel Crying for the Moon, at a Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore public Q&A with host Anne Lagacé Dowson, at Victoria Hall (4626 Sherbrooke Street W.) on May 17 at 7 pm. Free admission but seating is limited. Tickets are available at Librairie Paragraphe Bookstore (2220 McGill College Avenue), The Westmount Public Library (4574 Sherbrooke Street W.) or by calling 514-845-5811.
Drag alert! RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Bianca Del Rio hosts the all-star drag revue Queens: WERQ your World which pitstops at the Berri Theatre (1280 Rue Saint-Denis) on May 27 at 9 pm. Guest performances by Alyssa Edwards, Detox, Kim Chi, Shangela and Season 9 stars Shea Coulee and Valentina.
Montreal’s avant-garde Never Apart centre in Mile Ex hosts Wiggle, its annual wearable art and performance festival, on May 20 beginning at 7 pm. Wiggle will once again be hosted by American TV star and trans icon Candis Cayne and will showcase some of Montreal’s most innovative artists, designers and performers.
Desta Black Youth Network hosts its 7th Annual Gala Fundraiser, Desta Fest 2017, at Théâtre Paradoxe (5959 Monk Blvd.) with foods from top local restaurants, an open bar, live entertainment, including ALIsaac, Zander M, West Can, Coronation Elementary Steelpan Band and DJ B’Ugo, on May 16 from 6 to 10 pm. Tickets cost $75 and up. All proceeds go to DESTA, a non-profit community-based organization serving marginalized youth, aged 18 to 35 in the Greater Montreal area. For tickets, visit destabyn.org or call 514-664-5042
Inspired by B-movie action soundtracks from the 60s and 70s, Stroboscopica will headline Brasserie Beaubien (73 Rue Beaubien E.) on May 3 at 9 pm for two action packed sets of retro-fueled instrumentals. All proceeds will go to Dans La Rue, which helps homeless and at-risk youth.
Of note to residents and former residents of NDG, the Crowley Arts Centre is hosting a much-anticipated reunion for all those who grew up Below the Tracks in the 50s, 60s and 70s. The event will be filled with nostalgia music, live bands, an open bar, a smoked meat station and plenty of entertainment and memorabilia from that golden era in NDG, May 19 at 7 pm. Tickets and info, visit crowleyartscentre.org.
Food lovers will enjoy the fifth edition of Montreal’s hugely popular, really fun and good-value-for-your-money Lobster Clam Jam outdoor culinary festival at the Esplanade Du Centenaire De Canal Lachine (3700 Rue Saint-Patrick, corner Pitt) on Sunday, May 28 from noon to 9 pm. Recognized by The Food Network and Everfest as one of our top food festyivals, Lobster Clam Jam will feature over 40 restaurants – each will serve two different signature dishes, totaling over 80 different delicious dishes to try – plus there will be a Mojito Bar, Beer Bar, Wine Bar, Coffee Bar and six dessert sections on-site. This year the Lobster Clam Jam introduces their Lobster Clam Jam currency called CLAMS (each branded Lobster Clam Jam token is valued at $3) used to purchase food and beverages. Buy your admission tickets and CLAMS here; additional CLAMS will also be available on-site. A portion of the festival’s proceeds will benefit The Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada.