Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for November 2017:
In Montreal this month, everything begins and ends with Leonard Cohen, the global icon who adored his hometown of Montreal.
The many local celebrations of Cohen’s life begin with the blockbuster concert Tower of Song: A Memorial Tribute to Leonard Cohen on November 6, the eve of the first anniversary of Cohen’s passing. The concert will feature – among others – Elvis Costello, Lana Del Rey, Feist, Philip Glass, Sting, Cœur de pirate, Bettye LaVette, Courtney Love, Seth Rogen, Ron Sexsmith, Patrick Watson, Adam Cohen and k.d. lang.
“My father left me with a list of instructions before he passed: ‘Put me in a pine box next to my mother and father. Have a small memorial for close friends and family in Los Angeles… and if you want a public event, do it in Montréal,’” says Adam Cohen. “I see this concert as a fulfillment of my duties to my father that we gather in Montréal to ring the bells that still can ring.”
All the artists are performing for free, with proceeds benefiting the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Conseil des arts de Montréal.
Montreal is a great city for arena shows, so much so the city can now support two arenas: Place Bell in Laval will present six performances of the much-ballyhooed live cartoon superhero spectacle Marvel Universe Live! (November 10 to 12).
Over at MTELUS (formerly Metropolis), headliners include Flying Lotus in 3D (November 9), Silversun Pickups (November 11), Angus & Julia Stone (November 14 – the show has moved from Club Soda to meet the high demand for tickets), American rapper Yelawolf (November 21), Montreal’s very own The Barr Brothers (November 24), the progressive sounds of the Horizon Tour featuring Seven Lions, Tritonal, & Kill The Noise (November 25), and American rockers Thrice and Circa Survive (November 28).
Other notable shows this month include California reggae band Dirty Heads at the Corona Theatre (November 8), legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Famer David Crosby & Friends cross-promoting his new album Sky Trails at Theatre Maisonneuve (November 10), terrific Canadian indie pop band Stars headline an intimate show at L’Escogriffe (November 13) and 16-time Grammy-winning banjoist Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn headline the Corona (November 14).
Other must-see shows are Canadian experimental music and performance art collective Yamantaka // Sonic Titan who headline Le Ministère on the Main (November 18); Montreal hip hop soul queen Sarah MK headlines one of the city’s premiere jazz clubs, Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill (November 23); legendary Montreal ska band The Kingpins headline a bill with The Beatdown, Vic Ruggiero & Chris Murray at Café Campus (November 25); and one of my all-time fave Montreal singer-songwriters Paul Cargnello launches his new album Intense Cité at Quai des Brumes (November 28).
Last but not least, the acclaimed international tribute concert The Simon & Garfunkel Story plays at Théâtre St-Denis on November 22 and 23. The show chronicles the journey shared by legends Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel from their humble beginnings as Tom & Jerry to their success as one of the best-selling music groups of the sixties, to their dramatic split in 1970, culminating with their famous “Concert in Central Park” reunion in 1981.
Meanwhile, over at Place des Arts, the West End jukebox musical Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story pit stops for one local performance, a 2:30 pm matinee on November 26 at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier.
ART AND MUSEUMS
The much-anticipated international exhibition Leonard Cohen – Une brèche en toute chose / A Crack in Everything opens at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal on November 9.
Co-curated by John Zeppetelli and Victor Shiffman, the Cohen exhibition was inspired by the world of Leonard Cohen and the great themes of his life and work. Forty artists from 10 countries explore the themes that marked Cohen’s life: darkness, light, religion, politics, love, desire, intimacy and poetry.
“When we came up with the idea for this exhibition, we went to seek the agreement of Leonard Cohen, who was thrilled with the project and the angle we were proposing,” says Zeppetelli. “Given his recent death, our exhibition has taken on a new meaning. It has also become a tribute to this global star.”
This major exhibition is the first to be entirely devoted to the imagination and legacy of the iconic singer-songwriter, artist and poet, and runs to April 9, 2018.
The Galerie Corno, formerly the Galerie AKA, is currently hosting the exhibition CORNO & WARHOL about Andy Warhol’s influence on Corno. Discover some 20 original works by Corno, some of which have never been shown, that clearly reflect Warhol’s influence on her art. Some of the works are from the estate collection, and selected works are for sale. There are also 27 Warhol exhibition posters, including the one featuring a Campbell’s soup tin (his first and the rarest in this collection), and four self-portraits. Some 40 record sleeves are also be on display, some from such famous artists as John Lennon, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin. The record sleeves are available for purchase by lots. The CORNO & WARHOL exhibition at the Galerie Corno (51 Rue Saint-Paul W.) runs until December 23, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 6 pm, and Sundays from noon to 6 pm. Free admission. The public is invited to contact gallery personnel for further information at 514-847-9539.
CLASSICAL MUSIC & OPERA
The Orchestre Métropolitain with Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin – the Montréal homeboy who will become music director of the Metropolitan Opera in New York beginning in 2020 – conducts The French Touch, an all-French program to be performed by the OM on its European tour starring the voice of renowned contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux, at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on November 22.
The McGill Chamber Orchestra season continues with their production of Handel’s Messiah, a much-loved Montréal holiday tradition, this year at the gorgeous Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul (designed in the Gothic Revival architecture style) on November 30.
The Church of St. Andrew and St. Paul will also host the annual classical music Voices of Hope benefit concert for Montreal AIDS hospice Maison du Parc on November 24.
The Opera de Montréal season continues with Rossini’s much-revered opera La Cenerentola, based on the fairy tale Cinderella and first performed in Rome’s Teatro Valle in 1817. This new production co-stars acclaimed Italian baritones Pietro Spagnoli and Vito Priante, and Canadian mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne in the title role, at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from November 11 to 18.
Opera McGill showcases the outstanding professional-calibre work of McGill University students, and will present three performances of Ariodante, an opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel, at Pollack Hall from November 9 to 11.
Montreal’s very own world-renowned, Grammy-winning baritone Gino Quilico will headline Westmount’s Victoria Hall on November 4, to perform famous love songs in what is shaping up to be one of this autumn’s must-see concerts.
Montréal’s English-language theatre scene is anchored by The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts in the West End and the venerable Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal.
This month The Segal revives its 2016 smash hit Bad Jews, bringing back the original cast of its critically-acclaimed production of Joshua Harmon’s breakout hit. Directed by Segal Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin and starring Jamie Elman, Ellen Denny, Jake Goldsbie, and Sarah Segal-Lazar, this contemporary piece asks the biting question: what do you choose to believe, when you’re chosen? Bad Jews returns to the Studio at the Segal from November 8 to 26.
Meanwhile, The Centaur presents the hilarious Olivier and Tony-winning spoof of Alfred Hitchcock’s spy thriller The 39 Steps. Richard Hannay, a suspected murderer, is caught in a web of international intrigue and suspense, and – handcuffed to a beautiful woman convinced of his guilt – the accidental action hero must stay one step ahead of Scotland Yard to prove his innocence and stop a lethal ring of spies. Lives hang in the balance and, packed with hilarious film noire allusions, the entire escapade is performed by four actors, switching characters at lightning speed for maximum spoof effect. Based on Hitchcock’s film adaptation of John Buchan’s novel, this comic spin on a classic runs from November 14 to December 10.
Over at Theatre Jean-Duceppe, I recently saw playwright Steve Galluccio’s dramedy Les secrets de la Petite Italie which features a trans character, Ivana, who challenges her conservative Italian-Montreal family by confronting their secrets and prejudices.
“I have known many trans people in my life, especially in the 1980s, and it was always a world that fascinated me,” Galluccio told me recently. “I started writing this play long before we began having our trans moment. I ask what if your Italian son is really your daughter, how would the family react? It is my first trans character and, to my knowledge, one of the first Italian trans characters you will see onstage.
As in every Galluccio play, there are many good laughs. Les Secrets de la Petite Italie also has one really big extended laugh, a classic one-liner for the ages that has audiences howling with laughter. The play runs at Duceppe until December 2.
Other plays of note this month:
Vic and Flo saw a bear is a genre and gender-bending horror/love story about two queer women in a rocky romance, translated and adapted for the stage from Denis Côté’s award-winning 2013 film Vic et Flo on un ours. The play runs at Centaur Theatre from November 21 to December 2.
Do not miss the Montreal premiere of celebrated Canadian playwright Jordan Tannahill’s play Late Company, inspired by the real-life case of bullied Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley. The powerful drama explores the aftershocks of bullying, homophobia, mental health and teen suicide. Late Company runs at MainLine Theatre, the heart of indie theatre in Montreal, from November 8 to 19.
Finally, if you are a lover of Shakespeare, check out the student production of Romeo and Juliet, produced by the top-notch Dawson Professional Theatre Program in their state-of-the-art Dawson Theatre from November 13 to 25.
Montreal’s top dance series, Danse Danse, continues its 2017-2018 season with the North American premiere of “rock star” choreographer and composer Hofesh Shechter’s Grande Finale which features 10 dancers and six musicians on stage.
Internationally recognized as one of the leading choreographers of his generation, Shechter “blends classical and traditional Israeli instrumentation, hard-hitting rock and electronic music, and epic songs and melodies in a dense musical flow that echoes and carries his gestural language. The dancers are driven by an irrepressible, almost savage energy. In this work, Shechter captures the agitation typical of our unsettled times, and presents a perceptive and apocalyptic vision of the world we live in.” There are four perfomances of Grande Finale at Theatre Maisonneuve, from November 1 to 4 at 8 pm nightly.
Danse Danse also presents Dancers of Damelahamid, the Indigenous dance company from British Columbia, performing Flicker, a multimedia choreography by Margaret Grenier, about “a mythical world inhabited by ancestral spirits and supernatural beings to tell the story of a universal quest.” Flicker runs at the intimate Cinqieme Salle at Place des Arts from November 14 to 18 at 8 pm nightly.
Montreal’s kickass Tangente contemporary dance company presents the Sébastien Provencher and Manuel Shink double bill Gender Fluidity exploring queerness, femininity, androgyny and stereotypes of masculine virility, at the Wilder (the recently unveiled Wilder Building at 1435 Bleury) from November 16 to 19.
FILM AND TV
The opening film of this year’s 30th annual Image+nation. festival cinema lgbt montreal film festival—the oldest queer film festival in the nation—is Call Me By Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino and written by James Ivory. It is based on Andre Aciman’s novel of the same name, about a young man named Elio in 1980s Italy who meets Oliver, an academic staying at Elio’s parents’ villa. They develop a passionate relationship and bond over their sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the landscape. The film opens Image+Nation on November 23 at the Imperial Cinema. The festival runs from November 23 to December 3.
French director Michel Hazanavicius – whose 2011 film The Artist won Oscars for Best Film and Best Director – visits the Phi Centre for an intimate tête-à-tête with Montreal cinema lovers as part of the CINEMANIA Francophone Film Festival, for an afternoon public Q&A with French director Patrick Fabre, official red carpet emcee for the Cannes Film Festival, on November 4 at 1 pm at the cutting-edge PHI Centre in Old Montreal. Free admission.
The 2017 Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked the World, co-directed by Montreal filmmaker Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorana, has its world television premiere on November 5 at 8:15 pm ET on HBO Canada.
RUMBLE has a long list of music artists, historians, family members, and experts participating in the film, including: Martin Scorsese, Quincy Jones, Tony Bennett, Slash (Guns N’ Roses), Steven Tyler (Aerosmith), Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, Marky Ramone, Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys), Robert Trujillo (Metallica), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), Wayne Kramer (MC5), Steven Van Zandt, Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses), Buddy Guy, George Clinton, Taj Mahal, Ivan and Cyril Neville, Derek Trucks, Charlie Sexton, Robbie Roberstson and many more.
Says George Clinton, “One can’t help but notice the rhythms of—or the pulse that was here, that is here; been here. The feel of Native American is in a lot of rock ‘n’ roll.”
I recently interviewed pop icon Carol Burnett (no relation) who headlines her show Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection at Théâtre St-Denis on November 4. It was a big thrill because, since I was a kid, when people ask me how to spell my family name, I always reply, “Burnett, like Carol.”
When I told Ms. Burnett (“Call me Carol”) that story, she cracked, “From now on, when people ask me that question, I’ll tell them ‘Burnett, like Richard!’”
We covered a lot of ground, including her unwavering allegiance to the LGBTQ communities and what it was like to be a woman in cut-throat Hollywood. About doing this tour, Ms. Burnett told me, “I’ve done it for some 20-odd years. I do no more than about six concerts a year, and it’s just what I did at the top of the (TV) show. I throw it open to the audience and I have no idea who is going to ask what. It’s 90 minutes of falling without a net! I enjoy it because it keeps the old gray matter ticking. You really have to be on your toes, in the moment. There are frequent questions, like why did you pull your ear? Would you do the Tarzan call? Is Tim Conway as funny in real life as he is on television? So I have stories about all of these things.”
When I asked about her classic Gone With the Wind outfit, Ms. Burnett replied, “That was Bob Mackie! The writers had me wearing the draperies just kind of hanging on me, and Bob thought that wasn’t as funny as it could be and he got the brilliant idea of doing the curtain rod. I think that is hands-down one of the longest laughs we ever got on our show!”
Read my full interview with Ms. Burnett here. Burnett headlines her show Carol Burnett: An Evening of Laughter and Reflection at Théâtre St-Denis on November 4.
Last but not least, don’t miss the big-hearted and always funny Montreal drag troup House of Laureen headline at Cleopatra’s on The Main on November 11 at 10 pm with 100% of the proceeds going to RÉZO (previously Action Sero Zero), a community-based organization for gay and bisexual men in Montreal whose focus is overall health promotion as well as the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Brave community members will take the stage alongside House of Laureen. The show is offered on a Pay What You Can basis with a suggested donation of $12.