Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for the second half of November 2018:
Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include Brian Wilson at Théâtre St-Denis on Nov. 22, the Stone Temple Pilots and Seether double bill at Place Bell on Nov. 15, Milk & Bone at MTELUS (formerly Metropolis) during M pour Montréal on Nov. 16, and Three Days Grace at MTELUS on Nov. 25.
The Grammy-winning Soweto Gospel Choir – formed to celebrate the unique and inspirational power of African Gospel music – headlines Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on Nov. 24 to honour the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela.
Not many reggae shows in Montreal these days, so the return of Jesse Royal is welcome. Part of the current “Reggae Revival” movement, Royal headlines L’Astral on Nov. 22.
Hats off to Billy Bob Productions for bringing Tommy Youngsteen back to Montreal with The Very Best of Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, Nov. 30 at Theatre Fairmount.
Do not miss vocal powerhouse Louise Pitre — the Tony-nominated star of Broadway’s Mamma Mia! — raise the roof with her From Paris to Broadway concert at The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts on Nov. 29, singing the songs that have made her a Canadian icon.
Local shows of note: Montreal ska legends The Planet Smashers headline Club Soda on Nov. 23 as part of the 10th annual Montreal Ska Festival. Other bands playing at the fest include Danny Rebel & The KGB (Nov. 22) and The Beatdown (Nov. 24).
Hilarious stand-up comic Tranna Wintour will showcase her vocal chops at her first-ever music concert, singing songs from her upcoming debut solo album, an MTV Unplugged-style show with her bandmate Mark Andrew Hamilton of Woodpigeon and Frontperson, Nov. 22 at The Diving Bell Social Club.
One of the founding members of Ladies of the Canyon, Jasmine Bleile has a terrific soul/R&B project called Satellites who launch their debut album Love and Disaster at the Ritz PDB on Nov. 17.
Love and Disaster began as a collection of poems that Bleile asked songwriters Paul Cargnello, Anna McGarrigle, Murray Lightburn (The Dears), and Pakesso Mukash (CerAmony) to write melodies for. Take a listen to the kickass lead-off single Breathless featuring Martha Wainwright and produced by Cargnello. The song, Jasmine says, is about “hanging on for dear life, having that one person by your side to make it through.”
Last but not least, the 13th annual GAMIQ awards gala honouring and celebrating indie music in Quebec takes place at Café Campus on Nov. 25.
The McGill Chamber Orchestra’s 79th season continues with Vivaldi, Bach and Julie Boulianne on Nov. 27 when renowned Quebec coloratura mezzo-soprano Julie Boulianne – who has performed in the world’s greatest opera houses, including the Met – performs Baroque arias at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, as part of the Montréal Bach Festival.
There are still three more Opéra de Montréal performances of Wagner’s masterful Das Rheingold at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on Nov. 13-15-17. Das Rheingold was a source of inspiration for The Lord of the Rings, and the superb cast includes American opera singer Soloman Howard who plays the role of Fafner.
During a recent rehearsal for Das Rheingold, I sat down with Howard, a bass whose talking voice is so deep he sounds like Barry White.
Howard told me when he grew up, “I didn’t see a lot of (Black) people (singing opera), especially in my community coming up in Southwest DC – the roughest neighbourhood in Washington, DC.”
Howard searched for role models and found one in Muhammed Ali whom he also portrayed in the opera Approaching Ali at the Kennedy Centre in 2013. During the production Howard even got to meet his idol.
“Ali always said, ‘I don’t have to be what you want me to be,’” Howard said, adding, “And (being an opera singer) is what I am meant to be.”
On the Nov. 10 opening night, I thought Howard was electric.
Over at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, Grammy-winning conductor and rock star of the classical world, Maestro Kent Nagano conducts Dvořák, Schubert and Schumann for three performances at the Maison symphonique de Montréal on November 29 and 30. Each concert consists of Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony alongside Schubert’s Die Zauberharfe overture. On the same program, German pianist Martin Helmchen will play Schumann’s Piano Concerto.
On Nov. 23, the downtown Church of St. Andrew and St.Paul – whose Gothic Revival architecture looks like it comes straight out of Robin Hood – hosts the Gender-Bending Messiah concert featuring the A&P Choir with musicians from the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, to benefit the Maison du Parc, one of Montreal’s last hospices for men and women stricken with HIV/AIDS. This is one of my favourite concerts each year.
To close out the month, experience Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert: Patrick Doyle’s epic score will be performed by a live orchestra in sync with the film, which will be screened with French subtitles, Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier.
ART AND MUSEUMS
Artist manifestos are on the program this autumn at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, notably Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto featuring an extraordinary performance by actor Cate Blanchett playing 13 roles in a thirteen-channel immersive video installation that stands as a tribute to the tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos. Manifesto has been mounted in more than a dozen cities around the world; its presentation in Montréal is only its second in North America, after the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The installation continues at the MAC until Jan. 20, 2019.
I very much enjoyed the current Montreal remount of the 2017 Tony-nominated play The Children which tells the story of two retired married nuclear physicists who live in a modest cottage following a nearby nuclear disaster in the plant where they used to work. The play explores their — our — social responsibility to future generations. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear explosion in Japan inspired this play which runs to Nov. 25. The superb cast also includes Canadian national treasure Fiona Reid who I remember watching on TV as a kid, on the classic 1970s sitcom King of Kensington.
Over at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at The Segal Centre for Performing Arts, A Doll’s House, Part 2 is “a sharp and witty sequel” to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and runs from Nov. 18 to Dec. 20.
This looks like a lot of fun: In the Wings Promotions presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch at – wait for it – Cabaret Mado in the Village! I love this space not just for the drag queens, but because it welcomes folks gay and straight, which would please Hedwig playwright John Cameron Mitchell to no end.
As John once told me about mixed audiences, “It just makes for a more interesting party. You know, I think I needed to be more with gay people when I came out, in a more monolithic way. But then you grow up and realize you want a little variety. A lot of gay people only hang out with people who listen to the same music and have the same body and same gender. That’s boring and quite annoying. It only makes me feel like a freak among a majority.”
Hedwig runs at Cabaret Mado for four performances only, Nov. 14-15-21-22, with a live rock band.
Incidentally, Hedwig really began back in 1994 at NYC’s famed drag-punk nightclub Squeezebox, where Stephen Trask – who would write the music and lyrics for Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell wrote the text) – headed the house band and Mitchell’s boyfriend, Jack Steeb, played bass.
Mitchell worshipped the rock’n’roll singing drag queens at Squeezebox. So he began to rewrite covers of such songs as Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well, Cher’s Half Breed, David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging and All the Young Dudes by Mott The Hoople, incorporating them into Hedwig‘s original concerts.
In fact, Mitchell’s second gig at Squeezebox also featured singer Debbie Harry on the bill, and Hedwig’s trademark wig was famously created that night with toilet paper rolls wrapped in synthetic blond hair!
To get an advance taste for Hedwig at Cabaret Mado, meet Stephen Trask at what should be a pretty exciting In The Wings masterclass in Montreal on Nov. 13.
Montreal’s top dance series Danse Danse continues their 2018-2019 season with the 65-minute piece Ghost by Tentacle Tribe whose brilliant mix of street dance, tribal and contemporary dance and martial arts will blow you away. Ghost features six of Montreal’s top street dancers (pictured at top) and runs at the Cinquieme Salle at Place des Arts from Nov. 13 to 17.
The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) is Quebec’s only film festival dedicated to documentaries. The festival presents the best reality‐based films, including Ensemble, shot over a year by filmmaker Jean-Nicolas Orhon, alongside the Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal and its conductor, Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The film will have its world premiere at RIDM on Nov. 16 in the presence of the filmmaker and some musicians from the Orchestre Métropolitain.
In the doc, the filmmakers follow the Orchestre Métropolitain on its first international tour in the most prestigious theatres across Europe, chronicling the essential role of the maestro and revealing the excitement behind the scenes.
After its world premiere at RIDM, the film will screen at Cinéma Beaubien, Cinéma du Musée and Cinéma du Parc beginning on Nov. 23.
Meanwhile, the 21st annual RIDM runs to Nov. 18. For more information, visit www.ridm.ca.
The oldest LGBTQ film festival in Canada, the 31st edition of the Image+Nation Montreal LGBTQ Film Festival runs from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 at various theatres.
Image+Nation has played a trendsetting role within the larger festival circuit in Canada, North America and internationally for many years. Over 11 days, this year’s edition will screen award-winning features, documentaries and short films from around the world, offering something for all cinematic tastes.
For the opening and closing films, and my Top 10 festival picks, click here.
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. This month they also pressent the special bilingual event Readings and Reflections on Immigration, Community and Rootedness on Nov. 16 from 7 to 10 pm, with distinguished guest readers Egbert Gaye, Gloria Macher, David Austin, Leila Marshy, Dimani Mathieu Cassendo and H. Nigel Thomas. There will also be a Q&A session. Free admission. Refreshments will also be served.
EXPOZINE, Montreal’s small press, comic and zine fair, is Canada’s largest zine fair and one of North America’s largest small press fairs: Some 300 publishers and self-publishing authors and artists will take part in this year’s edtion, which runs Nov. 24-25 at the Église Saint-Arsène near Jean-Talon Métro station. Free admission.
The latest instalment of The Violet Hour queer reading series on Nov. 27 is the Image+Nation Edition, a blockbuster All-Star “cinema” edition featuring playwright-screenwriters Steve Galluccio and Michel-Marc Bouchard, author-playwright Ann-Marie MacDonald, filmmaker Arshad Khan, and author Justin Torres whose international bestselling debut novel We the Animals has been adapted into a feature film which critics are calling the Puerto Rican Moonlight – and which will also be screened at Image+Nation on Nov. 28 at the Imperial Cinema where Justin will be interviewed onstage afterwards.
If you attend just one instalment of the Violet Hour this year, let it be this one, with host Christopher DiRaddo, author of The Geography of Pluto. This evening of short readings will take place at gay male strip joint Stock Bar in the Village, on Nov. 27 beginning at 7 pm. Admission is $5 PWYC.
Nothing like the current American president to make us wax poetic about Bill and Hillary Clinton who bring their reading tour An Evening with Bill Clinton & Hillary Rodham Clinton to Montreal’s Bell Centre on Nov. 28.