Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for October 2018:
Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include pop icon Elton John (Oct. 4), Montreal favourite Phil Collins (Oct. 16) and classical-crossover legend Andrea Bocelli (Oct. 21), all at the Bell Centre.
Other legends in town this month include iconic punk rocker John Lydon, who brings his post-Sex Pistols band Public Image LTD to Club Soda on Oct. 18, and Supertramp’s legendary Roger Hodgson who brings his 2018 Breakfast in America World Tour to town for three nights, Oct. 29 to 31. The first two concerts are sold out, but there are still tickets available for his Théâtre St-Denis gig on Oct. 31. Hodgson will perform all the hits that he recorded with Supertramp.
Other notable concerts include kickass chicks Liz Phair (Oct. 9) and Lisa Stansfield (Oct. 10), both at the Corona Theatre; and Social Distortion (Oct. 9), Years & Years (Oct. 13) and Violent Femmes (Oct. 31) at MTELUS.
Out Australian pop sensation Troye Sivan – whom I saw make his auspicious Montreal début at MTELUS in November 2016 – has graduated to Place Bell (Oct. 11).
Another performer leading pop’s new queer wave is singer Olly Alexander whose British synth-pop group Years & Years headlines MTELUS on Oct. 13.
I am also a big fan of Canadian trans country singer-songwriter Rae Spoon who will headline Casa del Popolo on Oct. 4.
Local shows of note: Montreal blues queen Dawn Tyler Watson and her quartet headline Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill on Oct. 5, the same venue another terrific blues singer, Angel Forrest and her trio, headline on Oct. 26.
Local blues rockers Shane Murphy and Angel Forrest co-headline Troubadour NDG 2018 at Espace Knox on Oct. 12, and conductor Carol Bernard’s terrific Montreal Gospel Choir will perform a free 30-minute show at Église Gospelvie on Oct. 21.
The Coloured Women’s Club of Montreal will celebrate and pay tribute to legendary Montreal soul singer and showman Skipper Dean at a special gala at the OMNI Hotel on Oct. 20 benefitting the Coloured Women’s Club scholarship fund. Soul diva Kim Richardson will also perform. Click here for more info.
The I Musici de Montréal chamber orchestra launches their 35th season with their Portraits of Women concert featuring a stellar cast of female classical singers and a choir performing excerpts of works by everybody from Strauss to Puccini, at the Maison Symphonique on Oct. 21.
Over at the Orchestre Métropolitain, Maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts Viva Verdi with powerhouse Russian bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov – who has wowed audiences from the Metropolitan Opera to Saint Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre – singing Verdi’s greatest arias, on Oct. 28 at the Maison Symphonique.
The Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal presents Halloween Atmospheres with guest conductor François-Xavier Roth, performing Ligeti’s Atmosphères, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Liszt’s Totentanz, or Dance of the Dead, at the Maison Symphonique on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
The Canadian International Organ Competition presents some 15 events from Oct. 7 to 30, notably their Gala Concert at Notre-Dame Basilica on Oct. 19.
And the McGill Chamber Orchestra and Azrieli Foundation unveil two world-premiere works by the winners of the 2018 Azrieli Music Prizes, at the Maison Symphonique on Oct. 15. Inventive orchestral colour and virtuosic flair are on display for Israeli-born composer Avner Dorman’s Nigunim for Violin and Orchestra, while Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy explores Sephardic music in her En el escuro es todo uno (In the Darkness All is One), a double concerto for harp and cello. Maestro Yoav Talmi will conduct an expanded MCO for this varied programme, which includes two Hebrew songs arranged especially for soprano Sharon Azrieli and Mendelssohn’s brilliant Symphony No. 4 “Italian.”
ART AND MUSEUMS
Over at the McCord Museum, Cristóbal Balenciaga – the late legendary Spanish fashion designer and founder of the Balenciaga fashion house – gets the career retrospective treatment in Balenciaga, Master of Couture, a major exhibition organized by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Revered by his contemporaries and future fashion designers alike, Cristóbal Balenciaga represents the pinnacle of haute couture in the 1950s and 1960s. Over 100 haute-couture garments and hats are on display. A North American exclusive, Balenciaga, Master of Haute Couture closes on Oct. 14. Given the enthusiastic response to the exhibition, the McCord is extending its opening hours exceptionally until 9 pm on Thursdays and Fridays during the last two weeks of the exhibition – on Oct. 4, 5, 11 and 12.
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 opens at the MAC on Oct. 20.
October is the final month to see the superb Queens of Egypt exhibition at the Pointe-à-Callière Montréal Archaeology and History Complex where you will meet the remarkable women who became the Great Royal Wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the pharaohs during the New Kingdom some 3,500 years ago.
The exhibition features more than 350 rare and precious artifacts, including monumental statues of the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet, frescos, sarcophagi, a mummy, funerary objects and jewelry related to such legendary queens as Nefertari, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut.
Developed by Pointe-à-Callière in collaboration with Museo Egizio of Turin – home to the world’s second-largest collection of Ancient Egyptian antiquities, after the Cairo Museum – Queens of Egypt runs to Nov. 4.
Lots of theatre this month:
To kick off their historic 50th season, the Centaur Theatre Company presents the much-anticipated Montreal premiere of Choir Boy by playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney who is also the 2017 Oscar-winning writer of Moonlight.
McCraney’s acclaimed Choir Boy tells the story of Pharus, a gay teen attending the Charles R. Drew Prep School for African-American boys. The production is directed by theatre veteran Mike Payette, features Floydd Ricketts as musical director, and stars an outstanding ensemble cast: Steven Charles (as Pharus), Patrick Abellard, Lyndz Dantiste, Christopher Parker and Vlad Alexis as the five student choir boys. Black Theatre Workshop’s artistic director Quincy Armorer returns to the Centaur stage to play the boys’ Headmaster, and Paul Rainville portrays white professor Mr. Pendleton.
When I recently asked Armorer how important this play is, he replied, “Representation matters. Our industry needs to be telling stories about everyone, and Choir Boy is a positive glimpse into the world of Black gay men rarely seen. How wonderful will it be for young Black gay men to come to the show and see a part of themselves represented on stage? I wish that I had seen a play like Choir Boy when I was growing up.”
Choir Boy runs at the Centaur from Oct. 9 to 28.
Over at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, the Tony-winning smash-hit Broadway musical Once launches their 2018-2019 season. The musical is about an Irish musician and Czech immigrant who are drawn together by their shared love of music. Their friendship develops into a powerful but complicated love story. Once won a whopping eight Tony awards, including Best Musical, and this is a unique opportunity to see a big show in an intimate theatre.
Once runs from Oct. 7 to 28.
Meanwhile, the Compagnie Jean Duceppe recently kicked off their current season with their excellent French-language adaptation of the Tony Award-winning play Oslo which recounts the real-life back-channel negotiations that gave the world the 1990s Oslo Peace Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. I really enjoyed this production, which runs at Duceppe to Oct. 13.
Over on The Main, Montreal’s renegade indie Mainline Theatre presents their hugely-popular crowd-pleasing annual run of The Rocky Horror Show, complete with live band, from Oct. 18 to 31. Get your tickets early because this run will sell out.
Another musical worth checking out is the French-language Les Belles-soeurs, based on Michel Tremblay’s classic 1965 two-act play, at Theatre Maisonneuve from Oct. 17 to 27.
Black Theatre Workshop kicks off its 48th season with the Montreal premiere of Sound of the Beast starring two-time Governor General’s Award nominee Donna-Michelle St. Bernard. Sound of the Beast runs at the MAI from Oct. 3 to 14.
The 7th edition of the interdisciplinary and bilingual Phénomena Festival based in Mile End (mainly at La Sala Rossa, and also at the Théâtre Rialto this year), runs from Oct. 12 to 20. Highlights include the Cabaret Dada Love (Oct. 13) and CatoptROMANTIC starring fab Montreal duo 2boys.tv (Oct. 17 to 20).
British choreographer Cathy Marston charts new territory with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal’s production of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a work (also pictured at top) about the intense relationship between an aristocratic woman and an ordinary gamekeeper. The ballet runs at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier from Oct. 4 to 13.
L’un L’autre is the first joint choreographic project by Sylvain Lafortune and Esther Rousseau-Morin (Oct. 16 to 20 at the Cinquieme Salle).
And Gauthier Dance // Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart will present Grandes Dames, a program of four different works: tributes to Louise Lecavalier and Pina Bausch, plus new works by German choreographer Helena Waldmann and Montreal choreographer Virginie Brunelle (Oct. 31 to Nov. 3 at Theatre Maisonneuve).
The line-up for the 47th edition of the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma includes the latest from Jacques Audiard, Lars Von Trier and Jafar Panahi, and plenty of films from Quebec and the rest of Canada. There is also tribute to legendary American filmmaker Paul Schrader who will also give a FREE master class at the Cinémathèque Québécoise on Oct. 12. The FNC runs at various venues from Oct. 3 to 14.
The Public Image is Rotten, the acclaimed 2018 documentary directed by Tabbert Fiiller, with John Lydon, Flea, Moby and AdRock, screens at the PHI Centre in Old Montreal on Oct. 17.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show Montreal Halloween Ball returns to the historic Imperial Theatre for six screenings on Oct. 26-27-31, in what has become North America’s top RHPS event. Stand-up comic Tranna Wintour will host.
Over at the Never Apart centre in Mile Ex on Oct. 19 at 7 pm, Mediaqueer.ca presents LGBT Film Series – Dirty Looks which compiles 8 years of experimental screenings curated by Bradford Nordeen, followed by a discussion with Nordeen, renowned Montreal film scholar Thomas Waugh and and DJ Fraser for MediaQueer. Free admission.
The next night, Oct 20 at 8:30 pm at La lumière collective, Mediaqueer presents Home Movies: Dirty Looks in Montreal, a rad queercore short-film screening, also with visiting LA-based curator Bradford Nordeen.
As Mediaqueer explains, “Queercore emerged from a chasm of queens and dykes who related more to the lifestyle and politics of punk than “their” LGBT community, but felt similarly spurned by the latent homophobia in their newly adopted zeitgeist. Through zines, bands and homespun cinema, an ulterior movement emerged. Hardcore Home Movies is a research project that attempts to track down the fluid exchange of erotic representations amongst queer bodies within the relatively brief queercore (or homocore) movement. This investigation emerged as a program of explicit short films and videos made by luminaries from the scene like G.B. Jones and Scott Treleaven, featuring mainstays like Bruce LaBruce and Vaginal Davis, as well as lesser known works by artists like Jill Reiter, Jonesy (of the queercore band Fagbash) and Greta Snider.”
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, Oct. 15 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Sylvia Goldfarb, Simon McAslan, Horace Goddard and Oonya Kempadoo, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
Meanwhile, H. Nigel Thomas will read from his new novel Fate’s Instruments at a joint book launch with Robin Blackburn McBride – whose new book is called The Shining Fragments – at Paragraphe Bookstore on Oct. 24 at 6:30 pm.
Paragraphe Bookstore also presents its 25th annual star-studded Books & Breakfast event, this year on Oct. 14 and 21, as well as Nov. 11, with hosts Richard King, legendary cartoonist Aislin and broadcaster Anne Lagacé Dowson. Guest authors include former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Rawi Hage, Mark Abley, H. Nigel Thomas and 2018 Giller Prize nominee Esi Edugyan.
The latest instalment of The Violet Hour features writers Rae Congdon, Loren Edizel, Maloose, Lindsay Nixon and Seeley Quest, with host Christopher DiRaddo, author of The Geography of Pluto. This evening of short readings by LGBTQ writers will take place at gay strip joint Stock Bar in the Village, on Oct. 16 beginning at 7 pm. Admission is $5 PWYC.
Over at Café Cleopatra’s on the Main on Oct. 27, check out Montreal’s first-ever Naked Boys Reading literary salon featuring unclothed men reading to you! The show is “for all genders and sexualities — we are committed to body-positivity and celebrating diversity.” Showtime is 8 pm.
Last but not least, do NOT miss the Concordia University Epic Used Book Fair on Oct. 29 and 30, from 10 am to 7 pm daily in the EV Building (1515 Ste-Cat W.). Buy textbooks, mysteries, Can Lit, classics and more for $3 and up!
I recently enjoyed a Sunday brunch and weeknight dinner at the downtown French restaurant Le XVI XVI that has been making headlines because of its pretty cool R1-B1 robot barman on their lounge level.
R1-B1 is the only interactive robot-barman in the world, but the real attraction here is the excellent French cuisine by renowned French Chef Joris Larigaldie, made from the best produce from Quebec farms, with superb décor and service, all of it overseen by French artistic director Cedric Moindrot. For menu and opening hours, visit le1616.ca.
Montreal’s famed Black & Blue Festival runs from Oct. 3 to 9. The Black & Blue Main Event on Oct. 7 is called Chrome and will be held in two big clubs: MTELUS from 5 pm to 3 am, and Club Soda from 1 am to 10 am the following day (October 8).
The headlining superstar DJs at MTELUS are Roger Sanchez, singer / DJ Ultra Nate – who topped the dance charts worldwide with her classic 1997 gay anthem Free, which she will also perform – and Montreal’s very own DJ Champion. The smaller M2 room (formerly called the Savoy) in MTELUS will feature many popular DJs, including Montreal legend Jojo Flores.
Over at Club Soda, the headlining superstar DJs are Angel Moraes and Abel Aguilera.
Children of all ages will enjoy Disney’s animated classic Frozen live at Disney On Ice presents Frozen! at Place Bell from Oct. 4 to 8. Dazzling ice skating, special effects and Grammy and Oscar-winning music will transport you to wintry Arendelle for Anna’s adventure to find her sister, Queen Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in an eternal winter.
After successful shows skewering as well as celebrating the lives and cultural impact of Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, stand-up comics Tranna Wintour and Thomas Leblanc present The Madonna Show: Comedy and Sad Songs at the Wiggle Room on Oct. 18 and 19. Guests include acclaimed multidisciplinary American latinx artist Miguel Gutierrez whose 2017 cabaret show SADONNA reinvents classics like Lucky Star and Dress You Up. This promises to be a fun show!
Two other big comedy shows of note, both on Oct. 21:
Comedy icons Steve Martin and Martin Short bring their acclaimed An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier where they will look back on their careers, creative influences and most memorable encounters, presented through a blend of stand-up, musical numbers and conversations about their lives in show business.
That same night, comedy superstar Gad Elmaleh will headline his new English stand-up show The Dream Tour at the Olympia Theatre. Elmaleh will do two shows, at 5 and 8 pm.
A few blocks east of the Olympia, I recently attended Cavalia’s acclaimed show Odysseo under the world’s largest big-top tent on St-Catherine Street near the Jacques Cartier bridge. The show is so popular that its run has been extended a second time, until Oct. 14. I enjoyed the spectacle immensely, especially the jaw-dropping multi-media set. Blending equestrian arts with imaginative stagecraft, acrobatic feats and cutting-edge technical effects, this multi-million dollar extravaganza truly expands the concept of the theatrical experience.
The Montreal Burlesque Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with an artist line-up for the ages at Club Soda. Founded by international burlesque star Scarlett James —who embodies the old-school glamour of burlesque icon Lili St. Cyr— this year’s edition brings together some of the world’s finest burlesque performers over two live shows on Oct. 19 and 20, as well as a meet-and-greet dinner with the stars at the Bord’Elle boutique bar and eatery on Oct. 18.
Last but not least, Secret Montreal presents kick ass Montreal burlesque queen Velma Candyass who is hosting two popular 90-minute walking tours all month long: the Haunted Red Light Ghost Walk on Friday nights, and the Montréal Burlesque Walking Tour on Saturday nights. All tours begin at 8:30 pm at the Midway Tavern in the heart of Montreal’s fabled Sin City-era red-light district, once the most notorious red-light district in all of North America.