Named after the Spanish combination of “sol” and “luna” (sun and moon), the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s inaugural Soluna Festival is a unique and ambitious undertaking, blending disparate visual art, music, dance, theater and orchestral performances during a three-week window in the Arts District.
Founded by director of festival advancement Anna-Sophia van Zweden, DSO music director (and her father) Jaap van Zweden, and DSO president and CEO Jonathan Martin, Soluna blurs the lines between genres as it explores what it means to be an eternally optimistic citizen of this country with this year’s theme “Destination (America.)”
“There are many reasons why we picked it and many layers,” says van Zweden of this year’s focus. “We wanted to make these connections and do projects that are reflective of Dallas and the people who live here. There are so many different cultures in the city.”
The marriage of visual and performing arts may be an unusual undertaking for Dallas, but it’s a natural one for van Zweden. Raised with the soundtrack of Amsterdam’s Concergebouw, she attended the Amsterdam School of the Arts, Reinwardt Academie before conducting research on the dynamics between private collectors and museums in both her hometown and Dallas.
Having interned at the DMA, she is currently finishing her master’s at Sotheby’s in New York, and her time in New York’s vibrant arts scene helped to inspire her Soluna journey.
“In New York, there’s so much in the performance art world I really appreciate, and that’s something that didn’t exist in Dallas,” she explains. “I want to take bits and pieces of that and combine it with a classic orchestra to create something really interesting.”
Just over year in the planning, Soluna is expected to draw attendees from both across the U.S. and Europe to indulge in its eclectic programming. Although it’s hard to narrow down the must-sees, van Zweden has hand-picked six key performances that you simply can’t miss.
1. Soluna opening performance
“For me, it’s mostly the visual arts,” explains van Zweden of her first choice, the May 6 opening night performance with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra providing a live soundtrack to film screenings by artist Alex Prager. “This is the first time her films will be screened with live music. She collaborated with a composer [Ali Helnwein], so that would be my first highlight.”
Prager follows the event with an exhibit May 7 at the Goss-Michael Foundation, showing five never-before-viewed photographs shot as a companion to her film Face in the Crowd, which draws on everything from street photography to classic cinema.
2. ReMix: Hollywood Exile
Another cinematic treasure is behind van Zweden’s second pick — namely a world premiere video by Swiss video artist Pipilotti Rist with accompanying music by Conrad Tao. Part of the “Hollywood Exile” concert, the performance, May 8 and 9, honors the great composers who found a home in Tinseltown during the second World War. Created specifically for Soluna, the piece will travel around the globe once the festival is over.
“It’s going places, I can promise you that,” laughs van Zweden.
3. Francis Moreno’s WCD [after Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware]
Local talent Francisco Moreno’s participation in Soluna is van Zweden’s third highlight. Drawn to Moreno’s work for its natural fit in the Destination: (America) theme, van Zweden cites his in-progress painting WCD [after Leutze's Washington Crossing the Delaware] as “a symbol of him being a Mexican artist, but trying to connect with American culture.
“He’s been working on this project for years already, but he added this layer of black and white camouflage that tries to confuse the viewer on where to approach him.”
The painting will be revealed May 9, 1-4 pm, in a free event (along with a painted Tandem Automotive car originally used in World War II) at 2900 Bataan St. Moreno’s black-and-white camouflaged interpretation of a symbolic American story reaches its culmination in a May 23 performance in the same Trinity Groves warehouse.
4. Kevin Beasley’s Black Rocker
New York-based Kevin Beasley’s May 15 site-specific Black Rocker is van Zweden’s fourth, rather avant-garde choice. Incorporating rap and hip-hop culture, this exploration of what it means to be an American features a rocking chair accompanied by 24 bespoke seat cushions equipped with microphones.
Free and part of the DMA’s Late Night series, the performance (6 pm-midnight) invites audience members to interact with the artist in real time.
5. Yael Bartana’s Inferno screening
Israeli artist Yael Bartana explores cultural identity in her film Inferno, which screens before a performance of Leonard Bernstein’s Kaddish on May 14 and 16. “It’s an incredibly powerful film, and my father’s mesmerized by it,” says van Zweden. The pre-concert screenings begin at 6:30 pm.
6. St. Vincent with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Admittedly, narrowing down Soluna’s expansive offerings is difficult, but the sold-out May 17 performance of Grammy-winning songstress is the last must on van Zweden’s list.
“It’s going to be more of a collaboration than just her performing,” promises van Zweden. “We really want to be open-minded and have pop artists collaborate with musicians and do all kinds of interesting things to open up and make new connections.”
Soluna Festival performances range from free to $150 and run through May 24.