With its heady mix of visual arts, dance, and orchestral performance, no one knew quite what to expect from the 2015 debut of the Soluna International Music & Arts Festival. Anchored by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, its seemingly effortless blending of aesthetics and practices was such a success that co-founder and director of festival advancement Anna-Sophia van Zweden is bringing a more curated approach to this year’s edition.
"We definitely learned so much from last year,” says van Zweden. “We were very aggressive in the number of programs we presented, and we learned that it was better to do fewer presentations. It was also a time to understand what the audience responded to. For the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, we did a chamber music program called 'A Musician’s View' on the Meyerson stage, which was a big hit. It really felt like a program for friends, and so it is something we absolutely repeated.”
Lest attendees think Soluna will be dialing it down completely in 2016, the theme of “Myths and Legends” suggests otherwise. Inspired by Mahler’s fairy tale cantata Das Klagende Lied, a key work in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s classical programming, this year’s lineup continues to innovate by pairing superstar pop idols (Pharrell Williams) with rarified, renaissance talents such as the “mystery man of modern dance” Jonah Bokaer and performance artist/set designer/videographer Daniel Arsham for the highly anticipated world premiere of The Rules of the Game.
With the upcoming departure of music director (and van Zweden’s father) Japp van Zweden in the 2018/2019 season for his new position at the New York Philharmonic, rest assured that she will remain in Dallas at least part-time to continue Soluna’s tradition of inspiring programming.
Citing Anton Ginzburg’s Remix: Orchestral Myth and Legend on May 20-21 and whimsical artist Paola Pivi’s free performance Ma’am on May 24 as treats for fans of the visual arts, van Zweden has culled this year’s pared-down but still impressive programming into her six can’t-miss performances.
1. The Rules of the Game
The aforementioned marriage of high art and cool pop, The Rules of the Game will make its debut May 17 at the Winspear Opera House. This epic event had its genesis in the winter of 2015 with a simple studio visit with Daniel Arsham.
Recalls van Zweden, “Muriel Quancard, our curator-at-large, [and I] asked him if he could think of a collaborative work including music and possible choreography. At the time Jonah Bokaer was in discussion with a New York organization to present new choreography, and Daniel proposed us to collaborate [with him] as well as Pharrell Williams.”
This one-night-only world premiere is the first in an international tour of the work that will travel throughout the U.S., Europe, and Australia, and as Dallasites love to be ahead of the game (no pun intended), it’s truly a must-see for Soluna 2016.
2. "Music and the Brain"
Exploring the healing power of music, Soluna’s “Music and the Brain” returns for its second edition May 21 at Dallas City Performance Hall.
Says van Zweden, “This was one of the most popular events from last year, and our partnership with UT Southwestern was so fruitful. We all learned so much, and it made sense to maybe take a look behind pure performance to see how music ticks.”
Speakers will explore such topics as how to turn brain waves into sound — a way to detect seizures — as well as exploring how George Gershwin’s compositions have helped with ADHD.
3. Our Heroes
Because Soluna is occurring a little later this year and aligns with Memorial Day, Maestro van Zweden is conducting a free performance of patriotic classics May 29 in Klyde Warren Park.
His daughter explains, “It celebrates the armed forces and first responders. It’s a ‘thank you' for those who do so much for us.”
4. Britten: Noah’s Flood
Fans of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom won’t want to miss the live staging of Britten’s one-act opera, which was featured in the film. Held on May 31 and June 1 at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the free performance will bring together the DSO with Karina Canellakis Young Strings, the Dallas Recorder Society, the First United Methodist Church Handbell Choir, Texas A&M Commerce Buglers, and a cast of musicians and singers.
“The concert is cast with children from the area as the animals, with an ark built especially for this production and amateur musicians playing alongside our DSO players,” says van Zweden.
5. Mai-Thu Perret: Figures
Based on a fictional art commune she calls “The Crystal Frontier,” Mai-Thu Perret’s sculptural installation has been intriguing visitors of the Nasher Sculpture Center since March. For her June 2 performance in the museum’s amphitheater, the Swiss-born artist takes it to another level with a life-size marionette animated by the choreography of Anja Schmidt.
Embracing an Indian mystic, 19th-century American Shaker, '50s computer programmer, an artificial intelligence, and a journalist — presumably all residents in this illusory art commune— this re-staging of a performance from the Biennale of Moving Images in Geneva promises to be a thought-provoking pairing of both real and imaginary bodies.
6. Conrad Tao: Alice
A world premiere from the brilliant young composer and pianist (and the DSO’s current artist in residence) June 3 at the Meyerson Symphony Center, Alice is based on one of the world’s favorite fairy tales: Alice in Wonderland. What better bedtime story to wrap up a season of events that just may go down in DSO history?