The 10 concerts that shone brightest in 2019 on Minnesota’s classical scene
1. “Candide,” VocalEssence, March 21: Leonard Bernstein’s Voltaire operetta is tough to stage, but Theater Latté Da’s Peter Rothstein recast it brilliantly as a 1930s radio broadcast. VocalEssence made the music sparkle, with Bradley Greenwald narrating.
2. St. John Passion, Oratory Bach Ensemble, April 5: Dance rhythms pervade Bach’s music, and they inspired the affecting choreography that Minnesota Dance Theatre’s Lise Houlton added to Oratory’s movingly sung account of this Bach choral masterpiece.
3. Mahler’s Tenth Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, June 14: Osmo Vänskä’s Minnesota Mahler series marched on with this post-apocalyptic work. Its visionary vistas and sense of transience were poetically captured in Vänskä’s clear-textured, ideally paced interpretation.
4. Dominick Argento Memorial Concert, June 18: Maria Jette, Philip Brunelle and the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra were among the artists in an Argento tribute in which the warmth, wit and generous humanity of his music were front and center.
5. “La Pasión Según San Marcos,” Aug. 2: Ahmed Anzaldúa’s outstanding Border CrosSing choir was at the heart of the Minnesota Orchestra’s startling Sommerfest staging of this multicultural reboot of the Passion story by Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov.
6. Six Decades of Minnesota Song, Source Song Festival, Aug. 5: Ten singers, three pianists, 26 songs by 26 different composers, all of them with Minnesota connections — Source Song knocked it out of the park again.
7. “The Rape of Lucretia,” Journey North Opera Company, Sept. 6: Britten’s chamber opera premiered in 1946, but seemed disturbingly relevant in director Amanda Carlson’s #MeToo-aware staging. Briana Moynihan sang a dignified Lucretia, with Sullivan Ojala Helmbolt as the odious Tarquinius.
8. “Elektra,” Minnesota Opera, Oct. 5: Updating Richard Strauss’ murderous opera to a 1920s silent movie set was occasionally confusing, but German soprano Sabine Hogrefe was riveting as the vengeful Elektra in a musically sizzling production.
9. Richard Egarr, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Oct. 18: English baroque expert Egarr logged in as the SPCO’s newest artistic partner, leading joyful, ebullient performances of works by Bach and Telemann from the harpsichord.
10. Sheku Kanneh-Mason, Schubert Club, Dec. 5: Classical prodigies typically have technique to burn, but struggle with interpretation. The young British cellist Kanneh-Mason nailed both in his Schubert Club debut, with his pianist sister Isata.