Duke Performances and Carolina Performing Arts, the Triangle’s neck-and-neck leaders in academic arts presentation, have both revealed their 2019-20 seasons, which run from early fall through early summer. Both seasons uphold the presenters’ reputations for immersing flashy bookings and cream-of-the-crop genre specialists in rich, thoughtful programming concepts.  

The theme of Duke Performances’ season is “Art Powered,” and the programming seeks to “highlight the influence musical and cultural heritage has on the creative process,” with a particular eye toward DP’s responsibilities to Duke and Durham.

The headline depends on your tastes: Ballet? New York’s legendary American Ballet Theatre takes the stage in North Carolina for the first time in fifty years in “Ballet Futures,” which also includes four other major companies. Classical? We’re getting world-class renditions of Beethoven’s complete quartet cycle, plus a strong showing of vocal music by the likes of Chanticleer and The Tallis Scholars. Jazz? Here’s Ambrose Akinmusire and Joshua Redman.

Other highlights include the world premiere of a new commission by former Carolina Chocolate Drops member Leyla McCalla, a collaboration by immortal indie band Yo La Tengo and documentary filmmaker Sam Green, and soul-and-gospel icon Mavis Staples. Round it out with the Southern blues-and-folk blowout of the Music Maker Relief Foundation benefit and the internationally inclined Black Atlantic festival and the phrase “something for everyone” becomes more fact than cliché.

For its fifteenth anniversary, Carolina Performing Arts has created a programming core that “amplifies the creative leadership of women,” opening its season with a conversation with Misty Copeland, principal dancer of—guess what?—American Ballet Theatre.

The theme carries strongly through the season, with a Martha Graham Dance Company takeover of CURRENT, a five-hour marathon of woman-penned piano works (from Clara Schumann to Meredith Monk) by Sarah Cahill, and the world premiere of flute duo Flutronix’s immersive performance integrating Chapel Hill oral histories. This is just scratching the surface of a season where few shows fit into simple, off-the-rack genre boxes. 

And Meredith Monk herself is coming! I saw the genre-exploding vocal-music pioneer perform “Cellular Songs,” which she’s bringing to Chapel Hill, at BAM last year, and can verify that she’s still like nothing you’ve ever seen. I’m also especially keen on Big Dance Theater’s “pop-up play under construction” of poet Anne Carson’s scorching Antigonick. (CPA has a good track record with Antigone-based things, after bringing that Ivo Van Hove production with Juliette Binoche a few years ago.)

There are exciting new commissions besides Flutronix, including The Day, a dance-and-music work by a stellar group including Lucinda Childs and David Lang. Also, just the fact that CPA has singular hip-hop artist Tierra Whack, American songwriting wellspring Emmylou Harris, and opera baritone Lucia Lucas on the same season? That’s pretty great.  

Not to skimp on classical, CPA is also offering the North Carolina debut of the London Symphony Orchestra and, in classical music’s best shot at a big-tent crowd-pleaser, Lang Lang playing the Goldberg Variations. Oh, and Chris Thile is coming to make with the magic mandolin. No shots, those Bach Partitas are sweet.

Duke Performances tickets go on sale at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, June 18.

Carolina Performing Arts tickets are on sale now.  


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