From ‘Star Wars’ to ‘The Little Prince’ to a Bach favorite, here’s Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s new season

(Chris Detrick | Tribune file photo) Thierry Fischer conducts the Utah Symphony in 2015.

The Films in Concert series will include “Star Was, Episode IV: A New Hope” and two more movies in the “Harry Potter” franchise. Some Saturday Masterworks Series performances will be starting two hours earlier than usual, and some midweek opera performances have been bumped up by a half-hour. The popular new American opera “The Little Prince” is coming. And the “casual” concert series known as UNWOUND will feature not only food trucks on the plaza, but a live program-notes app for mobile devices.

Clearly, this week’s unveiling of the 2018-19 Utah Symphony | Utah Opera schedules emphasize the organization’s dedication to expanding and engaging its base of patrons.

“We’re being more strategic, if you like, and thoughtful about how we can draw in next-generation audiences by more consistently programming pieces that we think will appeal,” said Paul Meecham, the president and CEO of USUO. “We feel very excited about both the musical side of things, but also some of these audience-engagement initiatives that we’re introducing.”

Among the highlights Meecham cited for the upcoming symphony season are a semi-staged performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” at Abravanel Hall (in collaboration with Utah Opera), Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, and a tribute to the late 20th-century French composer Pierre Boulez, who directed Utah Symphony Music Director Thierry Fischer.

The end of the season will also include a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike — the joining of the transcontinental railroad — with commissioned work from Grammy Award-nominated composer Zhou Tian.

Guest appearances Meecham was particularly enthused about include composer-in-association Andrew Norman and “this terrific violinist, Philippe Quint, who’s making two visits as an artist-in-association.”

The symphony’s “pop/entertainment series” will feature the likes of Portland, Ore.-based Pink Martini, Cirque Dances with Troupe Vertigo, and a semi-staged performance of “My Fair Lady.”

The increasingly popular Films in Concert, in which the orchestra live-performs the scores during showings of films, is taking another leap forward, with “Star Wars” and Harry Potter’s “The Prisoner of Azkaban” and “The Goblet of Fire.” “Ghostbusters” and the classic “Casablanca” round out that schedule.

Beyond the musical selections themselves, Meecham was proud of “new initiatives that we’re implementing this next year which are specifically designed to attract new audiences.”

Six of the 18 scheduled Saturday evening performances, for example, will move from a 7:30 p.m. start time to 5:30. Along these lines, Monday and Wednesday opera performances will move from 7:30 to 7, with the intent “to make them a little bit more family-friendly, for people who don’t want to stay out that late on a school night.”

He was particularly excited about the potential of UNWOUND, which will feature shorter, intermission-free performances, and food trucks out on the plaza beforehand — an experience he concedes is designed “to attract, perhaps, a younger audience.”

Along these lines, an interactive app will be part of the show.

“We’re probably going to be experimenting with a live program-notes app, so you can actually follow on the app — they’re very low-glare, so it’s not gonna be intrusive to other audience members — and they might say, ‘Keep an eye out for the French horn solo coming up which depicts …’ Something like that,” Meecham said. “Audiences may like that additional kind of interaction, that additional information; it’s using technology to give them that in real time.”

As for the opera season, there will be two all-new productions created in-house at the Utah Opera Production Studios: the Utah premiere of Rachel Portman’s “The Little Prince,” and a semi-staged concert version of Bellini’s “Norma” with costumes designed by “Project Runway” finalist Bradon McDonald.

The season also includes Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” conducted by Fischer, and a revival of the company’s in-house production of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

“I think the mix is similar [to previous years, though] certainly it could come across as more popular and accessible.,” Meecham said.

Between the programming itself and the new initiatives in place to execute it (including January’s announcement of a two-adult, two-child, $30 family pass), the big picture is that in spite of ticket-buying trending upward in recent years, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera is hardly content with the status quo.

“I think that the takeaway is there’s probably more variety than ever before,” Meecham said. “Again, really trying to draw in different audiences for a wider variety of offerings.”

Here are more details on the season lineups:

Utah Opera

“Romeo and Juliet” (October) • The season begins with a revival of Utah Opera’s 2005 production of Charles Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.” The role of Romeo will be sung by tenor Joshua Dennis, who debuted with Utah Opera in January as Greenhorn in “Moby-Dick.” Anya Matanovič, known for her Utah Opera roles in “Hänsel und Gretel” and “The Elixir of Love,” will star as Juliet.

“The Little Prince” (January) • Costumes and scenery for this production, designed by James Climer, will be built in Utah Opera’s production studio. Academy Award- and Emmy Award-winning composer Portman and librettist Wright adapted the 2003 opera from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s 1943 classic children’s book. A chorister from The Madeleine Choir School will sing the title role; choristers from the school will make up the opera’s chorus.

“The Magic Flute” (March) • Mozart’s final opera returns to the Capitol Theatre stage after a six-year absence. Native Utahn Celena Shafer, a favorite of Utah Opera and Symphony audiences alike, will portray the Queen of the Night; Zulimar López-Hernández, who starred in Utah Opera’s critically acclaimed 2016 production of “The Marriage of Figaro,” will play her daughter, Pamina.

“Norma” (May) • With planned renovations at the Capitol Theatre, the opera’s final production of the season — a semi-staged concert version of “Norma” — will move to Abravanel Hall. Costumes will be designed at Utah Opera Production Studios by Bradon McDonald, a finalist from “Project Runway” season 12. Marjorie Owens will sing the title role, one of the most daunting ever written for a soprano.

Utah Symphony

The orchestra caters to a variety of tastes, with a pops-oriented Entertainment series, a handful of concerts designed especially to families with young children, and a handful of special events alongside the classic Masterworks series. The popular Films in Concert Series will include five screenings with the orchestra performing the score live; among them are “Star Wars: A New Hope” and two movies in the “Harry Potter” series.

Entertainment, family and special events

Here’s the entertainment lineup:

• Bernstein on Broadway, featuring Broadway vocalist Morgan James (Sept. 14-15).

• Pink Martini’s “Joy to the World: A Holiday Spectacular.” (Dec. 21-22)

• A semi-staged performance of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady.” (Feb. 15-16)

• “Cirque Dances” with Troupe Vertigo. (April 18-20)

Family series:

• Here Comes Santa Claus. (Dec. 17)

• “Peter and the Wolf,” choreographed by Christopher Sellars with Ballet West II. (March 16)

• “Story Pirates: Symphony Extravaganza!” (April 20)

Special events:

• 59th Annual Salute to Youth concert. (Sept. 11)

• Annual “Messiah” Sing-in. (Nov. 24-25)

• Utah Symphony Pro-Am: Youth All-Stars Edition. (May 21)

Films in Concert Series

• “Ghostbusters.” (Nov. 2-3)

• “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” (Nov. 29-30, Dec. 1)

• “Casablanca.” (March 1-2)

• “Star Wars: A New Hope.” (May 9, 11 and 13)

• “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” (June 20-22)


Here is the Utah Symphony’s 2018-19 Masterworks series. Concerts are in Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City, and begin at 7:30 p.m. except as noted. (E) indicates Saturday concerts with the new earlier start time of 5:30 p.m. (FT) indicates that the 10 a.m. Friday dress rehearsal is open to the public at a lower cost.

Sept. 21-22 • Andrew Norman, “Suspend”; Ludwig van Beethoven, Symphony No. 9. Thierry Fischer, conductor; Utah Symphony Chorus with University of Utah choirs (Barlow Bradford, chorus director); Jason Hardink, piano; Joélle Harvey, soprano; Kirstin Chávez, mezzo-soprano; Issachah Savage, tenor; Patrick Carfizzi, bass-baritone.

Sept. 28-29 (E) • George Gershwin, “An American in Paris”; Maurice Ravel, Piano Concerto in G; Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 9 (“The Great”). Thierry Fischer, conductor; Alexandre Tharaud, piano.

Oct. 26-27 (E) • Leonard Bernstein, Three Dances from “Fancy Free”; John Corigliano, Violin Concerto (“The Red Violin”); P.I. Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 4. Andrew Litton, conductor; Philippe Quint, violin. (FT)

Nov. 9-10 (E) • Leonard Bernstein, “Candide.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Garnett Bruce, director; James Sale, lighting design; Utah Opera Chorus. With Brenton Ryan as Candide, Lauren Snouffer as Cunegonde, Hugh Russell as Dr. Pangloss, Victoria Livengood as the Old Lady, Aleks Romano as Paquette and Mark Diamond as Maximilian.

Nov. 16-17 • J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1 and 2; Pierre Boulez, “Dérive 1”; Aaron Copland, Symphony No. 3. Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Dec. 7-8 • J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 4; Pierre Boulez, “Mémoriale”; Jean Sibelius, Violin Concerto; Edvard Grieg, Selections from “Peer Gynt.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Baiba Skride, violin.

Dec. 14-15 (E) • Emmanuel Chabrier, “España”; Manuel de Falla, “Nights in the Gardens of Spain”; Bizet, Selections from “Carmen”; Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, “Capriccio espagnol”; Maurice Ravel, “Boléro.” Jun Märkl, conductor; Ingrid Fliter, piano. (FT)

Jan. 4-5 • Joan Tower, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman” No. 1; P.I. Tchaikovsky, Suite from “The Sleeping Beauty”; Karol Szymanowski, Violin Concerto No. 1; Johann Strauss Jr., Overture to “The Gypsy Baron” and “Bitte schön!”; Richard Strauss, Suite from “Der Rosenkavalier.”

Jan. 11-12 • Vivian Fung, “Dust Devils”; Frédéric Chopin, Piano Concerto No. 1; Antonín Dvorák, Symphony No. 7.

Feb. 1-2 • J.S. Bach, Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 5 and 6; Pierre Boulez, “Initiale”; Hector Berlioz, “Symphonie fantastique.” Thierry Fischer, conductor.

Feb. 8-9 • Richard Wagner, Overture to “Tannhäuser”; Hector Berlioz, “Sara la baigneuse,” “La Mort d’Ophélie” and “Reverie et caprice”; P.I. Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 6 (“Pathétique”). Thierry Fischer, conductor; Utah Symphony Chorus with University of Utah choirs (Barlow Bradford, chorus director); Philippe Quint, violin.

Feb. 22-23 • Ludwig van Beethoven, “Leonore” Overture No. 2; Johannes Brahms, Violin Concerto; Franz Liszt, Hungarian Rhapsody No. 4; Jean Sibelius, “Valse triste” from “Kuolema”; Giuseppe Verdi, “Ballet for the Queen” from “Don Carlos.” Mario Venzago, conductor; Stefan Jackiw, violin.

March 22 • Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 2 and “Vocalise”; Andrew Norman, “Play.” Thierry Fischer, conductor; Alexander Gavrylyuk, piano.

March 23, 7 p.m. • UNWOUND series features “Level 1” from Norman’s “Play” and Rachmaninoff’s Concerto No. 2 with Fischer and Gavrylyuk.

March 29-30 • Gioachino Rossini, Overture to “William Tell”; Henri Dutilleux, “Tout un monde lointain (A Whole Distant World)” for Cello and Orchestra; Antonín Dvorák, Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World”). Thierry Fischer, conductor; Alban Gerhardt, cello.

April 12-13 (E) • Zoltán Kodály, “Dances of Galánta”; Sergei Rachmaninoff, Piano Concerto No. 4; Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 12 (“The Year 1917”). Vassily Sinaisky, conductor; Simon Trpceski, piano. (FT)

April 26-27 • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Symphony No. 31 (“Paris”); Joaquín Rodrigo, “Concierto de Aranjuez”; Robert Schumann, Symphony No. 2. Richard Egarr, conductor; Pablo Sáinz Villegas, guitar.

May 17-18 (E) • Aaron Copland, “Appalachian Spring” and Suite from “Billy the Kid”; Max Bruch, Violin Concerto No. 1; Zhou Tian, new composition to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Golden Spike. Thierry Fischer, conductor; James Ehnes, violin. (FT)

May 24-25 • Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 9; Alfred Schnittke, “Moz-Art à la Haydn”; Mahler, Symphony No. 1. Thierry Fischer, conductor; Kathryn Eberle and Claude Halter, violin.