Soluna Returns With a More Accessible Festival But Fewer Big Names

People line up outside the Winspear Opera House to see St. Vincent at SOLUNA in 2015.
People line up outside the Winspear Opera House to see St. Vincent at SOLUNA in 2015.
Mike Brooks
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Three years in, SOLUNA, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s annual International Music & Arts Festival, is still trying to forge an identity.

In contrast to the first year’s big splash under the direction of Anna Sophia Van-Zweden, and last year’s big ticket commissions like Jonah Bokaer, Daniel Arsham and Pharrell William’s multimedia performance Rules of the Game, the schedule of 2017’s SOLUNA — which is running now through early June — seems to be characterized by what it isn’t more than what it is.

This year's Soluna doesn't feature any big-name commissions or international pop stars. (St. Vincent was also a featured performer in 2015.) Instead, SOLUNA seems to be coalescing around the art and artists Dallas is already familiar with.

The addition of “Dallas Dreams Big” on May 30 is one big change. The two-part performance features original work culled from two months of workshops at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center and the South Dallas Cultural Center, including spoken-word poetry performed by Will Richey and music from S-Ankh Rasa and Brianne Sargent — all inspired by this year’s SOLUNA theme of “Dreams and Illusions.”

This year, the festival seems to double down on the family-friendly elements of its programming. In addition to “Dallas Dreams Big,” last year’s Passport to the Park, a multidisciplinary day of family-friendly performances and activities, returns to Klyde Warren Park on May 28, and the DSO’s free annual Memorial Day concert and fireworks display on May 29 falls under the SOLUNA umbrella as well.

The cloud hanging over this year’s DSO season has been the impending departure of music director Jaap Van Zweden whose last season with the DSO is 2017/18. Van Zweden will of course play a starring role in this year's SOLUNA, conducting two weekends of performances at this year’s festival: Prokofiev’s masterful 5th Symphony from June 2-4, and Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius on May 26 and 27.

The Prokofiev performance June 3 features a special multimedia first act, which promises to transport audiences to World War II Soviet Russia, and Gerontius is a can't-miss choral work that will showcase the Dallas Symphony Chorus’ 200 members.

Guest conductors and performers will also be featured: Ruth Reinhardt will conduct a special installment of the DSO’s ReMix series featuring Felix Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on May 20 and 21. Actors will read some of Shakespeare’s original lines, paired with visual effects and a musical collaboration with Uda Essim Triangle, an electronic ensemble from SMU. On May 16, German Baritone and DSO artist in residence Matthias Goerne will perform Schubert’s song cycle Die Winterreise.

Local talent and partnerships round out the festival schedule. On May 24, Agence 5970 – the agency of Dallas’ Frank and Lee Dufour – will evolve a project installed at the Dallas Contemporary in 2014, just outside the Meyerson Symphony Center. DreamSpace, a site-specific, interactive audio-visual installation, will illustrate the vertical nature of dream time through video, dance and an elaborate voice recognition system that will allow audience members to enter and become part of the performance.

Also helmed by Agence 5970 is a series of video art screenings called Ultra-Seeing at the Nasher Sculpture Center, which will feature work related to synesthesia May 21.

While this year's festival has a local emphasis, there are also a few notable exceptions that are not to be missed. On June 1 at the Wyly Theatre, the DSO is hosting New York-based artist Jessica Mitrani’s Traveling Lady, a multidisciplinary art project featuring filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s legendary muse, Rossy DePalma, as the titular character. And on May 2, legendary pianist Yefin Bronfman plays work by Schumann, Stravinsky, Bartok and Debussy.

During the entire run of SOLUNA, the Crow Collection will host a soundscape created by Henri Scars Struck, which accompanies an exhibition by Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney. The Dallas Contemporary will host Mexican artist Pia Camil for a May 27 performance related to her work currently on view at the museum.

One of the primary aims of SOLUNA is to introduce new audiences to the DSO, something the festival’s multiple locations and approachable events like "Passport to the Park" and "Dallas Dreams Big” seem well situated to achieve. Some events are even free. In tandem with the festival’s intention to promote cross- and multidisciplinary works of art, that makes this year's SOLUNA the most accessible yet.

For a full list of venues, dates and times, and to purchase tickets to all of the SOLUNA events, visit mydso.com/soluna.

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