The Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s annual SOLUNA International Music and Arts Festival is back for its fifth iteration, and with it comes some intriguing programming as always. In years past, SOLUNA has given us a mixed bag of sorts as it’s worked toward finding a true purpose within the DSO. Odd art installations and performances that seemed to have little relevance to a world-class symphony orchestra dominated the lineup. Year after year though, its identity comes more into focus. This year, each program relates back to classical music — a big step in the right direction.
The festival runs from April 4 through April 28 this year. This shift earlier in the spring lines up nicely with Dallas Art Fair, a partnership that will bring us trolls. That’s right. Trolls. Icelandic artist Egill Sæbjörnsson’s trolls will come to life via sculpture, painting and video projections. We hear that the 118-foot “man-eating” trolls plan to stir up some trouble among the musicians of the DSO. Look forward to that one on April 10.
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In addition to “When the Trolls Go Rolling In” (yes, that’s the title of the piece), the DSO will present Julia Wolfe’s Anthracite Fields as part of her residency. The Pulitzer Prize-winning oratorio for mixed chamber ensemble and chorus is a nod to coal-mining America in the early 20th century. Wolfe has said that her goal was to “honor the people who persevered and endured in the Pennsylvania anthracite coal region during a time when the industry fueled the nation and to reveal a bit about who we are as American workers." The performance on April 15 will mark the work’s Texas premiere and will feature the Dallas-based Verdigris Ensemble, a new collaboration for SOLUNA.
One of SOLUNA’s trademarks is key performances by the Dallas Symphony that were previously led by Jaap van Zweden. It seems the tradition will continue in 2019, post-van Zweden. You’ll want to mark your calendars for April 18 and 19 when his successor, Fabio Luisi, will return to Dallas for the first time since his appointment as the DSO’s next music director. The program will include a rarely heard work by Frank Martin, a piece by African-American composer William Grant Still and Beethoven’s stunning Seventh Symphony. Definitely a concert you don’t want to miss.
SOLUNA will partner again with artist incubator The Cedars Union this year for an interesting piece by local artists Sheryl Anaya and James Talambas on April 24. A chamber group of DSO musicians will perform alongside the aptly named “Long String Instrument,” something we got to preview during a recent SOLUNA reception. It’s quite literally a long string — measuring about 70 feet in length — that Talambas performs as he walks the length of it. The result is an ethereal, ambient sound.
Tickets for SOLUNA go on sale Jan. 18. This year, the DSO is also offering a “festival pass” for those of you who’d like to experience more than one of these programs.