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The Culture Comeback: What’s On This Season

As the world reemerges, its leading cultural institutions have reopened, with new live performances, galleries and exhibitions. Mario Mercado highlights the upcoming season’s must-see events for travelers, from London to La La Land.

This article originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2021 issue of Indagare magazine, one of the benefits included in an Indagare membership. Learn more about becoming a member, or contact your Trip Designer to begin planning your next cultural getaway.

NEW YORK Broadway is Back

Theater, on  and off-Broadway, returns with new works, postponed productions and much-anticipated revivals in New York City. Six, a pop musical about the ill-fated wives of King Henry VIII, is a top ticket. Brooks Atkinson Theater; open now. ・The contemporary comedy Chicken and Biscuits is set at the funeral of the family patriarch, where nothing goes as planned. Written by Douglas Lyons, it features Norm Lewis and Michael Urie, who play family members that might not survive the funeral. Circle in the Square Theatre; open now.Conor McPherson’s Girl from the North Country takes place during the Depression, in a boardinghouse whose residents, some itinerant, cross paths and face the era’s challenges. The musical play, which ran for barely a week before lockdown in 2020, is directed by the playwright and enhanced through the songs of Bob Dylan. Belasco Theatre; open now.It sounds like an old Milton Berle joke: Cary Grant, Aldous Huxley and Clare Booth Luce are in a beautiful Southern California beach house in the 1950s—and on an acid trip. Flying over Sunset is a new musical, written and directed by James Lapine, with music and lyrics by Tom Kitt and Michael Korie. Lincoln Center Theater; from November 11.The long-awaited Broadway revival of The Music Man stars Hugh Jackman in the title role and Sutton Foster as Marian Paroo. Jerry Zaks stages the production, with sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto, and choreography by Warren Carlyle. Winter Garden Theatre; previews December 20.

LOS ANGELES A Star Is Born (And Finds a Home)

The spectacular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures devoted to the arts, sciences and artists of moviemaking has opened in a complex designed by Renzo Piano in Los Angeles. It comprises six floors, including 50,000 square feet of exhibition space for immersive permanent and special-exhibition galleries, and two state-of-the-art movie theaters. Among many cinematic treasures are a pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a page from the script for To Kill a Mockingbird annotated by Gregory Peck, a creature head from Alien and a clapper board from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. cademymuseum.org.

LONDON West End Happenings 

Theater is an essential part of London’s cultural life, and it returns this season in full, with new plays, starry musical revivals and Shakespeare.The Life of Pi, based on Yann Martel’s best-selling novel, has been adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti. It is staged by Max Webster in a dazzling production with music, puppetry and special effects to accommodate a lifeboat, a 16-year-old boy, a zebra, an orangutan and a Bengal tiger. Wyndham’s Theatre; opens November 15.In Manor, playwright Moira Buffini’s darkly comic contemporary play, Nancy Carroll (The Crown) portrays a near-penniless upper-class woman, and Shaun Evans (Endeavor) represents the extremist leader of a right-wing cult. Her dilapidated manor house on a stormy night is the scene for a tempestuous confrontation. National Theatre; November 16–January 1.Leave your troubles outside: the highly anticipated revival of Cabaret, the Kander and Ebb musical, stars Jessie Buckley as Sally Bowles and Eddie Redmayne as the emcee and is directed by Rebecca Frecknall. Playhouse Theatre.

DALLAS Van Gogh’s Olive Groves

Among the many recent van Gogh exhibitions, one of the most highly anticipated considers the series of olive groves paintings produced at the asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence during the final year of his life. Drawn from public and private collections, the paintings, bold and experimental, capture the groves at different times of day and in different seasons. A collaboration with the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the show originates at the Dallas Museum of Art, its only U.S. venue. Through February 6.

Spotlight: Seeing the Invisible

Imagine visiting one of 12 botanical gardens around the world, from Edinburgh to Cape Town, San Diego to Melbourne, Jerusalem to Ontario. You pull out your smartphone, open an app and unlock 13 augmented-reality works, commissioned from a group of international contemporary artists, including Ai Weiwei, El Anatsui, Sigalit Landau, Mohammed Kazem and Mel O’Callaghan. The exhibition Seeing the Invisible draws viewers into worlds that mediate heightened AR experience within park settings, including tall saguaro cacti in Tucson and verdant giant redwood forests at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. One can conjure a recycled bottle-top installation by Ghanaian sculpture El Anatsui as an AR tapestry that glimmers as if moved by a breeze. The commissions, which premiered in September, are on view for a year, allowing guests to enjoy them in the gardens throughout the seasons.

PARIS A Major Artistic Reunion at Fondation Louis Vuitton

The extensive collections of 19th-century French painting—Impressionist and post-Impressionist—as well as those of the imminent avant-garde, housed at treasured Paris museums, the D’Orsay, Marmottan, and Petit Palais, suggest a scope comprehensive in nature. But the spectacular exhibition at the Louis Vuitton Foundation claims singular preeminence: “The Morozov Collection:  Icons of Modern Art” reunites for the first time since 1918 exceptional French and Russian art collected by visionaries, Muscovite brothers Mikhail and Ivan Morozov. More than 200 paintings from The Pushkin State Museum and the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow and the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg fill the foundation with works by Gauguin, Monet, Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso, along with two generations of Russian artists they inspired. Dazzling; blockbuster; once-in-a lifetime? All the above. Through February 22, 2022.

SAN FRANCISCO Reimagined Classics

This fall, the San Francisco Opera returns to the War Memorial Opera House—and live performance. On stage: Mozart’s Così Fan Tutte, directed by Michael Cavanagh and conducted by Henrik Nánási, set in a pre–World War II European country club (November 21–December 3).

BERLIN Big Openings

It is difficult to imagine adding to Berlin’s cultural bounty, but the expansive Humboldt Forum, which comprises a re-creation of the 16th-century Hohenzollern Palace that stood at this site, stakes a claim. The cultural complex has a wide-ranging exhibition program, and accommodates two institutions, the Ethnological Museum and a Museum of Asian Art, plus concerts and dance.・Neue Nationalgalerie’s six-year renovation of its modernist Mies van de Rohe home is at last complete. The steel-and-glass structure refurbished by David Chipperfield Architects showcases works by Picasso, Munch, Ludwig Kirchner, Kandinsky, Salvador Dalí and Barnett Newman, among others.

DENVER New Artistic Heights in the Mile High City

The Denver Art Museum opened 50 years ago in the only building designed by the Italian visionary Gio Ponti in the United States. A $150 million investment provided for the recent restoration and renovation by Machado Silvetti and Fentress Architects of Ponti’s striking high-rise, which opens this fall. Its six levels house collections that range from European paintings to Indigenous arts of North America, design and photography. A new elliptical glass structure, the Sie Welcome Center, connects it to a building that accommodates African art and special exhibitions by Daniel Libeskind.

Spotlight: The Man Behind the Rijksmuseum

Taco Dibbits, a Dutch scholar of 17th-century painting, has spent much of his career at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, taking on such notable responsibilities as director of collections and, since 2016, general director. He played a pivotal role in developing the layout of the collection after the museum’s 10-year transformation, and an exhibition program that has included such landmark shows as “Rembrandt-Velázquez” and “Slavery.” The latter considered the role the slave trade and slavery played in Netherlands’ colonial history and its continued influence in Dutch society. In late June, the reconstruction and conservation of Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, the artist’s most celebrated large-scale painting, made possible for the first time in more than 300 years to see the masterpiece in its entirety. Remarkably, the restoration process was carried out in public view—an initiative of Dibbits’s—rather than in a conservation studio. It included the recovery of a missing panel and other sections, realized through artificial intelligence as well diligent art historical research.

HOUSTON Calder and Picasso

The Museum of Fine Arts completed its ambitious expansion in November 2020. To the two main gallery buildings, designed by Mies van de Rohe and Rafael Moneo, the museum added a third: the Nancy and Rich Kinder Building by Steven Holl Architects. It showcases the museum’s international collections of modern and contemporary art, and forms part of a campus transformation that includes a school of art, public plaza, and new restaurants. The special exhibition “Calder-Picasso” considers mutual affinities and innovation, as well as the artists’ enduring influence. Through January 30, 2022.

MADRID Prado News

The extraordinary range and sweep of 19th-century Spanish art—in one of the largest, at almost 3,000 pieces, yet least known of the Museo del Prado’s collections—is on stunning display in 15 reorganized galleries in Madrid. Selected works range from neoclassical paintings by Goya, including his unsettling Black Paintings series; Romantic landscapes and genre paintings; battle tableaux by Mariano Fortuny (father of the fashion designer); and the portraits and luminous landscapes of Joaquín Sorolla. The collections establish both a widened European context and global perspective: of 130 artists, the works of 57 are on display for the first time.  Of these, 13 are women and 37 are foreign-born, including works by Filipino artists.  Novel also are collections of miniatures, engravings, and medallions as well as social paintings, the most significant during the century’s last decade.

BUDAPEST A Gorgeous Arts Complex for Hungarian Opera

While the Hungarian State Opera completes renovations of its grand 19th-century theater (opening in March 2022), the company has moved most productions to the Eiffel Art Studios, a former Budapest train station designed by Gustave Eiffel. This fall marks the Eiffel’s inaugural season, which includes dance—Chroma by British choreographer Wayne McGregor—and opera: an adaptation of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea, a tale of ambition and betrayal, and Philip Glass’s ballet-opera Les Enfants Terribles, based on the story by Jean Cocteau.

PHILADELPHIA Gehry’s Latest

The Philadelphia Museum of Art has recently unveiled a renovation of its main building, masterminded by architect Frank Gehry, which has repurposed 90,000 square feet for public and exhibition spaces, including photography. Among many highlights: the new “Early American Galleries,” a survey of painting, furniture, silver and glass that demonstrates Philadelphia’s cultural prominence in the young Republic; elsewhere, two monumental frescoes by Diego Rivera, on subjects drawn from the Mexican Revolution, have been recently reinstalled.

BUENOS AIRES Bach in a Blue Whale

Within the former Buenos Aires Central Post Office, a landmark Beaux-Arts building constructed between 1899 and 1928, the Kirchner Cultural Center’s nine levels provide a singular showcase for the arts, children’s programs, exhibitions and cinema—all free. At its heart is a stunning 1,950-seat concert hall which floats within the center’s new core. Known as the Blue Whale, it is the home of the National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina.  The auditorium has a 3,600-pipe concert organ, where through 2022, the Kirchner presents the cycle of the complete organ works of J.S. Bach in a series of 17 monthly concerts.

Spotlight: A Perfectionist Takes the Stage

In summer 1775, a 19-year-old Mozart wrote five concerti for violin and orchestra. Now almost 250 years later, he has an exceptional interpreter in Swiss violinist Sebastian Bohren, whose recent recording includes two of those five Mozartean wonders. Bohren recorded the pieces with the Chaarts ensemble, led by Gábor Takács-Nagy after he made his Lucerne Festival debut in 2018; unhappy with his performance, he undertook the unusual initiative to re-record the concerti with the same group during the hiatus caused by the pandemic. The result is a triumph, marked by Bohren’s purity of tone, insightful interpretation, bravura—and a spirited give-and-take between soloist and orchestra that marks the best music-making. Bohren has performed widely throughout Europe, with leading orchestras. A larger public awaits him.

WASHINGTON, D.C. The Kennedy Center Hits 50…

One of the most astute appointments in recent years was that of conductor Gianandrea Noseda (above) as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra. He has brought vitality and inspired exceptional music-making from the orchestra. This season, which marks the 5oth anniversary of the Kennedy Center, Noseda leads the orchestra in Mozart’s Requiem and Clarinet Concerto (December 2–4); Handel’s Messiah (December 16–19); and nine programs of Beethoven symphonies, including the Ninth, paired with works by Black composers William Grant Still and George Walker (January 13–29).

…and 100 Years of the Phillips Collection

Established as the first museum of modern art and the home to Renoir’s radiant Luncheon of the Boating Party, the Phillips Collection celebrates its centennial with expanded collecting and exhibition prerogatives. This fall, special exhibitions bring the first retrospective of the work of painter David Driskell and of the multifaceted and long career of Alma W. Thomas, on display through January 9 and 23, respectively.

DRESDEN Zwinger Museum

Among the State Art Collections of Dresden, the prized collections found in the Zwinger Museum stand apart. After seven years of refurbishment and reorganization, paintings from the Old Masters Picture Gallery, including Raphael’s celebrated Sistine Madonna and Rembrandt’s Ganymede, are now juxtaposed with selections from the sculpture collection in the museum’s Semper Gallery. In addition, antiquities, previously in storage, now assume pride of place in an Antiquities Hall. Elsewhere in the museum-palace complex are the porcelain galleries and the treasures of mathematical and scientific instruments.

FORT WORTH Amon Carter Museum of American Art

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art, whose original collection featured paintings and sculpture of the American West by Remington and Russell, evolved to include preeminent holdings of photography, from one of the earliest daguerreotypes made in the U.S. to the sweep of its development as an art form—extensive collections by Karl Struss, Laura Gilpin, and a series commissioned from Richard Avedon. This fall, the Carter celebrates its 60th anniversary in grand style with an exhibition devoted to Thomas Moran’s watercolor landscape of Mount Superior in Utah; a retrospective, “Imagined Realism: Scott and Stuart Gentling,” which examines the intriguing creative worlds of the Fort Worth painters and brothers; and an evocative light-and-shadow, sculptural installation by Pakistani-American artist Anila Ouayyaum Agha.

Spotlight: Rethinking the World in Water and Bronze

Contemporary Spanish artist Cristina Iglesias has created sculpture and site-specific installations, ranging from monumental bronze doors at the entrance to Madrid’s Prado Museum to 14 submerged steel-and-concrete jalousies submerged 46 feet underwater off Baja California. The fluidity of water and the materiality of bronze, identify much of her work, as does the relationship between man and nature. Her most recent work is perhaps the most unusual: Hondalea (Marine Abyss) is a site-specific sculpture within an abandoned lighthouse in San Sebastián, Spain. Opened in early June, it re-creates the region’s rough landscape and turbulent seascape and, paradoxically, invites contemplation.

The bi-annual Indagare magazine is just one of the benefits included in an Indagare membership. Learn more about becoming a member, or contact your Trip Designer to begin planning your next cultural getaway.

– Mario R. Mercado on November 18, 2021

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