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A 'Dido and Aeneas' for the ages, and Salonen makes his return

Welcome to Fanfare — our guide to live classical music in the Philadelphia area. Subscribe now to get Fanfare delivered right to your inbox every Sunday. If you have feedback or an upcoming event to share, let us know!

Spotlight: Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas – Saturday, The Church of the Holy Trinity

“A tale so strong and full of woe might melt the rocks as well as you,” sings the character Belinda in the opening moments of Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Her words at once foreshadow the opera’s tragic narrative — a doomed affair between Queen Dido of Carthage and her lover, the Trojan prince Aeneas — and the devastating effect its earth-shattering arias, sly political allegory, and fantastical depictions of the occult have had on audiences since it premiered in the late 1680s.

On May 11th, conductor Donald Meineke leads the Philadelphia Bach Collegium and the singers of Choral Arts Philadelphia in a not-to-be-missed concert staging of this English Baroque masterwork. The principal roles of Dido and Belinda, her handmaid, are sung by two superb Philadelphians, sopranos Jessica Beebe and Rebecca Myers (both singers are members of The Crossing and Variant 6, of which Myers is also artistic director). True to character, Aeneas is portrayed by another Philadelphian who hails from a sunny, faraway land — albeit Southern California, not Troy — the bass-baritone Steven Berlanga.

May 11 at 4 p.m., The Church of the Holy Trinity, 1904 Walnut Street, $15-$40; tickets and information.

Astral Artists Tuesday, American Philosophical Society

The first in a new series of annual chamber concerts named in honor of Jim Straw — a prolific Philadelphia architect, historic preservationist, and longtime Astral board member — features a quintet of musicians whose sensibilities capture his forward-thinking spirit. Astral Artists Ekaterina Skliar (mandolin and domra), Valentin Kovalev (saxophone), Iwo Jedynecki (accordion) and Christopher Goodpasture (piano), along with guest double bassist Mary Javian, offer a creatively curated array of music ranging from Boccherini and Bartók to Chris Thile and Chick Corea. Contemporary music fans will be especially delighted by the world premiere of “Drumming and Dancing,” a new work by the avant-garde stalwart George Lewis.

May 7 at 6 p.m., Benjamin Franklin Hall, American Philosophical Society, 427 Chestnut Street, $25; purchase tickets

Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen poses at the 2023 Los Angeles Philharmonic Gala,Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.
Chris Pizzello
AP Photo
Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen poses at the 2023 Los Angeles Philharmonic Gala,Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

Salonen Conducts Sibelius — Thursday through Saturday, Verizon Hall

In his debut with The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1986, an upstart 28-year-old named Esa-Pekka Salonen led a performance of Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony. This week, the Finnish conductor, 38 years the wiser and easily one the most accomplished classical musicians on the planet, triumphantly returns to Philadelphia for a program anchored by the same Sibelius work.

Accompanying it are two other works inspired by Sibelius’s icy soundworld: Radical Light, a 2007 piece by the late American composer Steven Stucky premiered by Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Salonen’s own 2021 composition Kínēma, a concerto for clarinet and strings, featuring principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales. If you’re not able to catch Salonen this time around, don’t fret — the conductor remains in town to conduct the Fabulous Philadelphians in Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe from May 16-18.

May 9 at 7:30 p.m., May 10 at 2 p.m., May 11 at 8 p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $25-$181; tickets and information.

Courtesy of the artist

Chee-Yun & Mak Grgić — Friday, Perelman Theater

With ten strings separated by mere millimeters, Korean violinist Chee-Yun and Slovenian guitarist Mak Grgić will traverse thousands of miles of musical territory in this globe-trotting duo recital for The Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. Their exceptionally diverse program, which they’ve titled “East/West-ish,” intersperses repertoire from the artists’ respective homelands with violin showpieces by Pablo de Sarasate, Amy Beach, Fritz Kreisler, and Astor Piazzolla. Come prepared to travel and with your passports up to date!

May 10 at 7:30 p.m., Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, sold out, but call 215-569-8080 or email boxoffice@pcmsconcerts.org to join the waiting list; more information

The Savoy Company — Friday and Saturday, The Suzanne Roberts Theatre

Philadelphia is lucky to claim The Savoy Company, the world’s oldest theater company dedicated to performing the works of Gilbert and Sullivan. Every year since 1901, the Company has presented a different opera by the British humorists and this year it features a relative rarity: The Grand Duke, the pair’s final opera. Adding to the intrigue is director Bill Kiesling’s unorthodox staging, which will set the opera in 1947 — a full 51 years after the piece’s 1896 premiere — as a play-within-a-play being put on by an amateur British Gilbert and Sullivan troupe. Whatever surprises they have in store — and, by all accounts, there will be many — are sure to push the farce meter all the way to eleven!

May 10th at 7:30 p.m., May 11th at 1:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., The Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 South Broad Street, $25-$50; tickets and information

Courtesy of the artist

Piffaro — Friday through Sunday, Various Locations

Those who haven’t experienced the grandeur of the Renaissance wind band are in for both an education and a treat in the final concert of Piffaro’s 2023-24 season. The program, aptly titled “The Glory of the Wind Band,” will see the group’s five core members augmented by four additional wind players, emphasizing the contributions of ministriles, small groups of roving musicians whose travels across the Iberian Peninsula shaped the sacred and secular styles of Golden Age Portugal and Spain.

May 10 at 7:30 p.m., Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral, 19 South 38th Street

May 11 at 7:30 p.m., Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue 

May 12 at 3 p.m., Immanuel Church Highlands, 2400 W 17th Street, Wilmington, DE

$21-54; tickets and information

Zev is thrilled to be WRTI’s classical program director, where he hopes to steward and grow the station’s tremendous legacy on the airwaves of Greater Philadelphia.