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PRISM Quartet draws connections; Dynasty Battles goes it alone

As we head into summer, we’re sending Fanfare on a monthly basis until September. Judging by what we have in June, though, you might never have known there was a lull. In addition to plenty of opera, chamber music, and outdoor concerts, there are festivals: The Princeton Festival opens Friday with a concert featuring soprano Angel Blue, and Serafin Summer Music kicks off this week. Here's what else we have our eye on.

Spotlight: PRISM Quartet — June 8, World Cafe Live

Generate Music is a new body of work commissioned by PRISM Quartet. That’s pronounced “gen-e-rit” — as in, opposed to the label “degenerate” that the Nazis created to smear music they thought was dangerous to Aryan civilization. Members of the PRISM Quartet were on tour in Croatia when they happened upon an exhibition on “degenerate music,” centered by a poster of “Jonny,” a racist caricature of a Black saxophonist wearing a Star of David on his lapel. In response, the saxophone quartet — with collaborators like David Krakauer on klezmer clarinet, Diane Monroe on violin and Tyshawn Sorey on drums — aimed to (ahem) generate music that celebrates Black and Jewish people and their intersections. They’ll perform and record the results at World Cafe on June 8, with a post-concert discussion led by WRTI’s Nate Chinen.

The project is co-curated by Helen Haynes, former director of Exhibitions/Programs at the African American Museum of Philadelphia and former director/curator of the Montgomery County Community College Lively Arts Series, and she sums the program up nicely in her notes: “Music is an emotion that binds all of us. In struggle, sorrow, and pain. In joy, and exaltation. Such is the bond between us, the African American and the Jewish people, and is the narrative of this work.”

June 8 at 8:30 p.m., World Cafe Live, 3025 Walnut Street, $10-$35 (pay what you wish); purchase tickets.

Le nozze di Figaro — June 8, 12, and 16, Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center

The Delaware Valley Opera Company and director Rebecca Sacks present a new take on Mozart’s classic opera Le nozze di Figaro, in a staging that would make original playwright Pierre Beaumarchais proud. Whereas Mozart and Da Ponte took out most of the politics, DVOC’s new production addresses themes of class relationships, gender expression, and the sexualization of the working class.

June 8 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., June 16 at 2:30 p.m., Venice Island Performing Arts and Recreation Center, 7 Lock Street, $25-$30 (children $15), tickets and information

Dynasty Battles — June 12, University Lutheran

You may have heard pianist Dynasty Battles on WRTI before, via David Patrick Stearns’ “Creatively Speaking.” Here he presents a program of standard works with improvisations sprinkled throughout; the first half of the program sandwiches an improvisation-forward Bach work with two pieces by Johannes Brahms. The other half comprises Franz Schubert’s first set of four impromptus, with improvised interludes between each piece.

June 12 at 7 p.m., University Lutheran, 3637 Chestnut Street, $12-20; more information.

The Crossing, whose latest album, 'Titration,' features new music by Shara Nova.
John C. Hawthorne
The Crossing, whose latest album, 'Titration,' features new music by Shara Nova.

The Crossing — June 15 and 27, Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill

Two concerts comprise what The Crossing calls its Month of Moderns. The first, Not So Much Watching as Waiting, focuses on two stories of aging, both through works commissioned by the choir. Robert Maggio's The Woman Where We are Living, for harp and choir, is a dialogue between Alois Alzheimer and his first patient, Auguste Deter, the doctor’s words impersonal and clinical, Deter’s increasingly anxious and confused. Next on the program is Stacy Garrop’s In a House Besieged, for organ and choir, based on texts by Lydia Davis that paint a picture of the fear and anxiety around the aging process. Closing the program will be a preview, in a way, of their next concert — Gabriel Jackson’s According to Seneca. This concert will feature Scott Dettra on the organ and Elizabeth Steiner on the harp.

The second concert, Prairie in Our Backyard (Inside Edition), primarily features Jackson’s work; they’ll have just recorded five of his pieces. Four of those will alternate between the works of Ayanna Woods, Kile Smith, Joseph C. Phillips Jr., and Santa Ratniece, all circling around the choir’s final thought for the season: since their opening concert nine months ago, how have our relationships to violence, celebration, loss, and the Earth evolved?

June 15 at 5 p.m. and June 27 at 7 p.m., The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill, 8855 Germantown Avenue, $20-$35; tickets and info for June 15, tickets and info for June 27.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin acknowledging an ovation during The Philadelphia Orchestra's season closer in May 2023.
Jeff Fusco
Yannick Nézet-Séguin acknowledging an ovation during The Philadelphia Orchestra's season closer in May 2023.

The Philadelphia Orchestra — Various dates and locations

The fabulous Philadelphians, while they’re officially wrapping up their 2023-24 season this weekend, still have plenty to do this month while they’re still in town, and they’ll be all over town.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts La bohème on June 7 and 9 in the Orchestra’s main hall at the Kimmel Center. (On June 8, in between the two operatic performances, that space will be rededicated as Marian Anderson Hall, hosting a Great Stages gala with sopranos Angel Blue and Audra McDonald, pianist Marcus Roberts and others.) But back to Puccini’s greatest hit, consistently the most performed of all operas. Yannick, conducting a concert version, will bring plenty of talent he normally works with at his other gig up in New York — including an artist who won’t even be onstage until curtain call: Donald Palumbo, the revered and recently retired master of the Met Chorus, who will be preparing the Philadelphia Symphonic Choir for this run. (Full disclosure: that includes me, and you’ll see me on the cast list playing a bit part as well.)

The Orchestra’s summer season officially takes off with two outdoor concerts at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts. First is the annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular, led by Assistant Conductor Austin Chanu, on June 18. Two days later, on June 20, the Orchestra teams up with conductor Anthony Parnther for Batman in Concert, featuring Danny Elfman’s score from the film, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year.

Finally, June is both Pride Month and Black Music Month, and The Philadelphia Orchestra has free concerts for both celebrations. On June 25, the Orchestra’s free Pride Celebration and Concert will be led by Marin Alsop, the incoming Principal Guest Conductor, with the ANNA Crusis Feminist Choir, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus, and Philadelphia Voices of Pride. Then on June 26, the Orchestra will be at Temple University for Our City, Your Orchestra — a free concert featuring a program of all Black composers, from the 18th century to today. Both concerts feature activities in the three hours prior to curtain.

La bohème: June 7 at 8 p.m. and June 9 at 2 p.m., Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, $51-$149, June 9 is sold out; tickets and information

Tchaikovsky Spectacular: June 18 at 8 p.m., TD Pavillion at the Mann, 5201 Parkside Avenue, $28-$73; tickets and information

Batman in Concert: June 20 at 8 p.m., TD Pavillion at the Mann, 5201 Parkside Avenue, $28-$93; tickets and information.

Pride Celebration and Concert: June 29 at 12 p.m., Marian Anderson Hall (formerly Verizon Hall), Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 South Broad Street, free; more information.

Our City, Your Orchestra: June 26 at 7 p.m., Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 North Broad Street, free (reserved seating); more information.

John T.K. Scherch (JohnTK@wrti.org) shares the morning’s musical and other offerings weekdays on WRTI 90.1. Previously, he was the first new host on WBJC in Baltimore in nearly 20 years, hosting the evening, Sunday afternoon, and request programs, and he is also an alumnus of U92, the college radio station of West Virginia University and a consecutive national Station of the Year winner.