THEATER: A plethora of revelatory and moving performances lit up Twin Cities stages in 2022. Companies featured crowd-pleasers, world premieres and gritty dramas.
1. "Beauty and the Beast." Eyepopping design, a lush orchestra and sublime performances by title players Rajané Katurah and Nathaniel Hackmann helped make Michael Heitzman's production of this Disney musical at Ordway Center sublime. Jamecia Bennett, Max Wojtanowicz, Thomasina Petrus, Rush Benson and T. Mychael Rambo also had bravura turns. Ends Dec. 31. Read the review.
2. "Merrily We Roll Along." The Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical famously closed on Broadway after 16 performances but director Peter Rothstein's fetching production at Theater Latté Da made "Merrily We Roll Along" one of the year's best. Becca Hart, Charley Kringas and Reese Britts dazzled. Read the review.
3. "Iphigenia at Aulis." Stephen Epp, Regina Marie Williams and Sally Wingert were just a few of our favorite names in Marcela Lorca's gut-wrenching production of Euripides' tragedy at Ten Thousand Things. J.D. Steele's compositions, directed by Billy Steele, helped "Iphigenia" resonate deeply. Read the review.
4. "Sweat." Director Tamilla Woodard's staging of Lynn Nottage's 2015 Pulitzer-winning drama at the Guthrie was taut, fierce and achingly beautiful. Read the review.
5. "Twelve Angry Men." It's only a matter of time before we hear what's next for Theater Latté Da's jazzy world premiere musical, which thrillingly reconfigured the classic story of a deadlocked jury. Read the review.
6. "Passing Strange." Yellow Tree Theatre's staging of Stew's musical that interrogates identity and the creative spirit sometimes felt like a concert and sometimes felt like a show about an artist searching for his place in the world. Either way, it was tuneful and terrific. Read the review.
7. "Weathering" and "Parks." Harrison David Rivers wrote both Penumbra Theatre's dramedy about a woman whose friends help her recover from a miscarriage and (with Robin P. Hickman-Winfield) History Theatre's poetic biography of St. Paul-raised Renaissance arts titan Gordon Parks. These distinct pieces share Rivers' belief that humans are complicated, messy and beautiful. Read the "Weathering" review. Read the "Parks" review.
8. "Thurgood." Director Lou Bellamy teamed with longtime collaborator Lester Purry for George Stevens Jr.'s solo show at Penumbra about the nation's first Black Supreme Court justice. Purry marshaled gravitas and razor wit for his magisterial turn. Read the review.
9. "A Play by Barb and Carl." There was softness but scant sentimentality in Carlyle and Barbara Rose-Brown's autobiographical piece at Illusion Theater about a couple's love after a stroke. Kimberly Richardson, JoeNathan Thomas and Laura Esping kept us leaning in. Read the review.
10. "Bina's Six Apples." Lloyd Suh's play at Children's Theatre Company about a child's journey of survival during the Korean War was nuanced, layered and moving. Read the review.
ROHAN PRESTON and CHRIS HEWITT
CLASSICAL MUSIC: Osmo Vänskä's goodbye, Thomas Søndergård's hello and 'Carmen' were among the highlights in the year that was.
1. The Minnesota Orchestra's Sibelius Festival, Dec. 31, 2021, to Jan. 16, 2022: Looking back on Osmo Vänskä's 19 years as music director, I'll most fondly remember the absorbing depth of his Sibelius interpretations. His final season reached its summit when he conducted all seven Sibelius symphonies and two versions of his Violin Concerto with soloist Elina Vähälä.
2. Vikingur Olafsson, Jan. 9 and 11: The Icelandic pianist presented two deeply rewarding Schubert Club solo recitals, exploring 1780s music by Mozart and others, then facilitating a conversation between J.S. Bach and Philip Glass.
3. Minnesota Opera's "Carmen," May 7-22: Of the many versions of Bizet's opera I've experienced, director Denyce Graves' meticulously crafted production topped them all, overflowing with imagination and insight.
4. Richard Egarr and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Feb. 17-19: This collection of London-born works was the most downright gleeful performance of music from the 1600s and 1700s that I've ever encountered.
5. Thomas Søndergård and the Minnesota Orchestra, Oct. 20-22: The Danish conductor's debut as music director-designate showed off some captivating chemistry. Ravel's "Mother Goose" was profoundly beautiful, Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" a terrifying beast.
6. Minnesota Opera's "Rinaldo," Nov. 19-Dec. 3: Director Mo Zhou transplanted Handel's tale of the crusades to 1980s Wall Street in a production wonderfully staged, sung and memorably costumed, christening the company's intimate North Loop space.
7. Bach Society of Minnesota's Mass in B Minor, May 14: The centerpiece of a monthlong, multi-venue Minnesota Bach Festival was an exquisitely well executed take on J.S. Bach's magnum opus.
8. Conrad Tao and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Sept. 30-Oct. 2: The pianist excelled as both soloist and curator on a marvelously inventive program of Mozart, C.P.E. Bach, the Renaissance and trailblazing American modernists.
9. The Kronos Quartet, March 19-20: For 49 years, this string quartet has been expanding audiences' horizons with new compositions from around the world. They shared several during an exhilarating retrospective weekend at the Fitzgerald Theater.
10. Farewell, Pekka Kuusisto, May 20-June 4: The Finnish violinist concluded his always inspiring six years as an SPCO artistic partner with a transfixing take on Ralph Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending." Within two weeks, he'd completed the lone symphony of his recently deceased brother, Jaakko Kuusisto, in time for its premiere by the Minnesota Orchestra. Both bore the moving tone of a wistful goodbye.
VISUAL ART: "Supernatural America," Botticelli and the late Jim Denomie's solo exhibition colored the year. And thankfully we got a chance to take in Van Gogh's mastery in works he made toward the end of his life and put behind the tacky immersive experience we were exposed to earlier.
1. "Supernatural America: The Paranormal in American Art." Minneapolis Institute of Art hosted the country's first major museum exhibition to examine artists' relationship to the supernatural through 150 works of art from the early 1800s to the present day.
2. "A Pound of Pictures." International photographer Alec Soth's project about photography revealed itself one picture at a time. The show opened in January at Weinstein Hammons Gallery, and in New York and San Francisco.
3. "We Are Working All the Time!" Polish-born, U.S.-based multimedia artist Piotr Szyhalski's survey exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum, delayed two years by the pandemic, reflected on questions of communication, human agency, labor and propaganda. Ends Dec. 31.
4. "Sweet Dreams." Beloved international Ojibwe artist Jim Denomie's solo exhibition opened March 31 at ArtReach St. Croix, about a month after his sudden death at age 66 from cancer. The artist curated the show, which included 26 two-dimensional works that use humor to confront America's troubled past from a Native perspective.
5. "Botticelli and Renaissance Florence: Masterworks From the Uffizi." This fall, 45 loaned works from Renaissance Italy landed at Mia. The magnificent exhibition, on view through Jan. 8, includes paintings, drawings, prints and decorative arts by Sandro Botticelli, his teacher Fra Filippo Lippi and many others. Ends Jan. 9.
6. "Jannis Kounellis in Six Acts." The Greek-born, Italian-based pioneer of the Arte Povera ("poor art") movement got his second-ever U.S. museum exhibition, which was also the first since his death in 2017.
7. "A Picture Gallery of the Soul." Co-curators Herman Milligan and Howard Oransky created a comprehensive group exhibition illuminating the Black American experience through photography. Work by 111 artists, including 15 from Minnesota, were on view at the University of Minnesota's Katherine E. Nash Gallery.
8. "Vortex." The Porch Gallery worked with Texas-based Art Blocks, a generative art collection, to display a series of 1,000 psychedelic designed animation NFTs by artist Jen Stark and shed some light on the NFT trend.
9. "Van Gogh and the Olive Groves" at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, an intimate peek into six artworks that the great artist made toward the end of his life, almost made up for the horror of "Immersive Van Gogh." Almost.
10. "Breathers." Hong Kong-born, Omaha-raised artist/activist Paul Chan came back to the art world for his first museum show since 2009, when he took a "breather" and started an experimental art publishing house, Badlands Unlimited. Chan said he returned because he found a way to make animations without screens, creating fan-powered sculptures that bob and wave about the gallery.
DANCE: Troupes pushed boundaries by exploring war, peace, climate change and humanity's resilience with emotion, grace and precise footwork.
1. Rosy Simas Danse: "she who lives on the road to war." Rosy Simas' penetrating dance work and art installation created a mesmerizing landscape through sculpture, vivid video installation and François Richomme's inspired sound score.
2. The Walker Art Center: "Fúria." In Brazilian firebrand choreographer Lia Rodrigues' "Furia," an ensemble of dancers morphed through different configurations as they played out hierarchies and a sense of journey in a keenly political work.
3. I A.M. Arts: "Black Light a re:Search performance." Alanna Morris kicked off 2022 with a raw, deeply spiritual work that brought together Afro-Caribbean beats, glorious sensuality and an ethereal brightness, showcasing Morris' masterful skills as a dancer and bright vision as a choreographer.
4. Ananya Dance Theatre: "Nūn Gherāo: Surrounded by Salt." Choreographer Ananya Chatterjea's knack for evoking precise imagery through dance worked excellently in conjunction with composer and performer Spirit McIntyre.
5. Pramila Vasudevan: "Nipple Disco." With a set full of plants, a live DJ (Chamindika Wanduragala), and makeshift musical instruments, Pramila Vasudevan and collaborators Sequoia Hauck and Valerie Oliveiro offered a compelling meditation on mortality, trauma and our relationship with nature.
6. Arena Dances: "Thermal." Mathew Janczewski peered into the existential dread of climate catastrophe in a piece that wove together breath, fluid partner work and a sense of desperation, accompanied by a layered sound score by Joshua Clausen.
7. SuperGroup & Red Eye Theater: "Fine." Created and performed with technical skill and emotional endurance by Erin Search-Wells, Sam Johnson and Jeffrey Wells, with live music by singer and multi-instrumentalist Crystal Myslajek, this dance/performance art hybrid piece made for an evening of clever words and riveting dance.
8. Schubert Club Mix: "What Is an Instrument?" Darrius Strong and the dancers of STRONGmovement imbued an installation of white cubes — which lit up and made sounds at different frequencies — with regal elegance.
9. James Sewell Ballet: "New Works Project." Before he left for a new gig in Ohio, former dancer and resident choreographer of James Sewell Ballet Da'Rius Malone gave a divine performance in Sewell's "Northern Rites," part of the "New Works Project." Kerry Parker's "Holy," set to Hildegard von Bingen, also impressed.
10. MDT at the Southern Theater: The premiere of "Polaris" and the 2021 piece "Four Seasons" solidified Elayna Waxse's place as a Minnesota choreographer to watch. Meanwhile Alexander Hille, who is currently based in Europe but grew up in Minnesota, pushed the boundaries of what ballet can do in "Divided We Fall."