Here’s our roundup of Edmonton’s upcoming arts season, which has dance, music, theatre — and a deadly new Christmas tradition
By Edify Staff | September 1, 2023
The Yardbird Suite
Executive Director Todd Crawshaw says the Yardbird will kick this season off with blues master Duke Robillard. “Not only does he have the name and the chops, but he is one of those few artists who will cross over nicely in a Venn diagram between jazz lovers and blues lovers,” Crawshaw says.
In September, local, Juno Award-winning talent Hutchinson Andrew Trio will perform with Edmonton saxophone legend P.J. Perry to celebrate an upcoming album release.
The Yardbird Suite will feature local Edmonton artists like stand-up bassists Aretha Tillotson and Brett Hansen. The venue will keep up with its Sunday night local artist spotlights and staple Tuesday night jams.
“I would like to think it’s growing,” Crawshaw says about the current interest in jazz music. “We start to have high school kids volunteer for gigs. And I’m seeing something really cool with that upcoming generation.”
Alberta Baroque Ensemble
This year the ensemble will continue to focus on classics from 17th and 18th centuries with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel but will also feature rarer, recognized composers like Johann Friedrich Fasch, Giacomo Perti, Christoph Willibald Gluck and Charles Avison.
One of this season’s highlights will be the Concerto for Flute by Vivaldi, Il Gardelino on Oct. 1, performed by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra’s principal flutist, Elizabeth Koch.
In addition, the Baroque Ensemble’s holiday season performances will be back, featuring special seasonal compositions from Perti, Toerlli and Bach.
The Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
The 72nd season of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra will build on the legacy of its legendary reputation.
Pop culture lovers should also keep an eye on the ESO, as it takes on music from Harry Potter, John Williams and Hans Zimmer.
And if concertgoers are looking to jazz things up a bit with some swinging tunes from Gershwin and Broadway, they can catch Jack Everly conducting Broadway to Hollywood and Bill Eddins conducting a 100th anniversary celebration of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”
As the Edmonton Opera turns 60 years old, this year’s programming has something for both traditional opera fans, and those looking to push some boundaries.
“We’re not trying to dramatically change what opera is,” says Edmonton Opera’s Artistic Director, Joel Ivany. “We’re just trying to bring some new energy into what opera can be.”
This includes performing the classics, like Georges Bizet’s Carmen, often regarded as the most famous opera of all time, which will run Oct. 19, 21 and 24 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
But then the company shifts things up a bit with an English language version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, which will be “updated’ to be set in contemporary Edmonton, Feb. 1-3 at the Jubilee Auditorium.
At the Triffo Theatre on April 11 and 12, the Edmonton Opera will present an Argentine dramatic work from Osvaldo Golijov. This work, Ayre, is a fusion of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian and Sephardic folk music and will include a unique ensemble of both traditional and electronic instruments.
The season then closes out at the Citadel’s Maclab Theatre on May 28 until June 1 with the first opera of Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The four-part saga will run one part per year over the next four years, bringing this larger-than-life story to Edmonton stages for the first time.
Edmonton Chamber Music Society
Chamber music is about smaller, more intimate and diverse groups of musicians coming together to perform.
“There’s definitely a variety of things from Baroque to some world flavour kind of chamber music and some great classics, and also just up and coming artists that are becoming more and more popular like Isidore Quartet,” says Joseph Chambrinho, director of publicity for the Edmonton Chamber Music Society.
For its 30th season, Shadow Theatre is looking to catch audiences off-guard with its first ever musical, Crescendo!, inspired by true stories of women in community choir.
But Artistic Director John Hudson, says “All of the plays this season are so surprising in themes and content,” but “each play delves into the characters’ lives at pivotal moments of transition.
“For example, Tiny Beautiful Things starts with our lead character, Sugar, accepting a new career path by becoming an advice columnist, which unlocks a gift she didn’t know she had. Or in Robot Girls, the girls are moving out of their youth and toward adulthood and having to deal with all of the emotions and lessons that transition brings.”
Northern Light Theatre
At Northern Light Theatre, quality is king. Artistic Director Trevor Schmidt says, “I don’t look for writers, I look for plays.”
So, this season, Northern Light Theatre will focus on producing stories that will hook audiences, like a “sweet romantic comedy set in ancient Greece” called A Phoenix Too Frequent by Christopher Fry and a one-woman comedy/drama called Donna Orbits the Moon by Ian August. Additionally, Schmidt’s own play, Candy & The Beast, will make its world premiere in April.
Schmidt says his selections are always driven by characters who have to make difficult decisions on whether to serve themselves or the community and the greater good. “I like to see the struggle to be unselfish, to do the right thing. I tend to be drawn to plays where the grimmest, bleakest, most cowardly responses win out. Because I think that is what happens most in life, don’t you?”
The Citadel Theatre
Daryl Cloran, artistic director for the Citadel, says this year is “a season that’s programmed to get people back into the building” after a couple of years of turbulence in the arts.
The Citadel also continues to feature local artists, with the solo show Made in Italy coming to the mainstage for the first time. It’s like a trip to Jasper with an Italian twist, set in the disco fever of the ’70s. Edmonton playwright and Top 40 Under 40 alumnus Farren Timoteo has seen national acclaim with this script, and now it’ll be produced on one of the biggest stages in the city.
After a successful first run, Artistic Director Byron Martin says the Grindstone Theatre plans to make its hit musical comedy satire, Die Harsh, an annual holiday tradition, as a light-hearted alternative to something like The Citadel’s production of A Christmas Carol. In addition to its staple comedy festival and annual pride festival in summer, the Grindstone is also working on a sequel to its breakout musical, Jason Kenney’s Hot Boy Summer. Martin says the Grindstone’s new musical about a certain “Mrs. Smith” will be coming to a slightly larger theatre near you.
“The topics we’re exploring this year are really based and built around intimacy,” says Brian Webb, who’s been the artistic director for the company for 45 years.
This season will include work from Jennifer Kotowich, who is of Cree Métis and European ancestry from Treaty 4 territory. Her work reflects her heritage through a contemporary interpretation of traditional Indigenous dance performance.
The BWDC will also bring choreographer Naishi Wang whose work has never been presented by the BWDC. He has created a work that Webb says “Looks at who I am today,” and “What am I going to be dancing about?”
This year will be one of transition for the BWDC, as after 45 years of leading the company, Webb will take a step back and a new artistic director, Ainsley Hillyard, will take up the mantle.
Hillyard’s own work will be performed this year by Connor Yuzwenko-Martin, a deaf artist from Edmonton.
Executive Director Sheri Somerville says that one thing that is consistent through every season at Ballet Edmonton, is the company’s focus on the humanity of its craft.
“I think what we always say is bring us something really human. You know, bring us a story that people can connect with and that is meaningful for you,” says Somerville.
This season, Ballet Edmonton’s Artistic Director and Choreographer Wen Wei Wang will put together a full evening of new and established work called Unir that will make its world premiere in May. Wang will also bring back some favourites for each performance this season.
The company will also welcome a new dancer to the company, Ben Waters, who is an associate with Ballet BC and a creative double threat who also composes music for dance.
Through the main season, the company will bring in guest choreographers, including Canadian rising star Ethan Colangelo, who was just recently appointed as a choreographic associate of the National Ballet of Canada. His work will appear alongside Gioconda Barbuto for Ouvrir on Oct. 13 and 14. For Ouvrir, Wang will remount his work, Last Words.
James Gregg will also make his world premiere of new work with Ballet Edmonton in a show called Avancer on Feb. 9 and 10.
This year’s season will feature the premiere of a new piece of work about the life of Ukrainian poet Lesia Ukrainka who was a fighter for women’s rights and democracy. Executive Director Darka Tarnawsky says it’s a “historic story with a poignancy in the world today” that blends “traditional and classically influenced character dance.”
The company is also excited about the return of The Nutcracker after a two-year hiatus.
This year, Shumka wanted to explore themes of human rights and democracy “as a cause around the world through-out history — especially during this time of war in Ukraine,” says Tarnawsky. This year’s season is also going to explore “the strongest, most common emotions of life including faith, love and loss — also prevalent in our homeland today.”
Mile Zero Dance
This year the Mile Zero Dance company is all about the wild. Whether that’s about getting in touch with nature, exploring movements of animals, or exploring social issues such as the Land Back Movement, MZD asks you to consider — what is wild?
“Dance can bring us back into the wildness of our own bodies, and it can also stretch our perception of the planet and the universe, with both grounding and freedom,” says Artistic Director Gerry Morita.
Through partner work and spatial parameters, Maybe We Land explores “the fluctuating levels of dependence in a relationship and the cyclical nature of care.” See it Oct. 13 and 14.
Dog Rising looks at the power that sound has on our bodies as the vibrations penetrate bones and the way our skeletons absorb shocks. It runs Jan. 18.
Vástádus eana/The Answer is Land is about the relationships between people and the land. It tackles this through choreography inspired by yoik, a traditional form of a song from the Sámi people of northern Europe. Catch this performance Feb. 18.
The season concludes with The Magpie Collection, a dance festival June 15-18 which will include performances and workshops and will engage the entire Edmonton dance community.