In its final season before a two-year renovation disperses its performances to other locations, the Wisconsin Union Theater's 2011-12 schedule is piquant enough to excite a salivary response.
The Madison World Music Festival launches the season during three days in mid-September, setting the tone for yet another broad-spectrum menu.
The momentum accelerates through October, with a performance by the Grammy-winning African-American vocal ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock presaging Grammy-winning trumpet virtuoso and composer Terence Blanchard's appearance as part of this year's Isthmus Jazz Series, and Yamato Drummers of Japan in a timely performance titled "Gamushara - The Beat of Courage" a few days before the frights of Halloween.
But for sheer unbridled exhilaration, the season's peak comes in November. First, the man who has staked a claim as the world's best tap dancer appears for "A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover" on Nov. 10. The following night, the inestimable Dobet Gnahoré appears at the Sett in Union South. Anyone who has seen and heard the super-human Ivory Coast Afro-pop sensation at recent Fetes de Marquette understands that bringing such dynamic physical and vocal power from the Fete's big open-air stage indoors to an enclosed space will multiply her impressiveness by several orders of magnitude -- suggesting the strong possibility that she may blow the roof off the new venue during what could prove the concert highlight of 2011.
The Isthmus Jazz Series resumes in February with yet another Grammy laureate, the Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. A March 1 appearance by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones may heat up the greater Wisconsin Union Theater neighborhood enough to thaw the lakes and whatever snow remains, heralding a more thorough and timely arrival of spring compared to the glacial pace of this past winter's retreat. Followed later in March by the early arrival of summer in the form of Sierra Maestra, purveyors of the Cuban son heritage, during a dance party in Great Hall.
For ticket prices and ordering information, consult the Wisconsin Union Theater's online order form (PDF).
For the complete schedule -- including a performance by the Pro Arte Quartet as part of its centennial celebration, Afro-pop heirs Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Pilobolus Dance Theater and more -- read on:
15-17 Madison World Music Festival (free)
26-27 Travel Adventure Film Series: Cruising the Eastern Mediterranean
30 Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chamber Ensemble
7 Sweet Honey in the Rock
21 Terence Blanchard (Isthmus Jazz Series)
27 Yamato, Drummers of Japan
31-Nov. 1 Travel Adventure Film Series: Pakistan and Afghanistan: a Photographer's Journey from Kabul to the Khyber Pass & the Tribal Zone
3 Caroline Goulding, violin
5 Caroline Goulding & UW Chamber Orchestra
10 A Classical Encounter with Savion Glover
11 Dobet Gnahoré (Sett, Union South)
16 Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel (Mills Hall)
28-29 Travel Adventure Film Series: Colorful Mexico
4 Village Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (Isthmus Jazz Series)
17 Gaelic Storm
24 David Finckel, Wu Han & Philip Setzer (piano, cello, violin)
1 Bela Fleck and the Flecktones
10-11 21st Annual Marcia Légère Student Play Festival (free)
23 Sierra Maestra (Great Hall Dance Party)
24 Pro Arte Quartet with Christopher Taylor, piano (free)
26-27 Travel Adventure Film Series: Egypt's Treasures and Cruising the Nile
12 Seun Kuti and Egypt 80
14 Pilobolus Dance Theater
29 Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition Winners Recital (free)
2 Keyboard Conversations with Jeffrey Siegel (Mills Hall)
5 Peter Serkin, piano
7-8 Travel Adventure Film Series: Along the Royal Inca Road