Spring Opera and Dance Preview: 12 Reasons To Jump And Sing

From an opera about a rising boxer to dance inspired by Kandinsky’s watercolors, this season pushes boundaries in all directions.

Clockwise from top: New York City Ballet, Sara Baras at New York City Center, and Ryan Speedo Green in ‘Champion’ at the Metropolitan Opera. Erin Baino / Courtesy of Sara Baras / Zenith Richards

You probably heard the recent story about a critic, a choreographer, and the choreographer’s dachshund. It’s an ugly story and shouldn’t be the way dance makes headlines. But the incident does remind us that when it comes to the live arts, passions run high. Dancers put their bodies on the line in astounding displays of strength and coordination. Opera singers train for years to produce perfect notes, sometimes to fill vast venues. Anyway, it’s spring in New York with plenty of great work to see; let’s keep the doggies out of it. 

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Ursula Kaufmann

Tanztheater Wuppertal at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (Mar 3–19)

The stunning dance company that Pina Bausch built returns to Brooklyn with her remarkably sensual and carefree Água, created in 2001 during a residency in Brazil. Inspired by the land—“cactus, cobra, paradise, music,” as Bausch said—her dancers present an evening-length series of dances about the heat, the color, and the rhythms that fascinated the late choreographer.


Lawrence Brownlee: Rising at Carnegie Hall (March 23)

Although technically not an opera, this concert by Lawrence Brownlee includes several songs he commissioned from Black composers. As to the words, Brownlee selected texts from great Black authors and poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Among the composers are Damian Sneed, Jeremiah Evans, and Jasmine Barnes. The acclaimed tenor will be accompanied by Kevin Miller on piano.

Courtesy of Sara Baras

Alma at New York City Center (Mar 23–26)

A passionately adored diva of flamenco, dancer-choreographer Sara Baras stomps back to City Center with an ode to the roots of flamenco. Backed by a live band burning up the guitar strings and clapping in time, you will hear traditional bolero, but also other musical styles such as siguiriya, soleá, caña, rumba and buleria. Skirts will fly and heels will punish the floor. 

Jan Husták

La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival at the Ellen Stewart Theatre (April 6–30)

Curated by downtown legend Nicky Paraiso, this annual festival features new and recent works by 12 choreographers and companies. This festival has nothing if not range: puppets, multimedia, storytelling, abstraction, and politics. Plus, it’s global: for example, Norway-based choreographer Nela H. Kornetová will examine feminism and empathy in Forced Beauty. Paraiso notes the artists “exemplify research and resilience…they give witness to the uncertain times we live in.”

Zenith Richards

Champion at the Metropolitan Opera (Apr 10–May 13)

Continuing its commitment to new opera—and audiences hungry for it—the Metropolitan Opera produces its second opera by Terence Blanchard (Fire Shut Up in My Bones) in two years. Bass-baritone Ryan Speedo Green plays the young rising boxer Emile Griffith, who hides his sexuality as he fights to win in the ring. James Robinson directs and choreographer Camille A. Brown will no doubt find the grace in pugilism.

Patroklos Skafidas

Heartbeat Opera’s Tosca at the Baruch Performing Arts Center (Apr 11–23)

Making opera accessible, intimate, and relevant, Heartbeat Opera offers a modern setting of Puccini’s classic melodrama about love, art, and authority. Clearly responding to recent protests and crackdowns in Iran, Iranian-American director Shadi G. imagines a troupe of singer-activists putting on an uncensored production of Tosca. Religious authoritarian forces are poised in the wings, and the artists know that their act could mean prison—or worse.

Erin Baiano

New York City Ballet at the Koch Theater (Apr 18–May 28)

For its spring season at Lincoln Center, NYCB presents eight programs that span decades of work by its founding choreographers. Balletomanes can choose from Jerome RobbinsBrandenburg, world premieres from Canadian choreographer Alysa Pires, Justin Peck’s sneaker ballet The Times Are Racing, and George Balanchine’s one-act Swan Lake on a bill with Alexei Ratmansky’s embodiment of Kandinsky’s watercolors, Pictures at an Exhibition. All this, plus Gianna Reisen’s jazzy Play Time.

Julieta Cervantes

Trisha Brown Dance Company at the Joyce Theater (May 2–7)

The late choreographer’s troupe presents a program at the Joyce that combines old with new. There are two dances created with composer Alvin Curran from 1991 and 2011 (For M.G. and Rogues), and the company’s first dance commission: Let’s talk about bleeding, by Cuban-born artist Judith Sánchez Ruíz with musical direction and composition by Adonis Gonzalez.

Charles Duprat

Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera (May 5–June 2)

Theater folks know Dutch director Ivo Van Hove for his radical reworking of classics (such as West Side Story on Broadway). Now the stripper-down of classics makes his directing debut at the Met with this modern, minimalist Don Giovanni, set in an abstract architectural space designed by longtime collaborator Jan Versweyveld. Beloved baritone peter mattei takes Mozart’s philandering aristocrat.

Stephanie Berger

Search for Spring at Lincoln Center (May 13)

For those on a budget, this alfresco mega-choral event should be appealing: it’s free. Composer Jonathan Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton explore climate change and how the voices of the people can be raised on behalf of nature. Five NYC-based choruses rehearse throughout the city and then come together with the Young People’s Chorus of New York City for a one-time-only performance. Simon Halsey leads a team of six conductors.

Courtesy of Eric McKeever

Il Tabarro at South Street Seaport (May 14–17)

On Site Opera performs opera in non-traditional spaces that relate to the work. For this staging of Puccini’s 1918 one-act (first part of Il Trittico) set on a barge in the Seine in Paris, the need was pretty clear: find a boat! So director Eric Einhorn (in partnership with South Street Seaport Museum) invites audiences to gather at the Lightship Ambrose to watch a tragic tale of infidelity and revenge. Baritone Eric McKeever sings the role of jealous barge-owner Michele. 

João Menegussi

ABT Studio Company: Spring Moves at NYU Skirball (May 19–20)

Goodness knows ballet takes its toll on dancers’ bodies; the life of the art form depends on a constant influx of young talent. So here’s a showcase for ballet stars of tomorrow. Premieres include new pieces by Gemma Bond, Hope Boykin, and Houston Thomas. For lovers of the repertoire, there’s George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and others.

Spring Opera and Dance Preview: 12 Reasons To Jump And Sing