Dallas — Collaboration has been the buzzword in local arts for several years now, and the Dallas Symphony is taking that up a few notches with its first Soluna International Music & Arts Festival, running May 4-24 at various venues in the Dallas Arts District, Uptown, Design District, Trinity Groves and elsewhere. The festival will provide several opportunities for a blend of different art forms, especially between classical music and contemporary art.
The theme is “Destination (America),” which was inspired by Music Director Jaap van Zweden’s personal experience with America. He studied at Juilliard from ages 15 to 18, returned to his native Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and later returned to America for his position in Dallas.
“Destination (America), for him, is coming back to America,” director of festival advancement and Jaap’s daughter Anna-Sophia van Zweden says. “He feels that he owes a lot to America, and for him, taking the job in Dallas was a really big step as well. So for him, personally, it’s also kind of a ‘thank you’ to America and to the city of Dallas.”
Another reason for the theme was what van Zweden called the “influx of cultures in Dallas,” and how the festival will be a way for the community to take ownership of the festival.
“It is cliché to say America is a beacon of opportunity and freedom, but it truly is—it is a bedrock principle upon which this nation is founded,” Dallas Symphony CEO Jonathan Martin says. “Artists, musicians, poets—all of [who] journeyed to America for economic, artistic, religious and personal freedom, and have shaped our history and made America stronger in the process.”
Van Zweden proposed early in the planning process that the festival focus on artists and musicians who came to America, especially Hollywood, in response to the rise of European Fascism and Nazism. Works by Stravinsky, Korngold, Schoenberg, and Miklos Rozsa—to name a few—will be featured, at times alongside art. The unique program is comprised of many collaborations of new and old art.
“It is a very rare and unique opportunity when symphony musicians and visual and video artists can truly share and collaborate, and that opportunity is what Soluna brings,” Martin says. “From live music accompaniment to films by Alex Prager to a newly commissioned film by Pipilotti [Rist] inspired by Rozsa’s Andante for Strings, performed by the Dallas Symphony, we hope that by allowing artists and symphony orchestra musicians to actively collaborate, and to share in the presentation of each other’s work, we will allow performers and audiences to see the art work—and to hear even familiar music— in new ways.”
Martin feels that this collaboration is important to make the community appreciate the arts as a whole.
“We hope Soluna will serve as a catalyst to engage audiences in new ways—and invite new people to experience the Dallas Symphony, and inspire regular Dallas Symphony audiences to experience new art, or a dance program by Dallas Black Dance Theater or Avant Chamber Ballet—to experience all the arts not as distinct silos, but as collective creativity,” Martin says. “Our goal is to energize patrons who come to Soluna, and encourage people to see themselves not as a music patron, or an art museum patron, or as a dance lover, but as an arts patron.”
Some artists do not have a classical music component to their program, like Dallas-based, Mexican-American artist Francisco Moreno. His work “WCD (Washington Crossing the Delaware)” will be featured in a warehouse on Bataan Street.
“My work deals with globalization and American identity, which were themes they were exploring for Soluna, Destination (America),” Moreno said. “It’s kind of amazing that it fit in so well.
During grad school, Moreno found himself studying the 1851 oil on canvas work “Washington Crossing the Delaware” by German-American Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. He was inspired almost immediately.
“I’m from Mexico and I want to talk about the complexities of identities in America, and how rich they are,” Moreno says. “Pulling from a painting made by a German-American about America, I feel like I’m re-approaching the subject of identity as a Mexican-American. It’s about how this is a global image is more complex than what happened during the Revolutionary War. I think it’s interesting to think about the beginning of the country still now.
Moreno began the project in 2012, and after hearing approval for his proposal to be involved in Soluna, worked hard to finish the years-long endeavor.
“When you work with such a structured and prestigious institution, you have to make sure you get it done,” Moreno said. “It’s been really wonderful for me because they pushed me to see this thing through.”
This variance in programming is intended to fit the theme in many different ways. The locations for art are all different as well—van Zweden notes that the Nasher will be curating a Soundings to the Destination (America) theme, the Crow Collection of Asian Art will open contemporary sculptor Jean Shin’s exhibition, and the DMA will host video artist Kevin Beasley (Black Rocker) at a Late Nights Event.
“In some cases, it was an immediate love affair because it was such a perfect fit for the theme,” van Zweden says. “In other cases, it was a long process of creating new work for us. But overall, I wanted to curate a very diverse program. All the work is very different.”
The amount of collaborations is exciting for all involved with the festival. Moreno noted that he is most excited to “get the feel of what they [the artists] are up to, to be associated with a festival that they're all associated with, and just to see how they’re working.” Van Zweden says that bringing in these many cultural and international influences is putting Dallas on an even more prominent spot in the international art scene.
“We’re really doing something that has got the attention of the international art world,” van Zweden says. “We are doing something that no one else is doing like this, so people are looking at it and are interested in it. I think that’s great for Dallas. We’re just kicking it off, and the future will be hopefully that more institutions, more artists will actively participate in it. We already have great plans for next year, so we’re going full speed ahead.”
Other local groups in this first Soluna festival include Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Symphony Orchestra, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Nasher Sculpture Center, the Crow Collection of Asian Art, Dallas Contemporary, Goss-Michael Foundation, Oral Fixation and many more. On May 15, the AT&T Performing Arts Center will host a concert in Annette Strauss Square with recent Grammy winner (and former Dallasite) St. Vincent.
» Some of the festival’s performances are free; we have a complete schedule in our Soluna Festival special section on TheaterJones. For more information, such as ticket prices, visit mydso.com/solunafestival
» Look for features and previews during the Soluna Festival in our special section. Below is a video from St. Vincent's 2014 Grammy-winning eponymous album: