Montréal fall cultural calendar

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

This article was updated on September 9, 2020.

The haute couture of Christian Dior, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the return of POP Montréal and the Festival international Nuits d'Afrique are among the pandemic-friendly live arts and entertainment events this fall.

Health and safety first

The top priority of Montréal arts companies and establishments this season is the health and safety of its audiences, performers and staff. All events are being given under the strictest sanitary conditions, in adherence with Québec Public Health directives.

Also in accordance with Public Health directives, venues can accommodate up to 250 live spectators per concert or public event, and the wearing of a mask or face covering indoors is mandatory.

Music

While concerts by international and national touring acts are currently on hold,  this is as good a time as any to see Montréal’s premiere musicians and entertainers headline local nightclubs, such as Diese Onze and Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, both ranked by Downbeat magazine as two of the top jazz nightclubs on the planet.

The low-key 19th edition of the POP Montréal International Music Festival runs from September 23 to 27 with shows by such locals as Jonathan Personne (Sept. 23), indie rockers Land of Talk (Sept. 24), soul man Clerel (Sept. 25), and legendary indie rock trio Plants & Animals (Sept. 26). Online purchases in advance only. No ticket sales at the box office on day-of-show.

The scaled-down 34th edition of Festival International Nuits d'Afrique (FINA) presents 25 indoor concerts from September 27 to October 31, including live shows by JUNO and Félix Award-winning guitarist Wesli, master of reggae, funk, rock and Kompa (Sept. 27 at Club Balattou); Montréal’s flagship hip-hop band Nomadic Massive (Oct. 23 at Le National); and Montréal griot Zal Sissokho, virtuoso of the 21-stringed kora (Oct. 24 at Le Gesù).

L'OFF Festival de jazz de Montréal showcases local musicians and will split its 21st edition between livestreams and live shows at the Cabaret Lion d’Or and Bourgie Concert Hall, from October 1 to 3.

Theatre

The 2020-2021 seasons of Montréal’s two large English-language theatre companies – the Segal Centre for Performing Arts and the Centaur Theatre Company – have been largely postponed.

But the Segal has announced it will present the play Underneath the Lintel by Glen Berger and directed by François Girard (director of The Red Violin) sometime this December. The Segal’s collaborative partner on this project is the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde, whose French translation of the play, Zebrina. Une pièce à conviction, runs at the TNM from September 9 to 27.  Starring Emmanuel Schwartz, the play follows a librarian’s quest to unravel the mystery behind a book 113 years overdue. The Segal’s December production dates are to be confirmed.

The TNM also presents the French-language L’Avalée des avalés – adapted by director Lorraine Pintal from Canadian writer Réjean Ducharme’s 1966 Governor General's Award-winning novel of the same name – from November 17 to December 6.

Duceppe’s large and spacious theatre at Place des Arts should prove comfortable for audiences attending Duceppe’s French-language productions of Toutes les choses parfaites (September 9 to 26), King Dave (September 29 to October 17), Le Loup (opens October 20) and a remount of playwright Catherine-Anne Toupin’s blockbuster thriller La meute (December 2 to 12, with additional dates to be announced).

Classical stage

Guest conductors will lead the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal this season, notably Spanish conductor Pablo Heras-Casado for three much-anticipated concerts (November 24 to 26) with famed Québec contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux performing Chausson’s Poème de l’amour et de la mer at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.

Fall concerts by the Orchestre Métropolitain are already sold out. However, lovers of opera and classical music will enjoy the American chamber opera As One in which two voices — Hannah after (mezzo-soprano) and Hannah before (baritone) — share the part of a sole transgender protagonist, to launch the 81st season of the Orchestre classique de Montréal (previously known as the McGill Chamber Orchestra), on November 20 and 21 in the spacious confines of the Cirque Éloize.

The OCM will also present its annual Handel’s Messiah concert in the Basilica of Saint Joseph’s Oratory on December 8.

Over at Bourgie Concert Hall, for its 10th season, more than 50 concerts will be presented from September 16 to Christmas. Given the reduced number of spectators that can be accommodated in the hall at one time, some concerts will be given twice. Highlights include pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin (October 6, 7, 26 and 27), Les Violons du Roy performing The Great Masters of the Baroque (October 9 and 10), and pianist Louis Lortie carrying on with the complete cycle of Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, begun last February. The programs for Lortie’s series have been reworked and distributed over seven concerts, each to be performed twice per day (October 14, 16 and 18 and November 9, 11, 13 and 15).

Bourgie Concert Hall will also present the 6th annual edition of the Taurey Butler Trio’s hugely popular A Charlie Brown Christmas concert (December 17 and 19, two concerts per day). These shows always sell out, so get your tickets ASAP.

Dance

Montréal’s contemporary Danse Danse series presents Rhapsodie by Sylvain Émard Danse (November 10 to 21), Chapter 3: The Brutal Journey of the Heart by the L-E-V dance company (November 11 to 14), and Odyssey by the Compagnie Hervé Koubi (December 2 to 5), all at Place des Arts.

Museums

Pointe-à-Callière’s blockbuster exhibition The Incas, Treasures of Peru  winds down on October 4, while the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts exhibition Paris in the Days of Post-Impressionism: Signac and the Indépendants – which displays some 500 masterpieces by Paul Signac, Degas, Monet, Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso and others – winds down on November 15.

The new MMFA exhibition Riopelle: The Call of Northern Landscapes and Indigenous Cultures opens on November 21 featuring more than 175 works plus 200 documents and artifacts exploring Jean Paul Riopelle’s fascination with Canada’s nordicity.

Over at the McCord Museum, beginning on September 25, the much-anticipated Christian Dior exhibition brings together more than 50 designs from the legendary Dior collection during the Golden Age of couture, circa 1947 to 1957.

Children will enjoy learning about the dangers and difficulties astronauts face while living in space in the five-part Journey to Space exhibition that runs at the Montréal Science Centre in the Old Port until January 10, 2021.

There are many more exhibitions this fall in Montréal.

Cinema

The Parc at Midnight series at the downtown Cinéma du Parc includes screenings of Ken Russell’s Tommy with the music of The Who (October 9 to 11); Pink Floyd: The Wall by the eponymous band (October 16 to 18); and one of the first slasher movies, Black Christmas by Bob Clark, screening on Halloween weekend (October 30 and 31 and November 1).

The 49th Festival du nouveau cinéma runs from October 7 to 18 with a hybrid format of online and in-person screenings. Highlights this year include renegade filmmaker Bruce LaBruce who will present his latest work, Saint-Narcisse, to FNC audiences following its world premiere at the Berlin Festival. The full FNC lineup will be unveiled on September 29.

Founded in 1988, Canada’s first LGBTQ film festival, image+nation, returns for its 33rd edition from October 21 to 31, with a combination of online and live film screenings.

Canada’s Drag Race

Drag fans can check out their Queens of the North in the flesh when contestants from the first season of Canada’s Drag Race perform at the Royalmount Drive-In Event Theatre for six Canada’s Drag Race LIVE at the Drive-In shows, two per night from September 29 to October 1. Hosted by Brooke Lynn Hytes, with featured performances by the final three: Priyanka, Montréal’s very own Rita Baga and Scarlett Bobo, as well as BOA, Tynomi Banks, and Kiara, also from Montréal.

Richard Burnett

Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.

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