Montréal fall cultural calendar 2019
This article was updated on October 4, 2019.
Ancient Egyptian mummies, the Broadway blockbuster Come From Away and homecoming concerts by global pop icon Céline Dion are among the many Montréal arts and entertainment highlights this fall 2019.
The most-anticipated Montréal concert of the year is the six-concert series by global pop superstar Céline Dion, who brings her Courage World Tour home to the Bell Centre on November 18, 19, 21 and 22 and February 18 and 19.
Other concerts of note include comic legends Cheech & Chong at Théâtre Maisonneuve (September 23), 46 years after they recorded their chart-topping Los Cochinos album in Montréal; and British rock royalty Rick Wakeman brings his Grumpy Old Rock Star Tour to the Olympia Theatre (September 28), combining superb musicianship with sidesplitting jokes about his career.
Fronted by Montréal native Marc Martel – who recorded the Freddie Mercury vocal frames in the Bohemian Rhapsody biopic – The Ultimate Queen Celebration headlines the Olympia Theatre (October 1 to 5), while Montréal-based Jake Clemons – saxman for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – headlines a “hometown” show at L’Astral (October 2).
The POP Montreal International Music Festival welcomes avant-garde artist Laurie Anderson (September 25 and 26), Australian rock legend Nick Cave (September 27), and soul icon Mavis Staples (September 29).
Montréal is a great jazz city: legendary American jazz pianist Chick Corea headlines La maison symphonique (October 16) while beloved Montréal jazz icon Ranee Lee headlines two concerts (November 2 at 7 pm and 9:45 pm) at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill, named one of the world’s top jazz nightclubs by DownBeat magazine.
Another famed Montréal venue, Foufounes Électriques – which has hosted concerts by everybody from Nirvana to Marianne Faithfull – presents Montréal ska punk band The Planet Smashers (November 1) while the best-selling tropical salsa artist of all time, Marc Anthony, headlines the Bell Centre (November 11).
Cirque du Soleil and Barack Obama
When the Bell Centre isn’t hosting Montréal Canadiens home games, it will also present A Conversation With President Barack Obama (November 14) and the all-new Cirque du Soleil - Axel show fusing world-class ice skating with breathtaking acrobatics for 15 performances (December 19 to 29).
On the English side, the Segal Centre for Performing Arts opens its 2019-2020 season with The Pianist of Willesden Lane (September 8 to 29), based on the true story of young Jewish musical prodigy Lisa Jura, who escaped Nazi-ruled Vienna for London during the Blitzkrieg. This show stars Jura’s real-life daughter, Grammy-nominated piano virtuoso Mona Golabek.
Over at the Centaur Theatre, Canada’s brilliant puppet master, Ronnie Burkett, puts his adults-only stamp on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in his all-new production Little Dickens (November 19 to December 15).
Montréal playwright Vittorio Rossi’s acclaimed 1988 play The Chain – which chronicles the working class lives of a first-generation Italian immigrant family in Montréal – will be remounted at McGill’s Moyse Hall (September 10 to October 6).
The Broadway blockbuster Come From Away – which tells the remarkable true story of 7,000 stranded airline passengers in the small Newfoundland town that welcomed them during 9/11 – headlines Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for eight performances (November 26 to December 1).
On the French side, theatre highlights include Héritage, the French-language adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun at Théatre Jean-Duceppe (September 4 to October 5), while over at the Théatre du Nouveau Monde, the one-woman-show La Détresse et l'Enchantement, starring Marie-Thérèse Fortin, tells the life story of Gabrielle Roy, author of The Tin Flute and widely considered one of the most important francophone writers in Canadian history (October 22 to November 2).
At Bourgie Concert Hall, famed Québec contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux headlines two concerts (October 1 and 3), while the London Haydn Quartet (October 23) is one of the world’s leading period instrument string quartets.
Metropolitan Opera music director and Montréal homeboy Yannick Nézet-Séguin conducts the Orchestre Métropolitain in their Berlioz en Italie concert (September 29), Grammy-winning Maestro Kent Nagano – in his last full season with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal – conducts Bruckner’s “Romantic" Symphony (three performances on November 27 and 28) and the OSM will pay tribute to Félix Leclerc (November 13 and 14), all at the Maison symphonique de Montréal.
Opera fans will adore Russian coloratura soprano and international superstar Albina Shagimuratova playing the title role in the Opéra de Montréal’s production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor (November 9 , 12, 14 and 17) at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
BJM – Les Ballets Jazz De Montréal will light up the stage with their much-anticipated Casualties of Memory / O Balcão de Amore / Soul triple bill at Théatre Maisonneuve (October 2 to 5), part of the city’s hugely popular Danse Danse series.
Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal launch their 2019-2020 season with nine performances of Carmina Burana (October 3 to 19), featuring 40 dancers, 70 musicians of Les Grands Ballets Orchestra and 40 singers at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Les Grands Ballets’ timeless adaptation of The Nutcracker by Québec choreographer Fernand Nault returns to Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier for its 56th year (16 performances from December 12 to 30). This two-act ballet based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale is set to the music of Tchaikovsky and brings together more than 60 dancers and 100 extras, plus Les Grands Ballets Orchestra under the baton of conductor Dina Gilbert.
The British Museum exhibition Egyptian Mummies: Exploring Ancient Lives makes its North American premiere at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts (September 14 to February 2, 2020). Combining art and cutting-edge technology with more than 200 items from the British Museum’s renowned Egyptian collection, this exhibition reconstructs the lives of six Egyptians who lived along the Nile from about 900 BC to AD 180.
Montréal designer Jean-Claude Poitras – who left his mark on prêt-à-porter over the course of a prolific career that began in 1972 – gets the career retrospective treatment in the Jean-Claude Poitras: Fashion and Inspiration exhibition at the McCord Museum (October 24 to April 26, 2020).
Reputed for discovering new talent, the Festival du nouveau cinéma de Montréal (October 9 to 20) will screen a number of anticipated first films that stood out on the international festival circuit this past year. This year’s 48th edition will also screen important new films by well-known directors, such as Douleur et gloire by Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar and starring Antonio Banderas.
The 32nd edition of Canada’s oldest LGBTQ film festival, image+nation, will screen films created by and for queer people (November 21 to December 1).
Richard Burnett, blogger
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.