ShareThis Page
Top A&E stories of 2011 |

Top A&E stories of 2011



Michael Schweikardt’s paint bespattered set served as a canvas for playwright John Logan’s intellectually challenging and intermittently funny play about the exploration of creativity versus commerce, the desire for personal and professional legacy and the art of making art.


A collaboration between Opera Theater of Pittsburgh and Attack Theatre created this nearly perfect blending of music, voice, movement and drama aptly and poetically set on and around a pond in Allegheny Cemetery.


Outrageously funny and thoroughly unpredictable, this tale of contemporary urbanite discomfort and dislocation was as horrifying and insightful as it was hilarious.


This company maintained its reputation for creating theatrical events with its production of two interlinking Alan Ayckbourn comedies performed simultaneously by a single cast in two theaters on separate floors of the Stephen Foster Memorial.


Lavish, complex, whimsical sets and energetic song and dance numbers bedazzled audiences in this splashy stage adaptation of the Disney classic


A slickly performed, fast-paced production of David Mamet’s incendiary tale of race, justice, perception and manipulation provided a smorgasbord of ideas and issues for later dissection.


Lyrical, poetic and filled with imagery, mysticism and metaphor, this Quantum Theatre production transported a contemporary Argentinian tango opera to a once imposing, now decrepit East Liberty building.


With great voices and a talent for delivering the lyrics so clearly that you heard words and grasped ideas and concepts you may have missed in other productions, Liz Callaway, Franc D’Ambrosio, Kevin Kern and Laurie Gayle Stephenson turned this lavishly produced revue of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music into a very special evening


Director Ted Pappas and his cast turned this ancient Greek classic into a muscular and surgically focused drama that swooped you up and didn’t loosen its grasp until its inevitable and satisfying conclusion,


Actor Luke MacFarlane’s performance and playwright Keith Bunin’s script of fact and creativity were the perfect team for this poignant and heartfelt song-laced drama.

— Alice T. Carter

Top concerts

Bon Jovi , Feb. 11 & 12, Consol Energy Center

Taylor Swift , June 18, Heinz Field

Kenny Chesney , July 2, Heinz Field

Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow , July 6, First Niagara Pavilion

U2 , July 26, Heinz Field

Alice Cooper , Aug. 12, Stage AE

Toby Keith , Sept. 2, First Niagara Pavilion

Foo Fighters , Sept. 23, Consol Energy Center

Bruce Springsteen and Joe Grushecky , Nov. 3-4, Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum

Kanye West and Jay-Z , Nov. 27, Consol Energy Center

Classical performances


Yo-Yo Ma was at his best, which is a double superlative, in a richly communicative performance of Antonin Dvorak’s romantic Cello Concerto, a closely woven collaboration with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony.

2. Mahler Symphony No. 5

The decisive and heartfelt interpretation Honeck brought to Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 was performed with total conviction by the musicians of the symphony. The brass playing had to be heard to be believed.

3. Orion String Quartet

Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society opened its 50th season with a smartly constructed program that was performed by the Orion String Quartet with insights that went to the heart of the music by Johannes Brahms and Beethoven.

4. “Turandot”

Soprano Susan Neves gave a thrilling performance as the cold-hearted princess in Pittsburgh Opera’s staging of Giacomo Puccini’s last opera. With an ardent Calaf in Frank Porretta, colorful and well-planned staging, and wonderful conducting by Antony Walker, the performance was a triumph.

5. Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

A pair of programs exploring death and loss proved to be transporting experiences. The artistic director blended music by outstanding living composers for a strong dramatic arch, and featured emotionally intense dance by Matthew Romantini.

6. “Messiah”

The staged version of George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah” offered by Manfred Honeck, stage director Sam Helfrich, the Mendelssohn Choir and the symphony was boldly conceived and deservedly controversial. Set in America over the past century, the concert forced a look at religious themes in the context of modern life.

7. Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 1

Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes brought joy to the heart with his fresh perspective on Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1, with Honeck and the symphony devoted partners.

8. “Dialogue of the Carmelites”

Psychological insights abounded in Pittsburgh Opera’s presentation of composer Francis Poulenc’s provocative opera about an order of nuns facing up to the challenge of political oppression during the French Revolution. A very strong cast, brilliant staging by Eric Einhorn and insightful conducting by Jean-Luc Tangaud, in his debut, combined for an unforgettable experience.

9. Beethoven “Eroica” Symphony

Honeck presented one of his most compelling Beethoven interpretations, combing a keen eye and ear for details with immense sweep.

10. Schumann “Rhenish” Symphony

Guest conductor Raphael Fruhbeck de Burgos brought the wisdom of experience and appreciation of moderation to a program of romantic music that soared with long lines and wonderful balances.

— Mark Kanny



Two sides of iconic choreographer George Balanchine were well served by Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. The narrative of “The Prodigal Son” was brought vividly to life, while the abstraction of “Agon” was performed with such brilliance it was twice interrupted with applause.

2. Paul Taylor Dance Company

The return of Paul Taylor Dance Company for Pittsburgh Dance Council showed the choreographer’s winning invention in three pieces that were in turn abstract, psychological and earthy.

3. “Shall We Dance”

Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s world premiere of Viktor Plotnikov’s “Shall We Dance” featured witty choreography and brilliant solo dancing, all lifted by the live music of Ann Hampton Calloway and her band performing songs by George and Ira Gershwin.

4. “Botanica”

Joyous intelligence and stunning costumes and sets made the return of the Momix troupe an unforgettable exploration of the four seasons seen through the world of plants, presented by Pittsburgh Dance Council.

5. “To Where We’re Going”

Ironically, Dance Alloy Theatre’s forward looking “To Where We’re Going” was the final production by a cherished company that merged with the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in October. The dancers showed their mastery in four sharply contrasted pieces.

— Mark Kanny


1. “2011 Pittsburgh Biennial,” at Pittsburgh Center for The Arts, Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Carnegie Museum of Art, Carnegie Mellon University’s Miller Gallery and the Andy Warhol Museum. Featuring the work of nearly 100 artists from the Pittsburgh region, this massive exhibit took up five venues around the city to represent the creative capital of our region, and rightly so.

2. “Teenie Harris, Photographer: An American Story,” Carnegie Museum of Art. This multimedia extravaganza — a first for the museum — brings to life the legendary stories behind the work of Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908-1998), the Pittsburgh Courier photographer who chronicled four decades of black life in Pittsburgh during the mid-20th century.

3. “Botany and History Entwined: Rachel Hunt’ s Legacy,” Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the Hunt Institute rolled out rare gems from the original collection of its founder Rachel McMasters Miller Hunt (1882-1963), whose early love of nature and books grew into a lifelong pursuit of rare or historical works about plants, gardens and botany.

4. “A Painter’s Legacy: The Students of Samuel Rosenberg,” American Jewish Museum. Featuring the work of 54 artists from throughout the region, this exhibit traced the life and influence of painter Samuel Rosenberg (1896-1972) through the collective recollection of his students.

5. “PAN — Fin de Siecle Prints: Art Nouveau on Paper,” Frick Art Museum. An exhibit of 80 prints originally published as part of the Berlin based periodical PAN (1895-1900), this exhibit reflected the avant-garde spirit of Europe at the end of the 19th century.

— Kurt Shaw

Top news for 2011

Jan. 23: Martina McBride sings national anthem before AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.

Jan. 25: Wilford Lloyd “Bill” Thunhurst, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera’s managing director from 1971-1983 dies of cancer.

Jan. 27: The Carnegie Museums’ board names John Wetenhall to succeed David M. Hillenbrandpresident of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh

Feb. 27: Mercer native and former Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor wins an Oscar for best original score for “The Social Network.”

March 16: Actor Alan Cumming (“The Good Wife”) headlines the 25th annual Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force benefit

March 18: Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre presents the world premiere of “Shall We Dance” by Viktor Plotnikov to music by George Gershwin

April: Veronica’s Veil Players suspends production of its passion play, which has been part of the Easter season for 92 years.

April: names Schenley Park in Oakland one of “America’s Coolest City Parks.”

April 29: Prince William of England weds Kate Middleton in a lavish Royal Wedding.

May 11: Social Distortion plays the first outdoor concert at Stage AE.

May 12: Cirque du Soleil opens “Totem” in its Grand Chapiteau on a parking lot in the Strip District.

May 31: Mark Power officially becomes managing director of City Theatre, a position he had been filling temporarily since Greg Quinlan’s departure in October (2010).

June: The first of five exhibits at different locations opens the Pittsburgh Biennial 2011 exhibit.

June 1-10: Three Rivers Arts Festival features Blind Boys of Alabama, the Tom Tom Club, James McMurtry, Brandi Carlile

June 2: Momentum new play development program returns to City Theatre after a two-year absence.

June 4: A jazz festival — Pittsburgh Jazz Live International — returns to Pittsburgh for the first time since 2003.

June 10: The Westmoreland Museum of American Art hires Ennead Architects for its $15 million expansion and renovation project.

June 11: Historian David McCullough, a Point Breeze native, returns home for a talk at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

June 12: Pittsburgh Symphony musicians agree to 9.7 percent pay cut in a new three-year contract.

June 10: The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy celebrates the 75th anniversary of Fallingwater with the publication of “Fallingwater at 75”

June 22: The August Wilson Center shifts its focus from presenter to producer with the creation of resident-based dance and theater ensembles and the Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra.

July 1: WDUQ-FM is sold by Duquesne University to a consortium, which switches it from all-jazz to all-news and changes the name to WESA-FM

July 2: U2 performs at Heinz Field, the next to last show on their 30-country, two year 360 (degree) tour.

July 8: Eric C. Shiner is named the new director of The Andy Warhol Museum, a role he has been filling in an acting capacity since January, when Thomas Sokolowski stepped down.

July 23: Ben Roethlisberger marries Ashley Harlan.

July 29: Filming begins in Pittsburgh for “The Dark Knight Rises,” the latest Batman movie starring Christian Bale.

Aug. 7: Chick Corea and Return to Forever perform at Stage AE on the North Shore as the venue’s first jazz act.

Aug. 16: Pittsburgh Symphony music director Manfred Honeck volunteers 10-percent pay cut to match musicians.

Sept. 10: “Stars & Strips: An American Story” opens at the Senator John Heinz History Center.

Sept. 23: The Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild begins celebrating its 25th year as a jazz-concert venue.

Sept. 26 to Oct. 2: Second annual Pittsburgh Fashion Week rules the catwalk.

Sept. 28: “Wicked” sells out the Benedum Center for a third time during a three-week run.

October: Filming begins in earnest in the Pittsburgh region on “One Shot,” which stars Tom Cruise in the lead role of Jack Reacher.

Oct. 17: Jonathan Franzen appears at the Pittsburgh Arts & Lecture Series at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

Oct. 18: Dance Alloy Theater and Kelly Strayhorn Theater complete agreement to merge; performances for Dance Alloy will cease.

Oct. 23: “Faberge at the Frick” opens at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze.

Nov. 14: James A. Wilkinson is named Pittsburgh Symphony president after Lawrence J. Tamburri resigns.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.