16 Things We Can’t Wait to Do This Spring and Early Summer

A highly subjective list of concerts, comedians, movies, and more you need to see this season.

Untitled (Les tables de géographie réduites en un jeu de cartes), a 2022 painting by Firelei Báez at the ICA. / Collection of Deborah Beckmann and Jacob Kotzubei, Los Angeles, courtesy of ICA


1. Experience symphonies of synesthesia.

The BSO’s Music for the Senses will feature pianist Yuja Wang. / © Julia Wesely Courtesy of the BSO

This month, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is expanding its approach to music by performing for the audience’s ears and eyes in a mini festival at Symphony Hall called Music for the Senses. From April 4 to 6, the BSO will play a multisensory set that includes Color Field, a composition by Anna Clyne inspired by a Mark Rothko painting, as well as Alexander Scriabin’s extended-tone poem Prometheus, which in 1911 conceived of a “color organ” that could project changing hues based on the music. Then from April 11 to 14, audiences can vibe out to Olivier Messiaen’s supremely trippy Turangalîla-Symphonie, which combines birdsong, Catholicism, Eastern philosophy, and the extremely bizarre ondes Martenot—an early electronic instrument that creates vibrant atonal sounds. An awakening for the senses, indeed.

2. Celebrate a great emerging artist.

Back in 2021, the Dominican-born Firelei Báez wowed visitors to the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Watershed, where she filled the huge East Boston warehouse space with a dreamlike installation combining West African indigo printing and Caribbean Sea imagery with a massive replica of the ruins of Haiti’s Sans-Souci Palace. Now she has her first museum retrospective at the ICA, from April 4 through September 2, celebrating her paintings, drawings, and mixed-media works. The pieces, which meld Afro-Caribbean, folklore, sci-fi, and historical themes, may be smaller scale, but they pack the same visual and conceptual punch.

3. Immerse yourself in one of the oldest cultures in the world.

Ethiopia is a miraculous country, with intricate cultural influences from its European, Middle Eastern, and other African neighbors. In Ethiopia at the Crossroads,” a landmark exhibition running from April 13 through July 7, the Peabody Essex Museum will display more than 200 objects from the country spanning nearly 2,000 years. The range is staggering, encompassing illuminated manuscripts, coins, metalwork, and carvings from the ages, all paired with works by artists from the country’s flourishing contemporary art scene.

A view of the Gangnam district in Seoul. / Photo by Alexander Hafemann; Forex, courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

4. Visit a thrilling exhibition of Korean culture, old and new.

Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past decade or two, you’re probably aware of the wide variety of South Korean culture that has been washing over our shores. From K-Pop and K-Cinema to the latest in fashions and technology, this peninsula nation off the Chinese coast is the epicenter of so many new and exciting developments in arts and media. And now the Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating it all with a retrospective called “Hallyu! The Korean Wave,” which runs through July 28. Read about the exhibition here.

5. Embrace Chinese mythology and the magic of puppetry.

Basil Twist is much more than a master of puppets—he’s a world-renowned artist who has earned both Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships. Back in 2010, he brought his surreal production of Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka to ArtsEmerson’s first season, and now he returns to ArtsEmerson with Book of Mountains and Seas from April 19 to 21. In collaboration with composer Huang Ruo, Twist has adapted ancient Chinese creation myths and staged them with hosts of lanterns, the Ars Nova Copenhagen chorus, and huge creatures that reflect the beauty and unsettling power of nature.

Carmen, Boston Ballet. / Photo by Lisa Voll Photography/Courtesy of Boston Ballet

6. Find new artistry in a classic ballet.

Based on French author Prosper Mérimée’s novella and Bizet’s legendary opera about a doomed romance between an enchanting woman working at a Spanish cigar factory and an obsessed military officer named Don José, Carmen is easily one of the most popular ballets in the canon. From April 25 through May 5, Boston Ballet performs a modernized version by resident choreographer Jorma Elo, who updates this old favorite for the 21st century in his bold style of constant, thrilling movement. As a bonus, the showcase features Marius Petipa’s iconic Kingdom of the Shades, wherein 28 flowing dancers move in mesmerizing unison.


7. Witness a summit of three jazz legends.

Dianne Reeves may be the greatest living jazz singer right now. Chucho Valdés is a piano genius and a world leader in Afro-Cuban jazz. Then there’s Joe Lovano, one of the most critically acclaimed saxophone players to emerge from the United States over the past 40 years. And on May 4 at the Berklee Performance Center, these jazz giants will join together on stage for a night of music that promises to be both intimate and unforgettable.

Hatsune Miku. / Courtesy photo

8. Groove to the music of a pop star who doesn’t exist.

Though she “performs” onscreen as a manga-style 16-year-old with bright-blue hair, Hatsune Miku really began life in 2007 as a piece of vocal synthesis software created by the Japanese company Crypton Future Media that lets music fans make their computer sing. Soon enough, the software became personified by this virtual cartoon singer, who is as joyously buoyant as she is fake. She’s also now an international phenomenon, “touring” the world with a live band in front of packed audiences. Called Hatsune Miku Expo, this wild night comes to the Wang Theatre on May 9.

9. Laugh along with the pride of Newton South.

Actor John Krasinski may have been known in his teenage days for his skills on the basketball court, but these days, he’s famous for his Hollywood directorial prowess. With the film IF (out May 17), Krasinski does it all—directing, coproducing, and writing the screenplay for a comedy about a girl who can see everybody’s imaginary friends, current and forgotten. And yes, he also costars in it alongside Ryan Reynolds, with imaginary friends voiced by his wife, Emily Blunt; Maya Rudolph; as well as hometown heroes Steve Carell and Matt Damon.

10. Learn about an unjustly forgotten baseball legend.

One of the country’s premier writers for the stage, Lydia Diamond is coming home to the Huntington Theatre Company—where she was a fellow in the mid-2000s—for her latest project. On stage from May 17 through June 16, Toni Stone tells the story of the real-life female baseball player who was rejected for being Black by the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and instead joined the Negro League in the early 1950s, becoming the first woman to play the sport professionally on a men’s team.

11. Get your big outdoor music festival on.

Boston Calling is back, taking over the Harvard Athletic Complex from May 24 to 26, and as usual, the headliners are huge: Ed Sheeran, the Killers, and Tyler Childers, who is the first country star to take top billing here. Also to be expected, the undercards for each of the three nights are absolutely compelling and eclectic, including hip-hop supernova Megan Thee Stallion; soulful singers Leon Bridges and Hozier; Trey Anastasio of Phish; and local stalwarts Bad Rabbits, who were the first to open the festival when it debuted 11 years ago at City Hall Plaza.

A 1979 Moby Dick illustration by Barry Moser. / Photo courtesy of Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Rowley, MA © Barry Moser, with permission from the artist. Photo by Kathy Tarantola/PEM


12. Explore the visual side of the famous literary white whale.

In the first-ever exhibition of its kind, the Peabody Essex Museum unveils Draw Me Ishmael: The Book Arts of Moby Dick,” a trip through the illustrations, typography, and book covers that have graced copies of Herman Melville’s great American novel over the decades. On display from June 1 through January 4, 2026, the collection of items is drawn mostly from the museum’s famed Phillips Library collection of rare books and manuscripts, and it ranges from early editions of the 1850s to contemporary graphic novels and pop-up books. (Want to see Captain Ahab’s tale of doom translated into emoji? Look no further.)

Boston Kids Comics Fest. / Courtesy photo

13. Inspire your aspiring young graphic novelist.

Boston Kids Comics Fest returns with another round of workshops and roundtables that aim to foster the next generation of cartoonists and comic-book illustrators. This one-day event, held at Northeastern’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex on June 8, will feature lectures by graphic novelists who are well-known stars to any schoolkid these days, such as Bad Kitty’s Nick Bruel, Amulet’s Kazu Kibuishi, and Lauren Tarshis of the popular I Survived series. Best of all, the festival has set aside quiet spaces, so your budding Stan Lee or Alison Bechdel can get some creative work done.

Portraits of Spirituals’ Steph Davis. / Photo by Lauren Miller

14. Move your spirit with some of America’s holiest music.

Castle of Our Skins is a remarkable local cultural institution that aims to educate and elevate the community through Black artistry in music. Many of its family-oriented events are intimate, such as Portraits of Spirituals at the Boston Public Library’s Roxbury branch on June 15. Here, children and parents can learn about the cultural history of Negro spirituals and hear them arranged for marimba in a 60-minute performance by musician and composer Steph Davis.

15. Experience wartime with America’s First Family.

World War II was a conflagration that not only brought millions of Americans into military service overseas but also pervaded every aspect of life at home. No one was left untouched, from the most marginalized citizens at the time to the highest echelons of society, including the Kennedy family. In a vast exhibition called Service and Sacrifice: World War II—A Shared Experience that runs through January 5, 2025, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum highlights how all Americans were affected in both honorable and unjust ways. Amid countless artifacts and documents, visitors can see JFK’s U.S. Navy dress jacket and wartime correspondence, the flight suit worn by Tuskegee airman Woodrow W. Crockett, and Ansel Adams’s photographs of Japanese Americans held in an infamous internment camp.

Janet Jackson. / Courtesy photo

16. Dance and sing along with the empress of Rhythm Nation.

Boston gets quite a bit funkier and a whole lot more glamorous when Janet Jackson comes to TD Garden on June 28. You can count up the Grammys she’s won (five), the number-one songs she’s had (10), or the number of albums she’s sold (more than 160 million), but you’ll forget all of that when you’re bouncing and bellowing along to pop ’n’ soul powerhouses like “Nasty,” “Miss You Much,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” “Together Again,” and so many more.

First published in the April 2024 issue, with the headline “Spring Preview.”