What: 2012-13 season at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts
When: Free open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; subscription sales start Saturday; single tickets go on sale Aug. 10
Where: Yocha Dehe Grand Lobby, Mondavi Center, UC Davis
Tickets: www.mondaviarts.org or (530) 754-2787
The Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis will start its 10th anniversary season this fall with two weeks of “opening events,” including some performers who are new to the center, several familiar favorites and two free events.
The new-to-Mondavi artists include singer/guitarist Bonnie Raitt, who will perform Sept. 18, with soul/gospel singer Mavis Staples as an opening act.
Returning artists include jazz bassist Christian McBride, the first jazz artist to appear in Mondavi’s Studio Theatre, in 2002; the Alexander String Quartet, kicking off a cycle of Schubert concerts, marking the group’s 10th season as regular Mondavi performers; the San Francisco Symphony under conductor Michael Tilson Thomas (they performed at the center’s dedication gala in October 2002); and pianist Lang Lang, this time performing a solo concert of music by Mozart and Chopin.
The free “opening events”:
* The annual “Rising Stars of Opera” program on Oct. 6, featuring several of the San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows with the UCD Symphony Orchestra. The concert will feature a variety of arias, plus the entire first act of Verdi’s “La Traviata.”
It is presented free through the generosity of longtime patron of the arts Barbara Jackson, who enjoys sharing her passion for opera with the community.
* A family-friendly program on Oct. 7 titled “The Dancer Films Live Event,” based on the long-running series of cartoons about a modern dancer drawn by Jules Feiffer, who will participate.
Other collaborators include choreographer Andrea Weber, saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and filmmaker Judy Dennis, who has made several very short films inspired by the Feiffer cartoons. All are visiting Mondavi for the first time.
These opening events lead directly into the 2012-13 Mondavi season, which is composed of several different series, plus a few free-standing special events.
* The Orchestra Series, which features orchestras that have played Mondavi before, with programs that include lots of Beethoven. An all-Beethoven program is planned Nov. 7 by the Philharmonia Orchestra, a period-instrument ensemble from the Bay Area, with veteran pianist Emmanuel Ax on fortepiano, the sort of keyboard that Beethoven owned. The program includes Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto and Fourth Symphony.
The Orchestra Series also includes two appearances by the San Francisco Symphony — a Sept. 27 concert under Tilson Thomas, with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, and a piece called “Drift and Providence,” by Samuel Carl Adams, the son of famed Bay Area composer John Adams; as well as an April 18 concert under conductor laureate Herbert Blomstedt — the Beethoven Violin Concerto, plus Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5.
Wrapping up the Orchestra Series are the Russian National Orchestra on Feb. 17, featuring a Slavic program with music by Smetana, Tchaikovsky and Dvorák, and the St. Louis Symphony on March 17, performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 2, plus the Violin Concerto by Alban Berg, from 1935.
* The recitals on the Concert Series feature artists who’ve performed in Davis in years past: pianist Lang; violinist Joshua Bell, with pianist Sam Haywood; cellist Yo-Yo Ma, with pianist Kathryn Stott; and violinist Sarah Chang, who performed in Freeborn Hall in 1995, when she was 15.
* The Distinguished Speakers Series, with talks by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, visiting as part of the 50th anniversary of UCD’s College of Engineering; singer/actor Harry Belafonte, a vocal figure in the civil rights movement; and broadcaster Ira Glass, host of NPR’s popular series “This American Life.”
The Campus Community Book Project will bring in writer Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” which examines the migration of African-American families from the South to Northern and Western American cities.
* The Dance Series includes a return visit by the Dance Theatre of Harlem, which came to Mondavi eight years ago, plus two ensembles new to Davis: the Akram Khan Company and the L.A. Dance Project.
* There is also a new series, Studio Dance, with groups that will perform a featured work over several days in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre. Artists include Australian artist Lucy Guerin with a piece called “Untrained,” pairing two experienced dancers with two performers with no dance training who are given the same instructions; Indian artist Shantala Shivalingappa, performing “Gamaka,” a solo piece; and the Sacramento Ballet, presenting its annual Modern Masters program.
* The Jazz Series brings back bassist Stanley Clarke, who appeared at Mondavi this season as part of Return to Forever, with pianist Hiromi; the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour; and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis. The latter group have been perennial visitors to Mondavi over the center’s first decade.
* The Studio Jazz Series includes McBride’s return visit in September; plus appearances by the group Ninety Miles, a Cuban-American collaboration including vibraphonist Stefon Harris, and the Julian Lage Group. Lage visited previously with violinist Mark O’Connor.
* The American Heritage Series opens with Raitt, and then continues with Charles Bradley, who performs in the intense style of the late funk star James Brown; vocalist Bobby McFerrin, with a show paying homage to his father, who was the first African-American man to sing at the Metropolitan Opera; and a program of “sacred steel” gospel/blues including slide guitarist Robert Randolph and others.
* The Director’s Choice Series — an eclectic mix picked by Mondavi’s executive director Don Roth — includes three return visits, by baritone Thomas Hampson, this time with the Jupiter String Quartet; by pianist Christopher Taylor, this time performing Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” on a one-of-a-kind dual manual Steinway, with upper and lower keyboards; and by tenor Davis Lomelí, who charmed the audience at 2010’s Rising Stars of Opera program.
* The World Stage Series will feature three returnees: Ballet Folklórico de México de Amalia Hernández, legendary sitar player Ravi Shankar and Japanese taiko drummers Kodo.
* Special add-on events (not part of a series) include another recital by celebrated violinist Itzhak Perlman, with pianist Rohan de Silva; a return visit by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and a first-time visit by the National Theatre of Scotland, which will transform the Vanderhoef Studio Theater into a pub with roving performers for an “audience locked-in” performance.
Holiday shows include return visits by the Celtic band Danú and the choral group Cantus, reprising its program about the World War I Christmas Truce, when German and Allied forces briefly stopped firing and came out of their trenches to sing.
The American Bach Soloists will be back again in December, but — stop the presses! — they’ll give Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” a rest and instead present a mixed program of vocal and instrumental works on seasonal themes by Vivaldi, Handel, Corelli and Charpentier.
Other highlights and trends:
* The San Francisco Symphony with a family concert on Dec. 21, incorporating the short animated film “The Snowman,” accompanied by the orchestra.
* The Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain, newcomers to Davis, performing familiar movie themes arranged for eight ukes of various sizes.
* A weekend series on Jan. 30-Feb.3 titled “The Art of Migration,” featuring Japanese marimba player Mayumi Hama, the Rootstock Percussion Trio, the Calder String Quartet and several UCD ensembles.
* Elder statesmen including sitar player Ravi Shankar, 92; conductor Herbert Blomstedt, 85; and speaker Harry Belafonte 85. The youngest featured artist is violinist Stephen Waarts, winner of the Mondavi Center Young Aritsts Competition in 2008; he will turn 16 in July, and now attends the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
* A visit by the popular NPR series “From the Top,” hosted by pianist Chistopher O’Riley, recording a show at Mondavi on Oct. 25.
* An uncommon concentration of new works and rarely heard modern landmarks for small ensembles, including a new piece by Mark Adamo for baritone Thomas Hampson and the Jupiter String Quartet on April 24; the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble performing Arnold Schoenberg’s landmark “Pierrot Lunaire” (1912) plus a sextet by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki on May 12; the string quartet Ethel teamed with 1970s rocker Todd Rundgren on Nov. 3; and pianist Lara Downes with indie-classical band Build on March 23-24.
In addition, there’s the Calder String Quartet performing recent works by Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang on Feb. 2-3; and The Alexander String Quartet with a provocative pairing of Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” string quartet (1824) with American composer George Crumb’s searing “Black Angels” for electric string quartet on April 14. Crumb’s work was composed during the Vietnam War, quoting Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” in sections.
* There are two late cancellations after the season brochure went to press. The dates for African artists Amadou and Mariam (Feb. 28), and Company Finzi Pasca (Oct. 14) have been scrubbed.
The Mondavi Center’s 2012-13 brochure can be viewed online at www.mondaviarts.org, and visitors to Saturday’s open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Mondavi Center’s lobby can pick up a copy.
Subscription series ticket plans are available starting Saturday by mail, by phone or in person. Single tickets (not part of a series) will be available starting Aug. 10.
The Mondavi Center box office can be reached by phone at (530) 754-2787, the website is www.mondaviarts.org.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.