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The Vienna Philharmonic, artistic residencies and partnerships, and new music highlight Cal Performances' new season

By Wendy Edelstein

Cal Performances will kick off its 2010-11 season with its first Fall Free for All, a daylong celebration of music, theater, and dance that director Matías Tarnopolsky called “a big curtain raiser” at a press conference today in Zellerbach Hall.

A season of riches

Mark Morris Dance Company will perform three Bay Area premieres: Behemoth (1990), Morris’ only work danced in silence; Socrates (2010), set to Erik Satie’s Socrate; and Looky (2007), set to Kyle Gann’s Studies for Disklavier (Sept. 30-Oct. 3).

Benjamin Bagby interprets Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem, accompanying himself on the medieval six-string lyre (Oct. 26-30).

Known as the “Flamenco Queen,” Spanish singer Buika will bring a combination of traditional coplas (female-centric torch songs) and fusions of jazz, Gypsy rumba, and Afro-Cuban rhythms (Nov. 5).

The Takács Quartet performs a survey of the quartets of Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven (Dec. 5).

Actor, playwright, and essayist Wallace Shawn will read from his own work and that of others who have inspired him in “Real World, Fake World, Dream World” (Jan. 23).

Canada’s Ex Machina brings together actor-director Robert Lepage, dancer Sylvie Guillem, and choreographer Russell Maliphant in Eonnagata, a dance/theater work that explores the life of 18th-century Frenchman Charles de Beaumont, who lived life half as a man, half as a woman, and much of it as a spy (Feb. 9-10).

Merce Cunningham Dance Company will showcase two programs of distinct works on its Legacy Tour (March 3-5).

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis and trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard play on a double bill (March 11).

Nederlands Dance Theater performs new works by resident choreographers Paul Lightfoot and Sol Léon (March 18-19).

Acclaimed tenor Jonas Kaufmann makes his recital debut at Cal Performances with pianist Helmut Deutsch (March 31).

Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Ensemble return to Cal Performances (April 7).

Druid Theatre Company performs The Cripple of Inishmaan, a dark comedy by playwright Martin McDonaugh (May 4-14).

The Royal Danish Ballet , accompanied by members of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, performs two programs (May 31-June 1; June 3-4).

Visit Cal Performances’ website to view the complete 2010-11 program.

The Vienna Philharmonic, Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, premieres by Mark Morris Dance Group, the Tallis Scholars’ Victoria project, a new partnership with the Ojai Music Festival, and farewell performances by Merce Cunningham Dance Company highlight the season.

In an interview with the NewsCenter, Tarnopolsky described the philosophy behind programming his first season as one of “evolution, not revolution” after Robert Cole’s 23-year tenure as director.

Although the Fall Free for All may not be revolutionary, it is certainly remarkable. For seven hours beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26, more than a dozen groups will give 45-minute performances at Zellerbach, Wheeler and Hertz halls, and on a stage on Lower Sproul Plaza.

The Fall Free for All’s lineup includes Kronos Quartet, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, the John Santos Sextet, Linda Tillery and the Culture Heritage Choir, violinist Kaila Flexer, theater group Word for Word, Brazilian guitarist Sergio Assad, West African dance company Diamona Coura, Chinese music ensemble Melody of China, and a community sing led by Melanie DeMore.

The day of free performances is “a big gesture of outreach to our community,” Tarnopolsky told the NewsCenter. He encourages Cal Performances regulars to bring their friends and neighbors to the new, annual event.

Another significant change: Tarnopolsky is initiating Cal Performances’ Orchestra Residency program to allow audiences, said the director, “to get to know an orchestra in-depth.”

Tarnopolsky anticipates the first residency with the Vienna Philharmonic will be “a historic event.” The group, which has not performed in the Bay Area since 1987, will inaugurate the new program with three different full-length concerts and performances of chamber music under the direction of Semyon Bychkov, as well as education and community programs (Feb. 25-27).

Other noteworthy residencies: The Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips will explore the music of 16th-century Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria in a two-concert celebration called “The Victoria Cycle” (Mar. 26-27). The tribute to the Spanish Renaissance will include performances of six of Victoria’s works along with a selection from composers who influenced him. “Here’s the chance to really immerse ourselves not only in the Tallis Scholars’ artistry but in the artistry of a rarely heard composer whose work is so beautiful and so timeless,” said Tarnopolsky.

Tarnopolsky enthused about another residency with “legendary conductor” Lorin Maazel, who will bring his “fabulously innovative opera company,” Castleton Festival Opera, to perform rarely heard 20th-century opera repertoire, fully staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring (March 24-27).

New music, new partnerships

Also added this year: A multi-year partnership with Ojai Music Festival, a presenter of adventurous music for more than six decades. In its first three-day residency, Ojai North! will salute two American musicians, soprano Dawn Upshaw, music director of the 2011 Ojai Music Festival, and composer Maria Schneider.

Ojai North! will include premieres by Schneider, a new co-production by director Peter Sellars featuring Upshaw, and performances by the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (June 13-15). “When you bring creative minds together, often magical things happen,” said Tarnopolsky.

Matías Tarnopolsky

Matías Tarnopolsky, director of Cal Performances (Peter DaSilva photo)

New music with Department of Music ties: Ensemble Zelig and Les Percussions de Strasbourg, two new-music groups from France, will premiere new works by Edmund Campion, a Berkeley professor of composition (Nov. 7). Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble Berlin will present a new work by Ken Ueno, an assistant professor of composition (March 6).

In his Cal Performances debut, pianist Jeremy Denk performs both books of György Ligeti’s Etudes (Oct. 24). Pianist Nicholas Hodges makes his West Coast recital debut with Stockhausen’s Klavierstück X (Dec. 12).

Another addition to this season is the Robert W. Cole Emerging Artists Concert. Korean pianist Joyce Yang, whom Tarnopolsky describes as “an extraordinary artist who’s still in her early 20s,” will make her recital debut with a program that ranges from Chopin, Liszt, and Debussy to recent works by Lowell Liebermann and Carl Vine (March 20).

Tarnopolsky came up with the idea as a way to honor his predecessor, “who really built this organization and on whose shoulders everyone here stands.” Cole spent a lot of energy as an advocate for young artists, said Tarnopolsky. “It’s part of the work that I firmly believe in also.”

Tarnopolsky also has made it a priority to double the number of students in Cal Performances’ audience from 7 to 14 percent. Increasing that number, said Tarnopolsky, will involve getting the word out to students about the organization and “making it even more accessible ” to them. Students are already able to purchase half-price tickets in advance of performances and, in some cases, buy $10 tickets on the day of the show.

Tarnopolsky has been forging collaborations with faculty and academic departments as well as meeting with young scholars to explore new ways to attract fresh audiences to the performing arts, such as helping students make connections to the arts through their academic work. Benjamin Bagby’s performance of Beowulf this fall presents one such opportunity, said Tarnopolsky, who is partnering with English department faculty for that event.

Tarnopolsky hopes that Berkeley’s young scholars “discover not only how wonderful it is to have the performing arts as part of your life but how easy it is to make that happen. It’s fundamental to our work.”