Dreamer and more: Cal Performances shows off its new season

Cal Performances offered a preview of its upcoming season Tuesday, extending its usual impressive variety of artists, live art forms and venues with an emphasis on themes reverberating across the campus and the country: citizenship/home and equal rights/women.

Matías Tarnopolsky, Cal Performances’ executive and artistic director now in his ninth — and final season — on campus, called the 2018-2019 lineup “the best season we’ve done.”

Matias Tarnopolsky

Matías Tarnopolsky (Cal Performances photo by Todd Rosenberg)

“There is a sense of vulnerability in the world right now, and we feel a responsibility to ask artists to lead the way in helping us navigate our challenging sociocultural moment,” he said in presenting the new lineup at Zellerbach Hall.

A number of innovative performances and related public events are scheduled as part of the Berkeley Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts and Learning (Berkeley RADICAL) goal of nurturing artistic literacy and engaging new audiences. In the past several years, Cal Performances has seen its undergraduate audience grow from 2-3 percent to close to 10 percent.

An enduring dream

Highlights of the Berkeley RADICAL programming will include the world premiere of Dreamer, an oratorio by composer Jimmy Lopez of Peru, accompanied by Esa-Pekka Salonen and London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, with a libretto by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz, a Cuban refugee, along with solos by Puerto Rican soprano Ana Maria Martinez.

Interviews with real-life Dreamers from UC Berkeley and surrounding communities have informed the work, Lopez said Tuesday.

Jimmy Lopez

Dreamer composer Jimmy Lopez.

He said that when the subject of the piece commissioned by Cal Performances and a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission grant was chosen, “we thought the story had a brighter ending.”

Also part of the season’s citizenship programming will be performances by Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, almost 20 years after Barenboim and Palestinian scholar Edward Said founded the group of Israelis and Arabs as a new model for cooperation.

Also in the mix will be a performance by Berlin’s Schaubuhne theater of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People.

Other related programming will feature more than two dozen musicians from 15 countries on three continents who pay tribute in The Routes of Slavery (1444-1888) to the historically enslaved around the world.

Post-show talks and receptions will be held in conjunction with citizenship performances. Additional public forums will be sponsored by Cal Performances and UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society.

Women’s work

On the other side of the Berkeley RADICAL plan for 2018-2019, five programs have been created by female artists through dance, music and theater.

One will feature Annie B-Parson of the Big Dance Theater in a combination of dance, music, video and text that offers a feminist twist on the male-dominated historical narrative as recorded in the 17th-century diaries of politician Samuel Pepys, and contrasted by his outspoken contemporary, Margaret Cavendish.


Mouthpiece is the name of a performance about womanhood and a woman’s struggle to find her voice. It is presented by the Quote Unquote Collective, as part of the Berkeley RADICAL women’s programming. The collective was co-founded by Amy Nostbakken and Norah Sadava. (Photo by Brooke Wedlock)

In addition, Cal Performances patrons will be treated to a tribute to Mexican songwriter Juan Gabriel by his mentee, Grammy Award-winner Aida Cuevas, and the Mexico City-based Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlan; dancer, choreographer and theater artist Akram Khan in a West Coast premiere of XENOS, a solo production co-commissioned by Cal Performances that combines Indian kathak and modern dance, mime and more; and Campagnie Kafig will perform a blend of Brazilian urban dance, capoeira, modern dance, circus arts and hip-hop in a program called Pixel.

Season tickets

The entire upcoming season at Cal Performances will be populated by diverse artists from around the globe, beginning with a gala performance on Sept. 23 at the Greek Theatre by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest Jon Batiste. A week later, cellist Yo-Yo Ma returns to the Greek to perform the complete Bach Cello Suites over the course of about two and a half hours.

For more details about the upcoming season, read the Cal Performances press release. Subscription packages for the season go on sale at noon on Tuesday, April 24.