Tag Archives: Cal Performances

Berkeley RADICAL focus of Cal Performances new season

The Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela will play Beethoven's Ninth at the Cal Performances gala in September. Photo: Nohely Oliveros
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A gala outdoors performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a novel mixture of Olivier Messaien and Berkeley photographer Deborah O’Grady, a rare visit from Paris’ Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Twyla Tharp’s 50th anniversary tour are among the highlights for Cal Performances 2015-16 season, which was announced this week.

The season marks the launch of Berkeley RADICAL (Research and Development Initiative in Creativity, Arts, Learning), a new framework in which artists will engage with Cal Performances through commissioning, creation, presentation, documentation and dissemination; with the university’s community of scholars and students; and with the Bay Area public.

Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela kick off Berkeley RADICAL with a week-long residency centered around performances of Beethoven’s final three symphonies. The Ninth Symphony will be performed at a gala performance at the Greek Theatre on Friday, Sept. 25.

“I can’t think of a better way to launch Berkeley RADICAL than with this music, this conductor and this orchestra,” said Matías Tarnopolsky, executive and artistic director of Cal Performances. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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EARTH DAY The Brower Center is hosting its first-ever Earth Day Festival, on Saturday, April 18 from noon to 6 p.m. There will be hands-on workshops, live music, family arts activities and organic food tastings, all focused on “protecting and honoring the planet we call home.” Three panels during the afternoon look at carbon farming, climate-friendly consumption and fighting climate change at the neighborhood level. The Ecology Center hosts workshops to show how to reuse common household items and there will be screenings of film shorts on carbon farming. The full schedule is here. Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of the Earth Day Festival. Admission free ($10 suggested donation), The Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way.  … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Tartuffe caption. Photo: Courtesy kevinberne.com
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TARTUFFE AT THE REP Molière’s Tartuffe, a satirical attack on religious hypocrisy, still has its sting after 350 years. Berkeley Rep’s production, adapted by David Ball and directed by Dominique Serrand, was acclaimed as “revelatory” by the Chronicle. Actor Steven Epp stars in the title role. If you go on Friday, March 27 (as in tonight!), you can also enjoy the “last call” reception after the play, sponsored by Berkeleyside. Tartuffe is in repertory at the Berkeley Rep through Apr. 12. Tickets from $41 at Berkeley Rep, 2025 Addison St.    … Continue reading »

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Events

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

The solar calendar installation at César Chávez Park has been the target of recurring vandalism over the past few months. Photo: Chris Benton
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SPRING EQUINOX AT CESAR CHAVEZ PARK  Gather this evening at the Chavez Memorial Solar Calendar to celebrate the official arrival of spring. The event, led by Lori Lambertson of the Exploratorium Teacher Institute, will include a discussion about the “reasons for the seasons,” the Chavez virtue of HOPE, and other global spring equinox celebrations. Dress warmly: the weather is part of the experience. Friday, March 20, 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., sunset is at 7:15 p.m. Cesar Chavez Park, 11 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley. … Continue reading »

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Events

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

Peter Nero. Photo: Courtesy Cal Performances
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GERSHWIN PROJECT Pianist Peter Nero, a two-time Grammy winner, “romps through” George Gershwin’s music with bassist Michael Barnett and vocalist Katherine Strohmaier on Sunday, Feb. 8 at Zellerbach Hall, as part of Cal Performances’ jazz series. Nero’s trio will perform songs from musicals and films like “Strike Up the Band,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Funny Face,” “Girl Crazy,” and “Shall We Dance,” as well as standards from the Great American Songbook. Zellerbach Hall, 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. Tickets available from Cal Performances.  … Continue reading »

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Events

The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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PALLADE MUSICA A young early music quartet from Montreal will have its West Coast debut in a series of concerts by the San Francisco Early Music Society this weekend. Pallade Musica will play instrumental works from the 17th century, including compositions by Sweelinck, Castaldi and Buxtehude. The program “journeys from the beginnings of the Stile Moderno in the breathtaking sonatas of Dario Castello to the pinnacle of the Stylus Phantasticus with Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber’s ‘Mystery Sonatas’ for violin.” Pallade Musica will perform at St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 17. Call the box office for ticket availability on 510-528-1725.  … Continue reading »

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New music in Berkeley: Leaping into unexpected realms

Caption: Cal Performances and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players present Project TenFourteen, a series of four concerts featuring world premieres commissioned from 10 different composers.

Credit: Courtesy of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
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There’s something irresistible about experiencing a composition at its premiere, about the possibility of witnessing an imaginative leap into unexpected musical realms. On Friday, East Bay trumpeter Ian Carey reprises his new work Interview Music: A Suite for Quintet + 1 at the Hillside Club, where he’ll be recording the suite with his talent-laden ensemble. And on Sunday, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players (SFCMP) launch Project TenFourteen at Hertz Hall, an unprecedented season-long collaboration with Cal Performances featuring 10 newly commissioned works premiering over the course of four concerts.

Sunday’s inaugural program looks auspicious indeed, with Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz’s commission “Corpórea” for an orchestral nonet with a balance of strings and winds, and Elena Ruehr’s “It’s About Time” for a string oriented sextet. The program’s defining presence is 85-year-old éminence grise George Crumb, who’s represented by three works, including two premieres. The latest of his many settings of poetry by Federico García Lorca, “The Yellow Moon of Andalusia” features mezzo soprano Tony Arnold, Kate Campbell on amplified piano, and percussionists William Winant and Nick Woodbury, while “Yesteryear” is a radically reworked piece for Arnold and pianist Kate Campbell. … Continue reading »

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A ‘Swan Lake’ inspired by an English Royal love triangle

Joined by Berkeley Symphony and conductor Nicolette Fraillon, The Australian Ballet makes its Bay Area premiere at Cal Performances with Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (choreography: Graeme Murphy), Thursday–Sunday, October 16–19, 2014 in Zellerbach Hall. 

PHOTOS: Jeff Busby
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If ballet is a matrix, Swan Lake is the matriarch of all matrixes.

Structured to follow rules of expression, manipulated according to form and line, the classic equation of good-versus-evil equals tragic ecstasy premiered as a four act ballet in 1877. Since then, choreographers have torqued the score by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and the ballet’s synopsis in countless ways, although classical ballet audiences are generally most familiar with an 1895 version staged for the Imperial Russian Ballet by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov.

Twenty-first century film buffs may have migrated to 2010’s Black Swan, a movie starring Natalie Portman. Regardless of the medium, Swan Lake is largely a physical battle involving honor, love, betrayal and mortality.

Enter choreographer Graeme Murphy and the Australian Ballet, making their first Bay Area appearance since 1971 with five performances of Swan Lake at Cal Performances’ Zellerbach Hall on Oct. 16-19. Murphy’s rendition, created for the Australian Ballet’s 40th anniversary in 2002, will feature the Berkeley Symphony with guest conductor Nicolette Fraillon, Music Director & Chief Conductor of The Australian Ballet. … Continue reading »

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Great sounds from Africa at Afropop Spectacular

Krar Collective
(credit: Jacob Crawfurd)
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As a griot, Mali’s Bassekou Kouyaté traces his musical lineage back to Sundiata Keita’s expansive 13th century empire, a wealthy polity that encompassed a huge swath of West Africa. His ancestors entertained the royal court and every note he plays on the ngoni, a plucked string ancestor of the banjo, embodies a tradition handed down for generations by word of mouth. But Kouyaté is not beholden to the past. Ngoni Ba, the band he brings to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday for a Cal Performances double bill with Ethiopia’s Krar Collective, represents a radical evolution.

Determined to enhance the instrument’s visibility, Kouyaté assembled Ngoni Ba, an eight-piece combo that combines the rollicking energy a rock band with the emphatic call-and-response choruses of a gospel ensemble. Given that the ngoni is traditionally played while seated, Kouyaté’s most radical move was simply standing up.

“When I started making music with friends playing guitar and bass, I decided I wanted to be at the same level as the musicians surrounding me,” he says. “That was the first modification, not to the instrument itself, but the way to play the instrument, which changed the technique a little bit.”

Looking to expand the four-string ngoni’s harmonic palette, he added additional strings and introduced Ngoni Ba on 2007’s Segu Blue (Out Here Records), garnering tremendous success in Europe and winning a coveted BBC Radio 3 World Music Award. He refined the concept on 2009’s I Speak Fula, showcasing his ingenious orchestrations for his band, which is essentially an ngoni quartet backed by a rhythm section and the incantatory vocals of Kouyaté’s wife and creative partner Amy Sacko. … Continue reading »

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Ambitious Ojai North Music Festival returns to Berkeley

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Storm large and Storm Large: the words serve double duty at this week’s Cal Performances Ojai North Music Festival, running June 19-21 on the Berkeley campus.

“Storm large” could be considered emblematic of the fearlessly ambitious annual contemporary music festival that drew the storied tradition of experimentation begun in Southern California in 1947 to Berkeley in 2011.

This year’s festival is curated and directed by pianist, writer, and 2013 MacArthur Fellow, Jeremy Denk, who promises “screwing with the canon” and related barrier-crashing, ear-burning musical endeavors.

Notably, the mighty laboratory of modern-day composers and artists gets its most-local kick from the remarkable growl-to-purr, rage-to-ravishingly melodic vocalist, Storm Large. The Oregon-based actor/singer lived and performed in the Bay Area during the 1990s, before relocating to Portland. … Continue reading »

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Such Sweet Shelby: Playing Berkeley on Friday May 2

Pictured: In a special collaboration with California Shakespeare Theater, Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra celebrates the legacy of Duke Ellington on Friday May 2, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall. 

PHOTO: Peter Varshavsky
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Duke Ellington was riding high in 1957 when he released the album Such Sweet Thunder, a suite of tunes composed with Billy Strayhorn loosely inspired by the sonnets and plays of William Shakespeare. After a long stretch in the wilderness, when it seemed that Ellington’s mighty orchestra might go the way of all the other great swing era big bands, he roared back into the limelight with the triumphant 1956 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. The concert rejuvenated Ellington, spawned a hit live album, and returned him to his singular status as America’s nonpareil composer and bandleader, prompting the maestro to proclaim frequently thereafter, “I was born at Newport.”

No one in the Bay Area has done more to promote and extend Ellington’s orchestral legacy than Sacramento-raised bassist/composer Marcus Shelby, who brings his talent-laden 16-piece ensemble to Cal Performances on Friday for “The Legacy of Duke Ellington: 50 Years of Swing!” a concert marking Ellington’s 115th birthday (April 29) and the upcoming 40th anniversary of his death (May 24). While the program features a wide array of Ellingtonia, it centers on Such Sweet Thunder, a suite that has long fascinated Shelby. … Continue reading »

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Cal Performances season offers ‘world-beating innovation’

Robert Wilson's production of The Old Woman, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe. Photo: Courtesy of Cal Performances
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Cal Performances this week announced its 2014-15 season, which includes cellist Yo Yo Ma performing Bach solo cello suites, Robert Wilson’s production of Daniil Kharms’ The Old Woman, with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe, a residency with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, the Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake (which includes the love triangle of Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Camilla Parker-Bowles), and Project TenFourteen, where the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players perform ten world premiers.

“You have world-beating innovation here,” said Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of London’s Barbican Centre, at the launch of the program. “Anywhere in the world would be envious of what you have in this season.”  … Continue reading »

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‘Acis and Galatea’ promises to be a grand, sensory delight

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Musical morsels become masterpieces in the hands of composers like George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Spring forward 200-plus-odd years and find dance and design have their modern day monument builders as well.

When choreographer Mark Morris and designers Isaac Mizrahi (costumes) Adrianne Lobel (sets) and Michael Chybowski (lighting) unleash their collective talents in a Cal Performances presentation and world premiere of Handel’s Acis and Galatea, arranged by Mozart, you might think there’s no cause for frosting on the proverbial cake.

But buttercream aside, there’s more: the Mark Morris Dance Group will be joined by the San Francisco-based Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale and guest soloists Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), Thomas Cooley (tenor), Zach Finkelstein (tenor), and Douglas Williams (bass-baritone). Conductor Nicholas McGegan will lead the musicians, rounding out the star-studded team. And that’s not even mentioning Morris’ uniquely and collectively talented dancers.

In sum, the originally tiny work, written in chamber form in 1718, is likely to be a grand, sensory explosion of sight, sound and movement, during three performances at Zellerbach Hall, April 25-27. … Continue reading »

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