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From left to right: For 2008-09, Robert Cole has lined up “a representation of what Cal Performances has done over the years,” including a recital by mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, the Bay Area debut of Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company, and a retrospective of choreographer Merce Cunningham’s work.
 

For a beloved maestro, a very grand finale
Cal Performances’ 2008-09 season will be an extended sendoff for its longtime director, Robert Cole

| 30 April 2008

When Robert Cole announced last May that he would step down as Cal Performances’ director at the end of the 2008-09 season, plans got under way to make his final go-round a real standout. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, choreographer Mark Morris, composer Peter Sellars, the Takács string quartet, and mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli — all Cal Performances mainstays — quickly got on board to be part of Cole’s sendoff.

In the coming year, the campus’s renowned arts-presenting organization will host more than 110 performances. Its 103rd season will feature a wealth of celebrated performers, promising emerging artists, and newly created works in 10 series: Classical and Modern Dance, Theater, Recital, Opera, Chamber Music and Orchestra, Music Before 1850, World Stage, Jazz, 20th-Century Music and Beyond, and Strictly Speaking.

Ma, who rearranged his schedule to play during Cole’s final season, will give a solo performance (for donors only) of the Bach Cello Suites 1, 3, and 5 (May 15). “If I wanted to ask him to play something, that’s what I’d request,” says Cole.


Robert Cole (Wendy Edelstein photo)
 
Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), which Cole first brought to Berkeley in 1987, when the choreographer was a virtual unknown, will kick off Cal Performances’ dance series with the West Coast premiere of Romeo and Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare set to Sergei Prokofiev’s newly discovered original score (Sept. 25-28). MMDG will return at the end of the season with one of Morris’ most respected pieces, L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato (1988). Set to the eponymous oratorio by Handel, the work includes the poetry of John Milton and will feature the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra (May 28-31).

Sellars will direct what Cole calls “a very contemporary, on-the-edge drama,” György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments, which is based on diaries and letters from the Czech writer (Nov. 23-24). The work features soprano Dawn Upshaw — who made her debut at Cal Performances in 1991 — and violinist Geoff Nuttall. Cal Performances is one of only three venues that will present this production during the 2008-09 season.

The Takács Quartet will return to Cal Performances with two concerts that Cole calls “the best of Takács”: Clarinetist Richard Stoltzman will be featured in the first concert (Feb. 15) in a program that includes Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581; Schuman’s Quartet, op. 41, no. 3; and Bartók’s String Quartet No. 2. Cellist Peter Wyrick will share the bill with the quartet in the following month (March 8) in a program of Haydn’s String Quartet in F major, op. 77, no. 2; Bartók’s Quartet No. 3; and Schubert’s String Quintet in C major, D. 956.

Bartoli, who debuted at Hertz Hall in 1991, will give a recital at Cal Performances (Feb. 22) that will be one of only three U.S. performances in the 2008-09 season.

The quality of Merce

This fall, the Merce Cunningham Dance Company will be on campus for a wide-ranging, two-week retrospective (Nov. 3-15) that will include four separate dance programs and many campus collaborations. On one program is the Cal Performances co-commissioned work BIPED (1999). In addition, three works will be set to the music of John Cage: Views on Stage (2004), Second Hand (1970, revived 2008), and XOVER (2007).

Presenting four different performances of four different Cunningham programs is “unprecedented in this country,” says Cole, who calls Cunningham, who will soon turn 90, “the greatest living modern-dance choreographer.” The two men share a history reaching back more than three decades — Cole first presented Cunningham in 1978 at Shea’s Performing Art Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will salute Cole with two special performances featuring a capella group Sweet Honey in the Rock. The company, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, will perform multiple programs of Ailey classics, including its rousing Revelations (March 5-9).

Cal Performances, which has long embraced Russian ballet and art, will present both the Kirov Ballet and Orchestra of the Mariinksy Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet in its coming season. The Kirov Ballet will perform a mixed-repertory program (Oct. 14-15) that will include Act 3 from Raymonda; the “Grand Pas” from Glazunov’s Paquita; and “The Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadčre. They will also perform the comic ballet Don Quixote (Oct. 17-19). “The company is at its best right now,” says Cole of the Kirov.

The Bolshoi Ballet will perform its own production of La Bayadčre, with choreography by Marius Petipa (June 4-7), under the direction of its new artistic director Yuri Burlaka. “It’s probably never been done in an American city to have both of these great Russian companies in one season,” observes Cole.

After the dance

Other season highlights include the Bay Area debut of Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company, which will stage a double-bill of plays by John Millington Synge: The Playboy of the Western World and The Shadow of the Glen (at Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, Oct. 8-12). The company, which hails from Galway, draws from the Irish dramatic repertoire to stage classic and new works.

Cal Performances will be co-presenting three events with the San Francisco Opera, an artistic collaboration of which Cole is especially proud. Soprano Angela Gheorghiu (Sept. 6) and tenor Salvatore Licitra (Jan. 10) each will perform with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, while mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade will star in composer Jake Heggie’s new chamber opera, Three Decembers, based on a play by Terrence McNally (Dec. 11-14). The play examines the relationship of a music-hall star alienated from her children, one of whom is a gay man mourning his lover who is dying from AIDS.

Another artist Cal Performances helped introduce, Robert Lepage, will present his acclaimed drama The Blue Dragon, which won the 2007 Europe Theatre Prize (June 9-13). The plays follow the ongoing story of Pierre Lamontagne, the central character in The Dragons’ Trilogy (1985), and explores the contradictions of modern China.

Visit calperformances.org for the complete Cal Performances 2008-09 season program.