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Ballet dancers on stage

Mariinsky Ballet, Renee Fleming among big names in Cal Performances' future

Performances of “La Bayadère” by the Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra, the long-awaited return of Germany’s Tanztheater Wuppertal in Pina Bausch’s “Palermo Palermo,” a season-long survey of Beethoven’s piano sonatas by pianist Jonathan Biss and an appearance by the Joffrey Ballet in the Bay Area premiere of a new work by Nicholas Blanc featuring music by Bay Area composer Mason Bates are among the highlights of Cal Performances 2019-20 season.

The wide-ranging season opens Sept. 20, 2019, with the Mark Morris Dance Group performing Morris’ “Mozart Dances,” and continues through May 3, 2020, closing with the Toronto-based Volcano Theatre Company’s production of Scott Joplin’s opera, “Treemonisha,” a Hewlett 50 Arts commission in collaboration with Stanford Live.

In between, the season, programmed by associate director Rob Bailis and announced by the Cal Performances board of trustees co-chairs Helen Meyer and Susan Graham and executive and artistic director Jeremy Geffen, includes a wide variety of classical music, jazz, theater, vocal and early music and world events at venues on and around the UC Berkeley campus.

“Mozart Dances” launches the season, with the Mark Morris Dance Group performing the work last seen at Cal Performances in its West Coast premiere during the 2007-08 season. Four performances are on the schedule (Sept. 20-22), with a live all-Mozart score performed by the Berkeley Symphony with pianist Inon Barnatan.

Superstar soprano Renee Fleming will be featured in recital at Cal Performances in October.Additional fall events include the first installment of Biss’ deep dive into the Beethoven piano sonatas in honor of the composer’s 250th birthday (Sept. 21-22), followed by a concert by gospel artists Trey McLaughlin and the Sounds of Zamar (Oct. 3), a recital by opera superstar Renée Fleming (Oct. 5) and six performances of “La Bayadère”(Oct. 30-Nov. 3), the iconic ballet created by choreographer Marius Petipa more than 140 years ago.

Myra Melford’s Jazz Platform presents “Spider Web,” a collaboration by Nicole Mitchell and Josh Kun (Oct. 27). British countertenor Iestyn Davies sings a recital featuring works by Michael Nyman and Henry Purcell (Nov. 3), and Afropop Spectacular brings a double bill of Nubian and Malian music (Nov. 8). The world-renowned Peking Acrobats give three performances (Nov. 29-Dec. 1).


2020 offerings begin with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Pinchas Zukerman (Jan. 26). Catalan gambist Jordi Savall returns with Hespèrion XXI and La Capella Reial de Catalunya (Feb. 1), and mezzo-soprano Susan Graham appears in recital to sing works by Mahler, Hahn and Jake Heggie (Feb. 9).

Also on the schedule: The Kronos Quartet presents “A Thousand Thoughts,” a documentary by Sam Green and Joe Bini with live music featuring Kronos, composer-pianist Terry Riley and author-moderator Rebecca Solnit (Feb. 13). Damien Sneed celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr., with “We Shall Overcome” (Feb. 20); the contemporary circus troupe Cirque Éloize performs “Hotel,” set in an Art Deco lobby (Feb. 22-23), and John Cameron Mitchell’s “The Origin of Love Tour” arrives, featuring the songs of “Hedwig” (Feb. 29).

The Rotterdam Philharmonic, conducted by youthful maestro Lahav Shani, plays Beethoven and Bartók (March 22), and jazz trumpeter and composer Amir ElSaffar introduces “Rivers of Sound” with a 17-piece ensemble melding Middle Eastern, South Asian and Western jazz traditions (April 14). Tanztheater Wuppertal, returning to Berkeley for the first time since 2011, gives three performances of Bausch’s 1989 “Palermo Palermo” (April 24-26, 2020).

Additional events in Chamber Music include the Danish String Quartet in works by Bach, Beethoven and Schnittke (Nov. 10) and the Takács Quartet, in two programs spanning the complete string quartets of Béla Bartók (Dec. 7-8). The Spektral Quartet plays Webern, Schubert, Glass and the world premiere of a new work by Berkeley’s own Samuel Adams (April 5).

In addition to Blanc’s “Beyond the Shore,” choreographed to Bates’ “The B-Sides,” the March 6-8 program by the Joffrey Ballet includes works by Liam Scarlett, Stephanie Martinez and Justin Peck. The Dance series also includes Dorrance Dance “SOUNDspace” (March 13-15), the ever-popular Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (March 14-15) and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (March 31-April 5).

The Early Music series features concerts by Ensemble Basiani (Nov. 15) and Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (Feb. 23). New Music events include Eighth Blackbird (Dec. 14) and the Eco Ensemble (Feb. 29). Sankai Juku (Oct. 12-13), Hawaii’s Hālau O Kekuhi (Oct. 20), Ireland’s legendary Chieftains (Feb. 28) and “Bollywood Boulevard: A Journey Through Hindi Cinema Live” (April 9) are featured on the World Stage series.

Details: Cal Performances 2019-20 season runs Sept. 20 to May 3, 2020. Performance venues are Zellerbach Hall, Zellerbach Playhouse,and Hertz Hall, on the UC Berkeley campus, and first Congregational Church of Berkeley. Subscription tickets go on sale April 23 at noon; single tickets become available on Aug. 6. For more information, call 510-642-9988, or visit

Contact Georgia Rowe at

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