New Season Emphasizes Variety

Pianist Leon Bates will perform Broadway favorites by George Gershwin with vocalists Louise Toppin and Robert Mack on Oct. 19.
Pianist Leon Bates will perform Broadway favorites by George Gershwin with vocalists Louise Toppin and Robert Mack on Oct. 19. (Courtesy Of The Artist)
By C. Woodrow Irvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 12, 2007

From singing pirates to Scottish pipers, from modern dance to Moby Dick, from ballet to Beethoven -- George Mason University's Center for the Arts' eclectic season promises something for virtually every artistic taste.

Center officials raised the curtain on what artistic director Rick Davis described as a "spectacular season" of arts programming for 2007-08 at a luncheon for center supporters, staff and media last week.

The season includes almost 50 performances from 30 artists and ensembles, beginning Sept. 23 with a returning favorite, pianist Jeffrey Siegel, and the first of four of his ongoing "Keyboard Conversations." Siegel's other performances are scheduled for Nov. 11, Feb. 10 and April 13.

Broadway legend Barbara Cook headlines the "Arts by George!" scholarship benefit Sept. 29 and is just one of the musical main dishes the center plans next season. Pianist Leon Bates and vocalists Louise Toppin and Robert Mack will perform Broadway favorites by Gershwin Oct. 19, and Grammy winner Doc Watson and friends are set for an evening of blues, country and American traditional music Nov. 3.

Other musical highlights include concerts from the touring performers of the Monterey Jazz Festival on March 9 and the eight siblings that make up Leahy, a Canadian outfit firmly rooted in traditional Irish and Scottish music, on March 15. Choral group Chanticleer returns April 4 with a program to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

As usual with the Great Performances series, concerts from top-notch classical music ensembles from all over the world make up a significant part of the season. On Nov. 4, Norway's Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra plays the concert hall, with Britain's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra coming Jan. 11. The State Symphony of Mexico is scheduled Feb. 9, and Sweden's Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra will perform March 30 with a concert called "The Eroica Effect."

The Virginia Opera continues its tradition of two performances of each of its offerings for the season: "The Tales of Hoffmann," Oct. 12 and 14; "The Pirates of Penzance," Nov. 30 and Dec. 2; "Eugene Onegin," Feb. 22 and 24; and "Lucia di Lammermoor," April 18 and 20.

Theater is back in the mix at the center with a decidedly literary emphasis as the Aquila Theatre Company presents "Catch-22" on Oct. 3, director Tim Robbins's Actors' Gang offers "1984" Nov. 16, and the Acting Company performs "Moby Dick Rehearsed" April 5 and "The Tempest" April 6. Actor Rik Reppe brings his one-man show about what it means to be an American, "Staggering Toward America," March 2.

The many and varied dance groups on stage next season include Ballet Folklórico de México on Oct. 6 and 7, the Martha Graham Dance Company on Oct. 26, Tango Buenos Aires on Oct. 27 and 28, the Georgian State Dance Company Nov. 17 and 18, the Mark Morris Dance Group dancing Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas" Feb. 15 and 16, and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company March 22. The St. Petersburg Ballet Theatre presents "Carmen" April 11 and "Swan Lake" April 12, and avant-garde, acrobatic dance company Diavalo performs May 2 and 3.

Center directors like to offer holiday programming in December, and this year is no exception. The holiday-themed concerts will be from the King's Singers (Dec. 7), Rockapella (Dec. 8), Canadian Brass (Dec. 14) and the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra (Dec. 15). The jazz orchestra appears again (sans sleigh bells) Feb. 8.

For a vivid example of the international and multicultural breadth of the Great Performances series, there are consecutive bookings of the Band of the Coldstream Guards and the Pipes, Drums and Dancers of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Jan. 20 and Perú Negro, a celebration in music and dance of Peru's African heritage, Feb. 2.

In addition to unveiling the Great Performances for 2007-08, Center for the Arts officials announced that a three-week arts festival on campus is in the planning stages for June 2008. The festival would be sponsored by the university and Theater of the First Amendment -- which has been in hiatus -- in cooperation with university and community arts groups.

In the words of Davis, the artistic director: "This is a mammoth collaboration. We hope, for three weeks in June every year from 2008 on, to make Fairfax the epicenter of the known artistic universe. It's a modest goal," he said to laughter from the crowd, "but we think we can do it."

For ticket information regarding Great Performances at Mason or a full schedule of performers and performances, call 703-993-2787 or visit

© 2007 The Washington Post Company