With classes having started (or about to start) at just about every school from kindergarten through post-doc, and with autumn fast approaching, a new season of performances is about to begin at the best venue for such events in the Sacramento region. This year will mark the Mondavi Center’s 17th season of concerts, recitals and distinguished speakers, and the temptation is strong to schedule another two dozen or more trips across the causeway to the U.C. Davis campus, where the beautiful Jackson Hall will host most of the attractions.
One of the great joys of the Mondavi offerings every year is the world-famous symphony orchestras that executive director Don Roth and assistant exec director Jeremy Ganter bring to Mondavi’s Jackson Hall. This year’s quartet of visiting orchestras will highlight the keyboard, as each of the four concerts will feature a famous piano concerto. First up, on November 12, will be the Czech Philharmonic, led by music director Semyon Bychkov. The all-Tchaikovsky concert will include the composer’s first piano concerto, with soloist Kirill Gerstein.
The other three orchestras will perform in spring, 2019. On March 2, Mikhail Pletnev will lead the Russian National Orchestra in an all-Rachmaninoff concert that will include the composer’s lovely second piano concerto, played by pianist George Li. One week later, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields will return to Mondavi on its 60th anniversary tour. Included on its program will be Jeremy Denk soloing on a Mozart piano concerto (his 12th). And then in April, Olga Kern, a long-time favorite of Sacramento classical music fans, will headline the Royal Scottish National Orchestra’s concert. She will solo on Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.”
The classical music will continue on a smaller scale with recitals by Sir James Galway (flute) on October 14, Igor Levit (piano) on November 2, Pinchas Zukerman (violin) on November 10, and Vladimir Feltsman (piano) on May 8. And, in what should be a unique attraction for fans of the Baroque, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will perform all six of Bach’s Brandenburg concertos on December 8.
If vocalizing is your thing, the return of Maria Callas on September 28 might be worth some attention. The long-deceased operatic diva will be on display in an unusual collaboration with the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, which will provide live accompaniment to the remastered audio recordings of Ms. Callas singing works of Bellini, Bizet, Verdi and Puccini. On March 11, tenor Lawrence Brownlee and bass-baritone Eric Owens will join for a recital. And the estate of philanthropist Barbara Jackson, who died last month at age 99, will again host the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows in the annual “Rising Stars of Opera” recital on October 4. The singers that night will be accompanied by the U.C. Davis Symphony Orchestra.
Messrs. Roth and Ganter will again bring some of the greats in jazz to Mondavi this season, starting with a return of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on September 22. This year’s offering by the Wynton Marsalis-led musicians will by his full-length composition entitled “Spaces,” which is an ode to the dance crazes that jazz has inspired. Dancers Charles “Lil Buck” Riley, Myles Yachts, and Jared Grimes will tap and swing and street dance to Mr. Marsalis’ composition.
In October the SF Jazz Collective will return to Mondavi for a concert featuring the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. And next spring (on May 7), the Vijay Iyer Sextet will return for a performance that will feature Mr. Iyer’s compositions.
The American Heritage series will feature what may be the highlight Mondavi performance of the year on November 14 as the legendary Joan Baez will make Jackson Hall a stop on her “Fare Thee Well” tour. Also scheduled in the A.H. series is Damien Sneed’s celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on March 1. The concert will include five singers and four musicians performing music by Aretha Franklin, Duke Ellington, and Stevie Wonder, among others.
The highlight of the Dance series figures to be the return of Ballet Preljocaj, which in its last Mondavi visit introduced the United States to “Blanche Neige,” the fascinating retelling of the Snow White story. This year, on April 19, artistic director Angelin Preljocaj will present “La Fresque,” which is described as containing “ideas of illusion, transcendence and the place of art in today’s society.” Also on tap for this series are Company Wang Ramirez on October 23 and Camille A. Brown and Dancers on December 1.
The four individuals who will be offering their thoughts in the Speakers series include Preet Bharara, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (S.D.N.Y. as it has been oft-referred to in recent news flowing from the Mueller investigation) who was fired early on in the Trump administration. Mr. Bharara will be at Mondavi on October 8. The other three speakers, in order, are Douglas Adams (on February 4), author of “The Book of Joy,” which relates the conversations between Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama that Adams organized; Jodi Kantor (March 4), the reporter who broke the story of Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged sexual abuse; and John Leguizamo (April 3), the actor and writer whose most recent stage show is entitled “Latin History for Morons.”
The full Mondavi calendar for the 2018-’19 season includes over 50 performances. Among the other highlights on the schedule, the following dates stand out:
-on October 28, Cirque Mechanics will present a “mechanical circus,” that will include a galloping mechanical metal horse and a rotating tent frame for strongmen, acrobats and aerialists;
-on November 4, the Akram Khan Company will present “Chotto Desh” (small homeland), which, using a mix of dance, text, visuals and sound, will tell the tale of a young man’s dreams and memories from Britain to Bangladesh;
-on December 16, the Boston Brass will present a holiday concert entitled “Christmas Bells are Swinging”;
-on February 10, 7 Fingers Cirque will perform “Reversible,” which will include a mix of theater, circus, dance, music, and acrobatics;
-on March 10, pianist Vijay Iyer and cellist Matt Haimovitz will collaborate on music by Mr. Iyer, John McLaughlin, J.S. Bach, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Strayhorn (sound eclectic enough?);
-on April 2, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain will return to Mondavi to put their ukes on display in a concert that will also include a “bonsai guitar”;
-on April 12, the Havana Cuba All-Stars will return to Mondavi for a concert of song and dance;
-and on April 14, the Israeli group Mayumana will present “Currents,” which explores the efforts of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla to find new energy sources for the world.
Tickets for any of the Mondavi series during the 2018-’19 season or for individual performances are now available by phone (866-754-2787) or at the Mondavi Center Ticket Office.