Virginia Arts Festival Announces 25th Anniversary Season
The arts festival that began in a Norfolk storefront in 1997 will celebrate a quarter-century of great performances this spring. Now an internationally recognized cultural destination, the Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the arts scene in Hampton Roads, bringing the world’s great ballet companies, classical, contemporary, jazz and world musicians, Broadway stars and more to the region each spring.
For a generation of arts lovers, the Festival has provided a wellspring of unforgettable experiences. “It has been an honor and a thrill to be a part of this journey,” said the Festival’s Perry Artistic Director Robert W. Cross. “We have so many people to thank: our audiences, our faithful donors, the visionary civic leaders who have supported us, and the phenomenal artists who have shared their gifts with us over the years. Our 25th Anniversary season will celebrate all of the communities it is our privilege to serve.”
The 25th Anniversary season begins in March with American Ballet Theatre, “one of the greatest and grandest ballet companies in the whole wide world,” (The New York Times). Returning to the Festival for the first time since 2012, ABT will perform the spectacular classic Don Quixote, in three performances at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, March 25-27. Ludwig Minkus’s score for the ballet is bursting with bravura flourishes, high-kicking music that simply begs to be danced to—and audiences will experience the rare opportunity to hear it performed live, as the full Virginia Symphony Orchestra accompanies the ballet in the pit. The Festival has been the region’s primary presenter of ballet, contemporary and ethnic dance since its founding in 1997, and the Anniversary season will include great representatives of the genre, including Cuba’s electrifying Malpaso dance company and Nashville Ballet, performing its headline-making Lucy Negro Redux, based on the book by Nashville Poet Caroline Randall Williams, with a brilliant musical score written and performed live by Grammy Award-winning composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, and spoken word performed by Williams.
Classical music abounds in the 25th Anniversary season, including a recital by the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott, along with a vibrant collection of chamber music concerts, curated by the Van Cliburn Gold Medal-winning pianist Olga Kern, the Festival’s Connie and Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music. A dazzling performer, Kern herself will perform in five of the Festival’s chamber performances, and among the artists to be presented will be the critically acclaimed Danish String Quartet, the Jerusalem Quartet, and the Akropolis Reed Quintet. On the concert stage, the Festival will join the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in A Symphonic Celebration of Water, conducted by VSO Music Director Eric Jacobsen and featuring classical music favorites and readings that mark the figurative power of water in the life of our region.
Celebrating some of the greatest singers in the world, the Festival brings legends to the stage, including Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth and opera superstar Renée Fleming, performing together for the Festival’s 25th Season Celebration, with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Broadway music director and arranger Rob Fisher, who was recently appointed the Festival’s Goode Family Artistic Advisor for Musical Theater and American Songbook. Tony/Grammy/Emmy Award winner and Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry will raise the roof at Chrysler Hall; and two of the world’s most acclaimed a cappella ensembles, The Tallis Scholars and Chanticleer, will showcase music from the Renaissance to today.
Contemporary music sparks the Festival’s spring 2022 lineup, with Grammy-winning, genredefying, groundbreaking artists including Béla Fleck, Shawn Colvin, The Cowboy Junkies, Rosanne Cash, James McMurtry and more. In June, the Festival’s annual summer music event Williamsburg Live returns with a star-studded roster including Americana icon Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, country legend Martina McBride and pop singer/songwriter and actress Mandy Moore.
The Festival has long been one of the region’s most prolific presenters of jazz, and the 25th Anniversary season is no exception to this rule. Jazz fans can hear multi-Grammy winner Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and legendary sideman Buster Williams, whose stand-up bass has burnished the performances of dozens of stars including Sarah Vaughan, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson and Count Basie. Local jazz favorites will return as well, including the Jae Sinnett Trio and the John Toomey Trio, joined by tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas.
Marking the Festival’s many contributions to opera, the 2022 season will see the premieres of two one-act operas created through the Festival’s John Duffy Institute for New Opera, which offers composers and librettist opportunities to create, workshop and stage new works. Briar Patch (from The Tales of the Briar Patch) will reboot the beloved folk tale while paying tribute to the African tradition of storytelling; and Companion sings the story of an obsessive baker on a quest for the perfect loaf.
Theatre lovers will find experiences to treasure in the Festival’s 2022 calendar, including a new, fully staged production of the Tony and Oscar-winning musical The Sound of Music, copresented with Virginia Opera, with the beloved score (featuring such favorites as “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Do-Re-Mi” and more) performed live by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, led by Rob Fisher. The Aquila Theatre, hailed as “classically trained, modernly hip” by The New York Times, will perform their acclaimed staging of the classic American story, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; and the innovative, interactive In(HEIR)itance Project turns community conversations into compelling theatre, addressing issues of race, economy, and justice.
One of the cornerstones of the Festival, the Virginia International Tattoo celebrates its own 25th Anniversary, returning to Norfolk’s Scope Arena with a spectacular display of music and might featuring hundreds of performers from around the world – including a musical tribute to the “March King” John Phillip Souza and an emotional celebration of the resilience of the human spirit. Join world-class performers from across the US and beyond for a spectacular celebration of Caribbean music as the Virginia International PANFest returns to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, and the Virginia Arts Festival’s own Rhythm Project will also perform an outdoor showcase concert.
Join world-class performers from across the US and beyond for a spectacular celebration of Caribbean music as the Virginia International PANFest returns to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, and the Virginia Arts Festival’s own Rhythm Project will also perform an outdoor showcase concert.
Tickets for Virginia Arts Festival performances are on sale on January 20 at vafest.org or by phone at 757-282-2822.
Virginia Arts Festival follows the recommendations of the CDC and local/regional health authorities regarding COVID safeguards; for more information, see the Festival website at vafest.org
About Virginia Arts Festival
The Virginia Arts Festival celebrates its 25th Anniversary in 2022. The largest and most prestigious international performing arts organization in southeastern Virginia, Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the region’s cultural scene, presenting great performers from around the world and making this historic region a cultural destination for visitors from across the United States and around the world. Over the past 25 years, the Festival has welcomed visitors from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 25 foreign countries. The Festival has presented over 1,438 performances, free community events, and student matinees and workshops with a reach of over 1.2 million attendees. Each season, millions more are reached through international broadcasts of Festival performances on American Public Radio’s Performance Today, nationally on PBS TV, and regionally on WHRO TV. Over 32% of ticket sales come from outside the region, bringing tens of thousands of visitors to local museums and attractions and filling regional hotels and restaurants. The estimated annual economic impact of the Festival exceeds $25 million.
Artist-led, Virginia Arts Festival places artistic excellence above all. The Festival’s artistic leadership includes Robert W. Cross, the Festival’s Executive Director / Perry Artistic Director, a Grammy Award-winning percussionist; Olga Kern, the Festival’s Connie and Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music, a Van Cliburn Gold Medal awarded pianist; and award-winning Broadway music director Rob Fisher is the Goode Family Director of Music Theater and American Songbook. Since 1997, some of the world’s most prestigious artists have graced the Festival stages; acclaimed ballet and dance companies Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Mark Morris Dance Company, Dance
Theater of Harlem, Pilobolus, Netherlands Dance Theater, Cuban National Ballet, and Martha Graham Dance Company; great orchestras including Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music with conductors including Leonard Slatkin, Lorin Maazel, and Julius Rudel; renowned vocalists and opera stars including Renée Fleming, Eric Owens, Ryan Speedo Green, Kristen Chenoweth, and Audra McDonald; instrumentalists and ensembles Itzak Perlman, Midori, Joshua Bell, Yo-Yo Ma, Alisa Weilerstein, Gil Shaham, Olga Kern, André-Michel Schub, Yuja Wang, Tokyo String Quartet, and Emerson String Quartet; renowned theatre companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theater of Scotland; and contemporary music icons including Herbie Hancock, Gary Burton, Chic Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Rhiannon Giddens, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Hornsby, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Allison Krauss, Norah Jones, Chris Thile, Jake Shimabukuro, Wood Brothers, Bela Fleck, Ravii Shankar and Anoushka Shankar.
The Festival has presented numerous world and regional premieres and regularly commissions’ new dance and music works. Notable new works include Dance Theater of Harlem (Passage, 2019; Claudia Schreier, choreographer, and Jessie Montgomery, composer; and Brahms Variations, 2016; Robert Garland, choreographer); Mark Morris Dance Group (Romeo and Juliet, Mark Morris choreographer), new chamber works by composers Ellen Taaffe Zwillich (Piano Trio 2008) and Chen Yi (Chinese Ancient Dance Suite and Night Thoughts, 2002); new works for opera by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Mark Campbell, (Rappahannock County, 2011), Pocahontas Chamber Opera by composer Linda Tutis Haugen and librettist Joan Vail Thorne, Kept, a ghost story by composer Kristen Kuster and librettist Megan Levad, and a pair of one-act chamber operas that will premiere in June 2022: Briar Patch, Nkeiru Okoye composer and Carmen Moore librettist; and Companionship, Rachel J. Peters, composer/librettist.
Since 1997, one of the anchor events of the Festival is the Virginia International Tattoo. Inspired by the grand traditions of Tattoos in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England, the Virginia International Tattoo had big dreams. Led by J. Scott Jackson, the Virginia International Tattoo has become the largest such event in North America and numbers among the largest Tattoos in the world. Selected by the American Bus Association—the nation’s premier travel organization—as the top event in the United States in 2016, the Virginia International Tattoo has drawn visitors from across the country and around the world and has welcomed performers from 31 nations. There simply is no comparable experience in the United States and no greater voice for expressing our nation’s gratitude to those who serve. Some of the most memorable of the 25 past Virginia International Tattoos have saluted the Tuskegee Airmen, Vietnam Veterans, Medal of Honor recipients, and women in the military. Each show is a moving lesson in history and patriotism for every generation, including the more than 20,000 students who attend the Tattoo every year.
Virginia Arts Festival is committed to honoring, presenting, and nurturing artists who reflect the diversity of the communities we serve. Since 2004, the Festival has presented a wide range of performances in Norfolk’s historic Attucks Theater, the oldest remaining theater in the U.S. that was envisioned, designed, and built by African Americans. In 2019 the Festival curated a 100th
Anniversary celebration season in the Attucks Theatre and participated in creating WHRO’s Emmy Award-winning public television documentary The Historic Attucks Theater, Apollo of the South.
One of the Festival’s great successes is our commitment to our local arts community. The Festival regularly partners with Chrysler Museum, Feldman Chamber Music Society, Ferguson Center for the Arts, Norfolk State University Theater Company, Old Dominion University Ludwig Diehn School of Music, Sandler Center Foundation, Virginia Opera, Virginia Stage Company, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Tidewater Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, and Tidewater Classical Guitar Society.
Arts education is central to the mission of the Virginia Arts Festival. Since its creation in 1997, the Festival has reached more than half a million students, providing opportunities for students and educators that simply would not otherwise exist. Each year, the Festival reaches over 30,000 young people through student matinees, in-school performances, workshops, and masterclasses, offering life-changing opportunities to see and study with virtuoso performers. The Rhythm Project, a community engagement program of the Festival, is a world percussion program dedicated to nurturing self-esteem through individual and cooperative achievement. Eleven ensembles serve the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Portsmouth.
The Festival continues to receive national recognition for its artistic excellence, earning support from the Aaron Copland Fund, Surdna Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Capezio Foundation, Bank of America Neighborhood Builders, and the Hampton Roads Community Foundation.
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