A version of this story appears in the Sunday Life section of The Oklahoman.
Moscow Festival Ballet returns to Armstrong Auditorium
The Edmond venue also is featuring Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell, celebrated violinist Midori and Israel’s Haifa Symphony Orchestra in 2014.
EDMOND – A Russian ballet company, Israeli symphony orchestra and superstar Japanese-American violinist are among the diverse lineup of performers coming this year to Armstrong Auditorium.
“It’s one of our goals but it also makes us unique here is that you will generally see people that you don’t normally see. There are a lot of international groups that come to Armstrong as part of our mission. Our mission is to champion Oklahoma as a world-class center for the arts and bring those monumental cultural experiences here to the Heartland. So we do try to bring not only from New York but also from abroad as many cultural experiences as we can to the community,” said Shane Granger, Armstrong Auditorium house manager.
The theater’s 2014 series leaps into action with the Moscow Festival Ballet’s two-night stand, starting Monday night with the beloved “Sleeping Beauty,” set to Tchaikovsky’s soaring score and choreographed by Marius Petipa. On Tuesday night, the company will perform a ballet version of Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” with music by Leon Minkus and choreography by Petipa. The latter has not yet been performed at the Edmond concert hall.
This marks the fourth year the venue has hosted one of two alternating Russian ballet companies, the Moscow Festival Ballet and the Russian National Ballet Theatre, both run by former Bolshoi Ballet dancers Elena and Sergei Radchenko. Their performances are so popular the auditorium now books them for two nights instead of just one.
“It’s sort of become a tradition now: January is ballet month at Armstrong, and we’re happy to say it’s been a very great success. They’ve sold out every time they’ve come,” so we’ve just started booking them as a regular part of our series now,” Granger said. “I think Oklahomans love ballet … and these dancers are the real deal. They are world-class.”
Local and international
While its season begins in fall, eight of the auditorium’s 10 performances are still to come this year. This is the fourth season in the $20 million concert hall on the Herbert W. Armstrong College campus.
On Feb. 16, the college will showcase faculty members Mark Jenkins and Ryan Malone in a recital that will include Mozart, Handel, Brahms and more. The highlight will be their performance of Rachmaninoff’s “Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos.”
The Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel is on the slate for Feb. 27.
“This is the first time they’ve been on tour in North America, so obviously we’re very excited to have them. The Jewish community here is excited about them coming,” as well obviously. They’re well known in Israel for performing and highlighting Israeli-composed music,” Granger said.
Along with Mozart and Dvorak, the orchestra’s program will include Israeli composer Uri Bracha’s viola concerto “Melodies for Mount Carmel,” which will showcase premier violist Avshalom Sarid.
“Which is another interesting thing. You don’t get to see a lot of viola works. Obviously, the violin, the cello are the more popular ones,” Granger said.
Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell will play a return engagement March 11. The actor/singer is touring in support of his 2013 album “Simply Broadway” and will perform an intimate show featuring just him and a piano.
“We had such a strong response … the people who came were just amazed by him. He’s got such a magnificent voice and personality,” Granger said, adding the famed baritone performed at the Armstrong two seasons ago. “We’re thrilled to have him back this year.”
On March 18, world-renowned pianist Menahem Pressler, a German native who fled the Nazi regime in 1939 for Israel and later emigrated to the United States, will perform Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 595.”” with the New York Chamber Soloist Orchestra. A founding member of the celebrated Beaux Arts Trio, Pressler, 90, is still heralded for his artistry.
“He’s just one of the most exquisite music makers that you’ll find,” Granger said. “As far as his ability to make just really, really beautiful music, there’s no one like him.”
Another internationally acclaimed musician, Japanese-American violinist Midori will give a recital April 24 at the venue. The program will include Mozart, Beethoven, Bloch and Faure, and Midori will perform with just her longtime accompanist, pianist Özgür Aydin.
“It’s going to be her all night long, and that’s really rare. … This is an opportunity to see her in a really intimate setting,” Granger said, adding he was stunned when he saw Midori perform a 2011 concert with the Oklahoma City Philharmonic.
“She is, I would say without question, the top female violinist in the world. I don’t think anybody can come close to Midori as far as her star power.”
The season closes May 1 with the Armstrong College Choral Union – a chorus of student, faculty and community singers who have auditioned paired with professional soloists and orchestra – presenting an unabridged performance of Handel’s uplifting “Messiah.”
“We’re real excited about that. We did it a few years back at the college here and it was a big success. But this hall was not built yet,” Granger said. “So we’re anxious to perform ‘Messiah’ in this hall … with a pared-down chorus and orchestra the original way Handel intended it.”
Armstrong Auditorium 2014 schedule
The Armstrong Auditorium, 14400 S Bryant Road in Edmond, has eight performing arts events scheduled for its 2014 concert season. For more information, call 285-1010 or go to www.armstrongauditorium.org.
7:30 p.m. Monday: Moscow Festival Ballet’s “Sleeping Beauty.”
7:30 p.m. Tuesday: Moscow Festival Ballet’s “Don Quixote.”
3 p.m. Feb. 16: Jenkins-Malone Piano Duo.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 27: Haifa Symphony Orchestra of Israel.
7:30 p.m. March 11: Brian Stokes Mitchell “Simply Broadway.”
7:30 p.m. March 18: Menahem Pressler and the New York Chamber Soloist Orchestra.
7:30 p.m. April 24: “An Evening with Midori.”
7 p.m. May: “Messiah” by Herbert W. Armstrong College Choral Union.