From the “people’s diva” and a rock icon to a powerful jazz virtuoso and a Scottish superstar, these women put their individual stamps on music, whatever they may sing. And in the year ahead, they’ll be performing on a stage near you.
Big female voices – and personalities – will dominate the 14th season at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts. Announced today, the upcoming 2015-16 calendar also features several well-known performers (such as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, opening night Sept. 21) and popular favorites (cellist Yo-Yo Ma, May 11, 2016) as well as a few hand-picked surprises (Sankai Juku’s avant garde Butoh dance theater, Oct. 13).
But the overarching theme that unites the diverse schedule is an all-star lineup of women.
“We have an exceptional number of female vocalists in all the genres,” said Don Roth, the Mondavi Center’s executive director. “We conscientiously built on that when we were putting the series together.”
Topping that list is world-renown soprano Renée Fleming, who will perform a recital March 2.
“Her last visit to Mondavi was 2005,” said Roth. “She actually does very few recitals. Obviously, she’s one of the people we’re thinking of when we say we have great female singers. She’s one of the best anywhere.”
Featured on the season brochure cover, jazz virtuoso Cécile McLorin Salvant makes her Mondavi debut April 29, 2016. A 2014 Grammy nominee for her U.S. debut album “Woman Child,” the 25-year-old French American singer is one of the fastest rising stars in jazz.
Lisa Fischer, rock’s most famous backup singer, steps out front with her Grand Baton band Feb. 14. Featured in the Oscar-winning documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” Fischer will squeeze in this Valentine’s Day show between rock commitments.
“We had a date for her in the fall, but we had to change because she was going on tour with the Rolling Stones,” said Jeremy Ganter, Mondavi Center’s director of programming.
Julie Fowlis’ voice may sound familiar, too, even if people think they don’t know her, Roth said. “She’s the singing voice of the heroine in the movie ‘Brave.’ ”
Fowlis will perform three shows in the Mondavi’s Vanderhoef Studio Theatre, Oct. 22-24.
“She’s not known here, but she’s a superstar in Scotland,” Roth said. “She’s a wonderful singer. “
Several more strong female examples thread through the upcoming season, and not just in vocal music. Twyla Twarp Dance Company celebrates its 50th anniversary with a dance showcase (Oct. 6). Author Zadie Smith (Nov. 6) and “Serial” podcast creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder (March 7) anchor the speaker schedule. Brilliant pianist Yuja Wang plays Mozart with the Russian National Orchestra (Feb. 20). Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin strums Spanish and Italian works with the New York Chamber Soloists (April 2). Shakespearean actress Tina Packer performs “Women of Will” in long or condensed versions (April 9-10).
Plus there are plenty more women among the 62 different artists on the schedule so far. More performances will be added later this spring, said Ganter, who hopes to attract some comedians for one-night shows.
This upcoming season should be another step in the Mondavi Center’s evolution, Roth said. The Shrem Museum of Art is scheduled to open in late 2016, across from the center’s theater complex. Patrons will get a taste Oct. 10 when modern string quartet Ethel performs “Documeria,” a multi-media project featuring more than 3,000 vintage photos of 1970s America shown on the Shrem’s outdoor projection wall.
Roth expects the new museum to draw more people to the Mondavi’s doors.
“The next three to five years, we have a chance to really turn (Mondavi Center) into a destination where people visit us even when there’s not a show,” Roth said. “We could be like (New York City’s) Lincoln Center or (Los Angeles’) Music Center. People will get in the habit of being here, a place where they can hang out and enjoy the arts around them.”
Current subscribers should receive their 2015-16 brochure by mail Friday, Roth said. Deadline for renewals is May 30. Single tickets to performances go on sale Aug. 7.
“Overall, the new season is pretty much the same size and scale as (the current) season,” Roth said. “For the first time, we have a (whole) season sponsor, Western Health Advantage. That’s very exciting to us.”
Subscriptions contribute about 65 percent of the Mondavi Center’s budget, he noted. Currently, the center has about 2,200 households as series subscribers. Jackson Hall, the Mondavi’s main venue, holds 1,801 patrons for most events, 1,673 for orchestras.
With more than 1,000 subscriptions, the five-show Orchestra package is by far the center’s most popular series, Roth added. “Our colleagues elsewhere are always amazed at how well our classical programs do, but it’s a big (draw) for people here.”
Including the Russian National Orchestra, the upcoming season features all return engagements. Handel & Hadyn Society, the nation’s oldest classical ensemble, celebrates its bicentennial with a Oct. 17 visit. For the 13th year, the San Francisco Symphony returns to the Mondavi (Nov. 12) with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Violinist Pinchas Zukerman conducts and appears as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Jan. 23). Yet another conductor-violinist, Joshua Bell will do similar double duty with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields (March 5).
“In addition to a lot of extraordinary women, we also have a lot of great strings this season,” Roth said. “Some people, we really pushed to be part of this season – such as Renée, Yo-Yo Ma and Cécile. Overall, we got pretty much everyone we wanted.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington.
2015-16 AT MONDAVI CENTER
What: The Mondavi announces its 14th season lineup and season subscriptions. The season’s first performance is Sept. 21.
Where: Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis
When: Deadline for renewals: May 30; single tickets on sale Aug. 7. Season opens Sept. 21
Information: www.mondaviarts.org Ticket office is open noon-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, closed Sunday; (866) 754-2787, (530) 754-5424.