Credit: Stella Olivier
S’busiso Shozi in William Kentridge’s SIBYL, slated for March 17 | Credit: Stella Olivier

“Many of the works this season will bring joy and delight, and others will inspire reflection and stir debate,” said Cal Performances Executive Director Jeremy Geffen of today’s announcement of the organization’s 2022–2023 season.

“We are committed to presenting this wide range of artistic expression on our stages because the performing arts have an unparalleled power to promote empathy. Our community wants the arts to engage in important conversations, and to bring us together as we see and feel the world through the experiences of others.”

The forward-looking UC Berkeley organization also goes way back (in New World terms) in history. Cal Performances dates from April 18, 1906, when actress Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theater to help rebuild public morale after the San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Over the next century, Cal Performances grew to become the largest multidisciplinary performing arts presenter in Northern California, and one of the largest university-based arts presenters in the United States.

A year after the canceled 2020–2021 season, Cal Performances presented a full season in 2021–22, of which there are still performances left going through May 7, including the Angélique Kidjo, Tetzlaff Quartet, Daniil Trifonov, Danish String Quartet, The Tallis Scholars, and Lila Downs.

Vienna Philharmonic
The Vienna Philharmonic will be conducted by Christian Thielemann in three concerts at Cal | Courtesy Cal Performances

The next season will include new works, including three Cal Performances co-commissions and 20 premieres, as well as numerous rising artists making their debuts. The organization presents some 70 programs in four venues — Zellerbach Hall, Zellerbach Playhouse, Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, and First Congregational Church of Berkeley.

Geffen told SF Classical Voice how he weighed various factors in programming the season:

When we’re piecing together a season, of course the goal is to present world-class art, but on a deeper level, we really want to start a conversation, to create an understanding. I first fell in love with the performing arts as a child learning to play the viola, and what amazed me then was what still amazes me to this day, which is the idea that the arts can create understanding without needing to articulate directly what that lesson is.

Through the performing arts, we’re engaging in conversations that span centuries and experiencing these same sensations and awakenings that so many others have before us. Often, we’re giving life to these expressions and emotions that really don’t have any other communication outlet. And we don’t just experience these revelations within ourselves; we’re experiencing them in communion with the generations of people who’ve heard and seen these works before us, the people sitting right next to us, and the people who will hear and see these works in the future.

So, when I approach programming, it’s with the idea of examining major themes in our lives and deepening our empathy, but in a non-didactic way — through harnessing the expressive power of the performing arts.

Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Leonidas Kavakos
Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax, and Leonidas Kavakos will perform on Jan. 25, 2023, in Zellerbach Hall | Credit: Nigel Parry

There are many special events, some organized around such themes as ILLUMINATIONS: HUMAN AND MACHINE, with six performances of core programming designed to provide a different perspective on the theme.

A Steve Reich Celebration will honor Reich’s 86th birthday, featuring two landmark works by the composer: Music for 18 Musicians and Tehillim; attention is called to Bay Area premieres by Angélica Negrón and Nathalie Joachim; the West Coast premiere of Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part, a collaboration with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw, who also performs as guest vocalist; and the Danish String Quartet performs the Bay Area premiere of a new work by Anna Thorvaldsdottir, co-commissioned by Cal Performances for the quartet’s ongoing Doppelgänger Project

Among debuts: soprano Ying Fang, cellist Zlatomir Fung, pianist Seong-Jin Cho, and violinists Alexi Kenney and Rachell Ellen Wong.

Of William Kentridge’s SIBYL, a chamber opera that also incorporates film and animation, which will be performed in two parts, the first on March 17 as part of Cal Performances’ 2023 Gala, Geffen says:

I, like most, knew William Kentridge primarily as a visual artist, an animator especially. He’s such a prolific creator, and as we share a country of origin, I knew his work to really poignantly reflect the rich culture and the challenging historical and social landscape South Africa grapples with.

In recent years his theatrical/directorial side has become better known, though he’s been keenly interested in classical music, opera, and the music of South Africa for decades. Needless to say, I was intrigued to see how his deep artistic sensibilities would map onto the deeply layered subject of this most recent project. So, in September of 2019, I flew to Rome to see the world premiere of SIBYL.

I arrived on a Friday afternoon, saw the performance that night, and was so struck by the piece (as well as hobbled by jet lag) that I returned to the theater on Saturday to see it again shortly before heading home.

When I saw SIBYL performed, so many aspects of the production stood out to me — there was great storytelling and communal music-making, but there was also abstraction and humor. It was so absurd, and yet so seductive, so emotionally powerful. As I note in our season announcement video, it brought to life for me Wagner’s concept of Gesamtkunstwerk, the totality of art.

As always, there will be famous artists from around the world, returning to Berkeley or making their debuts, plus orchestras, dance companies, chamber music, and more. Some of the highlights:


— Aug. 4
Encuentros Orchestra; Members of YOLA (Youth Orchestra Los Angeles); Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; esperanza spalding, bass, vocals
Giancarlo Castro, New Work (Bay Area premiere)
esperanza spalding, song set
Dvořák, Symphony No. 9

— Oct. 21
San Francisco Symphony; Esa–Pekka Salonen, conductor; Bertrand Chamayou, piano     
Mussorgsky, Night on Bald Mountain
Liszt, Totentanz, S. 126
Berlioz, Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14

— March 5, 2023
The English Concert and The Clarion Choir; Harry Bicket, conductor        
Handel, Solomon (complete oratorio, performed in concert)

— March 7–9
Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra; Christian Thielemann, conductor
Schoenberg, Verklärte Nacht for string orchestra, Op. 4
R. Strauss, Eine Alpensinfonie, Op. 64
Mendelssohn, The Hebrides Overture, Op. 26
Debussy, La mer
Brahms, Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op.73
Bruckner, Symphony No. 8 in C Minor

— March 26
Zürich Chamber Orchestra; Daniel Hope, violin   
Elgar, Introduction and Allegro for Strings, Op. 47
Mendelssohn, Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra in D minor

Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Miami City Ballet
Miami City Ballet, with Emily Bromberg and Renan Rerdeiro in George Balanchine’s Emeralds | Credit: Alexander Iziliaev


— Sept. 23–25
Miami City Ballet
Balanchine, Jewels (music: Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky)

— Oct. 29–30
Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan   
Cheng Tsung-lung, 13 Tongues (Music: Lim Giong)

— Dec. 9–11
Boy Blue                        
Kenrick “H2O” Sandy, Blak Whyte Gray: A Hip Hop Dance Triple Bill (Music: Michael “Mikey J” Asante)

— Feb. 17–19, 2023
Mark Morris Dance Group
The Look of Love, an evening of dance to the music of Burt Bacharach 

— Feb. 25
Step Afrika!
Song and dance rituals performed by Black fraternities and sororities since the early 1900s

— April 11–16
 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

— June 9–11
Eifman Ballet
Boris Eifman, Russian Hamlet (Music: Beethoven, Mahler)


— Jan. 21
Joyce DiDonato: Eden                                         
Il Pomo d’Oro; Zefira Valova, conductor
Marie Lambert-Le Bihan, stage director
John Torres, lighting designer
Eden (music: Handel, Gluck, Cavalli, Wagner, Mahler, Ives, Copland and Rachel Portman; Cal Performances co-commission)

— April 28–29
Michel van der Aa’s Blank Out, with soprano Miah Persson and baritone Roderick Williams

Chamber Music

— Sept. 25
Dover Quartet
Haydn, String Quartet in C Major, Op. 76, No. 3, “Emperor”
Amy Beach, Quartet for Strings, Op. 89
Mendelssohn, String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, No. 3

— Oct. 14, Recital
Maxim Vengerov, violin; Polina Osetinskaya, piano
J.S. Bach, Violin Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014
Beethoven, Violin Sonata in A Major, Op. 47, “Kreutzer”
Shostakovich (arr. Dreznin), From Jewish Folk Poetry, Op. 79
Tchaikovsky, Souvenir d’un lieu cher, Op. 42; Valse-Scherzo in C Major, Op. 34

— Nov. 20
Zlatomir Fung, cello; Janice Carissa, piano                               
Charles Ives, Selections from 114 Songs, arr. for cello and piano
Dvorák, Rondo for Cello and Piano in G Minor, Op. 94
Beethoven, Cello Sonata in A Major, Op. 69
Judith Weir, Unlocked for solo cello
George Walker, Sonata for Cello and Piano

— Dec. 4
Takács Quartet
Haydn, String Quartet in F Major, Op. 77, No. 2, “Lobkowitz”
Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, String Quartet in E-flat Major
Beethoven, String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 127

— Dec. 8
Seong-Jin Cho, piano                                          
Handel, Suite in F Major, HWV 427; Suite in E Major, HWV 430, “The Harmonious Blacksmith”
Brahms, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, Op. 24; Selections from 8 Klavierstücke, Op. 76
Schumann, Symphonic Etudes, Op. 13

— Jan. 22, 2023
Joyce Yang, piano                                                
Tchaikovsky, Selections from The Seasons, Op. 37a
Rachmaninoff, Selections from Preludes, Op. 32
Olivier Messiaen, Selected works
Stravinsky, Agosti; The Firebird Suite

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