Cal Performances :: Music, Dance, Theater :: University of California Berkeley



Cal Performances is the performing arts presenting, commissioning and producing organization based at the University of California, Berkeley. The origins of Cal Performances date from 1906, when stage actress Sarah Bernhardt appeared at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theater to help rebuild public morale after the devastating San Francisco earthquake and fire in April of that year.

Over the subsequent century, Cal Performances grew to become the largest, multi-discipline performing arts presenter in Northern California, and one of the largest university-based arts presenters in the United States. Traditional and non-traditional artists regularly appear on or near the UC Berkeley campus in the theaters and concert halls managed by Cal Performances, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Wynton Marsalis, Cecilia Bartoli, Bryn Terfel, Mark Morris, Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Merce Cunningham, Pina Bausch, Bill T. Jones, Peter Sellars, and Robert Lepage; as well as artists based in the San Francisco Bay Area like John Adams, Lou Harrison, Margaret Jenkins, Paul Dresher, Kronos Quartet, Joe Goode, Kaila Flexer, Jon Jang, and Sarah Cahill. Cal Performances is also instrumental in facilitating the touring of large ensembles from abroad, and has hosted such companies as the Grand Kabuki Theater of Japan, the Bolshoi and Kirov Ballet companies, Lyon Opera Ballet and Orchestra, the Kirov Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, the Berliner Ensemble, the Beijing People's Art Theater, the Gate Theater of Dublin, Les Arts Florissants, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, and Nederland Dans Theater, among others.

Cal Performances presents over 100 performances annually in five venues—Zellerbach Hall, Zellerbach Playhouse, Hertz Hall, and Wheeler Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, and First Congregational Church of Berkeley—and in site-specific locations and other spaces. The performances range among Modern and Classical Dance, Theater, Instrumental and Vocal Recital, Early Music, Opera, Chamber Music, Jazz, New Music, World Music, Dance & Theater, and a speaking series. Cal Performances serves some 300,000 patrons annually through performances and arts education, residency and community programs.

Cal Performances current Director is Matías Tarnopolsky, who assumed the directorship in August 2009.

Founding and Early Expansion

The San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 18, 1906 proved momentous to the rise of this arts institution in Berkeley. Sarah Bernhardt's landmark performance in Racine's Phèdre on May 17, 1906, was a testament to the restorative powers of the performing arts for the thousands of citizens who had been impacted by the earthquake, and the atmosphere of expectancy surrounding the appearance of "The Divine Sarah" was rewarded by her decision to donate the proceeds of her performance to the Emergency Relief Fund. Bernhardt's wild popularity combined with the Greek Theatre's spectacular design and atmosphere, set in motion the tradition of performing arts presentation in Berkeley. In the words of theater director Samuel Hume, it was the event that "placed the Greek Theatre definitely in the field of the commercial theatre."

William Dallam Armes, Chair of the Musical and Dramatic Committee, realized that the Theatre's large seating area (of about 6,500) made it economically feasible to invite big-name artists of national and international standing such as Bernhardt. Major stars of the time such as Margaret Anglin and Maude Adams brought notoriety to the campus through the Hearst Greek Theatre, in conjunction; the theatre also burnished their reputations as well.

Soon after the Greek Theatre opened, University faculty and administration realized the need for a smaller stage suited to productions requiring an intimate setting. In 1917, the campus gained a 1,050-seat (now reduced to 700) auditorium with the opening of Wheeler Hall, in the heart of the university campus. Wheeler Hall's auditorium immediately became a vital performance venue overseen by the Musical and Dramatic Committee, where it was possible to increase the variety of chamber music and recital programs offered, as well as drama, lectures and other entertainments.

Though members of the Drama, Music and Dance departments realized that Wheeler Auditorium was not the ideal venue for the performing arts on all occasions, several uncompleted projects and, later, the financial strains of The Great Depression delayed the completion of a venue designed for such performances. The opening of Alfred Hertz Memorial Hall in 1958, with its formidable collection of organs and superior acoustics, was marked by the May T. Morrison Music Festival, a presentation of 11 programs between April 15 and May 22, 1958, presented by the Committee on Drama, Lectures and Music. Music critic Alfred Frankenstein claimed Hertz Hall to be the finest auditorium in California.

Seeing that Wheeler Auditorium and Hertz Hall were not suited for presenting drama and dance, Zellerbach Hall was built in 1968. Zellerbach Hall consists of two main theaters: the 2,015-seat Auditorium (today known as Zellerbach Hall) and the 500-seat, multiform Playhouse. The Playhouse was conceived as a laboratory in which students can learn all aspects of the dramatic arts. Movable seating allows for numerous formations of the stage. The stage of the Auditorium is equipped for all major forms of theater, opera, music and dance productions, and, with the aid of a movable acoustic shell, the magnitude of the stage can be scaled back to suit chamber or recital music programs. Zellerbach has become Cal Performances' main venue for presenting various genres of the performing arts as well as lecture events, and is one of the most well-appointed theaters in the United States.

Leadership History

Cal Performances descends from a lineage of people and organizations both within and outside the committees to make UC Berkeley an epicenter for the performing arts. Phoebe Apperson Hearst and her son, William Randolph Hearst, first facilitated the university's ambitions through their donation of funds that enabled the erecting of Hearst Greek Theatre. What the Greek Theatre made possible was realized through numerous persons who served as Chair of the multi-monikered Committee of faculty members that oversaw performing arts presentation on campus.

A History of Chairs and Directors, Listed by Date of Leadership:
William Dallam Armes (1903-1918), Associate Professor of American Literature, Director of the Greek Theatre and Chair of the Musical and Dramatic Committee: Armes was responsible for moving the Hearst Greek Theatre from the realm of campus functions to a nationally known stage for renowned artists. After the success of Sarah Bernhardt's first visit, Armes rallied to bring the top artists to the Greek Theatre.

Samuel J. Hume (1918-1924), Director of the Greek Theatre and Chair of the Musical and Dramatic Committee: As a student at UC Berkeley, Hume had developed strong roots in theater. Succeeding Armes after his death, Hume established year-round programming for the Greek Theatre, Wheeler Hall and Harmon Gymnasium, as well as various off-campus sites. He created fall and spring seasons of modern and classic drama productions at Wheeler Hall, and created the Prize Play Contest to stimulate new work among California playwrights, enlisting George Jean Nathan, Eugene O'Neill and Susan Glaspell to judge the entries. Hume also organized the Western Association of Art Museum Directors to route the touring of exhibits to the western states.

William Popper (1924-1945), Chair of the Committee on Music and Drama: Following Hume's departure, the University merged the Greek Theatre management and the Musical and Dramatic Committee, to form the Committee on Music and Drama. The eight-member group of faculty members selected Popper as chair and, illicitly, the director. During Popper's tenure, due to the rise of campus art clubs, there was an increase in the number of artists visiting campus and the expanded use of the University space for performance. The new Committee established basic ideals and procedures, with priority of performing arts presentation set upon education. Popper's assiduous record-keeping kept the program on budget, even throughout the Depression and World War II. He was the first director to suggest that an endowment be established to supplement the budget, in order to reduce the pressure for financial success.

Betty Connors (1945-1979), Director of the Committee for Arts and Lectures: Following suggestions that the campus have a distinct concert presenting unit, the University approved the position of Director (initially "Secretary") through the University Extension; the first salaried position devoted exclusively to the management of concerts on campus. The first person to fill the position was Betty Connors, a recent UC Berkeley graduate of the Department of Music. Throughout her tenure, Connors sought to prioritize the educational aspects of the performing arts while also steadily increasing the scope of arts presentation. Lectures by poets and writers, including Thomas Mann, Dylan Thomas and W.H. Auden, came to the fore, and the campus saw a broadening of musical tastes as represented by folk, jazz and early-music events. Connors was also able to facilitate the expansion of the performing arts program thanks to the addition of Hertz and Zellerbach Halls. The artists she brought to campus included harpsichordists Ralph Kirkpatrick and Gustav Leonhardt, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, pianists Glenn Gould and Rudolf Serkin, soprano Birgit Nilsson, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, French mime Marcel Marceau, theater artists Jean-Louis Barrault and Madeleine Renaud, Jerzy Grotowski's Polish Theatre Lab, sitarist Ravi Shankar, Maurice Béjart's Ballet of the 20th Century, the Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Merce Cunningham Dance Company, and jazz artists Dave Brubeck and Louis Armstrong, among many, many others. Also during Connors's tenure, the organization was renamed the Committee for Arts and Lectures—or "CAL"—in 1959.

Susan Farr (1980-1986), Director of Cal Performances: With 35 years of Betty Connors's success preceding her, Farr believed her priority for the campus was to sustain the existing presenting program. She sought out resources to meet the increasing costs of presenting, and negotiated contracts with Bill Graham Presents and other promoters of popular music for the use of the Hearst Greek Theatre. Farr also supported the touring of contemporary dance ensembles and brought to Berkeley a variety of troupes including Bella Lewitzky Dance Company, Lar Lubovitch Dance Company and Pilobolus Dance Theater, in addition to classical dance ensembles. Cal Performances, as it then began to be called, introduced Bay Area audiences to numerous folk dance and music ensembles. Additionally, Farr founded the Student Committee for the Arts to encourage campus participation in Cal Performances.

Robert Cole (1986-2009), Director of Cal Performances: Cole, a musician and conductor, has been the Director of Cal Performances since 1986, selected by a committee of the Academic Senate who felt that both the University and Cal Performances would be best served by the appointment of an individual with a specialty in the field. Cole's appointment relieved the former faculty Committee for Arts and Lectures of programmatic responsibility and moved artistic authority to the newly hired Director of Cal Performances. Chancellor Michael Heyman established a new advisory committee to guide Cole and appointed former Executive Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Haas School of Business, Earl Cheit, to chair.

For Cole, one of the chief attractions of the position of Director of Cal Performances was the organization's proximity to the UC Berkeley Department of Music. Cole made it a priority to seek the music faculty's advice in expanding the presenting program on campus and, in particular, enlisted their ideas to develop a festival of early music. In 1990, Cole founded the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition of early music, now a biennial weeklong festival presented in association with the UC Berkeley Department of Music, the San Francisco Early Music Society and Early Music America.

By establishing long-term relationships with university faculty and important artists, commissioning and producing new works and discovering new talent, Cole positioned Berkeley to become a major arts hub. His programmatic philosophy is reflected in the relationship that Cal Performances has built with Mark Morris Dance Group. Since making its Cal Performances debut in 1987, Mark Morris Dance Group has presented a string of world premieres: Candleflowerdance (2005); Rock of Ages (2004); All Fours, Something Lies Beyond the Scene and Kolam (2003); Falling Down Stairs and Rhymes with Silver (1997); and World Power (1995). In 2001, MMDG delivered an encore presentation of Rameau's comic opera-ballet Platée as well as a preview performance of V. Four Saints in Three Acts had its American debut in 2000; and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas had its West Coast premiere in 1995. Most recently, Cal Performances co-commissioned and presented the American premiere of King Arthur (2006) and the West Coast premieres of Mozart Dances (2007) and Romeo & Juliet, On Motifs of Shakespeare (2008).

Under Cole's leadership, Cal Performances has commissioned or co-commissioned new work from artists including Peter Sellars; choreographers Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, Bill T. Jones and Pascal Rioult; the Kronos Quartet; actor/director Robert Lepage; and storyteller/musician Laurie Anderson. Notable commissions and world premieres presented by Cole include John Adams's song-play, I Was Looking at the Ceiling, and Then I Saw the Sky, with libretto by UC Berkeley poet June Jordan, directed by Peter Sellars (1995); and 1996's Nur Du (Only You) by German expressionist choreographer Pina Bausch and her Tanztheater Wuppertal. In 2004, Cal Performances hosted the world premiere of Silk Road, co-commissioned with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project. The 2008/09 season alone featured four projects co-commissioned by the organization: Mark Morris's Romeo & Juliet (2008); Laurie Anderson's Homeland (2008); Aviya Kopelman's Widows and Lovers (2007), performed by Kronos Quartet; and Merce Cunningham Dance Company's BIPED, which Cal Performances co-commissioned and premiered in 1999.

Cole has spotted and presented numerous artists before their rise to current popularity. In 1991 Cole presented the mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, then a little-known singer who did not fill Hertz Hall when she made her West Coast recital debut, who today is one of the most sought-after stars on the opera stage. Among the artists Cole presented in their first U.S. or West Coast appearances early in their careers are Bryn Terfel, Ian Bostridge, Maxim Vengerov and Vadim Repin, and Jonathan Lemalu.

One of the biggest changes at Cal Performances during Cole's tenure has been the expansion of its education and community programs. University faculty often partner with Cal Performances to conceive in-depth cultural, historical and political investigations built around the performing arts program, designed to supplement graduate and undergraduate studies.

To carry out the ambitions that Cole envisioned for the campus, with the support of the University and key patrons, Cole initiated the formation of a Board of Trustees to enable Cal Performances to increase fundraising capacity and to provide the structure for long-term stability and continuity. Cal Performances' Board of Trustees convened on the stage of Zellerbach Hall in December 1996 for its inaugural meeting under the chairmanship of Earl Cheit.

Cole has been recognized within campus and worldwide for his achievements at Cal Performances. David Littlejohn wrote, "Cole's programming of Cal Performances has been more adventurous than Lincoln Center's and broader in scope than that of the Brooklyn Academy of Music." In 1997 UC Berkeley Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien awarded Cole the Berkeley Citation, the campus's highest administrative award. In 1995 Cole was made Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by France's Minister of Culture and Francophilia, and he received the William Dawson Award for Programmatic Excellence from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in 1998.

In 2007, Cole announced his retirement, effective at the end of the 2008/2009 season.

Current Leadership

Matías Tarnopolsky has served as Director of Cal Performances since August 2009. At the start of his tenure, he outlined three major artistic goals: creating important orchestral residency programs, developing creative partnerships with depth and breadth, and nurturing new audiences. Intent on deepening the relationship between the world's greatest orchestras, the Northern California cultural community, and the UC Berkeley campus through lectures, master classes, and extended programming, an ambitious orchestra residency program was launched with the Vienna Philharmonic and has now grown to include residencies with , Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra, Esa Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra. In his first season, Tarnopolsky launched Ojai North!, an artistic partnership with the legendary Ojai Music Festival, which has brought to Cal Performances artistic curators such including Dawn Upshaw, Peter Sellars, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Mark Morris. To nurture new audiences, Tarnopolsky created the Fall Free for All—an annual day-long festival that welcomes more than 13,000 people to explore and enjoy an impressive range of Cal Performances' music, dance, and theater presentations, free of charge, across the UC Berkeley campus.

An experienced artistic leader, Matías Tarnopolsky now leads an institution acknowledged as one of the top presenting and producing organizations in the world situated on the campus of the nation's finest public university. As Director, Tarnopolsky oversees all aspects of approximately 125 performances each year to audiences numbering 150,000, in addition to world-class educational programs that reach more than 40,000 people annually.

A classically trained musician, Tarnopolsky has held senior leadership positions with the New York Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony orchestras in addition to working at London's BBC Radio 3, BBC Symphony, and BBC Proms. As Vice-President, Artistic Planning, of the New York Philharmonic, he was instrumental in planning the seasons of transition between Music Directors Lorin Maazel and Alan Gilbert, expanding the programming with adventurous audience-development initiatives, and implementing new media activities for the orchestra. As Director of Programming, and later Senior Director of Artistic Planning, at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), he worked closely on orchestra season planning with Music Director Daniel Barenboim and was responsible for Symphony Center Presents, the CSO's prominent presenting series. He also developed the CSO's new music series, MusicNOW; brought the West-Eastern Divan Workshop and Orchestra to Chicago; created significant audience development programs and collaborative projects with major cultural and educational partners (including the University of Chicago and the Art Institute of Chicago); programmed the CSO's training orchestra, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago; and led the artistic planning of the CSO's education and community programs.

A clarinet player since the age of eleven, Matías Tarnopolsky received bachelor's and master's degrees in music and musicology, respectively, from the University of London's King's College. He serves on the boards of New Music USA (previously the American Music Center), the Kia Ora Foundation, the Barenboim-Said Foundation, the Overseers of the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Executive Committee of the Avery Fisher Artist Program.

Notable Artists and Performances

Over the past 25 years, Cal Performances has forged lasting relationships with numerous artists and organizations, discovering new talent, presenting premieres and commissioning new works. The organization was enjoyed collaborations with Yo-Yo Ma, Mark Morris, Laurie Anderson, Merce Cunningham, Peter Sellers, Jordi Savall, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert Lepage, among many others. Cal Performances has also forged decades-long relationships with several dance companies, including Mark Morris Dance Group, which has premiered a number of its works on the Zellerbach stage since its first performance in 1987 and has returned at least once yearly since 1994; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which first performed on the Cal Performances stage in 1968 and has come to be presented by the organization in more performances each year than any other venue outside New York; and Merce Cunningham Dance Company, with whom Cal Performances recently presented Craneway Event, a site-specific work held at the landmark former Ford assembly in Richmond, CA. Over the years Cal Performances has also fortified an artistic relationship with Chinese performing organizations such as the National Ballet of China and the Beijing People's Art Theater and Russian arts organizations including the Bolshoi, Kirov, Georgia, Eifman and Moishev dance companies.

Cal Performances' tradition of presenting landmark performances began with Sarah Bernhardt in 1906 and has steadily continued. In addition to the above mentioned premieres, Cal Performances has presented groundbreaking performances such as the American premiere of Alessandro Striggio's long-lost Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno in 40 and 60 parts, the largest known contrapuntal choral work in Western music, rediscovered in France by UC Berkeley musicologist Davitt Moroney. Kate van Orden, also a professor of music at UC Berkeley, discovered the score and drawings for Le Carrousel du Roi, an equestrian ballet originally created by cavalry master Antoine de Plyuvinet for the King Louis XIII in 1612. The pageantry including 21 horses and riders was presented in 2000 and 2002. The Ming Dynasty Opera, The Peony Pavillion, has been presented on two separate occasions in different productions—the first, in 1999, was an avant-garde production by Peter Sellars co-commissioned by Cal Performances; while the 2006 production was a nine-hour, 27-scene spectacle performed by the Suzhou Kun Opera Theatre of Jiangsu Province.

General Questions:

Ticket Office: 510.642.9988

Website Comments:

© Cal Performances, U.C. Regents, 1998 - 2014
UC Berkeley