What’s coming to Dayton’s performing arts scene in 2017

The 2017-2018 season will feature both time-tested and up-and-coming artists.

There’s audible excitement in the Schuster Center’s Mead Theatre each New Year’s Eve when it comes time to announce a new Dayton Performing Arts Alliance season to the 2,000-plus audience members.

Taking the stage for the major announcement were the DPAA’s President and CEO Paul Helfrich along with Dayton Philharmonic Music Director Neal Gittleman, Dayton Ballet Artistic Director Karen Russo Burke and Dayton Opera Artistic Director Tom Bankston.

“There’s usually a reaction when we mention notable titles — a particular opera or ballet,” Helfrich says. “There’s often applause and you hear a buzz in the crowd. We always enjoy hearing that.”

Gittleman says the annual announcement turns all of the planning, thinking and dreaming into something tangible that can thrill the audience.

“The only thing better is when the season actually begins, and people can see and hear our programming ideas onstage,” he said.

The five-minute announcement represents more than a year of hard work and planning on the part of the artistic directors and a DPAA program committee charged with putting the final stamp of approval on an upcoming season. Chair of that committee is William Henry Caldwell.

“About 12 of us meet throughout the year,” Caldwell said. “Our job is to sit around a table, hear the wish lists of the various artistic directors and think about the ways the three organizations can collaborate. Even though we do plan individual programs as well, it’s really all about the collaboration. The key thing is to allow us to use the forces in each organization. If we do a particular opera, for example, we ask ourselves how the symphony and ballet can be involved as well.”

‘The Great Ones’

The new season will offer arts lovers more than 40 concert choices and is being billed as “The Great Ones.” The idea is to include artists whose works have stood the test of time as well as those who are currently making a big splash.

Programming ranges from a year-long tribute to composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein to a celebration of the Dayton Ballet’s 80th anniversary. Doc Severinsen will come to town, and the music of Prince and David Bowie will be in the limelight as well. A staged and choreographed version of Verdi’s “Requiem” will kick off the Dayton Opera season, and a new family concert will introduce the kids to all of the art forms.

“It’s a lot to juggle, but it’s good juggling,” Caldwell said. “The artistic directors come up with their thoughts first. We listen to their wish lists, think about the finances, and then determine what we can produce.”

Highlights from the 2017-2018 season will include:

  • Giuseppe Verdi’s “Requiem,” featuring opera soloists, the Dayton Opera and Philharmonic Choruses, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and the full Dayton Ballet company.
  • The Pulitzer Prize-winning Menotti opera, “The Consul,” a Dayton Opera premiere.
  • Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” and Puccini’s “Turandot.”
  • A year-long celebration of composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein.
  • The Dayton Ballet’s 80th Anniversary Season including “The Great Gatsby,” “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” and a Ruby Jubilee repertory performance.
  • A chamber series planned by Jessica Hung in her new capacity as Performance Innovation Leader, including a string orchestra concert and an all-Prokofiev program featuring two of Hung’s favorite colleagues.
  • A Superpops series with appearances by 90-year-old Doc Severinsen, guest conductor Steven Reinke of the New York Pops and an evening with “America’s Got Talent” finalist Jackie Evancho, who will also be appearing at the Trump inauguration.
  • The Masterworks series featuring Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1,” Mendelssohn’s “Reformation Symphony,” Gershwin’s “Jazzy Concerto in F,” Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 8” and Vaughan Williams’ “A Sea Symphony.” Pianist Gabriela Martinez will play Gershwin in June 2018.
  • Neal Gittleman’s popular Classical Connections series, complete with a Q&A and a free scoop of Grater’s ice cream.
  • A Family Series introducing a new Signature Event featuring all of the performing arts groups. It will also include the annual PhilharMonster Halloween and The Magic Circle Mime Company.
  • A Rockin’ series featuring the music of Prince, Elton John, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and U2 as well as The Who’s “Tommy” in concert.

Supporting the arts

Subscriber ticket packages for all eight DPAA “The Great Ones” season traditional series go on sale Tuesday. Among those who will be signing up are Dick and Joan DeLon of Kettering, who subscribe annually to the opera, ballet, pops and Philharmonic seasons.

“I believe my generation — and the one just behind us — have the responsibility of providing the financial support to assure that the performing arts are sustained until the business growth in our area returns to what it was 50 years ago and can provide the strong undergirding of financial support similar to the past,” Dick DeLon said.

A member of the Dayton Philharmonic Chorus for more than 20 years, DeLon served on the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra’s board and was chair in the critical years leading up to the historic merger. He says he had always loved music but didn’t know much about ballet until his granddaughters became interested in dance. Now his oldest granddaughter is studying dance at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music, and he has grown to appreciate it.

“Very simply, classical music lifts me from everyday worldly concerns,” DeLon said. “The beauty of the music feeds my soul.”

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