VA Arts Festival Announces Another Amazing Season in 2017

Wynton Marsalis is one of the myriad world-class performers and performances scheduled for the 2017 season.

Spring brings new beginnings, and “new” is news at the 2017 Virginia Arts Festival. Among the more than 40 Festival performances this spring will be two world premieres and more than a dozen regional debuts, including emerging U.S. artists and performers and ensembles from around the world.


The Royal Winnipeg Ballet
The Royal Winnipeg Ballet

The Festival opening performances offer a royal welcome, when Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet brings its spectacular production of Swan Lake to Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, March 31-April 2. This renowned company, given its royal charter by Queen Elizabeth in 1953, performs ballet’s most beloved work with the Tchaikovsky score performed live by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.

One of the jazz world’s hottest young (emphasis on young!) stars, 13-year-old Joey Alexander will perform at TCC Roper Performing Arts Center May 27. A phenomenal young pianist with an old soul, Alexander has been featured on CBS’ 60 Minutes and earned two Grammy nominations.

You never heard it this way before: performing witty transcriptions of repertoire from Bizet’s Carmen to Kurt Weill to Astor Piazzolla, the all-female, ten-member brass ensemble tenThing is led by the acclaimed Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth, March 23 at the Attucks Theatre.

From Montreal, the superb chamber orchestra Les Violons du Roy takes its name from the fabled musicians who played for the court of French kings; The New York Times calls this ensemble “a miracle of musical and dramatic inspiration.” Coming to the Robin Hixon Theater, Clay and Jay Barr Education Center, April 21.

The lineage of the R&B trio KING is unquestioned: protégés of the late pop superstar Prince, this girl group has won rave reviews and topped Rolling Stone magazine’s 2016 list of “10 New Artists You Need to Know.” KING performs April 14 at the Attucks Theatre.

Swinging from sigh to sigh, Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant has critics swooning with her “resoundingly eloquent” voice (The Guardian). Salvant sings with Aaron Diehl on piano April 9 at the Robin Hixon Theater, Clay and Jay Barr Education Center.

Kept: a ghost story
Kept: a ghost story

World Premieres include the new opera Kept: a ghost story, at Norfolk’s Attucks Theatre May 25 and 28, 2017. Inspired by a 19th-century ghost story, the opera tells the story of a wild young woman, the lighthouse keeper she marries, and the dark secrets awakened by their union.

Kept features a powerhouse female creative and production team including acclaimed composer Kristin Kuster, librettist and prize-winning poet Megan Levad, stage director Mary Birnbaum—a rising star in the opera world, and conductor JoAnn Falletta, Grammy winning music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The male lead will be sung by one of opera’s biggest stars, tenor William Burden.

The Festival will also present the world premiere of Hair, and Other Stories, performed by Brooklyn-based dance company Urban Bush Women, at the Attucks Theatre, April 22. Created by the company’s founder, choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, this new work addresses the discrepancies between the concept of physical appearance in advertising as opposed to real life, focusing on perceptions of body image, race, gender identity, and economic inequality—and black women’s hair.

Stars and Spectacle

Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman

The Festival brings star-powered performances by legendary artists including Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, May 5 at Chrysler Hall; violinist Itzhak Perlman, performing great themes from the movies with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, April 13 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts; Mark Morris Dance Group’s Dido and Aeneas, the stunningly theatrical mashup of riveting dance, Greek tragedy, and the baroque glories of Henry Purcell’s music, featuring Metropolitan Opera star mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, May 13 at the Sandler Center; and soprano Kathleen Battle in Underground Railroad, a program of spirituals backed by the Norfolk State University Choir, March 26 at Wilder Center.

In a season of classical music studded by highlights, a spectacular musical experience stands out: the performance of the massive Berlioz Requiem, wherein the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and Chorus is joined by the Choral Arts Society of Washington, tenor Robert McPherson, and brass choirs situated throughout the concert hall—more than 300 musicians together—May 20 at Chrysler Hall.

The Virginia International Tattoo
The Virginia International Tattoo

For sheer spectacle, nothing beats the Virginia International Tattoo, which this season brings more than 1,000 performers from around the world to Scope Arena, April 27-30, including the heart-stopping stunts of Britain’s Imps Motorcycle Display Team, whose cheeky drivers are ages six to 16; Singapore’s Armed Forces Band, France’s La Musique de l’air Band of the French Air Force, and pipe and drum corps and marching bands from across the U.S. and around the world.

For the uninitiated, this Tattoo is not body ink, but a time-honored term for a grand display of military bands and performers—and the Virginia International Tattoo is the largest such event in the U.S., and one of the largest in the world. Before each Virginia International Tattoo performance, the “Tattoo Hullabaloo” offers fans a chance to mingle with performers and enjoy live music, food and craft beers on Scope Plaza.

A full calendar of Virginia Arts Festival performances and tickets are at at