The arts festival that began in a Norfolk storefront in 1997 will celebrate a quarter-century of great performances this spring. Now an internationally recognized cultural destination, the Virginia Arts Festival has transformed the arts scene in Hampton Roads, bringing the world’s great ballet companies, classical, contemporary, jazz and world musicians, Broadway stars and more to the region each spring.
For a generation of arts lovers, the Festival has provided a wellspring of unforgettable experiences. “It has been an honor and a thrill to be a part of this journey,” said the Festival’s Perry Artistic Director Robert W. Cross. “We have so many people to thank: our audiences, our faithful donors, the visionary civic leaders who have supported us, and the phenomenal artists who have shared their gifts with us over the years. Our 25th Anniversary season will celebrate all of the communities it is our privilege to serve.”
The 25th Anniversary season begins in March with American Ballet Theatre, “one of the greatest and grandest ballet companies in the whole wide world,” (The New York Times). Returning to the Festival for the first time since 2012, ABT will perform the spectacular classic Don Quixote, in three performances at Norfolk’s Chrysler Hall, March 25-27. Ludwig Minkus’s score for the ballet is bursting with bravura flourishes, high-kicking music that simply begs to be danced to—and audiences will experience the rare opportunity to hear it performed live, as the full Virginia Symphony Orchestra accompanies the ballet in the pit. The Festival has been the region’s primary presenter of ballet, contemporary and ethnic dance since its founding in 1997, and the Anniversary season will include great representatives of genre, including Cuba’s electrifying Malpaso dance company and Nashville Ballet, performing its headline-making Lucy Negro Redux, based on the book by Nashville Poet Caroline Randall Williams, with a brilliant musical score written and performed live by Grammy Award-winning composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi, and spoken word performed by Williams.
Classical music abounds in the 25th Anniversary season, including a recital by the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott, along with a vibrant collection of chamber music concerts, curated by the Van Cliburn Gold Medal-winning pianist Olga Kern, the Festival’s Connie and Marc Jacobson Director of Chamber Music. A dazzling performer, Kern herself will perform in five of the Festival’s chamber performances, and among the artists to be presented will be the critically acclaimed Danish String Quartet, the Jerusalem Quartet and the Akropolis Reed Quintet. On the concert stage, the Festival will join the Virginia Symphony Orchestra in A Symphonic Celebration of Water, conducted by VSO Music Director Eric Jacobsen and featuring classical music favorites and readings that mark the figurative power of water in the life of our region.
Celebrating some of the greatest singers in the world, the Festival brings legends to the stage, including Broadway and television star Kristin Chenoweth and opera superstar Renée Fleming, performing together for the Festival’s 25th Season Celebration, with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Broadway music director and arranger Rob Fisher, who was recently appointed the Festival’s Goode Family Artistic Advisor for Musical Theater and American Songbook. Tony/Grammy/Emmy Award winner and Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry will raise the roof at Chrysler Hall; and two of the world’s most acclaimed a cappella ensembles, The Tallis Scholars and Chanticleer, will showcase music from the Renaissance to today.
Contemporary music sparks the Festival’s spring 2022 lineup, with Grammy-winning, genre-defying, groundbreaking artists including Béla Fleck, Shawn Colvin, The Cowboy Junkies, Rosanne Cash, James McMurtry and more. In June, the Festival’s annual summer music event Williamsburg Live returns with a star-studded roster including Americana icon Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, country legend Martina McBride and pop singer/songwriter and actress Mandy Moore.
The Festival has long been one of the region’s most prolific presenters of jazz, and the 25th Anniversary season is no exception to this rule. Jazz fans can hear multi-Grammy winner Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, and legendary sideman Buster Williams, whose stand-up bass has burnished the performances of dozens of stars including Sarah Vaughan, Wynton Marsalis, Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson and Count Basie. Local jazz favorites will return as well, including the Jae Sinnett Trio and the John Toomey Trio, joined by tenor saxophonist Gary Thomas.
Marking the Festival’s many contributions to opera, the 2022 season will see the premieres of two one-act operas created through the Festival’s John Duffy Institute for New Opera, which offers composers and librettist opportunities to create, workshop and stage new works. Briar Patch (from The Tales of the Briar Patch) will reboot the beloved folk tale while paying tribute to the African tradition of storytelling; and Companion sings the story of an obsessive baker on a quest for the perfect loaf.
Theatre lovers will find experiences to treasure in the Festival’s 2022 calendar, including a new, fully staged production of the Tony and Oscar-winning musical The Sound of Music, co-presented with Virginia Opera, with the beloved score (featuring such favorites as “My Favorite Things,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain,” “Do-Re-Mi” and more) performed live by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, led by Rob Fisher. The Aquila Theatre, hailed as “classically trained, modernly hip” by The New York Times, will perform their acclaimed staging of the classic American story, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; and the innovative, interactive In(HEIR)itance Project turns community conversations into compelling theatre, addressing issues of race, economy, and justice.
One of the cornerstones of the Festival, the Virginia International Tattoo celebrates its own 25th Anniversary, returning to Norfolk’s Scope Arena with a spectacular display of music and might featuring hundreds of performers from around the world – including a musical tribute to the “March King” John Phillip Souza and an emotional celebration of the resilience of the human spirit.
Join world-class performers from across the US and beyond for a spectacular celebration of Caribbean music as the Virginia International PANFest returns to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, and the Virginia Arts Festival’s own Rhythm Project will also perform an outdoor showcase concert.
Tickets for Virginia Arts Festival performances are on sale January 20 at vafest.org or by phone at 757-282-2822.
Virginia Arts Festival follows the recommendations of the CDC and local/regional health authorities regarding COVID safeguards; for more information, see the Festival website at vafest.org.