GMU Center for the Arts announces 25th Anniversary season

GMU Center for the Arts announces 25th Anniversary season

Something for everyone is on tap in 2015-2016, from the Virginia Opera to Mummenschanz to Bollywood and everything in between.

Dance troupe RIOULT.
Dance troupe RIOULT appears at the Center for the Arts during the upcoming season. (Credit: Basil Childers)

FAIRFAX, Virginia, April 11, 2015 – George Mason University’s Center for the Arts has announced its 25th annual “Great Performances at Mason” season. The Center’s 2015-2016 season will feature a wide variety of performance events ranging from opera and classical music to pop music and dance.

In addition, the University confirmed its recent appointment by longtime DC area theater and performing arts veteran Rick Davis as the school’s new dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

According to an accompanying release made available earlier this week, “Davis came to Mason in 1992 and is currently the executive director of the Hylton Performing Arts Center. He has also served as the artistic director of the Center for the Arts and the associate provost for undergraduate education, and teaches in Mason’s School of Theater.”

Here’s a quick synopsis of the Center’s upcoming 2015-2016 season:

Bernadette Peters.
Star of stage and screen Bernadette Peters. (Credit: Andrew Eccles)

The 10th Anniversary of ARTS by George!

The Center’s annual “ARTS by George!” concert is part of an annual fundraising event, concluding activities this year with An Evening with Bernadette Peters. GMU’s release tells us that “The two-time Tony Award winner and foremost Sondheim interpreter will be accompanied by a 10-piece orchestra as she sings highlights from her illustrious career, which includes Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods,’ ‘Gypsy,’ ‘Sunday in the Park with George,’ ‘A Little Night Music’ and ‘Follies,’ as well as her Tony Award-winning appearances in ‘Song and Dance’ and ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’ (September 26)

Remaining tickets to this “big event” will go on sale to the general public on August 1, 2015, but subscribers to the Center’s “Great Performances at Mason” can get their tickets now. (See ways to purchase tickets below.)

Classical Music

GMU will host the Munich Symphony Orchestra and the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra this season in a pair of programs with an unusual twist.

Under the direction of Philippe Entremont, the Munich ensemble will present a program that focuses on the heritage of Spanish classical guitar. Classical guitar virtuoso Pepe Romero is featured soloist, and he’ll be joined by his equally acclaimed family quartet, The Romeros in an evening of Spanish-themed music including excerpts from Bizet’s two “Carmen” Suites, Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto Andaluz,” and ballet music by Jules Massenet. (November 7, 2015)

Just after the turn of the New Year, the Polish Baltic Philharmonic will arrive at GMU to perform and exciting and eclectic program of northern and eastern European music including Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman” overture, Rimsky-Korsakov’s dynamic “Scheherazade,” and Chopin’s Romantic Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor with guest pianist Marcin Koziak. Maestro Bogusław Dawidow conducts the program. (January 30, 2016)

On the side of the classics, “Disney’s ‘Fantasia: Live in Concert’” will show that studio’s classic, full-length 1940 animation masterpiece accompanied not by a sound track but by a live orchestra. In addition, audiences will see and hear music and visuals from the animated sequel to the original, Disney’s “Fantasia 2000.” Parents: Given that the public schools don’t bother much any more with course work involving Western culture and classical music, this might be your best bet ever to get the kids interested in attending live performances of timeless classics like the ones Disney used to accompany these brilliant animations. (February 27, 2016)

Fantasia Poster.
“Disney’s Fantasia Live.” These historic animations will be accompanied by a live orchestra. (Image courtesy Disney)

The genre bending, more or less classical Turtle Island Quartet will also appear at GMU this fall, wrapping their traditional Grammy Award-winning string quartet sound around the decidedly American genres of ragtime and jazz in a program entitled “Jelly, Rags, & Monk.” As this concert’s title broadly hints, music of Jelly Roll Morton, ragtime great Scott Joplin, and jazz modernist Thelonious Monk will be on tap. Better yet, the ensemble will be joined by acclaimed jazz pianist Cyrus Chestnut. It’s all classical music, American style. (October 10, 2015)


Once again, the Norfolk-based Virginia Opera—Virginia’s official opera company—will bring a quartet of four fully staged operas to GMU’s Center for the Arts. We’ll mention this season’s operas briefly below, but watch for our fall season preview article in early September where we’ll provide more details.

Virginia Opera launches its 2015-2016 season here with Jacques Offenbach’s wild and wildly funny comic opera “Orpheus in the Underworld.” Flipping the classic Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice 180 degrees, Offenbach takes his audience on a wild, almost post-modern satirical trip through heaven and hell, a journey whose way is amusingly paved by some irresistible dance-hall style music, including still very French and still very risqué song and dance number we know today as the “Can-Can.” (October 3 and 4, 2015)

Next up for the company is that ultimate opera fave, Puccini’s “La Bohème.” If you’ve never heard this heartbreaking Romantic classic live, now’s your chance. If you’ve already seen it 20 times, you know you’ll have to see it again. (November 14 and 15, 2015)

Performances of French composer Charles Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet” are surprisingly hard to find these days, given that this has been a longtime popular hit. But Virginia Opera is bringing it back this season, and lovers of French opera should plan to attend. And check out the performance dates at GMU. Is this the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, or what? (February 13 and 14, 2016)

Virginia Opera’s Fairfax season concludes with Richard Wagner’s rousing and highly accessible “Flying Dutchman,” an opera we actually had a chance to see at the Kennedy Center this season as performed by the Washington National Opera. I plan to see it again at Mason, where the company’s performance is bound to give this classic tale of a doomed sailor in search of love a different take. (April 23 and 24, 2016)


The Center’s new music season isn’t afraid of programming music in the more popular vein. An example? This season’s first-time appearance of the Canada-based Art of Time ensemble. Their performance here is a highly stylized and unique trip back in time through the music of the Beatle’s pathbreaking album, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Including several well-known pop vocalists, the ensemble this season features Steven Page, the lead singer of Barenaked Ladies. (November 8, 2015)

Also on tap: the Metropolitan Jazz Orchestra in a Caribbean-themed program (March 5, 2016), and Anthony Maiello’s rousingly great American Festival Pops Orchestra in its annual Holiday Pops Concert. (December 12, 2015)


Jeffrey Siegel’s popular “Keyboard Conversations,” a long-running and popular piano solo/educational series of recitals, continues this season with a quartet of intriguing programs on September 20 and October 25, 2015 and again on March 13 and May 8, 2016.

The fall stanza offers a program of joyful, celebratory music (September 20) followed by an evening with Chopin and Grieg (October 25). The pianist’s “second semester offerings first highlight the music of composers who continued compose even after they’d lost their hearing (March 13). The second recital highlights “Musical Pictures,” including Mussorgsky’s towering and difficult piano solo version of “Pictures at an Exhibition”—much better known today through Ravel’s phenomenally colorful orchestral transcription. (May 8)


The Center’s new season will feature performances from Chinese acrobats; Japanese Taiko drummers; Irish folk musicians; and Scottish pipers, drummers and dancers.

But a likely hit this season will be the first time appearance here of the Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India in a program highlighting traditional Indian music as well as from the crazy, funny, tuneful and intensely entertaining world of Bollywood. (November 21, 2015)

Bollywood Masala Orchestra.
Bollywood Masala Orchestra, courtesy of the ensemble.


Three very different dance performances are on tap at GMU this season. RIOULT (photo at top of this article), created by a former Martha Graham dance principal, Pascal Rioult, brings its unique approach to modern dance to GMU on October 9, 2015. GMU is particularly excited about this year’s performance, since it includes “company apprentice Candace V. Perry, who graduated from Mason in 2014 with a B.F.A. in dance,” as well as Catherine Cooch, a native of Fairfax County who is a regular member of the troupe.

Savion Glover.
Savion Glover. (Photo credit: ©2012 Lois Greenfield)

The Mark Morris Dance Group will also appear this season, and once again, will just happen to include among its performers GMU “School of Dance alums Rita Donahue (B.F.A., 2002) and Billy Smith (B.F.A., 2007).” (February 19 and 20, 2016)

For the first time here, GMU will offer a different kind of holiday program from rising tap dance sensation Savion Glover (December 19, 2015), while on the classical ballet side, the Moscow Festival Ballet will present “Giselle” (April 16) and “Swan Lake” (April 17)


GMU plans to get your 2015 Halloween off to a scary start with a new L.A. Theatre Works adaptation of Bram Stoker’s classic, spooky melodrama “Dracula,” the vampire story that started it all. (October 31, 2015)

The genuinely bizarre but funny and popular Swiss mime troupe Mummenschanz will appear at the Center for the first time since its 1991-1992 season. GMU’s press release gives you a perfect synopsis of just what this troupe does:

These unique artists perform in complete silence on a blackened stage with common household objects and simple forms to create ingenious illusions and amusing narratives that provide light-hearted insights on life.

It’s all fun for the whole family, and a performance that the kids, in particular, will happily remember for many years. (February 5, 2016)

Also on tap during the upcoming season: Aquila Theatre’s productions of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” (October 11, 2015), and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” (January 22, 2016) as well as Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre’s take on Eugene O’Neill’s “A Moon for the Misbegotten” (February 28, 2016)


That’s it for this season’s highlights, at least as far as this article is concerned. There are many additional interesting performances in all genres this season as well—including a number of special year-end holiday concerts—but online readers will only stick with us for so long. So for more details, including more information on the performances here and others throughout the season, check out ticket and contact information below.

Tickets and Information: Subscriptions to “Great Performances at Mason are currently available. Single tickets for individual concerts and performances go on sale on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015. To obtain a detailed information brochure on the new season, call the Center for the Arts at 703-993-2787 or email your request to

For available online information about the new season, visit

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17