Royal Ballet is big on Mann's classical side

And a ticket giveaway returns.

Posted: April 17, 2007

Nobody can say the Mann Center for the Performing Arts has settled into the sameness of past seasons in the just-announced 2007 classical music and dance lineup.

Amid ongoing capital improvements to the Fairmount Park venue, the biggest news is that England's Royal Ballet will make its only East Coast appearance - and its first Philadelphia visit in 31 years - at the Mann July 10-14. Romanian star Alina Cojocaru will dance the opening-night Romeo and Juliet in the venerable Kenneth MacMillan production that once showcased Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.

The tour repertoire also includes Swan Lake (in a 1987 production by Anthony Dowell). Among principal dancers are Johann Kobborg, Mara Galeazzi, Edward Watson, Tamara Rojo and Federico Bonelli.

Pianist Lang Lang returns with the Philadelphia Orchestra on July 18, but playing a multi-authored artifact from Maoist China, the Yellow River Concerto.

The annual all-Tchaikovsky program on July 27 with fireworks following the 1812 Overture is often viewed as a semi-pops concert. This year, a serious opera crowd might arrive for soprano Krassimira Stoyanova's performance of the famous "Letter Scene" from the composer's great but less-heard opera Eugene Onegin.

Though the orchestra and center have long distributed free tickets for the lawn area through community groups (and still will), a general-public giveaway returns this year for the first time since 1999: During May only, a limited number of the normally $10 lawn seats will be available free, through the center's Web site, www.manncenter.org, and without service fees. Details of how the distribution will work will be announced later.

In an attempt to stem the paid audience decline of recent seasons, the orchestra is performing fewer but consciously starrier concerts over three weeks rather than last summer's four weeks.

Though the orchestra's Mann presence will be interrupted by its residency in Vail, Colo., the main reason for fewer summer weeks in Philadelphia is "more concentrated firepower behind fewer concerts," said orchestra president James Undercofler. "We need to build the concerts at the Mann by making them irresistible."

Rossen Milanov, artistic director for the Mann season, opens the season with Beethoven's crowd-pleasing Symphony No. 9 on June 26 - a program that also includes the Grammy Award-nominated Concerto for Orchestra by Philadelphia composer Jennifer Higdon. Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 is no stranger to Mann seasons, but the pianist is as well-known for his voice as his fingers: Christopher O'Riley, host of the National Public Radio show From the Top.

Other top soloists include violinist Itzhak Perlman June 27, up-and-coming cellist Alisa Weilerstein July 28, violinist Midori July 19 and pianist Andre Watts, a Philadelphia native, July 20.


Tickets go on sale today. Information: 215-893-1999 or www.manncenter.org.
Dance writer Ellen Dunkel contributed to this report.

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