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Unique musical offerings and ancient treasures commence the arts season at Middlebury College

September 12, 2006

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Middlebury College promises a dynamic kick-off to its arts scene this fall with a rare free concert by one of the most esteemed string quartets of the classical music world, a compelling exhibition of ancient treasures from the Middle East, and an exciting contemporary twist on a Shakespearean masterpiece.

These events begin what is a packed and creative season featuring works by a variety of artists spanning many centuries, cultures and disciplines. The result is a calendar with literally something for every arts lover, from stage to screen to gallery.

The Performance Arts Series musical offerings begin with the Sept. 15 free concert by the Tokyo String Quartet in Mead Chapel. The chamber ensemble has more than three decades of powerful performances to its credit. This performance is made possible by the Institute for Clinical Science and Art, established by the late Dr. F. William Sunderman of Philadelphia.

Paul Lewis
On Oct. 13, pianist Paul Lewis returns for the first of four recitals this season as he continues his epic journey through the entire collection of Beethoven sonatas. Middlebury's Concert Hall in the Center for the Arts is the only American stop on Lewis' tour. His other concerts are in January, March and May, when he will conclude this virtuosic endeavor begun in 2005 through the Performing Arts Series.

Legendary pianist Krystian Zimerman will visit for a rare concert on Oct. 25. A master on the international performing and recording scene for 30 years, Zimerman limits his concerts to a handful each year. His visit to the Middlebury Concert Hall stage promises to be rewarding.

Pei Yao Wang

Taiwanese pianist Pei Yao Wang takes the stage on Nov. 19 with a group of young string musicians including Vermont Youth Orchestra alumnus Soovin Kim and cellist Sophie Shao, who played at Middlebury previously with the chamber ensemble Concertante. The concert will feature selections by Mozart, Schumann and Shostakovich.

The Middlebury College Department of Music will host a free performance on Dec. 9 in Mead Chapel with cellist Dieuwke Davydov and pianist Diana Fanning. This faculty duo celebrates their 30th anniversary of performing together by playing an encore of the same program they presented at Mead Chapel in December 1976. Selections will include works by Brahms, Debussy and Davidoff.

The department will also host the eclectic Meridian Arts Ensemble for a residency this year. The five bass players and one percussionist will present a concert in the Center for the Arts Concert Hall on Jan. 13 to showcase their avant-garde style of performing pieces, ranging from Renaissance music and ska to works by Frank Zappa and Middlebury's own Su Lian Tan, associate professor of music.

Award-winning director Anne Bogart and her acclaimed SITI Company will electrify Wright Memorial Theatre on Sept. 25 with their first foray into the world of Shakespeare. Bogart has stylized "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the tradition of John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," set in the American dust bowl. SITI's visit includes a residency and master classes open to the public. The project has support from the New England Foundation for the Arts.

SITI Company

Dance enthusiasts will enjoy choreographer Bebe Miller's latest endeavor, "Landing/Place," on Oct. 3-4 in the Center for the Arts Dance Theatre. As part of a residency program at Middlebury, Miller and her dancers will stage a performance that combines video, dance and live music by Albert Mathias. In her trademark style, Miller promises a work that's interactive, sensory and stimulating.

On March 2-3, the Dance Company of Middlebury premieres "Place of Dance Project: Tribute," directed by Middlebury College Professor of Dance Andrea Olsen with an international cast of student dancers and surprise guests. Olsen incorporates Middlebury talent through original music by Philip Hamilton, a 1982 graduate and 2004 recipient of a Bessie New York Dance Performance Award, and video by 1996 graduate James Bruce, who co-produced, edited and wrote "The Refugee All Stars." Author and Middlebury College Writer-in-Residence Julia Alvarez collaborated on the text. The production is part of the daylong Christian A. Johnson Symposium, "The History of Art and Architecture: Art-Body-Place," on March 3 in the Center for the Arts Dance Theatre.

Lovers of ancient culture, art and history will delight in the Middlebury College Museum's "Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur" exhibition, which opens Sept. 14. On view in the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Gallery until Dec. 10, nearly 200 ancient artifacts including gold, lapis lazuli, and carnelian jewels, will offer a lavish look at the art and culture of ancient Sumeria, considered by many the cradle of modern civilization in what is now Iraq.

Puabi's Headdress, the Ur collection
The exhibit's curator, archaeology professor Richard Zettler of the University of Pennsylvania, will present a free slideshow and lecture on the exhibition's opening day. He will discuss Sir Leonard Woolley's excavations and discoveries at Ur depicted in this extraordinary collection.
For a more modern perspective on Iraq's treasures, John Russell, professor of art history and archeology at Massachusetts College of Art, will share a free slide lecture on Oct. 7 in the Center for the Arts titled, "Preserving Iraq's Past: Perils and Prospects." An expert on ancient Mesopotamia, Russell was the senior civilian in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad working with the Iraq Museum to recover looted antiquities in 2003 and 2004. 

Robert Adams, Sitka Spruce, Cape Blanco State Park

In January, the Johnson Gallery becomes home to another exhibition, "Turning Back: A Photographic Journal of Re-exploration," by American photographer Robert Adams. To mark the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition (1804-1806), Adams turned his lens on the same Oregon landscape that the famous explorers saw as a vast forest of ancient evergreens.  The result is a portrait of both modern landscape abuse and the hope of nature's resiliency. A complete portfolio of Adams' 164 photographs has recently become part of the Museum's collection and will be on view through June 3. Acquisition of the portfolio was made possible by Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr. 

The Hirschfield Film/Video Series returns this season with its signature diverse collection of more than a dozen mostly independent films from around the world. Selections this year include some popular award-winning American titles such as "Capote," "Good Night and Good Luck," "Mad Hot Ballroom," and "Grizzly Man."

Mad Hot Ballroom
Two thrillers on the schedule are particularly noteworthy: "Caché" on Sept. 23 and "Paradise Now" on Jan 27.  "Caché" is a French-Austrian film that won Best Film in the 2005 European Film Awards. It centers on a television talk show host and his wife living a seemingly perfect life of modern comfort that is interrupted by menacing videotapes arriving on their doorstep. It is filmed in French with English subtitles.

"Paradise Now" is a timely 2005 film focusing on the last days of two Palestinian friends who have been recruited for a terrorist strike on Tel Aviv. They are intercepted at the Israeli border and they reconsider their plan when discovered by a young woman. This thriller is filmed in Arabic with English subtitles.

On Nov. 18, the series shows the 2005 German film "Sophie Scholl - The Final Days," a documentary of the final six days of a young activist's life in Nazi Germany based on historical records. Filmed in German with English subtitles, this film received awards including Best Picture and Best Actress from the German Film Awards, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.

Films in the series are free and shown twice on Saturdays - at 3 p.m. and at 8 p.m. - in Dana Auditorium in Sunderland Language Center on College Street (Route 125). 

Performing Arts Series tickets are $15 for regular admission and $12 for seniors. Department events are $5 for regular admission and $4 for seniors. Many events are free. Pre-performance dinners for select engagements are held at Rehearsals Cafe in the Center for the Arts.
Information; dinner reservations; tickets for all music, theatre and dance performances; a free color 2006-2007 Middlebury College arts calendar and the free quarterly newsletter, "Arts at Middlebury College," are all available through the college's box office at 802-443-6433 or The box office opens on Monday, Sept. 11, for Middlebury College students, faculty, staff, alumni and other ID card holders; and on Monday, Sept. 18, for the general public. Patrons may also sign up for sign up for Middlebury College Arts Mail - an information service that delivers e-mail updates on arts and cultural events. Museum exhibition information is available at 802-443-5007 or at Open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m., the museum is located in the Center for the Arts. Admission is free.