A Chat With: Virginia Arts Festival Artistic Director Rob Cross

Classic Arts Features   A Chat With: Virginia Arts Festival Artistic Director Rob Cross
<>An interview with Virginia Arts Festival artistic director Rob Cross. The 18th season of the festival begins on April 2 and goes through May 29. 2014 This year's festival includes numerous extraordinary arts experiences.

This year, the Virginia Arts Festival will explore worlds far and near, past and present, real and imagined, with more than 50 performances by world-renowned artists, on stages throughout southeastern Virginia. Fans of music, dance and theater will travel from across the United States and around the world to see performances in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Williamsburg, Newport News, and James City County. Tickets for 2014 Virginia Arts Festival performances are on sale now in subscription packages of three or more performances—at discounts of 10% and more—available online at www.vafest.org, by phone at 757-282-2822, or in person at the Festival Box Office at 440 Bank St., Norfolk. Single tickets will go on sale February 13, 2014. Group tickets (groups of 15 or more) are available now for all performances; call 757-282-2819.

This year’s Virginia Arts Festival features numerous exciting groups, soloists and performances. Can you please share a few that you are especially looking forward to?

World Premiere of Ben-Hur, Joshua Bell and An Alpine Symphony performed by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Dance Theatre of Harlem.

How is this year’s Festival unique or different - in general or from last year’s Festival?

More international artists such as Richard Alston Dance Company, performers in the Virginia International Tattoo from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Oman, Republic of Korea, Sweden and United Kingdom, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, An Alpine Symphony with images from German photographer Tobias Melle, Tallis Scholars, Actéon conducted by William Christie, Beowulf, and The Assad Family.

In April, Stewart Copeland will perform the world premiere of his new score for the epic film Ben-Hur alongside a 90 minute version of the movie. Can you please share your thoughts on this exciting debut?

Stewart is one of the great drummers of all time and as a drummer, I am very excited to work with him on this world premiere. This is also the first time that a new work commissioned by VAF blends rock, silent film, and orchestra.

The famed Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will also perform in April. The group was founded in 1936 as many Jewish musicians fled Germany and other Nazi-occupied countries. Can you please share your thoughts on the orchestra’s upcoming performance?

IPO is a world class orchestra, presenting an amazing program that is an orchestral war horse.

One of the major highlights of the Festival is the spectacular Virginia International Tattoo, a massive display of military precision and patriotism featuring marching bands, massed pipes and drums, drill teams, gymnasts, dancers and choirs. Can you please tell us what’s involved in putting the many elements of the presentation together?

The Virginia International Tattoo is a completely new production each year. With nearly 900 performers from around the world it takes a dedicated team of production staff, VAF employees and volunteers to present the largest Tattoo in the United States. Planning is a year round process and includes, invitations to bands and performers, selecting the groups to perform, developing a theme, selecting music, designing lighting, meeting all military requirements for bands to participate, visas for foreign performers, travel arrangements, lodging reservations, meals for 900 people for seven days. Rehearsals begin on Sunday, the first performance is Tuesday evening dress rehearsal. The Tattoo process is done with military precision, long hours, great planning, attention to detail and a little luck.

The Festival is among the first to present the Dance Theatre of Harlem outside of New York. In addition, the Festival will be partnering with Norfolk and the Attucks Theatre for a three year residency with the organization – featuring in-depth community outreach to celebrate the role of African-American dance. Can you please share your thoughts on the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s resurgence and the partnership?

Dance Theatre of Harlem is an American treasure and it is wonderful to see the great dance company back on tour. DTH has a long history with Virginia Arts Festival, performing in Norfolk, during the early years of the Festival. Last year the DTH Ensemble presented master classes and workshops in area schools. VAF, the city of Norfolk and Attucks Theatre have entered into a three year partnership with DTH to present student workshops, provide community engagement opportunities and present public performances.

Robert Garland’s new work Gloria, a tribute to the spiritual history of Harlem, will be performed for the first time to live music with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Chorale. Can you please tell us a bit about this exciting premiere?

At the centerpiece of this jubilant return engagement to VAF is Robert Garland’s new work, Gloria, a tribute to the spiritual history of Harlem, set to Poulenc’s stunning masterwork. Gloria was created as a signature work for the new DTH company and features a cast of 14 plus seven young local students. The New York Times hailed Gloria as “a transcendent work…a ballet about faith.

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