They the Mann!


The press conference led by Peter B. Lane, president and CEO of the Mann Center for the Performing Arts for the past decade, has become an annual "Rite of Spring" for a large group of print and electronic journalists who come together to hear about the new summer schedule.

This year's gathering was filled with show-business elements — the full management team of the Philadelphia Orchestra, including new president and CEO, James Undercoffler, Rossen Milanov, orchestra associate conductor and artistic director of the orchestra season at the Mann; and representatives of sponsoring foundations.

The Mann Center's 31st season is one of almost overwhelming variety, with Lane repositioning the Mann — originally designed as the exclusive summer home for the orchestra — as a venue for multiple groups with wide appeal.

Three decades ago, the Philadelphia Orchestra presented a large number of concerts during July before traveling to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in upstate New York. The Philadelphians will only play nine times in July, including a mix of orchestral "warhorse" compositions, a few 20th- and 21st-century works, in addition to a pops program.

On Tuesday, June 26, the infinitely popular Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" is being paired with Jennifer Higdon's "Concerto for Orchestra," originally commissioned to commemorate the orchestra's centennial celebration.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman will perform the Mendelssohn "Violin Concerto" the next day, on June 27.

Other dates will include superstar Chinese pianist Lang Lang, offering Beethoven's "First Violin Concerto" and a Chinese composition titled "Yellow River." Violinist Midori and pianist Andre Watts will also return to the Mann.

Here Comes Peter!

"Peter and the Wolf," by Prokofiev, will be played by the orchestra as accompaniment for a new animated film of this immortal classic, and the orchestra will close the season with an all-Tchaikovsky program followed by the customary fireworks.

The Philly Pops and maestro Peter Nero will perform twice — the second program with none other than the Von Trapp Children, descendants of "The Sound of Music" heroes.

Lane has assembled an almost dizzying array of talent that will occupy the Mann stage from the beginning of June through mid-September. Highlights include four mid-July performances by the 88-member Royal Ballet, direct from London, who will present "Romeo and Juliet" and "Swan Lake."

Other stars of note include jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra; Clay Aiken of "American Idol" fame; Motown star Smokey Robinson; Lyle Lovett; and a 1960s band revue.

Also on the docket: a gospel series and free children's concerts.

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