Robert Franz leads UNCSA Symphony Orchestra in final Stevens Center event prior to renovation

Alumnus Robert Franz, acclaimed conductor and recently appointed music director of the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, will lead a final concert at the Stevens Center ahead of its temporary closure for a comprehensive renovation. The concert, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10, will feature works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Richard Wagner and Silvestre Revueltas. UNCSA will take a commemorative photo from the stage that evening to memorialize the final audience in the auditorium pre-renovation. The building will officially close on Nov. 15, 2023, for construction.

Robert Franz conducts UNCSA Symphony Orchestra / Photo: Wayne Reich

Robert Franz conducts UNCSA Symphony Orchestra / Photo: Wayne Reich

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for non-UNCSA students with valid ID online or by calling the box office at 336-721-1945. Note: The box office has moved to the Watson Hall Box Office on the UNCSA campus at 1533 S. Main St. but will open at the Stevens Center 1 1/2 hours prior to the concert. The Stevens Center is located at 405 W. Fourth St. downtown.

“The UNCSA Symphony Orchestra is poised to perform a powerful collection of Romantic pieces, including Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony and Wagner’s Prelude and ‘Liebestod’,” Franz said. “The iconic Stevens Center is about to take a giant step into the 21st century and we will be waiting with open arms to welcome her back to her rightful place in Winston’s iconic cityscape.”

Revueltas’ riveting tone poem “Sensemayá” is imbued with vibrant orchestral colors and punctuated by mesmerizing beats of a massive percussion battery. Wagner’s Prelude and “Liebestod,” or “Love-Death,” comprise the beginning and ending of his opera “Tristan und Isolde,” and has been called one of the most beautiful of Wagner’s works.

Concluding the concert is Tchaikovsky’s famed and emotionally charged Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. Its glorious melodies never cease to stir listeners with thunderous brass and timpani, signifying the triumph over fate and bringing this masterpiece home.

About Robert Franz

Acclaimed conductor Robert Franz is music director of the Windsor Symphony Orchestra (WSO) in Canada, artistic director of the Boise Baroque Orchestra (BBO) in Idaho, and last year served as resident guest conductor of the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, of which he was named music director last spring. His career has been marked by a commitment to creating alliances and building bridges in the communities he serves, and a dedication to music education.

Familiar from appearances with the Winston-Salem Symphony, Franz has been called “a favorite of local audiences and musicians alike” by CVNC, the classical music website. Of his October performance of the Beethoven Sixth Symphony with the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra, CVNC wrote: “This is one of Franz's strengths – allaying the form to the content, or to state it backwards, the emotional content of the music never overcomes the structure but if anything, it is reinforced by the structural strength.”

Franz is in increasing demand as a guest conductor, having collaborated with the Cleveland Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic, North Carolina Symphony, Phoenix Symphony, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra and Italy’s Orchestra da Camera Fiorentinas. He has performed with a wide array of artists, including James Galway, Joshua Bell, Rachel Barton Pine, Chris Botti, Idina Menzel and Chris Hadfield, as well as composers such as John Harbison, Jennifer Higdon and Jordan Pal.

Franz received his Master of Music in conducting in 1992 and his Bachelor of Music in oboe performance in 1990, both from UNCSA.

About the Stevens Center 

The historic Stevens Center serves as the largest learning laboratory at UNCSA, an economic driver for downtown Winston-Salem, and a cultural destination for residents and visitors. Originally a 1929 silent movie theater, the Stevens Center is a neoclassical building that was restored and reopened in 1983 with a redesigned stage and backstage that was able to house Broadway-scale live performances of music, theater, dance and opera. 

Located in downtown Winston-Salem, the 1,380-seat theater is the primary performance space for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts as well as for the Winston-Salem Symphony, Piedmont Opera, National Black Theatre Festival, and several other local arts organizations.

The Stevens Center has had a tremendous impact — locally as an economic catalyst for downtown development, regionally as a cultural anchor since the 1930s, and nationally as the launching pad for the careers of countless actors, dancers, technicians, musicians, and others on stage and behind the scenes.

Once the Carolina Theatre, the facility was renamed for theater producer Roger L. Stevens upon its initial renovation and was reopened April 22-24, 1983, with a star-studded gala featuring the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra with Leonard Bernstein conducting and Isaac Stern as soloist, and Gregory Peck as the master of ceremonies. Guests in attendance included Agnes de Mille, Cliff Robertson, N.C. Gov. James B. Hunt, President and Mrs. Gerald Ford, and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson.

The Stevens Center has played host to a range of notable events including the world premieres of Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers,” winner of a Pulitzer Prize and four Tony Awards, and “Jake’s Women,” a 19-performance sellout starring Alan Alda. The UNCSA Presents series launched in 2018 brought Broadway back to Winston-Salem with “Kinky Boots” followed by “Once,” as well as performances by Kathy Mattea, Flor de Toloache, Steve Earle and the Dukes, Mavis Staples, the Del McCoury Band, Josh Ritter and more as part of the American Music Series.

Other performances throughout the theater’s history have included Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “State Fair,” Victor Borge, the Smothers Brothers, STOMP, Riders In The Sky, the Vienna Choir Boys, Béla Fleck, The Magic School Bus, Carol Channing and Rita Moreno, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Alison Krauss, the 35th Anniversary Reunion of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Gordon Lightfoot, Tony Bennett, the filming of Chris Daughtry’s music video “September” and a critical scene in the 1987 film “The Bedroom Window.” In its days as the Carolina Theatre, the venue even played host to “The King,” Elvis Presley, in 1956.

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November 01, 2023