* $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center to debut with Moscow State Symphony

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The Valley Performing Arts Center at Cal State Northridge is about to fill a void in the San Fernando Valley, which heretofore has lacked a major hall for concerts, opera, dance and Broadway musicals.

You can hardly blame folks for Russian into it.

(We’ll pause here for your groans to die down.)

Yes, the Moscow State Symphony, under music director Pavel Kogan, will put the $125-million, 1,700-seat hall to an early test on Nov. 1 in what’s billed as one of two invitation-only shakedown shows for the venue. The gala opening is Jan. 29, 2011, followed on Feb. 5 by the first regular performance. The announcement of the inaugural season is planned for Oct. 27.

The center, designed by the Minneapolis firm Hammel, Green and Abrahamson, features adjustable acoustic panels, and the Muscovites, who according to their agents’ website are scheduled to tour with soloists Jeremy Denk (piano) and Jennifer Koh (violin), have been engaged to provide the music for the required tuning. The concert is being offered as a perk to subscribers to the already-announced fall season in the campus’ existing main performance venue, the 500-seat Plaza del Sol Performance Hall, where the offerings include the Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company, Ed Asner in ‘FDR’ and the Acting Company’s staging of ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

While the new hall awaits its final construction touches and tuneup, the fund-raising campaign to pay for it continues. Gailya Brown, senior director of the campaign, said Tuesday that about $24.5 million has been raised so far toward a goal of $50 million. The other $75 million for the steel-framed, glass-paneled building comes from a state bond issue and other non-local government sources.


The top donor so far is Mike Curb, the music mogul and former California lieutenant governor who in 2006 pledged $5 million for the performing arts center and $5 million for what’s now called the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media and Communication. The school’s dean, Robert Bucker, doubles as executive director of the Valley Performing Arts Center. Curb left the campus -- then known as San Fernando Valley State College -- in 1963, after a freshman year in which he got started as a songwriter and producer.

The other big private gifts are a $2-million bequest from Clyde Porter, an arts philanthropist who died in 2006; $1.2 million from Nextel Communications; and $1 million each from David and Jean Fleming, the CSUN Foundation and the CSUN Alumni Assn.

L.A. County supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky and Michael Antonovich are chipping in with large sums from their discretionary capital funds -- $2 million from Yaroslavsky and $500,000 from Antonovich.

The campaign also received a $2.3-million bequest in 2005 from alumni Jack and Mary Bayramian, with its earnings funding scholarships in the arts.

The university is still angling for a hefty donation that will buy naming rights to the 1,700-seat venue, Bucker said Tuesday. Until then, it’s the Great Hall. ‘It’s a beautiful facility,’ the dean said, ‘and it’s going to be an exciting place to come to performances,’ with such amenities as wood paneling, natural-wood seats upholstered in a gray, tweed-like fabric, and a mink-colored velour stage curtain.

Two smaller venues in the new center, a 178-seat black box theater and a 230-seat lecture hall, will be used for the university’s educational programs, Bucker said, with the main multipurpose hall primarily for professional offerings. The building’s two rehearsal halls will have the same stage footprints as its two performance spaces. The center also will house the broadcast studios of Cal State Northridge’s radio station, KCSN-FM (88.5).

-- Mike Boehm

*[Updated] The headline for this post originally said $175 million. And Pavel Kogan’s last name was misspelled.

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