The shake-down cruise for the Naval Academy's Bob Hope Performing Arts Center is already attracting more than its share of accomplished participants.

The slate of performances on the 1991-1992 Distinguished Artists Series has been announced for the 1,500-seat center in the new Alumni Hall.


On Tuesday, Sept. 24, the center will be the site of "Les BalletsAfricains," the national dance ensemble of the Republic of Guinea. Some 35 dancers and musicians will present a program that will combinedance, music, drama, storytelling and a variety of other art forms.

Colorful costumes, exotic instruments and non-stop rhythmic propulsion also are said to be hallmarks of the ensemble.


On Thursday, Oct. 17, one of Germany's solid, accomplished musical organizations, the Bamberg Symphony, will become the first orchestra to perform in the new facility.

Guest-conducting the Bambergers will be Christoph Eschenbach, the pianist and conductor who is working diligently to bring his own Houston Symphony Orchestra back from artistic and economic hard times. (Until recently, his staff associate conductor was Gisele Ben-Dor, who left her Texas post to assume the directorship of theAnnapolis Symphony. Small world!)

Eschenbach's October concert atthe center will feature the "New World" Symphony of Dvorak, a piece he has just recorded, interestingly enough, with the Houston Symphonyon the Virgin Classics label.

Joining him and the Bamberg Symphony will be cellist Heinrich Schiff, who will play the 1st Cello Concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich.

Schiff, by the way, is an artist of exceptionally high caliber. His EMI recordings of the six unaccompanied Bach Suites, along with his pairings of the Haydn and Shostakovich concertos on the Philips label, are second to none in the catalog. Whata treat to have him here.

One of America's finest pianists, John Browning, will perform in the more intimate confines of Mahan Hall onJan. 10.

Browning became internationally known back in 1956, whenhe finished second to Vladimir Ashkenazy at the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Brussels (only a "sixteenth note behind," so the mythologygoes). He has become something of a "pianist's pianist" in the intervening decades.

There have been glitzier careers, but few as musical.


Browning has championed the beautiful Piano Concerto of SamuelBarber over the years, and his recent recording of that work, coupled with Barber's 1st Symphony (on RCA with Leonard Slatkin conducting), is a stunner. It is a feather in the sailor's cap of the Distinguished Artists Series that he is coming to Annapolis, make no mistake about it.

If the Bob Hope Center has rafters, they will be raised onApril 12, when the USNA Glee Club joins the Annapolis Symphony for aperformance of Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana."

This lusty, raucous setting of 13th-century love and youth is one of the flat-out blasts of the choral repertoire.

If nothing else, this final concert of the season will provide a definitive test for the hall's new sound system.

Anyone interested in subscribing to the Distinguished Artist Series should call 267-3464 or 267-2439.

Alumni Hall will also provide the setting for the USNA Glee Club's 1992 production, "Hello Dolly," which is scheduled to play Feb. 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16. Pop music concerts are also in the offing.


"This hall is something that just hasn't existed in our community," says Dr. John Barry Talley, director of musical activities at the academy. "I'm very hopeful we'll be able to put it to the best possible use we can in serving the needsof the institution and of the community at large."