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Classical Action presents star-studded 20th-anniversary gala, April 11

Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS presents a star-studded gala benefit to celebrate its 20th anniversary and to honor founding director Charles Hamlen. Hosted by and featuring a performance by 2013 Grammy Award-winning soprano Renée Fleming, this milestone event will be held April 11 at New York City’s Hudson Theatre, 141 West 44th Street. 
The gala will also include performances by Broadway star Brian Stokes Mitchell, bass-baritone Eric Owens, pianists Natasha Paremski and Anne-Marie McDermott, jazz pianist Fred Hersch, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and cabaret singer Karen Akers. The evening – which is produced by and benefits Classical Action – will open with a cocktail reception at 6:30 pm, followed by dinner, the 9 pm performance, and post-show dessert with the artists. A trailer for the gala can be seen here.
As a program of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS draws upon the talents, resources and generosity of the classical, opera and jazz communities to raise money for those battling HIV/AIDS and other critical illnesses.  Last year, Broadway Cares granted more than $10.5 million to help pay for health care, medications, counseling, nutritious meals and more.
Distinguished honoree Charles Hamlen founded Classical Action in 1993 after a successful career in artist management. He served as co-director of IMG Artists from 1984 to 1992. There he oversaw the careers of artists including violinists Joshua Bell and Leila Josefowicz; flutist James Galway; pianists Stephen Hough, Evgeny Kissin and Jean-Yves Thibaudet; and the Emerson String Quartet. In 1993, Hamlen left IMG Artists to found Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. After 16 years at the helm of Classical Action, Hamlen returned to IMG Artists where he served as chairman until 2012. He is currently Vice President for Artists and Programs at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. Hamlen’s numerous honors include the 1998 Jerry Willis Award from the Western Arts Alliance, the 2000 Eos Orchestra’s Michael Palm Award, the International Society for the Performing Arts’ 2004 “Angel Award” and the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. He was named a “Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French government in 2004.
One of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time, soprano Renée Fleming has sung for such august occasions as the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Beijing Olympic Games, President Barack Obama’s first inauguration, and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee concert. A four-time Grammy Award winner, she won the 2013 Best Classical Vocal Solo Grammy Award, while her other honors include the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal in 2011, Sweden’s Polar Prize in 2008, and the French government’s Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur in 2005. In addition to a full performing career, with signature operatic roles including the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Otello, Violetta in La traviata, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and the title roles of Rusalka, Manon, Thaïs, and Arabella, Fleming has hosted a variety of television and radio broadcasts, including the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series and Live From Lincoln Center on PBS.
Cabaret singer Karen Akers was one of the original stars of the Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Grand Hotel. She has been featured in four PBS television specials, including Presenting Karen Akers. Fred Hersch, winner of the 2012 Grand Prix du Disque and the most prolific and celebrated solo jazz pianist of his generation, has been hailed by the New York Times as “a master who plays it his way.” Anne-Marie McDermott has been recognized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “one of the great pianists of her generation.” In addition to her performing career she serves as artistic director of Colorado’s Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.
Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell is one of Broadway’s preeminent leading men. He’s been nominated four times for the Tony, for his roles in Kiss Me, Kate; Ragtime; King Hedley II; and Man of La Mancha. He’s also recently performed with the San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic and National Symphony Orchestra. His television credits include Frasier, Glee, and seven seasons as Dr. “Jackpot” Jackson on Trapper John, M.D. A commanding stage presence, Grammy Award-winning bass-baritone Eric Owens has created roles in the world premieres of two John Adams operas, and was one of the stand-out stars of the Metropolitan Opera’s recent new Ring production.
Russian-born pianist Natasha Paremski’s honors include Classical Recording Foundation’s Young Artist of the Year in 2010, the Gilmore Young Artist Award in 2006, and top prize in the Young Artists in Carnegie Hall International Piano Festival in 2000. Violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg serves as music director of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, as well as maintaining a busy solo career. She was the subject of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Speaking in Strings.
Tickets for the gala start at $500 and include a cocktail reception, dinner, the performance, and dessert with the artists. Performance-only tickets also are available starting at $50.  Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling 212.840.0770, ext. 268.
Classical Action and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS help fund more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations nationwide as well as the essential social service programs of The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative, and the Al Hirschfeld Free Health Clinic. Since its founding in 1988, Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $225 million to help provide access to life-saving medications, health care, counseling, nutritious meals and emergency financial assistance to hundreds of thousands of men, women and children across the country.
More information is available at the web sites listed below.
Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS
20th Anniversary Gala Benefit
April 11; New York, NY
Hudson Theatre
Honoree: Charles Hamlen
Host: Renée Fleming
Musical performances by Karen Akers, Renée Fleming, Fred Hersch, Anne-Marie McDermott, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Eric Owens, Natasha Paremski, and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.
Pre-performance cocktail reception and dinner; post-performance dessert with the artists.

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