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The Mondavis Toast the Arts

Culture* A $10-million gift helped build a UC Davis venue that will open Thursday with a gala.


Robert and Margrit Mondavi, the wine tycoons who contributed nearly $30 million to the opening of the COPIA wine and food museum in Napa last year, this week mark another grand opening: a performing arts facility at UC Davis.

The Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, UC Davis, a $57-million project, will open with a gala on Thursday. The sandstone-clad center includes an 1,800-seat theater and a more flexible 250-seat studio theater space. Until now, the largest indoor venue on campus has held about 1,300.

The opening, which will feature the San Francisco Symphony, gives Davis more options for presenting a variety of cultural events and adds a venue for the university's music, theater and dance departments. The 104,000-square-foot building was designed by Portland, Ore.-based BOORA Architects.

About $10 million toward the center came from the Mondavis, who live near Davis, in the Napa Valley.

Mondavi, 89, founded the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville in 1966. That venture has grown into an empire that includes 16 labels. Mondavi retains the title of chairman emeritus. Margrit Biever Mondavi serves as vice president of cultural affairs at the winery. An additional $25 million in Mondavi money is earmarked for a Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science at the university.

The University of California Board of Regents also contributed to the cost of building the performing arts center, with a loan of $15.4 million; other public and private donations accounted for the rest of the cost.

Other performers in the 106-event, first-year schedule include Yo-Yo Ma, Pat Metheny, Philip Glass, the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Joshua Bell, the Boys Choir of Harlem and a touring production of "Rent."

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