Midsummer Arts Roundup

Last Saturday I went to CSUMB for an afternoon of student monologue performances.  It seems that almost every time I drive on the the CSUMB campus I get lost, or, if not exactly lost, then driving on a road that leads me into the old abandoned section of Fort Ord—decrepit buildings, shattered windows, broken slabs of concrete, waist-high weeds—until either instinct or dumb luck prevails and I turn right or left and then am suddenly back on campus, with its attractive buildings and excellent programs.

One such excellent program was this year’s first Summer Arts season, a series of masterclasses and performances in the visual, literary, media and performing arts.  It is a statewide CSU program and will be hosted by CSUMB for another four years.  Next year I will go to more events.  Unfortunately it coincides with the Carmel Bach Festival, and this year I went to many Bach Festival concerts, but for the next four years I think I may spend more time at CSUMB.

The event I attended was the culmination of a two-week Solo Performance class.  For a little over an hour I watched in admiration, awe, and, at times, deep emotion, as thirteen individuals, one at a time, got up on stage and performed, most of them from memory, an original four-minute piece.  Many of the pieces were an exploration of self-doubt and self-acceptance.  What impressed me was how the instructors had clearly worked with the students to turn the performances into real performances, with expressive movement, the use of gesture, vocal inflection, judicious use of props, and command of the stage.  Some of the pieces were humorous, as when a woman turns her encounter with a mugger into a flirtation, others quite dark, but all in the service of transforming the moments of a life into art.

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Of the many Carmel Bach Festival concerts I attended, my all-time favorite was one I almost missed.  (Thanks, Marty!)  It was the last day of the Festival, the Saturday morning “Viennese Concertante” showcasing music by Mozart and his father Leopold.  Emlyn Ngai performed Mozart’s delicious Serenade in D Major, the “Haffner,” with extraordinary artistry and virtuosic ease; I felt completely taken over by the energy of the piece and my body was abuzz and humming with musical effervescence all day.  (It was the same day I went to CSUMB, and I also attended that evening’s smashing Best of the Fest concert.  The next day I was exhausted.)

As I wrote last week, this year’s Bach Festival was filled with many marvelous concerts.  One concert did disappoint: the Friday evening “Music of Dance” symphony program.  The program included a Bach Orchestral Suite and Stravinsky’s Suite from his ballet Pulcinella, followed by Brahms’s Second Symphony.  The orchestra seemed tired, especially the strings, where intonation was frequently approximate.  Paul Goodwin conducted the last movement of the Brahms, Allegro con spirito, at a punishingly fast speed.  It was an idiosyncratic, unsatisfying performance.  Throughout the symphony, there was a detached crispness, with little of the Romantic swell and shapely phrasing that is so vital to Brahms.

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Speaking of shapely, the Olympics are on, and a beautifully athletic body in exquisite motion can be in itself a form of art.  Pacific Repertory Theatre is presenting the Olympics, Mondays through Fridays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, in the renovated Golden Bough Theatre on their new large screen.  This is from their press release:

“PacRep is proud to present the newly improved stage in the Golden Bough Theatre - now featuring state-of-the-art multimedia capabilities.  In an effort to mark the Bough’s new capabilities, PacRep is offering the community FREE viewing of the 2012 Olympics on the Golden Bough’s Big Screen.  PacRep will be screening the local NBC affiliate (channel 6).  For scheduling information, please consult your local TV Guide or call the box office for the daily line up (831-622-0100).”