Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Spring is in the Arts

Too long since my last blog and so many highlights since spring quarter began.

On the academic quarter system it seems that we obsess about enrollment for about half of each quarter. Arts and Letters is having a record spring and this is likely very good news for our bumper crop of new freshmen. Our first year students seem to be staying—and taking their courses in an appropriate sequence meaning that more should make it through the first year. Excellent work by staff, faculty, and administration!

While spring break came and went my arts agenda remained active. I experienced the ominously dark Achim Freyer version of Die Walküre at LA Opera with it’s ticky tack, tumble down bicycle horses and creaking turnwheel sets. Okay, I’m not a fan. The singers and orchestra were resplendent, though, providing magnificent uplift despite the “through a scrim darkly” set. Placido Domingo is 68! I didn’t agree with LA Times critic, Mark Swed (where was HE sitting?) when he wrote that Domingo could only sing at full voice or not at all. I was amazed at his flexibility, force, and gravity—despite being painted half black and bald, half blue and crazy wigged.

I said my own farewell last week to Esa-Pekka Salonen who once glanced at me at opera opening night as if I might be somebody he should know. Last Thursday I was glancing from the Terrace level where I often have a fascinating view of a soloist’s back. Ligeti’s “Clocks and Clouds,” Salonen’s own world premiere violin concerto, and Beethoven’s 5th provided the aural delight, Disney Hall the usual visual lift.

Last week’s highlights also included the annual Jean Burden poetry reading with Victor Hernández Cruz. The poet took a fascinating perspective on the role of Arab culture, history, and language in the Spanish colonial world, placing himself as a subject in constant conversation with English, Spanish, and Arabic legacies.

A brief holiday weekend in Palm Springs capped the week. Yes, I know it was White Party Weekend, but this dancing dean didn’t dance the night away to deafening techno. Quiet dinners with my brother and friends, quality pool time, and reducing my pile of New Yorkers by three, those were my goals set and achieved.

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