November 21st brought over 800 audience members to hear Dr. Paul De Castro conduct our Afro Latin Ensemble in a series of works by guest artist, Larry Harlow, including Mr. Harlow’s La Raza Latina Salsa Suite, adapted for our ensemble by another guest artist, José Arellano. Memo Acevedo and Adonis Puentes also contributed significantly to this event. Last year we created the Larry Harlow Fund to support our Afro Latin Ensemble and Cal State LA’s unique master’s program in Afro Latin music.
Way back when I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Thanksgiving meant opera. Friends and I would gather for an early afternoon meal, digest, then cross the Bay Bridge for another feast of music. I remember one magical performance of Massenet’s Cendrillon with Fredericka von Stade, a perfect fairy tale ending for my favorite holiday. During the past few years I’ve bee equally lucky to attend an LA Opera opening on Thanksgiving weekend. This year was a twin bill! After hearing the gorgeous Tamerlano I want to rush out and buy the CD. Sarah Coburn as Asteria was highly impressive, as was countertenor Bejun Mehta in the title role.
Sunday’s Barber of Seville proved a delicious end to Thanksgiving weekend. The initially black, white, and grey production gets a sudden color blast in the last act; the soldiers’ chevron sleeves and different colored gloves looked like a row of Crayola crayons. This production offered everything an opera standard could offer—an engaging cast who archly played their comic roles, a visually engaging and inventive production, and some fairly fabulous singing. At the end of the show, Juan Diego Flórez brought down the house with an extended aria in which he seemed to delight in his own vocal talent and play while appearing only comically arrogant. Not the biggest voice, but beautifully supple and subtle—magnifico! This was the first time I remember hearing Spanish intonations in an opera (sung in Italian) that takes place, obviously, in Seville. Joyce DiDonato (Rosina) and Nathan Gunn (Figaro) joined Flórez in wowing the audience in the major roles and every other lead singer earned well deserved applause.
To round out my week of thanks to the arts, I made my first visit to the Palm Springs Art Museum on “Black Friday” and listened to Susan Boyle’s new CD. The first three selections make it worth the effort—the rest, not so much. I love her version of “Cry Me a River;” she sounds like a 1950’s soubrette, a working class Doris Day.
This week brings a series of ensemble concerts and Theatre Arts and Dance’s “Moving Dance Images.”
See you @ the next event!