Arts & Culture Newsletter: Sutton Foster shines in ‘Light’

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

To all those who had tickets for or planned on getting some for “An Evening With Sutton Foster,” scheduled for March 21 at Copley Symphony Hall but obviously canceled, take heart. I’ve got a consolation prize for you. For 35 bucks, you can watch New York City Center Digital’s presentation of “Sutton Foster / Bring Me to Light.” It’s an hour’s worth of the Broadway star at her most effervescent — bantering with friends and cohorts, sincerely addressing her fans and, of course, singing many beloved Broadway tunes.

“Bring Me to Light” captures Foster in both casual and more formal performance moments inside NYC’s City Center on 55th Street. She’s joined here and there by those aforementioned friends and cohorts, including Raul Esparza, Kelli O’Hara and Joaquina Kalukango. There’s even a performance by one of Foster’s students at Ball State University, Wren Rivera.

Foster doesn’t possess a wow Broadway voice, but it is a lovely one, and she exhibits it to best effect on ballads like “Answer Me” from “The Band’s Visit” (a great show, by the way, that will be in San Diego in March 2022), “Lay Down Your Head” from “Violet” (which Foster starred in on Broadway), and a duet with Esparza on Stephen Sondheim’s “With So Little To Be Sure Of.” Naturally, Foster gets kicky with the likes of “Slap That Bass” and “Cockeyed Optimist.”

Sometimes the goings become too cutesy for me, rather like Foster’s “Younger” TV series. But she’s such an unfailingly likable person that this can be forgiven.

“Sutton Foster / Bring Me to Light” can be streamed through May 31.

Visual art

"Nightmare" by Carlo Miranda

“Nightmare” by Carlo Miranda

(Courtesy image)

The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed artists in all disciplines to express their feelings about their and our quarantine/isolation experience. This is vividly and dramatically seen in a new exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art, “Paintings from the Confinement.”

One installation contains works by Marianela de la Hoz: 11 egg tempera paintings. The other installation contains two, nearly identical self-portraits by another local artist, Carlo Miranda. Miranda was as close to the peril of the pandemic as possible, having worked as a hospital nurse here.

“As an RN, it was terrifying seeing the emergency department,” Miranda responded in an email interview. “”Gurneys were in the hallways and PPE and medical supplies were scattered everywhere. It almost felt like we were at war. You could feel the emotional toll this pandemic placed on the staff and patients. So it’s extremely important to me as an artist to create and express myself. The same way sharks must swim in order to breathe, I must paint in order to live. To stop feels like death is certain.”

Regarding his two works in the exhibition: “The emotion I was reflecting in the double self-portrait was a culmination of all the deep-seated emotions I felt in this time crashing down all at once.” He added: “I want (viewers) to understand they are not alone, for these emotions affect us all as a whole.”

Classical music

Rafael Payare

Rafael Payare

(Nancee E. Lewis)

That Mozart was a child prodigy is well known, but as a new streaming concert from the San Diego Symphony illuminates, he wasn’t alone in the annals of classical music.

The hourlong “Early Genius: Mozart, Elgar and Mendelssohn” features symphony musicians conducted by Music Director Rafael Payare performing magnificent works written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Edward Elgar and Felix Mendelssohn all while in their teens.

Mozart’s “Divertimento in F Major,” which opens the program, was composed for the kind of festive outdoor events to which as a young man he traveled and entertained. Close your eyes and imagine you’re at one of them.

I found Elgar’s lovely “Serenade for Strings in E Minor, Op. 20,” which he wrote between the ages of 12 and 14, the most romantic of the three offerings in this virtual program.

The concluding “String Symphony No. 12 in G Minor” by Mendelssohn, also written between the ages of 12 and 14, is dynamic and reflects the young composer’s influences from Bach to Renaissance music.

As with all these symphony presentations, program works are preceded by light and educational audiovisual backstories.


"West Side Story"

“West Side Story”

(MGM / UA Entertainment)

The four-day TCM Classic Film Festival begins today with presentations both on the Turner Classic Movies channel and HBO Max. Popular and well-respected films from all eras will be featured throughout the virtual festival along with interviews with and tributes from filmmakers and actors.

The classic that kicks off the festival is my favorite unofficial remake of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” 1961’s “West Side Story.” You can catch it today at 5 p.m. on TCM.

This is the 60th anniversary of the story of the Jets and the Sharks, and of Tony and Maria, the ill-fated lovers. There’s so much one could say about “West Side Story,” from the timeless music to the dazzling choreography — look at me with the adjectives, but I can’t help myself! — to Natalie Wood, who automatically makes a film must-see viewing for me. I’ve said it before in this newsletter, but I’ll say it again: “West Side Story” is better than “Romeo and Juliet.”

Incidentally, Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story” is planned for a December 2021 release. Here’s the trailer.


City Ballet San Diego closes its season with "Raymonda," available on demand through May 23.

City Ballet San Diego closes its season with “Raymonda,” available on demand through May 23.

(Courtesy photo by Anna Scipione)

City Ballet of San Diego’s 29th season, presented virtually, is concluding with “Raymonda,” three ballets choreographed by Elizabeth Wistrich and Geoff Gonzalez, beginning tomorrow and available on demand through May 23. The filmed production includes Wistrich’s “Raymonda Variations” and “Still World Turning Again,” and Gonzalez’s “Seasons.” For more on this presentation, see Arts+Culture on Sunday.


Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson

(Ricky Steel)

COVID-19 derailed touring and recording plans for countless musicians around the world in 2020 and this year like nothing else in modern history. But Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nancy Wilson cites the pandemic as the reason she was able to make “You and Me,” the first official solo album in the Heart co-leader’s 47-year career. It will be released Friday.

“I’ve been meaning to do this album for ages, and people have been asking me to do it for ages. But this is the situation in which I could actually get it done,” said the veteran guitarist and songwriter, who handles nearly all of the lead vocals on “You and Me.”

“We were working so hard with Heart and with my own band, Roadhouse Royale, that picking up a guitar and trying to sit down to write and create more music didn’t work. When I was off the road for a week or two, it seemed like: ‘This is my time off. I need the rest.’ And my fingers needed a rest!

“This time, because of the shutdown, was the opportunity for me to pick up the guitar and reconnect to my pre-Heart, pre-touring, college-girl self.”

Read more about Wilson in this story by the Union-Tribune’s George Varga.

More dance

Peter Kalivas, founding artistic director of PGK Dance Project

Peter Kalivas, founding artistic director of PGK Dance Project, during rehearsals at Studio Door Gallery in Hillcrest on Wednesday, April 28, 2021.

(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

There were moments over the last year when dancer-choreographer Peter G. Kalivas paused long enough to face reality and acknowledge the most obvious challenge facing him and other artists.

“Financial,” he said. “That was the biggest challenge. We lost all of our contracts except for the one with the city of San Diego — that was the only one we didn’t lose.”

For the last 27 years — first in Europe and in San Diego since 2002 — the Long Island, N.Y.-born Kalivas has been at the helm of The PGK Dance Project, a professional troupe whose mission has been to use dance as a way to build and nurture a diverse community, foster a sense of belonging and spread the gospel of dance.

This past year, when most of the performing arts ground to a halt due to the pandemic, Kalivas certainly had more time to worry about finances. But more importantly, he said, he had more time to revisit his raison d’être — to think about why he started all of this in the first place.

Read more about PGK Dance in this story by the Union-Tribune’s Michael James Rocha.


“El Norte”

University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this period of social distancing. Among them, with descriptions courtesy of UCTV (text written by UCTV staff):

“Borders: ‘El Norte’”: Though not a box office hit, director Gregory Nava’s “El Norte” was a critical success and profoundly influenced movies that followed detailing the immigrant experience. This intensely moving film tells the story of Guatemalan siblings who flee persecution and journey north along the length of Mexico, and whose dream of finding a new home in the United States is challenged at every step. In conversation with moderator Ross Melnick, Colin Gunckel and Mirasol Enríquez reflect on the production, reception and legacy of the film in the context of newly emerging Chicanx filmmaking and “border cinema” in the ‘80s.

“Kyoto Laureate Ariane Mnouchkine”: The prestigious Kyoto Prize is an award that recognizes those who contribute significantly to the “betterment of mankind” in the fields of science, culture and technology. In 2019, the prize in the Arts and Philosophy category was awarded to Ariane Mnouchkine. Founder of the avant-garde ensemble Théâtre du Soleil and an iconic figure in French theater for over 50 years, Mnouchkine pursues a humanist vision of art with an unwavering dedication to artists and a constant attention to audiences. She is joined by UC San Diego professor Allan Havis and visiting scholar Robert Marx in a rare and candid discussion.

“Science in Space to Benefit Life on Earth”: Overcoming the challenges of working in space, such as microgravity and solar radiation exposure, has led to many technological and scientific advances that provide benefits to society on Earth in areas including health and medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, energy and environment, information technology, and industrial productivity. Liz Warren, senior program director for the International Space Station (ISS) U.S. National Laboratory, talks about the importance of the IIS for conducting groundbreaking research in science, technology and innovation that is simply not possible on Earth, making the International Space Station an important venue for scientific inquiry.

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