Ringling Festival Opening Night

By staff October 8, 2009

A classical music concert kicks off the Ringling International Arts Festival.

By Kay Kipling

The inaugural Ringling International Arts Festival sprang to life last night with a reception in the Ringling Museum courtyard that featured food, music from Booker High’s Jazz Combo and circus performances by the Florida State University Flying High Circus, followed by the opening night concert in the Mertz Theatre.


Guests mingled in the courtyard despite the somewhat steamy October weather, many buzzing about the possibility of glimpsing Mikhail Baryshnikov, artistic director of the Baryshnikov Arts Center, which is partnering with the Ringling to present the festival. Among other celebrities to be seen were former state Sen. John McKay and wife Michelle (McKay was instrumental in bringing the festival to fruition) and Gov. Charlie Crist and his wife, Carole; Crist officially opened the festival with a few words thanking Baryshnikov for his “participation and kindness” and adding that it was “a great night for all of Florida and the arts.” A fireworks display over the bayfront followed the governor’s remarks.


Then it was on the Mertz for a concert of classical music featuring Atlanta Symphony Orchestra music director Robert Spano leading pianist Pedja Muzijevic in a masterful performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 in G Major. I’m no reviewer of orchestral or classical music, but from where I sat in the upper mezzanine (just a few rows behind Mr. Baryshnikov) I had an excellent view of both Muzijevic’s hands at work and the beautiful piano he was playing. And I was impressed both with his rendition and the accomplishment of the Florida State University Symphony Orchestra backing him. I don’t know the average age of these FSU students in training (some looked quite young), but to my ears they were very musically strong.


A brief change of pace from Beethoven was provided with Nagoya Marimbas, an intriguing piece by Steve Reich that sounded to me a little New Age-y, a little like a jazzy flow of water, as performed by dueling marimbists Brian Baldauff and Luis Rivera. Then the orchestra took on Beethoven’s Fifth, and as accustomed as everyone is to hearing this famous symphony, I felt it was imbued with some fresh spirit thanks to the orchestra’s youth and energy.


A champagne and dessert reception in the museum’s visitor’s pavilion took place after the concert—a chance for patrons to actually mingle with the musicians who had just entertained them. It was also a chance to hear the stylings of Doc and the Ear-iginals, a local ensemble featuring Dr. Herbert Silverstein, among other musicians.


On my schedule today: Peter Brook’s Love is my sin and cabaret artist Meow Meow. I’ll report on those tomorrow.
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