Arts News Around Town

By Megan McDonald April 12, 2011

La Musica is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

La Musica Celebrates 25th Season With Flair

It doesn’t get the attention that its younger, glitzier sibling, the Sarasota Film Festival, receives. But the La Musica International Chamber Music Festival is drawing large, enthusiastic audiences this week, thanks to some red-carpet worthy performances by its European and American artists.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, La Musica opened April 4 by recreating its initial concert from 1986: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusic,  Beethoven’s String Quartet in F minor and Schubert’s Trout Quintet.

The festival’s founder,  Piero Rivolta, and its artistic director, Italian violist Bruno Giuranna, took the Sarasota Opera House stage to say how amazed and gratified they were that this festival has not only endured, but flourished, even in these difficult economic times.

The joy of the occasion was muted somewhat because longtime executive director Sally Faron was absent, due to a back injury that required surgery this week.  I join the musicians and the audience members who miss her terribly in wishing her a rapid recovery.

You can hear more Mozart and Schubert at the festival during Wednesday’s 8 p.m. concert. The program will also feature the premiere of a commissioned work by pianist and composer Dick Hyman, an area resident perhaps best-known for his work in jazz and for his collaborations with filmmaker Woody Allen.

The festival concludes Friday with a concert of works by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Mozart (hey, can you ever have too much of Mozart?)

Film Fest Starts With Documentary

And speaking of the Sarasota Film Festival, I was just as impressed as my colleague Kay Kipling with the opening night film, Page One: A Year Inside The New York Times. The documentary, by director Andrew Rossi, couldn’t have been more timely in its focus on new media and the precarious state of newspapers.

As one who spent 33 years writing for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, I left feeling a tiny bit hopeful, and also extremely proud of my former profession. Though the media is held in low esteem by most Americans, I would think even its severest critics would be impressed by the dedication , passion and professionalism displayed by the reporters and editors on the screen.

The sold-out audience was definitely impressed, greeting two writers who figured prominently in the film, David Carr and Brian Stelter, with a thunderous ovation when they came out on stage for a question-and-answer session.

Congratulations to the festival for making the courageous choice to open with a documentary for only the second time in its 13-year history. A feature film with bona fide movie stars would have been a safer move, but the enthusiastic audience proved that festival-goers are interested in substance as well as a little sizzle.

But the after-party in the Sarasota Opera House was just too crowded. Several local restaurants from The Sarasota Originals were offering their specialties. But pushing through drink lines to get to the food was difficult. And it was so dark in Felding Hall in the Opera House that I’m still not sure what was on the tiny plates I stood in line for there.

High Time for New Director

Steven High, the Ringling Museum of Art’s new executive director, won’t start his new job until June. But he was in town briefly last week for an elegant welcome party at the lovely bayfront condo of museum supporter Tana Sandefur.

The invitees included a host of community leaders, as well as board members like John McKay, Howard Tibbals, Helga Wall-Apelt and Bob Johnson. High was introduced by Sally McRorie, dean of the college of visual arts, theatre and dance at Florida State University, which operates the museum.

Also speaking was Cliff Walters, head of the search committee that selected High.  Walters joked that serving on the committee was a nightmare, “because one member said we needed to find an executive director who went to Antioch College and Williams College, while another said the candidate must have an MBA. Yet another said we had to have someone who had run a multi-faceted institution.”

The punchline, of course, was that High fulfills all of those requirements. The Antoich and Williams grad has an MBA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and comes to the Ringling from the Telfair Museums in Savannah, a complex made up of three institutions.

The affable High told the audience that it had been a difficult decision to leave Savannah. But staring out the window at the yachts and sailboats bobbing in the bay below, he said he knew he was going to be very happy in Sarasota.

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