Archive for the ‘San Diego sports and culture’ Category

Brilliant Strings and Pianos at La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest 2017

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

The La Jolla Music Society‘s SummerFest is underway with another exciting season of chamber music and world class performers, this year with a theme of pianos and strings.

Saturday night brought a perfect example of the beauty and soulfulness of La Jolla’s annual music festival, featuring leading musicians from around the world.

Olga

Olga Kern

First there was the amazingly brilliant pianist Olga Kern delighting with three prelude pieces by Rachmaninoff, two  studies by Scriabin and Mily Balakirev’s “Islamey.”  All six pieces, very difficult, were performed from memory by Kern. Then the pianist joined the dynamic soprano, Lybubov Petrova in “Gypsy Songs” from Dvorak.
Petrova

Lyubov Petrova

Taking the evening to an even higher crescendo, the magnificent duo of Christina and Michelle Naughton thrilled the audience with their renditions of a lovely Chopin rondo for two pianos, followed by “Variations on Theme of Paganini for Two Pianos.”

Naughton Pianists

Christina and Michelle Naughton

After a short intermission the evening’s additional highlight was a piano quintet by Dvorak presented by the Miro Quartet and accompanying pianist Inon Barnatan.

Miro Quartet

Miro Quartet

Tickets are still available for the remaining 14 events in the festival at the website of the La Jolla Music Society at www.ljms.org.

Of particular interest are forthcoming violin sonatas by Beethoven, presented over three nights as well as in a free afternoon program. The first of these four Beethoven sonata concerts, on Tuesday, Aug. 15, will feature festival director Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin, the Rice University professor whose violin mastery is always loved by Summerfest audiences.

Jimmy

Cho-Liang Lin

A concert goer on Saturday night would have been dazzled by the piano artistry of the glamorous Kern and the beautiful identical Naughton twins. There were repeated gasps in the audience as these women, joined in one number by world class soprano Petrova, came to the stage at the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall at UC San Diego. The sheer beauty of these performers was soon overtaken by appreciation of their fingers, hands and voice.

Then, in a dramatic aesthetic change, in the second half of the Saturday program, came the Miro Quartet accompanied at the piano by the spectacular Barnaton.  The quartet has been together since 1995 and their 38-minute rendition of Dvorak’s piano quintet in a major was chamber music at its finest.  Part of the drama for the audience was seeing these five compelling men honoring Dvorak, after seeing the beautiful women, also with highest skills, in the concert’s first half.

Festival director Jimmy Lin, seated in the audience, could hardly contain his joy and appreciation at his own creation, having brought these colorful and deeply skilled performers to Summerfest. The Dvorak quintet showed off the work of the then 46-year-old composer, who in 1887 wrote this work featuring not only the tradition of classical Viennese forms (Dvorak was a friend and admirer of Brahms, for example) but also employing the passion of his Czech nationalism.  The result of this performance brought the SummerFest audience to their feet, for a well-deserved standing ovation.

Along with the concertizing, SummerFest offers many free encounters and rehearsals.  Substantially enhancing each concert are free  ticket-holder “preludes,” mostly talks presented by the irreplaceable Eric Bromberger, who writes the SummerFest program notes.

Saturday evening, Bromberger interviewed the Naughton twins, which proved to be an evening highlight. (One could learn, for example, that the twins were born in Princeton, NJ, with Chinese and European parents, but their amazing synergism was also on display in this prelude talk.)  If at all possible, these pre-concert prelude events should not be missed by patrons.

This was an evening of amazing hands, passion, beauty and  soulfulness. Asked where is the soul, a reviewer of Summerfest performances had a ready answer: “The soul is where love and joy reside,” filling one with appreciation of what can be found this summer in La Jolla.

When the Ladies Are Murderers for Hire: Dark Comedy at La Jolla Playhouse

Monday, August 7th, 2017

The perfect story for the age of Donald Trump, Jr. has just arrived at La Jolla Playhouse.  The name of the play is “Kill Local,” and I’m happy to recommend this Playhouse experimental effort.

So, for some summer laughs and gender role reversal, hurry over to catch this farce with a morality play angle.  The more gruesome parts are in the first act but patrons will definitely stay around for the conclusion.

This reviewer was amused that with the world-wide feminist call for gender equality, this dark comedy comes along to show what can happen when women are completely in charge.  This makes for refreshing drama and helps one understand the often leavening  role of art.

Though bloody, the acting was quite good even as some of the players lines could have used better microphone boosting.  Same for the innovative directing—the play had to be stopped for a stage correction on opening night.

But the script is well-written, a tribute to the partnership between UCSD Theater and the La Jolla Playhouse.  The fine writer, Mat Smart, studied at University of California, San Diego before migrating to New York and now has temporarily come back to delight the home folks with a script and staging that has echoes of Theater of the Absurd and is a bit unusual but—amazingly—it works!

The players should be recognized for their good acting and hard work in this physically demanding performance.  They are Matthew Amendt, Carolyn Braver, Candy Buckley, Amanda Quaid and Xochiti Romero.  Braver’s parents drove in from Tucson to delight in the work of their 25-year-old daughter who effectively plays a semi-naïve 17-year-old.  Her very proud dad confided that she had already had a Broadway role and was thrilled to be in this La Jolla production.

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

Amanda Quaid as Shelia (left) and Carolyn Braver as Ami

The other stars are a devilish Mom and her two daughters who run a small family killing-for-hire business which is the heart of the production.  Their extraordinary foil is Amendt a dead ringer for Donald Trump Jr, looking-alike, sounding-alike and a capitalist—selfish at any cost.

mother daughter

Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Candy Buckley as “Gloria”

One could delight merely in this character’s swinging around at the mercy of his guns-for-hire captor.  But there is much more in this playful script for which you’ll have to scurry over to the playhouse to get the inside story: La Jolla Playhouse

hanging

Amanda Quaid as “Shelia” (left) and Matthew Amendt as “Todd”

Most everywhere one turns these days in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego one sees partnerships between UCSD and various elements of the community.  Presentation of “Kill Local,” as said, fine experimental theater, is a marvelous tribute to the long-time synergy created in the “Theater District.”

At the same time, UCSD Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla must be congratulated also for providing a temporary home for SummerFest 2017, our grand musical event—on a class with the very few top musical festivals in the world.

Incidentally this is the same academic leader who brought the Dalai Lama to La Jolla—a courageous act in face of anti-free-speech propagandists who flooded his switchboard with nasty phone calls.  It was a pleasure to see the Chancellor at the Playhouse opening night of “Kill Local” in this case accompanied by his articulate and handsome son.

Check out “Kill Local” during this limited run in August.  Ticket details are available at the site La Jolla Playhouse.

 

TAKE US OUT TO THE BALLGAME—BEAUTIFUL PLAY IN THE CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Our national pastime can be enjoyed in an unforgettable afternoon and evening by attending a California League game, at one of eight minor league stadiums, such as the wonderful venue in the little town of Lake Elsinore, in Riverside county—halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

 

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STORM STADIUM, LAKE ELSINORE, CALIFORNIA

There, on the late afternoon of July 2, 2016, the home club, Lake Elsinore STORM, hosted the Lancaster JETHAWKS, for a delightful and exciting game. The Storm won, 3-1, but for a charmed spectator the outcome was less important than the fun of watching major league prospects show their stuff. For example, a right-handed pitcher, Enyel De Los Santo, seen below, may someday soon join the San Diego Padres, as the Storm is one of the Padre minor league affiliates (farm team).

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On this marvelous afternoon The Lancaster JETHAWKS, a Houston Astros minor league club, appropriately named also for its location in the California Antelope Valley, a region long associated with the aerospace industry, was the visiting ball team. Lancaster is about an hour north of Los Angeles.

For a fan who has had the privilege of seeing baseball in many major league parks around the nation and in Canada, this afternoon was as good as most of those experiences. Just to watch batting practice, followed by immaculate grounds keeping work to get the field in perfect playing shape was a treat. As the fans easily strolled into the stadium (with brief stops for what appeared to be serious security checks) the tarpaulins were removed to unveil a mix of perfectly manicured green turf, with brown base paths and a carefully measured pitcher’s mound.

Precisely at 6:05 pm the home plate umpire called, “Play Ball.” (There are two umpires running California League games, compared with four in the majors.) Soon the score was 3 to 1, on an early homerun by the Storm’s Fernando Perez, the designated hitter.

(In the lower minor leagues each team has a “designated hitter, “ a practice first employed in the American League of Major League baseball, giving the pitchers a chance to concentrate on that skill without having to worry about batting.)

As the game progressed—and the fans were clearly patronizing the concession stands for dinner or snacks—the Storm’s efficient media relations specialist, Tyler Zickel, also took to the field between innings to honor local kids and other dignitaries for civic activities. (This also provided a good chance for some fans to ignore the field and get food!)

Lake Elsinore itself, in a beautiful valley setting amid California hills and mountains, was named for a spectacular body of water quite visible from the stadium.   Now somewhat diminished by the terrible California drought, the lake is still a brilliant and lovely natural wonder. Team management schedules almost all games for very late afternoon when the heat of central and southern California has subsided.

If a spectator came to Lake Elsinore early enough to get a look around there were numerous fast food joints, but also three fine restaurants lined up to serve a more discerning taste—a Persian restaurant, next to a really good Mexican place, which was next door to an Italian restaurant with a welcoming and serious menu. For three diners at the Mexican eatery, the total tab came to under $30 for a full and memorable meal. This seemed typical of Lake Elsinore prices.

A nearby Spa advertised serious massage treatment, probably not up to the highest standards of LA or San Diego, but a tired driver could get relief there, before the game. Of course it would be difficult to be too worn out from driving since the time to get to Storm stadium from nearby big cities was a mere hour-and-a-half. Much less driving time would be required if a fan was coming from close in cities in Riverside County or Orange County, both important population centers in California.

The true designation of Riverside and adjoining counties is California’s “Inland Empire,” perhaps a bit of overstatement but one could get the royal treatment at Lake Elsinore just by purchasing a moderately priced ticket and going out to the ballgame!

SAN DIEGO PADRES ENJOYING 10th ANNIVERSARY AT PETCO PARK

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

 

by Barry Jagoda

Petco Park, was  spectacularly beautiful on Saturday evening, June 7, 2014 when the hometown San Diego Padres hosted the Washington Nationals, the middle game of a three contest series.  With its beautiful green fields, scoreboards revealing statistics of easily understandable recaps of player records and up-to-date scores from around the majors, this is exactly the kind of sports and entertainment shrine that draws and excites baseball fans who come to appreciate the fun and excitement that has been the compelling glory for which our national past time has been drawing crowds of fanatics for many years.

Our small group was comprised of two San Diego-based journalists and one Washington Nationals writer in with his fanaticism from the nation’s capital.  A perfect grouping for this encounter between the beloved local Padres and the Nationals, a team which has also continued to draw attention and crowds for the past decade to its own urban baseball park in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

Petco was the setting for the action this Saturday night and by early in the ballgame the score was tied 2-2.   We were having a great time and split away from our fine seats behind the visitors dugout on the third base side to go up and purchase a couple of hot dogs and the required accompanying cans of beer.  By the time we got back to our seats the visitors had taken a 3-2 lead, very satisfying for the Nationals partisan in our group.

The beer was ice cold so it was fortunate the ballclub, and one of its sponsors Lexus/Toyota, chose this evening to give away “beach towels” which, when wrapped around shoulders, easily took the chill out of the lovely San Diego night air.  This season is being celebrated as the 10th Anniversary of Petco Park, but the venue looks so clean and fresh that one could almost assume we were present on opening night in 2004 instead of celebrating a terrific 10th birthday.

But, back to the ballgame:  The last Padre was at the plate in the 9th Inning and the park was emptying.  Dramatically, the highly regarded Nationals closing pitcher threw one right over the plate just in a perfect spot for Padre first baseman Yonder Alonso to knock it over the 400 foot mark in center field.  Tie game!  The ballpark exploded in fan frenzy.

Alonso is seen at left in this dramatic moment–exactly what makes people love and appreciate baseball.  In one second, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it was about to be over for the home team and in another instant there was new life, another great baseball dream.

 

 

This is the way baseball is supposed to be seen and played.  Thrilling.  Extra Innings.

 

 

It all ended when the Padres center fielder, Cameron Maybin, facing the camera above, knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.

Since the visitors had won on Friday night the series would now be tied between these two very competitive teams.  A Sunday afternoon ballgame, won by the Nationals, 6-0, made the Nationals the series victor but only after nearly 30,000 Saturday night fans could easily be considered the big winners with an forgettable outing in downtown San Diego.