DRAMATIC ROYAL ISABELA CAPTURES GOLF GREATNESS IN PUERTO RICO

April 12th, 2016

 

By Barry Jagoda

     A golfer seeking out the most spectacular landscapes for world-class play must not overlook Royal Isabela, on the Atlantic coast of Puerto Rico about 90 minutes from San Juan. Dramatic photos can barely do justice to a front nine carved out of dense forest meandering among high cliffs down to a River valley. The unforgettable back, played along high cliffs perched above pounding, crashing waves below, reveals the ocean’s constant presence.

Royal Isabela, Silver Wings Aviation, Casona, La Casa, David PfaThe course challenges golfers of varying abilities with six tees on each hole and a round that can easily include a high slope (up to 142) or form a more modest course for the average player. This venue can be compared favorably to top ocean courses from around the world. In the United States only one or two of Hawaii’s best venues comes near.

Royal Isabela is a dream come true for brothers Stanley and Charlie Pasarell, who first spotted what became 1800 acres of joy back in the late 1980s. The land includes 3.5 miles of oceanfront and five miles of the internal Guajatac River basin.

It is the change in elevation that makes for the most drama. The resort itself occupies a cliff-top plateau that reminds one of Pebble Beach, but in a location unspoiled by resort hotels. After the first six jungle-like holes, the front continues with three inland water tracks including a very respectable and intimidating par three with an island green.

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Then on to the string of magnificent oceanfront holes on the back. The par-three eleventh gives a distinct Caribbean impression of Pebble Beach’s famous seventh, and the twelfth will remind golfers of the famous ocean carry tee shot famous at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. But there are no garish homes anywhere near this course.

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The nearby little town of Isabela (named, of course, for Queen Isabela, the Spanish monarch who, with her husband, sponsored Columbus’ journeys) is in the northwestern region of Puerto Rico known as Porta del Sol (Doorway to the Sun). Just mention of this area can bring a smile to the faces of more urban Puerto Ricans who love to luxuriate in the nearly empty beaches and natural features of the more rural island pockets, like the 20 towns and villages along the Atlantic Ocean in the “Doorway.”

Golf operations are top quality in every dimension, with the pro shop under the direction of touring professional Miguel Suarez, assistance there from Eric Rivera and a hospitality program under the the welcoming Angela Torres. The Pasarell brothers are multi-generation natives of Puerto Rico who had been tennis champions and scions of a highly respected regional literary figure. As locals the brothers have a strong commitment to the environment. Their husbandry at Royal Isabela is proof of that.

Puerto Rico has a population of about 3.5 million, scattered among dozens of smaller towns and villages but dominated by the 500,000 residents of the capital San Juan. Getting to Royal Isabela is mostly easy driving predominantly on well-maintained four and six lane highways, but the last few miles are reached on narrow two-lane tracks.

The course is very relaxed with a limited number of members and a guest green fee of $250, quite appropriate for the quality. Caddies are required, with two players sharing the $90 fee.

MODERATION IN PURSUIT OF VIRTUE IS NO VICE

April 4th, 2016

By Barry Jagoda

As an open society the United States is mixed economically, culturally, socially and with regard to belief. With no fixed agreement on the very greatest issues of human exchange it becomes crucial for government, and for a responsible public, to be moderate so no particular segment of society feels entirely excluded from the process.

Generally American politics reflects this mixture of values but in contested elections, on the left and on the right, one can see deviation, often leading to subordination of a party or candidate who occupies one extreme or another. These extremes show up in other elements of our life but political conflict gets more attention and we are currently undergoing a historic polarization. These gulfs can be seen throughout our culture.

But in 2016, particularly in the Republican presidential nominating process, all of the candidates—17 in total at one time—have run to the right of center. And, as the process winds down, the leading two candidates are far to the right or leaning in that direction. The Democrats have seemed more moderate but from the perspective of the GOP, their more liberal opponents must seem just as deviant.

Republican candidates for public office have tended to find corners of darkness for their anti-government message while Democrats have bounced from calls for a remaking of political society to underscoring the need for more balance.

Passion is a great driver in public life but it can easily cause proponents of one perspective to alienate their fellow citizens. It was this very danger that gave the lie to the famous comment from a right-of-center Presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater, when he said, “Extremism in pursuit of virtue is no vice.” But whose “virtue,” what “extremism” and what sort of “vice?”

Questions such as these, with a variety of answers depending on initial assumptions, lead to bad public policy. The answers—for a healthy society—require moderation.

This is why the economy works best when government is joined with private sector entities to accomplish projects when possible. Mixing funding from public sources—such as for artists, scientists, public broadcasting—with creative forces from the private economy becomes crucial for start-up projects. And with Constitutional requirements for freedom of religion the main role of the public sector is to shield these organizations from restrictions.

Perhaps in no other system does the collective power of government—at local, state and federal levels—come to play a supporting role providing a social safety net. Mixing good jobs with poverty reduction, and underpinning minimum housing, food and clothing, provides a huge role for government but as a supplement to the disorganized private work forces.

Ironically it is with institutions of religion that one can best see how a mixed system works. Because of the very great diversity in religious belief—and because there must be an open platform for each of these traditions—here the wider public sector simply plays an enabling role. In other cultures, where the religion is proscribed and imposed, clashes of values are much more likely. The American system, however, allows for a variety of belief and even protects the 20 percent of citizens who profess no supernatural values.

But American history, through 250 years has seen perpetual conflict between those who had acquired wealth or substantial economic assets and others who have fought for a larger share for those outside the financial circle of influence. With the “establishment” in perpetual fights with the underclasses, with leaders in the various religious sects on the defensive against those who question faith, and related arguments between the “haves” and “have nots,” society has been in turmoil for most of its modern history.

The story becomes quite murky when candidates for public office take on a populist tenor thereby fooling segments of the population who feel left out by government. This is a particular problem in primary voting for national office when candidates seem willing to say anything or do anything to attract their base of voters, often found in extreme pockets at the left or at the right.

It is for this reason that political scientists barely joke when they say “There are two positions in American politics: The moderate position and the wrong position!”

Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant. He was an award-winning writer and producer at NBC News and CBS News, and a founding contributing editor of the highly regarded Texas Monthly magazine.

WHAT CAN JOURNALISM DO WHEN POWERFUL SOCIAL FIGURES LIE?

December 17th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

Three movies out this December capture among the most profound issues that can be faced in a free society: What happens when high public and private officials lie? How can objective journalism respond to leaders who feel comfortable with factual distortions?

The short answer is that assertions, from elected and appointed public and private leaders—as well from others in positions of power and responsibility—often must be reported. But in many, perhaps most, cases such statements must be verified. This is because leaders often intentionally, or through mistake or ignorance, distort the truth.

Journalists have a responsibility to report the views of leaders but official, and often questionable, statements must be reviewed and vetted against facts.

An aphorism, about truthfulness, once sounded by Ronald Reagan, is relevant: As the late President put it about potential foreign leaders: Trust but Verify.

Dramatic attention is being drawn to these issues by movies out this season: The films are “Truth,” about CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather’s efforts to expose favorable military treatment given to George W. Bush; “Spotlight,” the true story about the courageous investigation by the Boston Globe,” exposing the Cardinal and Catholic leadership in Boston for sheltering 90 pedophilia priests; and “Trumbo,” the spectacular film revealing and reminding of the damages caused to our people and country by the Red Scares of the 1950s.

The best of the three films, “Trumbo,” demonstrates the great difficulty of vetting statements by lying politicians, and what happens when free speech rights are destroyed by official demagoguery. This is the story of Hollywood creative artists whose left-wing political opinions were silenced by official Washington’s invocation of “Red fears.” These were false charges that the United States was in danger from internal enemies loyal to the Soviet Union. The crime of stifling opinion was made possible by vicious office-holders personified by Wisconsin’s Senator Joseph McCarthy, a notorious liar, whose charges of contempt of Congress ended up in jail terms for ten Hollywood artists whose mistake was to express their opinions about American politics.

“Spotlight,” a wonderful movie, is the true story of how an investigative reporting team from the Boston Globe overcame huge cultural and local political odds to name 90 priests who had been found guilty of sexual molestation of parishioners. To get to the truth the Globe’s “Spotlight” reporting team had to take on the Catholic culture of Boston and years of official lies by the Cardinal and other church leaders. The best of our journalists learn they must often challenge authority, even at the risk of peril to their careers and their emotional balance. This film is a classic look at the process of “telling truth to power,” which had the result of pulling back years of despicable behavior by priests and their church bosses.

The most painful story from among the three movies is the true tale of what happened when CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather and his team of producers set out to show favoritism doled out to a young George W. Bush. The CBS team had learned that, Texas military national guard officials found a non-combatant role for the son of the then President George H.W. Bush. The CBS reporting came as the younger Bush was himself seeking re-election as U.S. President. The movie shows how the reporters were stymied by lies and cover-ups with the result that Rather, who had been the top reporter at CBS News, was fired from his job when errors were discovered in reporting procedures. In this case “Truth” was sacrificed to political power. The lying, and cover-up by young Bush—and family political allies–was left to stand.

Trying to hold powerful figures to a standard of truth and accuracy is particularly dangerous in an age when journalism organizations have come under financial pressures from a vastly changing media environment. With cable news channels adopting partisan political ideologies leaders often have an open microphone for their distortions. The rise of the Internet with unchecked digital outlets, particularly wide-open, often feckless “social media” expression, had exponentially increased opportunity for political and civic distortion.

A free and open society must have procedures for ensuring factual communication. Competing political and business entities can be helpful in creating a climate of honesty. These three film stories dramatically demonstrate that the front-line of defense for integrity in society often depends on an increasingly rare “fearlessness” from a free press.

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Federal Spending Can Cure U.S. Economic Woes

October 25th, 2015

Journal Opinion for October 25, 2015

By Barry Jagoda and Richard Cohen

Republican conservatives continue to fume over the probability that Congress will approve another increase in the nation’s debt limit by the deadline of Nov. 3. And the GOP candidates for President continue their focus on less government, all arguing for big cuts in federal spending. But this represents a complete misunderstanding of macroeconomics.

In all of modern history the most effective tool for repairing a national economy has been more targeted government spending. Central government spending is also the best way to reduce the national debt because current and future public investments will rapidly be paid back through the natural increase in tax revenues from a newly strong economy.

Many economists are attracted to the idea of increasing federal spending for worthwhile projects, especially when a nation’s economy is in a slump. The right kind of federal spending not only can pump needed fuel into the economy but will result in long-term benefits to society, such as new and improved roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure.

The current national challenge is to get conservative political leaders to understand this counter-intuitive approach. Probably the best testimony that deficit spending works is that the economy is finally picking up—haltingly, but steadily. Reducing government spending now will short-circuit the recovery. President Obama’s just released budget does call for more federal stimulus but not enough.

The theoretical basis for this strengthening comes from the work of the British economist John Maynard Keynes whose focus is on “aggregate demand,” depending not only on the private sector but also on government to build up the economy. “Demand”can be controlled by federal spending when private enterprise lags.

According to Keynes, within a short time, public and private economic activity will reward a country many times over and will automatically increase tax collections and thereby rather quickly begin to reduce the federal debt.

Why is federal deficit spending seen as such a taboo? Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, a leading Keynesian, says, “Fiscal fear mongering is a major industry inside the Beltway, especially among those looking for excuses to dismantle Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. People whose careers are heavily invested in the deficit-scold industry don’t want to let evidence undermine their scare tactics.”

In his first term President Obama, very much aware of the power of Keynesian theory, asked his economic team for a federal “stimulus” plan. His advisors argued among themselves and, with an eye out over what was thought to be concerns of the electorate, came up with federal spending that was later seen as about half of the amount necessary to get the economy rolling in a fundamental way. This mini-Keynesian contribution made a dent in the weak economy but not nearly enough was spent to reach the level of demand required. Now there is another chance.

The basic American economic problem is a lack of demand. American consumers and businesses aren’t spending enough, and efforts to get them to open their wallets have gone nowhere. The solution: The federal government needs to step in and spend. A lot. On debt relief for struggling homeowners; on infrastructure projects; on aid to states and localities; on safety-net programs. Call it “stimulus” if you like. Call it Keynesian economics. Whatever you call it, it worked in the late nineteen-thirties and forties, when the U.S. government started shelling out on the military in the build-up to World War II, bringing an abrupt end to years of economic misery and laying the foundation for decades of prosperity.

Conventional wisdom in Washington has been for “austerity” — throttle back on government spending, tackle the budget deficit now — as the way to get the economy back on track. Not only is this wrong, it’s making a bad situation even worse. Krugman writes: “Now is the time for the government to spend more, not less, until the private sector is ready to carry the economy forward again.”

Republicans fear government debt almost as though the overages were similar to going into household debt. Students in first year economics are taught that this is the “fallacy of composition,” mistaking what might be consequential for a home budget or even planning in business with the opportunities and issues for a national budget and management plan. Sometimes it seems that none of the conservatives in Congress found time for basic economic study, or they have forgotten the fundamental teaching. 2015-2016 is a very good time to test Keynes whose theories should get America further back on the right economic track.

Richard Cohen is a business executive and entrepreneur. Barry Jagoda is a San Diego-based journalist and international consultant.

At La Jolla SummerFest: The Passion of Dmitri Shostakovich

August 24th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

SummerFest, La Jolla Music Society’s month of concerts, talks and coaching sessions more than amply rewards patrons. Now Music Director Cho-Liang (“Jimmy”) Lin has again outdone himself with a three-concert focus, August 21, 22 and 23, on the work of Dmitri Shostakovich, arguably the world’s greatest composer since Mozart and Beethoven.

The extraordinary composer Dmitri Shostakovich celebrated at SummerFest, 2015

The extraordinary composer Dmitri Shostakovich celebrated at SummerFest, 2015

In addition to bringing some of the globe’s most talented musicians to perform some quite lovely, and some very meaningful, poignant, concerts, Jimmy Lin also employed retired UC Berkley music scholar Richard Taruskin, (“He is our greatest interpreter of Shostakovich,” Lin told us) for a series of lectures dealing mainly with the composer’s music, but which also helped patrons through the cauldron of misunderstanding caused by World War II, the Cold War and Soviet politics.

For example, soon after being elected head of Russia’s national organization of composers, Shostakovich was forced to join the Communist Party, which he did quite reluctantly. This was followed not too long after by a heart attack, though the composer recovered to continue writing and producing, some of his most dramatic music. As a result, for those in the West more interested in politics than in music, Shostakovich has been seen as a figure of knuckling under to the Soviet regime or as a great composer (and a piano virtuoso) who refused to play to dictator Josef Stalin’s tune. All of this, and more, under pins the life and music of this great genius composer.

The always engaging, creatively insightful, program annotator Eric Bromberger can be depended on to help novice and experienced music lovers through the work of Music Society’s yearlong and summer programs. In the case of Shostakovich, reinforcement from Professor Taruskin was also most helpful.  He delivered three lectures, as preludes to each of the concerts. He also presented an overview in an “Encounter” which engaged an audience that had come for a lectures on music but could not help but be transformed by a deep and fair-minded talk in  explication and appreciation of Shostakovich.

For some who had failed to pay proper attention to music classes in college or who had given up their violin lessons by age 12, SummerFest provides a second chance. For those who know their musical culture, or for those who are novices, standing ovations were the rule in the concerts in the auditorium at the local Museum of Contemporary Arts late this summer.

Leading off the program at “Shostakovich III, August 23rd, was the Borromeo String Quartet, with Nicholas Kitchen in the first violin chair and Yeesun Kim, cellist, performing the String Quartet No. 12 in D-flat Major. These two are among the greatest musicians in the world today and, along with their superb string-playing partners, showed why. They demonstrated how Shostakovich teased with atonal, disharmonic music, much disapproved by Soviet cultural leaders because it was not music that could be understood by the ordinary citizen.

Borromeo String Quartet:  L to R: Kristopher Tong, Nicholas Kitchen, Mai Motobuchi, Yeesun Kim

Borromeo String Quartet: L to R: Kristopher Tong, Nicholas Kitchen, Mai Motobuchi, Yeesun Kim

Many of us dislike this kind of 12-tone structure because we don’t understand it. But, according to Taruskin, Shostakovich used this atonal music as a brief tease and also as a way of expanding the reach of some his compositions. Shostakovich, himself, told an interviewer that “a composer can use this or that technique…as he sees fit.” In this Quartet, the atonal music makes a brief appearance thereby giving the composer wider latitude for what he wants to do as the piece progresses. Politically brilliant and musically sound!

A sonata for cello and piano was the second piece, played well by the Texas bred, Julliard graduate John Sharp, selected for the Chicago Symphony at age 27 and brilliantly by the famous pianist, Vladimir Feltsman.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal Cellist John Sharp

Chicago Symphony Orchestra Principal Cellist John Sharp

Renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman

Renowned pianist Vladimir Feltsman

 

No one can fail to be deeply moved by the Piano Trio No. 2 in E Minor, written in 1944 and the festival’s final tribute to Shostakovich.   Twenty million Russians had died by then.   “The Nazi invasion of Russia in 1941 was the greatest catastrophe ever to befall any nation, “ as Bromberger wrote.

The public Shostakovich reacted with his “Leningrad Symphony,” marches and songs filled with patriotism. But the Trio that closed out this magnificent SummerFest focus showed a different Shostakovich, deeply disturbed by the war.   And, when the Nazi armies retreated, the atrocities committed against Russian Jews, obviously brought forward another deeply anguished side of the composer. One of the movements, of the Trio, was inspired by accounts that the Nazis had forced Jews to dance on their graves before execution. You could almost hear fair whispers of “Tevye the Milkman” before the music turned sinister and grotesque in a brilliant and beautiful sort of way. The Soviet government, at first, banned the performance of the Trio but the composer’s deep pain and grief had already been turned into an unforgettable work of passion proving again how music can feed our souls with very deep meaning.

BEGUILING “UP HERE” IS ATTRACTIVE, TEMPTING AT LA JOLLA PLAYHOUSE

August 14th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

For a real treat go see “Up Here,” the lusty neuroscience musical playing through September 6 at La Jolla Playhouse.

Just for a chance to see the stars, sexy Betsy Wolfe and mind-plagued Matt Bittner, in the roles of beautiful Lindsay (she even says she has quite a “rack”) and Dan, “the computer man,” whose head is populated by a huge group of demons and encouragers, is more than worth the price of admission.

Dan (Matt Bittner) crazed by his love for Lindsay (Betsy Wolfe)

Kudos to Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez, the married couple who created the book, music and lyrics.  (On Broadway he won a Tony Award for “The Book of Mormon” and she won prizes for the Off Broadway musical “In Transit.”)  What a splendid assemblage by the Playhouse.

The love affair, at the center of this charmer, is a kind of a conventional meeting and matching and rejecting and rejoining where he has confidence problems and she is too compelling to lose.  The back-and-forth is played out in front of a set that also makes frequent references to evolution.  Alas, we see and hear much of the voices in Dan’s head, challenging his insecurities and Lindsay is also nervous about a new job and an old beau.  At a certain level much of this drama for fun plays out in our own anxiety-driven lives.

But this is real entertainment combining the Playhouse tendency to stage productions that please their upper-bourgeois mainstay audience with a brilliantly funny script that touches up and back with more meaty mental health issues delivering an undercurrent of contemporary focus that will please those seeking, also, something to think about.

The colorful production is directed by Alex Timbers and choreographed by Joshua Bergasse, both prize winners with an eye on the stars and delightful use of the ensemble mostly to emerge from Dan’s head as he tries to get it straight.  With a number of small sweet tunes the production, for a musical, has so few big numbers that there is not a listing of the songs in the patron’s program.

Demons and Do-Gooders inhabit Dan's Brain

Set designer David Korins has created stage with allusions to the human brain but it is one’s funny bone that that get tickled in this memorable production.

 

La Jolla SummerFest Begins With Compelling “Viennese Masters”

August 9th, 2015

by Barry Jagoda

One of the highlights of many Saturday afternoons years ago in my former residence city of Washington, DC, was the monthly chamber music concerts performed in the high-ceiling home of a dear friend, a musical connoisseur.  I thought of those dreamy days while enjoying the magic, Saturday night, August 8,  featuring music from Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms during the opening weekend of this year’s La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest.

We rejoiced back then in DC of having the inspiration of a trio, or perhaps a string quartet, providing an hour of beautiful music.  But now a SummerFest patron could bath in not only a flautist and two string players presenting a delicious early  serenade written by a young (and already highly accomplished) Beethoven, a perfectly harmonious Schubert string quartet and, finally, six fine players passionately driving a Brahms composition, lead by SummerFest director, the great violinist Cho-Liang Lin.

 

Cho-Liang Lin

 

 

This wonderful summer music festival annually brings to the fortunate attendee, who helps fill the auditorium at the San Diego Contemporary Art Museum, and nearby venues, on evenings and afternoons in August, the special joy of hearing  classical music that is among the world’s best.

To hear flute player Catherine Ransom Karoly join up with violinist Augustin Hadelich and violist Ori Kam for, “Serenade in D major,” light music written in 1801 by Beethoven (just after he had produced his first symphony), was the perfect way to draw in an audience for more than two hours of chamber music.  Light but compelling!

 

Catherine Ransom Karoly

 

 

One might not have known of the origin of the name of the Escher String Quartet, the world famous group brought on to play Schubert’s “String Quartet in A Minor.”   The name is derived from the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher’s method of interplay between individual elements working together to make a whole.  This was on brilliant display by violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Aaron Boyd with Pierre Lapointe on  viola and Brook Speltz, the cellist, in their rendition of  the A minor quartet, thought by many to be Schubert’s finest in the genre.  The standing ovation indicated a sophisticated audience who agreed.

Escher String Quartet

After an intermission six musicians came on stage for Brahms’ “Sextet for Strings in B-flat Major,” which SummerFest Scholar-in-Residence Eric Bromberger (whose prelude lectures and program notes lead paths to understanding for the sophisticated and the casual listener alike) says influences of Schubert, Beethoven and Haydn have been heard in this composition but “the ‘Sextet’ already shows Brahms’ own unmistakable voice and is generally full of sunlight.”  True enough but this is a long piece of chamber music, going on for more than 45 minutes.  Maintaining interest was the wonderful passion demonstrated by the group of musicians (Gary Hoffman and Joshua Roman, cellists; Toby Hoffman and Heiichiro Ohyama, violists; and Kyoko Takezawa and Director Lin on violins) who were brought together for this complex and massive piece.

In a coincidence all three composers were 27 years old when they produced the three pieces under review.  They all have deep connections with the music capital of Austria so the title of the evening’s performance, “Viennese Masters,” is perfectly appropriate.   Not in our nation’s capital, nor even in Vienna itself, is one likely to be more compellingly treated to great performances.  SummerFest continues through August 28.

 

Compelling San Diego Musical Theatre’s “Next to Normal” Illuminates Mental Illness

September 28th, 2014

By Barry Jagoda

Frequent patrons of San Diego Musical Theater are in for a shocking change from the company’s fare of light Broadway-style musicals when they have the intense experience of the current production, “Next to Normal,” which opened last night (September 27) and runs through October 12 at the North Park Theatre.

This is an extremely well-written and well-produced play, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 and, in 2009, a collection of “Tony’s” for its Broadway run that year.  Although it must be said that the story has its depressing moments there are also many uplifting scenes and educational lessons.

Though the producers like to refer to their production as a “rock musical,” in truth it is a searing look at mental health issues, particularly the painful and distressing bipolar disease, often referred to as manic-depression.  “Next to Normal” is very serious drama masquerading as rock theater.  The small live orchestra and the outstanding voices of the six cast members help to relieve the realities of the topic under examination—but agony also comes through in this fearless play.

 

The brilliant San Diego version is alternatingly painful and illuminating.  With a fine cast of six players and a live orchestra, also of six members, this is the story of one woman’s trauma and how deeply debilitating  bipolar disease is to her and for her family.  Perfectly played by Bets Malone as the mentally ill Mom, she goes though all the stages of medications and psychotherapy and electro-shock treatment.  The idea is to purge whatever bad memories triggered the illness while opening the patient to a mind that can be rebuilt with positive thoughts.

The audience was clearly moved by all this but not to be overlooked in the story is what could be called “collateral damage,” the enormous stress and unfathomable pain suffered by her loyal husband (very well portrayed by Robert J. Townsend) who promises to stay with her no matter what.  Also subject to agony is the couple’s teen-age daughter who has the normal adolescent adjustment problems vastly multiplied by being her mother’s daughter.

The story makes clear that the trauma began with the death of the couple’s eight-month boy, 16 years earlier.  But this demon persists, as the now imaginary son lingers on throughout the play, never far from Mom’s memory.  We are told by one of the psychiatrists that there is often a genetic disposition for bi-polar but the disease is often triggered by a traumatic event.  In “Next to Normal,” that turns out to be the dead infant who never leaves his mother’s psyche.

 

 

 

 

In our complex society of very rich, very poor and much in-between we do not often have a chance to get inside the skin of a corner homeless person or someone clearly acting “crazy.”  It is one of the many virtues of “Next to Normal,” that theater goers are forced to look deeply into the psyche of mental illness.  This production is wonderful drama and very public-spirited theater.

As a measure of commitment the producers have arranged for a charity sharing procedure and, in this case, the recipient is the International Bipolar Association.  For more information and to contribute to this highly deserving research organization access www.ibpf.org

 

LA JOLLA SUMMERFEST FEATURES THIRD NIGHT OF HAYDN

August 20th, 2014

 

by Barry Jagoda

He who pays the composer calls the tune.   This is a main lesson reinforced during three nights of La Jolla’s Summerfest which focused on the work of Franz Joseph Haydn who, for thirty years, from 1760 to 1790, served as the top musician at the court of Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, in the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Nikolaus, a decorated general, had been awarded huge landholdings and a fortune large enough to sustain a full orchestra at his home mansions.  Fancying  himself a musician, the Prince was a devotee of a now nearly extinct instrument, the baryton, which resembles a large cello with strings front and back.

Knowing that his job was an especially good deal, Haydn quickly responded to his master’s request for baryton music—composing 126 pieces for it, along with hundreds of other classics.

A highlight of the Festival program on Tuesday, August 19, was the bringing on of two splendid little pieces composed for the baryton and played by the highly talented and especially charming Shirley Hunt, seen below.


Why did this beautiful, versatile and complex instrument go out of fashion?  According to the authoritative musical analyst, Eric Bromberger, the baryton “produces a lovely sound but it is muted and not the instrument of choice in an age of virtuoso players who demand more force.”

Introducing what was called, “Haydn lll” Festival Director Jimmy Lin? Said, “This has been a wonderful educational process for me in getting a comprehensive look at Haydn’s output.”

Summerfest is traditionally a chamber music venue and these concerts featuring Haydn compositions often gave Festival patrons the sense of being in a comfortable private music room listening to works from more than two centuries ago.  Know as “Hausmusik” many of these Haydn pieces were written to be performed by friends at home for their own pleasure rather than as concert works.

Particularly engaging, with an easy listening quality, were a couple of trios for Clarinet, Violin and Cello.  Described as “one of the most sought after and innovative cellists of his generation,” Nicholas Canellakis, pictured below, was joined in the trios by violinist Yura Lee and clarinetist John Bruce Yeh.

 

Patrons and attendees at this 28th season of Summerfest will come away with an intimate understanding of the work of Haydn.  In addition to a wonderful educational experience they will have had the sheer joy of being transported to another age to be engaged by one of musical history’s greats.

 

HAYDN FEATURED AT LA JOLLA’S SUMMERFEST

August 6th, 2014

by Barry Jagoda

Year after year Summerfest Music Director Cho-Liang (“Jimmy”) Lin gives serious creative thought to the themes, composers and musical players that always seem to turn-out better this year than the years before.

A professor of music at Houston’s superb Rice University Lin suddenly came upon the big picture for 2014:  “Our festival has never done much with Haydn—hardly anything.”  So Summerfest fans are being treated to three evenings of performance totally focused on Franz Joseph Haydn and a couple of his “protégés,” Mozart and Beethoven.

The opening night music was delightful and there are promises of more to come with “Haydn Evenings” on August 12 and August 19.   And this is classical music that provides just plain enjoyment! At the same time though, as the superb performance notes author, Eric Bromberger, put it, “This kind of music takes us deep into human emotions.”

The concert under discussion, performed August 5 in La Jolla, at the Sherwood Auditorium of San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art was titled “An Esterhazy Concert,” reflected the thirty years of service by Haydn to the wealthy Austrian family of that name.  (Their base was in the town of Eisenstadt, about 30 miles south of Vienna where the family leader, Prince Nikolaus Esterhazy, maintained a complete musical establishment, including a full orchestra.)

There was not a discernable flaw in the five selections chosen for this first featured Haydn evening.  Nearing the end of service to the Esterhazy family, in 1790, the composer produced the wonderfully beautiful String Quartet in D Major which was presented by the fine Miro Quartet, pictured below:

The performing star of the evening was Aisslinn Nosky, a brilliant violinist, also a crowd-pleaser with her passion and brilliance.  She could not be missed sporting, as she did, a shocking bright red Mohawk hair style.  Nosky lead fine performances, in the evening’s second half, of the Festival Orchestra’s presentation of a violin concerto and of Symphony #44:

The concertgoer was presented with a full compliment of Haydn’s repertoire, including trios, quartets and, as the evening’s finale, this dramatic symphony, #44, which eventually came to be called the “Trauer,” the Austrian term for “Mourning.”  As the program notes dramatically explained, Haydn lived to be an old man and, as death approached, when he was asked what music he wanted at his funeral, he chose the slow movement of this symphony.

But the Summerfest attendee has many more opportunities to enjoy Haydn with the evenings of August 12 and 19 also devoted to the composer’s work and legacy.