After several years of conservative programming and lean budgets, Arizona Opera launches Arizona Bold, a new artistic initiative of innovative operas with a corresponding four-year $5 million capital campaign.
Two remarkably successful “Million Dollar May” fundraising projects not only brought in income but also raised the company’s international profile, encouraging participation from dozens of new donors across all 50 states, Canada, Austria and Japan along with AZ Opera staff, supporting organizations, and trustees. This response led to even better news: although the new campaign was only recently announced, it’s already raised more than $2 million.
As for programming, Arizona Bold includes two canon-expanding operas each season, encouraging community engagement with each production and also refreshing the tired palates of longtime operagoers with regionally appropriate fare in Phoenix and Tucson.
Plans include Florencia en el Amazonas by Mexican composer Daniel Catán, Frida & Diego by Gabriela Lena Frank and Nilo Cruz, the comic operetta Arizona Lady by Emmerich Kálmán, and the long-awaited world premiere of Riders of the Purple Sage, written by Arizona’s Craig Bohmler with Steven Mark Kohn and based on the eponymous novel by Zane Grey.
Several upcoming operas resonate with current issues — take for example Dead Man Walking by Jake Heggie and Terrence McNally, which focuses on capital punishment, or the wartime story of Silent Night by Mark Campbell and Kevin Puts (who wrote a commissioned work for The Phoenix Symphony and Hermann Michael in 2001 titled Inspiring Beethoven).
The current season promises equally appropriate material beginning October 10-12 with Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon), billed as the world’s first mariachi opera. “It’s an amazing blend…and a terrific story about sense of place and belonging and romance,” says Arizona Opera General Director Ryan Taylor. “It hits all the high points.”
The opera’s Arizona performances feature the original cast including Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán, a 116-year-old ensemble. Cruzar la Cara de la Luna was written as a collaboration between director and writer Leonard Foglia and José “Pepe” Martínez, who served as music director for Mariachi Vargas from 1975 until his retirement earlier this year. Expect songs in Spanish and English with English supertitles projected above the stage, and a multi-generational story of immigration told by dancers and soloists through flashbacks.
Taylor explains, “The Hispanic population here in Arizona is such an integral part of our society that…we really wanted to legitimize the piece and call attention to its validity in the repertoire…so we decided to launch the season with it — we felt like it was a great new way to be a little bold.”
Those who love sweeping Romantic orchestral music will find full satisfaction in November’s emotionally wrenching Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi — a classic production from Utah Opera — and the first performances of 2015: a brand new production of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s passionate Eugene Onegin, both featuring the talents of Arizona Opera’s excellent orchestra.
Rigoletto’s tragic tale of a father’s struggle between love for his daughter and a quest for vengeance stars Italian-American baritone Michael Corvino in the title role. “I can tell you we chose him because he made all of us cry in his audition,” says Ryan with a laugh. “I was riveted and it was…haunting and beautiful…[he] has a certain tambour in the voice that is ideal for this kind of repertoire.”
Alexander Pushkin wrote the original story of Eugene Onegin, a sort of coming-of-age romance directed by Tara Faircloth, who was responsible for last season’s popular and engaging H.M.S. Pinafore. Taylor hopes to involve Arizona’s Eastern European residents, he says. “There’s actually a decent-size Slavic and Russian and Serbian population here…and that’s part of our goal: to start producing repertoire that matters to different sets of communities within our borders.”
Consider the intersection of multi-layered Masonic imagery and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Classical style in The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) in February and March, with a new production by the Metropolitan Opera’s Dan Regazzi. The opera promises sparkling performances from Arizona Opera Marion Roose Pullin Opera Studio alumnus David Margulis in the tenor role of Tamino and a jaw-dropping Queen of the Night aria from soprano Lindsay Russell.
“If there’s operatic singing that [is] sort of superhuman, it comes in Magic Flute,” Taylor says. “You’ll hear the highest and lowest notes written for artists and regularly performed today in this piece, and it’s a fantasy fairy tale.”
The season ends with the fabled nine high Cs of Gaetano Donizetti’s lighthearted The Daughter of the Regiment (La fille du régiment), which was excellently previewed at Arizona Opera’s recent “Town Hall” presentation by tenor David Portillo. Those heart-stopping high notes will ring even more beautifully when Portillo sings them in April. “That’s the reason that you do Daughter of the Regiment, right?” says Taylor with a laugh.
If you go:
- Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon) by José “Pepe” Martínez and Leonard Foglia (sung in Spanish and English with English supertitles)
- Oct. 10 at 7:30PM
Oct. 11 at 7:30PM
Oct. 12 at 2PM
- Oct. 10 at 7:30PM
- Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi (sung in Italian with English supertitles)
- Nov. 14 at 7:30PM
Nov. 15 at 7:30PM
Nov. 16 at 2PM
- Nov. 14 at 7:30PM
- Eugene Onegin by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (sung in Russian with English supertitles)
- Feb. 6 at 7:30PM
Feb. 7 at 7:30PM
Feb. 8 at 2PM
- Feb. 6 at 7:30PM
- The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte)by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (sung in German with English supertitles)
- Feb. 27 at 7:30PM
Feb. 28 at 7:30PM
Mar. 1 at 2PM
- Feb. 27 at 7:30PM
- The Daughter of the Regiment (La fille du régiment) by Gaetano Donizetti (sung in Italian with English supertitles)
- Apr. 10 at 7:30PM
Apr. 11 at 7:30PM
Apr. 12 at 2PM
- Apr. 10 at 7:30PM
Find more information at azopera.org or call 602-266-7464.
Every year Ballet Arizona gives audiences a family-friendly treat with Ballet Under the Stars, a series of free outdoor performances in Valley parks ending at Steele Indian School Park on Saturday, September 27 at 7PM.
“It’s an extraordinary gift to give Arizona,” says Ballet Arizona Artistic Director Ib Andersen, “that we’re doing this program for free. Nobody does what we do.”
The repertoire includes two classics by American ballet iconoclast George Balanchine, beginning with last season’s Walpurgisnacht from Charles Gounod’s opera Faust. Creating an otherworldly atmosphere, Walpurgisnacht refers to revelry celebrating the souls of the dead and a gathering of witches, although the ballet itself isn’t meant to depict a specific event, “except I would say the last movement,” adds Andersen, “when the women let their hair down and they go sort of bananas.”
Brazilian dancer Nayon Iovino, who’s been with Ballet Arizona since 2012, choreographed the evening’s second work for its performances this past May. “I do think that Nayon has talent,” says Andersen, “and this ballet that he did … is a good one.”
Iovino’s creation uses several pieces of music, ranging from an excerpt from Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons to more modern tunes. The dancers wear simple costumes of jeans and shirts, without pointe shoes.
Ballet Under the Stars concludes with the 1954 work Western Symphony, featuring well-loved music by American composer Hershy Kay on traditional folk-song themes including “Red River Valley,” “Good Night, Ladies,” and “The Girl I Left Behind Me.” Says Andersen, “It’s cowboys and cowgirls, you know?”
Enthusiastically received by audiences last spring at the Orpheum Theatre, Western Symphony uses the natural landscape as its entirely appropriate backdrop this weekend, showcasing nearly 40 performers. “It’s the biggest ballet we’ve ever done in terms of numbers,” explains Andersen. “We’ve had ballets where we had more people on stage, but not all of them dancing at the same time.”
Bring blankets or lawn chairs, friends, and family to enjoy Ballet Arizona’s invaluable gift to the Valley.
If you go:
- All remaining Ballet Under the Stars performances begin at 7PM
- Fri., Sep. 26 at Estrella Lakeside Amphitheater in Goodyear
- Sat., Sep. 27 at Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix — UPDATE: this performance has been cancelled due to a forecast of inclement weather.
- Ballet Arizona’s Open House is Sat., Oct. 5 from 12PM-4PM
- at 2835 E. Washington St., Phoenix
- tour the Ballet AZ studios, meet faculty, enter drawings for ticket giveaways, or try free classes in ballet, jazz and modern dance, yoga and Zumba
- Find all the details on Ballet AZ’s upcoming season, including:
- Swan Lake (Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2014 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Dancers’ Choice (Nov. 15, 2015 at Ballet AZ’s Dorrance Theatre)
- The Nutcracker Festival (Nov. 16, 2015 at Ballet AZ’s Dorrance Theatre)
- The Nutcracker (Dec. 12-28, 2014 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Napoli (Feb. 12-15, 2015 with The Phoenix Symphony at Symphony Hall)
- Today’s Masters (Mar. 26-29, 2015 at the Orpheum Theatre)
- All Balanchine (Apr. 30-May 3, 2015 at Symphony Hall)
The Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (DPI) team received excellent feedback at our quarterly Board of Directors meeting earlier this week. In addition to a comprehensive overview of new development initiatives, we focused on events, membership, establishing our brand, and our work with Roosevelt Row and Evans Churchill to investigate the feasibility of creating a business improvement district. Our economic development partner, the Downtown Phoenix Community Development Corporation (CDC), has joined the Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP) in agreeing to a January 1, 2015 consolidation date. We continue to work with the Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) on a similar arrangement.
Having our business, city, and community leadership at the same table focused on the future of downtown bodes well for the future.
Doing Our Best
USA Today named the Roosevelt Row Arts District one of the top ten best arts districts in the nation. Last year Roosevelt Row was spotlighted, again by USA Today, as one of the ten best neighborhoods that tourists haven’t found yet.
Bleacher Report named Phoenix the 13th best city (out of 25) to be a sports fan. Rankings were based on number of teams and events, success of teams in last five years, stadiums, fan passion, general fan experience, media, star power, and tradition and history.
Our Bleacher Report ranking should go up a few notches as the Phoenix Mercury completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Sky on Sunday to win the third WNBA championship in team history. They join the Arizona Rattlers who, a few weeks earlier, won their Arena Football League championship against the Cleveland Gladiators.
Earlier this month, government, business, and civic leaders hosted representatives from the Democratic National Committee in town to evaluate Phoenix as the site of the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Phoenix was the fifth and final stop for convention planners. Other cities being considered are Birmingham, AL; Columbus, OH; New York City; and Philadelphia, PA. According to Mayor Stanton, “I am confident that when the DNC leadership leaves here, they will leave with an understanding that, logistically, there is no better place than Phoenix.”
What’s Brewing Downtown
Downtown Phoenix welcomes a new brewery. On September 15, Mother Bunch Brewing opened in the 1926 J.B. Bayless Grocery building at Seventh Street and Garfield. Until it offers its own signature beers in a few weeks, Mother Bunch will make available a variety of Arizona beers through its 20 taps along with a “sophisticated, but not complicated” lunch and dinner menu.
Local First Arizona has released the fifth edition of its Phoenix Small Wonders map, a pocket-sized guide featuring nearly sixty local restaurants, pubs, galleries, boutiques, venues, and experiences located in central Phoenix. All of the businesses included in the guide are independently owned and operated.
The City of Phoenix received a $1.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to evaluate the planning, environmental, and conceptual engineering to extend Metro light rail down Central Avenue from Jefferson to Baseline Road. According to Mayor Greg Stanton, “Getting light rail to South Mountain is one of my personal priorities. I want to bring the same flexible transit options to the area as others in the city experience with Metro.”
The City of Phoenix has selected Chicago-based Smithfield Properties to develop a mixed-used project on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren, the current site of the Central Station transit facility. Smithfield proposes a 476-apartment, 390-foot building that would be one of the tallest buildings in Arizona. A parking garage also would be built as part of the new development. Metro light rail trains and Valley Metro buses still will run through the station.
New City Church will be moving into a 18,000 square foot building at 1300 North Central Avenue for more space and a central location near the Roosevelt Row Arts District. According to Pastor Brian Kruckenberg, “We love being on the ‘front porch’ of the city and are ecstatic about the growth and attention that the city’s center is getting.”
New apartments and condominiums have sprung up or are being planned in and around downtown Phoenix. That’s a positive trend. But stalwarts of downtown living are the residents of Phoenix’s historic districts who remained while others fled to the suburbs in the 50s or purchased, renovated, and brought back to life vintage homes since then. The Arizona Republic has begun to profile these neighborhoods in word and photo: Country Club Park, Del Norte Place, East Evergreen, Encanto Palmcroft, F.Q. Story, Fairview Place, La Hacienda, Margarita Place, North Encanto, North Garfield, Roosevelt, Windsor Square, Woodland, and Woodlea.
Our Creative Arts
The second RadiatePHX business and community networking event, sponsored by DPI and Downtown Phoenix Journal, was held at the ASU Step Gallery in the Warehouse District on Tuesday. The theme and conversation focused on the importance of the arts community, cultural engagement, and the work of our local creatives to help transform and improve our downtown. Guest speakers in front of a packed audience included Councilwoman Kate Gallego and Steven Tepper, the new Dean of the ASU Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts. We appreciated the strong participation of PCA members at this event.
Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in downtown Phoenix is opening the doors of its New Media Innovation Lab to the public, offering expert advice and support on entrepreneurial and technological endeavors.
Two members of the DPI Board of Directors were just highlighted in the press, partly due to their involvement with the arts: Ken Van Winkle, managing partner with Lewis, Roca, Rothgerber, most recently chaired Ballet Arizona’s successful campaign to create their new facility at 29th Street and Washington. Tim Eigo, editor of Arizona Attorney magazine, serves as steering committee chair of Downtown Voices Coalition and recent host of Space 55’s first PHIL Talk (Phoenix Has Ideas LIVE), a comical parody of TED Talks. In addition, Dr. Carol Poore, chair of PCA’s Arts, Culture, and Public Life Committee, wrote a compelling op-ed in the Arizona Republic about how science, technology, engineering, math, and the arts are all vital to attracting businesses and retaining skilled workers in cities and towns throughout our state.
Amanda LaCasse, one of the 106,800 college students who live in Phoenix – and more specifically downtown Phoenix – shared her opinion about growing up and now furthering her education here: “The gems I have grown to love are not hidden – they are plain and simple, out in the open. Anyone can find a spot to feel at home in downtown Phoenix if they spend enough time getting to know the area, and nobody should be afraid of it. It offers the same services as any other part of the city, but with a more authentic attitude and honest, personable interactions with people who love you for who you are.”
It may look a little imposing from the outside, but the Irish Cultural Center and the adjoining McClelland Library offer an astonishing gamut of Irish events and educational opportunities for anyone who wants to know a little more about the rich history and culture of the Emerald Isle. At first glance, you may ask yourself “An Irish cultural center, in Arizona?,” but a surprising number of Irish immigrants and transplants have made their way to Arizona in the last 150 years, and this unique complex is an important cultural resource for anyone who wants to better understand their real or imagined Irish roots. Fashioned after authentic Irish buildings and built with some traditional materials, like the blue limestone that was brought to the site from County Galway, the Center transports visitors to another time and place.
Situated on the southeast corner of Hance Park and Central Ave, the Irish Cultural Center was created out of a unique public/private partnership among the City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation Department; ADOT; a Sister City relationship with Ennis, Ireland; and the nonprofit Irish Cultural and Learning Foundation. The foundation raised the initial $100,000 to plan for the center, and the project received bond money to construct the initial elements of the site: An Gorta Mór Hunger Memorial (dedicated in 1999); An Halla Mór, aka The Great Hall (dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 2002); and the Irish 1850′s Cottage (dedicated in 2004).
The most recent addition to the complex, the McClelland Library, is a three story building resembling a traditional 12th century Norman castle, which was fully-funded by Norman McClelland of the Arizona-based, family-owned Shamrock Farms. “While the Center as whole embraces many aspects of Irish life and culture,” said Chas Moore, the head librarian for the McClelland (pictured right), “the library gives us an opportunity to showcase Ireland’s rich art and literary traditions, as well as provide genealogy resources for people interested in tracing their own Irish backgrounds.”
Now is a perfect time to visit both the Center and the McClelland library, as they launch a month and a half of special programming to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s The Dubliners.
Joyce wrote the groundbreaking collection of short stories in 1905 and spent nearly ten years struggling to get it published because of controversial elements in the stories. After Irish publishers repeatedly refused the collection, it was finally published in London in 1914. The celebration features events from September 24 through November 8.
Celebrate the 100-Year Anniversary of the Publication of The Dubliners
Wednesday, September 24, 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.: Lecture on “James Joyce’s The Dubliners: Still Engaging Readers and Writers 100 Years After Publication” presented by Irish-born poet Adrienne Leavy. $5 donation for nonmembers, free for members.
Saturday, October 11, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Book discussion of the first fourteen stories in The Dubliners. Free to everyone.
Wednesday, October 22, 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.: Screening of the independent film Dubliners in Arizona featuring local actors and settings. $5.00 for members, $7.50 for nonmembers.
Saturday, November 8, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.: Discussion of the final story in the collection, “The Dead” and a screening of the film directed by John Huston and starring his daughter, Angelica Huston.
If you haven’t yet crossed the threshold of the Irish Cultural Center and the McClelland Library, don’t hesitate. In addition to the wonderful buildings, the rich resources, and the regular events and celebrations held there, this hidden gem hosts an array of ongoing Irish language, dancing and music classes available to everyone.
If You Go:
What: Irish Cultural Center and McClelland Library
Where: 1106 N. Central Avenue
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.; Wednesday evening open till 8:00 p.m.
Featured image courtesy of Irish Cultural Center
About 150 people gathered at ASU School of Art‘s new Grant Street Studios last Tuesday, hosted by ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, for RadiatePHX – a monthly networking event for business, community, and city leaders produced by Downtown Phoenix Inc. and Downtown Phoenix Journal.
The focus for this month’s gathering was a celebration of both ASU’s new digs in the Warehouse District, and the overall impact of the arts in downtown.
As we all know by now, two major sports events, the NFL’s Pro Bowl and Super Bowl, will be coming to the Valley in late January and early February. Our favorite city will be flooded with media from around the country visiting Super Bowl Central right here in downtown.
As a community, we want to share the compelling stories that define our downtown spirit with visitors, whether they be from across the country or across the Valley.
So what exactly are the stories we will be telling?
The City of Phoenix and the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee are convening committees in preparation for the festivities, and the marketing and media committee is helping identify the many things to do while here in Phoenix.
So, we decided to ask the gathered crowd at RadiatePHX to help identify the art and culture stories that people care about the most. It was a simple, non-scientific poll, but it garnered interesting results.
To simplify the polling, we created six overarching categories: visual art, performing art, literary art, architecture and historic preservation, and public art. In addition, we provided a “write-in” category to capture anything that didn’t quite fit in the those categories. Everyone who attended received tickets to vote in the category of their choice. Participation was brisk and the results were telling.
Visual Art: 48
Architecture/Historic Preservation: 57
Literary Art: 9
Performing Art: 37
Public Art: 61
Public art, along with architecture and historic preservation, were the two categories that came out on top. Again, it was an entirely unscientific poll, but the “public” nature of both of those choices seems to indicate that people are increasingly aware of the value of public spaces in making our city remarkable. Beautiful public spaces to move through, along with a diverse range artistic and cultural events to choose from are clearly points of pride that we all agree deserve to be shared.
The write-in category received a handful of ideas. Some were related to the arts categories above, some were specific events, and some had a temporary or “pop-up” theme. Most of the write-in suggestions resonated with the overall bent toward activated public spaces.
What do you think of the results? If you weren’t able to attend our September RadiatePHX, what categories would you have chosen?
Comment below and join in the effort to build a list of “must experience” arts places and events that will show the world what matters to those of us who live, work and play in downtown.
And be sure to join us in October, and on the third Tuesday of every month, for RadiatePHX.