Weekend Preview: Opera, Feline Friends, And The Power Of Sound And Image
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January 24, 2013 1:03 p.m.
Valerie Scher, arts journalist and critic for Opera Magazine
Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter and author of the blog Cinema Junkie
CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. This weekend preview is a little like trying to herd cats. The San Diego opera and art show about the reuse of art, films about the state of human rights around the world. And did I mention cats? Joining me are my guests, Valerie Scher is arts journalist and critic. Welcome.
SCHER: Thank you so much.
CAVANAUGH: And Beth Accomando, hi.
CAVANAUGH: Valerie, it's the opening of San Diego opera's 48th season, the daughter of the regiment is this Saturday at the civic theatre, and the San Diego opera has not put on a production of this opera since 1990. What are you looking forward to about seeing it staged here again?
SCHER: Well, I will be seeing and hearing daughter of the regiment for the first time at San Diego opera. I missed the last production in March of 1990. I had a good excuse. I was on maternity leave after the birth of my daughter. So I'm happy to have a second chance to attend Donizetti's charming opera which premiered way back in 1840.
CAVANAUGH: Remind us what the story is about.
SCHER: As with so many comic operas, the story is not very realistic. But the music can be dazzling. In this case, the story centers on Marie, an orphan who was found on a battlefield and raised by a whole regiment of soldiers. She falls in love with tonio, a young man who saved her life when she was about to fall off a cliff.
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: Happens to everybody!
SCHER: The path to true love is not shooting. There are a number of obstacles. Everything works out harmoniously and joyously in the end. And tell be broadcast live on KPBS radio on Saturday.
CAVANAUGH: This was written -- when it was written, the setting was the Napoleonic war. Now I believe this is set during World War II?
SCHER: That's right. This daughter of the regiment is very different because the action has been fast-forwarded over 100 years. The production takes place toward the end of World War II in a French village after the Germans have gone. Marie is the daughter of an army officer, and it'll be fascinating to see how well this updating works. I am not a purist. I think it's important to be open to various interpretations of operas because they can be imaginative and involving! Opera doesn't always have to be presented the same way.
CAVANAUGH: Now, I want to bring in a sound clip, not from this production, but rather from Pavarotti. He was singing a famous aria from the daughter of the regiment, it has nine high Cs!
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: We didn't get all nine of them, but we got the idea! He just made that sound so easy! Every other tenor must be quaking in his boots.
SCHER: Oh, that is a remarkable performance. The quality of the tone, the confidence that pav rote had at that point in his career. And that aria is considered the mount Everest of tenor Arias.
CAVANAUGH: This is a comic opera. Might this be a good first opera if someone wanted to stick their toe in the operatic waters?
SCHER: Oh, sure! I think this would be a good first opera. Of it's lively, there are appealing character, a male chorus of soldiers. It's short by operatic standards. Only two acts, lasting about an hour and a half, and there is a fine cast.
CAVANAUGH: All right! And you can also see a behind the scenes video shot by Beth at KPBS.org. Now, the human rights film festival T. Begins tonight at the museum of photographic arts 679 these are festivals about everything from horror to underwater photography. Why is this festival important to have?
ACCOMANDO: Well, I think especially now where we have films like "Zero Dark Thirty" and Lincoln in the features which are films about real events that have happened, these are all documentaries. The point of these is that they are trying to get to the truth. These are not fictional narratives like "Zero Dark Thirty." So having a focus on these films that are documentaries -- document easier don't get the best distribution. So to highlight and focus on these films and bring them all together to say it's important for us to look at these topics and see what are actually works of art too. These are filmmakers who are very passionate about the subjects they're covering and want to convey a story with a message and say this is something that we want you to focus on.
CAVANAUGH: I understand that one of the really important points of this human rights film festival is the outreach, the panel, the discussion that goes along with each of these films.
ACCOMANDO: Yes. Because of these films you can watch on NetFlix or rent them. The key thing about this festival, you get to talk to the filmmakers, and sometimes you get to talk to the subjects, the people who are in these films. And it's a great opportunity for interaction and further enlightenment! If there's something that troubles you, here's a perfect opportunity to talk to these people.
CAVANAUGH: And these are from all around the world.
ACCOMANDO: Yes. One of the films is reporterero, which focuses on the reporter Sergio hara from the zeta weeklies in Mexico. We've shown that here, in fact. But the reporter himself will be there. You can't beat that kind of opportunity!
CAVANAUGH: Is there another film you'd like to highlight?
ACCOMANDO: One is the invisible war which is about the underreported epidemic of rape that's going on in the U.S. military. That is Oscar nominated. And so long dunk, which is an Iraqi women's basketball team, which just sounds great. And one of the players is actually going to be there.
CAVANAUGH: All right! The human rights watch film festival starts tonight and runs through Monday. Did I say that? The human rights film festival?
CAVANAUGH: Okay. Food and water bowl 21! The cat show is this weekend at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. What is this?
SCHER: Well, I think anyone who goes can expect cats, cats, everywhere. This is a place where cats are flaunted, are coddled, fed, groomed, nurtured, and above all celebrated. It is a Kitty cosmos!
[ LAUGHTER ]
SCHER: Pure breds and mixed breeds rule.
CAVANAUGH: This isn't like a Kitty pageant, is it?
[ LAUGHTER ]
CAVANAUGH: It sounds as if they actually have to do something!
SCHER: Well, we have to treat this with the utmost respect. I think a Kitty pageant makes it sound a little bit like a beauty contest. I would suggest that, yes, they are going to find the best cats of their particular breeds, but then there are going to be many other events. There's going to be all kinds of things, discussions, and you name it, it's going to be there. And what I find particularly intriguing is that most people can name ten breeds of dogs, right? Dog breeds are very popular and well known. Cat breeds aren't as well known. They just don't have that kind of recognition. So a show like this is a great way to introduce people to different kinds of cats.
CAVANAUGH: Have you been to previous bowls? There have been 21 of them!
[ LAUGHTER ]
SCHER: I have not been to the bowl. But I have been to other cat shows. And this one is hosted by the local branch of the cat fanciers association which is the biggest organization of its kind of the expect 41 prixeds of cats, everything from Persians to Cornish rex, and the sphinx, the bald looking cat with wrinkles. I'm also happy to say cats will be available for adoption. A cat doesn't have to be a pure bred to be a wonderful, wonderful pet. And there are so many cats out there who deserve loving homes.
CAVANAUGH: Obviously that appeals to you about a show like this. But what overall appealing to you go about going and seeing all of these breeds of cat and picking the best one in each category?
SCHER: Well, if you've ever seen these shows, just the very fact that people can lift up a cat, stretch it out -- I mean, I've never had cats who would let me do that! I was lucky that if I called a cat, it would come! Now we've got cat agility courses? That's pretty irresistible. And I just think it's fascinating to see all these different kinds of cats. Who can resist a Scottish fold with those adorable little ears that fold over? Or a rag doll? They're so sweet and affectionate.
CAVANAUGH: This Saturday and suspend at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. And I just love the way you say "kets."
SCHER: Thank you!
CAVANAUGH: Onto Beth and three junctures of remix at UCSD's gallery, cal IT 2.
ACCOMANDO: That's right.
CAVANAUGH: The title of this show is intriguing. Three junctures of remix.
ACCOMANDO: Well, like the title of the gallery itself, there's this sense of innovation and exploration. What it does, it's a mixed media installation that's going to kind of assault your senses, the visual, the audio. And what it does is if does explore three juncture, three moments of production that you have in remix. And it's what they're calling the predigital analog, the digital, and the postdigital. And the thing about the exhibition is that it considers how computers have changed the way artists can remix and reuse information and preexisting art because it's so accessible and it's so much more affordable than it's ever been before.
CAVANAUGH: Would it be fair to describe this show as conceptual?
ACCOMANDO: Yes. And also very experimental. And I think what it does is it challenges those who come to it to kind of look and listen differently. To kind of perceive things differently. And it's exciting to see that. And UCSD really specializes in that kind of work.
CAVANAUGH: Let's give the audience a taste.
(Audio Recording Played)
CAVANAUGH: That's different.
ACCOMANDO: And the reason I wanted to make sure we played that is because most people have one of two polar opposite reactions. Either, lake, oh, my God, that's something I never want to go to. Or wow! That's really intriguing, where is it happening? And I've had friends of mine who reacted both directions
CAVANAUGH: Right. So you want to make sure that people know.
CAVANAUGH: One of the artists has San Diego ties.
ACCOMANDO: Chad Mossholder is someone who made films while he was a student here at San Diego state. And I had the opportunity to show a few of his works during a film festival I run. And the thing that struck me is they really were genuinely experimental and just -- you see them and you feel like this is so fresh, I haven't seen something like this before. And with him because he really is an audio artist, you haven't heard something quite the same way.