Category Archives: Arts and Music

Meeting Flicka (The Incomparable Frederica von Stade)

8232A confession: I’ve been interviewing celebrities of varying renown or infamy for more years than I care to admit, and thought that I’d long ago ceased to be star-struck. Yet, when I first met celebrated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade (known affectionately by family, colleagues and fans as “Flicka,”), I alternately gushed and stammered like a schoolboy. I doubtless made a fool of myself, but Flicka was much too gracious to point this out; instead, she immediately put me at ease.

Why was I uncharacteristically giddy? Consider that the phrases “living legend” and “national treasure” are nearly as abused and overused as the term “genius,” and may denote nothing more than exceptional longevity. Occasionally, though – just every so often – an artist comes along who is fully deserving of these accolades, by dint of both their creative achievements and an inspirational personality. Flicka is one such artist, and great fun to be around, besides.

As well as being an iconic performer in traditional operas (both her Cherubino and Octavian are considered definitive), Flicka is known for encouraging modern American composers, and one of her most fruitful and enduring creative partnerships has been with composer Jake Heggie. She was an early champion of Heggie’s work and he has written both song cycles and opera roles for her, most notably in “Dead Man Walking” and “Three Decembers.” Their most recent collaboration is “Great Scott,” which had its West Coast premiere at San Diego Opera in May 2016. During her sojourn in San Diego Flicka sat down with SDO General Director David Bennett under the auspices of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego, for a wide-ranging conversation about her life and career. As one audience member noted, Flicka proved to be as far from the popular image of the temperamental artist as one can be, displaying an easy charm and a modesty that belies her status as one of the music world’s most beloved stars.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with her resumé, which includes stints on “Prairie Home Companion” and appearances with Carol Burnett, as well as singing at the White House, the Winter Olympics, and with Monty Python’s Eric Idle, where she appeared as a Valkyrie in a winged helmet for a duet rendition of “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.” Not the sort of thing one would expect from a more, shall we say, conventional diva. In the course of her long career Flicka has proven to be an immensely effective advocate for the arts and arts education, and an enthusiastic popularizer of opera and art song. She continues to work to further the careers of talented young singers and composers.

I was star-struck so you don’t have to be. Watch Flicka’s conversation with David Bennett and I think you’ll learn, as I did, that all of the exceptional things said about her – about her talent, her integrity, her generosity, and her sweetness – are true.

Watch A Conversation with Frederica von Stade.

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Contributed by Producer, John Menier

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Are You Serious About Movies?

8232If you are someone that enjoys going behind the scenes with filmmakers, directors, screenwriters and others involved in the film industry, check out the amazing line-up from the Carsey-Wolf Center at UC Santa Barbara.

From the blockbuster to the independent film, you will be treated to fascinating stories and insights into the process of making films from those actually doing it.

Carl Gottlieb – Jaws
Don Hertzfeldt – Two time Oscar-nominated independent filmmaker
Sherief Elkatsha – Cairo Drive
Michael Miner – Robocop
Josh Singer – Spotlight
Iva Radivojevic – Evaporating Borders

and coming soon:

David Gerrold – Star Trek: The Trouble with Tribbles

Browse Carsey-Wolf Center’s Script to Screen to find the writers of your favorite movies.

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The Art of Nature

8232Renowned musician Steven Schick and award-winning environmentalist/author Barry Lopez may seem like an unlikely pairing until you consider the long history of nature’s influence on art, including music. From Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” through Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Debussy’s “La Mer” to the works of Vaughan Williams, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage (to name but a few), contemplation of the natural environment has provided inspiration to generations of composers.

In Music and Nature, musician Schick and environmentalist Lopez consider the myriad ways our shared natural milieu has shaped the arts, and how the arts may in turn heighten awareness of environmental issues. They reference as an example John Luther Adams, a contemporary American composer whose works routinely incorporate natural sounds and/or allude to the environment. (His Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral composition “Become Ocean” is based on the premise that if sea levels continue to rise, we will inevitably and quite literally “become ocean.”)

In the course of their talk the two men are able to cross the interstice that lays between their backgrounds – Schick’s as an Iowa farm boy and Lopez’s as the product of a New York upbringing – to find common ground in a philosophy that rejects an elitist or isolationist view of art, instead placing it firmly in the context of broader worldly concerns (e.g., climate change). This philosophy is reflected in the movement in educational circles from STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – to STEAM, the previous disciplines combined with Art/Design. It also plays a role in the renewed recognition that a liberal arts education has advantages in today’s workplace.

An hour in the company of Steven Schick and Barry Lopez will stimulate ideas and conversations of your own – and that’s an hour well-spent.

Watch Music and Nature with Barry Lopez and Steve Schick

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Contributed by Arts & Humanities Producer, John Menier

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New Programs from UCLA’s Distinguished Scholars

8232The biannual Faculty Research Lecture at UCLA presents the work of the university’s most distinguished scholars. Its purpose is to recognize their superb achievements, and give the campus and the greater community an opportunity to gain a new perspective on scholarly achievements and the viewpoints of the faculty honored.

Enjoy these new programs from UCLA:

8232Dead Man Talking: Lenin’s Body and Russian Politics
“Arch Getty explores details surrounding Lenin’s body which has been on public display since shortly after his death in 1924.”

8232Jorge Luis Borges on War
“Efrain Kristal explores the significance of war in the writings of Jorge Luis Borges who introduced the Spanish-speaking world to German expressionist poetry and later observed the rise of Nazism.”

8232Oncogene, Metabolism of Development, Cancer and the Little Fruit Fly That Could
“The amazing advances made in mapping the human genome don’t alter one longstanding fact: when it comes to unlocking the scientific secrets of life, fruit flies rule.”

The first UCLA Faculty Research Lecture was presented in 1925. In 1986, the program was expanded to two lectures each year: one from the natural sciences or engineering, the other from humanities, social disciplines or creative arts.

The Faculty Research Lectures have spanned the scope of new knowledge created at UCLA, including the functions of the brain, the evolution of the earth and nature, innovations in the exploration of literature and the arts, global security, landmarks in archaeological discovery, discoveries in the molecular realm, the core of our galaxy, fundamental constructs of human morality, and the Supreme Court and constitutional law.

Browse more programs from UCLA’s Faculty Research Lectures.

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An All-Access Pass to Opera

8232UCSD-TV – in the form of Your Humble Correspondent – continues to chronicle the adventures of San Diego Opera with two award-winning series, San Diego OperaTalk (in its 17th season) and San Diego Opera Spotlight (now in its 19th year, it’s “the opera series that’s old enough to vote”). Taken together as companion programs, these shows offer viewers an “all-access pass” that goes beyond sound bites and packaged promos with in-depth analysis, rehearsal and performance footage, and interviews with key participants. The result is an entertaining and informative portrait of the creative processes and personalities that bring opera to life in San Diego.

8232Having stabilized after winning a very public battle to stay alive, San Diego Opera is now fashioning a new direction for the Company. New General Director David Bennett has assured long-time patrons that the Company will not forsake traditional repertoire; rather, the intention going forward is to mix large-scale productions at the Civic Theatre with intimate productions of the new & the unfamiliar at a variety of venues, and to markedly increase the Opera’s outreach, visibility and engagement in the community. In that light the 2015/16 season may be seen as both a summation of where the company has been – a producer of traditional grand opera – and as a harbinger of things to come – a presenter of new works by contemporary composers.

Tradition is represented in the best way by two of Giacomo Puccini’s most beloved works, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, in productions that are new to San Diego Opera but are directed by two SDO favorites, Lesley Koenig and Garnett Bruce respectively. The third production, the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, is SDO’s second staging of an opera by Jake Heggie, following the phenomenal success of his Moby-Dick. This original serio-comedy features a stellar cast and a libretto by Terrence McNally (Master Class), and is directed by former Old Globe Artistic Director and theatrical legend Jack O’Brien. Jack is no stranger to the UCSD-TV audience, from his appearances on our Backstage at the Globe series.

As in years past, UCSD-TV (& UCTV) is delighted to accompany you backstage and seat you, front row center, for what promises to be a vibrant season of opera.

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Contributed by Arts & Humanities Producer, John Menier

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