Weekly Update

Notes and news

Last Friday morning, with thanks to an email prompt from the Cabrillo Festival, I linked on line to Arte Concert to watch and hear, on my computer in high definition, Cabrillo music director Marin Alsop conduct the hr-Sinfonieorchester (formerly known as Frankfurt Radio Symphony) in Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto—with a splendid young Russian soloist called Denis Kozhukhin—and Shostakovich’s sprawling “Leningrad” Symphony. (The concert, and others, including opera and modern music, is still available for viewing at http://concert.arte.tv/de/frankfurt-radio-symphony-orchestra-chostakovitch-rachmaninov) The service is free.

On our Music Reviews page, dated March 18, contributor Robert Reid described a service he subscribes to, Digital Concert Hall, that provides him with hi-def video concerts by the world’s greatest orchestras and musicians. (For audio only, BBC Radio 3 is hard to beat for performing arts radio, and it’s free on line.)

In actual fact, many live musical and stage events worldwide are on offer in hi-def and surround sound on the big screen at local theaters, and we will be adding many of them to our Calendar Page, starting this week with a Specticast screening in Pacific Grove of The Tempest starring Christopher Plummer at the Stratford Ontario Festival. Read more below.

National Theatre of London ‘live’ in Santa Cruz

By Susan Meister.

If you like London theater productions, and think you need to spend a fortune to travel to London to see them, you’re in for a pleasant surprise: for about $20, you can buy a ticket at the Del Mar Theater in Santa Cruz and feel like you are in the heart of London.

The National Theatre, or NT Live as you will come to know it, has stepped out. Their productions in the US cannot be beamed live like the Metropolitan Opera productions that our local movie theaters have been generously hosting for a long while now, but the feeling is exactly the same. You get the same peeks behind the curtain with interviews of the performers, directors, and even costume designers, and there is always a smart and informative presenter on hand to introduce the play and often the playwright. 

Since medieval times the greatest English-speaking stage actors in history have competed to ascend to the creaking rounds of century-old theaters that barely hold 300 people. Rigorously trained by British forebears in the immensely complex arts of acting, many have remained at the pinnacle of their professions for years. The likes of Derek Jacobi, Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon, Judi Dench and Anthony Hopkins, all apparently nearing their dotage, still manage to phrase every sentence with such precision that everyone in the theatre, to the last row, will have no doubt that every syllable got its due.

The National Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary last year with a brilliant documentary, “50 Years on Stage,” that was shown in Santa Cruz in September.  Although it is unlikely to be reprised, it can be purchased as a DVD on the NT Live web site, http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/  It provides over twkl_large ao hours of matchless entertainment. The website itself is surprisingly robust, featuring not only the calendar and locations but ever changing interviews with actors, directors, and even stage crew. There are also trailers of upcoming programs.

The productions have not been brought here frequently in the past, but more appear to be coming on line. Opening a run of four screening on May 1 is King Lear starring Simon Russell Beale (pictured above) and, like many NT renditions of Shakespeare, is set in modern times. It’s possible to buy tickets online on the NT Live site, which turns you over to the Del Mar.

The great theater that Sir Laurence Olivier envisioned continues. Joan Plowright, Olivier’s wife and a star of The National in her own right, said, “The National is an actor’s theater,” and so it remains, hopefully for another 50 years. We Americans now have the chance to embrace it as fully as our theater-loving friends across the pond.

Susan Meister is a regular contributor and Editor at Large for PAMB

Fresh updates this week:

Pianist Louis Lortie here, and MPC Theatre’s “Heaven & Hell on EJankoarth” here.

Our Performing Arts People person this week, in a Monterey homecoming, is composer/playwright/filmmaker Alexander “Xandy” Janko (right).

Scott MacClelland, editor