On the importance of culture, art, and beauty.

If we do not take time to appreciate beauty, how are we spending our time? This year has been another remarkable year for art, culture and beauty in Chapel Hill. It is a town with an exquisite taste for that which is beautiful. I have been lucky to enjoy that, even when in the stress of finishing my dissertation I had to miss some great performances.

The season started for me with Juliette Binoche, of whom I have been a big fan since the 80s, playing Sophokles’ Antigone in the T.S. Eliot translation, what a presence! I love strong women (now you know my vote for November 8).

UNC artist-in-residence, violinist Gil Shaham played Bach’s six violin solos. I think I still have goosebumps.

Two days later Shaham played Verdi and Tchaikovsky with the UNC Symphony.

As I become older, I have become more and more selective in my taste, but being a lover of the Portuguese Fado, I went to see Mariza, It was very nice, although I miss the tavernas in Alfama.

Another highlight of the year was listening to Riccardo Muti, directing the Chicago Symphony’s Beethoven’s Fifth and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth. Of course as an encore he regaled us with some Verdi!

In November I saw The Ensemble Intercontemporain play some modern pieces. Pierre Boulez’s sur Incises for three pianos, three harps and three percussion blew my mind. Rock and Rollers talk about Phil Spector’s “Wall of sound”, I have also heard it mentioned about Brian Eno and U2, but this piece is more like a tactile wall of sound, like a curtain of sound. Watch for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section!

Before the Christmas break, I saw the great Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker. Don’t mess with tradition.

Gil Shaham performed again in February, playing Prokofiev and Beethoven and I got to go with my composer friend, James.

After defending and delivering my dissertation I managed to catch a few more great events. The evening my dissertation was accepted by the Graduate School, I rode old Rocinante to a nice opera recital in Durham, Talya Lieberman sang a fantastic mix of Handel, Ravel, and Kurt Weill. Brava!

Back at UNC’s Memorial Hall I saw Les Arts Florissants perform a repertoire of Baroque Serious Airs and Drinking Songs. What a brilliant way to say farewell to four great years of jaw dropping concerts at Carolina Performing Arts.

Again with my dear friend James, we saw the North Carolina Symphony perform Handel, Haydn and Stravinsky’s modernist masterpiece The Firebird (1919).

On the theater front I saw not one, but two, Chekhov plays: Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, which the last time I saw performed was by my students at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts! I also snuck in one musical: Sweeney Todd, lovely Gore!!!

Of course I always support students’ productions and concerts which included two operas, the UNC Baroque Ensemble, the UNC Symphony Orchestra, and the University Chamber Players.

All in all, an extremely rewarding season, the likes of which I do not foresee enjoying in the near future.

The Chapel Hill arts scene season ’14-’15

Yes, I know I repeat myself all the time, but one of the main reasons I love Chapel Hill is the thriving cultural scene. There is always something culturally stimulating going on. Being at a concert, a play, a ballet, is a great break from the day-to-day but at the same time a very enriching experience, which I believe leaves an almost invisible sediment at the bottom of your soul, mind, heart. This sediment, like in a good wine adds to the richness and flavor of the wine. Among other events this year I went to:

  • The Pittsburgh Symphony playing Mahler 1 symphony.
  • Benjamin Britten’s Japanese Noh theatre inspired Curlew River
  • Unavoidably in December, the Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker
  • The Maarinsky Orchestra playing Prokofiev
  • Kronos Quarter with my dear friend and composer James Brown. This concert included a very nice question and answer period post concert.
  • Brian Blade, a brilliant jazz drummer with my dear friend and cigar aficionado Jedd.
  • Britten’s War Requiem
  • Pierre Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich playing Pierre Boulez on dueling pianos!
  • Martha Graham Dance Company
  • The Monteverdi Orchestra playing the Monteverdi Vespers of 1610 with Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducting. One of the most amazing shows I have ever seen!
  • The North Carolina Symphony playing Aaron Copeland’s Appalachian Spring. A great and hopeful hymn that represents the beauty that is America.
  • Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure played by a small company in the local movie theatre!
  • UNC Opera’s hilarious rendering of Strauss’ Die Fledermaus
  • UNC Baroque Ensemble’s Fall and Spring concerts with the great Professor Wissick leading.

Unfortunately my Spring was so busy that I did not manage to go to any of the Playmakers Spring productions.

And this does not include lectures, readings, exhibits, nor any of all the more alternative goings on, in which I choose not to participate, one must set limits. All in all an extremely fulfilling year that had me thinking, feeling, laughing and crying.