If it's rainy on Wednesday night, or if it's hot ... go to "Carmen."
The smoldering opera by Bizet, one of the greatest hit operas of all time, is being broadcast in a Metropolitan Opera performance in high definition. It stars Elina Garanca as Carmen and Roberto Alagna as Don Jose. Alagna has a smoldering, obsessive quality that should make him a great Don Jose, the officer who falls desperately in love with Carmen. He is also a little guy which should ratchet things up a bit. In the opera, the officer finds he is no match for Carmen. It is a passionate story but also a pathetic one.
"Carmen" is part of the Met Summer Encores series. This performance was originally broadcast in January 2010. Renee Fleming interviews the opera's stars at intermission.
The City of Buffalo, under pressure from arts organizations to deliver on its promise of funding for cultural and anti-violence groups, released its long-delayed funding application this week. The city has given groups until April 5 to apply for the funding. Here's a copy of the application, which lays out the city's requirements for applicants.
According to Arts Services Initiative Executive Director Tod A. Kniazuk, the city did not send the application out to all eligible organziations. Kniazuk also said that the city will not employ the inordinately useful Cultural Data Project, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts specifically designed for situations like the current funding delay at City Hall and to depoliticize the cultural funding process.
ASI is sending the application out to all eligible groups today.
"So, there you have it," Kniazuk wrote in an email. "A two week turnaround for the organizations who were
lucky enough to find out about it."
Earlier this evening, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarzdelivered his first "State of the County" address in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The location he chose to deliver that speech, the cultural flagship of Western New York and one of the driving forces of the region's ongoing arts renaissance, speaks volumes about the county executive's understanding culture's importance to the identity of Western New York.
And what he said in the speech about the role of the arts here -- something that until very recently a local public would never have acknowledged to the extent Poloncarz did -- will be heartening to the dozens of cultural organizations who lobbied so hard for the demise of his predecessor:
The Albright Knox is just one example of the abundance of riches we have in Erie County including: nationally renowned museums; an amazing philharmonic orchestra; landmarks from architectural giants; and, a thriving theater scene other cities would love to have.
I believe investment in our arts and cultural assets should be no more optional than funding our parks, roads and bridges. Each one of these is an integral part of the infrastructure of our community; some are steel and concrete, others are body and mind. The resident doesn’t need to ‘use’ the arts any more than the need to use every single road or bridge or park supported by their tax dollars to derive a benefit from them thriving.
This is progress. Much more work remains to be done, including the creation of a more equitable approach to funding the county's cultural organizations, and making sure our region doesn't put the cart before the horse when it comes to cultural tourism. But compared to the state of cultural funding and government foresight in this region two years ago, things seem to be looking up.
Tod A. Kniazuk, executive director of the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, in his office in December, 2011. Photo by Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News.
In 2012, the the Arts Services Initiative of Western New York, under the direction of Tod A. Kniazuk, has been working on a number of projects aimed at improving the health of the region's cultural vitality. It's tough work, but according to the organization's 2012 annual report, released this week, ASI (still in desperate need of a better name) has been making progress. Check the report out here.
Seth Wochensky from the Springville Center for the Arts in Springville on Thursday, March 15, 2012. (Photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News).
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced the second round of grants from its Regional Economic Development initiative. As far as Western New York was concerned, the most surprising items on the list had to be two major grants for the Springville Center for the Arts to fund a pair of projects to repair and improve two historic buildings in the heart of the village. They totaled more than $800,000, a gargantuan sum for an arts organization of the SCA's size.
Back in April, I wrote a story on the center's attempts to revitalize an economically downtrodden community, which you can read in PDF form here. (Our archives are not yet back online.) The SCA, which has one of the better strategic plans I've ever read, was already an extraordinary example of how the arts can benefit a small community. This investment has the potential to turn it into a national model for reviving main streets around the country.
I talked with SCA director Seth Wochensky today about the grants, how the small organization managed to procure them and what they mean for the future of Springville's community and economy. My story on the grants will run tomorrow, but in the meantime, here's our chat:
On Sunday, my column about Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's proposed 2013 budget appeared in The News. The budget includes increased funding for arts organizations but also a 3.4 percent property tax hike. On Monday, the county executive's communications and policy director Mark Cornell responded. And today, Halllwalls Contemporary Arts Center director and outspoken arts advocate Edmund Cardoni responded to Cornell's suggestion that the cultural community needs to continue to make an argument for why it deserves county funding.
Here's an excerpt of Cardoni's comment:
"...Speaking for myself and my fellow arts advocates (and, if I may, library supporters), we don't take anything for granted and understand full well that we need to go to bat for your budget with 100% effort, not only in the interest of our sector, but for the good of all the citizens of Erie County, because those of us who work in the arts and the individual artists for whom we advocate (most of whom are homeowners and taxpayers ourselves), our audiences and individual supporters, the children served by our arts education programs, and the owners of all the small businesses we patronize ourselves and help generate business for are ALL citizens of Erie County. It's a balanced budget, a compassionate budget, a responsible budget, and a budget that will keep Erie County's regional economic development moving forward. We support it all."
I got a kick out of Anne Neville's entertaining story on public proposals, Buffalo style. I also loved the picture of the elephant that our photographer Derek Gee took. It seems I remember reading that our elephants are retired circus elephants and they love to perform.
Reading this story made me remember a story I did with Gusto Editor Toni Ruberto about movies a few years ago. The story was about romantic comedies and the things that seem to happen over and over in them. One recurring event Toni and I noticed was the public love scene.
We listed examples that occurred to us. (Keep in mind, this was in 2007.)
"Notting Hill": Bookstore owner Hugh Grant stammers out his love for his
movie star honey (Julia Roberts) during a news conference, with the media all
"Never Been Kissed": Drew Barrymore lip-locks with her sweetie on a high
school baseball field, as crowds applaud.
"Last Holiday": L is for love, and it's also for Latifah, L.L. Cool J and
the ledge on which they're perched as they finally kiss in this movie, as
millions of people gathered below loudly express their approval.
I guess we were kind of mocking it out in the story, the idea of love in the limelight. But now that I see this Buffalo couple, my heart kind of goes out to them. Maybe it is that real life is sometimes not as obnoxious as movies. Maybe it is that I have such affection for our old elephant house.
I am always interested in how music goes in and out of fashion. In the story I did on Buffalo Opera Unlimited's "Faust," being performed this weekend, Tim Kennedy talks about how "Faust" was very popular in the 19th century and into the 20th but was kind of neglected in the era following World War II. People said it was too sugary, or sentimental. Or romantic. Or something.
If anyone tries to tell you that now you know what to say.
Hiccup, played by actor Riley Miner, interacts with "The Nadder" one of the larger-than-life animatronic stars of Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular which features six performances at First Niagara Center through this weekend, Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. (Photo by Derek Gee / Buffalo News)
In a few short hours, the national tour of "How to Train Your Dragon" will begin its four-day stay at the First Niagara Center. Here's my Gusto cover story on the show from last week. And make sure to check out Derek Gee's video (and his great picture of the dragon, above) on the show's advanced puppetry: