By Dale King
If you’re planning to attend Festival of the Arts Boca in 2020, you have just a shade less than a year to gather up 250 birthday candles.
While commenting on the recently concluded 2019 Festival of the Arts Boca, which wrapped up March 10 on a literal high note with a performance by jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and his blazing-hot sextet, Festival Director Joanna Marie Kaye dropped a couple of hints about next year’s event.
“In 2020, the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven will occur,” she said, indicating that something to do with the great composer also will be part of the festival. She didn’t elaborate.
Another hint was carried in a video compilation of this year’s festivities sent to the cellphones of most people who attended this year’s 11-night event. In a reference to the showing of the original, 1977 edition of Star Wars: A New Hope during the festival — with the soundtrack performed live by the Symphonia Boca Raton under the direction of Constantine Kitsopoulos – the video added the phrase, “The Saga Continues…” an apparent allusion to the likelihood that another Star Wars film may be shown next year at the Mizner Park Amphitheater.
Even as the last echoes of Sandoval’s trumpet notes faded into history along Plaza Real between the amphitheater and the Cultural Arts Center where most of the authors spoke to nearly full houses, festival organizers have begun to put together the program for next year’s production – the 14th annual festival. Kaye said the production in 2020 will return to its 10-day format, running from Feb. 28 to March 8.
The 2019 program covered 11 nights, picking up an extra evening with the appearance of noted author and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin to kick off the occasion with a speech on her new book, Leadership in Turbulent Times, which looks into the lives of four presidents — Abraham Lincoln, Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson. Each man was leader of the nation during a war, she said.
Standing at a podium under the big tent at the Mizner Park Amphitheater the night of Feb. 28, Goodwin – a frequent visitor to Festival Boca and to the city of Boca Raton – said each of the chief executives in her book had to deal with serious personal loses and depressions, but grew into their roles.
On March 1, the Force came to Boca Raton when the first-filmed Star Wars story fired its rockets on the big screen in front of a nearly full house at the Mizner Amphitheater. Symphonia Boca Raton, seated below the screen, provided John Williams’s score. The audience applauded the rebel victories and booed the arrival of Darth Vader and the white-suited imperial storm-troopers. A lengthy standing ovation came at the film’s finale.
Kaye noted that Goodwin drew the largest crowd of any event at the festival, which is part music events and authorial talks. Still, listeners got an opportunity to enjoy a plenitude of Gershwin tunes in an evening of orchestral music by the composer, including Rhapsody in Blue, featuring the Symphonia, conductor Kitsopoulos and pianist Shelly Berg.
Drawing the biggest crowd among the musical performances was Pink Martini, Thomas Lauderdale’s “little U.N.” orchestra. Also in the pack was Nu Deco Ensemble, a Miami-based assemblage that offered orchestral arrangements of music by pop acts such as Queen, Outkast and Daft Punk, and that was joined by pianist/composer Joachim Horsley and Cuban singer Yusa.
The Russian National Orchestra, making an encore appearance at Festival Boca, played for Bolshoi Ballet stars Pavel Galkun, Yan Godovsky and Tanyana Lazareva, performing scenes from Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and other Russian works.
Kaye officially opened the festival the night Goodwin was featured, with Boca Mayor Scott Singer on hand. Former mayors Susan Whelchel and Steven Abrams were also on stage. Kaye presented awards to festival founders, board chairman Charles Siemon and treasurer Wendy Larsen, for raising the city’s cultural profile.