With its starting dates moved up a couple weeks this season, the 12th annual Festival of the Arts Boca opens Feb. 23 with a renowned American operatic singer and closes March 4 with a classic Steven Spielberg movie accompanied by a live orchestra.
Opening the festival at the Mizner Park Amphitheater will be soprano Kathleen Battle, a five-time Grammy Award winner who will sing African-American spirituals and songs by Gershwin along with the Lynn Philharmonia under the direction of returning conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos.
“With a cultural diva like Kathleen Battle opening the festival, you know it will be incredibly exciting,” says festival director Joanna Marie Kaye. “We’re also excited about the diversity of the performers. With names like Kathleen Battle, Itzhak Perlman and Bill Murray, we have extreme quality of talent and something for everyone to enjoy.”
Murray, the legendary comedian and movie star, has been touring with a piano trio led by cellist Jan Vogler in one of the more unusual cultural acts to hit the concert circuit in recent memory. The star of Caddyshack and Groundhog Day recites literary excerpts from works such as Huckleberry Finn and sings songs from musicals like West Side Story in a project called New Worlds, which has spawned an album.
Murray and the trio will appear March 2.
Another living legend, violinist Itzhak Perlman, will return to the festival this year with his In the Fiddler’s House program, which celebrates the music of the Jewish klezmer tradition; he and a 1o-piece klezmer ensemble will offer listeners a journey from the Lower East Side in New York to a Jewish festival in Krakow, Poland.
Perlman and band will appear Feb. 24, but those who want to see something in addition to that can attend a pre-festival showing Feb. 22 of Alison Chernick’s documentary film, Itzhak, scheduled to be featured on the PBS series American Masters later this year.
The festival is a two-part construct, with a literary portion under the Authors & Ideas rubric. Opening that series at the Mizner Park Cultural Center on Feb. 25 is Hannah Tinti, author of The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley and The Good Thief, followed Feb. 26 by Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and author of A World in Disarray: American Foreign Policy and the Crisis of the Old Order. Haass’s talk will occur at the amphitheater.
On Feb. 28 entrepreneur and author Peter Diamandis, who also administers the X Prize Foundation for private spaceflight, will present a talk called “Transforming Scarcity to Abundance.” He’s followed March 1 by the Academy Award winner and 13-time Grammy Award winner T Bone Burnett. His talk will be called “On the Road with T Bone Burnett: Stories, Music and Movies.”
And James Marshall, a documentary film producer (The American Dream Project) speaks March 3 in a presentation called “My America: The Perception Gap.”
One of Cuba’s most beloved bands, Grupo Compay Segundo, had been scheduled to make its first U.S. appearance in almost 20 years on Feb. 25. In the band’s place will be the Harold López-Nussa Trio, a young Cuban jazz group.
Rounding out the music portion of the program March 3 will be the excellent young violinist Chad Hoopes, who will play the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, while 25-year old Russian pianist Nikolay Khozyainov will perform the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3. Both players will be joined by the Symphonia Boca Raton.
Closing the Festival on Sunday, March 4, will be an outdoor screening of Steven Spielberg’s 1982 classic, E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial, on a giant LED wall above the stage while John Williams’ Academy Award-winning score is performed live.
Tickets for the 12th Annual Festival of the Arts BOCA range from $15-$250 per person and are available at www.festivaloftheartsboca.org or by calling (866) 571-ARTS (866-571-2787).