San Diego’s joyful Reopening Celebration Concert!

This evening San Diego is celebrating the reopening of our city after the long, very difficult lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. An epic Reopening Celebration Concert is underway at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park even as I type this!

I watched for about an hour and a half, while there was ample light to take photographs. What I saw on the stage was pure joy. Love of life.

Before the concert began, everyone in the audience grabbed a free ice cream treat courtesy of Forever Balboa Park (the recent merger of two organizations: Friends of Balboa Park and the Balboa Park Conservancy).

Then here came the first performance!

The Enchanted Tail was an operatic fairy tale for kids, by the awesome group Opera4Kids. The sweet, very funny opera featured a woodsman turned into a fox by a wicked witch, a lost voice, a crown, a cunning princess under a sleeping spell–and how a potentially tragic conflict is resolved happily through self-sacrifice and mutual compassion.

Then here came the San Diego Youth Ballet!

Then, to rousing cheers, here came Balboa Park’s own amazing, super energetic dance group, San Diego Civic Dance Arts!

After a wardrobe change, the group danced to Queen’s rock and roll classic Bohemian Rhapsody, played on the Spreckels Organ by San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramírez!

A triumphant performance!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Big community celebration coming to Balboa Park!

There were many smiles throughout the large audience at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Every bench was full.

An exciting community celebration will be held in Balboa Park at the end of July!

Everyone is invited to gather at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on the evening of Saturday, July 31, 2021 to enjoy this amazing free event, featuring notable performers from all around San Diego.

Participating in the celebration will be Opera4Kids, San Diego Civic Dance Arts, San Diego Civic Youth Ballet, Grupo Folklórico Sabor de México, San Diego Master Chorale accompanied by San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez, and the fun Organ Pavilion Rock Band! The entertainment starts at 5:30 pm!

What is this big community celebration all about?

The reopening of San Diego after the pandemic!

Learn more by clicking here!

A Long-Ago Christmas memory — Spreckels Organ Society

In the 1920s and early 30s — before the Christmas music of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, or Vince Guaraldi — it was a holiday tradition for world-famous mezzo-soprano Ernestine Schumann-Heink to sing Silent Night on the radio. Click the photo for the recording. She recorded Stille Nacht for Victor Records in 1908 at their Camden, New…

A Long-Ago Christmas memory — Spreckels Organ Society

I seldom reblog articles published elsewhere, but the above bit from the Spreckels Organ Society’s blog might appeal to some readers! It contains interesting San Diego history!

Have you ever wondered about that monument “In loving Memory of Mme. Ernestine Schumann-Heink. A Gold Star Mother. A Star of the World” located at the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park? The world-famous singer lived for many years in La Mesa!

Click the above link for the full article and a link to an historical recording!

And while you’re at it, give the Spreckels Organ Society’s blog a follow! Especially if you love Balboa Park and love organ music!

Here’s a pic I took of the monument…

A stirring preview of World War I opera All Is Calm.

Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.
Dr. Nicolas Reveles of San Diego Opera provides an overview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Yesterday I sat on a folding chair inside the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park blinking my eyes. Several voices singing divinely about our essential humanity had nearly brought me to tears.

I’d just enjoyed a short but stirring preview of San Diego Opera’s upcoming production of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914. This unique chamber opera is a mixture of the spoken word and male singing unaccompanied by instruments.

Together voices relive a profound moment during the horrific trench warfare of World War I, when “soldiers from France, England, and Germany ventured into no-man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Soldiers exchanged food and gifts, swapped prisoners and performed burials, and played football and sang Christmas carols.”

The inspirational opera All is Calm contains no original music. It is composed entirely from music that was popular just before the onset of World War I, hymns and timeless Christmas carols. The actual letters of common soldiers and orders from officers are among the historical texts that are interwoven with song. Young soldiers from both sides, manning hellish trenches that were infested with rats and lice, made even more miserable with winter rain and freezing snow, are moved to walk out into the field of fire, risking their lives, to share a moment of common humanity.

The opera will be staged in early December in downtown’s Balboa Theatre, a smaller and more intimate setting than the San Diego Civic Theatre, where San Diego Opera usually performs. There is some singing in French and German, but the opera is primarily in English. Silent Night is sung in different languages by many voices, which eventually combine and rise together as one. Music moves the human heart like nothing else can.

The brief preview of All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 was simply amazing.

It gave me goosebumps.

These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where a few parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.
These smiling ladies welcomed me to the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, where parts of the opera All Is Calm were previewed.

Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.
Visitors to the Veterans Museum look at a large mural on one wall before the program begins.

One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare's horrors.
One exhibit in the Veterans Museum includes artifacts and ephemera from the First World War. A gas mask speaks of trench warfare’s horrors.

Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this unique chamber opera.
Director of All Is Calm, Juan Carlos Acosta, tells the audience about the making of this very unique chamber opera.

Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.
Historical image of a young man who left home and went off to war in the early 20th century.

Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.
Juan Carlos Acosta, Timothy Simpson and Walter Dumelle sing together in a short but stirring preview of All Is Calm.

All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. It will touch your heart deeply.
All Is Calm: the Christmas Truce of 1914 is an inspiring opera that reminds one and all of our essential humanity. Its music touches the heart.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

If you’d like to read a few stories about life, click Short Stories by Richard.

Free lectures explain opera in San Diego!

19th Century engraving depicting Count Almaviva and Susanna in Act 3 of The Marriage of Figaro. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
19th century engraving depicting Count Almaviva and Susanna in Act 3 of The Marriage of Figaro. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

By sheer chance I stumbled upon a very cool event this afternoon. I was walking through the San Diego Central Library’s courtyard when I noticed a sign posted by the entrance to the Neil Morgan Auditorium. It announced that a free lecture was about to begin!

I hurried in, took a seat, and found myself quickly mesmerized by a talk about the San Diego Opera’s upcoming performance of The Marriage of Figaro!

Dr. Ron Shaheen, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Music Department at the University of San Diego, made the fascinating presentation. With the help of photographs, video clips and audio samples, he provided a wide range of information concerning Mozart’s famous opera. Even a complete opera novice like myself could appreciate the beautiful, timeless and amusing qualities of The Marriage of Figaro.

Many in the audience chuckled at the antics of its characters. The story, imbued by Mozart with deep emotional richness, turns upon all-too-common human weaknesses. The Marriage of Figaro is a mixture of crazy schemes, sudden surprises, human desire, selfishness, misunderstanding, love, jealousy, even more silliness . . . and concludes with a poignant scene of forgiveness.

Intrigued? Visit the San Diego Opera website here. The Marriage of Figaro will be performed in the next couple of weeks.

More free lectures in the Opera Insights Series will be coming to the Central Library. You can learn when and where by clicking here.

Dr. Ron Shaheen provides an entertaining lecture concerning The Marriage of Figaro during the San Diego Central Library 2018-2019 Opera Insights Series.
Dr. Ron Shaheen provides an entertaining lecture concerning The Marriage of Figaro during the San Diego Central Library 2018-2019 Opera Insights Series.

Information concerning music prodigy Mozart, his opera The Marriage of Figaro, and the San Diego Opera's upcoming performances.
Information concerning Mozart, his opera The Marriage of Figaro, and the San Diego Opera’s upcoming performances. (Click the image to enlarge it for easy reading.)

Mozart c. 1780, detail from portrait by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Detail from a portrait of Mozart, by Johann Nepomuk della Croce. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

A brilliant recital at the San Diego Opera.

The San Diego Opera has performances scheduled for April and May 2016. Madama Butterfly and Great Scott.
The San Diego Opera has performances scheduled for April and May 2016: Madama Butterfly and Great Scott.

Yesterday evening I attended a recital by Ferruccio Furlanetto at Copley Symphony Hall in San Diego. The concert was a collaboration between the San Diego Opera and the San Diego Symphony.

Simply: it was a powerful and deeply moving experience. The combination of a full symphony orchestra and one of the world’s great opera stars stirred my soul and mind in a way that very, very few things can–not unlike the world’s greatest literature or poetry.

Both the quiet moments and the thunder seemed the very elements of human life, but exquisitely condensed, made poignant. During the diverse program, Ferruccio’s voice rose through the hall with sadness, memory and yearning. It was a performance that lifted me as I listened, and as I watched.

And I didn’t understand most of the words that he sang!

A voice that can express high passion with minute subtlety is a rare thing, indeed. Ferruccio was brilliant, and now I want to experience more of the opera.

It was a shame that I saw very few youthful faces in the audience. I suppose the opera is a medium that relies largely on reverence to tradition. But the opera could easily speak to modern, younger audiences. Much of human experience is universal. We all have those same feelings that are expressed in the opera: the same passions and tensions that result from human interaction. I challenge writers and composers to renew the opera and make it less stuffy, less repetitive, less beholden to the past. Our present world is full of great issues and movements. Make these part of a living art, one that moves boldly and experimentally forward into the future.

Because art is ultimately about life. Our lives.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can enjoy more Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you like to read short pieces of thought-provoking fiction? Please click Short Stories by Richard.