San Diego theater and classical music, 1980

Best, unforgettable, and Beelzebub awards

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Zina Schiff, Vladimir Horowitz

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Zina Schiff, Vladimir Horowitz

The following awards are drawn from musical and theatrical events I have attended throughout 1980. There may possibly be a better play or concert which I have missed; there are bound to be far many worse ones.

Best theatrical productions

The Amen Corner. An exquisite staging of James Baldwin's play about a storefront church in Harlem. Directed by Floyd Gaffney.

Gemini. The Albert Innaurato play about the problems of adolescent social and sexual identity, in a fine production at the Marquis Public Theater.

A Wilder Evening. Three one-act plays about life and death, given a memorable theatrical realization at UCSD.

Of Mice and Men. The John Steinbeck play about friendship in an indifferent universe, excellently done at the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

Two Gentlemen of Verona. Perhaps the most brilliantly inventive offering of the Old Globe's summer Shakespeare Festival, although their Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost were not far behind.

Best piano concerts

Gustavo Romero.

Michael Cave.

Nicholas Reveles.

Tamas Vasary.

Best violin recitals

Zina Schiff.

Irina Zeitlin.

Best chamber music concerts

Israel Piano Trio.

Ax-Ma-Kim Trio.

Beaux Arts Trio.

Amadeus Quartet.

Melos Quartet.

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Best young singer

Nancy Carol Moore, a mezzo-soprano who, in a recital at the Jewish Community Center, displayed a rich voice, a solid technique, and a dramatic temperament. A hot Carmen!

Worst conducting

Aldo Ceccato.

Eric Bergel.

Richard Bonynge.

Worst dance concert

The Twyla Tharp company at Mandeville Center. How tiresome the satirical digs at classical ballet became! How disheartening it was to see every motion fall apart into limpness or awkwardness as a means of concluding it! What little comprehension of musical form the setting of Brahm's Paganini Variations showed! How tedious, how repetitive, how unimaginative, how inept it all was!

Worst opera

Salieri's Falstaff at SDSU. As knuckle-brained a composition as I have ever heard. Salieri's lack of musical ideas and his genius for routine padding brand him as one of the worst of eighteenth-century composers; the only value in reviving this stone-dead comic opera was the proof it gave of that fact. A lovely set, some nice singing, some awful singing, and an excess of activity in the stage direction, though with some clever effects.

Ga-Ga Factor Awards (for performance in which the fame of the artist is so great that the audience is unable actually to listen to the singing or playing or to perceive its defects)

Luciano Pavarotti in La Boheme, victim of his out-of-placement "ah” vowel.

Leontyne Price, her luscious voice in perfect shape, but her vocal lines all chopped up and her dramatization of the music thoroughly mechanical.

Vladimir Horowitz.

Beelzebub Awards (for theatrical productions most deleterious to intelligence, morality, and humanity)

Songstress Ina Wittich, whose recital of Brecht songs at Mandeville propagandized for Stalinism at the very moment when heroic anti-Stalinist union organizers were attempting to gain a bit of freedom for the Polish working class.

The Biko Inquest at the Carter Centre Stage, which trotted out the tired propaganda of the Sixties blaming the United States for every injustice in the world, all the while debasing South Africa's courageous Steve Biko by turning him into a sleazy nightclub performer.

Bonjour, la Bonjour at the Repertory Theatre, which cheerfully preached the virtues of incest.

Most important events in San Diego's artistic life

The naming of David Atherton as the music director of the San Diego Symphony.

The recovery of the Old Globe from its doldrums of recent years, with a superb Shakespeare Festival during the summer and well-crafted opening productions in its fall season.

Heroes of the San Diego performance world

Craig Noel, sustainer and re-vivifier of an old theatrical tradition.

Raoul Marquis, creator and energizer of a new theatrical tradition.

William Denton, confidently taking on a job (manager of the San Diego Symphony) that has chewed up and spat out his predecessors at an average rate of one every eighteen months.

Kit Goldman, who brought a new theater to life.

Sharon Leemaster, who kept a shaky musical ship — the La Jolla Chamber Orchestra — on course.

Most sensational actress

Minerva Marquis (Gemini).

Most sensational oboist

Elizabeth Enkells (San Diego Symphony).

Best actor, dog

Lupine Kinsella (Two Gentlemen of Verona).

Most unforgettable moments

Libby Colahan, as the old, old Ermengarde in Wilder's The Long Christmas Dinner, closing her book at the empty table, rising unsteadily to her feet in the empty house, and tottering off into eternity.

The father in Gemini, thrusting his hands into the steaming spaghetti and throwing it onto his lady-friend's plate: theatrical realism at its most dramatic.

The first, unanticipated, amazing view of the Villa Rotonda in Joseph Losey's film of Don Giovanni.

The first, luminous phrase in Nicholas Reveles' performance of the Schubert B-flat Sonata, when I became suddenly aware that I was in the presence of a consummate musician.

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